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Written Statements

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 17 April 2018

Written Statements

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Salisbury Update

Following the indiscriminate and reckless use of a nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March 2018, decontamination work is starting this week to bring a small number of potentially contaminated sites back into safe use for the people of Salisbury and its visitors. A lot of preparatory work has been completed already and these plans will now be discussed with the local community and businesses.

In total nine sites, three of which are in the city centre, have been identified as requiring some level of specialist decontamination. The focus will be on returning public spaces to full use as soon as possible, but only where it is safe to do so. The Government will work closely with both the affected businesses and the victims of this appalling act as detailed plans are put into effect.

In the case of London Road cemetery, after extensive investigations and testing, it has been established that it was not contaminated and is therefore being fully reopened to the public today.

The other sites will remain secured and the current scientific assessment is that the remainder of Salisbury is safe for residents and visitors. Public Health England have reaffirmed that the risk to the general public is low.

The community will begin to see more activity from this week and overall it will take some months before all sites are decontaminated and returned to normal use. During this time some cordons will be expanded to ensure safety and allow workers access to the sites with specialist equipment. This will be kept to a minimum wherever possible and the community will be kept informed as work progresses on each site.

The decontamination work is being planned and overseen by my Department with additional specialist advice from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Public Health England, the Department for Health and Social Care, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. The work will be delivered in partnership with Wiltshire Council with support from the Ministry of Defence, who are providing specialist teams to carry out the work on the sites. In some cases they will be supported by other Government specialists or specialist contractors.

The Government are basing their approach on the best scientific evidence and advice to ensure all decontamination is carried out in a thorough and careful way. Thanks to detailed information gathered during the investigation and the clear scientific understanding of how the agent works and is spread, the likely level of contamination at each site is known.

Specialists have developed tailored decontamination plans for each site. To refine these plans, specialist personnel will be collecting additional samples from some sites, building on testing carried out during the investigation. This information will be used to ensure the plans are correct and that decontamination will be effective.

The decontamination work will involve a process of testing, removal of items which could be contaminated and that might harbour residual amounts of the agent, chemical cleaning and retesting. All waste will be safely removed and incinerated and each site will not be released until decontamination is complete.

This work to bring the closed sites back into public use will go hand-in-hand with the £2.5 million already announced on 27 March to support businesses, boost tourism and meet unexpected costs in the response and recovery effort in the city.


Exiting the European Union

General Affairs Council

Sir Tim Barrow (Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union) will attend the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 17 April 2018 to represent the UK. Until we leave the European Union, we remain committed to fulfilling our rights and obligations as a full member.

The provisional agenda includes:

Reform of the Electoral Act

The Bulgarian presidency will discuss a Council decision to make changes to the electoral law governing European parliamentary elections. The presidency will ask member states whether they can support the proposal.

Rule of law in Poland/article 7(1) treaty of the European Union (TEU) reasoned proposal

The Commission will provide Ministers with its analysis of Poland’s official response to the “reasoned proposal” issued by the Commission in December 2017.

Any other business—enlargement package

The Commission will present its annual enlargement package for the six western Balkan countries and Turkey, which is scheduled for publication on 17 April.



Greenhouse Gases: International Shipping

On 13 April the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) agreed a comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from international shipping. The United Kingdom, led by the Department for Transport, played a leading role in the negotiations, pushing for an ambitious and credible outcome that would enable shipping to play its part in meeting the Paris agreement temperature goals.

The strategy is a major milestone for the shipping industry, which is now the first global sector to have set an absolute emissions reduction target.

The strategy includes:

A commitment to phase out GHGs from international shipping as soon as possible during this century;

A target of at least 50% reduction, and an aim for 100% reduction, in total GHG emissions from shipping by 2050;

A target of at least a 40% improvement in carbon intensity of ships by 2030, pursuing efforts towards 70% in 2050; and

A list of possible short, mid and long-term emission reduction measures with a commitment to develop a work-plan for implementation to deliver emission reductions before 2023.

The United Kingdom was at the forefront of a coalition of high ambition countries working with other member states, industry and non-governmental organisations to agree ambitious quantified emission reduction targets for the sector.

Countries will now, through the IMO, commence work on implementing the strategy. The UK, through the Department for Transport, will continue to work with other IMO member states, industry and civil society to establish what practical and technical steps need to be taken to deliver the emission reduction targets. A revised version of the strategy is due to be adopted in 2023.