HC Deb 15 June 1937 vol 325 cc267-89

In every factory where not less than one hundred persons are employed, and in every other factory where the Secretary of State deems it expedient, it shall be the duty of the occupier, in accordance with regulations to be made by the Secretary of State, to provide for the appointment of a safety-first committee consisting of representatives of the management and representatives of the workpeople to examine the causes of any accidents, recommend arty measures they may deem necessary to prevent accidents, and generally to promote conditions calculated to ensure safety.—[Mr. E. Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

On this question of safety first there ought to be sufficient common ground among all Members of this House that would enable us to consider this new Clause apart from any political effects. The question of safety first is becoming increasingly important in view of the mechanisation and electrification of industry. On the question of safety, particularly in industry itself, there is sufficient in common between us for an approach to be made to this question from all points of view. Injury in industry does not benefit anyone. From an employer's point of view, it increases cost of production, it creates friction, it creates difficulty with insurance companies when accidents increase, and it retards production. From an employé's point of view, also, it has no advantages. From an employé's point of view, it means that he loses his wages, that when he sets out to obtain compensation very often he does not receive adequate compensation and, in addition to that, when he has received a permanent injury, especially if he is incapacitated for life, it means that he has to go through a lot of legal quibbling before he can obtain even the elementary justice which has been decided on by this House.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate that we have sufficient in common to enable us to approach the question apart from any political bias. The idea of these committees is that people will have an opportunity of pooling their experience in order that employers and employés may receive benefit. I have acted in a representative capacity in one of the largest factories in this country where one of these committees has been in existence, and arising out of that experience I am convinced that it would be greatly to the benefit of industry generally if only industry would adopt this course, and, seeing that industry is not prepared to do this, we are hoping that this House will see that it does. The big captains of industry are now prepared to consider the point of view of all people employed in industry. They are becoming less and less conservative, and as they become less and less conservative they find that it is in the interests of industry that they should take into consideration all points of view. These committees would provide for that being done. They would provide for the accumulated experience of all those who are employés in industry being used for the benefit of all. In addition this provision would enable this accumulated experience to be used for the purpose of carrying on educational activity inside the factories, so that those engaged in industry could take steps to prevent accidents occurring in the future.

These committees would also permit of the maximum amount of co-operation between all interests in order to avoid accidents. In factories those who are engaged in managerial and administrative positions are more and more having regard to the question of production and to the question of delivery dates, because in modern industry it is not only a question of the cost of production, but increasingly a very important factor is becoming the question of delivery dates. Those engaged in managing industry are having to watch the question of output and the question of delivery dates. Therefore, we find that more and more it is becoming important that someone should be appointed in each shop or department in order that he or she shall have the responsibility of keeping an eye on machines and on accidents that have taken place in the past, in order that industry may avoid a repetition of those accidents. It is a common saying that anybody's job is nobody's job, and, therefore, if we could only have someone appointed in each department who would keep his eye on the question of safety first, he would accumulate experience in that department, and would then have the right to be elected to these committees. Such people would then pool their ideas and experience with the management, and the accumulation of these ideas and this experience would enable a large number of accidents to be prevented. These are just a few ideas arising out of my own experience.

I would like to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary to the fact that the Government are committed to this Clause. The Government have been represented at conference after conference held under the auspices of the League of Nations at Geneva and at the various conferences conventions have been passed, and now that a Factory Bill is being considered by this House, in order that this Government may be true to the commitments which they have undertaken at Geneva, a Clause of this character should be inserted in this Bill. I have been reading during the week-end the results of an investigation made by the American Government into the factory practice in Great Britain. I want to admit that the standard of factory practice in Great Britain and the standard of the administration of the factory laws in Britain are higher than in any other capitalist country in the world. This has been brought about very largely because of the industrial organisations which we represent, and also because various Governments, having had pressure brought to bear on them, have been prepared at different times to introduce regulations. As a result, we have been able to reach a standard in this country which is now the envy of the world as far as the capitalist countries are concerned.

There are one or two respects, however, in which we are inclined to lag behind. The report issued by the United States Department of Labour as a result of the investigation to which I have referred, is entitled, "British Factory Inspection." It points out that in 1923 the Home Office was specifically authorised, under the Workmen's Compensation Act of that year, to develop safety first organisations; that large employers had protested that they preferred to deal with the accidents prevention problem without specific legal requirements and that Government officials had acquiesced in that point of view. It goes on to say that the chief inspector in his report for 1926 showed that progress in the safety movement had been "disappointingly slow." That is the point which I wish to stress. No doubt the Under-Secretary in reply will indicate that a number of employers have already carried out these proposals by voluntary methods. That is true, but voluntary methods are not satisfactory, and in treating the subject in that way, we are not being fair to industry itself.

We find that the big employers who have a modern outlook, and who pay regard to the interests of all the people employed in industry, are those who carry out proposals of this character, whereas the reactionary employers and the relatively backward employers, those who do very little welfare work, and do not allow industrial organisation inside their factories, those who are mostly responsible for victimisation, are the employers who refuse to carry out any such proposals. If the Home Office and this House are to be fair to the relatively progressive employers, they ought to see that the relatively backward employers are made to carry on their industries according to modern standards. I have here a document dealing with industrial eye diseases which contains an extract from the "British journal of Ophthalmology." This states: A recent analysis of circumstances surrounding 70,000 accidents has led Heinrich of the Travellers' Insurance Company to the conclusion that 98 per cent. of all industrial accidents are preventable. I do not accept that statement. I have sufficient know ledge of industry to enable me to say with some confidence that nothing like that proportion of industrial accidents could be prevented. The workmen have more regard for their own safety than to be responsible for the occurrence of accidents which are preventable, but it is a journal of the ophthalmic profession which makes the statement. It is not our statement. It also states: As a result of inquiries of workmen attending the Royal Eye Hospital one can state that a multitude of firms, especially small firms, have unfortunately no safety organisations. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary is prepared to recommend the House to adopt the proposals in the new Clause in order that this country may carry out the commitments which it has undertaken at Geneva, that the relatively backward employers may be brought up to the standard of the relatively good employers and that educational activities with regard to the prevention of accidents may be extended.

7.20 p.m.

Mr. Ridley

I beg to second the Motion. This new Clause is an attempt to tighten up the preventive provisions of the Bill, and limit the possibilities of accident iii factory and workshop. I submit that it is a desirable proposition, because neither compensation for injury, nor penalties for neglect can take the place of adequate safety precautions, and whatever we can do to contribute to safety and to render both compensation and penalties unnecessary, will be a useful improvement in this Measure. I am associated with an industry which, in terms of employment, is one of the largest in the country. I refer to the railway industry. Sixteen years ago this House attached to the Railways Act, 1921, a Schedule which included a provision for committees of this kind. I do not know how many such committees exist throughout the country to-day, but they must run to several hundreds, and by common consent of employers and employed they have not only served a useful and important purpose, but have achieved a substantial part of their objective in the prevention of accidents. No one would desire to terminate their existence. They have proved a useful experiment and have made a desirable and important contribution to safety in an industry where the risk of injury is substantial. Those joint committees give the employers the benefit of the experience of the workers and give the workers a new sense of responsibility in their new relationship with the employers. They provide for both the maximum of mutual advantage, as a result of which there cannot fail to be a diminution in accidents and an increase in safety provisions and precautions. I hope the Under-Secretary will find it possible to accept the new Clause.

7.23 p.m.

Captain Harold Balfour

I trust the Government will not accept the proposed new Clause. I am sure that every Member of the House desires the maximum of safety and the whole object of this Bill is to provide the maximum of safety, but I believe that this Clause would defeat that very object. It means, if not directly at any rate by implication, devolving responsibility for safety from the manufacturer or employer to a committee, and it proposes to set up a statutory committee without any statutory authority as regards that committee's findings and recommendations. Suppose that a certain measure for safety were agreed upon by such a committee and that at a later date an accident occurred. In that case a bad employer who had had thrust upon him by law the obligation of having a committee could, to some extent, escape responsibility for negligence by pleading that the committee had sanctioned such and such a recommendation which he had carried out. I agree with the seconder that voluntary committees are eminently desirable, and I trust that that principle will be extended. But to place on the Statute Book a statutory obligation to set up a committee without giving that committee any statutory authority, would be to give some form of protection to bad employers which is the very last thing, I am sure, any hon. Member would wish to do.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Mander

I wish shortly to support the proposed new Clause. Apart from the good work done by safety first committees, I believe there is enormous value in employers and employed working together on questions of this kind. I have been chairman of such a committee for a number of years dealing with other subjects, and I know that it makes a great difference in the effective working of a concern to have that co-operation. I think my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last is wrong in his apprehension. Rules and regulations depend for their proper functioning on the workpeople. If the workers do not understand and sympathise with rules, then the rules will not work properly. The value of a proposal of this kind is that it enables the employer to appreciate the worker's point of view and the worker to appreciate the object of the regulations made by the employer. In that way any plans that are made are carried out more whole-heartedly and sympathetically than if imposed from above by the employer. Government only works effectively with the consent of the governed, and that applies to a firm just as much as to a country. I believe that this Clause would mark an advance in the right direction. It is desirable to do these things on a voluntary basis if you can, and it is possible to make progress on those lines, but, unfortunately, in some of the places where machinery of this kind is most required, the employers are not prepared to act voluntarily. It is necessary in those cases to have compulsion at some stage, and I feel that this proposal indicates a very reasonable way in which to take that step.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I wish to say at once that the Home Office are very much in favour of safety committees and recognise their value. I will not trouble the House with details, but hon. Members who have read the inspectors' reports know the great value which is attached to those committees. The result on industrial accidents of their existence has in many cases been worked out on a scientific basis by the inspectors, and figures have been given which show a considerable reduction in the accident rate in factories where safety first committees have been in operation. Nevertheless, I hope to persuade the House that it would not be in the best interests of the safety first movement itself to accept the proposed new Clause. Those who have experience of them will agree that what is vital in safety first committees is not the mere fact that they should exist, but that they should be animated with enthusiasm and should have the full co-operation and leadership of employers. We are all familiar with committees which just exist and do very little more, but such committees would be no good for safety first work in factories. The powers of the Home Secretary in this matter are very great, because my right hon. Friend can prescribe the machinery and he can even prescribe that a committee should be set up, but he cannot prescribe enthusiasm or co-operation on the part of those concerned, and that is the vital thing.

Although we have not got the statutory provision at present proposed in this Clause, my right hon. Friend has powers under Clause 38 that are much better adapted for this purpose, powers of which the Home Office has made very good use. In 1927 the Home Secretary of the day brought forward a draft Order under his powers, that are reproduced in the present Clause 38, for a more advanced safety organisation, but in that draft Order he did not lay down a rigid requirement that there should be safety committees in all cases. It was more on the lines that a special safety-first scheme should be adopted or that a safety officer should be appointed. As a result of that draft Order the industry protested and offered, on a voluntary basis, to undertake the stimulation and working of these committees; and, in contradiction to what the hon. Gentleman who moved this Clause said, we feel at the Home Office that the progress made under this voluntary scheme has been very satisfactory.

The great federations of employers have taken up this matter, one can say, with enthusiasm, and now it is the fact that there are safety committees in go per cent. of the works that would have come under the draft Order. As a matter of fact, we take the view at the Home Office that they really cover all the works, because the remaining 10 per cent. are largely works that are in a bad way owing to the trade depression or other causes and are hardly in a position to carry out a full scheme. The undertaking that we have from the employers' federations extends not only to the industries that would have come under the draft Order, but to other industries as well, and there is now a very large number of safety-first committees in those other industries; and not only so, but as this has been on a voluntary basis, there has been a proliferation of other very useful committees which could not really be specified in the draft Order—for example, area safety-first committees, on which the workpeople are represented and where there is a larger sphere of consultation between industry and industry, and it is an extremely useful part of the organisation.

We feel that progress in the safety-first movement is proceeding, on the whole, on a satisfactory basis, and we do not wish to disturb it by laying down these rigid statutory requirements which we feel may even have a bad effect, because it must be appreciated—and I think the hon. Gentleman who moved the Clause will appreciate—that there is quite a number of factories employing more than 100 workpeople where it is not necessary to have safety-first committees. Take some of the clothing factories, where the most dangerous machines in use are sewing machines and where it is hardly necessary in all cases to have such a committee. We are nervous that the vitality pf this most important voluntary movement, that is working so well at present, might be impaired by the fact that it had been laid down by law that everybody should have a safety-first committee, whether or not it was wise in all the circumstances. It might come to be looked upon as just something that is laid down by law and that you have to do, but that you need not take much trouble about. Those are the considerations which lead us to believe that we should do much better to bend our energies towards the further stimulation of this voluntary safety-first movement, bearing in mind that in safety-first committees enthusiasm and co-operation on the part of employers and employés are vital. We therefore think we should not be doing right to insert this Clause in the Bill.

7.36 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

The Home Secretary's assistant has not done himself credit in the speech which he has just made. He told us that the voluntary system was working very well and that he did not want it impaired by laying down a rule of law which might kill the system. But surely the system would go on just the same if those concerned wanted it to go on. The new Clause applies to factories with over 100 workpeople, but in factories employing under that number the enthusiasm of the voluntary system could still operate. If it is necessary at all for some regard to be paid to this kind of thing, it ought to be embodied in the law. Anybody who has worked in any kind of industrial occupation will realise that when an accident happens the workpeople generally get together and talk the matter over, in an endeavour to find out how it could have been prevented or could be prevented in the future. They say, "If this had been done, or if that had been done, this thing would not have happened." They do not like going individually to draw attention to these questions, but if there was an order or an agreement arrived at by law by which there were committees that could investigate these matters, something definite could be arrived at, and it would give them confidence. If their own representatives viewed the scene of an accident and could find out some kind of way of improving the conditions, it would reassure their fellow workmates that something was being done.

As it is now, unless they have some voice in the matter, they feel that full satisfaction is not being given. When the inspector comes down, as he has to do after an accident, in order to make inquiries, it is the hardest thing in the world for him to get at the real feelings of the workpeople, because he is followed about by the management, and it is very difficult for him to get in touch with anyone without the management knowing, and naturally a workman does not like getting himself into what he thinks might be the position of being looked at by the management for having given information to an inspector. If these committees were set up, it would be their duty to recommend to the inspector what they thought ought to be done. In this connection I think the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) is getting very reactionary. I may not be doing him justice as to whether he is trying to get on the Front Bench there, but he seems now to be setting himself out to oppose a point of view when we put it forward. He told us that though this might be a good thing, it should not be made compulsory, but there is no argument in that. If it is a good thing, let it be made compulsory.

Captain Balfour

If a thing is good when it is voluntary, it does not necessarily mean that it will be good when it is compulsory. The mere fact of making it compulsory may spoil what, as a voluntary matter, is good and may prevent the representatives of the employés being able to get full justice for those whom they represent.

Mr. Tinker

The hon. and gallant Member admitted that where there were good employers, they were doing good by the voluntary system, but he also pointed out that where there are bad or reactionary employers they do not adopt these committees, and the result is that we are not getting the benefits that we should get if the system was applied in all cases. I agree that where they are carrying it out by voluntary efforts, good comes from it, but where they are not, and there is no compulsion upon them, we are not getting that benefit. Even in the mining industry there is a pro- vision in an Act of Parliament that the workmen's representatives may visit the scene of an accident and enter into a report book what they think ought to he done. We have had that power for a long time, and where it is operated it is very much appreciated.

I think that sort of thing could be included in this Bill. We are entering on a big future in this Factories Bill, and if we do not get the matter put right now, it will be very difficult to get it done afterwards. My experience as a Member of Parliament has been that once you have passed an Act of Parliament, it is very difficult afterwards to get it altered within a number of years, because you are told that Parliament has only just passed an Act, that the matter has been thoroughly examined, and the question is asked, "Why should we alter it until it has had a good trial?" Therefore I think it is necessary now to have this Clause inserted, so as to give the benefits of this system to industry, with the good will of both workmen and employers, for the prevention of further accidents.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. Mitchell

I have listened with great interest to the excellent speeches of those who have supported this Clause, and I quite agree that this question of safety first should be approached, not from a party point of view, but from a general point of view. We are all in favour of doing what we can in the matter of safety first, but I must confess that I feel that this new Clause is not likely to get us much further forward. I speak as one who is closely associated with industry and who has had some considerable experience of this matter. I feel that where you want to get the best results, they are best obtained on a voluntary basis. Much progress has been made in this matter, and I think that were you to take away the voluntary aspect of it, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) said, you would to a great extent destroy the advantage that you are trying to get. I was not quite able to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley). He said that many big employers were carrying out admirable safety-first work in conjunction with their employés in large factories, and he went on to say that there were many other factories where this work was not being carried out. They were presumably the smaller factories, but under the proposed new Clause itself the smaller factories would not be covered. I do not want to labour that point, however.

It seems to me that ultimately this question must be a matter to be dealt with by the inspectors of the Home Office I, like the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), have some association with the coal industry, but my own experience is that very often it is extremely difficult to have an active committee carrying out inspection in the collieries when only too often the facilities which are made possible under the Act are simply allowed to lapse. For these reasons, I feel that it would be better to leave the matter as it is at present, to do all that we can to encourage safety first committees by voluntary methods, and at the same time not in any way to set up a rival or even a complementary authority to that of the Home Office inspectors. I think that ultimately the question of the impartial investigation of accidents must fall on the inspectors, and that we should be making a mistake in setting up anything which might be considered a rival authority.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Naylor

I agree with the hon. member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Mitchell) that this question should be decided on non-party lines, and I hope that he will carry that spirit of independence to the Division Lobby. As far as I was able to follow the argument of the Under-Secretary, I gather that there is no difference of opinion between him and the movers of the Amendment as to the desirability of safety committees being set up in practice if there are over 100 employés, or even where less than 100 are engaged. The difference of opinion seems to be as to whether it is desirable or necessary that the obligation to set up a committee should be made compulsory or should be left to the co-operation and enthusiasm of those now engaged on the work. If the Under-Secretary were able to say that in every factory some such safety committee was in operation, and that there were no exceptions from this voluntary effort on the part of employés and managements, our attitude might be different.

We all know, however, that where the committees are in existence, they exist because of managers or employers who are well disposed towards this movement. They are not the firms at whom this new Clause may be said to be directed. We are anxious to get at the employers who are not so much concerned for the comfort and safety of those whom they employ. We want to get at the unscrupulous employer who is not prepared to spend a shilling to ensure greater comfort or safety for his employés. It is because the Under-Secretary cannot give us any assurance that if this voluntary system continues there will be any increase in the number of the safety committees that we must press the new Clause. We would join with him in congratulating those voluntary committees on what they have done, and if we were to take a vote of them I am sure they would be in favour of a compulsory system in order that other factories which do not have these committees may be brought into line, and some measure of security allowed to persons in their employ.

Industrial experience teaches us that in 50 per cent. of the cases compulsion has to be applied if you want the right thing done in these matters. Some of us have worked in factories and have witnessed accident after accident, some of which have succeeded each other from exactly the same cause. Because there has been no safety committee and no attention has been paid by the management to the cause, there has been a repetition of the accidents. With the increase of industrial conditions there has been an increase in the number of accidents. Time and time again it has been proved that those accidents have occurred because no proper precautions have been taken to secure their prevention. I hope the Under-Secretary will acknowledge that as long as there are factories not prepared to adopt the voluntary system, the cause of accidents should receive the attention of some authority apart from the factory inspectorate. I think, therefore, that Members would be justified in supporting the degree of compulsion represented by this Clause in order to secure the utmost possible measure of safety of those employed in the large industrial establishments.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Owen Evans

I support the Government in objecting to this proposed Clause, and I hope that no Member will accuse me of being a reactionary for so doing. This system of safety first and measures of that character have been highly developed in the industries with which I have had the honour of being connected. I object to the Clause for the reason that has already been given, that compulsion of this character applied to all industries where over 100 people are employed would materially affect those voluntary arrangements which are now existing and working very efficiently. I agree with the Under-Secretary that the great thing about the safety first committee is that there should be enthusiasm stimulated by somebody in the factory who has devoted himself to the work. The system with which I am familiar is that somebody in a large works entirely separated from the workpeople and almost independent of the employer, who may be a medical man, or the assistant to a medical man, has the duty of studying this question. He makes reports not only to the management, but to the safety first committee. I should be extremely reluctant that these voluntary organisations, which are working so successfully and are more widespread than they used to be, should be interfered with by any rules and regulations imposed on a factory by the Home Office.

Of course, there are good and bad employers. There are good and bad employés as well. Our experience is, and it must be admitted, that many accidents could have been avoided if employés took the reasonable care of themselves which employers try to impress upon them is necessary for the purposes of safety. The hon. Gentleman who moved the new Clause quoted from some document that probably 98 per cent. of the accidents could be avoided. He did not accept that figure, but thought it might be too high. I venture to say, however, that the bulk of accidents in most works could be avoided with reasonable care by employés. Our experience in our own works is that with the teaching, enthusiasm, the education and the explanations given by competent men who study safety problems, these accidents can be reduced in a remarkable way.

The good employer from this point of view is not necessarily the employer who has a safety committee. He is a man who does not have a bad record in acci- dents. He may succeed in doing that without any safety committee at all. He may have other means of doing it. He may, possibly, have a man on the staff whose sole duty is to go round and induce men to take care of themselves, and to take the necessary precautions against accidents. That is a good employer. The fact that a man has a sort of safety committee does not necessarily make him a good employer. If these good employers were to be forced by the Home Secretary to appoint a safety committee with regulations and rules made by the Home Office in place of some much better scheme which he may already have in operation, it would not tend to improve their record.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. Oliver

The House will be very reluctant to do anything which would impede the development of voluntary safety first committees. The issue which the House and the Government have to decide is whether safety first committees are desirable. If they are desirable, they cannot be left to voluntary effort. I agree with the Under-Secretary when he said that this House cannot inculcate a spirit of enthusiasm. The thing which is of greater importance even than enthusiasm in matters of this kind, is the experience of the people who are in daily contact with the life of a particular industry. Without the assistance of the workpeople, the employer is divorced from a vast fund of experience which is known o the work-people alone. It is true that the factory inspector, in the general sense of the layout of the industry, of the machinery and of the overhead shafts and counter-shafts, are the people who can rightly define the nature of a safety measure or device, but in a multitude of industries, particularly in factories where there are a number of small machines, it is impossible for anyone other than the workpeople to know in what precise detail any of the dangerous aspects of their operations may be safeguarded.

It is because of this vast fund of daily experience which should come to the knowledge of industry that I support the new Clause. In the days at the conclusion of the Great War and the years immediately following, the idea of committees was very popular in this country, particularly in the engineering and textile trades. There was an enormous amount of experience which industry enjoyed because it took into consideration for the first time the experience and knowledge of the people who were employed. The Under-Secretary would, I should have thought, have gladly grasped this opportunity of tapping this vast reservoir of experience in respect to safety first measures instead of leaving the matter to voluntary effort, however good it may be. If safety first is desirable, it is the duty of the House to see that the desirability is made operative by such a proposal as this.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Davidson

I rise to ask the Under-Secretary to reconsider the position which he has taken up. I was greatly surprised at the illogical attitude which he adopted. He stated that we have in Clause 38 certain provisions which would meet this situation, but I would point out that Clause 38 deals only with accidents after they have occurred in a certain factory or type of factory, and that the Clause before us has as its object to prevent accidents occurring. Listening to the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) and another hon. Member opposite I was greatly struck by their deprecation of the Home Office using force or compulsion against those who, the hon. Members themselves admit, are bad employers. They have agreed that these voluntary safety committees are fulfilling a very useful purpose, that they are supported by the good employers and that it is only the bad employers who do not support them. Now that we ask for legislation to deal with the bad employers—I like the word "legislation" much better than "compulsion" or "force"—hon. Members raise their hands in horror and say, "You must not use compulsion."

I think it will be agreed that in many industries there would be safety-first committees but for the fact that the workers are afraid to approach the employers to ask for them. We know that even in factories with 100 workers men will hesitate before they step forward to approach an employer who has not the workers' interests at heart to ask for safety devices or for safer conditions, and legislation on these lines would strengthen those men in their approach to a bad employer. It would also arouse enthu- siasm in many other places for the introduction of safety committees, because the men would know that they had the law and the Home Secretary and even the Under-Secretary behind them.

Before my entry into this House I was an employé on the mechanical side in a large newspaper association and I take this opportunity of saying that as regards the introduction of safety devices and safety conditions the newspaper indusry in this country has set a very good example, and it is not right to say that employers who have set a good example would be affected if any force, or compulsion or legislation were applied in order to bring all employers up to their standard. The newspaper industry requires men to work at times under rush conditions. Newspapers have to be produced at the maximum speed, have to be got out on to the streets as soon as possible and yet the safety devices and conditions in the newspaper industry are such that, I venture to say, the accident rate there is as low as in any industry in the country.

If that state of affairs can be brought about in one industry, it can be done in all industries. The Under-Secretary spoke of smaller industries with, perhaps, 100 or so employed in a factory, and mentioned the clothing industry. Apart from the question of the sewing machinery in a clothing factory there are conditions of employment which would be looked into by any safety first committee. There is the condition of the workshop itself, there is the question of ventilation. Every recognised newspaper office has a "chapel" and every man in each department is a member of the chapel. They have a father of the chapel, or shop steward, and a clerk of the chapel. These two office-bearers are recognised by the employer and, as representatives of the men, can approach the employer at any time to present the views of the men on questions of ventilation, safety or other matters.

I would ask the Home Secretary to look upon this new Clause for the prevention of accidents merely as a logical step forward from what has already been done. Even bad employers must provide adequate first-aid appliances, and it is only logical to say that instead of having appliances to deal with accidents and instead of setting up committees to discuss accidents after they have occurred it is better to ensure collaboration between an employer and his employés to prevent accidents. As the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) said, the employer would get the knowledge and the experience of the workers and the workers would get the knowledge and experience of the employers. I ask the Government, therefore, to accept this Clause, so that the workers will understand that even in the great rush that is taking place in connection with the Government's rearmament programme the Government are concerned to take all steps to prevent accidents.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

The Home Secretary, I think., is by this time convinced that if a measure is a good measure, it is better that it should be made compulsory upon all employers rather than be left to their free choice, because in those conditions the good employer will adopt it and the bad employer, who by hypothesis is the one whom it is wanted to get at, will ignore it. I should think that is a proposition which hardly needs argument or which the right hon. Gentleman will seek to oppose. My hon. Friend who moved the new Clause said this ought to be a non-party matter, and therefore I am sure he will not mind if I point out that there are two dangers in the Clause as drafted which will have to be met before it is accepted. It is of the highest importance that the onus of seeing that a factory is safe shall remain where it now is, and that is upon the owner or occupier of the factory. I am not saying that anyone on this side of the House thinks otherwise, but it must be obvious that if by Statute there must be a safety committee in every factory, we do run the risk of transferring the onus of saying that a factory is safe from the owner of the factory to that safety committee. While I am very much in favour of the principle of the Clause, and earnestly hope that the Home Secretary will be able to accept the principle, I think it will be necessary to draft the Clause in such a way as to make it quite certain that the onus of seeing that a factory is safe remains where it is.

Unless we do that, the introduction of safety first committees under statute might only have the result, in the worst cases, of providing a safety curtain behind which the bad employers could take refuge. When accidents occurred as a result of a breach of the provisions of the Factories Acts it would be easy for a bad employer to say, "It has nothing to do with me. I have done everything called for by the Statute. I have appointed a safety first committee on which the workers have equal representation with myself, and they did not point out that this provision of the law was being broken. Therefore, unless you are to say that the workers' own representatives were negligent, you cannot say that I have been negligent."

Safety first committees have proved their value; that is common ground. The logical step forward seems to be to recognise that good employers are anxious to discharge their obligations, and that bad employers, who have not appointed committees, should have placed upon them the compulsion of legislation to make them go as far as other people have gone by voluntary action. I do not want what I am saying to be understood as in any way adverse to the safety first committees. I think the Debate has proved that the case for them is unanswerable. I hope that the Home Office will act in such a way as to avoid the worst objection which can be brought against them.

8.16 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

The hon. Gentleman who moved the new Clause should feel highly satisfied with the Debate. His arguments are strongly supported in the last report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops. If hon. Gentlemen would look at it they would find out how many lives are being saved and young people prevented from being maimed for life, as a result of the establishment of safety first committees, and they would then support the Clause. I have sympathy with the attitude adopted by the Home Office. They take the course that if we do anything to destroy the voluntary nature of safety first work we might do more harm than good. Applying that principle, there would today, be no fire brigades, libraries, sewers or water supplies. The Tory party, sitting on these benches in 1911, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) introduced his National Health Insurance scheme, showed that the Tory mind was then exactly what it is to-day. They said: "Why do you bother with the medical profession? If you compel the profession to come into this scheme, the standard of medical service will de- cline. The doctors would go on strike if they were placed under the panel system." Nowadays they would go on strike if any suggestion were made that the panel system should be abolished.

Mr. E. Smith

They would lose the fees.

Mr. Davies

Yes, at 9s. a time. We are dealing with a very serious problem. If hon. Members would look at the document I mentioned they would probably be frightened at what is happening in this country. The increase in accidents in the factories of our land is, according to the last report, simply colossal, and as they affect the young people in the factories of the land they are terrible. I think that we have made out our case for transforming all that is good in the voluntary system into a compulsory system. If the Tory party had their way,

education would be carried on by a voluntary system in this country to-day.

Sir J. Haslam


Mr. Davies

I do not regard the hon. Member as a good Tory. He agreed with us on several occasions in Committee, and I do not take him as an example of the reactionary Tory. We intend to register our opinion on this Clause in the Division Lobby. The hon. Gentleman who is Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office is young. I venture to prophesy that he will see the day come when the Tory party themselves will do, on behalf of the factory workers of this country, what we are now proposing in this Clause.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 119; Noes, 202.

Division No. 215.] AYES. [8.20 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Pritt, D. N.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell, D. J. K.
Adamson, W. M. Hills, A. (Pontefract) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hollins, A. Ridley, G.
Aske, Sir R. W. Hopkin, D. Riley, B.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Jagger, J. Ritson, J.
Banfield, J. W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Barnes, A. J. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Rothschild, J. A. de
Batey, J. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Rowson, G.
Burn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Seely, Sir H. M.
Bromfield, W. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Sexton, T. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Shinwell, E.
Buchanan, G. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Short, A.
Burke, W. A. Lathan, G. Silverman, S. S.
Cape, T. Lawson, J. J. Simpson, F. B.
Chater, D. Leach, W. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cluse, W. S. Lee, F. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Leonard, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cocks, F. S. Leslie, J. R. Stephen, C.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Logan, D. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Daggar, G. Lunn, W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dalton, H. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Thorne, W.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) McEntee, V. La T. Thurtle, E.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) McGhee, H. G. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) MacLaren, A. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. Mander, G. le M. Walker, J.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Marshall, F. Watkins, F. C.
Ede, J. C. Mathers, G. Watson, W. McL.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Maxton, J. Westwood, J.
Foot D. M. Messer, F. White, H. Graham
Gardner, B. W. Milner, Major J. Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Garro Jones, G. M. Montague, F. Wilkinson, Ellen
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Nathan, Colonel H. L. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Noel-Baker, P. J. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Owen, Major G. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Paling, W.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parkinson, J. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Mr. Charleton and Mr. Groves.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M. Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Barrie, Sir C. C. Beit, Sir A. L.
Bernays, R. H. Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Ramsden, Sir E.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Rankin, Sir R.
Blaker, Sir R. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rayner, Major R. H.
Boulton, W. W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Brass, Sir W. Hepworth, J. Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Higgs, W. F. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Holdsworth, H. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Holmes, J. S. Rowlands, G.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Russell, Sir Alexander
Bull, B. B. Hopkinson, A. Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Horsbrugh, Florence Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Cartland, J. R. H. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Salmon, Sir I.
Carver, Major W. H. Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Salt, E. w.
Gary, R. A. Hunter, T. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Joel, D. J. B. Sanderson, Sir F. B.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Selley, H. R.
Channon, H. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Shakespeare, G. H.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Keeling, E. H. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Christie, J. A. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Lamb, Sir J. Q. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Latham, Sir P. Simmonds, O. E.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Leckie, J. A. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Lees-Jones, J. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Crooke, J. S. Lewis, O. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Liddall, W. S. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Groom-Johnson, R. P. Little, Sir E. Graham- Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cross, R. H. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J, J. Spens, W. P.
Cruddas, Col. B. Loftus, P. C. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)
Culverwell, C. T. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Storey, S.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Dawson, Sir P. MaCorquodale, M. S. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Denman, Hon. R. D. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Drewe, C. McKie, J. H. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Duncan, J. A. L. Magnay, T. Tate, Mavis C.
Eastwood, J. F. Maitland, A. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Eckersley, P. T. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Thomson, Sir J. D W.
Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Train, Sir J.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Ellis, Sir G. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Turton, R. H.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Walker-Smith, Sir J.
Emery, J. F. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Moreing, A. C. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Warrender, Sir V.
Everard, W. L. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wells, S. R.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Munro, P. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Fyfe, D. P. M. Nall, Sir J. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Ganzoni, Sir J. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Gibson, Sir C, G. (Pudsey and Otley) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wise, A. R.
Gledhill, G. Peake, O. Withers, Sir J. J.
Gluckstein, L. H. Peat, C. U. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Gower, Sir R. V. Perkins, W. R. D. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Grant-Ferris, R. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wragg, H.
Gridley, Sir A. B. Pilkington, R. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Grimston, R. V. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Gritten, W. G. Howard Procter, Major H. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.) Raikes, H. V. A. M. Captain Waterhouse and Mr.
Guy, J. C. M. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M Furness.
Hannah, I. C. Ramsbotham, H.