§ Order for Second Reading read.
The SECRETARY Of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Samuel)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This is a Bill which contains a considerable variety of provisions in detail, all arising out of the present War conditions. I have observed that on the Order Paper there are several Notices of Motion opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. All are directed, I think, to one Clause, whether that appears in the terms of the Motion itself or not. Therefore it is desirable, and I think it would save the time of the House, if at the outset I were to state the reasons which have led the Government to propose Clause 8 in the Bill dealing with the duties of certifying 1452 surgeons. Let me make it clear to hon. Members who are interested in this subject, in the first instance that we are not proposing to abolish all the functions of certifying surgeons. They will still have the duty of certifying physical fitness of children and young persons who are seeking work under the Factory and Workshop Act. They will still have the duty of examining all cases with regard to industrial poisoning. They will also have to understake periodical examination of workers in dangerous trades under the special rules relating to dangerous trades. Indeed, the Home Office is continually enlarging the functions of certifying surgeons in this latter respect, and requiring more and more the assistance of certifying surgeons with respect to workers in dangerous trades.
The only point with which this Clause deals is the duty which has hitherto been performed by certifying surgeons investiting the deaths or injuries caused to workers by certain classes of accidents. With regard to about one-third of the whole number of accidents the law requires that the occupier—that is the person who owns the factory or workshop, or manages it—should report when an accident happens both to the factory inspector and to the certifying surgeon, and then the certifying surgeon has the duty of holding an investigation as to the nature and cause of the death or injury caused by the accident, for which, of course, he is paid a fee, and the fees in the course of the year amount to about £12,500. Now the only duty that the certifying surgeon has to do is to examine the workman who is injured and to say, "Yes, this man has had a finger cut off," or whatever it may be, by a machine of a certain character. He has not got the duty—in fact, he has not the right—of taking any steps whatever with regard to remedying the defects of the machine or securing that it shall be more safe in the future than in the past. He can give no instruction to the factory owner, or say that the machine was not sufficiently guarded and in future must have a more perfect guard. All he can do is to report to the factory inspector that the man had his finger cut off. The factory inspector then has to consider whether he shall examine the machine and give instructions to the occupier. What the Home Office wants to know is not what the nature of the injury is from a medical point of view, but it wants to know how it happened, the cause of the accident, 1453 and how it can be prevented in future, and for that purpose we do not require the assistance of a man of medical knowledge, but we require the assistance of a man with mechanical knowledge. That is to say, the factory inspector in all cases has to do the actual work that is required to prevent this accident occurring again, and these reports are found in practice not to save the factory inspector any work at all, but rather to increase the work he has to do, and hinder rather than help.
The staff of factory inspectors receive about 50,000 reports every year from the certifying surgeons which, in almost all cases, are mere duplications of any reports sent to then by the occupiers. The occupier reports to the factory inspector that such-and-such a man has had his finger cut off. He receives also a report from the certifying surgeon, "I have examined such-and-such a man and find his finger has been cut off by such-and-such a machine." In the view of the Home Office—this view has been held for many years past—those reports in almost all cases are a mere duplication, and are unnecessary. For my part I should not dream of acquiescing in any change of the law which would in any degree weaken the safeguards of the worker, and my hon. Friends who know the keenness of the Home Office chief Inspector of Factories and all his staff to safeguard the interests of the workers, would not imagine for a moment that they would acquiesce in framing a proposal of this kind if in any way it was likely to have that deleterious effect. On the contrary, we must do everything in our power to make industry more and more safe, and I am proud to remember that the very first Bill I introduced as a member of the Government in the Office of Under-Secretary to the Homo Office ten years ago was the Notice of Accidents Act, 1906, which put the whole of this matter on a better footing, and I hope has been instrumental in saving workers from a very large number of accidents.
§ Colonel YATE
Would it not, then, be better to strengthen the hands of the doctors in this respect instead of abolishing them?
We do not want doctors; we want factory inspectors. It is not necessary to know that a man has a lesion of the hand or an injury to the leg. From his own point of view to get it cured, it is no doubt important, but these reports of 1454 the nature of the injury are really of no value to the Home Office at all. The whole subject was most carefully investigated by an expert Committee which was appointed in 1908. My right hon. Friend, now the Under-Secretary of State for War, was chairman of it, but on his taking office in the Government be was succeeded by my right hon. Friend who is now Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. This Committee consisted of the following gentlemen: Mr. A. M. Carlisle, of Messrs. Harland and Wolffe; Sir William D. Cramp, for many years assistant chief factory inspector; our late Friend and colleague, Mr. Gill, a respected and active member of the Labour party; my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald); Mr. J. B. Tattersall, representing the Oldham Master Cotton Spinners; Mr. J. S. Taylor, of the firm of Taylor and Challen, engineers, Birmingham; Mr. H. Vivian, then a colleague of ours in this House; and Miss Mona Wilson. This Committee was appointed in order to consider the causes of the increase of accidents, and to recommend what additional precautionary measures were in their opinion necessary and desirable. They made a most thorough inquiry and sat for more than two years, and reported unanimously in 1911—there are a number of minority reports, but not touching this point—that these reports from the certifying surgeons were useless, were duplications, and might without disadvantage be abolished.
Labour organisations, we know, are very ready to make representations to the Government on any matter which affects them. This Bill has been printed now for a number of weeks, and I have received no representations from anybody representing organised labour except a few local branches of the Oldham section of the cotton trade. I have discussed this with a deputation representing the Transport Workers Federation, and they are satisfied with the steps I propose to take. The only opposition which has come to this proposal comes from the doctors themselves. They are a strongly organised profession.. Whenever there is any proposal which touches their interest they are very ready to approach Members of the House of Commons. It is from them that circulars have been received which hon. Members have had, and it is at their instigation, I venture to think, the opposition which has so far revealed itself proceeds. I do not know how at the present time, when there is 1455 so great a dearth of doctors, when we need medical men for the services of the War, we can defend requiring a number of medical men all over the country to spend time and energy in sending in 50,000 unnecessary reports. And if it is true that those gentlemen will no longer receive the fees to which they have been accustomed at the present time, when there is so great a demand for medical men, when the medical profession of this country is under-staffed, this is the moment when the change can be made with the least hardship to the men who have hitherto performed this work.
§ 8.0 p.m.
No. This proposal does not stop with the period of the War. There are two things which, I think, ought to be done for the security of the workers against accidents, which are, as we all know, far too frequent in the factories and workshops and other industrial establishments. One is I should like to see a more organised step taken by the Home Office to induce the local branches of trade unions to make representations whenever any of their members have sound reason to believe that dangerous conditions prevail in the places where they work. I should like to see trade unions far more active in this respect, sending into the factory inspectors a much larger number of complaints than they now do, drawing the attention of the factory inspectors to specific cases in which danger arises, so that they may be specially examined. The other step which I think should be taken is to strengthen the medical side of the factory administration. We have now three whole-time medical factory inspectors. Industry is now becoming to a great extent a matter of chemistry, and the factory inspectors ought to be strengthened on this side. When the War is over, I should like to see part of the money which is saved in paying fees for what I regard as useless reports devoted to the appointment of seven whole-time medical factory inspectors instead of three. Probably when the War is over the Treasury may not be averse to allowing the Home Office to spend a part of the savings made during the War upon a much needed strengthening of the factory inspection staff. That is the case for the proposal in this Bill. The Retrenchment Com 1456 mittee having had their attention drawn to the report of the Accidents Committee of 1911 strongly and unanimously recommended that these useless fees should no longer be paid. This House urges the Government to economise whenever it is possible, and especially in the direction of reducing the number of useless official: reports. I do not know how any hon. Member of this House can oppose the Government on this matter when they say, on, the authority of the Factory Department of the Home Office, that these reports are useless and can be abolished, and that they are not worth the expenditure which they incur. I do not know how I should be justified, in face of the report of the Retrenchment Committee and the Accidents Committee, in continuing to ask the Treasury for this £12,500 a year in existing circumstances.
§ Colonel YATE
The right hon. Gentleman has asked the trade unions to report, but would they not be much strengthened if they had the doctors behind them?
I can only repeat that this is not a doctors' question, because in these cases the doctor can tell us nothing but what we knew before.
They can say, "Here is a machine which is dangerous." The doctor would not know anything about that. All the doctor does is to report that a man has had an accident, and they write a report to the factory inspector to tell him what he knows already, namely, that the man has had an accident. Clause 7 is a useful Clause dealing with the welfare of workers affecting women employed in factories and workshops. There is a very proper Clause to enable police authorities to pay compensation to persons who have been enlisted to assist the police under war conditions, and who have suffered accidents, and this applies to their representatives in case of death. There is a Clause to enable the Clause that prevails in Scotland for regulating street collections to apply to England. There are a number of other Clauses. I should like to say that I shall not be able to accept on the Committee stage any new Clauses that do not directly relate to the conditions of the War. This is a Bill with a very wide title, and it is possible to put down thirty or forty new Clauses dealing with matters exceedingly desirable in themselves, but 1457 under the circumstances in which legislation is carried on at this time I must ask hon. Members to direct their attention only to matters which directly arise from and relate to war conditions.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I am unwilling to delay an emergency Bill which I think will command the consent and the support of the House, but this is an omnibus Bill. The Clauses are entirely separate, and it is necessary to raise important points. It is necessary now to give notice of this opposition and discuss the matter, although it may not be necessary to go to a Division. I am afraid that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman have not persuaded me that the proposal which he now makes is in any way justified. I am quite sure that the Retrenchment Committee examined this question and made their recommendations in good faith, and I would be the last to attempt to oppose or to raise unnecessary objections against any serious proposal for retrenchment which they may have made. But really when we come to consider retrenchment we must, in the first place, have some sense of proportion. A great deal more is involved in this than the right hon. Gentleman was willing to admit in his speech. What is the saving which is proposed? It is £ 12,500 a year spread over 2,000 certifying surgeons. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the only objection raised was that put forward by the certifying surgeons themselves. I think that was rather an unfair insinuation, and it certainly is not the only motive which makes me rise to oppose the suggestion. Amongst 2,000 surgeons this small sum of £12,500 cannot be an object of such extreme covetousness that they would organise an opposition from one end of the country to the other. I speak upon information which has been given to me when I say that there are only about 100 surgeons who have anything like considerable pay out of this £12,500, and out of the 2,000 surgeons the vast majority, amounting to something like 1,900, get nothing but a mere pittance when they are called in to perform an examination. If it is not necessary these surgeons need not be called in. They are not wholly salaried officers, but they get a certain pay for doing a certain work. I have another objection to this proposal being brought in under the cover of an emergency retrenchment Bill. I do not think it is fair in a retrenchment Bill to raise a question which has long been one 1458 of dispute fought over and over again, and put it in a Bill of this sort to be passed in an emergency on the strong suggestion that any opposition to it is interrupting the public good and interfering with the action of the Retrenchment Committee. I do not think it is far in a Bill of that sort to try to settle a question which has been long fought over, and which has been tried as an experiment before and has failed. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had the support of the Committee of 1911. On two previous occasions in the year 1901, and again in 1905, legislation was attempted with precisely the same object and failed, and was withdrawn by the Government of the day, owing to the opposition raised, not by the certifying surgeons, but by the representatives of the working classes. With regard to the Committee of 1911, the right hon. Gentleman read a list of those who-composed it, and I observe that there was not a single representative of the medical profession upon it whose experience and' knowledge on the subject might have been valuable. Not only was there no skilled medical knowledge on the Committee of 1911, upon whose unanimous fiat the right hon. Gentleman rests so much, but I understand that not a single medical witness was called before the Committee.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I am informed that the surgeons were not asked to give evidence and I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that that information is corrects The connection of the certifying surgeons with accidents in the factories has existed ever since the Factory Acts were passed, and although slight modifications in every direction have been repeatedly made since: that time, none of those legislative changes have introduced any change with regard to the security provided by the presence and the reports of certifying surgeons upon accidents. I have shown that so far as the money consideration weighs, it is a very slight one indeed in the case of the certifying surgeons. The fact is that, they consider there is a much more serious objection from a professional point of view. The right hon. Gentleman said he had no intention of ousting the certifying surgeons from a great many of the important duties they perform in connection with factories and factory work. But surely the very fact that they give the certificate as to bodily ability to perform this work, and are constantly in the habit, 1459 of visiting the factories, has enabled them to become intimately acquainted not only with the owner and proprietor, but with the working men and the boys and girls themselves, and consequently they know what accidents they are liable to and their habits. Surely that makes it very important for the factories and those employed there that this important part of their work should not be taken away from them, because it gives a wider outlook to their professional practice and makes them closely acquainted with the workers whose interest is entrusted to them.
It is that wider aspect, that wider range, that deep and closer connection that is kept together between the certifying surgeon, with all his medical knowledge and interest, with that medical knowledge which experience gives, that is important, and it is that point of view that these certifying surgeons feel is the strongest part of their case. With regard to the workers, are we to be told that the whole matter is one of machinery? Are we to have nothing but a mere machine inspector to tell us what is the cause of an accident and its effect upon the life and habits of the workers? Is the certifying surgeon, with his medical knowledge and experience of the habits of these people, with his constant lifelong habit of judging and testing their powers to take part in the work, who knows the pain and suffering that may be endured by those workers, to be dispensed with? It is not for themselves alone. If it were, I should not be speaking against the right hon. Gentleman. It is because I think that these men, like the rest of their profession, have a deep sympathy in their work, and are anxious to do their best for the welfare and the health of those who are entrusted to their care, that they desire that this part of their work should not be put off. They desire that there should be something more than the man who looks after the machinery, the mechanical engineer whose verdict the right hon. Gentleman thinks is quite sufficient. There is surely something we owe to the workmen, and above all at this moment, when we are trying to draw in, and rightly trying to draw in, diluted labour, and when the dangers to the workers are increased. The watchful eye of the certifying surgeon, with his knowledge of how this or that defect in a machine may tell on the human Agent working the machine, is especially necessary when you are diluting factory 1460 work by bringing in unskilled labour, and bringing it in, let me remind the right hon. Gentleman, not merely for ordinary factory work, but for new and specially dangerous factory work. I presume the munition factories have special dangers of their own. Is it at a time like this that you are going to cut the workers off from the aid and the sympathetic examination they have received from the medically skilled?
The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the certifying surgeon has one little function. He can see the workmen. That is immensely important. The workman will give him a frank account. He will seek his sympathy. He is accustomed to taking the advice of a medical man who sympathises with his work. He is far more likely to give him a full and free account of the accident than to a mere mechanical inspector. The certifying surgeon has been accustomed to examine these workers personally; he has been accustomed to associating with them, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman, he will still carry on that association. It is precisely for those reasons that I wish him to continue seeing the workman, examining into his interests, and hearing his story in order to know how he feels with regard to the work and the conditions. It is precisely that which I think supplies an additional argument for keeping up the connection. I beseech the right hon. Gentleman to believe that however much I may be interested in the certifying surgeon, and however ready I may be, as I am bound to be, to listen to their story, it is not for this trifling amount of money that I raise this question It is because of the additional help given by them and the knowledge and wide range given by their professional work, and still more it is because, according to their evidence, which I thoroughly believe to be sincere and honest, it is in the interests of the workers with whom they have been so long associated, whom they have learned to know, and whose special liabilities they have tried to understand and to avoid, that I ask the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to the Committee stage of this Bill to withdraw this obnoxious Clause, and not to attempt by a subterfuge to settle a long dispute which Parliament has refused to settle in this direction before under the guise of an Emergency Bill, on the supposition that such a Bill is introduced only because it is absolutely necessary in the interests of the country.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
I want to take the opportunity of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the very kindly and sympathetic reference he made to my predecessor in this House, Mr. Gill. It was very gratifying to hear him referring in such kindly terms to Mr. Gill's work in this House. He referred to the fact that he signed a Report which was submitted to the Home Office, I believe, in 1911. I remember Mr. Gill, along with other Members of this House, and others out of it, going round to visit various factories and workshops throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire. I remember the conversations we had in regard to this particular part of his Parliamentary work. It is very desirable that retrenchment should take place in every direction in which it can be carried out without impairing or endangering the efficiency of any of the Departments of the State, but if it can only be done at the expense of interfering with safeguards for the working people of the country that ought to strengthened rather than weakened, then it is a very dangerous policy. The Home Secretary in 1906 had the pleasure and duty of bringing in a measure to further protect and safeguard the workers of the country. I believe the working people firmly believe that the present Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary are their friends. I do not think that they have introduced this Clause with any desire whatever of weakening the position of the workers. I would like to ask the Home Secretary why at a time like this these reports have suddenly become unnecessary. He has pointed out that these reports of the factory surgeon are not now so essential as they have been previously. That was the impression I got from his statement. Then why were they thought necessary when they were first introduced as a part of the duties of the certifying surgeons? Evidently, at one time, they were regarded as more or less necessary officials or they would not have been introduced. May I speak now as one who has spent nearly thirty years of my life as a worker in a cotton factory, and I think that the point I am going to make is one I know something about. Suppose I was putting a strap on a spinning mule, which is done daily in hundreds of cases, and the ladder I had to put up was fixed in a certain position, and that ladder gave way, and I came down to the ground, and I got in my finger or arm or any part of my body what is called a spelk, or small piece of timber 1462 saturated with oil or grease or other things, and septic poisoning resulted from that, and the doctor's evidence of that would be required for compensation. It would be required at present for compensation; but when I was working there was no compensation. I have suffered from septic poisoning caused by that means when the doctors were not so very careful as they are now in following up cases of that kind. If compensation is to be paid in a case like that, would the doctor's evidence not be, in the opinion of the Home Office, absolutely essential. I think it would be, and there are numbers of cases of a similar kind which might result in septic poisoning setting in, not just at the moment, but at a later period, and I think that the doctor's report, especially if he is called upon to substantiate the facts contained in that report, are very material indeed.
I admit it is unfortunate that a strong volume of trade union opinion has not reached the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this matter. It certainly would have strengthened our hands, those of us who have taken up this case, and I hope the Home Secretary does not think that it is unnecessary opposition, or that it is uncalled-for opposition, and I tell the House candidly that I am not animated at all by any kind of interest in the certifying surgeon, beyond seeing that every class in the community is at any rate entitled to equity and justice in any legislation that comes from this House. I am merely taking it up on those grounds. I admire the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman when he actually admits that what is required is more inspectorate power and I hope that while he is in the position which he occupies at present it may be found possible, and practicable even, to deal with that very important matter in the interests of the workers of the country. These people who are many times depending on the doctor's evidence ought to have the continued privilege of having the advantage of the doctor's guidance in regard to these particular accidents. I want to put another point, as a practical man and a worker in a cotton factory. Suppose, for instance, in the execution of my duties I am a man who is in charge of a mule who has with him a creeler, or little piecer. Such a man cannot always be having his eye on the little piecer, and cannot always follow him about, however anxious he may be to safeguard him, 1463 because he feels there is a joint responsibility between the employer and himself, and he feels very anxious indeed for that little boy, who is not altogether capable of knowing exactly where the danger lies, just in the case of unfenced machinery. I believe it is better fenced now than ever in the history of factories and workshops, but it is even yet needed to be further fenced to give protection to those boys who are called creelers, or little piecers. Suppose he is going round and in and in and out of the machinery. I know there is a law that machinery is not to be cleaned, and that no boy is called upon to clean any part of the machinery, whilst it is in motion. But even in that case you cannot always keep the boys out of touching something that is dangerous, and they are entirely unconscious of the real danger until the accident occurs. Then suppose what is called a scrawl-band—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows exactly what that is; I dare say he does, having sometimes visited the factories and found out some of those things. Suppose this scrawl-band is not sufficiently and properly guarded and protected. It is a dangerous part of the machinery, especially when it is in motion, and supposing that boy is doing his work and "sweeping under the wheels," as we call it, and he does not know he is so near to it, as I was, and he is taken round, as I was, by the rope and he is caught on the shoulder, and the mark is there still on me. I did not realise the specific danger there was about this scrawl, but I was taken round, and the doctor in certifying stated that it was an extremely dangerous part of the machinery. It was a long time after that before that was fenced as a dangerous part of the machinery.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
I suppose he could report to the Home Office or the factory inspector, and surely some action would be taken; some action at least ought to be taken. I merely put this point to ask the Home Secretary whether he thinks or does not think it is necessary that these doctors should be continued to carry out their existing duties of their office so that the workmen in the factories may know that they have not only the inspectors to depend upon but they have actually, as a third party, report, or support, the certifying surgeon. I cannot understand for a 1464 moment why the Home Secretary desires to accept this 1906 Report as having made it possible to carry out in his Department some form of retrenchment. We do not object to that, provided always that the safeguards and the efficient protection of the workpeople can be maintained at the same time. I do think that the life and limb of the workmen ought to be the primary consideration in this matter, and that when we are talking about legislation in this House, at any rate, some of the strongest motives that animate us ought to be human life, and human safety, and I would go further and say, human honour, as one of the highest ideals we can have in promoting this class of legislation. I was delighted with the way in which the right hon. Gentleman expressed himself with regard to this particular aspect of the subject, and his desire that further powers should be given for an increased number of inspectors. I hope the time will come when he will be able to carry that into effect.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
I hope he will see his way to take the matter up, and I believe he will, and that there will be a great advantage arising from it. I want to assure him that we have no desire to prevent hint from doing that in taking up our present position, and I want to say straight that I am not acting at all from any motive promoted by the certifying surgeons themselves. Who will take up the work of the certifying surgeons? Will it devolve upon the inspectors or upon the employers? We ought to have a specific statement upon that point, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us satisfaction upon it, because it will be patent to all Members of the House that it is essential we should have a clear statement on the point. No one is better qualified to give it than the representative of the Home Office himself.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
The Home Secretary has now had the opportunity of listening to two speeches in which very strong arguments have been adduced for retaining the services of these certifying surgeons. I trust that, before this Bill enters upon its Committee stage, he will give very careful consideration to the points that have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow University (Sir H. Craik) and the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Tootill), each 1465 approaching this important subject from different points of view, so that he will be willing, at that stage, to assent to the exclusion of this particular Clause from the Bill. I am very desirous indeed that some practical result shall follow from the excellent speeches that have been made. So far they are almost of academic interest, because I do not think that either the hon. Member for Glasgow University or the hon. Member for Bolton is desirous of preventing this Bill from being read a second time. That being so, it seems rather unnecessary to continue the Debate on the Second Reading with regard to this particular Clause. I am very desirous that when we come to the Committee stage we shall be able to show such overwhelming reasons in favour of retaining the services of the certifying surgeons that my right hon. Friend will then assent to the omission of this particular Clause from the Bill. It is a question for the Committee stage and not for the Second Reading; therefore I would prefer to reserve such additional arguments as I might be able to adduce in favour of the retention of the services of the certifying surgeons until we come to the Committee stage, when we shall have the opportunity of asking the right hon. Gentleman to omit this particular Clause from the Bill. For that reason I hope we may take the Second Reading as soon as possible, so that we may have a full Debate later on upon this particular Clause.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I shall be very pleased indeed to respond to the invitation of the hon. Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus), but I would like to find out from the right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill a little more definitely what his intentions are upon the Committee stage. One point undoubtedly is a strong one for him at present, namely, that the trade unions have made no strong objection to this particular Clause. I am not at all sure that the trade unions were quite aware that this Clause was to be forced through. The workers of the country up to the present have been engaged upon a very big task, and I am not sure whether the fact that we have set aside our party politics for the time being has tended to their enlightenment in other respects. I can promise that, so far as one man is concerned, the trade unions will know what is suggested before the Committee stage is reached. We are entitled to ask 1466 this question: This particular authority was created in 1833. A great wave of enthusiasm, very proper enthusiasm, rushed over the country at that time for an improvement in the conditions of the workers in the factories. It is unnecessary to say a single word as to what the conditions were at that time. This authority has been in existence for eighty-three years. Have the trade unions or the workers of the country ever objected to the certifying surgeons? Have they put forward a complaint that these men were performing functions which, in their belief, were unnecessary and ought to be done away with? If any such case as that had been made, we must all admit at once that an overwhelming case would have been made out for the Clause in this Bill. I do not think that has ever taken place, and I shall be very much surprised if it has. If the right hon. Gentleman or his Department had received from any organised body of labour, or even any disorganised body of labour, a suggestion that the work of these people should be done away with and that they were performing functions which were unnecessary and overlapped, then I believe there would be a strong case; but at present, when the dilution of labour is taking place to a degree never before known in the history of the country, when people unacquainted with the work in the mills and factories all over the country are being brought in by the tens of thousainds, there is not only no necessity for doing away with, but I believe there is a necessity for increasing this class of official. Is it suggested that the danger is lessening? I am not at all conversant with the facts in regard to factories.
§ Mr. WALSH
But I do suggest that it would be difficult for the right hon. Gentleman or his Department to prove that accidents were substantially lessening even before the dilution of labour took place. I do know that the plea of the late hon. Member for Bolton was constantly for a great increase in the inspectorate. Has the inspectorate been increased?
Every year. The hon. Member is simply arguing for the continuance of what are useless reports, because he thinks the factory inspectorate 1467 ought to be increased. I want to increase the factory inspectorate, but that has nothing to do with the certifying surgeons.
§ Mr. WALSH
I distinctly say that they are doing good. The vast majority of accidents upon which these people report take place in the cases of boys and females. It is of the very essence of the case that there should be a person quickly upon the job. Is it suggested that the factory inspectors can be quickly upon the job? The very fact of the necessity for increasing the inspectorate gives away the case that they can be quickly upon the scene. The certifying surgeons live well within the immediate localities. They are quickly upon the scene and they have the person who has suffered the accident in hand very quickly. They are able to speak to the conditions under which the accident takes place at once, and with an authority and definiteness that an inspector never can possess. This matter after all affects the lives of the people so directly and so completely that a paltry amount of £12,500 can very well be allowed to go on until the whole matter can be investigated.
I understand there have been three Committees. There was a Committee in 1905. Was there a single certifying surgeon called to that Committee? There was a Committee again in 1911. Was there a single certifying surgeon called to that Committee? Certainly we had gentlemen before us, who proved to be men of character and men of standard, and what they said to us was that not a single man had been called before the Committee. Have any of the organisations working with the industries to which these certifying surgeons are specially attached been asked to give evidence even before the Retrenchment Committee? If they have and they spoke in favour of the abolition of this functionary, of course I will admit that our case is considerably weakened, but when these men are the first upon the job when accidents happen, when they are the people to make a report 1468 of the conditions under which the accident has happened, when dilution of abour is taking place under conditions never known before, when unskilled labour is being brought into these dangerous occupations in a degree that has never been known before, when as a matter of fact it is more than ever necessary to conserve the life and limb of the young worker, male and female, this, forsooth, is the time and these are the conditions under which it is suggested that we ought to save £250 a week. I do not think the game is worth the candle, and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill should weight his case with an argument such as that. So far as I am concerned, and I hope my trade union colleagues we will see at least that the organised workers know what is going on. It shall not be done in the dark, if it is done at all. If there is a saving, they shall know exactly how it is being made. If the certifying surgeons are to be done away with in so far as this branch of their work is concerned, the organised workers, at least in Lancashire, shall know about it, so that when the Committee stage arrives there will be a body of evidence on the part of the organised workers of my county who will know exactly what is taking place.
§ Sir J. YOXALL
There was a great Bill that went through this House called the Children Bill, and to the author of it I make my appeal to withdraw this Clause. I cannot understand how the man who framed and carried through this House the Children Bill can now father to the smallest extent, even in one Clause of the Bill, a proposal which, if carried into effect, would injure the health and endanger the lives of countless children in this country. The number of children employed in factories and workshops in the last eighteen months or two years has grown to an enormous extent. The number of half-timers—not registered perhaps as such, but really acting as such—has grown to an enormous extent, and it is on their behalf that I make my appeal. What happens? Here is a child of twelve years of age. His parents wish him to go into the mill. Something has been said by the Home Secretary about the absence of trade union criticism and opposition to the Bill. I am sorry to say there are one or two trade unions which not only do not oppose the going of these children into the mills at twelve years of age, but support it and defend 1469 it. The boy of twelve years of age must go to a certifying surgeon, who says whether or not that boy is fit to do work in that particular mill, and so long as the man he goes to is a man who is daily, or weekly at least, in that kind of mill investigating accidents which arise out of the machinery in it, that certifying surgeon knows whether or not the boy can safely go upon that particular piece of work. There are boys who are very dull. They are more likely to be dull when they come from households which not only permit, but urge them to leave school and go to dangerous labour at the age of twelve. There are some whose eyesight is defective, and some whose hearing is defective. The hon. Member opposite, from his own experience, has related what occurs in regard to scavengers. It is true that machinery must not be in motion when these tiny youngsters are crawling in with brush and shovel, or with their fingers, to make slight alterations or to clear out rubbish or what not from the machine. It is a great machine with all sorts of recesses, and the man watching it, anxious as he may be to fulfil the law, and above all to do no harm to the youngster, if he has to deal with a dull youngster whose eyesight or hearing is not very good may start the machine with the youngster inside it. Who is to certify better than the surgeon, who pays frequent visits to the factory and knows the danger, whether the boy is fit to work there? What is the fountain and origin of this particular Clause? The Home Office for years has been opposed to these certifying surgeons. I hold no brief for them. I have no interest in them whatever, and they probably take no interest in me. But the Home Office is opposed to them because it is the natural tendency of a Government Department to seek to keep everything in their own hands, and to do everything in their power, so far as it can at all be brought within their purview, by persons appointed by themselves, rising in their own hierarchy in the ordinary governmental way. Further inspectors are to be appointed. What then becomes of your saving of £12,500 a year?
§ Sir J. YOXALL
Then why not wait till after the War before you make a change at all? Will the War last more than another year? There is no answer 1470 to that. No one will prophesy. Twelve thousand five hundred pounds saved in one year, and how many children's lives lost or bodies injured! While the great mass of the people is loyal to the Government and desirous to support it through thick and thin while the War is on, there is rising throughout the whole country a storm of indignation and profound distrust, I might almost say contempt, for the typical upper Civil servant who runs these Government machines, and when the War is over a reckoning will take place. The right hon. Gentleman has in the past shown his independence and has risen above that tendency to which most Ministers succumb sooner or later, and it is he, above all men, who, influenced by this bureaucratic influence, brings forward this proposal. The main inception, I suppose, rests with the Retrenchment Committee, another body whose proposals, so far as they refer to children, have been profoundly suspect. The right hon. Gentleman expresses his surprise at the absence of organised opposition to this Bill. If he will promise to-night that the trade unions are made acquainted with what the Bill means, perhaps he will get the opposition, and I will promise him that those of us in this country who are interested in the welfare of children shall make plain what this Bill means. We are interested in the welfare of children after they leave school, and therefore we realise the importance of this question. It is because we believe in fair play for the children, and it is because I believe that the right hon. Gentleman believes in fair play for the children, that I make an appeal to him, as the author of the Childrens' Act, to save the children under this Clause.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Brace)
I have listened with great interest to the Debate, and I am bound to say that I am surprised at the amount of heat that seems to have developed, and the amount of suspicion under which the Home Office has been brought because of this Section of the Bill. My hon. Friend (Sir J. Yoxall) spoke in rather contemptuous words about the higher branches of the Civil Service. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman, the representative of the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen (Sir H. Craik) would say about that. I hardly think that the two non. Gentlemen would be able to reconcile 1471 their differences upon that matter. We are introducing this proposal because, in the opinion of the Home Office, it is an essential and necessary reform.
§ Mr. BRACE
In war-time or any time, it is, in the opinion of the Home Office, an essential and a necessary reform. The hon. Gentlemen who have been emphasising the desirability for the protection of the health and lives and limbs of children really need not press that phase of the social problem either upon my right hon. Friend or upon myself. As a matter of fact, this proposal is not intended to interfere with that system of inspection. The health work of the certifying surgeons in connection with the certification of children and young persons and cases of industrial poisoning, and the periodical examination of workers in dangerous trades, will not be interfered with at all. Hon. Members have spoken as if the certifying surgeons were really making an examination of all the accidents that take place in factories, that they are doing work which they alone can do, and that their work is of such vital importance that if it is not continued it will introduce into the working lives of the factory operatives a standard of danger that does not exist at the present time. In 1914 the total number of accidents notified to the inspectors was 159,413, and the number of those which were also notified to the certifying surgeons was 52,563, so that less than one-third of the total accidents in factories were notified to the certifying surgeons.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BRACE
The real test is, what does the certifying surgeon do? The certifying surgeon receives a report from the occupier or the employer. I have taken the trouble to go through hundreds of these reports, and we get exactly the same report from the certifying surgeon as we do from the inspector.
§ Mr. BRACE
The first report is received from the employer. Upon that report the certifying surgeon acts. When the employer sends a report to the certifying surgeon he sends a report at the same time to the factory inspector, and I have examined hundreds of these reports, and I find exactly the same report comes from the certifying surgeon as from the inspector, in the language provided by the employer.
§ Mr. BRACE
There the hon. Gentleman touches the very crux of the problem. It is the inspector who is the technical authority and who is the man capable of advising the employer, and has the right under the Regulations of the Home Office to advise the employer what reform should take place in order to prevent a recurrence of the accident that has been reported.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Is it not the case that the inspector bases his report very often not upon any visit he has made himself, but upon the report of the certifying surgeon?
§ Mr. BRACE
I assure hon. Gentlemen that when I am telling the House of Commons that in the hundreds of cases that I have examined these reports are exactly in the same language as supplied by the employer, the House of Commons may rely upon it that I am making a statement of fact which can be verified. I think I have some right to be considered by the House not as being unsympathetic to the factory worker. If I thought for one moment that the abolition of the certifying surgeon would introduce danger to the health, life, or limb of the factory worker, neither my right hon. Friend nor myself would be here to ask the House to agree to this proposal. The hon. Member 1473 for Ince (Mr. Walsh) presented a very strong statement with his usual eloquence and close reasoning, based upon no sound premise. I would remind him that the mining industry is infinitely more dangerous than the cotton-factory industry, and yet you have no such thing as certifying surgeons connected with the mining industry.
§ Mr. WALSH
Yes, you have. You have a vast mass of surgeons within easy reach of every colliery, and as soon as a man gets out of the pit after an accident there is a paper given, to him, and the first thing he does is to go to the surgeon. There you have a certifying surgeon. In my own county there is one society which has 50,000 members, and at every colliery there is this particular system of certification which you are endeavouring to abolish in connection with the factories.
§ Mr. BRACE
What my hon. Friend has said is not germane at all to the point which I am making. I am trying to tell the House of Commons that in the mining industry, which is highly dangerous to life and limb, there is no such thing as a certifying surgeon. It is true that in connection with all collieries there are doctors maintained and paid entirely by the workmen themselves. The abolition of the certifying surgeon under this Section will not prevent the continuation of medical men employed and paid by the workmen themselves as now. All that we propose is that the certifying surgeon who is engaged upon a work largely of a duplicating character, who send reports to the Home Office which are not at all helpful in reducing accidents, either fatal or non-fatal, should be dispensed with. Will the House please not confuse the issue? The medical inspection of young persons and inspection for other purposes and the inspection in connection with dangerous trades will continue as heretofore. My hon. Friends 1474 below the Gangway will please remember that the last Report issued upon this point recommending the abolition of certifying surgeons was signed by the late Mr. Gill, a very distinguished Labour leader and factory leader, and the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald). Does the House of Commons think for one moment that those two distinguished representatives of Labour would have agreed to the unanimous recommendation for the abolition of that principle if they thought that it would have added in the slightest degree to the danger to the workers whom they so powerfully represent?
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
There were two recommendations. This is not carrying out the recommendations of the Report.
§ Mr. BRACE
I do not know what my hon. Friend has in mind. There are two ways in which the Committee suggest the system might be altered—the work of certifying surgeons as to accidents might be wholly dispensed with, and the inspector have power to forward the report of a certifying surgeon for information in any case in which he thought it necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If my hon. Friends think that that is a suitable scheme to put in the Bill, my right hon. Friend, I am sure, would be prepared to consider it.
§ Mr. BRACE
The Home Office have come to the conclusion that it is desirable to abolish this system of certifying surgeons. What we want is more factory inspectors with technical knowledge, and if we are to have, as I believe it is desirable to have, a higher standard of medical 1475 inspection, the Home Office would prefer to have full-time medical inspectors rather than the system of certifying surgeons as at present exists. We bring down the proposal which we think satisfactory. If we did not think it satisfactory it would not be proposed. Incidentally that proposal will save the nation £12,500 per year. I suppose that the proposal can be none the worse because it is saving that amount, but I hope that the House of Commons will not allow itself to be led to the conclusion that this saving is the dominant factor behind the proposal. It is not. The proposal is made because the Home Office have come to the conclusion, after a most careful survey of the problem, that the certifying surgeons are not essential to the life and health of the factory workers, and it is for that reason that we ask the House of Commons to agree to abolish them so that we may, if you like, introduce a better system. Why should we wait until after the War for this? We think it is fair to abolish certifying surgeons or we should not propose it. We think it an advantage to have more factory inspectors and more full time medical inspectors. In proposing that that reform should wait until after the War we are founding ourselves upon the recommendation of the Retrenchment Committee that it is essential that we should endeavour to avoid the expenditure of money so far as possible while the War lasts. The reason why we ask the House of Commons to agree to this proposal at this particular time is because it is the best of all times to ask for it so far as certifying surgeons are concerned. Twelve thousand five hundred pounds a year is a largish sum. True, it is divided up among a number of men, but an hon. Member says that a few of the certifying surgeons draw a really substantial sum from this class of work. Doctors are very short just now, and if there is any time when the certifying surgeons can face this change in their life with the least inconvenience that time is now.
§ Mr. BRACE
There will be medical inspectors, it is true, but we hope to add to the inspectorate of the Home Office for factory purposes a number of inspectors with high technical knowledge. If I am asked why we do not propose to increase the inspectorate now, my answer is that this is not a fair time to increase the 1476 inspectorate because of the large number of highly intelligent, capable men who are at this moment serving their country in a military capacity, and if you are going to increase the permanent inspectorate of the Home Office now you will cut away the opportunity for these men to enter into these positions. I beg the House to try to appreciate that neither my right hon. Friend nor myself, nor the Home Office, have any thought other than which is for the highest welfare of the factory workers, speaking from their several standpoints. I have been impressed by the point made, that if necessary the inspector should call in a medical man, and in that respect I think my right hon. Friend would be prepared to consider the matter upon the Committee stage. Having endeavoured to survey some of the reasons why the opposition should not be pressed, either by a continuation of the discussion or a Division, I would ask the House to give us the Second Reading of the Bill, reserving till the Committee stage further discussion upon this matter.
§ Mr. BOYTON
I cannot help thinking that there is a hidden influence, an unseen hand, in the working of the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides so ably. And it seems to me that there is this unseen influence and hidden hand in connection with the Retrenchment Committee as well as the Home Office, which seeks to interfere very largely with the privileges of the medical profession. I should have thought that at a time like this the Home Office would not again have attacked the medical profession. One of the recommendations of the Retrenchment Committee was that the fees in connection with the notification of diseases should be substantially reduced, and now, on the top of that wholly unnecessary and unfair action, they come now to say, "We will save £12,500 a year by abolishing certifying surgeons." It seems to me that there is a hidden influence here against the medical profession. I cannot understand why the Retrenchment Committee should make such a dead set at a profession which is doing so much as the medical profession is doing at the present time. Really, I cannot help feeling that there must be a mysterious influence in the Retrenchment Committee that we cannot measure or gauge here. Why on earth, at such a time as this, when in the industries of the country, and in the new war industries which are being set up, which employ 1477 hundreds of thousands of young people who have never been in these employments before, should you set up more inspectors and shut out the doctors? I am not able to say what the effect of such a decision will be on the factories, but I have heard enough to-night from those who are acquainted with the subject to say, apart from the injustice which is done to the medical profession, that a very great injustice is being done to the workers of the country.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs began his statement by saying that the proposed abolition of certifying surgeons has been brought forward because it is essential and necessary. I could not help thinking, on that phrase, that it is rather an exaggeration of a proposal to save the country £12,500 a year. Nobody would for one moment suspect the Under-Secretary or the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary of any want of sympathy in this matter, but that does not prevent those who have had some experience of it and have been investigating it, from having a perfect right to express their own opinion. The sympathy of the hon. and the right hon. Gentleman does not prove they are right, because in the matter of sympathy we can perhaps all claim to be their equals. The hon. Gentleman said the passing of children by surgeons would not be interfered with by this Bill. On paper that is so, but the point of importance is that you are taking away from the surgeon the means of getting essential information for that part of his work. The certifying surgeon constantly visits the works, and becomes acquainted with all the machines, and so obtains the knowledge necessary to enable him to decide whether a particular child is bright enough and is in every way fitted to undertake the work to which it is proposed to send him. You may leave on paper the right of the surgeon to answer the question, but if you take away the means of his getting knowledge, you are taking from the child a very real protection. The hon. Gentleman said that these certifying surgeons do not exist in regard to mines, and my hon. Friend (Mr. S. Walsh) replied that there is a system, though not a Government system, yet a highly elaborate and complete system, of certifying surgeons in connection with mines. Mining is an industry which is highly organised from every point of view, and 1478 what is done in mining cannot necessarily be done in less organised trades. In mining you have the over-men with statutory obligations, managers with statutory obligations, workmen inspectors, or local inspectors with statutory positions—Government appointments; you have Government inspectors and assistant inspectors, and you have the trade unions. In all the colliery regions you have most elaborate and complete organisation, and because you have that you can get along without certifying surgeons.
But it does not in the least follow that you can get along in factories and workshops, which have grown up under entirely different conditions, and which for seventy years have had these certifying surgeons upon whom the workers have depended for their safety. The Under-Secretary for the Department also suggested, as a kind of compromise, that the inspector might refer certain cases to the surgeons, and that the surgeons would then report upon them—that is to say, you are asking the inspector to do what he has not the means of doing. He would simply receive the employer's notification of the accident, and whether it was necessary to have a special inquiry in the great majority of cases he would not be the means of knowing. The whole contention of the right hon. Gentleman and of the hon. Gentleman representing the Department means that the certifying surgeons are useless. I myself thirty years ago was, for a period, an employer in the North of England, and certainly we did not in the very least regard them as being useless; we regarded them as being a valuable protection for workmen, such as all good employers desire to see. It is said that the reports sent in are merely a repetition of the notice the employer sends in. I think that is not so. I am sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman on questions of fact, but I think they are wrong in their facts. I have here a copy of the certifying surgeon's report on accidents—a Government form that he has to fill in. If I look at item No. 6, under the heading "Accidents," he has to say—By what part of the machinery and in what other way it was caused? If by machinery, state whether at the time of the accident the machinery was in motion by mechanical power.If I am right, the employer has to say that also; but you then come to (6), and the surgeon has got to say—Whether it was guarded or fenced?1479 I do not think the employer has to say that. Then it goes on—If so by what means?The employer is not asked to say that. Then it goes on—If it is due to mismanagement of the machinery by a person oilier than the injured person, state whether the person was experienced in the work.The employer is not asked to say that. Then it goes on—How many hours he had been on duty prior to the accident?The certifying surgeon has to come as quickly as is possible to ascertain that fact, which the employer is not required to state. The employer could not very well be required to do so, because it might be a case of incriminating himself. I think these things show that the certifying surgeon's report cannot be a mere copy of the employer's notice. If any certifying surgeons send in a mere copy it is because they have not filled in what they are required to do, and I would suggest to the Home Office that, instead of seeking to abolish them, that they should in these particular cases try to make them do what they are required by Act of Parliament to do. An omission of that sort I should imagine must be very rare, because the inspectors, where necessary, keep certifying surgeons up to the mark in this respect. If certifying surgeons send in reports without filling in the necessary particulars they are called upon to do so by the inspector and the report sent back, and they are told that the omission may cause the inspector to make an otherwise unnecessary journey. Under No. 13 the certifying surgeon has to state the nature and extent of the injuries and has to classify the injuries, which the employer has not to do, and he has also to say whether there has been any septic poisoning. On the other side of the page there is a space for further observations by the certifying surgeon and'the names of any persons who have given them evidence as to the cause or circumstances of the accident should be included in these observations.In investigating accidents attended with septic poisoning it should be ascertained as far as possible whether infection was probably contracted in the works and, if so from what cause, and how far facilities were provided and used for keeping wounds clean—for example, by using an application of suitable simple dressings.It is one of the chief parts of the duties in works of certifying surgeons to see that there are about the factory the usual first-aid appliances for the wounded and 1480 men with some knowledge how to apply them. The certifying surgeon often reports what is going to be done to prevent similar accidents in future. I think I have shown that it really is not possible that these reports are mere copies of the employer's notices. No doubt in many very simple cases there is very little to add, but the law does not exist for the simple cases that settle themselves, but for a comparatively small percentage, which are difficult and which require these further precautions. It has already been well pointed out that the certifying surgeon is first on the spot after the accident. He is the only man who sees the patient and goes to the patient's bedside in the man's home or, if he is taken to a hospital, to the hospital.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
He is the only person who has the legal right of entry to the place to which the patient is removed. Surely that is very important. The case has been argued as if it were altogether a question of mechanical accidents, and we have been asked what do certifying surgeons know about machinery. I think a certifying surgeon who has been for some time engaged in this work gets to know a good deal about machinery. There are as well chemical and electrical accidents, and surely he is well able to form some opinion about a chemical accident. The fact is that the certifying surgeon is a sieve through which all these thousands of accidents pass, and it is on his report that the inspector judges in the great majority of cases whether a visit by him is necessary or not. It is not, I think, denied that in some cases useful service of this kind is performed, and if in a substantial number of cases useful service is rendered under this system, then it ought not to be abolished until we are actually ready to put something better in its place. The inspector does not visit every factory once a year, and I believe that on the average 75 per cent, of the factories and workshops are visited by an inspector once a year. The certifying surgeon is very often there once a week to pass children or to see whether any children are to be passed for work. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to yield to the manifest feeling of the House. It is a remarkable thing that not one single Member thought it necessary to come down to support this change. I appeal to him to withdraw altogether this Clause which proposes to abolish what has 1481 been a part of our industrial system and recognised as a useful and an essential part of that system for seventy or eighty years.
I have had a great deal of correspondence on this subject from my Constituency which, I suppose, contains more factories than any constituency in the Kingdom and perhaps more complicated machinery. It contains the largest machine works in the world, except Krupp's, and an enormous number of cotton mills. What I object to most is what I call the breach of the truce and that a highly controversial matter between the working classes and the rest of the community should be introduced in time of war. I understood that any highly controversial matter was not to be introduced in time of war in this House in the shape of an emergency Bill. This is an emergency Bill, and can only be excused by the fact that it is necessary to be carried out immediately for some purpose connected with the War. What is that purpose? Economy, we are told. It does not appear to be so. The economy is very mistaken, and the result must be very small, and if the object indeed is economy, if a number of inspectors are appointed to take the places of the certifying surgeons, then what about their salaries and travelling expenses all over the country? The Under-Secretary, in his defence of this portion of the Bill, argued in a circle. He said they did not bring in the Bill to save money, but because the reform was necessary and good in itself. In that case it is not an emergency measure, but is a highly controversial matter, since it seeks to alter a state of things in the middle of a war which has existed for over seventy years, and for that reason I object to it. The Under-Secretary went on to say that they would not have introduced this Bill because they themselves were in favour of it, but because it was a reform which will save money.
The hon. Gentleman said, first of all, that they wanted it as a necessary reform, not to save money, but because it was good in itself. When there was great opposition indicated he said it was to save money they brought it in and that the Retrenchment Committee had recommended it. Nobody doubts that if it had not been for the Report of the 1482 Retrenchment Committee it never would have been introduced. That Committee was there not for reforms, but for economies.
Controversial reforms are inadmissible during the War. Every trade union in the country will be up in arms about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] We have heard Labour Members speak. At all events, whatever may be the result of the Division to-night, I put it to the Home Secretary, whose ability and zeal for the public weal we know, that before he perseveres with this Clause in Committee he should see the trade union leaders and get the opinion of the Labour party on this subject, and also that in bare justice he should find out for himself what the certifying surgeons have to do in this matter. Let me give an instance of what occurs. A young person is injured. The doctor sees him. From the nature of the wound he sees that it is caused by some machinery which ought to be fenced. Having been to the factory many times he knows the machinery and he knows that it is not fenced. He cross-examines the young person. He goes to the factory and finds that the machinery is fenced. The employer says, "The accident could not have been caused by unfenced machinery, because the machinery is fenced." "Yes," replies the doctor, "but I know that it was not fenced when I was here last. When was the fencing put up?" No inspector can do that. The Under-Secretary said, "Doctors are short; doctors are wanted; therefore these certifying surgeons should be set free from their work in factories to do the ordinary work of doctors." I interposed and said, "The inspectors you are going to appoint will be doctors; therefore you do not save anything in that way." Then the hon. Member said, "Oh, but we will not increase the inspectors now because we are at war and numbers of them are at the front. It would not be fair to appoint any men at home as inspectors, as those who are at the front ought to have a chance of competing for these appointments."
The hon. Gentleman cheers that observation. The logical result is that inspection is to go short. Thirty-three per cent, of the inspectors are at the front. Inspection is already 1483 short, and it is at this time that you propose to abolish the certifying surgeons as well. Accidents are more frequent than ever they were, because there are more dangerous trades, especially new and unaccustomed trades. Inexperience is one of the most frequent causes of accident. Fatigue is another. The people are all working at high pressure and often overtime. It is under these circumstances that this proposal is made, and that is the position in which the Bill is going to leave the lives and limbs of the children, young people, women and grown-up men in the factories. The inspectors go to the factory only occasionally, very often a long time after the accident. The doctor is there every week, sometimes every day. He knows every bit of machinery in the place. As we have now a large increase in electrical and chemical work, besides mechanical, his knowledge as a doctor is often more important than his knowledge of machinery. I often go into factories, and I know the machinery in a mill. Any person of average intelligence gets accustomed to the machinery, and knows it as well as any inspector. The inspectors are doctors, too; they are not skilled in mechanical machinery. Representing the sort of constituency that I represent, I am bound to oppose this measure. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gives us some undertaking, we must press the matter to a Division. Whatever the result of the Division may be, the right hon. Gentleman ought to consult those who know. I feel that he has been misled. There are the Association of Certifying Surgeons and the trade unions: I hope and believe that he will consult them. Having done that, if he insists on going on with the Bill he will, before the Committee stage, be in possession of such evidence as will enable him to form a real and considered judgment in the matter, which I am sure he is not now in a position to do.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I regret that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State should have intervened at so early a stage in the Debate, when there were still many points to be put for the consideration of the Government, and especially that he should have ended his speech after about one and a half hours' Debate on this important subject with the request to the House that it should debate it no more. I shall have to disregard the appeal of my hon. Friend, and I am 1484 sure he will forgive me for not being able to accept his somewhat pontifical request. The view I take is that we ought not to be guided in this change by any question of economy. We ought to consider solely the people for whose benefit this protection was originally introduced and exists to-day. If any change is to be made it should surely be one based upon the considered judgment of the Committee which inquired into the matter. I was very much surprised when the Under-Secretary quoted the late Mr. Gill and the hon. Member for Leicester as having approved this proposal. In the same connection I must express my regret that a wholly inadequate and partially inaccurate statement is made in the Memorandum accompanying the Bill. That Memorandum, after stating that the Committee on Retrenchment had made this recommendation, goes on to say that the Committee on Accidents in Factories had previously in 1911 made a similar recommendation. That statement is inaccurate. It is a very partial statement of the truth, and being a partial statement of the truth is wholly misleading. I am sure my right hon. Friend will recognise that that Memorandum is misleading, because the Committee on Accidents did no such thing. They made two proposals. The first was the proposal embodied in the Bill. They went on to make a second proposal as follows:The occupier may report to the inspector only, and the inspector has power to forward reports to the certifying surgeons for investigation in any case in which he thinks such investigation desirable.They go further than that. My hon. Friend has challenged the reading of that, but he will see that it tends to destroy his previous statement. He ended his extract much too soon, because the Committee come down in favour of the second proposal. They go on to say:That the second proposal has the advantage—that is, an advantage over the proposal which the Government have proposed—has the advantage that it would not relieve the occupier wholly from the liability of investigation by the surgeon, and that it would enable the inspectors to indicate to the surgeon any particular points within his field of inquiry upon which the inspector requires further information.Much more important than that is the passage that precedes both of these recommendations in the Report of the Committee, for they only suggest that some part of the work should be dispensed with. They go on to say:In scattered districts, and perhaps as regards some small factories in the larger centres, the surgeon's 1485 report is still useful, and it may be useful ill investigations of poisoning which come within the definition of accidents, where medical opinion on the cause of the accidents is needed, such, for example, as cases of gassing by carbon monoxide.I accept fully, and every Member of this House accepts fully, the statement of the Home Secretary and of the Under-Secretary that they desire to do nothing at all to interfere with the welfare of the people in factories, but I think that the Government takes a very serious responsibility when it brings forward a proposal, which is not the proposal that was made by the Departmental Committee of Inquiry, a Committee in part at least of experts, and which, while sweeping away the system of certifying surgeons, does not replace the work that they did, even in those exceptional cases where it is particularly necessary. It is for this reason that I hope my right hon. Friend will reconsider the matter, and will not press this Clause in its present form. I understand from the interjection that he made that he will be willing to accept the second proposal of the Committee. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell me if I am right and that he would be willing—
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
If the right hon. Gentleman would give some indication that his mind is not finally made up, and that the criticisms which he has heard tonight will be duly considered, it will be a very great relief to us.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
The hon. Member who has just spoken has disposed entirely of the statement in the Memorandum of this Bill that Clause 8 is based on the Departmental Committee's Report. Obviously, whoever was responsible for the drafting of the Memorandum of this Bill, was not very accurately informed as to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee which is claimed as the basis for it. Then may I turn to the other part of the Memorandum dealing with this Clause, and ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us, when he makes his statement later, which member of the Retrenchment Committee is qualified to speak with any authority on the work of the certifying surgeons? In endeavouring to recall the names, I am bound to say I fail to recall the name of one member of the Retrenchment Committee whose evidence would 1486 carry very great weight in the matter of the suggested police work of the certifying surgeon.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I am not sure that hon. Member is an authority on the internal working of factories or as to the necessity for the retention of the certifying surgeon.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
He is acquainted with railway matters, but not with textile industries. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary who has just interrupted me was never less happy than in his defence of this Bill. We have heard him from below the Gangway make some very fine speeches indeed. I never heard him to worse effect than in attempting to de fend this Bill. I felt quite sure his heart was not in it. All his colleagues are against him, and the House as a whole is against the Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I understand the hon. Member for Glasgow is with the Government in this Bill. He is one of the faithful few. I do not know whether the Whips have been busy in the House while we have been fighting with the Front Bench. The Under-Secretary for State suggested that the miners had a system by which they paid for themselves, and my hon. Friend opposite cheers that statement. Does he wish to suggest that the cost of the maintenance of the certifying surgeons should be thrown upon the workers in the textile industry? Is that, the point of his interruption? What about the half-timers who are defended by the work of the certifying surgeons? It would appear to me that the hon. Member should take an early opportunity—
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
My hon. Friend informs me that the half-timers have no union. I hope my hon. Friend will take a very early opportunity of studying in detail the Report from which he quoted. He said 159,413 cases of accident had taken place, and that 52,563 of them had been investigated by the certifying surgeon at a cost of £12,500—an average of four investigations for every twenty shillings. That surely is worth maintenance? I propose to give the House one or two particulars 1487 of these accidents. My right hon. Friend will perhaps be surprised to learn that the great number of them occurred in the cases of children between thirteen and eighteen years of gae. There were 96 fatal accidents to boys and 8 fatal accidents to girls in that category. There was the loss of the right hand or arm to 20 boys, and 6 girls, the loss of the left hand or arm to 11 boys and 4 girls, the loss of part of the right hand in the case of 434 boys, and 139 girls, and the loss of the part of the left hand in the case of 384 boys and 106 girls. There were minor injuries to 7,094 boys, and 2,315 girls. In the case of children—and for these I make a special appeal—between twelve and fourteen years of age, the certifying surgeons investigated the cases of 1,597 boys and 58 girls. Surely a total such as that suggests the need of retaining the work of the certifying surgeon! It is contended by the right hon. Gentleman—I believe he makes this a main part of his case—that the reports of the employers and the certifying surgeons are in so many cases identical. Why? For the simple reason that the employer knows that his report will be followed by that of a man with technical knowledge. That is the safeguard. Does my right hon. Friend assume that with the withdrawal of the certifying surgeons that the reports of the employers on these cases would be as they are to-day? He may assume this; I do not. The fact that the certifying surgeon is there to come later is a guarantee that you get a faithful report from the employers in these eases. It is the first check. It seems to me that the hon. Member for Oldham was not quite accurate when he talked about this being a controversial measure. There is no controversy as between the House.' It is a matter of very small controversy between the House as a whole and one of the Members for Glasgow and two hon. Members on the Front Bench.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
And the reason is this: Members think it worth while to come down to an important thing like this affecting the health and well-being of thousands of children. The sense of the House is against the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary. It appears, therefore, to me if the right hon. Gentleman is going to do the right thing on this 1488 occasion, he will make an outspoken pronouncement that this Section of the Bill will not be proceeded with In this time of war we have a right to ask it, and it seems to me that, with inspectors not to be appointed until the cessation of war, to do away with the certifying surgeons is a real injustice to the children particularly, and to all persons who work in factories and workshops. I, therefore, join my appeal to that already so powerfully uttered, that the right hon. Gentleman will indicate that he will not proceed with this Section of the Bill.
§ Mr. WING
I have listened to the whole of this discussion, and certainly it has been one-sided. The general tenour of it would lead one to believe that there was only one Clause in the Bill. It is a Bill containing very many useful Clauses, but the inference you might draw from some of the preceding speeches would really indicate that the medical profession is exceptionally well represented here tonight. I only desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for this Bill, because it includes very many useful projects. It touches the policeman, and makes safe his pension. It does something to relieve those who meet with accidents in assisting the police in their duty, and it also deals with a matter, to which I have called the right hon. Gentleman's attention in times past, namely, that those students who have been at the various universities, studying metallurgy and mining, and have answered the patriotic call and left the country, in order to defend it, should not suffer by their patriotism. That will be welcome to a very large number of students who have been exceedingly anxious as to their position on returning from the seat of war. Personally, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the Bill, and the many useful projects contained in it.
§ 10.0 p.m.
I may be allowed, by the leave of the House, although I have exhausted my right of speech, to say a very few words on this discussion. The character of the Debate this evening shows what is the fate of any Minister who ventures to suggest an economy. Continually we are being told that the Government is extravagant; that there is a great deal of unnecessary reporting; that officialism is too widely extended. The Government is appealed to in all the organs of the Press, and whenever there is a Debate in the House of Commons about economy in general—about economy 1489 with a big "E"—the Government is urged to overhaul its expenditure and see in what manner it can save the nation's money. It does so. It goes through all the various Departments and sees particulars in which money can be saved which, in the opinion of the Government, is now spent wastefully. The moment any Minister comes to the House of Commons and suggests any particular economy with a small "e," instantly some vested interest is affected. Wires are pulled, Members are circularised, individuals are urged to speak, and the impression is given that the whole House is in favour of the continuance of this expenditure. That is the position here. Of course, it is to no one's interest to get up and support the Government, and if any hon. Friend is interested in many Clauses of the Bill, and fears possibly the whole Bill may be dropped, he does support the Government. But no one has any interest in a particular economy. The view may be taken that it is only a small point costing £12,500, and why not go on wasting your money on unnecessary Reports? I consider it to be the duty of a Minister, in presenting Estimates to the House, to assure himself that the money is necessary and that the expenditure is justified on its merits, and when my attention is called to a particular expenditure which I cannot justify, which my expert advisers tell me does not result in a return which is worth the money, my duty is to go to the House of Commons and say so.
It is of immense importance to safeguard the life and limb of the worker. We must not lessen any safeguard that exists. I am absolutely the last man in this House to propose any measure which would increase risks and lessen safeguards. If hon. Members could only see certifying surgeons' reports as I have seen whole stacks of them, they would take a different view. These reports, with few exceptions, are mere repetitions of the reports already sent in by the occupiers. They are perfectly valueless, and the Factory Department of the Home Office would not come down and say that those reports could be abolished if they had any real value in them. The hon. Member for Nottingham in a very powerful speech represented this as being a vagary, or the report of a body of bureaucrats. The Committee of 1908 did not consist of bureaucrats. I should not have made this proposal if it had come on their authority alone, and if it had not 1490 been the result of a prolonged and careful investigation of a Committee of an expert character. This Committee consisted of three Labour Members, amongst others, who signed a unanimous report. This is what the Committee says:The Committee consider, however, that the time has come when much of this work could be dispensed with. They have come to this conclusion quite apart from any consideration of the efficiency with which the work is done. In the larger centres of population and industry the inspectorate is now so closely in touch with, the factories that investigation of accidents by the certifying surgeon has become, in most cases, superfluous. The inspector can judge from the occupier's report whether the accident should be investigated by him and the report which he receives from the certifying surgeon seldom adds anything which it is necessary for him to know. Nor does it generally dispense with the need of a visit by the inspector. If the occupier's report is not sufficiently full when first sent, the inspector returns it for further details: and if it shows either that an investigation is required, or that instructions must be given for the prevention of danger in the future, the inspector is seldom saved a visit by the fact that the certifying surgeon has visited, since the surgeon is not, generally speaking, an expert in accident risks, and has no power to give instructions to occupiers. It is only occasionally that the certifying surgeon's report contains details not given by the occupier of such a kind as to save the inspector a visit.Hon. Members have suggested that we propose this to the House out of sheer wantonness, and out of the desire to destroy an efficient and a valuable system of inspection. Here is the Report, signed by three Labour Members of this House, by two or three representatives of factory departments, and by Miss Mona Wilson, all experts, saying that those reports are useless.
Are as a rule useless. I have since discussed this subject with my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald), and with Mrs. Tennant, who was for many years the chief woman factory inspector, who has done so much in this direction, and she expressed the view that these reports were useless, and that there was no necessity to continue this expenditure.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Does not that Committee go on to suggest the retention of a part of the certifying surgeons' work?
We are retaining all the work of the certifying surgeon with regard to fitness for dangerous trades and industrial poisoning. This Committee recommends that the work of certifying surgeons as to accidents might be dispensed with, and they also recommend that the certifying surgeon might still be used in special cases, and I think there is something to 1491 be said for that. I was greatly impressed by what the hon. Member for North-West Durham (Mr. A. Williams) said as to the desirability of having special reports from the medical men where it is not a case of An accident caused by some piece of negligence, but where it is a case of septic poisoning or gassing or a case arising from some deleterious chemical substance which comes under the definition of accidents. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I had contemplated arranging for medical reports on those cases. I have been very much impressed by the tone of the Debate this evening, but I feel sure that much of what hon. Members have said has been said under a misapprehension, and if they were to see these reports they would know that they really have not the value which they attach to them. We have examined large numbers of them, and we have not made this proposal without seeing that the great majority of them are useless and a waste of money, and I cannot conscientiously ask the House to vote money which I know is wasted. I will, however, give further consideration to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. A. Williams), and other hon. Members, and I will put down an Amendment which I think will meet their views, and which I hope will meet the views of some other hon. Members, while at the same time eliminating this wasteful expenditure, and which will enable us to continue the work of the certifying surgeons in cases where it is useful to the Factory Department and for the protection of the life and 1492 limb of the workers. In view of all this, and in view of the fact that the Bill contains a variety of most useful Clauses which the whole House wishes to pass into law, I hope that hon. Members will reserve their judgment until the Committee stage and allow the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. Gulland.]
§ The remaining Orders were read, and confirmed.