Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

3 Jun 1996 : Column WA107

Written Answers

Monday, 3rd June 1996.

MV "Derbyshire": Return to Wreck

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to carry out the return expedition to the wreck of the MV "Derbyshire".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The return expedition to the wreck of the "Derbyshire" will take place in two phases. The first phase will be a limited sonar and photographic survey of the wreckage field, to be carried out in late June or early July by Oceaneering Technologies, who undertook the initial expedition in 1994. It is expected that the main expedition will take place early next year. The Department of Transport and the European Commission are sharing the costs of both phases.

The first phase will involve a detailed survey of the wreckage field with the aim of identifying individual parts of the ship and, in particular, to establish the location and accessibility of the ship's stern. The material collected is intended to assist in the detailed planning of the main expedition.

The purpose of the return to the "Derbyshire" is to see what lessons can be learnt from the loss of this particular ship which could help avoid future bulker losses and the continuing loss of life such losses involve. Planning and control of both phases rests with three independent technical assessors. Ministry of Defence officials will act as project managers overseeing the activities of the appointed contractor or contractors.

On completion of the second phase they will prepare a report on their findings and conclusions which will be submitted to Ministers and the European Commission. Their report will be published and, following its completion, the data recovered will be made available to interested parties.

It is possible that this report may lead to the reopening of the Formal Investigation into the loss of the "Derbyshire" and the taking forward of specific safety initiatives through the International Maritime Organization.

We have given sympathetic consideration to the request from the Derbyshire Families Association that they should be represented on, or have a degree of control over, the return to the ship. We have concluded that this would not be appropriate. The association is one of a number of parties with an interest in the outcome of the return expedition. For one of these parties, but not the others, to be represented on the return expedition could lead to suggestions that the findings lacked balance or objectivity. For all the parties to be represented on the return would be impractical given the nature of the operations to be undertaken. To allow the independent assessors to complete their task, without any risk that they could be considered to have

3 Jun 1996 : Column WA108

been influenced in any way, it has also been decided that the Department of Transport, Marine Safety Agency and Marine Accident Investigation Branch will not be represented on either phase of the return.

We continue to welcome the advice and involvement of all parties in the planning of the return. The independent technical assessors stand ready to discuss matters with any interested party.

National Road Traffic Forecasts

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in future Green Papers and other public documents issued by the Department of Transport, they will explain that "national road traffic forecasts" and similar terms apply only to England in order to avoid confusion in the media and among the public.

Viscount Goschen: The Department's national road traffic forecasts apply to Great Britain. Forecasts used in the analysis of transport problems or road improvements are made for the affected area, and can overlap the borders of England, Scotland and Wales.

Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960 Review

Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How their plans to review the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960 are progressing, and when the independent commission's report will be available.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): We expect to receive the report shortly.

Organophosphate Exposure: International Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will fund a meeting of medical research scientists, one from Spain and one from Hungary in London, so that an exchange of information on the neuropsychiatric and cardiac effects of exposure to organophosphates can take place between them and medical research from the United Kingdom with a view to future collaboration.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): No. The funding of international exchanges of medical research scientists is a matter for individual Departments and Research Councils (primarily the Medical Research Council), to determine on the basis of the scientific merit of such exchanges and in the light of their own overall policy

3 Jun 1996 : Column WA109

responsibilities and scientific strategies. The 1996 Forward Look of Government-funded Science, Engineering and Technology, which sets out these strategies, was published on 21st May.

BSE Cases

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, when they record the number of confirmed cases of BSE by county and by month, they have stated that the county figures by month could only be provided at disproportionate cost; why it took them four weeks to make that statement in a parliamentary Answer; and whether they will now provide the information originally asked for.

Lord Lucas: We regret that it took four weeks, including the Easter recess, to provide an answer to the noble Lord's previous Question and apologise for any

3 Jun 1996 : Column WA110

inconvenience that may have caused him. However, the officials with the necessary expertise to supply an answer to the Question have been very heavily engaged over recent weeks in introducing various measures recommended by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee to ensure that public health is protected from any risk from BSE and also to introduce measures to help the beef industry through the current immediate difficulties.

Information on every BSE case in the country is recorded on a computer database, which includes details of the date of slaughter of each BSE suspect and the full address of the holding on which the animal was resident. The database also maintains a cumulative record of the number of BSE cases in each county. To provide the information the noble Lord requested has necessitated a specific interrogation programme to be written for the computer database and a dedicated run of the computer assigned to providing the information.

A copy of the breakdown requested has been placed in the House Libraries.

   Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page