HC Deb 24 June 1986 vol 100 cc155-6W
Mr. Ashdown

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the progress in implementing recommendations numbered 5 to 7 of the report of the advisory group, chaired by Sir Douglas Black, on the incidence of cancer in West Cumbria.

Mr. Whitney

We are advised that the position in respect of these recommendations is as follows.

Recommendation 5

Following extensive consultation between all involved United Kingdom Departments, Ministers have agreed in principle to the funding of a unit to carry out the work recommended by the advisory group. Provisional arrangements have been made on the siting and funding of this unit. As soon as these are confirmed I will inform the House.

Recommendations 6 and 7

The Medical Research Council has recently produced an interim report for the Department in response to our request last year. This is now being considered.

Work on the direct measurement of radionuclides in post-mortem tissues from the northern region is being undertaken by the National Radiological Protection Board in collaboration with local clinicians and pathologists. The board also has an experimental programme to investigate factors that may affect gastrointestinal absorption.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has contracted for studies using a mobile whole body monitor to provide information on the levels of gamma emitters in members of the population in the northern region and throughout the United Kingdom. He is also sponsoring work to identify the presence of radionuclides in household dust. This study was started prior to the publication of the Black report, is continuing and will provide the information necessary to assess the radiological impact of this possible exposure route. This work is a more extensive follow-up of a pilot study carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board, the results of which were published.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has carried out studies into the ingestion of plutonium and americium by adults in West Cumbria and elsewhere through the consumption of shellfish from the Sellafield area; the results have been published. He has, in addition, established a comprehensive monitoring programme for radioactivity in food and agriculture which extends to the terrestrial environment the same sort of coverage as already exists for the marine environment.