Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


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.

September 2007

  Lord McKenzie

  Department for Work and Pensions Caxton House

  Tothill Street

  London

  SW1H 9DA

  12.10.07

  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 babies!

  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 week.

  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.

  Yours Sincerely

  Lord McKenzie of Luton

  Lords Minister

  Department for Work and Pensions 4th Floor

  Caxton House

  Tothill Street

  London SW1H 9DA

  16.10.07

  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 important point.

  Yours Sincerely

  Stephanie Trotter, OBE, (Mrs.)



 
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