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Radioactive Waste: Dumping at Sea

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Donoughue: The department and others concerned with the disposal of radioactive waste have undertaken detailed searches of archive records relating to dumping at sea at Beaufort's Dyke and elsewhere. Details of the searches carried out so far and the findings of each department have been placed in the Library of the House.

Information was found of two further instances of radioactive waste being dumped, or possibly being dumped, in Beaufort's Dyke in addition to that reported to the House on 1 July (Official Report, cols. WA 21-22). The first instance was identified by the Scottish Office from a reference on one paper and relates to a disposal being arranged in 1957 at Cairn Ryan (a port used for the disposal of munitions to Beaufort's Dyke) of a damaged closed caesium--137 source. There is no indication of the disposal site nor any other information on the form of disposal. The level of radioactivity is described as about one quarter-curie.

The second instance was identified by my department concerning the dumping in 1976 of about 10,000 tonnes of building rubble and soil from the demolition of the premises of Thorium Ltd., a company which extracted thorium from minerals and left waste product containing enhanced levels of naturally radioactive material. The authorisation required that the average radioactivity of this demolition material should be less than 5 x 10 4 microcuries/gm and was not to exceed 5 x 10 3 microcuries/gm in any part.

In respect of other locations not previously recognised as dumpsites for radioactive waste, the Scottish Office have identified the following information:


    scrap from a Ferranti radioactive valve manufacturing unit was dumped by Ferranti between 1954 and 1957 in the Firth of Forth off North Queensferry. An estimate at the time put this at 7.5 milligrams of radium bromide at six-monthly intervals.


    Advice to UK Time Ltd. in 1949 to dispose of 35,000 luminised dials likely to have contained in total between 25 and 50 mg radium either on land or in sealed drums at least five miles off shore. A subsequent paper suggests that such dumping continued in the North Sea during the 1950s.


    The dumping by ICI Ltd. of two anti-static devices (strontium-90) at the explosives disposal site off the Isle of Arran prior to 1958.


    The dumping in 1963 at Garroch Head, on the Clyde, of material from the clear-up of a former radium factory at Balloch.

In checking these historical records, departments have in addition identified instances when liquid wastes or sludge containing small amounts of radioactivity were dumped at sea through dispersion into the water column from ships. These disposals were from the naval dockyards at Chatham and Rosyth into the North Sea beyond the Thames estuary and the Firth of Forth respectively during the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s; sludges from industrial sources containing enhanced natural radioactivity into the Liverpool Bay area, and possibly Morecambe Bay and the Humber Estuary, during the early to mid 1970s; and mildly radioactive

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solutions from early experiments at MAFF's Lowestoft laboratory in the North Sea in the late 1940s.

Where possible these reports are being followed up to see if further information can be obtained.

On the evidence of the papers which have been examined my honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was advised that, even using cautious assumptions, it is estimated that radiation exposures to the public following any dispersal of radioactivity in the sea would give rise to radiation dose levels well within the International Commission on Radiological Protection recommended dose limit and a small fraction of those arising from natural background radioactivity. Nevertheless, he is arranging for the National Radiological Protection Board to make an independent assessment of this information and anything further that can be found. In particular, he will ask them to advise him of the radiological significance of the disposals and on whether there is any need for monitoring over and above that which is already undertaken. We shall report further to the House when he has received the board's advice.

Veterinary Field Service

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Veterinary Field Service will become a "Next Steps" executive agency.

Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has decided that the Veterinary Field Service (VFS) should not at present become an executive agency.

Following an internal review of MAFF veterinary services under the last government, the VFS structure was streamlined. One recommendation in that review was that the VFS should become a "Next Steps" agency. It would be inappropriate to proceed with a move to agency status given the moves towards establishing the Food Standards Agency and devolution, which have implications for the State Veterinary Service.

Government Reviews

Lord Chesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many reviews have been announced in this Session of Parliament; when they expect each to be completed; what the anticipated cost of each will be; and how many more they expect to announce.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As at 27 June, we had announced the following significant reviews:

A comprehensive spending reviewThis will be completed in the next twelve months. Estimates of the cost of the comprehensive spending review are not held centrally. But the costs will be absorbed within departments' running costs limits set in the Budget on November 1996.
A strategic defence reviewWork on the strategic defence review is envisaged to be completed around the turn of the year. Maximum use will be made of existing structures to conduct the review. Additional costs will be incurred, including the process of consultation with outside experts and interests. It is too early to predict the total additional cost.
A review of the bureaucratic burden on teachersThe final report on this review is planned for spring 1998. Costs are expected to be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the detailed criteria used in considering licence applications for the export of conventional weaponsAn announcement was made on 28 July of the criteria which will be used by the Government in considering licence applications for the export of conventional arms.
A review of the law relating to surrogacyThe review team has not yet met but it is expected to report later this year or early next year. The costs cannot be estimated reliably at this stage.
A review of the law relating to silicone breast implantsThis aims to report to the Chief Medical Officer in late 1997. Completion date for the review will, however, depend on the amount of work that the group considers necessary to fulfil its remit. It is too early to say what the cost will be as it will depend on the amount of work that the group considers necessary.
A review of proposed NHS Private Finance Initiative schemesThis is an ongoing review looking at the process and product of PFI in the NHS. This review will take into account the findings of Malcolm Bates's review of PFI in all Government departments. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the breast cancer screening service in Devon and implications for the breast screening programme as a wholeThis is nearing completion. The estimated cost is £2,000 for travel and subsistence, apart from normal departmental and NHS running costs.
A review of London health servicesThe Independent Advisory Panel conducting the review has been asked to complete the main elements of its work by October 1997. It is not yet possible to estimate the cost.
A review of the arrangements for celebrating the MillenniumThe review has been completed. The review was conducted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Millennium Commission as part of their normal activities, and no additional costs were incurred by the department.
A review of the National Lottery, leading to the publication of a White PaperA White Paper was published on 21 July, initiating a consultation period prior to the introduction of legislation in late November--early December. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of film policyThe review is expected to conclude in spring 1998. Expenses are being paid to the members of the review group. No decisions on further expenditure have yet been made. Any such expenditure would be met from within the existing departmental budget for consultancies.
A review of Compulsory Competitive Tendering regulations which will improve the existing regime pending its replacement by a duty of best valueThe review has been completed. Costs were met from planned departmental running costs.
A fundamental review of transport policy leading to the publication of a White Paper on our long-term strategy for an integrated transport policy. A review of the roads programme A bus reviewThe aim is to publish a White Paper on integrated transport policy in the spring of next year taking account of the outcome of the review of transport policy, the review of the roads programme and the review of bus policy. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the arrangements for enforcing the rules on the welfare of animals exported live to the ContinentThe intention is to introduce changes which are shown to be necessary as soon as practicable. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the case for inoculation as a substitute for rabies quarantineNo date for the completion of this review has yet been set. Scope and costs are not yet finalised.
A review of the Milk Development CouncilThis review is expected to be completed later this year. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of international development policy leading to publication of a White PaperThe work will not involve any extra costs. Publication costs will be recovered.
A review of economic regeneration in WalesThe aim is to complete this review by September. Precise costings cannot be given at this stage, but any costs additional to normal departmental running costs are expected to be minimal.
A review of existing proposals for reform of civil litigation and legal aidThe Lord Chancellor has asked Sir Peter Middleton for a preliminary report by the end of September on whether these proposals are the best way to reduce costs and delay in litigation and improve the control over the cost of legal aid. Any further work will depend on the terms of the preliminary report. The review is expected to cost around £75,000 to the end of September for Civil Service and other support and publication costs. The majority of running costs will be internal running costs met from the planned departmental running cost budget.
A review of the Crown Prosecution ServiceThis is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Costs cannot be determined at this stage.
A review of private finance machineryThis was completed on 13 June. No costs were incurred outside normal departmental running costs.
A review of the tax benefits systemThis is expected to report in around a year. Costs are expected to be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the Post OfficeIt is too soon to say when the review will be completed. No external costs are yet committed.
An audit of the Foresight programme which is a programme to bring together business, Government and academia to identify market and technology opportunities for the future. The audit aims to catalogue individual Foresight initiatives taken by government departments and to consider ways to improve the co-ordination of the programmeThis will report to Ministers by the summer Recess. Costs will be met from within planned departmental running costs.
An Export Forum to review the effectiveness of current official export promotion programmes and to make recommendations for a new export initiativeThis will report to Ministers by the autumn. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of steps which might be taken to strengthen democratic control of the three public water authorities in ScotlandThis review is expected to be completed in November. External costs are expected to be £20,000.
Scottish Enterprise reviewThe completion date is not yet known. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the way in which social rented housing is supported in ScotlandExpected to be completed in March 1998. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.
A review of the Skye Bridge tolling arrangementsThe review has now been completed. Costs were met from planned departmental running costs.
A fundamental review of transport policy in Scotland leading to the publication of a White Paper in our long-term strategy for an integrated transport policyThe review is expected to be completed in spring 1998. Scope and costs are not yet finalised.
A review of the Scottish roads programmeThe review is expected to be completed in summer 1998. Scope and costs are not yet finalised.
A review of the existing code of practice on access to government informationThis has been completed. There were no costs outside normal departmental running costs.
The preparation of the White Paper on Better Government will include reviews of ministerial accountability and non-departmental public bodies, including the full implementation of the Nolan recommendations and their extension to all public bodiesThis review process will be undertaken within existing resources and results will be published in the White Paper in the autumn.
The Department of Social Security is committed to modernising the structure and delivery of social security in order to encourage independence, social cohesion and well being; to develop an active welfare system which supports work, savings and honesty; and to help tackle effectively unjustifiable social and economic inequalities. To that end we will be examining the major components of the system. We will consult on specific issues in due course.
A review of policy on admission charging by national museumsThis review is being conducted as part of the department's normal activities, with no additional costs. It is expected to be concluded by autumn 1997.
A review of immigration detention policyThis review is being conducted internally in The Home Office. Its scope is wide ranging to cover all aspects of immigration detention policy. The results are expected to be available in the autumn. Costs will be met from planned departmental running costs.

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Any further reviews will be announced as they are initiated.


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