June 10, 2003
Question written on 10/06/2003
To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the complaint by the Chinese authorities in 2002 about the conduct of UK Accreditation Service accredited certification bodies operating in that country; and what step
Answered by Nigel Griffiths
Since no formal complaint has been received by the Government this is a matter for UKAS. However, I understand that in April 2002, the Chinese authorities expressed their concerns through the International Accreditation Forum about the activities of a number of overseas certification bodies operating in China. Five of the 11 bodies investigated by the Chinese authorities were accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS took immediate and robust action by imposing a moratorium on new accreditations for certification carried out outside of the United Kingdom whilst it carried out its own investigation into the activities of the named UKAS-accredited certification bodies. The Government support this approach.The moratorium was subsequently lifted on 31 July 2002. UKAS found that those UKAS-accredited bodies that were the subject of the Chinese concerns had been operating through agents and that there were some weaknesses, at the UK headquarter offices, in the control of these agents which needed to be addressed. There were though no indications that such deficiencies in procedures applied in the case of other accredited certification bodies. However, in recognition that the certification sector had become more international in nature, UKAS implemented further changes in the way that it assesses certification bodies. These changes require certification bodies to: submit full details of all agency/sub-contracting, etc. arrangements that they have in place; declare all the locations where critical activities are carried out; and list all the countries where UKAS-accredited certificates have been issued. UKAS itself has also made some changes to its internal procedures as a result of its investigation into the Chinese concerns.We consider that UKAS acted positively and expeditiously in this case and that the changes implemented by UKAS were necessary and sufficient to safeguard the credibility of the accreditation process.