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Volume 406: debated on Friday 23 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what action he is taking to encourage businesses in the UK to take steps to remove asbestos from workplaces. [114831]

Currently HSE inspectors use their powers under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to require employers to manage asbestos risks to their employees and others in the workplace.Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (CAWR), which will come into force on 21 May 2004, places a duty on all those responsible for maintenance activities in non-domestic premises to manage the risk of any asbestos in the buildings under their control.This regulation requires the dutyholder to identify where asbestos is present, assess the risk and, depending on its condition and whether it is likely to be disturbed, take action to manage the risk. The duty to manage asbestos does not require all asbestos materials to be removed. If the asbestos is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed it is safer to leave it in place and manage the risk of exposure.The Health and Safety Executive is engaged in a campaign to raise awareness of the risks from asbestos in buildings and to encourage dutyholders to achieve effective and proportionate compliance with the duty. They are being encouraged to start work now to meet their new obligations.