Posted by: John Brace | 16th October 2014

Councillor Ron Abbey today reassured people about the risk of infectious diseases to the people of Merseyside through Liverpool Airport and sea ports

Councillor Ron Abbey today reassured people about the risk of infectious diseases to the people of Merseyside through Liverpool Airport and sea ports

Councillor Ron Abbey, Chair and the Mersey Port Health Committee plus officers at the West Reception Room. 1st floor, Liverpool Town Hall, Liverpool on the 16th October 2014 for a public meeting

Councillor Ron Abbey, Chair and the Mersey Port Health Committee plus officers at the West Reception Room. 1st floor, Liverpool Town Hall, Liverpool on the 16th October 2014 for a public meeting

Apologies for the poor sound quality on the video below, one of the few spots to film in the West Reception Room was sadly next to a working air conditioning unit. The video below should finish uploading at about 5.30pm on 16/10 and is one of two parts. The second part will be uploaded later.

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Mersey Port Health Committee (comprising councillors from Liverpool, Wirral and Sefton), 16th October 2014 at West Reception Room, 1st Floor, Liverpool Town Hall, High Street, L2 3SW starting at 11.00am | 53.40711°N, 2.99162°W

I attended my second meeting (this time on dry land so no possibility of sea sickness) of the Mersey Port Health Committee, for my write up of its AGM earlier this year just follow this link.

Although we were the only two members of the public at the last meeting, this time we were also joined by a student who was attending as part of her studies.

On the Mersey Port Health Committee and present from Wirral Council were Cllr Ron Abbey (Labour) and elected Chair at the AGM last time), Cllr Gerry Ellis (Conservative) and Cllr Harry Smith (Labour). Councillor John Salter (Labour), Councillor John Hale (Conservative) and Councillor Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) (who are all on the committee representing Wirral Council) were not present.

There were also various other councillors representing Liverpool City Council and the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton.

The meeting started with an officer saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, could you please take your seats before we start today’s meeting? Before I formally commence proceedings, …” before going on to remind people that there were no fire alarms planned during the meeting, which fire exit they should use if there was an emergency and where to assemble outside at Exchange Flags. He also referred to the “new legislation” (a reference to the Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2095)) and said, “The use of recording devices both audio and video is permitted at public meetings now in accordance with government legislation” and he asked that we not film the other members (he should have said member) of the public present (the error was because there was only one other member of the public present, a student there attending as part of her studies at the University of Liverpool).

I’ll point out at this point I will make a declaration of interest as I have previously been a student there (as has Leonora) and Leonora and I both have a current connection with that university.

I will also point out that we’re allowed to film whoever is in the actual meeting room, but Liverpool City Council decided on their own filming policy (which is at odds somewhat with the legislation) earlier this year (with no prior consultation of the people affected such as ourselves but that’s Liverpool City Council for you). A the meeting it was discussed they decided that they didn’t want the public filmed at public meetings for rather complicated reasons I won’t go into here. From what I remember of the discussion back in September 2014 Liverpool City Council councillors expressed the slightly odd viewpoint that the public at a public meeting were entitled to privacy. In fact I seem to remember that at that very meeting at least one councillor expressed the viewpoint that they felt it was the height of bad manners to turn up with a camera and record a public meeting! For the earlier discussion on that filming policy see: the video footage I took then and the major problems I had filming Liverpool City Council’s Constitutional Issues Committee which was about filming public meetings in the same room that I was filming in today.

No declarations of interest were made.

There was a correction made to the minutes as the list of councillors attending was incorrect. Cllr John Coyne (Green Party, Liverpool City Council) raised the issue of infectious diseases and the Chair (Labour, Wirral Council) Cllr Ron Abbey referred to the guidance on Ebola and how port health was the “guardian on the frontline of preventing infectious diseases”.

An officer referred to the Liverpool City Council emergency group and an exercise the day before. She said that there was a lot of literature about the public health measures if there was an outbreak at a sea port.

Cllr John Coyne referred to the press reports about the intention to screen at the Eurostar Terminal in London. The Chair Cllr Ron Abbey pointed out that there were no direct flights to Liverpool with a point of origin from the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. He also referred to Heathrow and Eurostar and that people would be transhipped through other ports first.

The councillor referred to trains.

Cllr Ron Abbey (Chair) said that Eurostar links to France, which was a main connecting hub and then people could travel by Eurostar from the French airports.

An officer, supporting Cllr Ron Abbey said that it was based on risk and that both Heathrow and Eurostar were both passenger hubs. She referred to regular surveillance of flights coming through.

A councillor once again referred to Eurostar and the terminal in London.

The Chair (Cllr Ron Abbey) reassured him that people travelling from affected countries would be automatically screened on flights before they got to Liverpool, therefore there was no call to do a secondary check at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

An officer said that they were working with Public Health England and there was a port health plan. He referred to meeting all relevant agencies to discuss the potential of sea ports or airports with regards to communicable disease.

The Chair (Cllr Ron Abbey) said it was a “moving issue”. He referred again to a secondary check at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, but that it was a smaller airport than Gatwick or Manchester.

A councillor said that he felt that as it had a 21 day incubation period, that the screening had no medical value and expressed the view that it was being done for “political” reasons. However he did want to ask about ships from West Africa docking at the pier and also for guidance about ships, crew and passengers which he felt was more relevant than people flying in or Eurostar.

An officer answered about the potential for ships from West Africa on which there were people who had possibly contracted a communicable disease and referred to meetings with public health. She said that ships had a responsibility to report any illness of crew or passengers under maritime law, not just Ebola.

The minutes of the last meeting were then agreed, with the amendment to the list of those who had attended.

The Chair made an announcement that he welcomed a student (who he named) to the meeting. However the student wasn’t there so he apologised to the student who was there for misleading people over what her name was. He welcomed her to the meeting and hoped she would find it interesting.

The meeting then considered the quarterly report for April to June of 2014.

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