§ Mr. Waterson
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what progress has been made in drawing up the regulations required by the Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Act 1995; and if she will make a statement. 488W
§ Mrs. Gillan
After extensive consultation, and on advice from the Health and Safety Commission, we have today laid regulations prescribing a new licensing scheme under the Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Act 1995. This will improve safety for children and young people by introducing a regular and improved inspection programme for providers who sell adventure activities to schools and the public. An order designating Tourism Quality Services Ltd. as the licensing authority has also been laid today.
The scheme will cover adventure activities under the broad headings of caving, climbing, trekking and watersports, with a focus on those in hazardous areas remote from immediate help.
We have made some changes to the draft measures consulted on by the HSC, to help small providers and sole traders with robust safety measures and competent staff. For example, the burden of having to apply for licences every year has been removed and providers can apply for licences which may be valid for up to three years. However, inspection of any provider will still take place more regularly where necessary. For multi-activity centres, this is likely to be every year.
Tourism Quality Services Ltd. will be the new, independent licensing authority. Its administration of the Wales Tourist Board voluntary accreditation scheme gives it highly relevant inspection experience. It will contract a team of inspectors who are experts in the range of activities, and to suit the various geographical and climatic conditions throughout Great Britain. There will be distinctive Scottish, Welsh and English arms.
The licensing authority may begin to process licence applications from providers as soon as the regulations come into force. They will be able to take firm action against unsafe providers from 1 August 1996. By October 1997, all providers must have been inspected and licensed. From then, providers will not be able to start operating until they hold a licence.
The list of activities covered will be kept under constant review. The scheme as a whole will be reviewed after three years.