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House of Commons Committee criticises UK National Risk Assessment process

In a report published on 2nd March on the use of scientific advice and evidence in emergencies, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is critical of the Government’s preparedness for dealing with emergencies, saying it is simply not good enough that scientific advice is often only sought after events have struck.

The report says that while science is used effectively to aid responses to emergencies, and that to some extent the Government is learning the lessons of past experiences, the detachment of the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) from the National Risk Assessment (NRA) – the key process of risk evaluation carried out by the Cabinet Office – is a serious concern.

The Committee says that scientific evidence should inform all stages of risk assessment and the Committee recommends that the NRA should not be signed off until the GCSA is satisfied that all risks requiring scientific input and judgements have been properly considered.

The report calls for a new independent scientific advisory committee to be set up to advise the Cabinet on risk assessment and review the NRA, in order to improve public and parliamentary confidence in what is a necessarily unpublished document.

The Committee also repeats calls for the Government Office for Science to be located within the Cabinet Office to reflect its cross-departmental remit and help improve policy processes.

Andrew Miller MP, Committee Chair, said, "The current approach smacks of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Science is not just something to reach for when a crisis happens, it must be integral to the whole planning process and unfortunately the Government still hasn’t got it quite right."

Read the report.

•Date: 4th March 2011 • Region: UK •Type: Article •Topic: BC general

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