Skip to main content

Nuclear Industry: Post Mortems

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 26 April 2007

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Statement to the House on Wednesday 18 April (Official Report, Commons cols. 301-02), I am now able to announce the terms of reference for the inquiry that I have asked Mr Michael Redfern QC to carry out. They are as follows.

Having regard to the provisions of the Human Tissue Act 1961, the Coroners’ Rules 1984, the Coroners’ Act 1988 and predecessor legislation, to inquire into the circumstances in which, between 1961 and 1992, organs/tissue were removed from 65 individuals, and were sent to and analysed at Sellafield.

In particular, to establish so far as practicable:

when, where, by whom and by what means the taking of organs/tissue was requested and authorised;

whether the taking of organs/tissue was based on informed consent by the family and/or surviving relatives;

the purpose to be achieved by the retention and analysis of the organs/tissue removed; the generic results of analysis; and the identity of all publications in which the results were presented and commented upon;

whether the families or surviving relatives were informed of the results of the analysis, or the identity of the relevant publications;

when and by whom the retention, storage, transportation, analysis, reporting and disposal of the organs/tissue was authorised;

the circumstances in which the organs/tissue were retained, stored, transported, analysed, reported upon and disposed of;

the general purpose to be served by such retention, storage, analysis and publication of the results; and

when this activity ceased, and the circumstances in which it ceased.

To consider such other issues in connection with the above matters as the Secretary of State may direct.

To report to the Secretary of State as soon as possible.

To make recommendations.

Since my Statement to the House, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) have begun to examine their records to identify whether tests on autopsy tissues were carried out at any of the sites for which they are, or have been responsible, other than Sellafield. The UKAEA tells me that it believes such work was carried out at Harwell, at least until the early 1980s, and possibly at other UKAEA sites, potentially involving work related to individuals who had not been employed at nuclear sites. The AWE believes that there could have been additional testing on its employees. In the light of this information, and in line with what I told the House last week, I have asked Michael Redfern QC to make this additional information part of his considerations.