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Environment Agency, HSE and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) procedure for queries and disputes for COMAH cost recovery

HSE procedure for queries and disputes for Gas Transportation and Offshore

Issued by: Finance Unit
Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS



1. This procedure is designed to answer queries and resolve disputes arising from the Environment Agency, HSE and SEPA recovering costs for work carried out under COMAH, and HSE recovering costs for work in the Gas Transportation, Offshore and Nuclear sectors. This includes HSE’s recovery of costs for relevant statutory provision work in these sectors. The aim is to resolve queries and disputes promptly, transparently and fairly.

2. Annex 1 sets out guidance on raising and taking a disputed charge to the Disputes Panel. It is based on experience with the operation of the procedure to date.

Level One of the procedure - routine queries

3. Queries from duty holders about information contained in the invoice including

should be addressed to

Health & Safety Executive

For COMAH, Gas and Offshore
Sectors to:

Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS


For Nuclear Sector to:

Office for Nuclear Regulation
Finance Team
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS

4. Queries should be raised by the duty holder as soon as possible after receipt of the invoice and no later than twenty working days after the invoice date. HID’s cost recovery team will forward the query to the relevant HSE Operating Division, the Environment Agency or SEPA, if necessary.

5. HSE will consider queries promptly and provide the duty holder with a response within ten working days of receipt. HSE will provide a response in writing if requested.

Level Two of the procedure - queries unresolved at Level One

6. If the duty holder is not satisfied with the response under Level One they should send the reasons in writing to HSE at the appropriate address at paragraph 3.

7. HSE will

8. If the duty holder is still dissatisfied with the response at Level One but does not invoke Level Two within the specified time, HSE or the Agency itself may invoke Level Two. Where it does so, the duty holder will be informed and the procedure at paragraphs 9 and 10 followed.

9. The query will be referred to a senior manager in the directorate/division of HSE/Agency responsible for the cost recovery scheme who has not been involved in the work giving rise to the disputed charge(s) to consider, as appropriate, whether:

10. The senior manager will set out the reasons for the decision taken in writing, including whether the queried invoice is upheld, cancelled or varied. The decision will be sent to the duty holder no later than fifteen working days following receipt of the duty holder's case as at paragraph 6 above.

Payment of that part of the invoice not in dispute

11. The duty holder should pay that part of the invoice not in dispute. The duty holder should agree with the relevant HSE Directorate/Operating Division or Agency, as appropriate, the value of the disputed amount. The undisputed amount remains payable within twenty working days from the date of the invoice.

Level Three of the procedure - references to the Disputes Panel

12. If the duty holder is not satisfied with the Level two response the matter may be referred to a 'Disputes Panel'.

13. This is comprised of

The external member will be drawn from a list approved by the appropriate Charging Review Group The 'Disputes Panel' will normally be chaired by one of the members of HSE’s Senior Management Team from its policy group.

14. Senior managers from HSE (or the Agencies) who have taken part in Level One or Two determinations of a particular case will be precluded from being a member for the 'Disputes Panel' for that case.

The role of the Disputes Panel

15. The 'Disputes Panel' will consider disputes concerning the charge appearing on the invoice referred to it by duty holders. It shall determine, where applicable, whether:

16. The duty holder should set out in writing:

17. That request should be received by HSE within fifteen working days of the duty holder receiving the Level Two decision. An acknowledgment of receipt will be sent within five working days.

18. The Disputes Panel Chair and the external member will be sent

The Chair and external member will discuss and decide whether the disputed matter has sufficient merit to be put before the 'Disputes Panel'.

19. If the Chair and external member conclude that there is, prima facie, no issue for determination within the scope of the 'Disputes Panel' (see para.15 above) the duty holder will be informed in writing by the Chair of the decision and the reasons why. This decision will be sent to the duty holder no later than twenty-five working days following receipt of the duty holder's request to refer the matter to the 'Disputes Panel'.

20. If the Chair and external member conclude that the duty holder has made the case for submission to the 'Disputes Panel' a meeting of the panel will be convened within thirty-five working days of receiving the duty holder’s request. (A typical agenda for the Panel hearing is at Annex 2.)

21. The duty holder shall have the right to appear before the 'Disputes Panel' in person to support his/her submission. If the duty holder intends to appear in person, she/he should notify HSE of that intention at the same time that the request for a 'Disputes Panel' hearing is made (see para. 17 above).

22. The Disputes Panel will conduct its business informally. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Disputes Panel will ask the duty holder’s representative and the HSE/Agency representatives to withdraw so that it can discuss the case. Where possible, a decision will be made on the day and the HSE/Agency and the duty holder’s representative called back into the meeting to be told the terms of that decision.

23. Where it is not possible to give a decision on the day (for example, if the Panel consider that they need to check on some facts which cannot be done at the hearing) both parties will be notified of the decision in writing.

24. The 'Disputes Panel' shall have the power to uphold or reject the complaint and confirm, vary or cancel the charge in dispute.

25. To vary or cancel a charge the 'Disputes Panel' must be of the view (on the basis of the information contained in the submissions of HSE, the Agency and the duty holder) that

The decision of the 'Disputes Panel' shall be sent to the duty holder by the Chair of the panel within ten working days of the panel meeting.

26. HSE will commence debt recovery action where an invoice has not been settled within ten working days of notification that

If a duty holder is dissatisfied with the response at Level Two and does not

HSE or the Agency will write to the duty holder requesting that either payment is made within ten working days or that Level Three of the procedure is invoked.

Variation of period in which action is to be taken

27. HSE is committed to meeting the timescales set out at paragraphs 3 to 28. However, there may be occasions when that proves impossible and for the issue(s) in dispute to be considered fully and fairly (for example, a key participant may be on holiday or become ill). Where such circumstances merit it, timescales may be varied by HSE at its discretion in consultation with the duty holder.


Guidance to duty holders on taking a dispute through the queries and disputes procedures


1. The Queries and Disputes Procedure has been in place since 1 April 2000. The notes which follow draw on experience of operating the procedure since then.

What is included in the costs?

2. Each of the cost recovery schemes seeks to recover HSE's and/or the Agencies costs in carrying out regulatory activities. These costs include, but not exclusively

Using the disputes procedure

3. The Queries and Disputes Procedure was introduced to resolve queries at an early stage. There are 3 Levels. Skipping one of these Levels is not appropriate – unless agreed by the Chair of the Disputes Panel.

Confidentiality of queries and disputes information

4. Information provided by duty holders and the appropriate operational division in response to a query or dispute is handled in confidence.

General advice applying to all Levels of the Queries and Disputes Procedure

Specify the basis of your case clearly

5. Where a query first arises, a quick telephone call can often resolve it. Be specific about what it is you do not understand or are concerned about.

6. If you subsequently decide to take the matter to Levels 2 and 3, please

7. For Level 3 referrals, please also specify under which of the bullet points below you wish your dispute to be considered (see paragraph 16 of the Procedure):

Be aware of the time limits in the procedure

8. There are time limits at all Levels for submitting a request and response times required by HSE and/or the Agencies. Please keep to these. The time limits are:

Do not rely on HSE's/Agencies published examples of how long a particular piece of work will take

9. These are generalised guides and are made on the basis of simplifying assumptions (e.g. that there will be no basic flaws in a safety case). For COMAH, Gas and Offshore the duration of work on each assessment of a safety case or inspection will vary from the example because of the circumstances of each case. The examples are intended to help duty holders budget for likely costs. But they are not a 'standard'.

10. A case founded solely on such differences is unlikely to succeed. HSE/the Agencies aims to update illustrative examples when more recent information becomes available to refine the information.

Raising a query at the initial stage (Level 1)

11. You should contact the charging team (see para 3 of the Guide) to discuss your query. It is for the charging team to advise HSE's Finance Unit, Bootle when a query is raised on an invoice. This will enable the Finance Unit to suspend debt recovery action.

Set out the basis of the case and the arguments supporting it clearly

12. The chair and external member are required to decide whether the case presented to them merits consideration by a full disputes panel. A clear statement of case is essential for an informed and equitable decision. Simply submitting previous correspondence about the disputed invoice(s) will not be especially helpful although letters should be attached to support the case (where these exist).

Get the right people to present your case

13. You should consider from the beginning

Experience suggests this is usually somebody with detailed knowledge of the substance of the safety case or inspection(s) to which the disputed invoice(s) relate(s). Someone in the accounts department, for example, is unlikely to know the detail of what occurred on a site visit which has led to the invoice being disputed.

The Disputes Panel

14. You or your representative should be prepared to present your case succinctly and to respond to questions from the Panel. Questions are usually to seek clarification so that the facts are clearly understood by the Panel. You or your representative should also be prepared to respond to the comments made by the operational division of HSE or the Agency.


HSE/Competent authority (CA) procedure for queries and disputes for COMAH/GAS Transportation/Offshore/Nuclear cost recovery

Proposed order of business for determination of [Name of Duty Holder] (invoice: [Number]) referral to Disputes Panel: [Date]


For COMAH charging see: The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/483). For Gas Transportation, Offshore see: The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008 / 736)

For Nuclear see: The Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (as amended), Regulation 16 (1) of the Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2010 (Statutory Instruments, 2010 No. 579), the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, as well as under the Energy Act 2004, the extant security provisions of the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (as amended) and, in respect of nuclear material, the Import of Goods (Control) Order 1954.

Updated 2017-10-18