HC Deb 24 April 1996 vol 276 cc433-4
13. Mr. Steen

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the cost compliance assessment of the Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Act 1995. [25091]

Mr. Paice

The most recent cost-benefit assessment by the Health and Safety Executive suggests that the costs to industry will be less than £9 million at present values, spread over 10 years. A copy is in the Library.

Mr. Steen

Is the Minister aware that no one has lost a life in any of the activities that will be regulated under the Act except in the Lyme bay disaster, and that the Health and Safety Executive provides licences only for nuclear reactors, for ammunition dumps and for removal of asbestos? Now we are adding a licence for fell walking and archery. Is that not a priceless example of the Government over-regulating, and should not the Government refer the matter to the Deregulation Committee?

Mr. Paice

While I respect my hon. Friend's diligence in pursuing the object of deregulation, which we all share, a balance must be struck between the needs to protect children and to deregulate. Although, as he rightly says, there have been only those four tragic deaths, I hope that we do not have to wait for deaths before we legislate. Perhaps my hon. Friend should be aware that the final report of the Health and Safety Executive into the safety of outdoor activity centres reports that there were 175 reportable—that is, relatively serious—accidents in the two years before the visit. That demonstrates the need for some protection, which we have provided.

Mr. Miller

I am grateful to the Minister for being so positive in the face of his hon. Friend's outrageous question. He mentioned accidents. That £9 million will go a long way towards reducing the incidence of some accidents that do take place in activity centres. Will he join me in congratulating the HSE, and others involved in drafting the final regulations, on including areas that were not included in the original considerations of the Bill, such as some of the places—such as mountainsides—where outdoor activities take place that are dangerous by their nature?

Mr. Paice

The Government set out to achieve a balance between protection and avoiding over-burdensome regulation. As the hon. Gentleman says, consultation took place; the 96-page document that my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) mentioned was a consultation document. Its aim was to achieve that balance between the two objectives. We ended up with only 11 pages of regulations as a result. As the hon. Gentleman says, in certain areas we did increase the number of activities that were covered; in other areas, we chose the deregulatory route. It was a genuine consultation, and I believe that we have struck a balance.

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