Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460-479)|
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
460. Does that mean that you, the Health and
Safety Executive, will not be in a position to see the details
of the final contract in so far as it relates to safety?
(Mr Coleman) No. We have an understanding that we
will see the final form of the contract.
461. An understanding? What does that mean?
(Mr Coleman) Let me put it this way. The contract
can be signed. People can take a commercial risk and sign up but
until the safety case has been accepted the contract cannot come
into force. It is therefore not in anyone's interest not to show
us the contract, because if we found that it was defective in
some way and we could not accept the safety case because of that
conflict, it is going to stop the whole process. I think that
there is every incentive to make sure that we are comfortable
with the contract or there is going to be a problem later which
will be much more difficult to resolve, so I feel confident that
the undertaking that I have is in fact going to allow the contract
to be seen by us in its final form so that we can be satisfied
that it is not in conflict with the safety case.
462. But if you did not have an absolute assurance
that you would see the contract in its final form, giving you
sufficient time to assess it, do you not feel that that could
be bringing undue pressure on you to agree something which you
would not want to agree to?
(Mr Coleman) I believe that we have to take the time
to do what is necessary in relation to that contract.
463. Are you confident that you will be given
(Mr Coleman) Yes, I sincerely hope
464. You hope. Are you confident?
(Mr Coleman) Yes, I am confident, because I cannot
imagine people not giving us that time.
465. Can I go back to not about what you imagine
and not what you assume? What are the precise arrangements about
your ability to assess that contract in its final stages in relation
to safety issues?
(Mr Coleman) When we are shown a version of the final
contract, as and when it exists, we will get it scrutinised and
we will make our response. I have to say that even after signing
a particular contract there are mechanisms in most contracts to
allow those contracts to be varied. From our point of view the
acceptance of the safety case is going to be the final stage of
our assessment through this process and all these other things
come into that. Yes, I am confident that we are going to get sight
of the contracts, but even if there is a signing of the contract
in advance it does not necessarily mean that things cannot then
be modified thereafter.
466. You do not accept then that Transport for
London think the mechanisms for controlling safety are unclear
(Mr Coleman) We have received quite an amount of advice
from Transport for London and it has been very helpful. This is
certainly an area we are going to need to look at. We looked at
the contract in the version we had and, subject to some changes
which we sought and we believe have been made, we were satisfied
that it supported the safety case arrangements. Bear in mind that
the contract does not sit on its own. You cannot just look at
the contract. The contract requires the parties to comply with
the safety case. As that safety case does not yet exist in its
final form it is very difficult to take a full global view about
what all the mechanisms are.
467. But surely this is a matter of such importance
that you should be absolutely clear that you know what the mechanisms
(Mr Coleman) Indeed.
468. And it seems to me that while you understand
that you will be in a position to see the contract before you
make a final assessment, that does not appear to be a categorical
(Mr Coleman) We will see all the elements before we
make our final decision. You were I think talking about the sequence,
about, say, the signing of a contract within a process. From our
point of view all these aspects of the work we do come together
at the time when we look at the safety case version 3.1. We will
certainly have seen the contract; we will certainly have been
able to say whether that contract sits alongside the safety case,
and of course it is the mechanisms which are spelt out within
the safety case which are the ones which we think are designed
to ensure safety.
469. But what happens if one of the bids fails?
Do you have to do the safety case all over again?
(Mr Coleman) No. The safety case is a London Underground
470. But it would be a different contract.
(Mr Coleman) If it is a different contract we will
look at the different contract.
471. So you would have to do it again?
(Mr Coleman) Yes, we would. If there was a completely
different contract we would have to look at a new contract. How
different a new contract would be from the draft contract which
we have seen is I think unknown.
(Kate Timms) The ultimate safeguard is the safety
case. Our acceptance or rejection of the safety case is what is
critical and the contracts have to be compatible with the safety
472. I do not think the Committee has difficulty
understanding that, Ms Timms. The difficulty that we have is firstly
the question which Mrs Ellman keeps putting to you, that if you
do not know precisely what the details of the contract are and
what the contractors are undertaking, how can you be really satisfied
that the safety case is robust? What we are trying to establish
is, is it the case that you will see the final contract but nevertheless
it will have been signed and the safety case will then be considered
at that point? Is it the case that if the first bid fails and
there is a second bid and material differences in the contract,
you would have to do it all again? Perhaps we can have a yes or
no, not a nod.
(Mr Coleman) The answer is yes. As part of our process
we have to look at the contract to check its compatibility with
the safety case. That has to be done.
Chairman: I think we have established that,
473. Have you got enough staff to do the job
properly both in the safety case and in enforcing the safety case
when it is in place?
(Kate Timms) First of all, no organisation ever has
enough resources, but in the case of HSE we have taken steps in
two respects, first of all very substantially to increase the
number of inspectors; secondly, looking ahead to what we know
we have got to do on version 3.1 which, as Vic said, is imminent.
We have already allocated resource to it and ring-fenced that
resource so that we are ready to deal with version 3.1 as soon
as it arrives. To the best of our ability the answer to your question
474. So you have got enough, but London Transport
and London Underground are also going to need people with roughly
the same skills. Are you satisfied that they have got enough?
(Mr Coleman) I think that the proof of the pudding
is going to be in the eating. Some of the things that we have
to go out and look at between now and February are going to have
to be whether in fact the resource being applied to the systems
is adequate. Bear in mind that the Underground had a very substantial
team working on safety case development and the fact that they
have got through one stage does not mean to say that those people
are going to be dispersed to the four winds. They will no doubt
keep their team together for the next stage.
475. But infrastructure companies are also going
to need people to do this work. Do you think there really are
enough people in the country with the skills to do this?
(Mr Coleman) In the country? Yes, I think there are
people with the skills to do it.
476. Mr Coleman, you are being very careful
here and very diplomatic. You will remember that we did take evidence
that you were short on staff yourselves and that you needed some
considerable number of extra trained staff.
(Mr Coleman) Yes.
477. Is that still the case?
(Mr Coleman) Let me give you some figures. In April
last year I had 108 people in the Inspectorate. A few weeks ago
when I checked we had 176 which is a very substantial increase.
478. Yes, but that is not exactly an answer,
(Mr Coleman) No, but, as Kate has said, it clearly
provides the background in that we are able to ring-fence a resource
which we believe is necessary to do the work which we have to
do. If you are saying am I absolutely certain that the Underground
and the Infracos have all the resource they need, I cannot tell
you that I am absolutely convinced that that is the case, but
that is largely because I have not been to look.
479. Who is doing the training of people for
(Mr Coleman) Which particular skills?