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DEFRA's Central Science Laboratory and Pesticides Safety

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 26 March 2008

My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) made a written statement on 20 June 2006, Official Report, column 91WS on DEFRA’s Laboratory Strategy. I am now able to announce the decision on the future of DEFRA’s Central Science Agency (CSL). I am also taking this opportunity to report to the House changes to DEFRA’s Pesticides Safety Directorate.

These decisions pursue the aim of securing a long-term sustainable future for DEFRA’s laboratories, in the case of CSL, and the earlier decision to consolidate a number of regulators as part of the Government’s implementation of the Hampton review of regulatory inspections and enforcement of March 2005. These regulators include PSD and also DEFRA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) and Plant Variety Rights Office and Seeds Division (PVS).

As part of the work to develop a new business plan for CSL which better reflects DEFRA’s future changing demand requirements and wider Government needs referred to in my earlier statement, we recognised there might be potential benefits to customers and to Government from creating a new regulatory science agency from PSD, PVS, PHSI and DEFRA’s Plant Health Division (PHD), and combining them with CSL.

Having considered the detailed business case for the new agency last year alongside an alternative option for PSD of merger with one of Hampton’s seven thematic regulators, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), we concluded that the best option for the future of PSD was for it to join the HSE. The principal reasons were:

the regulatory scientific synergies that exist between PSD and HSE are much stronger than between PSD and those other bodies in the new agency;

the preference expressed by PSD’s customers as part of an informal high level stakeholder engagement exercise we undertook in 2007; and

concerns over conflicts of interest if PSD joined the proposed RSA, which would inevitably result in some loss of business for both CSL and PSD.

Accordingly, in the case of CSL, a new DEFRA executive agency will be created from CSL, PHSI/PHD and PVS. It will be established formally on 1 April 2009, but will operate in shadow form from 1 April 2008 under a newly appointed chief executive, Adrian Belton. This organisation will benefit customers of the respective constituent parts and taxpayers through improved effectiveness and compliance with the Hampton principles of better regulation and overall value for money.

Following a public consultation that ended on 14 January 2008, PSD will become part of the HSE from 1 April 2008.

In joining HSE, PSD will become part of an organisation that is already responsible for the regulation of both biocides and chemicals. This will enable further exploration of the potential synergies between regulatory science and policy in order to identify options for further improvements in customer service and efficiencies. In the meantime PSD will retain its distinct identity within HSE.

Strategic policy responsibility for pesticides will remain with DEFRA Ministers and sit alongside strategic policy responsibility which DEFRA has for chemicals under the EU chemicals assessment and approval regime REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals). Governance arrangements are being put in place to ensure that all departmental and cross-departmental interests are fully represented.

A summary of responses to the consultation on PSD and the Government’s detailed response to these will be made available on the DEFRA website.