§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) whether he has estimated the cost to (a) British industry in general and (b) the construction industry in particular of implementing the proposed European Community directive on noise;
(2) whether he has assessed the feasibility of implementing the requirements that the average weekly sound exposure level of every worker employed on construction sites be measured as laid down in the proposed European Community directive on noise; and whether an estimate has been made of the cost of the construction industry of making such measurements;
(3) whether he has assessed the feasibility of implementing the requirement that an employee shall not have been exposed to a sound pressure level exceeding 80 decibles during the 14 hours preceding a regular audiometric examination as laid down in the proposed European Community directive on noise;
(4) whether he has assessed (a) the usefulness of carrying out audiometry every two of three years on the work force in the construction industry and (b) the practicability of transferring operatives' medical records to each new employment as laid down in the proposed European Community directive on noise.
§ Mr. Gummer
I am informed by the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission that the calculation of the total cost to British industry of implementing this proposed directive presents some difficulty, since many of the obligations would be subject to the test of "reasonable practicability" and so vary in their effect in different industrial situations and with the costs that would be 215W involved. Partly for that reason it will not be possible realistically to assess the cost to the construction industry supposing that these proposals passed into law.
The proposals do, however, include elements on which we shall expect cost assessments from the commission; and these in particular include proposals for audiometric examination which go well beyond those envisaged by the Health and Safety Commission when it published its own proposals for United Kingdom legislation on noise in 1981. I have no doubt that when the commission advises my right hon. Friend on the acceptability of the directive, it will comment on the feasibility as well as the cost of these measures, and we have asked for the particular circumstances of the construction industry to be borne in mind in this.
One of the particular advantages of the way the European Community works is that proposed directives are thoroughly discussed in public over a relatively extended period. This ensures that there is a real input from all parties involved well before any decision has to be made.