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Accreditation Service

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the complaint by the Chinese authorities in 2002 about the conduct of UK Accreditation Service accredited certification bodies operating in that country; and what steps UKAS took to allay those concerns. [116754]

Since no formal complaint has been received by the Government this is a matter for UKAS. However, I understand that in April 2002, the Chinese authorities expressed their concerns through the International Accreditation Forum about the activities of a number of overseas certification bodies operating in China. Five of the 11 bodies investigated by the Chinese authorities were accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS took immediate and robust action by imposing a moratorium on new accreditations for certification carried out outside of the United Kingdom whilst it carried out its own investigation into the activities of the named UKAS-accredited certification bodies. The Government support this approach.The moratorium was subsequently lifted on 31 July 2002. UKAS found that those UKAS-accredited bodies that were the subject of the Chinese concerns had been operating through agents and that there were some weaknesses, at the UK headquarter offices, in the control of these agents which needed to be addressed. There were though no indications that such deficiencies in procedures applied in the case of other accredited certification bodies. However, in recognition that the certification sector had become more international in nature, UKAS implemented further changes in the way that it assesses certification bodies. These changes require certification bodies to: submit full details of all agency/sub-contracting, etc. arrangements that they have in place; declare all the locations where critical activities are carried out; and list all the countries where UKAS-accredited certificates have been issued. UKAS itself has also made some changes to its internal procedures as a result of its investigation into the Chinese concerns.We consider that UKAS acted positively and expeditiously in this case and that the changes implemented by UKAS were necessary and sufficient to safeguard the credibility of the accreditation process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the results of the Accreditation Awareness Campaign run by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service from November 2000 to December 2002. [116755]

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service's (UKAS) Accreditation Awareness Campaign was launched by my noble friend, Lord Sainsbury, on 27 November 2000. Initially expected to last for 18 months, the campaign continues because of the recognition that awareness in this area can only be achieved via the regular flow of information to the market. The Government fully support the campaign and contribute towards some of its costs.The campaign is in two parts, one aimed at raising awareness within government and the other aimed at business (particularly small businesses) so that, within government, potential customers (scheme/standard developers, etc.) of UKAS can make informed choices about their accreditation needs, and businesses can recognise the value of accreditation to the competitiveness of their companies and to risk management.The campaign has been largely successful to date although UKAS has had more success delivering its message to various parts of government than it has to business. Nevertheless, UKAS is determined to make further progress raising the awareness of their services with business and is developing its current strategy to make the business element of the campaign more successful.