Ms Anne Sharp - HSE SPDC (Chair)
Mr I Whewell - HSE OSD
Mr N Stone - HSE PEFD
Mr V Isenwater - HSE PEFD
Mr R Church - HSE SPDC
Mr K McFadyen - HSE OSD
Mr J Petrie - UKOOA
Mr P Holman - BROA
Ms J Bugler - IMCA
Mr D Krahn - IADC
Ms P Cohen - CBI
Mr P Wyatt - Shell
Mr D Taylor - Kerr-McGee
The Chair welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the OCRG and introductions were made around the table.
Apologies were recorded for Mr R Spiller (MSF), Mr R Wilson (AEEU), Mr J Taylor (TGWU) and Mr I Bell (OCA). It was agreed that when sending out the minutes, the Secretary would draw their attention to decisions made at the meeting, inviting them to raise any concerns. Formal agreement of the decisions was subject to no major objections from the Trade Union representatives.
It was agreed that the minutes of a meeting held with the industry on 15 September 1999 should be added to the agenda as a new item 2, as there had been some correspondence regarding them.
The Chair said that points had arisen in correspondence with IMCA regarding the accuracy of the minutes and the guidance on the boundaries of charging in relation to the activities of contractors. The matter of guidance on boundaries could be discussed more fully under the agenda item covering the guide.
IMCA considered that para 2.23 of the minutes did not properly reflect the point made by Tony Read about charging for inspection of contractors. HSE agreed that, for accuracy this should be recorded, as should the HSE response to the effect that the criterion set out in para. 3.15 of the Offshore Charging Guide applied to only diving activities. It was agreed that the minutes should be amended to provide an accurate record of comments from both IMCA and HSE, and that the substantive point on boundaries of charging for inspection of contractors should be discussed under the agenda item relating to the Guide. As regards the detail of the redraft, the amendments should replace the first sentence of paragraph 2.23, with a new paragraph to start at 'Mr Petrie was concerned .....'.
IADC then raised a question in relation to paragraph 3.2,
saying that they needed to give further consideration to the
position in relation to stacked installations. As this was an
operational issue, the matter would best be dealt with in the
Senior Managers Forum (SMF), not OCRG. It was agreed to amend the
word 'operator' in this paragraph to read
'owner'; to add a final sentence 'the detail of this
was appropriate for discussion at the Senior Managers' Forum
(SMF)'; and to add 'and the SMF' at the end of
ACTION : HSE
A draft had been circulated before the meeting. HSE said that
it was looking for consistency in the terms of reference of the
four review groups being set up. Having reviewed the draft, HSE
proposed that the first bullet point in paragraph 2 should be
amended so that the last line read '......and the
consequences of these arrangements.' This was to make it
clear that the OCRG was primarily concerned with the financial
and administrative arrangements for charging. It would not
however inhibit the group from raising other relevant matters,
such as any change in the relationship between OSD and the
industry as a result of charging. It was stressed that the Group
would consider the consequences of charging, and ensure that all
issues were taken forward to the appropriate forum. The amendment
HSE also proposed that the timing of meetings be altered to April and September. These times would align better with the planning and review processes in HSE. In April it should be possible to provide projections for the coming year. A September meeting would enable the group the review the previous year of operation, as the accounts should be ready by then. This amendment was agreed, with next meeting to take place in early April 2000.
HSE apologised for presenting the draft terms of reference at
the meeting. The aim of the industry-wide group was to ensure
consistency across the charging regimes, and to share best
practice between them. The group would meet annually in October
and would receive reports from the sector groups. Whilst not
wishing to constrain the industry and trade union associations,
HSE wished to try and keep the membership of the ICRG to a
manageable level. Even with only two industry and two union
representatives from each group, the ICRG group could total
twenty-nine people. HSE sought comments (to Mr Stone, Finance
Unit) on the draft terms of reference, and nominations to the
group by 17 December.
The CBI thought the practicality of the timing of meetings needed to be considered further, as the four individual industry groups and the ICRG were all required to report annually to the HSE/HSC. These arrangements needed to be tested in practice.
The meeting accepted that the ICRG needed to be a manageable
size. IADC said that the industry representatives from the
offshore group split fairly conveniently into owners and
contractors. IADC suggested that the CBI, who were represented on
all four sector groups, could co-ordinate the industry
representation to the ICRG. It should be clear though that,
whoever the representatives were, they represented the group, not
their association. CBI agreed to co-ordinate. HSE would seek the
TUC comments on the handling of trade union nominations to this
ACTION: CBI, HSE
HSE stated that it had been necessary to strike a balance in getting the guide out on time and taking all industry comments on board, and apologised if some were not incorporated. A wide-ranging discussion on the guide took place.
In general the industry wanted more information in the guide, including more detail in the illustrative examples and more information concerning those functions not being charged for. Specific points made were:
HSE commented that:
The meeting agreed that, while these points were relevant to
amendment of the guide, changes to the document also needed to
reflect experience with the charging arrangements. The timing of
the next issue of the guide was discussed. HSE requested comments
on the guide in writing by 17 December, so that if necessary a
subgroup of the OCRG could meet to discuss them in February, with
a redraft tabled at the April meeting of the Group.
HSE explained that the procedures for dealing with invoice queries and disputes fell into three stages. Initial queries should be raised with the HSE Finance Unit in Bootle who sent out the invoices. They would try to resolve matters with the divisional staff who provided charging data. If this was not possible, the matter would be referred to the relevant OSD Unit Manager. If the matter was still not resolved, the final stage was reference to a Disputes Panel. The dispute panel process was likely to be time consuming for both industry and HSE , but was felt necessary to assure duty holders that their concerns about the appropriateness of charges were properly addressed, and to resolve those disputes not cleared at stage one or two.
The composition and remit of the Disputes Panel was still
being developed. It was expected that there would be one panel
for all four groups. Clive Norris, Head of SPD, would chair the
panel, with HSE representation appropriate to the charging regime
concerned and probably some independent element. The panel would
be regarded as the last resort before recourse to the law by
either side. UKOOA suggested that the procedure used in the
rejection of safety cases might provide some useful pointers for
the panel's operation. HSE agreed to consider this. HSE
apologised for not having a first draft of the panel proposals
and undertook to circulate one with the minutes.
HSE reported on the experience of the first batch of COMAH invoices. Of the 130 issued, at 12 November only three were outstanding and two of those had agreed to pay. There had been a number of queries but these were dealt with by CHID and Finance Unit.
HSE said HSC and Ministers had agreed that the regulations
were to be formally reviewed in two years' time. However,
this meant that work needed to start now to ensure collection of
the necessary baseline data for the formal review. HSE wanted
industry to consider and comment on the issues that evaluation
might address, and to be fully involved in the review process. A
draft list of possible issues for evaluation was circulated to
the meeting. Written comments on this should be sent to Mr Stone,
Finance Unit by 17 December.
The Chair reminded members that the industry had at one stage favoured a banding scheme, and said that the meeting needed to consider whether to set in train a project to examine the feasibility of such alternative arrangements. She pointed out that any alternative scheme would not change the overall level of cost recovery, it would simply alter how the cake was cut up. A feasibility study of alternative schemes would, however, demand considerable HSE and industry input.
IMCA reminded the meeting that at one stage HSE had advised that primary legislation would be needed to introduce an alternative system of charging. HSE said that more recent legal advice was that primary legislation might not now be necessary. UKOOA said that they would want to explore alternative schemes in order to assess the relative advantages and disadvantages. HSE replied that a component or banded scheme would provide a degree of predictability for industry that was not provided through an actuals scheme. The CBI was keen to look at alternative schemes, but recognised that different approaches might suit different industries.
The meeting agreed that it would be better to gain some
experience of the current scheme before exploring alternatives,
and to discuss the issue again at the next meeting.
Mr Isenwater said that charging was not a new activity for HSE, and that its published accounts showed income from a range of sources. Each year HSE would compile a Memorandum Trading Account (MTA) detailing the costs and income from the previous fiscal year and provide a forward look to the coming year. The charge out rate for offshore inspection was calculated according to Treasury rules on fees and charges, and had been verified by a private sector firm of chartered accountants. For the next fiscal year the charge out rate would be frozen. At the time the rate for 01/02 has to be calculated and set, we will have more operational experience and better information provided by system enhancements to feed into the costing exercise.
Mr Whewell said that OSD was attaching great importance to accurate time recording of its activities. Inputs to the work recording database were actively monitored for both quality and timeliness at all levels of the management chain. The quality checks were set up to ensure that work was allocated to the right category and that the time was realistic etc.
Mr McFadyen said that he was responsible for a Charging Finance Team that had been set up in Aberdeen to extract time recording data from the system and submit invoice requests to the Finance Unit. The Finance Unit was responsible for issuing invoices, initial receipt of queries and debt collection. His team also ran random data quality checks to supplement those by line management. He said that invoices would simply quote the regulations and a total charge for the period in question, this would be supplemented by an invoice statement breaking the charge down into four categories by installation. He circulated a sample dummy statement to members. The four categories of Inspection, Assessment, Investigation and Other aggregated various types of chargeable work . The category of Other would be used, for example, if HSE had to back charge for any testing work carried out on failed equipment by its own or another laboratory.
In discussion, HSE accepted that it had to justify the charges raised. However, there were difficulties and limitations to the amount of detail that could be provided from the work recording system. It would aim to provide further clarification in the revised guide. . The CBI suggested an explanatory note be issued with the invoice statement. HSE said it would endeavour to respond to requests for clarification as best it could; experience with the first round of invoices would help identify any problem areas.
In response to a query from the CBI, regarding the inclusion of efficiency improvements in the evaluation of charging, HSE said that making efficiency savings was part of its normal management processes. There was a requirement to demonstrate proposed savings in all divisions' plans, and these could relate to reducing overheads or to getting more work from the same resources. They did not necessarily have to involve reducing resources. Charging was not introduced to effect efficiency savings, they have to be made year on year. However, if charging did result in efficiency savings they would be taken into account.
The CBI enquired whether commitments made at the COMAH
Charging Review Group would apply to the offshore group. These
included bench marking, plans for efficiency savings and the
publication of the charge out rate methodology. HSE said that the
ways of working were different under COMAH, but agreed to provide
a general indication of how HSE went about generating
efficiencies, the findings of the benchmarking exercise of
charging schemes operated by other public service regulators and
a detailed explanation of methodology underlying the charge out
A draft press release had been circulated with the agenda for the meeting. The following amendments to it were agreed:
HSE said, in line with open government practice, it intended to put the minutes of the group's meetings on the Internet. The meeting supported this.
The next meeting would be held in Aberdeen in April 2000. The date to be confirmed.