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Health and Safety Legislation

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

On 21 March, I announced an immediate review of health and safety regulation with a view to finding ways to simplify the regulatory burden on business. That review is being chaired by Ragnar Löfstedt, the professor of risk management at King’s College, London. He published a call for evidence on 20 May, the closing date for which is 29 July. We hope to publish the findings of the review later this year.

Some of the most inappropriate and burdensome health and safety recommendations on business come from unqualified, cowboy consultants. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is getting rid of cowboy wheel clampers; what are the Government doing to tackle those cowboy health and safety consultants?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. At the beginning of April, we launched a new online register of qualified health and safety consultants, precisely with a view to stamping out the cowboys. I want businesses and other bodies that need consultancy advice to work with qualified people who are capable of advising on what the law actually says, rather than working with people who would like to argue that the law does something they claim it says.

While the Minister is considering what reform to health and safety legislation might be necessary, I hope he will take into account the problems that the Health and Safety Executive has had at Sonae in my constituency. A major fire incident over the last few days has covered much of the industrial area as well as residential areas in acrid black smoke. Will he assure me that the HSE will work with the local authority, Knowsley council, the fire service and everybody else in the town, because we have reached the conclusion that this place should be closed down?

I am aware of the very unfortunate incident in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I cannot comment specifically on that investigation, but I can assure him that the HSE is investigating carefully what happened. Clearly, lessons must be learned. However, that underlines my view that the HSE should concentrate its resources on dealing with genuinely serious incidents and problems, and not on trivial matters.