HC Deb 07 January 2003 vol 397 cc190-1W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on the future of the Public Health Laboratory Service; [86029]

(2) what his policy is on the future of the National Radiological Protection Board. [86027]

Ms Blears

The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) and the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) are both affected by our proposals to create a unified Health Protection Agency (HPA) which will be able to provide more effective support for health protection and health emergency planning.

Having considered responses to "Health Protection: A Consultation Document on Creating a Health Protection Agency", published in June 2002, we aim to establish the HPA as a non-departmental public body from 1 April 2004, subject to legislative time being available. At that stage, the agency would take responsibility for most of the functions currently performed by the NRPB.

As an interim step towards this, we intend to establish a special health authority, also to be called the Health Protection Agency, from 1 April 2003. This special health authority would be responsible for functions under the NHS Act which are to be given to the new agency.

On these proposals, the NRPB would, on the establishment of the HPA as a non-departmental public body, become a body with responsibilities to the Scottish Executive only. The Scottish Executive is currently consulting on future health protection arrangements in Scotland.

The PHLS would remain in existence until primary legislation is changed. From 1 April 2003, we intend that it will be responsible for the production of media for microbiology laboratories, following the transfer of its other current functions to the proposed new special health authority and other national health service bodies in England and Wales.

Copies of letters of 15 November 2002 to the chairs of the NRPB, the PHLS Board and the Microbiological Research Authority, which provide further details, have been placed in the Library.