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Electrical Equipment (Certification)

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the speed of certification work at the British Approval Service for Electrical Equipment in Flammable Atmospheres; and whether he will make a statement on the industry study group's report on BASEEFA's testing and certification procedures.

The need to complete certification work more quickly at BASEEFA is acknowledged, and steps have been and are being taken to achieve this. Yesterday I received an interim report from the industry study group which I set up on 23 November last year and I shall be meeting the group on 31 March to discuss this report and the progress of its work so far.

May I remind the Minister that three-quarters of the applications to BASEEFA have been taking between 18 months to two years to process, compared with the German test house where they take only nine to 12 months? Will he accept the view of the industry that, if procedures could be speeded up, British exports could be increased by about 40 per cent.? At a time of rising unemployment, will he move speedily with the study group, which has been sitting for some time, in order to see that British industry is not further disadvantaged by overseas competition?

I entirely agree that the delays at BASEEFA have had an adverse effect on exports and on production of new appliances and products generally. For that reason I set up the industry study group in November. It may wells be that the answer to this problem lies in further sub-contracting. That will be very urgently looked at.

Is the Minister aware that a firm in my constituency, Wolf Safety Lamp, has had to wait two years for the certification of a lamp of valuable and important design, and that it is worried about the failure of the Government to speed up the process and to provide sufficient qualified staff in this important establishment, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd) said, has formidable implications for the export of these important commodities?

To a great extent, the problem has been caused by the shortage of the necessary technical staff. There has been an improvement in the backlog and in the speed with which certificates have been issued. We are anxious to improve the staffing ratio. There is now only a shortfall of two in technical officers under establishment. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the matter is being pursued with vigour.