We have been following the recent developments in the debate on Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Carbon Monoxide+ (CO+) and noted that the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) were carrying out an inquiry into 'Consumer Behaviour'.
We were concerned to read however that submissions to the Inquiry would not be published and considered that this flew in the face of the accepted protocols for such Consultations and could give rise to criticism of the Inquiry.
As a result of this call for evidence, we have decided to submit our own report but considered that the commentary and evidence we were submitting should be published; given that APPCOG are not going to publish submissions, we have decided to publish through this website. We do so because we consider that the constituency that we represent deserve to read the nature and extent of the CO or CO+ debate, particularly if they have been affected by toxins whilst on holiday!
The basis of the Inquiry or Consultation appears to have its roots in a developing theme commissioned by the Gas Safety Register (GSR). They have sought, quite correctly, to identify behaviour patterns and looked at this issue from the perspective of how many people commission gas safety checks or services on their household fuel burning appliances.
They operated their survey in the UK's North-West and identified 2 key groups needing attention, these being the 'Dismissive Sceptics' (identified as cost conscious young families) and 'Ostriches' (Young people/students). The GSR then developed a method of Public Information which created a greater awareness and a 300% increase in the numbers of those seeking annual gas safety checks and servicing.
The issue of behaviour analysis and modelling is long established by government, but one area that appears to be remiss of any workable model is in the area of toxin exposure!
We are concerned that the basis of the work of the GSR may not be openly established through a wider Stakeholder participation and would caution APPCOG from drawing any conclusions on what should happen next without a more open, transparent and inclusive discussion on creating such a behavioural model.
We can hear the siren voices of the fuel lobby, its associated Charities and perhaps from some of the 20 Parliamentary Members of APPCOG railing against such a critique. However, we would point to the fact that from the GSR's own report there is a suggestion that some 17% of households across the North-West do not have regular gas safety checks and they should transmit that terrifying figure across the UK and ask; what of the real statistics on CO exposure?
It is all too easy to slip into a model so created, but the very fact that submissions are not to be published gives rise to suspicion amongst the cohort of victims, survivors and activists that their observations and opinion is valueless.
To help APPCOG we have asked them to consider:
- Our recent submission to the DCLG on the question of CO Alarms in holiday properties;
- That we have, along with other Campaigners, been trying to get a detailed response from the Cabinet Office on the issue of Public Information Films and CO - after nearly 2 years they still remain silent!
- That we consider the GSR Report to be limited in scope;
- That if the GSR report is followed that there is a risk that a wider cohort of Consumer would fall through the net;
- That any proposed roll-out by the GSR has cost implications for the Gas Industry and what of the longevity of such a Campaign?
- That we are concerned that the GSR proposals simply promote gas safety checks/servicing - what of CO Alarms, 'Whistleblowing' for Safety, Campaigns against 'Cowboys' and errant 'Landlords - a move toward a greater Regulation?
- What of the wider fuel industry and the risks apparent from their products?
- To take care from allowing the debate to become too CO centric - such an approach we have warned risks storing up and creating new future problems!
We have offered the view that in order to create a stable 'Consumer behaviour' model, we need to understand the nature of 'Consumerism' and reflect on the needs of individuals based on the Maslow scale. Only when we consider it from this vantage point can we get anywhere near the motives and behaviour of a Consumer; we then suggested that in order to understand these issues further we need to ask Consumers:
- Do they understand the dangers of the fuels they are using?
- Do they know where their fuel comes from?
- Do they know how their fuel is process to make it safe?
- Do they know if and when their fuel is changed from one supply source to another?
- Do they know if their fuel burning appliances are suitable for the burning of any fuel they receive?
- Do they know what to look for when determining any danger from burning fuel?
- Does their fuel company provide any information on these issues, if not why not?
This analysis takes us away from the construct of the GSR report and toward a broader consideration of Consumer needs, motivation and behaviour. We take the view that in order to construct the correct 'model' to develop Public Information, we need to take the aforementioned steps so that we can:
- Understand the positions of the fuel lobby;
- Understand the basics needs and motivations of Consumers
- Further, we need to carry out an independent survey so that we can truely understand the knowledge base of Consumers, and
- To Understand the need to create the conditions for a broad, open and honest safety culture.
These are the challenges now open to APPCOG; a challenge that is not simple and not grounded within an Industry dominated debate. We say that APPCOG, as elected and appointed representatives of UK Citizens, should lift the debate up to a level of transparency and willingness to openly embrace all opinion for the benefit of all. Members of APPCOG should remember that these same UK Citizens take short breaks and holidays within their own Constituencies. It will be interesting to see what they decide!
If you want to read our submissions to APPCOG: