§ Mr. LEACH
(by Private Notice): asked the Secretary of State for, the Home Department if he will undertake an inquiry into the disastrous, accident at Zetland Mills, Bradford? Further, is he satisfied that his Department and the local authority possess sufficient powers of supervision over factories and workshops to ensure that too much weight is not placed on floors or that the structure of floors and building generally remain adequate for the purposes for which they may be used? Further, is he aware that the Bradford district, for which two full-time and one half-time Factory Inspectors only are employed, comprises 2,595 factories, 1,870 workshops, 70 ware- 120 houses, two docks or wharves, 4,537 places in all, is 153 square miles in area, extends 20 miles across, and has a population of 400,000; that the inspectorial duties of these 2½ men include the certifying of legislative hours, of registration of children and young persons, sanitation, ventilation, limewashing and cleanliness, fencing of machinery, observance of Truck Acts, health and safety of work-people, examination of dangerous wools, construction of premises, observance of multitudinous regulations, writing of heavy and manifold reports, and many others which, despite the excellence of the men employed, are not and cannot be performed?
The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Bridge-man)
I anticipate that a full and searching investigation will be made at the inquest which has recently been opened into the circumstances of this distressing accident. I am informed that the coroner has called upon a member of a Bradford firm of architects and surveyors to inspect the premises and make a report, and he will receive all possible assistance both from the District and from the Technical staff of the Factory Department. When the result of the coroner's investigation is available, the question whether any further inquiry under the Factory Act should be instituted will be considered. The Home Office has no power to deal with the structural stability of factories, except the power, under Section 18 of the Factory Act of 1901, to lay a complaint before a court if a factory is in such a condition as to involve immediate danger to life or limb. The question whether further powers ought to be conferred on the local authorities or on the Factory Department will have to be considered in connection with the amending Factory Bill which is being prepared for early introduction to this House, and it will also be necessary, in connection with that Bill, to review the question of the staff available for factory inspection.
Mr. BR I D GEMAN
I am convinced that the Factory Act, which has not been 121 properly overhauled since 1901, requires very careful consideration, and for that reason it was the intention of the Home Office to intoduce a Bill during this Session to bring that Act up to date.
§ Mr. B. TURNER
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a very large number of woollen factories of ancient date in Yorkshire that require periodical inspection, and can the Home Office institute an inspection to prevent similar accidents happening?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I shall be very glad to consider that question. I will ask my Chief Inspector whether the statement made by the hon. Member is correct, and whether it is possible to do anything to prevent these accidents.
§ Mr. TURNER
If pictures are sent to the Home Secretary of mills with bulging walls, will he accept them as proof of dangerous buildings?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I think the Chief Inspector will be the best judge of that. I shall certainly put to him the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Is there in England any authority that prevents the owners of factories placing on the floors weights that the walls are not capable of carrying?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
It is the business of the inspectors when they visit these factories to see that there is no great addition made to the weight that the floors previously carried, certainly in old buildings. This particular factory was inspected on 30th November last, and no such discovery was made.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Is it necessary for an owner to consult any authority before he increases the weight put on a factory floor? Can an owner put another 100 or 200 tons on a floor in addition to what it has already carried without consulting some authority?