Workplace health and safety: follow-up report - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

7  Nuclear Directorate

84. In the Nuclear White Paper (January 2008), the Government announced it would be working with the regulators of the nuclear industry to explore ways of enhancing further the transparency and efficiency of the regulatory regime, without diminishing its effectiveness in dealing with the challenges of new nuclear power stations. Subsequently, Dr Tim Stone was appointed to carry out a review of the current nuclear regulatory environment. The focus of the review was on HSE's Nuclear Directorate (ND), of which the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) is the major part. Interim recommendations were delivered to the Government in June 2008.[60]

85. In the short term, Stone recommended that "the pay and other critical compensation elements of current and prospective NII staff must be adjusted rapidly to enable recruitment of the full complement of staff needed."[61]

86. In the medium term, he emphasised the need for the Nuclear Directorate to be able to recruit and retain sufficient suitably qualified and skilled staff through having flexibility over its own remuneration and employment terms and conditions, as well as governance and location. He argued that this was necessary to compete with the private sector for the specialist resources it needs to operate to world-class standards and to meet business needs, both in the immediate term and on a permanently sustainable basis.

87. Prospect welcomed Stone's recommendation that pay and compensation for Nuclear Installations Inspectorate staff should be adjusted rapidly to enable recruitment of the full complement of staff needed. In a press release it said:

"The NII has 170 inspectors and needs an additional 20 for current work, as well as 30 more to meet nuclear new build needs. Also 50 inspectors are due to retire in the next five years.

"Tim Stone's findings vindicate Prospect's long and determined campaign for change. We welcome his calls to find a long-term pay solution that recognises the skills shortage within the industry and the difficulty of recruiting suitably qualified and skilled inspectors in competition with the private sector."[62]

88. Prospect also welcomed proposed changes to the NII structure, including creation of satellite NII offices in London and Cheltenham, alongside the Bootle headquarters.[63]

89. The Government plans to legislate to establish the Nuclear Directorate as a statutory corporation. This would create an autonomous body, but one that would retain HSE's overall governance. The Government expects this change to be implemented through a Legislative Reform Order (LRO) and to be established in autumn 2010 and hopes that shadow arrangements could be put in place before then.[64] In June 2009, the Government published a consultation document which outlined its plans to create a:

"new sector-specific independent regulator, with a predominantly non-executive board, which reports to: (i) Ministers in respect of its regulatory functions; and (ii) Ministers and the HSE in respect of strategies and business planning".[65]

90. During our visit to HSE's headquarters in Bootle, we were told by HSE that the new organisation would remain within the public sector but would have greater flexibility to respond to the challenges it faces (including recruitment and retention difficulties).

91. We also met with Prospect representatives, who said that Nuclear Inspectors generally agreed that the decision to create a statutory corporation was the right one. However, this would be dependent on appropriate governance structures and assurances that Nuclear Inspectors terms and conditions of employment including pension entitlement would be consistent with the current position.

92. We asked Geoffrey Podger to clarify governance arrangements and the impact of the transfer on employees' benefits. He explained that final decisions have not yet been taken by Ministers; however, he expected there would be separate board, on which HSE would be represented. In terms of status of employees with the Directorate, he said:

"The view is taken that those nuclear inspectors who will transfer to the new body will not remain civil servants. It is important to understand, as is part of Dr Stone's review, the need to be able to pay comparable salaries to those which are available elsewhere in the nuclear industry, and it is certainly thought that this will be facilitated by those people no longer remaining civil servants. We are in discussions with HSE trade union colleagues in relation to the status of other staff. We certainly envisage that in relation to HSE administrative and clerical staff, who will initially move to the Authority, that they will be secondees and, therefore, they will ultimately have a choice over time as to whether they wish to join the new body permanently or return to us in HSE. There are some other specialist staff who are very important but who are not nuclear inspectors whose status we need to further consider with our trade union colleagues, and those discussions are going on at the moment."[66]

93. We welcome proposals to change the structure of the Nuclear Directorate on the basis that it enhances the transparency and efficiency of the regulatory regime and should resolve the recruitment difficulties it has experienced in the past.

94. We are pleased that the new body will have a separate board from HSE and we recommend that the Government consults on the governance arrangements before appointing board members. We ask the Government to keep us updated on progress towards the development of the new structure and we will return to this issue again as necessary.

95. For those staff who are permanently transferred to the new body it is imperative that their rights under TUPE legislation are protected. We ask HSE to provide further information on the implications of this transfer and to ensure that the move does not impact negatively on those affected.

60   Tim Stone, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Nuclear Regulatory Review, Summary Recommendations, December 2008 Back

61   Ibid. Back

62   "Nuclear inspectors welcome call for pay boost", Prospect press release, 28 January 2009 Back

63   Ibid. Back

64   HSE website, Proposed changes to Nuclear Directorate, Back

65   Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Energy and Climate Change , A Consultation on the Restructuring of the Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Directorate, June 2009 Back

66   Q93 Back

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