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Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

10. What proactive investigation work he has commissioned the Health and Safety Executive to undertake in relation to legionella. (119823)

Following research commissioned in 2011, the Health and Safety Executive is developing a revised intervention strategy to promote better control of legionella risks by companies with potential sources of legionella. The strategy will involve working with stakeholders, as well as following up a safety notice that the executive issued in July reminding companies of the precautions required for cooling towers and evaporative condensers.

I welcome the Minister to his new post. In the light of the statements that we are to have this week about regulation, what he has just said means that we have to ask whether one person’s unnecessary burden is somebody else’s death sentence.

I refer the Minister to a research study carried out by Environmental Health News. It shows that in 40% of cases, local authorities were not carrying out proactive inspections. Given that local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive have shared responsibility for preventing legionnaires’ disease, we need a clear statement about the role that the HSE will take to prevent outbreaks such as those that we had in Stoke-on-Trent in the summer.

The Health and Safety Executive is taking a proactive stance on the issue. It is issuing guidance to stakeholders and others and ensuring that there is a risk-based approach to inspections, focusing on installations likely to cause the highest risk of legionella. We are taking action to tackle the problem and no one’s life will be put at risk as a consequence of the changes that we are making.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential for the Health and Safety Executive to work closely with local authorities, as they are the bodies that interact with, and regulate, many of those in the sector that are prone to legionella?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a shared responsibility, and that requires the HSE and local authorities to work closely together. It requires them to identify the risks in their areas and take the right steps, proportionate to those risks, to tackle the risk of legionella.