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Sickness Absenteeism

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what measures he is taking to combat sickness absenteeism in (a) Companies House, (b) the National Weights and Measures Agency, (c) the Accounts Services Agency, (d) the Patent Office, (e) the Insolvency Service, (f) NEL and (g) his Department.

Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 9 March 1995]: I have asked the chief executives of the agencies to write to the hon. member. As far as my Department is concerned the management of sickness absence has been identified as a priority for line managers, with an overall target of reducing this absence to the current level of similar organisations in the private sector.

Letter from John Hobday to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 9 March 1995:

I refer to your question of 28 February to the President of the Board of Trade about the measures he is taking to combat sickness absenteeism. I am answering in respect of the Accounts Services Agency (ASA).

ASA employs approximately 100 staff. In recent years the Agency's sickness absence rate has been exacerbated by the breakdown in health of, or injury to, a number of them. Alcoholism, burns, cancer, fractures, myocardial infarction, pregnancy complications and stress were involved. Over the period one officer died, three others were medically retired and one short term contract was not renewed, the officer concerned accounting for a significant amount of sick leave. Additionally, two officers are in the process of being medically retired and another has been given notice of dismissal on the grounds of poor attendance.

ASA fully recognises the problems generated by absenteeism and is addressing them.


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Letter from David Durham to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 14 March 1995:

In his response to your recent PQ, the President of the Board of Trade asked me as Chief Executive of Companies House, to write to you outlining the measures taken by this Agency to combat sickness absenteeism.

Our sickness absence at Companies House for the last twelve months has been 4.41%. In considering this figure you should be aware that some 30% of our employees work part-time, and some 10% work on a shift basis. Traditionally in both private and public sectors, absenteeism rates are higher within these employment systems. Our actual sickness absence record over the last few years has been as follows.

1994: 4.4%

1993: 4.6%

1992: 5.3%

As you will see there has been a gradual improvement but this should not indicate that we are either satisfied or complacent with the latest figure.

We implement a comprehensive management framework to address the problem of absenteeism which includes the following measures: 1. All absenteeism is monitored on a regular basis and monthly league tables on sickness absenteeism are presented to managers of every section throughout Companies House. Managers of sections which are regularly above the average for our organisation are asked to explain the reasons for that discrepancy and to report on the actions they will be taking to improve their record.

2. All new managers attend a training programme in developing skills and expertise in "Managing Sickness Absence".

3. Follow up or refresher sessions are available for more experienced managers.

4. Our Personnel Section regularly monitors absence trends, long-term sickness and any dubious attendance patterns. During the last twelve months we have dismissed four people from our organisation as a result of unacceptable sickness absence.

5. For cases of genuine sickness absence, we offer advice to employees either through our Personnel Section, the staff counselling service or a locally based Civil Service doctor.

6. We encourage staff to take advantage of a variety of Health Screening opportunities and the Civil Service Sanatorium Society. 7. We have an on- site gymnasium and our social club offers a range of fitness classes throughout the year.

8. During the longer school holidays we operate play school facilities to ensure absence levels are not influenced by young family commitments.

9. We have set ourselves a target to reduce absenteeism below 4% by the beginning of 1996 and at least maintain, and hopefully improve, that record throughout the year.

I hope this information is what you require.

Letter from Desmond Flynn to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 7 March 1995 :

In the absence of Peter Joyce, the Chief Executive, the President of the Board of Trade has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question which asked what measures The Insolvency Service is taking to combat sickness absenteeism.

In recent years The Service has run Wellperson clinics which have helped to promote an understanding of health issues amongst our staff. At the same time we have been actively seeking to reduce the level of sick leave absences. We have clearly defined threshold points at which action by personnel managers is taken with regard to sick leave including, where appropriate, the involvement of staff counsellors. In more extreme cases such action has culminated in termination of services or medical retirement.

The active management of sick leave absences and the reduction of sick leave to the current level of The Service's private sector have been identified as priorities for all our line managers.


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Letter from W. Edgar to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 14 March 1995 : I would refer to your Parliamentary Question to the President of the Board of Trade on the subject of sickness absenteeism. I would confirm that NEL's policy is in line with that of the DTI and that the management of sickness absence has been identified as a priority of all line managers in NEL with the objective of reducing this form of absence to a level similar to that found in well run organisations in the private sector. To assist Managers in the task of affecting this reduction the frequency of information provided to each Manager showing the recorded sickness levels within his command has been increased and a quarterly review of the position is made at the Directorate and Divisional Managers meetings.

Letter from Seton Bennett to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 14 March 1995:

The President of the Board of Trade has asked me to reply on behalf of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory to your Parliamentary Question about the management of sickness absenteeism. This Agency had one of the lowest absenteeism rates in DTI until the last two years, when the average figure has been distorted by the inclusion of one member of staff (of a complement of 48) who was on long-term sickness absence leading to eventual retirement on medical grounds. His absence accounts for the greater part of the increase seen in the average figure for NWML.

Nevertheless, I have identified the management of sickness absence as a priority for line managers within this Agency in line with the action to be taken in the rest of DTI. Other proactive steps are being taken here to ensure that sickness absence is maintained below the level of similar organisations elsewhere.

Letter from P. R. S. Hartnack to Mr. David Chidgey, dated 14 March 1995:

The President of the Board of Trade has asked me to respond on behalf of the Patent Office to your Parliamentary Question about sickness absence.

The management of sickness absence is a priority for line managers within the Patent Office and we have a manual to help managers deal with unsatisfactory attendance. In addition we have a sickness counselling scheme which is effective in addressing short term absences and we also use staff counselling to help staff with long-term health difficulties.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Council of Ministers

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give an account of decisions taken in the European Community Council of Ministers meeting on 9 March; if he will make it his policy that the United Kingdom will not accept majority voting on European Community immigration policy or visa policy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: The main results of the Council were as follows.

The member states signed a convention on simplified extradition procedures. This was the first convention to be adopted under the third pillar of the treaty on European Union.

In accordance with proposals originally put forward by the United Kingdom, the Council agreed in principle to focus in the short term on the preparation of a legally binding instrument on fraud affecting the Community budget that would deal only with key elements. This should enable the Council to meet the European Council's request that agreement on a legally binding instrument on this subject should be reached in the first half of 1995, and would be without prejudice to the continuation of


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more detailed work on fraud against the Community budget. The Government welcome this further progress in the fight against fraud. The Council noted progress on the development of a convention covering jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial cases, known as the Brussels convention II. It agreed that officials should continue work with a view to the first part of the convention covering scope and jurisdiction, being concluded by June. The Council adopted a joint action extending the remit of the Europol drugs unit in The Hague to cover the fight against illegal trade in radioactive and nuclear materials, the smuggling of persons, vehicle trafficking and associated money laundering operations. The Council considered the outstanding issues arising from the draft Europol convention and instructed officials to continue to work to resolve them in the light of the views that had been expressed. The Council requested the Committee of Permanent Representatives to consider remaining points of difficulty on the draft convention establishing a customs information system.

The Council reached broad agreement on the text of a regulation on a uniform format for visas, subject to a parliamentary scrutiny reserve entered by the UK pending debate in Parliament on the draft external frontiers convention and related matters.

The Council adopted a resolution on minimum guarantees for asylum procedures. The UK made a declaration that it would apply the prescribed procedures relating to any applications by nationals of member states to the extent permitted by domestic legislation. Significant differences of view emerged during discussion of a draft resolution on burden sharing of temporarily displaced persons, on which the Council commissioned further work by officials. The Council approved the third pillar contribution to the European Union's strategy on racism and xenophobia which will be considered by the European Council meeting at Cannes.

Immigration and visa matters are generally handled, in the European Union context, under the provisions of title VI--the third pillar--of the treaty of European Union. Proceedings under title VI are subject to a unanimity voting regime, and it is the Government's policy to ensure that this is maintained. The Community has competence under article 100c of the treaty of Rome only in relation to the common visa list and a uniform visa format. Article 100c provides that the uniform visa format is already subject to qualified majority voting: the common visa list will be subject to qualified majority voting from 1 January 1996.

Community Sentencing

Mr. John Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on community sentencing.

Mr. Howard: I will tomorrow lay before Parliament and publish a Green Paper which invites views on wide-ranging proposals intended to strengthen and simplify the arrangements for the punishment of offenders in the community.


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Policing, Powys

Mr. Sweeney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the future policing arrangements for the new unitary district of Powys.

Mr. Howard: I have consulted the forces, police authorities and local authorities in the area on the future policing arrangements for the new unitary district of Powys. In the light of the replies received, I have decided that the Dyfed Powys constabulary shall be responsible for policing the whole of the new district from 1 April 1996.

An order will be made in due course, under section 21A of the Police Act 1964, as inserted by section 14 of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994, to give effect to this decision, following discussions with the police authorities and forces concerned on the details of its content.

Police (Truck Cargo Vehicles)

Mr. Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what contribution is made by his Department to local police authority budgets to cover their responsibilities in providing necessary assistance to truck cargo heavy duty mark II vehicles.

Mr. Maclean: The level of assistance provided is an operational matter for the chief constable. Any costs are provided for in the same way as for other forms of policing.

Cautions

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many cautions were issued by police forces in England and Wales in each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean: Information on the number of persons cautioned by police force area is published annually in the "Criminal Statistics England and Wales", supplementary tables, Vol 3; table S3.7A of the 1990 edition and table S3.6A of the 1991 to 1993 editions refer to this. Copies of these publications are available in the Library. 1994 data will not be available until autumn 1995.

Intercepted Telephone Calls

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if Government Communications Headquarters staff at Menwith Hill station are required to obtain warrants signed by him before intercepting domestic and international phone calls made in or from the United Kingdom.

Mr. Howard [holding answer 13 March 1995]: No. All interception of communications on public telecommunications systems in the United Kingdom is subject to the provisions of the Interception of Communications Act 1985, but ministerial responsibility for GCHQ is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Asylum Seekers

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will provide a breakdown of the


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number of applications for asylum in 1994 by (a) nationality and (b) location of application.

Mr. Nicholas Baker: The information requested is given in the table.


Applications<1> for asylum, received in the United Kingdom,                 

excluding dependants, by nationality and location where made,               

1994                                                                        

Number of principal applicants                                              

                                |Applied at|Applied                         

                                |port      |in-country|Total                

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Europe and Americas                                                         

Bulgaria                        |15        |215       |235                  

Colombia                        |275       |130       |405                  

Czechoslovakia                  |5         |5         |10                   

Poland                          |140       |220       |360                  

Romania                         |60        |300       |355                  

Former Soviet Union             |50        |540       |595                  

Turkey                          |595       |1,450     |2,045                

Former Yugoslavia               |310       |1,075     |1,385                

Others                          |300       |560       |865                  

                                                                            

Total                           |1,755     |4,495     |6,250                

                                                                            

Middle East                                                                 

Iran                            |135       |385       |520                  

Iraq                            |250       |300       |550                  

Lebanon                         |70        |145       |215                  

Others                          |340       |355       |695                  

                                                                            

Total                           |795       |1,185     |1,985                

                                                                            

Africa                                                                      

Algeria                         |130       |865       |995                  

Angola                          |155       |455       |605                  

Cameroon                        |10        |65        |75                   

Ethiopia                        |150       |580       |730                  

Ghana                           |445       |1,590     |2,035                

Ivory Coast                     |425       |280       |705                  

Kenya                           |655       |475       |1,130                

Liberia                         |80        |55        |140                  

Nigeria                         |500       |3,840     |4,340                

Sierra Leone                    |960       |850       |1,810                

Somalia                         |785       |1,055     |1,840                

South Africa                    |40        |45        |85                   

Sudan                           |75        |255       |330                  

Togo                            |10        |45        |55                   

Uganda                          |105       |255       |360                  

Zaire                           |360       |415       |775                  

Others                          |370       |585       |950                  

                                                                            

Total                           |5,245     |11,715    |16,960               

                                                                            

Asia                                                                        

Afghanistan                     |250       |75        |325                  

China                           |275       |150       |425                  

India                           |275       |1,755     |2,030                

Pakistan                        |200       |1,610     |1,810                

Sri Lanka                       |1,270     |1,080     |2,350                

Others                          |40        |530       |575                  

                                                                            

Total                           |2,310     |5,205     |7,515                

                                                                            

Other and unknown nationalities |125       |-         |125                  

                                                                            

Grand Total                     |10,230    |22,600    |32,830               

<1> Figures rounded to the nearest 5.                                       

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum applicants refused asylum, having lost their appeal against the asylum decision, subsequently appealed against deportation in 1994.


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Mr. Nicholas Baker: The information requested is not available in the form requested.

Hunger Strikes

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what definition of a hunger strike is used by his Department; and what action is taken by police or prison staff when hunger strikes occur.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: A hunger strike is a situation in which an individual refuses to take food and/or fluid.

The management and care of prisoners in Prison Service custody who refuse food and/or fluid is governed by the necessity to identify the underlying reasons for such refusal to eat or drink. There is also a necessity to distinguish between those who refuse while of sound mind and those who refuse at a time when, because of a mental illness, they are unable to make a rational judgment.

The governor and prison medical officer are informed of any prisoners not taking food or fluids. The refusal is recorded in the returned food book, which is signed daily by a medical officer. If the food and/or fluid refusal continues, the prisoner will be admitted to the health care centre or transferred to another prison with a higher level of nursing care. For those patients with impaired capacity for rational judgment, arrangements will be made to transfer them to a national health service psychiatric hospital for treatment under the terms of the Mental Health Act.

Once in the health care centre, the patient's condition is monitored on a daily basis by the prison medical officer, together with a consultant psychiatrist. If refusal persists, a specialist physician will be called in. Fluid is always available, and food is available each meal-time. The patient will be given every encouragement to resume feeding.

In the case of those whose mental capacity is not impaired, the medical officer will clarify the extent of the refusal, and inform the patient of the following:

that they will continue to receive medical supervision and advice;

that the medical officer, except in the most limited and exceptional circumstances, will not force-feed, hydrate, or otherwise artificially provide nutrition without the patient's consent; that they will be warned of the medical consequences of continuing refusal, and of the inevitable deterioration in health which will follow, until and unless medical intervention is requested.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 limits the amount of time that a suspect can be held in police detention, normally to a maximum of 24 hours. It places responsibility for the welfare of people so detained on the custody officer, who is required to immediately call a police surgeon or, in urgent cases send the person to hospital, if a detained person appears to need medical attention. There is no specific guidance issued to police for hunger strikes. As the Police and Criminal Evidence Act prescribes time limits for holding a suspect in police detention, a detained person is unlikely to be held long enough in police cells to be able to undertake a hunger strike.


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Fines

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total of fines (a) imposed and (b) collected by magistrates and Crown courts in Wales in each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean: Information held centrally, which is given in the table, shows the number of fines and the value of the amounts issued by type of court in Wales for 1990 to 1993.

1994 data will not be available until the autumn.

Information is not collected centrally by my Department on the amounts of fines paid.


Fines data for Wales by type of court 1990 to 1993                 

Court/year         |Number of fines|Amount issued                  

                                   |£                              

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Magistrates courts                                                 

1990               |129,277        |8,851,600                      

1991               |102,425        |7,077,700                      

1992               |117,729        |8,586,000                      

1993               |100,893        |9,082,700                      

                                                                   

Crown court                                                        

1990               |640            |162,400                        

1991               |610            |231,000                        

1992               |651            |130,300                        

1993               |356            |91,800                         

Source:                                                            

Home Office.                                                       

Special Constables

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many special constables were employed by the Welsh police forces in each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean: The number of special constables employed by the Welsh police forces in each year since 1990 is as follows:


As at 31 December |1990             |1991             |1992             |1993             |1994                               

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dyfed-Powys       |210              |315              |260              |271              |306                                

Gwent             |76               |80               |101              |109              |124                                

North Wales       |199              |256              |295              |298              |315                                

South Wales       |257              |352              |432              |534              |488                                

                                                                                                                              

Total             |742              |1,003            |1,088            |1,212            |1,233                              

The Government have set forces a target of increasing the number of special constables in England and Wales to 30,000 by 1996. This is an increase of 10,000 on present strength.

As a result of the current national advertising campaign comprising both television commercials and press advertisements, inquiries and preliminary application forms received to date are as follows:


As at 3 March 1995 |Enquiry           |Application                          

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dyfed-Powys        |35                |14                                   

Gwent              |199               |60                                   

North Wales        |20                |4                                    

South Wales        |772               |265                                  

                                                                            

Total              |1,026             |343                                  

Bilateral Agreements

Mr. Madden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 2 March, Official Report, column 655, when he proposes to negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Republic of Ireland; and if he will list those countries (a) with which the United kingdom has negotiated such bilateral agreements and (b) with which bilateral agreements are being negotiated.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 13 March 1995]: Following the implementation of the Football Spectators Act 1989, which extends only to England and Wales, we invited all countries who were members of the Union of European Football Associations, including the Republic of Ireland, to enter into bilateral agreements on corresponding offences. Following the disorder in Dublin on 15 February, my officials will again be raising with their Irish counterparts the prospects of an agreement.

We have also encouraged other member states which have ratified the 1985 European convention on spectator violence and misbehaviour at sports events and in particular at football matches to enter into such agreements with us.

Currently, we have bilateral agreements only with Scotland, Sweden and Italy. Unfortunately, it has not so far proved possible to reach more agreements. The negotiations themselves are usually long and tortuous, exacerbated by the fundamental differences between our legal system and that of the other country. Some countries see the restriction order, as set out in the 1989 Act, as a further criminal penalty which could be in breach of their own legal code through punishing a person twice for the same offence. There are also difficulties in the definitions of what constitutes a

football-related offence in another country and whether they correspond to those offences set out in schedule 1 to the 1989 Act. Some countries, where hooliganism is not a significant problem, may not share the same priority in reaching an agreement over something which does not concern their own citizens, but only hooligans from this country. In some cases, on all but the most serious offences, a country may simply prefer as a matter of policy to deport a hooligan quickly without a court appearance, thereby removing the basis of a possible bilateral agreement.

Football Violence

Mr. Madden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 27 February, Official Report, column 408, what proposals he has to introduce legislation to provide a separate power to prevent a person subject to a restriction order from leaving the country at the stipulated time.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 13 March 1995]: I refer the hon. member to my written answer of 2 March, Official Report, column 656. Although I sympathise with the hon. Member's desire for immediate action, it is important to consider carefully the full range of options, both legislative and administrative, that may be necessary to deal effectively with the problem of football hooliganism.

Mr. Madden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 2 March, Official Report, columns 655 56, if the restriction orders authority is now in a position to confirm whether the


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second person subject to a restriction order breached the terms of that order.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 13 March 1995]: I understand that the restriction orders authority has not yet received confirmation that the person concerned reported to a police station as required. The authority has therefore notified the police station nearest to his home address. It is for the local police to consider investigating the relevant circumstances and to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed under section 16 of the Football Spectators Act 1989.

Live Animal Transport, Shoreham

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the police received 26 hours' notification of the intended arrival of six cattle trucks at Shoreham port on the night of 6 March; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 13 February 1995]: No. I understand that Sussex police were informed at 3.30 pm on Monday 6 March that six lorries carrying live animals would be arriving at Shoreham that night. In the event, Sussex police instructed the lorries to turn back for operational and public safety reasons associated with the presence of demonstrators at Shoreham. Policing of the demonstrations is the responsibility of the chief constable of Sussex.

EMPLOYMENT

Training

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training providers existed as contractors for training for work provision during1994 95; and how many contracts are being offered for1995 96.

Mr. Paice: The Department contracts with training and enterprise councils for the delivery of training programmes including training for work. As private companies, TECs decide their own contracting arrangements with training providers. The Department does not collect information on TECs' contracts with providers.

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has for transfers from training for work to supported self- employment for the year 1995 96 to attract a payment for training providers.

Mr. Paice: The Department makes payments to training and enterprise councils, not directly to training providers. The Department will make an outcome payment to TECs in respect of trainees who have been in unsupported self-employment for the 13 weeks immediately after leaving training for work.

Mr. Steinberg: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimated number of start-ups for training for work schemes for 1995 96 who will receive enterprise allowance or equivalent support.

Mr. Paice: There are no targets set for the number of starts for trainees who will receive support during a period of self-employment while on training for work. It is for training and enterprise councils to determine the volume of such starts in the light of prevailing local circumstances.


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Remploy

Mr. Worthington: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how the process of awarding contracts to Remploy and other clothing contractors has been altered in the current year.

Miss Widdecombe: Contracts arrangements in the private sector are a matter for my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs, at the Department of Trade and Industry. As to contracts in the public sector, I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) on 29 November 1994, Official Report , columns 637 39 when I announced the introduction of the special contracts arrangement.

Asbestos

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans his Department has to review the effectiveness of the current legislation protecting workers from the dangers of asbestos.

Mr. Oppenheim: The Health and Safety Executive is satisfied that current legislation and guidance provide an adequate framework for preventing and controlling the risks posed by exposure to asbestos dust. There are no plans to review the main legislation. However, the HSE is concerned to ensure compliance with the precautions required by legislation and that the risks posed by asbestos are properly understood. A campaign to this end is currently underway.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment for how long the current Health and Safety Executive publicity awareness campaign concerning the risks of asbestos dust is expected to run.

Mr. Oppenheim: The Health and Safety Executive launched its asbestos awareness campaign targeted at building maintenance, repair and refurbishment workers on 6 February 1995. Its initial phase comprised advertisements in the national press and in some trade journals and a press conference on 2 March 1995. In the second phase of the campaign over the coming months, HSE inspectors and other appropriate enforcement authorities will publicise the dangers of exposure to asbestos dust, especially in their visits to premises where building renovation work is carried out.


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