HC Deb 26 March 1926 vol 193 cc1611-9

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

I promised to make my point shortly when Black Rod came, and interfered even with the shortness of my point. The administrative procedure as shown in this and preceding Bills to my mind is making confusion worse confused when, leading by divergent paths, you have greater and greater complication. For the administration of these Measures, which we all admit require to be remedied, we are giving powers to employ firstly in some respects the local sanitary authority, in others to the local education authorities, in others to the County Council and in others to a special officer with the special powers of the Home Office to make Regulations and to keep, naturally enough, the decision to himself. You have four separate sets of authorities and officials who are dealing with the Bill. From year to year we go piling on duties and dishing them out, first to one authority and then to another, but there is no effort made to combine these officers and get at a real united system—a strategy of health. You see it in the difficulties in respect to the medical officials who shall carry this work out. You see it again and again in the difficulties as between sanitary authorities and the Home Office. It has been recognised that in achieving what appears to be simplification, that is doing away with distinctions between factories and work- shops in name, you are depriving the local sanitary authorities of their responsibility, and you are giving them back to them only so far as the Home Secretary agrees. You are depriving them of their duties because hitherto it has been the practice of local sanitary authorities to be responsible for sanitation in workshops, as opposed to factories.

Therefore you are in a great difficulty. You are not really making up your mind, according to this Bill, in what way you are going to look after sanitation. You are still going to have divided administration. You will not get these things set right of which we have heard unless you are going to have continuous supervision. The certifying factory surgeon will have to certify. He is not there to watch the processes and see where medical science can help. You want an authority at the head who is constantly there to help. At present it is left to the non-medical inspectors. You have to consider the matter a good deal more clearly than you have done at present to see in what way you can get some unity of effort between all the different conflicting medical officers and sanitary authorities and education authorities who are brought into this Bill in order that you may have a combination of effort to improve the health of the country and health in the factories. The factories, after all, are instinctively an essential part of the health of the nation and you cannot separate them, as this Bill proposes to do. You may get tuberculosis in a factory, which is perhaps derived from outside, and it infects the home, yet it comes under an entirely different set of authorities from this proposal. You have to unite them together. You must have one strategy together. I do not suggest that the whole of the health side of the Home Office in connection with factories should be taken out of its hands and referred to the Ministry of Health. That is a big question, and I do not agree with that; but I do say that if we are to have a Minister of Health worthy of the name, he must be in active and direct liaison with the carrying out of the Factories and Workshops Acts. I see no prospect whatever, as things are in this Bill, of that being done, least of all providing that the Home Office should have a proper staff of medical inspectors, with a proper status, and responsibility for them which would enable them to play their part, united with the Ministry of Health, in establishing a common effort for doing away with all these illnesses which we all agree should be got rid of.


I should like to join issue with the hon. Member for Withington (Dr. Watts) and other hon. Members of the medical profession regarding certifying surgeons, because unless things have altered very much, they must be extremely bad. Over 30 years ago I was certified, but I was not examined. I doubt whether I got more than a cursory observation. A great deal could be said on that point. My information is that the conditions have altered very little. There is no examination. There is more certification than examination. I urge upon the Home Office the necessity of taking up this Bill. There is everything in this Bill that is needed. As far as the West Riding of Yorkshire is concerned, there is not the examination of factories which is needed. There are, I think, in the Bradford district, two inspectors or, rather, two and a half, because one inspector is only a spare-time inspector, for many thousands of workers. There is not the adequate examination that there ought to be.

Take the question of old buildings. We had a lamentable accident last year or the year before, where bales of wool were stored in a top storey far beyond the capacity of the beams. The bales tumbled through the floor carrying the floor and carrying the machinery on the next floor and falling into the basement, killing a number of people and very severely injuring others. At the present time there is no examination as to the weight-carrying capacity of buildings, and this at a time when old buildings are being used for new purposes for which they were not constructed. Buildings which were not constructed to carry machinery are carrying machinery, and there is no examination. Buildings which were not constructed for carrying huge weights of raw material are carrying huge weights of raw material. Although it may cost a few hundreds or a few thousands of pounds a year to have more inspectors, I suggest that that precaution ought to be taken because they are needed.

I do not complain about the way the present inspectors have done their duties. They have been painstaking as far as possible; but I had rather a sad experience some years ago as a member of a Departmental Committee on anthrax Wool which is called "Persian lock" is required under the Regulations to be steeped in water in order to avoid the dust being inhaled by the workpeople. I had occasion to bring the factory inspector to hear what the workmen said about factory inspection in this respect. I told the workmen to tell the factory inspector a plain tale, and they told him that out of 150 bales the first bale was put into water and left there until the last bale was finished. I asked why the first bale was put in the water and left there. He said that it was put there in case the factory inspector came. That is a personal experience. The workman made that statement in front of the inspector, who had to admit that he had not had an opportunity of visiting these places. It may be very urgent to have surgeons, from the professional point of view, but I say, as one whose experience in the factory began at 10 years of age, that if we could get some practical and intelligent and experienced workmen and workwomen on the factory inspection staff, many of the things which are done to-day would not be done in future.

As a factory hand I know what is the mind of the workpeople. Their feeling is that there is not adequate inspection, that we need more care, more inspectors, and, what is most important, that the present Regulations, which are the law of the land, should be enforced. One goes into a factory and there is posted up an abstract of rules. It is stuck up somewhere about 10 feet or 12 feet above the level of the floor, where it cannot be read or seen without opera glasses. I have known cases where the rules have been whitewashed and then washed off. It is a great farce to call that factory inspection. The workpeople do not know the rules because they cannot read them; they do not know the law of the land, and if the law is being broken they often have not the slightest knowledge about it. I ask the Home Office to adopt this Bill. There is no reason why they should not do so. It ought not to matter that the Labour party has introduced the Bill. If we were in office and a Conservative Member introduced this Bill, our feeling would be that we should consider only the greatest good to the greatest number. There are 250,000 textile operatives in the West Riding whose interests are not being looked after, the conditions of whose employment are not being inspected, and if this Bill is kept on the stocks for another year, to be passed late next year, that is too long a time to wait. The textile workers are looking to the Government to give them adequate inspection. The best possible means of securing that inspection is the Government's adoption of this Bill. The people of the country would then know that the Government really intended to provide adequate inspection.


I hope that the House will allow me for a few minutes to say something on the Bill. This is the first occasion upon which I have known an opportunity to arise for a discussion of the whole of our Factory Acts. It is 20 years since I got into this House, and seven or eight Factory Acts have been passed in that time, but I know of no Bill that raises all the factory legislation provisions as this Bill does. The right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) made an eloquent and moving speech. I think the speech moved the whole House. It certainly moved me. He pleaded that the Bill be read a Second time and sent to a Standing Committee. The reasons that he gave for the Second Reading seemed to me to point to the course which I mean to take in the Division Lobby. I believe that the circulation of the Bill now for the purpose of discussion will secure us the best Bill in the shortest possible time. I think a Bill of this sort ought to have the weight of a Government behind it and I would say exactly the same thing if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, were introducing the Bill. If he introduced a Bill which contained as much good as this Bill, I should give him my respectful support, but I think you want behind such a Bill the weight, authority and knowledge which only a Government can command.

My second point is that you want the largest possible measure of knowledge behind such a Bill. It is true this Measure has been on the stocks a long time. I am not sure that is entirely a good thing, because the investigation of fatigue, and the science of factory man- agement have changed immensely in the last 10 or 15 years, and even while this Bill has been on the stocks. I want to see the latest knowledge and the best scientific methods behind this Bill, and you cannot achieve that until you show both to the world and the employer the actual Clauses of the Bill. You cannot discuss the matter in general terms. The right hon. Gentleman referred in very strong terms, but not too strong terms, to the practice of sucking thread through the shuttle. The Clause of the Bill which deals with this matter provides that for five years there is to be no change, but after five years the practice is to be prohibited unless the Secretary of State makes special exceptions.


That five years is in order to allow new shuttles to be introduced gradually, so that at the end of five years all the old ones will be out of use.


I know that, and if, before five years' time, the right hon. Gentleman is Home Secretary and is bringing in a Bill for the immediate adoption of this reform, I promise him my support. Lastly, he mentioned the importance of the human factor and said, very truly, that we spent all our skill in investigation on machines, leaving the human being out of account. The right hon. Gentleman knows the immense amount of investigation which has taken place on the subject of fatigue and muscular effort. A whole new science has sprung up in this country, Germany and America, which will revolutionise a large part of factory production. All that new knowledge should be used. If we get the Bill circulated now we can then get it into shape. I do not want to see this Bill knocked to pieces, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) seemed to fear. I want the best and most instructed opinion to be obtained on this Bill. The wreaths of laurel have been woven so heavily around the brows of the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading that I hesitate to add to the weight but, may I say, that I welcomed her speech. It seemed a very good sound Conservative speech, and made the best case that could possibly be made.

I have been interested in factory legislation ever since I came into politics and before that. I want to see a Bill passed through this House, and I am delighted to observe that, though we may differ as to methods and some speakers may want an immediate vote on this Bill and its Second Reading carried, I have never known the factory question debated in this House when there has been so unanimous an opinion in favour of reform as has been evinced to-day.


I should like to commend Clause 24 of this Bill to the attention of the Government. That

Clause makes specific provision for all workers as regards working at any height beyond 12 feet. Under the present law, unfortunately, there is a stipulation that only where gearing is in operation is such a safeguard provided. I want to remind the Government that when their Bill comes forward, it should be adjusted on the lines of Clause 24.

Question put "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 109; Noes, 184.

Division No. 102.] AYES. [3.58 p.m.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hayes, John Henry Robinson, W. C. (Yorks.W.R., Elland)
Ammon, Charles George Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Scrymgeour, E.
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Scurr, John
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hore-Belisha, Leslie Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Barnes, A. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Barr, J. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Batey, Joseph Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Beckett, John (Gateshead) John, William (Rhondda, West) Sitch, Charles H.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Briant, Frank Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Broad, F. A. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bromfield, William Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Snell, Harry
Bromley, J. Kelly, W. T. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Kennedy, T. Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)
Charleton, H. C. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Stephen, Campbell
Cluse, W. S. Lansbury, George Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Connolly, M. Lawson, John James Thurtle, E.
Cove, W. G. Lee, F. Tinker, John Joseph
Dalton, Hugh Lindley, F. W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale) Livingstone, A. M. Varley, Frank B.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lowth, T. Viant, S. P.
Day, Colonel Harry MacDonald, Rt.Hon.J.R. (Aberavon) Wallhead, Richard C.
Duncan, C. Mackinder, W. Warne, G. H.
Dunnico, H. MacLaren, Andrew Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) March, S. Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Maxton, James Whiteley, W.
Forrest, W. Montague, Frederick Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Gibbins, Joseph Naylor, T. E. Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Gillett, George M. Oliver, George Harold Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Gosling, Harry Palin, John Henry Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne) Paling, W. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Groves, T. Ponsonby, Arthur Windsor, Walter
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Potts, John S. Wright, W.
Hardie, George D. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Riley, Ben
Hayday, Arthur Ritson, J. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Miss Wilkinson and Mr. Stamford.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)
Albery, Irving James Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton
Allen, J.Sandeman (L'pool, W.Derby) Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Clarry, Reginald George
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Brassey, Sir Leonard Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Briscoe, Richard George Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Brocklebank, C. E. R. Conway, Sir W. Martin
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Cooper, A. Duff
Balniel, Lord Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Cope, Major William
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Buckingham, Sir H. Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)
Berry, Sir George Burton, Colonel H. W. Cunliffe, Sir Herbert
Betterton, Henry B. Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Curzon, Captain Viscount
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Campbell, E. T. Davies, Dr. Vernon
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Cassels, J. D. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
Blades, Sir George Rowland Cautley, Sir Henry S. Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)
Blundell, F. N. Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Dawson, Sir Philip
Boothby, R. J. G. Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Elliot, Captain Walter E.
Elveden, Viscount Knox, Sir Alfred Salmon, Major I.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Lamb, J. Q. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Everard, W. Lindsay Loder, J. de V. Sandeman, A. Stewart
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Looker, Herbert William Sanderson, Sir Frank
Falls, Sir Charles F. Lowe, Sir Francis William Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Fermoy, Lord Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Foster, Sir Harry S. Lumley, L. R. Shepperson, E. W.
Fraser, Captain Ian Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Skelton, A. N.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. McLean, Major A. Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Gates, Percy Macnaghton, Hon. Sir Malcolm Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Gee, Captain R. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Smithers, Waldron
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Macquisten, F. A. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Goff, Sir Park Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Greene, W. P. Crawford Makins, Brigadier-General E. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westm'eland)
Grotrian, H. Brent. Malone, Major P. B. Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Gunston, Captain D. W. Margesson, Captain D. Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.
Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Meller, R. J. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Hammersley, S. S. Meyer, Sir Frank Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Hawke, John Anthony Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Moore, Sir Newton J. Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell.
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Hennessy, Major I. R. G. Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Wallace, Captain D. E.
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Murchison, C. K. Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by) Nelson, Sir Frank Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Hills, Major John Waller Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Watts, Dr. T.
Hilton, Cecil Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone) Nicholson, O. (Westminster) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W.G.(Ptrst'ld.) Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Winby, Colonel L. P.
Hopkins, J. W. W. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hume, Sir G. H. Pennefather, Sir John Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Huntingfield, Lord Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) Wise, Sir Fredric
Hutchison, G. A. Clark (Mldl'n & P'bl's) Perring, Sir William George Withers, John James
Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S. Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wolmer, Viscount
Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Pilditch, Sir Philip Womersley, W. J.
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton Wood, E. (Chester, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Kennedy, A. R. (Preston) Reid, D. D. (County Down)
Kindersley, Major G. M. Ropner, Major L. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
King, Captain Henry Douglas Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Captain Macmillan and Sir Leslie Scott.
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Rye, F. G.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Words added.

Resolved, That this House, while recognising the necessity for the introduction during this Session of a Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to factories for the purposes of circulation and discussion in consultation with the interests affected, is of opinion that a Measure of such far-reaching importance should not be introduced as a private Member's Bill.