Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Colin Breed, MP

  I am writing on-behalf of CO-Gas Safety, an independent registered charity mainly funded by the Department of Health. I am a vice-chair of this charity after over ten years of involvement in their work.

  CO-Gas Safety submitted written evidence to the Work and Pension Select Committee in 2004 and I enclose this, as well as copies of the following recent correspondence:

    1.  Letter to Lord McKenzie dated 23.07.07

    2.  Some of the problems CO-Gas Safety has experienced with HSC and HSE which has led CO-Gas Safety to conclude that HSC/E are not fit for purpose.

    3.  Letter dated 07.08.07 to Lord McKenzie.

    4.  Letter from Lord McKenzie dated September 2007.

    5.  Letter to Lord McKenzie dated 12.10.07.

    6.  Letter to Lord McKenzie dated 16.10.07.

  In summary, the HSC and HSE seem, to victims and their organisations, to be more concerned with the businesses rather than with victims, consumers or even prevention itself. The system concentrates on the workplace, which is perhaps understandable in view of the creation of HSC and HSE by the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. However, times have moved on—many people work from home and the majority of people assume HSC/E is there to "look after them". The move to merge the HSC and HSE recognises that some change is needed, and CO-Gas Safety broadly welcomes this, however, the past lack of access by victims to the Commissioners (and indeed the lack of a Commissioner for Victims) has resulted in them feeling ignored. CO-Gas Safety has also experienced a large amount of being kept at arm's length and even being refused access to such things as stakeholders' meetings, (these being reserved for the businesses not the victims). Although this has improved lately, this attitude lives on. Please note that when victims do tell their stories to Ministers or civil servants there seems to be a dramatic shift in attitude. I implore the Select Committee to consider changing this.

  I am further concerned by the lack of action taken to prevent deaths and injuries from gas and the products of combustion. Injury from these is costing the taxpayer in terms of deaths, loss of work through injury, social security costs and the costs of unnecessary tests from misdiagnosis. General Practitioners hardly ever think of CO poisoning or poisoning by other products of combustion and nearly always treat for other conditions. The medics are not assisted by the lack of awareness of the dangers of CO or by the lack of a test for CO by the gas emergency service.

  To do HSC/E justice, in 2000 they recommended a levy on gas suppliers to raise funds for publicity about the dangers of CO and that the Gas Emergency Service carry and use equipment to test for CO. These recommendations were not implemented, partly due to lack of Parliamentary time. The recent recommendation by HSC is that the need to raise funds for publicity about the dangers of CO can be achieved by requiring a franchisee (which is likely to be CORGI) to raise funds from the industry. This franchisee will also have the job of registering gas installers and presumably will continue to be required to be the public's gas safety watchdog. In my opinion there is already a conflict of interest because it is not unheard of for a CORGI installer to cause death or injury. Imposing a further burden on the registration body to raise funds to pay for awareness will exacerbate this problem. In other words, an organisation with funds which are ring fenced for registration, and with a huge conflict of interest between gas installers and members of the public, is supposed to influence industry to provide the funds it has so far proved totally unwilling to provide. Please note that attempts have been made since 1997 (when VIGIL was set up) to persuade industry to provide these funds voluntarily.

  I wish to question how the franchisee will be judged. The draft specification document has not even been finished yet it was promised for June. With further delay, more people are being killed or permanently disabled by a poisonous gas 45% of them do not even know exists. In my opinion this latest recommendation shows just how unrealistic the HSC/E has become.

  I suggest that these documents should cause you great concern and I ask you to consider a general review and inquiry into the HSC/E and the setting up of a body to actually achieve a meaningful improvement in health and safety.

December 2007

  Lord McKenzie of Luton

  Lords Minister

  Department for Work and Pensions

  4th Floor

  Caxton House

  Tothill Street

  London SW1H 9DA                              23.07.07

Our meeting on 16 July at 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm Now postponed to Wednesday 25 July at 4.45-5.45 p.m.

  I understand that the purpose of this meeting is to talk about the progress of COCAA and the industry in tackling this topic of raising awareness and gas safety generally.

  I understand that you have limited attendance to:

      Colin Breed MP

      Desmond Swayne MP

      Marsha Singh MP

      Myself—Stephanie Trotter

  As this meeting has been postponed it is difficult to find MPs able to attend at short notice.

COCAA*

A.  SUMMARY

  COCAA has stated that its members cannot provide any funding until 2008. This is hardly a good start to the recommendation made by HSC in January 2007 to put the burden on the franchisee "to lead industry activity in fund raising in support of enhanced gas safety awareness" (see Enc. 1 Heath and Safety Commission Gas Safety Review p. 15 Annex 3 para. 3). The most obvious problem with this scheme is that no definite funding from industry for raising awareness has been specified by the Commission. How will the franchisee be judged? Furthermore our view is that the government should not delegate such an important issue, which has been repeatedly ignored by the industry. A levy is the only way forward. To date 120 MPs have signed MP Colin Breed's EDM 1032 advocating a levy as recommended by the HSC in 2000. In our opinion for so many MPs to sign shows that this is an issue of concern to the public and action should be taken immediately.

  No organization would be more pleased than CO-Gas Safety if a levy was not required. However, in our opinion real action seems incredibly unlikely especially in view of the evidence for the APPPGS in summer 2006 (see Enc.2 Minutes of Proceedings Committee Room 17 04.07.06 page 14) when Barry Sheerman commented:

    "CHAIRMAN: But it is the opposite. Your industry is in the Ice Age, it is Neanderthal compared with cars because, with cars, there is What Car? or Which Car?, so you can go into a newsagent, open a page and the star rating for safety is there and people buy their cars now, as a matter of course, on safety, security as well as performance. That is the difference. The culture has changed and safety is a given, but it was not 30 years ago. Safety does not seem to be a given in this sector. I get a real feeling of complacency, that it is down to only 10 deaths and, honestly, I get the feeling that you are a bit complacent. Is it me because it is a hot day, it is a steamy room, but it does not seem as though you are worried about it, energised about it and want to make a difference? Am I right or am I wrong?"

  CORGI has recently reported that there have been 50 accidental CO deaths in 16 months. This does not surprise us and we still consider these figures to be the tip of an iceberg. In our opinion, the industry is merely making soothing noises in the hope that the government will drop the idea of a levy. In our opinion, the time for a voluntary levy ran out, at the latest in 2004. The government has shown far too much patience with the wealthy fuel industry and will be abrogating its responsibilities if it continues to fail to take immediate action.

  A further problem is the fact that the specification for the franchise is still not published. We have heard that the scheme is now being questioned by the Treasury, for various reasons. The means further delay which will result in the death and injury of more people from the preventable and silent killer, CO.

  B.  More detailed examination of the Minutes of COCAA dated 07.02.07, 28.03.07, 10.05.07 and Steering Group only, 13.06.07 please find these enclosed (Enc. 3A, 3B, 3C & 3D):

    1.  It seems no real funding will be found until 2008 due to the need for the companies to obtain budget approval. (see Enc. 3A dated 07.02.07 at Item 2 para 4)

    2.  The idea of a soap opera CO story is good. However it has been done before (eg Coronation Street suggested by CO-Gas Safety). Also it seems that CORGI, not COCAA is doing the work on this, (See Enc.3B Item 3 d. 28. Minutes 03.07.)

    3.  We find the following chilling after nearly 13 years of lobbying for real action to be taken to stop these unnecessary deaths and injuries. I have copied some extracts to give you a flavour of the discussions reported in the minutes (bold added by us). Please note we have not been invited to a single meeting yet and the first one we have been invited to, is to be held on the 23.07.07.

  28.03.07 (See Encl. 3B at Item 8):

    "John Richards wanted to understand what each organisation gets from doing a separate campaign rather than carrying on with their planned activity and reporting it to the group.

    Eve Cooper explained that we are all doing the right thing with our current campaigns, but Lord McKenzie will not be satisfied with the current level of activity. This may be however, because we do not shout about the things we do now. We need to have a two pronged attack by doing both our individual activity and then a collective campaign. If we provide enough evidence of the things we are doing this year, then we may not have to invest as heavily in the combined campaign. This will reduce what we have to do in the future."

  10.05.07 (see Enc. 3C at Item 5 paras 10 & 11):

    "Jeff Watson wanted to know how we know how much to spend.

    Dan Caesar said we need to speak to Government to find out

what they will be happy with."

  We ask you to ask them to supply funds to run a proper media campaign similar to the anti drink driving and anti smoking campaigns.

  10.05.07 (See Enc. 3C at Item 6 para3):

    "Russell Hamblin Boone said we won't all want ownership of it forever. Start the campaign and then give it to the Government—COL It's a social issue."

  CO-Gas Safety does not totally disagree with this but it shows how unwilling the industry really is to achieve anything meaningful.

  10.05.07 (see Enc. 3C at Item 5 para 15):

    "John Richards said that Barry Sheerman challenged Lord MacKenzie to get other organisations involved for funding—such as insurance companies etc. CORGI to investigate."

  In our opinion, insurance companies have always been a red herring. The insurance companies are not interested because property is valued more highly than people and in any case, most people cannot even prove their cases.

  10.05.07(See Enc. 3C Item 4 para 4):

    "John Richards wanted to get the CO victim support groups to sign off on key messages. Dan said that the CO Victim support groups will be invited to join COCAA. Key messages signed off."

  We hope we will have an opportunity to be consulted on these messages. Frankly this comment just underlines how we feel about COCAA and our membership. We are simply being used by the industry and COCAA for their convenience. See Enc. 4 our application to be members of the Steering Group dated 05.06.07 and again 22.06.07, which has simply been ignored.

  Steering Group Minutes (see Enc. 3D)

  It was stated at 2 (c) that "passwords and user names have been sent to all members" but see (Enc. 5) Stacey Rodgers' email dated 14 June 2007 stating that she still has not received these.

  Chris Bielby from British Gas does throughout appear to be trying to move things forward and we are glad to have his and BG's support of our children's poster competition. However, we would appreciate some support for this from Government and this seems sadly lacking so far.

  However, (see Enc. 3B Minutes 28.03.07 at 8 para 4):

    "Chris Bielby suggested that our campaign should focus on the cause of CO poisoning; open-flued appliances. He suggested we should be pushing for people to have CO alarms fitted and we should target health professionals who often mistake the symptoms of CO for the flu."

  We are not against these but it must be noted that these, servicing, replacing open flued appliances and selling alarms will add to BG's profit. Not that we care as long as lives are saved it is just that we want you to recognize that these proposals are proposals that add to profit. It is such a shame that BG has taken so long to see this. I pointed this out to BG in 1995 but they absolutely refused to listen. It is very depressing that it has taken over 12 years to get this far.

  Russell Hamblin-Boone (see Enc. 3D 13.07.07 at Item 8 para 1) seems to be more concerned with writing to the MPs who have signed Colin Breed's EDM to "prove why a levy is not required":

    —  "CO-Gas Safety campaign: CO-Gas Safety is collecting signatures for an Early Day Motion sponsored by Colin Breed MP to encourage the Government to place a levy on energy retailers. Russell said we need to prepare our response and prove why a levy is not required. This will give us the opportunity to contact all those MPs who have signed the EDM and update them on the work COCAA is doing. The ERA will be putting forward an EDM close to CO Week about COCAA. Zoe said that COGDEM has purchased email addresses of all the MPs. Zoe suggested that this could be used to update the MPs on our work."

C.  THE BACKGROUND

  1.  CO-Gas Safety launched at the House of Commons in 1995. Quite quickly we realized that there was a huge need for awareness and that funding was needed to raise awareness of the dangers of CO. Also that a main problem was the lack of testing of appliances by the gas emergency service. We pointed these out to everyone and suggested a levy of "£1 per household per year". Nothing was done.

  3.  Eventually Sue Slipman, who was head of the Gas Consumers Council at the time, realized that something had to be done and set up VIGIL in 1998, which was like COCCA. We attended full of enthusiasm. A steering group was appointed consisting of the industry alone. Nothing happened except time wasting meetings. We never even received the minutes of the steering committee and began to doubt it even met.

  4.  In 1999 aware that VIGIL had achieved nothing, New VIGIL was set up. Again nothing was achieved except lots of meetings and time wasting.

  5.  The HSE started its fundamental review into gas safety. We were not invited or even allowed by HSE to attend the first stakeholders meeting.

  6.  We were interviewed for this review and the recommendations were made for a levy on the gas suppliers (we would prefer the whole industry but the suppliers are easier to get at) to raise awareness of the dangers of CO. Also a further recommendation was that the gas emergency service carry and use equipment to test appliances for CO. We were delighted.

  7.  Work groups were set up to implement the recommendations. CO-Gas Safety had to spend hours on the telephone and write at least an inch of correspondence to endlessly ask to be part of the work groups. In the end we were given permission by one kind civil servant, who happened to answer the telephone late on a Friday evening. (I had called to make sure my most recent email had been received.) The first meeting was on the following Monday. I also achieved permission for the other group which existed at that time to join the Work Groups. This was Carbon Monoxide Support run by Debbie Davis. Debbie attended about two meeting altogether, although it could have been one only, which was extremely disappointing. She is no longer doing this work.

  8.  Endless meetings of the Work Groups achieved nothing. I attended all meetings or sent a colleague on the rare occasions that I could not attend myself. The sticking point was always funding and the refusal by the industry to provide any.

  9.  The breakfast meeting, which I think Bill Callaghan organized in 2003, (we were not asked) achieved nothing.

  10.  I do not see COCAA achieving anything unless the government threatens a levy publicly and means it. Frankly, after all this time we consider a mandatory levy is what is required urgently. In our opinion the industry has amply demonstrated that it has no intention of doing anything meaningful unless forced to do so and why should it? Industry is there to look after the bottom line, not people. Looking after people is what the government should do.

  Going over the history has made me think a good deal about the past nearly thirteen years of running the charity as a full time volunteer. I have experienced utter frustration and listened to story after story of unnecessary grief and tragedy. I have therefore listed some other issues I have had with the HSE, which I would like you to consider seriously. Recently we have tried to be treated as a full stakeholder in the Supply Licence Review by Ofgem. Although in our opinion we have not succeeded in this, we are surprised to find that Ofgem has been more approachable, has listened and dealt with us with more consideration to safety than HSE ever has. This strikes us as strange and we think you should read about our experiences with the HSE (enclosed as a separate document) because you are the Minister responsible for HSC and HSE. We think you should consider whether or not, HSC and HSE are "fit for purpose". In our opinion they are not.

  Yours Sincerely

  Stephanie Trotter OBE (Mrs.)

  President & Director

    *We were only asked to become members of COCAA after a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group (APPGSG) when Barry Sheerman MP insisted that we be asked on the grounds that "Stephanie and Stacey know far more about CO than all the rest of us in this room" or words to that effect. It is quite obvious to us that we are not welcome and while that is not important if progress is truly being made, we doubt there will be real progress while Government allows industry to continue to merely talk about raising awareness while people continue to die and become disabled for life.

  23.07.07

    Some of the problems CO-Gas Safety has experienced throughout the 12 and a half years of trying to raise the issue of gas safety and carbon monoxide poisoning with HSE and HSC and leading to a conclusion that HSC and HSE are not fit for purpose.

1.  CORGI—CONFLICT OF INTEREST

  The apparent lack of funds for HSE means that HSE seems keen to delegate anything it can. In our opinion, this is why CORGI is in such a mess. HSE was far too keen to delegate its responsibility to CORGI in the first place and this resulted in CORGI taking on a clear conflict of interest. CORGI cannot act as a club for CORGI installers and also help an individual who may have an argument about work done by a CORGI installer and may have been poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO). HSE of all bodies should see that it is not possible to in effect, act for both prosecution and defence, yet this is what HSE has imposed on CORGI and under the new system this will continue. Indeed HSE has imposed a further burden on CORGI, that of raising funds from industry to raise awareness of the dangers of CO. This industry has shown itself to be extremely resistant to any attempts to persuade it to provide such funds.

2.  CORGI'S DILEMMA

  CORGI cannot even raise these issues with HSE for fear of not receiving the franchise, which it needs to continue its own existence. This totally unfair to CORGI and means that all the issues are swept under the carpet.

3.  THE LACK OF OPENNESS ABOUT CORGI AND WHAT HSE HAS DELEGATED TO CORGI

  I was told by an HSE civil servant in 2005 that CORGI had no remit other than to register gas installers. At the time this was the only visible duty (being in legislation) so I believed this. However, in January 2006 at a meeting with Lord Hunt, another civil servant from HSE started reading from what I later found out to be (after inquires) to be the CORGI criteria laid down by HSE. The criteria were not sent to me and were not published on the HSE website until I insisted. We found that the criteria lay down duties for CORGI, such as to "thoroughly investigate a complaint by a member of the public". The most important issue is surely safety and yet even now when, after years of lobbying, CORGI inspectors do have and are trained to use flue gas analysers, they do not use them to check to see if a consumer is safe or not from CO when they "thoroughly investigate". The inspectors only use the FGAs when they are instructed to undertake an investigation costing around £1,500. This is merely an example but is outrageous.

4.  THE HSC GAS SAFETY SUB-COMMITTEE

  It took CO-Gas Safety over three years of applications to be appointed to the HSC Gas Safety Sub-Committee. However, there has been no meeting of this sub-committee since we were appointed in 2003. We have raised this issue but were told "there is nothing happening at the moment on gas". When I stated that this was the problem we wished to raise at the next meeting, still there was no meeting etc. There has been no meeting of the HSC GSSC to this date to our knowledge.

5.  PRESENTATION BY OUR VICTIMS TO THE HSE AND HSC AND MINISTERS

  We have only ever been allowed to make a presentation to the HSE not to the HSC or Ministers. Even this took years of work. Eventually the HSE allowed us to make a presentation in 2000, (Les Philpott did not attend which was a great pity as he had been in charge of gas since we started) and to the officials group in 2007 (Les Philpott did attend this). We consider that the Commissioners should certainly receive such presentations once a year. Frankly it seems to us that the Commissioners are mainly members of industry and government and merely rubber stamp the decisions by the Executive. This seems to suit HSE but it is not good enough because unless and until these people hear from victims, they cannot be fully informed or engaged.

6.  LACK OF A COMMISSIONER FOR VICTIMS

  There is nobody on the Commission with any experience of being a victim or of representing one. We have continually drawn attention to this without any success. Consumers are equated with victims which is ridiculous.

7.  MEETING REFUSED WITH BILL CALLAGHAN

  We could not and cannot even obtain a meeting with Bill Callaghan, Chair of the HSC despite asking for this in writing since 2001 and renewing it ever since (see Encl. 1—letters dated 06.09.2001 and 12.12.2001 and 21.10.2004). By 2004 we had been lobbying for over ten years. Surely he could have seen us at some stage?

8.  BEREAVEMENT LEAFLET

  Correspondence has been going on over this for many years (see Enc. 2, copy letter to Ian Drummond dated 1998). This letter states "I have been writing about the Advice and Information for Bereaved Families for some years now". We are not satisfied that this leaflet is being given out and we would still like the copy changed and the bodies which can assist families drawn to the attention of those families in writing several times if necessary. We recently sent you a letter to Les Philpott about this dated 20.06.07.

9.  NAMES OF THE DEAD

  We have been writing about names of the dead for many years. We were told that they could not be given to us. Recently we have been told that HSE does not even collect names of the dead unless it prosecutes. What is the true position? Why were we not told of the true position years ago? Many years ago when Angela Eagle MP was Minister for the HSE, she was instructed by HSE to state in Parliament that CO-Gas Safety deaths included suicides. I wrote to HSE with all our deaths named and listed with details and asked for information to support this allegation. A year later I chased this up with HSE but HSE never responded. Please find enclosed our press pack with the names of our dead (see Enc. 3). These have been published on our website since about 2003 and we have received no comments other than good ones.

10.  HSE OFFERED TO BUY OUR DATA

  In summer 2006 in a meeting, HSE offered to buy our data of deaths and injuries for £70,000. As the data is freely available on our website, (and if further details should be required these can be obtained by employing our database officer at cost), we found this offer very strange. We offered HSE our data free so that further study might be undertaken using our data. This offer was not taken up. HSE stated that they wanted to give us some funding so we offered various other projects but no funding whatever was forthcoming. Our data is our only real asset. Why was HSE willing to pay so much for data that it can use free anyway and then not even use it?

11.  RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY HSC IN 2000 IGNORED BY HSE

  It seems that the HSE did little or nothing to promote the recommendations made by HSC in 2000 once the government had dropped the Safety Bill. Surely another legislative vehicle could have been found or pressed for? Some feeble efforts were made to impose the levy voluntarily (namely a breakfast meeting was organised with the suppliers) but we can find no other initiatives.

12.  RECOMMENDATIONS IN 2000 NOT MENTIONED IN 2007

  The HSE paper prepared for the HSC to vote on in January 2007 failed to mention the recommendations made in 2000, namely a levy on the gas suppliers to raise awareness of the dangers of CO and a recommendation that the gas emergency service carry and use equipment to test appliances for CO. We think this was misleading. It was also stated in that paper that the recommendations made in 2000 were "largely industry focused" see Annex 2.

Summary

  CO-Gas Safety looked on HSE and HSC as allies with regard to improving gas safety and indeed health and safety is the job of the HSE and HSC. Even on a purely economic basis, efforts should be made to stop these deaths and injuries (see Encl. 3, our press pack December 2006 Press Conference at the House of Lords. Page 25 "Cost benefit analysis"). These vital issues have been ignored by HSE. We think HSE is still too concerned with saving money, doing little and not concerned enough about improving safety and saving lives. However, the impression given to the public is that HSC and HSE looks after them. In our opinion, this is highly misleading and the HSC and HSE are not fit for purpose.

  Yours Sincerely

  Stephanie Trotter, OBE, (Mrs.)

  Lord McKenzie of Luton

  Department for Work and Pensions 4th Floor

  Caxton House

  Tothill Street

  London

  SW1H 9DA

  07.08.07

  Thank you for the meeting last week on 25 July with Colin Breed MP.

  Thank you for taking very seriously:

    1.  Our concern over any research testing people at GPs' surgeries or in A & E and how there is a danger of a false negative for Carbon Monoxide (CO) due to time passing and oxygen being administered.

    2.  Public Liability Insurance. Our concern is that legislation is required so that the new Franchisee can insist on PLI for all gas installers.

    3.  Our concern that CORGI inspectors have and have been trained to use equipment to test appliances for carbon monoxide, yet use this equipment only when on an investigation costing £1,500 and not when visiting a consumer who is complaining about a CORGI installer's work. We are grateful that you took on board our concern that the CORGI inspector should make sure such a consumer is safe from a leak of both natural gas and CO by using such equipment.

    4.  The work done in Kirklees. We are very pleased you will be visiting this area and hope you see both Stacey Rodgers and Cath Rawnsley-Pemberton from the council, who have both worked so hard. We are concerned that Cath's work may have been discontinued due to lack of funds. This is very regrettable because she did some excellent work and she is really committed. It would be such a waste if she could not continue.

    5.  We are glad that all fuels are being considered with regard to carbon monoxide poisoning.

LEVY

  However, we are very disappointed that you will not consider the levy or even specifying an amount to be contributed by the industry, even if some of this sum could be given back should progress be made and deaths and injuries reduced. I am sure you know that Ofgem has suggested this, (please find enclosed find our response to Ofgem, relevant parts in red, which is apparently now on the Ofgem website). We consider that unless some very clear guidance by government is given to industry, (either an amount to be spent or particular actions to be undertaken by a certain time), industry will continue to prevaricate and people will continue to die and be permanently disabled from a poison they cannot protect themselves from because they do not even know it exists. Even those who may know about CO do not know where it comes from or how to prevent CO poisoning. Surely it is up to Government and HSC/HSE to protect or at least warn people? You have great faith in Social Corporate Responsibility, yet the CEOs of these companies will not even see us. We well understand that the raison d'etre of companies is to maximise profit for their shareholders. What we cannot understand is the expectation of Government, which seems to think companies will do the decent thing even where this could affect their profit.

  Furthermore, we ask how the franchisee can be held to account when no amount is specified and it is the industry which is being asked by the franchisee to provide this funding?

  The industry has stated that its budgets are committed until 08-09 yet surely even quite a large amount for raising awareness is merely small change for such companies and will not have to be in its budget or could be found from their Social Corporate Responsibility budget? We have asked Ian Powney of CORGI to look into the social corporate responsibility budgets of the large industry players but in our opinion, neither he nor CORGI can easily press them on this. This is surely a job for the Government.

MINISTERIAL GROUP

  We are glad that you and the rest of the Ministerial Group are willing to support the second CO Awareness week -which I am sure you are know was initiated by the victim and consumer groups (as was the first CO Awareness week last year). Hopefully it will be possible to have a meeting with the Ministerial Group after the event on 15 October. However it is common for Ministers to be called away to deal with urgent business in their own department or in Parliament at such a time of day and we are concerned that if this happens, the consumer and victim groups will not have been given equal treatment compared to the industry stakeholders. If this occurs we ask for a meeting at another time with the Ministerial Group to ensure even handedness.

CORGI CONFLICT OF INTEREST

  You disagree with the conflict which we see is at the root of CORGI and will be the foundation of the new franchisee. How can one organisation police gas installers and be the public's gas safety watchdog at the same time, when the consumer could well be suing the installer? We hope that some robust protocols can be drafted to at least reduce this conflict. However, in our opinion it would be far better to remove the conflict in the first place and leave CORGI free to concentrate on the gas installers and the generalities of gas safety leaving it to another body to represent the interests of consumers and victims.

NEED FOR RESEARCH AND THE CORGI TRUST

  We have lobbied for years for some decent research to find out the scale of the CO problem. A randomised survey of a statistically significant number of UK homes would cost £1 million and in our opinion, should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. The CORGI Trust seems to us to have had £3 million of unrestricted funds in its published accounts in March 2006. Surely the Trust could fund this research and undertake other valuable awareness projects?

  There is still no contact directly with the Trust except through CORGI itself. What is the CORGI Trust doing?

LACK OF FUNDS FOR HSE'S PROSECUTIONS OF ILLEGAL INSTALLERS

  In our opinion, CORGI suffers with regard to the HSE's lack of prosecutions of illegal installers. We would like to see this remedied as soon as possible. Some extra funding of HSE to undertake these prosecutions would be the answer.

Letters from us dated 23.07.08

  We do hope that you have had time to read these letters. The last thing we wanted to do was to state that in our opinion the HSC and HSE are not fit for purpose. We were very surprised that these letters were immediately forwarded to the civil servants concerned. We did not wish to criticise the civil servants but we did consider that we should report to you, the person with the responsibility for the HSC and HSE. It is our experiences over many years which led us to this sad conclusion.

For your information—some good news!

The Schools Poster Competition

  We have (at last!) had wonderful support with regard to this. British Gas was immediately helpful in offering the prizes for both the children and the schools. Now we have the support of Dominic Mansfield in the Communications Department of Children, Schools, and Families and he has agreed to put news of the competition out on Teachernet at the start of the Autumn term. COCAA has agreed to pay for the judges, receiving the posters and for the necessary PR. The Department of Health seems very pleased with the initiative and there should be a great deal of very cheap awareness of the dangers of CO raised by this competition. We are putting the finishing touch to an accompanying leaflet with illustrations drawn by an excellent cartoonist, who has suffered from CO poisoning.





 
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