New inquiry: Government’s approach to infectious diseases and bioweapons examined

18 July 2019

One year after the publication of the Government’s first ever Biosecurity Strategy, the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy is to inquire into the Government’s approach to biosecurity and human health.

Purpose of the inquiry

The strategy is intended to coordinate a cross-government approach to biosecurity threats, whether they materialise naturally, accidentally or deliberately in the form of a malicious attack. It cites globalisation and technology as key factors in today’s biosecurity risks.
The Government has long prioritised public health as a national security issue, with pandemics and emerging infectious diseases categorised as a top-tier risk in the 2010 and 2015 National Security Risk Assessments.

Attacks using biological weapons are categorised as a second-tier risk, along with attacks using chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons.

In 2018, the Government’s National Security Capability Review elevated “diseases and natural hazards affecting the UK” to one of six principal challenges likely to drive national security priorities over the coming decade.

Send us your views

The Joint Committee is calling for written evidence and is particularly interested in receiving submissions which address:

  • The main drivers of biosecurity risks to human health, including:
    o Pandemics;
    o Emerging infectious diseases; 
    o Bio agents and toxins; and
    o So-called ‘dual-use’ research and technologies;
  • How, and how effectively, these risks are monitored and assessed, and by whom;
  • The extent to which the 2018 Biosecurity Strategy supports domestic preparedness in terms of:
    o Building and measuring resilience;
    o Designing and testing emergency response mechanisms; and
    o Creating and measuring the effect of public communications campaigns;
  • The role of the private and academic sectors in supporting Government objectives;
  • The roles and responsibilities of the National Security Council, relevant Government departments and agencies, and how work by the Devolved Administrations is coordinated; 
  • The extent to which policy-making in this area draws on cross-government science and technology expertise; 
  • The opportunities and challenges relating to international collaboration, including but not limited to: 
    o international crisis response;
    o research and drug development; and 
    o implementation of international agreements such as the Biological Weapons Convention and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The Committee does not intend to focus on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) because the House of Commons Health & Social Care Committee published a report on its own inquiry into AMR in October 2018.

Send us your views

The Committee will use the written evidence received to further shape its inquiry. 
Written submissions are invited and should be received by the Committee using the written submission form.

Further information

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