HC Deb 11 July 1994 vol 246 cc647-8
1. Mr. Jamieson

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement regarding the setting up of an accreditation and inspection scheme for outdoor activity centres.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)

The Activity Centre Advisory Committee has now employed consultants to draw up and pilot guidelines for individual activities; those and future inspection arrangements will be considered further by the ACAC at its next meeting in September.

Mr. Jamieson

Is the Minister aware that this summer hundreds of thousands of children will go to outdoor activity centres and undertake potentially hazardous activities? Although I welcome the voluntary accreditation scheme and the limited inspection announced earlier this year as a partial solution, does the Minister share my concern that, because of the voluntary nature of the scheme, cowboy centres, working well below safety levels, will continue to put children's lives at risk?

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point and of course we are all concerned about that. We look forward to the ACAC's recommendations on that and other points in September.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

The Minister will be aware that the Scout Association meets the standards set down by the British Canoe Union—and, indeed, standards higher than those—not only for canoeing but for other adventure activities that the association offers to young people. While giving careful consideration to standards, will my hon. Friend make absolutely sure that we do not strangle adventure activities for young people with red tape?

Mr. Sproat

We shall maintain a wise balance.

Mr. Win Griffiths

Does the Minister realise that he would be applying some common sense that everyone involved in schools and the youth movement would applaud if, ahead of any report from the advisory committee, he announced that a statutory scheme would be introduced? That would give schools and clubs the confidence to believe that outdoor activity centres validated by such a scheme would be up to standard and safe.

Mr. Sproat

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The ACAC is looking at the possibilities of a voluntary accreditation scheme.