§ Mr. Frank Field
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) if he will make a statement on the current approach of the Departments under his control to the problem of asbestos in Northern Ireland;
(2) if he has any plans for launching a publicity campaign in order to make the population of Northern Ireland more aware of the dangers of asbestos and remedial measures which ought to be taken to prevent asbestos-related diseases.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
The current approach is contained in the Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1969 and the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1984. These regulations impose requirements for the safety and welfare of persons employed in factories and other premises and places where processes are carried on which involve asbestos or any article capable of giving rise to asbestos dust. In addition, the licensing regulations require an employer or self-employed person who carries out work with asbestos insulation or coating to do so in accordance with a licence issued to him by the Department of the Economic Development. That department is currently consulting on a Northern Ireland equivalent of proposed Great Britain regulations which will prohibit the importation, supply or use of certain types of asbestos.
There are no plans to launch a specific publicity campaign on the dangers of asbestos. The Health and 505W Safety Agency established by the Department of Economic Development regularly publicises both the hazards of asbestos at work and the requirements of the relevant legislation.
A leaflet entitled "Asbestos in Housing" which was issued by the Government throughout the United Kingdom in 1983 is being revised, and copies of the new version will be made available for distribution in Northern Ireland.