Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary
Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
I want to thank you for our discussion on gas
safety issues on 25 July. You handed ma-a note dated 23 July in
which you listed a number of additional issues, previously raised
with HSE on several occasions. You conclude that HSC/E are not
"fit for purpose". You subsequently wrote on 7 August
with similar concerns. I apologise for the delay in replying,
which has been due to the summer recess.
I have considered both your note and letter
but do not share your conclusion about HSC/E. We have the best
safety record in the European Union, and have seen a reduction
in work-related ill health from 40 million days lost per year
in 2000-02 to 30 million in 2005-06. In my view, this owes much
to the expertise and experience of the Commission, the Executive,
their enforcement partners in local government, and many others
in business, the Trade Unions, and elsewhere.
I hope that I can continue to rely on your support
and commitment in seeing through our ambitious agenda for change.
I look forward to seeing you at the launch of CO Awareness Week
and to see the winners of your schools poster competition.
Department for Work and Pensions Caxton House
Thank you for your letter dated 28 September.
We understand that you do not share our conclusion, reached in
sadness more than anger, that the HSE and HSC is unfit for purpose.
You argue that "We" (and by this I assume you mean the
UK), has the best safety record in the European Union. As many
countries such as Greece, do not seem to have any safety legislation
or the government department whose job it is to monitor safety
in any way, (Face the Facts Radio 4 last summer) we would certainly
hope the UK does better than the EU. Therefore, in our opinion,
it does not necessarily follow logically that the HSE and HSC
are fit for purpose. To give you a recent example, the HSE promised
to have the tendering document for the new franchisee ready in
June. It is now October and the document is still not ready. So
the plan for the new franchisee to take over the duty of raising
awareness is of course, delayed. In our opinion, this will not
matter greatly since in our opinion the plan of the franchisee
obtaining funds from industry to raise awareness of the dangers
of CO, is flawed. The flaw is how can the franchisee obtain funds
from an industry that has shown every intention of avoiding providing
funds for such a purpose?
You also argue that the reduction in work-related
ill health from 40 million days lost per year in 2000-02 to 30
million in 2005-06, but again we do not accept that this is all
down to the efficiency of the HSE and HSC. The number of storks
flying over Norway may exactly correlate with the number of babies
appearing but it does not prove that the storks delivered the
For years we have been trying to obtain the
data from HSE on accidental CO deaths. For years HSE has told
us that it cannot release these names for reasons of confidentiality.
Recently we have been told that in fact the reason HSE will not
release the names is because HSE does not collect the names because
it is not in HSE's "business interests" to do this.
Please see enclosed email exchange between Ian Greenwood and myself
with the business interests in red. This reason (HSE's business
interests) would be laughable if we were not talking about people
who have died from avoidable poisoning leaving grieving families
whose lives will never be the same again.
I did find your words "I hope that I can
continue to rely on your support and commitment in seeing through
our ambitious agenda for change" heartening and of course,
you know you can rely on us to support any and all initiatives
that genuinely improve safety. However, CO-Gas Safety is not the
only group to have been chronically disappointed by COCAA. Lynn
Griffiths has been supported for CO Awareness week to the tune
of £46,000 but the money arrived only a matter of weeks before
the week itself and Lynn has no regular funding. The only reason
her efforts could go ahead was because she has John Andrews of
NAPIT behind her (NAPIT being a rival to CORGI for the franchise).
What is more, CORGI/COCAA are holding events a day or two after
hers, in all her venues which looks at best, inefficient. We told
COCAA of our plans in March and again at a COCAA meeting which
we all attended at great inconvenience (it being holiday time)
on 14 August. However, no mention was made at that meeting of
the intention by CORGI/COCAA to follow up Lynn's events with CORGI/COCAA
events. This is puerile.
Furthermore we have received no support for
our schools poster competition from CORGI/COCAA other than an
offer of PR and recently an offer to put something in the Gas
Installer. We have had to extend the deadline to 31 July 2008
with prizes being presented at an event at the next CO Awareness
We would love to be able to tell you that things
have changed; that the blocking tactics used by HSE have disappeared;
that the games played by industry have suddenly become genuine
offers of help and support. Sadly this is not the case and while
you are in charge of HSE, HSC and this sector of business safety,
we consider that you should at least be informed.
Lord McKenzie of Luton
Department for Work and Pensions 4th Floor
London SW1H 9DA
It was a pleasure to see you at Monday's CO
Awareness Week event at the House of Lords, organized this year
by Lynn Griffiths of CO-Awareness.
In your opening remarks you said that last year
the Gas industry were asked to do more on CO awareness and following
a meeting with them last week (presumably with ERA?) you had received
"positive signs" this was happening.
With CO incidents rising, notwithstanding your
stated wish for proportionate, risk based expenditure, you confirmed
the Gas industry "is the creator of the risk so it needs
to play its part".
Could you please tell us what examples were
given by the industry of the positive signs you noted. Also, since
you acknowledged it was a first step, how soon will it be before
you expect the industry to confirm their priorities and funding
for future winter seasons?
We look forward to hearing from you on this
Stephanie Trotter, OBE, (Mrs.)