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Pirbright Laboratory: Inspections

Volume 464: debated on Thursday 11 October 2007

Mr. Shepherd: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times the Institute for Animal Health sites at Pirbright and Compton were inspected in each of the last five years; who carried out these inspections; what results and recommendations were made following each of these visits; and whether either of the sites has suffered flooding which resulted in the deliberate or accidental release of hazardous waste during that period. (156932)

During the last five years, the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright was inspected by DEFRA in November 2003, August 2004, September 2005 and December 2006. Inspections were carried out by senior DEFRA veterinarians with specialist knowledge of laboratory containment, exotic animal diseases and the requirements for licensing laboratories under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) 1998. The inspections were designed to provide an overview of general biosecurity, and to focus on new or refurbished areas, particular areas where changes are proposed or areas where particular biosecurity issues had been identified. Where any particular biosecurity issues were identified, the laboratory was required to submit action plans addressing the issues identified and, once they were agreed, implement them. These action plans addressed minor issues including management and personnel, site security, ventilation, waste handling, storage of pathogens and documentation. The progress of these plans was closely monitored. No major biosecurity issues were identified during the inspections.

At IAH Compton, DEFRA works with other enforcement authorities and liaison with these authorities ensures that DEFRA is aware of any significant issues. We are aware that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has undertaken two inspections at IAH Compton this year, one of which resulted in an improvement notice for the ventilation system. Reports from inspections at Compton, undertaken by DEFRA during the last five years, are not held centrally. I have asked officials to gather the information and I will write to the hon. Member when it is available. I will also arrange for a copy of the letter to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

DEFRA was not notified of any issues in relation to flooding at either site which resulted in the deliberate or accidental release of hazardous waste. A HSE-led investigation into potential breaches of biosecurity at Pirbright following the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Surrey, included an assessment of the potential role of flooding in the release of the live virus. This report is available from the DEFRA website and the Libraries of the House.