HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc226-7W
Mr. Byers

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what advice has recently been received from the Furniture Research Establishment concerning the steps necessary to make safe the new jobseeker's allowance computer systems in jobcentres; what action her Department is taking in respect of this advice; what is the estimated cost; and if she will make a statement. [34792]

Mr. Forth

Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Robert Home to Mr. Stephen Byers, dated 27 June 1996: The Secretary of State for Education and Employment has asked me to reply to your question, in the absence of the Chief Executive, about the advice received from the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) concerning electrical safety, the action being taken in respect of this advice, and the estimated cost. Following the recent accident at Bamsbury Jobcentre we have taken immediate steps to improve safety. The risk which we have to deal with arises not so much from the installation of new personal computers as from the cabling of electrical equipment generally. We have instructed staff to make visual checks of all cables which pass through or near their desks for signs of damage. We have also brought forward our regular six mondily check of electrical appliances. Costs arising from these actions will depend on the faults found, but are likely to be small. As an additional precaution we asked FIRA for advice about die earthing of desks. FIRA are providing technical specifications for our electrical contractors to enable them to begin a programme of earth bonding desks. Initial estimates are that the programme will cost around £1.75 million. The exact figure will be available when the technical specifications have been fully costed.