The United Kingdom Centre for Medical Research and Innovation

Science and Technology Committee 9 February 2011 | February 10, 2011

The House of Commons  Science and Technology Committee took evidence from UKCRMI and the Somers Town Planning Action (SPA).  The official  recording of the evidence can be found at

I shall  be writing a report on this, but  it was clear from the hearing that UKCRMI floundered at various points and were reduced to saying they would have to supply the Committee with information later.  There were also a number of points which were either not addressed or insufficiently examined.

I have written to the clerk to the committee asking him to inform me if and when the information is provided and to each MP on the committee raising the matters left unexamined and inviting them to visit the site. 

The emails to the clerk and the MPs are below.


10 February 2011

Glenn McKee
Committee Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
Telephone: 020 7219 8367
 Dear Mr  McKee,
I attended the UKCMRI hearing yesterday. There were a number of instances when UKCMRI were unable or unwilling  to answer either at all or completely. Would it be possible for you email me when and if you receive the additional information they have promised. Would I be right in thinking that this information will be made public?
Am I correct in thinking that  all the members of the committee were present yesterday except for Gregg McClymont and Alok Sharma for both the UKCRMI and SPA evidence and Roger Williams for the SPA evidence?
Yours sincerely,

Robert Henderson


10 February 2011

To all members of the committee

My name is Robert Henderson. I asked to give evidence to the committee at the UKCMRI hearing of 9 February.  This request was refused. Hence, this email.

 Although most of the important points were covered,  there were one or two that were either not touched upon  or failed to be debated in sufficient depth.  The first is the extreme proximity of the site to the  Eurostar Terminal, The British Library and residential housing.   To give you an idea of how close,  the site is 50 feet from my front window.  It is also a surprising small site, a fact which was tacitly acknowledged when the representatives of UKCMRI admitted they would  have to be putting work out to other sites, including that obvious component of the London “cluster”,  Edinburgh University.  I really do think the committee should visit the site. Actually seeing how close it will be to prime terrorist targets, residents and passengers is a real eye-opener.  I should be delighted to act as your  guide.

On the subject of terrorist attacks, while it is true that other laboratories exist in central London with Level 3 licences , there are two prime differences between them and this site: (1) the scale of the project and (2) the vast amount of publicity given to it, not least by  Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.  That, together with its proximity to Eurostar and the British Library,  makes it a much more attractive and likely target for terrorists.   

It was noticeable that when challenged over terrorist security issues, the UKCMRI representatives descended into waffle. This did not surprise me because I have spent the past few years attempting unsuccessfully to get them to answer such simple questions as are the security staff and  cleaners  to be employed directly by the consortium or employed through sub-contractors.  That is an important question because any lowly paid staff are a prime security risk, especially cleaners who work outside normal hours with little supervision.

The other issue I  would draw you attention to is the biohazard  level.  The UKCMRI representatives were decidedly shifty when the question of the Level 4 licence held by the Mill Hill site.  Despite the most diligent use of search engines,  I cannot  find any official listing for their claimed biohazard 3+ level of security. The suspicion must be that it is Level 4 in disguise.   Just to remind you , Level 4 covers this type of toxin:

“Biohazard Level 4: Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hantaviruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Biosafety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.”

Yours sincerely,


Robert Henderson

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