MORE than a year after promising to take action, the Government has been accused of dragging its heels over ending the menace of the silent killer.

Health and Safety Minister Lord Whitty promised last year to try to change the law, to cut the number of people killed by carbon monoxide poisoning - dubbed the silent killer because it is odourless and colourless.

The move came after the minister met the families of two North-East women killed by the gas, and it followed a campaign by The Northern Echo demanding action, including legislation making it compulsory for carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to be fitted in all bedsits and new homes.

Last night, campaigners accused the Government of failing to take action to cut the death toll, with the gas claiming more than 60 lives a year.

Stephanie Trotter, president of the CO-Gas Safety campaign group, said: "As far as I am concerned nothing has really changed.

"I have been working on this issue for nearly six years and I can't believe how bad the situation is - I think it is disgusting.

"It is the Government and the industry combined who have made sure nothing has happened."

She said a Health and Safety Commission review on gas safety, completed last month, had included some positive moves but did not address their main concerns, but the Government had backed away from licensing landlords to make it easier to enforce gas safety regulations.

Proposals to make it compulsory to fit CO alarms had been shelved on the grounds it would be too expensive.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions rejected accusations the Government was dragging its feet, and said ministers would look at the HSC's recommendations before deciding what action to take.

He said: "Some of the recommendations have financial and legal implications, and certain issues have to be sorted out first.

"It is something that is being worked on. This is a big problem and it is something we are concerned about, but we can't do it overnight."

He said the Department for Trade and Industry will be running an information campaign about CO gas, with posters in libraries and doctors' surgeries and a roadshow planned for next year.

Ms Trotter said it was time for the Government to put its concern into practice.

"I'm fed up with words and assurances that safety is paramount. Are we ever going to get any action?