HC Deb 01 March 2001 vol 363 cc730-1W
Mr. Alan Keen

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent consideration he has given to the accreditation and the status of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service; and if he will make a statement. [151629]

Mr. Alan Johnson

[holding answer 28 February 2001]: During the course of 2000, my noble Friend the Minister for Science reviewed the Department's existing policy on accreditation. He decided to re-confirm the existing policy of recognition for the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) as the sole national body for the accreditation, against the recognised international standards, of testing and calibration laboratories and certification and inspection bodies. He confirmed the terms of the memorandum of understanding which my Department, on behalf of the Government as a whole, has with UKAS and which sets out the activities for which UKAS is recognised along with a number of rights and obligations on both parties.

While my noble Friend concluded that no major structural changes to the UK accreditation system were desirable, he did agree that there would be benefit in a well-targeted, UKAS-driven publicity campaign to raise the profile of UKAS accredited conformity assessment to ensure that the benefits of using UKAS accredited conformity assessment services are properly understood.

Accreditation by UKAS ensures that conformity assessment bodies have been independently assessed to agreed international standards of competence and impartiality by a body which is itself subject to regular assessment and to oversight by Government. For these reasons, while there is no legal requirement for the providers of conformity assessment services to be accredited, the Government recommend the use of UKAS accredited conformity assessment wherever this is an option. The Government also advise purchasers to look for the National Accreditation Marks, which UKAS and UKAS accredited organisations are able to use under a licensing agreement with my Department, as a sign of Government recognition.

My Department and a number of other Government Departments are therefore supporting the UKAS Accreditation Awareness Campaign which was launched by my noble Friend on 27 November 2000. The campaign is expected to run for the next 18 months and is aimed at increasing the understanding of accreditation within Government itself and, through a series of briefings aimed at business support agencies, within the business community in general and SMEs in particular.