HC Deb 16 June 1937 vol 325 cc434-49

6.39 p.m.

The Lord Advocate

I beg to move, in page 19, line 18, after "manhole," to insert: which may be rectangular, oval, or circular in shape, and shall be. This Amendment and the two following ones are purely of a drafting character. Clause 27, when it left the Standing Committee, was not very tidy in wording, and raised some doubts. The Amendments do not affect the substance of the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 19, line 18, leave out "an oval."

In line 19, after "wide," insert: or in the case of a circular manhole, not less than eighteen inches in diameter."—[The Lord Advocate.]

6.40 p.m.

Mr. White

I beg to move, in page 19, line 19, after "wide," to insert: or in the case of tank wagons and other mobile plant not less than sixteen inches long and fourteen inches wide. In moving this Amendment, I would like to ascertain the views of the Home Office with regard to certain technical difficulties which will arise, if the Clause is passed in its present form, with regard to tank wagons and other mobile plant. The question of the size of the manholes has been causing very anxious thought on the part of those who are responsible for the movement of very large numbers of these wagons and who have to see that no danger arises either to the public or to those who have to enter the tank wagons for the purposes of cleaning them, and so on. This is a matter which has been the subject of very considerable research in the past, and research is still proceeding with a view to finding out what is the maximum size that a manhole can be while still leaving requisite strength in the main structure to avoid the serious dangers that would be caused to the general public and to others if the general structure of the wagon were diminished by virtue of the increased size of the manhole.

I understand that there is a very large number of these wagons, and I am anxious to know what will be the position with regard to them under this Clause when it comes into operation. The number is so great that it would take several years to construct new wagons or to adapt the existing wagons if that were necessary. I am told that it would be quite impossible in certain cases to have manholes of the size indicated in the Clause. The Home Office knows of these difficulties and there is a proviso which I have no doubt will enable the chief inspector to deal with the matter in some way or another, but I should be glad to have some information from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. O. Evans

I beg to second the Amendment.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

This is a very technical matter, and I think the hon. Member has stated the position very much as the technical advisers to the Home Office see it. There is a considerable number of these tank wagons, and it is really the number which makes it desirable that we should discuss the matter in the House. Although we have power to give exemptions under the proviso which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, we should not feel happy in using that power in a considerable number of cases without having had some expression of the views of the House. Nevertheless, I think the matter is clear. These mobile tank wagons are in a separate and distinct category, and in some cases the danger would be increased by insisting on a larger manhole owing to the danger caused by a weakening of the main structure. The containers are often not of a simple kind, but of a highly technical nature, and it would be very undesirable to have any weakening of the structure. The British Standards Institution, which takes great pride in high industrial and engineering standards, recognises the principle of requiring a much smaller manhole in the case of mobile tank wagons. I am glad the hon. Member has moved this Amendment, which accords with my advice and technical information, and therefore I am glad to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move in page 19, line 28, after "wear," to insert "a suitable breathing apparatus and."

This Amendment is to be taken in conjunction with the following Amendment on the Paper which proposes, in line 31, to leave out from "outside," to the end of line 33. The Clause deals with precautions against dangerous fumes and Sub-section (1, b) provides that where a test has been made of a confined space and the test shows that the space is free from dangerous fumes, no precautions need be taken. But where the space is found not to be free from dangerous fumes, then the Clause, as it stands, provides that any person going into it shall wear a belt to which there is attached a rope by means of which he may be drawn out in case of need, or alternatively, a suitable breathing apparatus. The object of these two Amendments is to provide that where a person has to go into a confined space where dangerous fumes are present, both precautions shall be taken. On the assumption that there are dangerous fumes in a space, it seems an adequate precaution that the man should merely wear a belt attached to a rope by which he may be dragged out. There is the danger that the man may become exhausted by the fumes and it is rather late to drag him out when he has been overcome by the fumes. On the other hand, if he is only wearing the breathing apparatus, he may become exhausted in spite of it and then find himself unable to get out. There should be some means by which a man in those circumstances could be brought out quickly. As the provision is only intended to deal with cases where it is clear that dangerous fumes exist, both precautions are essential and we should not leave the alternative as it is left in the Clause. I hope the Under-Secretary will see the reasonableness of the Amendment.

6.48 p.m.

Mr. Gibbins

I beg to second the Amendment.

I think the least we can do is to provide not only that the man who goes inside one of these spaces should have breathing apparatus, but also that the man who remains outside to give assistance if need be, should be nearer to him. The Under-Secretary said in Committee that this was a technical matter but it is not really technical at all. If any of the Home Office advisers have ever been in the tank of a ship they ought to know that merely to provide the man outside with a rope is a futile measure. It would have no effect in saving a man who had been overcome by fumes some distance away from the manhole. It would be hopeless to try to pull him through. A man to get to his job may have to crawl, not only through the manhole of the tank but through other manholes inside the tank. What is the use of having someone outside with a rope in his hand if the man working inside is overcome 20 or 30 feet away from the manhole. I suggest that the word "outside" might be eliminated and provision made for the man with the rope being nearer to any possible victim of dangerous fumes. The breathing apparatus would then provide the man inside with a means of keeping alive until assistance was forthcoming.

This Clause ought to be stronger than it is, and I hope that in addition to accepting these two Amendments the Under-Secretary will also look into the question of the danger of fire arising from the use of certain machines in these places. There is no provision in the Bill against that risk. I have known of a man working in a tank being roasted alive and no one could get near him. The use of oxyacetylene burners is common and, apart from the other dangers involved, oxyacetylene fumes are detrimental to health. I have known men after using these machines for some years to become "crocks" through their chests being poisoned and there is also of course the danger of fire. I hope that further consideration will be given to the suggestion of providing another egress for men engaged in this kind of work. There may be cases in which it would be impossible but in almost every case I think it would be possible to have a second means of ingress and egress. At present a man in order to get out, may have to crawl through a series of manholes.

6.51 p.m.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

I hope the House will consider this Amendment carefully before accepting it. The Clause itself contains very strong precautionary measures. It provides that all practicable steps are to be taken to remove fumes and to prevent any ingress of fumes. When that has been done, any person entering is to wear either a belt attached to a rope, the free end of which is held by a person outside or else a suitable breathing apparatus. The place having been cleared of fumes and precautions having been taken to prevent further fumes entering, it is now suggested that the person going in should be compelled both to wear the belt attached to the rope and also the breathing apparatus. It is said that a man might set himself on fire. If I set myself on fire I should prefer not to be wearing a breathing apparatus but to be able to shout out and let others know of my dilemma. It is also suggested that men might work in these places with acetylene burners or other machines which throw out noxious fumes, but surely it is already provided that all workers who have to work with noxious fumes must use special apparatus. It would be unwise and not altogether helpful to insist upon this Amendment. There are many technicalities with which I am not capable of dealing but owing to which, I am informed, it would not be very wise to accept this proposal.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale

I would like to ascertain whether the Mover of this Amendment has read the Sub-section aright. I do not think he has. He read it as meaning that, first, all practical steps are to be taken to remove fumes and then, unless it has been ascertained that the space is free from fumes, the man entering should wear a belt or a breathing apparatus. He made out that if a suitable test has been made and if it has been found that dangerous fumes are present, the man going in should wear both the belt and the breathing apparatus. But I should say that the effect of the Sub-section is that if it has been found that dangerous fumes are present, the man should not be allowed to go in at all. It is only where it is inconvenient or impossible to make a test that the man going in is to wear either the belt or the breathing apparatus. If the hon. Member is correct and if people are to be allowed to go into these places, when it has been ascertained that fumes are present, I agree that every conceivable precaution should be taken, but if my reading of the Sub-section is right, the very strong wording at present in the Clause ought to be sufficient.

Mr. Silkin

I think the hon. Member will be found supporting me, because it is clear that the Sub-section requires these precautions to be taken only where a test has been made and the space has been found not to be free from dangerous fumes.

Mr. McCorquodale

That is the point. I do not think the hon. Member's reading is right, but if it is then his point is worthy of consideration.

6.56 p.m.

Mr. David Adams

It seems clear that the provision of a breathing apparatus is only required where it has not been ascertained by a suitable test that the space is free from dangerous fumes. It is where there has not been a suitable test, that the person going in is required, under the terms of the Clause, either to wear a belt attached to a rope or else a breathing apparatus. In the case of ships' holds it has been proved in many cases that it is impossible to ascertain definitely by any kind of test whether a space is free from fumes or not. That is why we have so many accidents of that type. The only method by which the existence or otherwise of fumes can be definitely tested is by persons entering the space and a person should only be permitted to enter such a space if he is wearing adequate breathing apparatus in addition to a belt attached to a safety rope.

6.57 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I appreciate the motive which has caused the hon. Gentleman to put down this Amendment, but I hope to be able to convince the House that we should not accept it. The provisions in the Clause have been worked out by the Home Office in consultation with their technical advisers in order to provide all suitable and necessary precautions in these confined spaces where dangerous fumes are liable to exist. It has not been considered from the point of view of cost and I should like at once to dispel any idea of that kind. There is no question of breathing apparatus not having been provided because of the question of expense. But, on the merits, we consider the scheme proposed in the Clause to be right, having regard to certain facts, one of the most important of which is this. It is not a question of men going into one of these confined spaces for a short time to rescue somebody but of men going in to work.

It is not desirable to prescribe breathing apparatus for men who have to work in these spaces for a considerable time, unless it is really necessary, if for no better reason than that the men themselves intensely dislike having to wear the apparatus. I do not know whether the hon. Member opposite has gone into this question of breathing apparatus in any detail. I know that some hon. Members opposite are familiar with it, and they will agree that it is very disagreeable to have to wear this apparatus for any length of time. Therefore, it seems reasonable in the circumstances to have a dual system and to provide that no person shall enter a confined space unless he has a breathing apparatus, or alternatively to apply the alternatives set out in the Sub-section. Where it is not desirable that men should be forced into the use of this extremely disagreeable apparatus, the alternatives are first that all practical steps shall be taken to remove any fumes and then, a test having been taken, that any person going in shall wear a belt securely attached to a rope as provided in the Clause.

After the discussion we had in Standing Committee, we have again consulted our technical advisers, and they take the view very strongly that as a general requirement for all these cases what we have in the Bill is sufficient. But I would remind the House that there is, of course, an entirely different class of case, and it was to that which, I think, the hon. Member's mind was really opposed; that is, cases which have some additional danger in them. For one must remember that a large number of these cases are not really very dangerous once these practicable steps have been taken, and in actual practice there are not a large number of accidents in regard to them. But in particular trades there may be special circumstances, particularly where men may be using oxy-acetylene lamps and they are inclined to eliminate oxygen out of the cylinder, in addition to that required for the lamp, for clearing the atmosphere—a dangerous practice. In regard to that we have powers. Special regulations are prescribed for these matters. As a general requirement dealing with all these cases, we feel that it is right to stand by the present Clause. We are advised that it is perfectly reasonable, and we are not exposing these men, as none of us in this House wishes to do, to any unnecessary risk.

Mr. McCorquodale

The Clause does not make it clear what should happen if, when a suitable test has been taken, it is found that fumes still exist. As I read it, no man would he allowed to go in. Would that be correct?

Mr. E. J. Williams

Could the hon. Gentleman tell the House precisely how

the test will take place, how they will ascertain if noxious fumes are present. If they are, will a man be permitted to go into the hold of a ship? He may have to go 30 or 40 paces on his hands and knees, and if something serious happened to him, how could he warn his mates and be dragged out?

Mr. Lloyd

The key to this matter is: All practicable steps shall be taken to remove any fumes which may be present, and to prevent any ingress of fumes. If a test is taken and there are fumes there, it becomes necessary under the' phrase which I have just read out for more practicable steps to be taken.

Question put, "That those words he there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 133; Noes, 213.

Division No. 221.] AYES. [7.5 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Ridley, G.
Adamson, W. M. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Riley, B.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Hills, A. (Pontefract) Ritson, J.
Banfield, J. W. Hollins, A. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Barr, J. Hopkin, D. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Bellenger, F. J. Jagger, J. Rothschild, J. A. de
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Rowson, G.
Bevan, A. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Broad, F. A. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sanders, W. S.
Bromfield, W. Jones, J. J. (Silvertown) Sexton. T. M.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Shinwell, E.
Burke, W. A. Kelly, W. T. Short, A.
Cape, T. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Silkin, L.
Cluse, W. S. Kirby, B. V. Silverman, S. S.
Cocks, F. S. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G. Simpson, F. B.
Cove, W. G. Lathan, G. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Lawson, J. J. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Daggar, G. Leach, W. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Dalton, H. Lee, F. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees (K'ly)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Leonard, W. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Leslie, J. R. Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Logan, D. G. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Day, H. Lunn, W. Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Dobbie, W. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) McEntee, V. La T. Thorne, W.
Ede, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Thurtle, E.
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) McGovern, J. Tinker, J. J.
Edwards, Sir C. Bedwellty) MacLaren, A. Viant, S. P.
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Mainwaring, W. H. Walkden, A. G.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Mander, G. le M. Walker, J.
Foot, D. M. Marshall, F. Watkins, F. C.
Frankel, D. Maxton, J. Watson, W. McL.
Gardner, B. W. Messer, F. Welsh, J. C.
Garro Jones, G. M. Milner, Major J. Westwood, J.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Montague, F. White, H. Graham
Gibbins, J. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Wilkinson, Ellen
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Naylor, T. E. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Paling, W. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Groves, T. E. Parker, J. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Parkinson, J. A.
Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Harris, Sir P. A. Pritt, D. N. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Quibell, D. J. K.
Acland-Troyle, Lt.-Col. G. J. Entwistle, Sir C. F. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Albery, Sir Irving Everard, W. L. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Fildes, Sir H. Owen, Major G.
Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Palmer, G. E. H.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Fyfe, D. P. M. Patrick, C. M.
Apsley, Lord Ganzoni, Sir J. Peake, O.
Aske, Sir R. W. Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Perkins, W. R. D.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Gower, Sir R. V. Peters, Dr. S. J.
Atholl, Duchess of Grant-Ferris, R. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Porritt, R. W.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J. Procter, Major H. A.
Balniel, Lord Gridley, Sir A. B. Radford, E. A.
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Grimston, R. V. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Beit, Sir A. L. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.
Bennett, Sir E. N. Gunston, Capt. D. W. Ramsden, Sir E.
Birchall, Sir J. D. Guy, J. C. M. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Blair, Sir R. Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Boulton, W. W. Hannah, I. C. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Boyce, H. Leslie Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Brass, Sir W. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Ropner, Colonel L.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Rowlands, G.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith) Hepworth, J. Russell, Sir Alexander
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Bull, B. B. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Higgs, W. F. Salmon, Sir I.
Cartland, J. R. H. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Salt, E. W.
Carver, Major W. H. Holdsworth, H. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cary, R. A. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Selley, H. R.
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Horsbrugh, Florence Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.) Howitt, Dr. A. B. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Channon, H. Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Simmonds, O. E.
Chorlton, A. E. L. Hunter, T. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Christie, J. A. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Clarke, F. E. (Dartford) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Colfox, Major W. P. Keeling, E H. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D J. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Spens, W. P.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Latham, Sir P. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton (N'thw'h)
Critchley, A. Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Crooke, J. S. Leckie, J. A. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lees-Jones, J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Levy, T. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Cross, R. H. Lewis, O. Titchfield, Marquess of
Crossley, A. C. Little, Sir E. Graham- Touche, G. C.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lloyd, G. W. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Cruddas, Col. B. Loftus, P. C. Turton, R. H.
Culverwell, C. T. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Lyons, A. M. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Dawson, Sir P. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Denman, Hon. R. D. McCorquodale, M. S. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Denville, Alfred Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Wayland, Sir W. A
Doland, G. F. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Donner, P. W. Maitland, A. Wells, S. R.
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Dower, Major A. V. G. Markham, S. F. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Drewe, C. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury) Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Duggan, H. J. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Duncan, J. A. L. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Withers, Sir J. J.
Dunglass, Lord Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Womersley, Sir W. J.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Ellis, Sir G. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Elmley, Viscount Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Emery, J. F. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Emmott, C. E. G. C. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Mr. James Stuart and Captain

7.13 p.m.

Mr. Viant

I beg to move, in page 20, line 3, to leave out "any of the aforesaid requirements," and to insert the requirements set forth in paragraphs (c) and (d) in this Sub-section. In order that we may fully appreciate exactly what this Amendment means, I think that it would be as well if we appreciated the purpose of the Clause. The Clause is devised for the purpose of taking precautions wherever dangerous fumes may be present, and in the earlier stages of the Clause certain proposals are set out. But power is given to the chief inspector to grant a certificate in which are embodied certain exemptions. We on this side feel—and as a result of experience—that wherever these dangerous fumes may have been present, there is often a possibility of their return. You may have reasonably good safeguards for keeping them in abeyance or eliminating them for the time being, but there is oftentimes the risk of your methods for eliminating them breaking down. According to Sub-section (3), it will be within the power of the inspector to give a certificate enabling a person to obtain exemption from the provision of breathing apparatus and. furthermore, from the provision requiring the presence of persons skilled in the use of the breathing apparatus or the safety methods which are essential in these operations. Our Amendment is moved with a view to making sure that on all occasions breathing apparatus shall be available and, what is more important, that there shall be someone present skilled in safety methods.

I have said on a former occasion that we are rather concerned about the numbers of exemptions that are embodied in this Bill. We feel that this is an exemption which should not be allowed to pass, and if we cannot get a satisfactory reply from the Under-Secretary, which I hope we shall, we shall feel compelled to take this Amendment to a Division. If there are any embellishments in or around this Bill, the whole Bill does seem to be embellished with exemptions, and these are two exemptions that we shall strenuously oppose.

7.18 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I quite appreciate the anxiety which besets the hon. Gentleman, but, if I may say so, the power of exemption that is wanted to be given to the inspector in regard to these matters is really only the converse of that power of additional safety requirements which we possess under Clause 59, and on occasions use, in regard to these matters. Sometimes we lay down a broad general provision to apply to all factories in which particular circumstances arise or occur, but the hon. Gentleman should be well aware, after our long discussions on this Bill in the Standing Committee, that you must very often supplement those general standards by more severe requirements in special cases. It is inevitable that this should be so, when you come to consider the infinitely multifarious deviations and different conditions which exist in industry.

Let me give the hon. Gentleman an example in regard to which we should want these powers, an example connected with breathing apparatus, which was really his main point. Exceptional circumstances do exist. Sometimes a petrol storage tank is constructed in such a way that there are numerous cross stays inside the tank. The normal breathing apparatus for use in such tanks is a very disagreeable apparatus, having about 60 or 70 feet of rubber tubing attached to it for the purpose of pumping the air to the man who is wearing it, and undoubtedly these rubber tubes would come into contact with the stays to which I have referred, as hon. Members will see from the illustration which I have in my hand. Therefore, it is very inconvenient to have that type of thing operated, and, indeed, it would be very dangerous, because the tubing might get entangled round the stays and cause an air-lock. There is, of course, another breathing apparatus, which can be put on round a man, but again it would be extremely difficult for him, with this cumbersome machine on, to make his way in one of these tanks. Indeed, it might be almost impossible for him to carry out the work, and it is in that type of case that we want to have the power to give a relaxation.

The hon. Gentleman will say, and rightly so: "But are you going to waive all the provisions of the Clause and allow that man to go into a potentially dangerous place, like one of these tanks, without any protection?" No, we are not. We should propose alternative safety requirements adapted to the particular circumstances. It is far too elaborate a matter to lay down all the requirements that every different type of work would necessitate. For example, in this particular case the sort of requirement that we might make would be that the tank had been thoroughly screened off, as far as possible, in order to get rid of any petrol vapour that might be present. That might be one requirement, and in addition we might require a special supply of fresh air to be pumped into the tank while the man was at work in it. I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we ask for these powers for purely practical purposes, and that we should be very careful to specify, where any relaxation was made, a proper alternative safety measure.

Mr. Kelly

Do I understand that people are allowed in these days to enter a petrol tank without a chemist having certified that it is safe for someone to go in?

7.23 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

My only objection on the last Amendment and on this is that the Under-Secretary keeps waving before us pictures of what this apparatus means and trying to show us how to fit it on. Would it not be better to have the apparatus itself here, so that we could realise the enormous difficulty that would be experienced in putting it on or wearing it? Judging by tie hon. Gentleman's actions, it must be a terrible affair, and I should like to see the thing itself instead of these pictures that he keeps waving before us. It looks very formidable, but I should be better pleased to see the actual thing.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. Gibbins

I hope we shall hear something more about this relaxation of safety provisions of which the hon. Gentleman speaks. We have heard about petrol tanks. Some of the means of getting in and out of these tanks are exceedingly small. I remember one which was so constructed that an ordinary journeyman could not get in, and they had to send for a small boy to do the job. I hope, therefore, that the relaxation, if there is to be any at all, will be very carefully watched. The hon. Gentleman talked of stays, but I do not expect he knows much about these tanks, and I think he is exaggerating when he talks about the stays being a terrific danger. These stays are for strength and to prevent the collapse of the tank outwardly. They are not put in to make it like a Chinese puzzle, but they are put in with design and harmony, and I am sure that any man wearing the breathing apparatus would himself take precautions and would not turn round, like a dog chasing its own tail, and get the tube fastened round the stays. I have worked in these tanks, and made them too, and there is no reason why we should want to relax the safety provisions in regard to this kind of work. There could he no danger to a man, in my opinion, wearing a tube of the sort described, even if it was 60 feet long. I think we had better stick to the original Clause, and allow no relaxation where there is any danger of a man being killed or badly injured.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. E. Smith

My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) reminds me of something that is in existence in this country which I do not think is appreciated to the extent that it should be, and I think we should remind ourselves and all those who are concerned about it. One of the best exhibitions that I have seen is the one in Horseferry Road, in the Industrial Museum, where all these things can be seen, and the only thing that is apt to annoy me is that those who engage in industry do not realise the advantages that are to be gained from an inspection of that museum. I hope that some steps will be taken to draw the attention of all those engaged in industry, and hon. Members of this House as well, to the fact that they can see all the different kinds of apparatus which are in existence in all sections of industry, in Horseferry Road. I had the advantage of visiting the place on two or three occasions before I became a Member of this House, and the remarks of the hon. Member for Leigh reminded me of its existence.

7.28 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps I might answer the question put by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) about the state of the existing law on this question. I am afraid that the answer is that there is at present no general provision in the law with regard to this matter whatever. I would remind the House that we are laying down a new and important provision which will greatly increase the safety of the men engaged in this kind of work, but we must remember that, like so many other things in this Bill where great improvements have been made, it is experimental, and that it is desirable to have, on the one hand, the power to make stronger safeguards where necessary and, on the other, the power to relax them where, in proper circumstances, it may be reasonable to do so.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

I am surprised at the reply of the hon. Gentleman, because when the Act of Igor was passed we were not carrying, so far as the land services were concerned, oil in bulk to the extent that we are to-day, but even then we were carrying oil, so far as vessels were concerned, in tanks, in bulk, and it was laid down in that Act that before a man could enter one of those tanks referred to by my hon. Friend, which had to deliver oil of any kind, a chemist must give a certificate that it was clear of fumes and safe for a man to enter. Even after the certificate had been granted some of our workmates lost their lives, probably because sufficient care had not been taken. In this provision there is no such precaution, althoug oil is carried to an even greater extent on land than it was on the sea. For the sake of life and health, I would ask that these precautions should be assured to the people engaged in this work. In the carrying on of industry and commerce our first consideration should be the life and health of the people, and the question of profit should be a small consideration in comparison.

Mr. Viant

In view of the statement made by the Under-Secretary, and the indication he has given of the spirit in which the Department intends to administer these relaxations, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.