HL Deb 12 May 1998 vol 589 cc117-8WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why fishery laboratories in the United Kingdom are being run down (for example Conwy and Burnham on Crouch); who has conducted a cost benefit analysis of these laboratories (including their capital value); what role in the decision to run them down has been played by (a) new Treasury rules and (b) levels of expenditure in other parts of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food research system; and what steps have been taken to discover a European, rather than a purely British, role for these laboratories in the future. [HL1767]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue)

The Laboratories at Conwy and Burnham on Crouch are part of the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

As part of the agency's obligation to provide an efficient and effective scientific service, the activities at these sites are being reviewed in order to match facilities with future requirements. Neither laboratory is being run down. At Burnham on Crouch, the present work programme fully occupies the site, which currently employs more staff than ever before. There is no expectation that this will change in the foreseeable future.

A study is under way with CEFAS to determine whether the spare capacity that has existed for several years at the Conwy Laboratory can be replaced by new work, or whether it would be more efficient to relocate the existing functions to another CEFAS site. There are no plans to reduce the amount of work below that for which there is a demand.

Throughout CEFAS, efforts are made to secure work appropriate to the skills and expertise of the agency from European funding sources as well as within the United Kingdom. A substantial part of the work at CEFAS contributes to European science programmes through the co-ordination provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea.