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MP seeks clampdown on activity centres

Proposed legislation which will set up an accreditation and inspections service for commercial outdoor activity centres will have its first reading in Parliament later this month.

David Jamieson, Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport, said his Private Members' Bill had cross-party support as well as backing from local education authorities, schools and commercial activity centres.

The Bill will set up a compulsory accreditation system, and all centres will be subject to inspection. The inspectors will be able to serve a notice of improvement (within 30 days) or remove a company's accreditation and shut it down if safety measures are not up to standard.

Mr Jamieson said: "At present the Government is talking about a voluntary accreditation system, but that is about as much use as a voluntary MoT test. My Bill has teeth that can bite.

"At present the good companies, who are in the majority, can have their prices undercut by cowboy operators who are not so scrupulous about safety equipment.

"That is why I am receiving a lot of support from the quality end of the market. The Bill is only concerned with commercial enterprises - Brownies and other amateur groups would not be subject to the same rules."

The aim is for the accreditation and inspections system to be financed by the centres themselves. Mr Jamieson said that while the code of practice by the Activity Centres Advisory Committee was good, it largely followed local authority practice, and also the organisation could not be viewed as truly independent of the industry.

There are some 3,000 UK outdoor activity centres; Mr Jamieson said the few remaining LEA centres could also apply for accreditation. His Bill is expected to have its first reading on December 13.

The House of Commons Education Committee has decided to postpone oral evidence in its inquiry into safety in outdoor activity centres until the end of the Lyme Bay canoeing accident trial. Written submissions will be accepted, and the committee is expected to resume in the new year.

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