I announced on 13 December 2007, Official Report, column 52WS, that the Government have accepted all of the recommendations of the review of the regulatory framework for handling animal pathogens led by Sir Bill Callaghan. That review recommended a phased approach to changes in the regulation of these materials, including transferring responsibility for inspections and enforcement to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Since January, inspections of laboratories licensed under the Specified Animal Pathogens Order (SAPO) have been carried out by DEFRA and the VLA and HSE. I informed the House on 11 March 2008, Official Report, column 9WS, that the formal legal transfer of SAPO inspection and enforcement responsibilities was nearing completion. I am pleased to now report that a revised SAPO came into effect on 28 April, meeting the timetable set by the review. This measure provides the legal means to effect the transfer of inspection and enforcement responsibility to HSE. It also provides additional powers very similar to the powers HSE inspectors have under the Health and Safety at Work Act, including the ability to issue formal improvement and prohibition notices. The order is complemented by an agency agreement which formally delegates enforcement responsibility to HSE and a memorandum of understanding that sets out the practical arrangements. These documents are being published on the HSE and DEFRA websites .
From now on, HSE will carry out all inspections and enforcement activity for SAPO. This work will be carried out in accordance with the Health and Safety Executive’s enforcement policy and principles of HSE operational procedures and its enforcement management model. This represents a significant change in the way in which this work is carried out. As recognised in Sir Bill Callaghan’s review, DEFRA will remain as the licensing body for SAPO until the next phase comes into effect.
DEFRA will continue to work closely with HSE and other interested Departments as we move towards a single regulatory framework for human and animal pathogens in the final phase of implementing the recommendations.
In addition to the processes set out here responsibility for managing risks lies with the employers and senior management of any facility where work on animal or human pathogens is being carried out. Licence holders are responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the facilities where their work is conducted, in accordance with the licensing requirements.
I note that the report of Professor Sir John Beringer’s independent study into the funding, governance and risk management at the Institute for Animal Health has been published and has been considered by the BBSRC. I will take the recommendations of this study into account in considering how we respond to Dr. Iain Anderson’s report on a review and lessons learnt on the foot and mouth disease outbreak 2007.