HC Deb 16 June 1937 vol 325 cc477-507

9.13 p.m.

Mr. Short

I beg to move, in page 44, line 4, to leave out from "State)" to the end of the Sub-section, and to insert: unless it is certified by the inspector for the district to be suitable for the purpose on hygienic grounds, and in particular as regards construction, light, ventilation, and adequate means of escape in case of fire. We attach considerable importance to this Amendment, and we are entirely dissatisfied with the phraseology of the Clause as it stands, particularly the words which I am moving to leave out. The Clause provides that: No work shall be carried on in any underground room (not being an underground room used only for the purpose of storage or for some purpose excepted by order of the Secretary of State) which is certified by the inspector for the district to he unsuitable.… The Amendment which I am moving would provide that no work shall be carried on in any underground room unless it is certified by the inspector for the district to be suitable. That is a very different matter. It will be seen, therefore, that the Amendment which I propose involves an important change. We desire that the inspector should certify that the room is suitable. We want a positive assertion on the part of the inspector to that effect. There is a proviso in the Clause which enables an inspector, where he certifies any room which is in actual use as unsuitable, to suspend the operation of the certificate. We do not think that there should be any proviso of that character. If underground rooms are to be used at all they ought to be suitable on hygienic grounds and as regards construction, light, ventilation and the provision of adequate fire escapes. The Amendment is a sensible and practical one, and should command the support of the House, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will indicate that he proposes to accept it.

9.17 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

The House ought to take into account certain factors connected with this question before coming to a decision on the Amendment, and if they do so I think they will arrive at the general conclusion that the Amendment is not necessary. The first factor which I ask hon. Members to take into account is the great diversity of these underground rooms with which we are dealing. If one does not realise that factor, one is rather tempted to think that these rooms are nothing but cellars or something very like cellars, whereas many of the rooms which come within the description "underground rooms" are, my advisers tell me, by no means bad as far as accommodation is concerned. That being so, the second factor which I ask the House to take into account is that there will be a great deal of urgent work to be undertaken by the inspectors when this Measure becomes law, and we are very anxious to avoid wasting any time upon work which is not of the first urgency.

We are genuinely afraid—and this view is supported by my expert advisers—that if the inspectors have to certify every one of the very large number of these underground rooms, although they know that a good many of them reach a comparatively high standard of accommodation, their time will be so much taken up by that duty that they will not have the opportunity of doing work which is perhaps of a more urgent character. Since the Debates in the Standing Committee and as a result of them, we have had a special inquiry made into the question of these rooms, and on the whole the report concerning them is not unsatisfactory. It shows, as I say that in a good many cases the standard is by no means bad. That confirms me in the view that the best course to adopt is not to insist upon a general all-round certification, but for the inspectors to receive particulars of the rooms, and, having received those particulars, to insist upon new certificates only where the conditions seem to be bad. That is the proposal which we make as regards existing rooms.

As far as new rooms are concerned, there, I think, we can adopt a more stringent method. As regards rooms taken into use for the first time after the commencement of the Act we can prohibit the use of any such room, without the consent in writing of the district inspector, for the purpose of any process, prescribed by order of the Secretary of State, being a hot or wet process, or a process of a dusty character, or liable to give rise to gas or fumes. I think on the whole that is the best way to deal with the problem. It is not that we wish unsuitable rooms to continue in use. We wish to concentrate on rooms about which we have particulars showing that they are not suitable, instead of starting a general new certification of the great number of such rooms, many of which do not require it. In view of those circumstances, I must ask the House not to accept the Amendment.

9.22 p.m.

Mr. Barr

The House will have received with some fractional measure of satisfaction the last part of the right hon. Gen- tleman's statement, but I am bound to say I think the reasons which he adduced for not accepting the Amendment, tell in its favour rather than against it. He spoke of the great number and diversity of these underground workplaces. Surely that is a reason why a more uniform standard should be applied to them, and why we should approach this problem, not merely from the negative side, but, as my hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment said, from the positive side. A room should be certified definitely as a fit and proper place for the carrying on of the particular work which it is proposed to do in it. The Minister said he did not desire that the inspectors should waste their time in certifying all these rooms but we have to look at the waste of life and of strength which may take place among people compelled to work in such surroundings. All of us who have been in places of this kind know the stifling atmosphere which prevails in them and the many other factors in them which are injurious to health and I suggest that, so far from being a waste of time, it would be well-spent time, if the inspectors, acting not on hearsay but on definite evidence, certified in each case positively that the place was suited for the kind of work proposed to be carried on in it. This would be a really substantial service, well warranting the expenditure of time on the part of the inspector.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

I was sorry, indeed, to hear that the Home Secretary is not prepared to accept this Amendment. Up to now we have had difficulty with regard to reports being made as to unsuitable premises. People employed in them have been afraid to report on them. The need for some one to report before any investigation is made will continue. The Home Secretary need not trouble about the new places, because the municipal bodies, particularly where labour has control, will take care that new buildings are so constructed that people will not have to be employed underground as they are at present. I was interested to hear the Home Secretary say that investigations had taken place. But he stopped short there, and gave us no indication as to what part of the country was dealt with. He did not tell us whether workshops or factories were investigated, or whether they were used for light industrial purposes or for commercial purposes.

He might have said a little more with regard to lighting. He referred to the fact that many of these places were not so bad. One would like to know whether these people have to work in artificial light throughout the day. If they do, then the premises they work in are unsatisfactory. Surely the example which we had in London in 1928 when the river overflowed and several people were drowned within a few yards of this building—drowned in underground rooms, some of which were used as workrooms—ought to be enough to rouse any Government to see that there is no repetition of that. We were told that the inspectors are needed for other work. The Home Secretary earlier this evening was quite prepared to utilise his inspectorate in an examination of all the new machines and the existing machines to see which should be specified as dangerous, and if he is prepared to utilise his inspectors for that purpose I would ask him to make use of them to prevent the injury which ns done to our people by working underground. The Clause says that an underground room means any room half of which is below ground. One would think that we were so restricted that we were compelled to put our people below ground, and that there was not the opportunity of providing accommodation for them to work above ground level.

I appeal to the Home Secretary to reconsider this matter. Surely the construction of buildings is not so difficult that people engaged in industry and commerce must work in artificial light all day. Nowadays with many people engaged in light industrial undertakings where they use inflammable material, and where if fire happens to occur near the entrance or exit there is a panic, it does not make one feel very happy to think of young people particularly who may be engaged underground. We are entitled on behalf of the people, for their safety and health, to say that the place where they work shall be quite satisfactory in the matter of construction, light, ventilation and adequate means of escape in case of fire, and it is the duty of the Home Office to protect people against having to work under unsuitable conditions

9.30 p.m.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

When I listen to the speeches of hon. Members opposite, I feel more convinced than ever that they have not read the Clause. The Clause is perfectly straightforward. It says: No work shall be carried on in any underground room…which is certified by the inspector for the district to be unsuitable for the purpose as regards construction, light or ventilation, or on any hygienic ground, or on the ground that adequate means of escape in case of fire are not provided… Clauses 4 and 5 deal with ventilation and lighting, and we have had the assurance of the Home Secretary this evening. We had the assurance of the Under-Secretary in Committee when he said that a comprehensive inquiry has shown that conditions are much better than might have been anticipated, and that an improvement has taken place. This legislation is introducing further regulations as regards lighting and ventilation which will bring still further improvements. There are a great many reasons why what are misnamed underground workshops should be used. Workshops which are 50 per cent. below the ground produce an evenness of temperature which is very necessary in many processes. I may get jeers from the other side, but it is common sense. There are other reasons, too, as, for example, heavy machinery. Rotary printing machines must be bedded on a firm foundation, which can be found only when you have got below the looser surface of the ground. Hitherto a great many workshops have never come under factory legislation. These workshops will now come under this Bill when it becomes law, and they will be forced to carry out the provisions as to lighting and ventilation laid down in this Bill, and if hon. Members will study this Bill, realising these conditions, they will realise that they are really making quite a false impression in the country. I do hope that the Home Secretary will resist this Amendment.

9.34 p.m.

Mr. Mander

It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member has said, that this Clause represents a considerable advance on any legislation which has existed in the past, and we are grateful for that. But I would like it to be put the other way round, because it means that under the present law a great many underground workshops are going to wait a long time, may be years, before any inspection takes place. I am sure that there is not a Member who would not desire that a certificate in the terms of this Amendment should be given to every workshop, and the sooner that happens the better. The only objection that the Home Secretary really made to it was on the question of staff. A very simple way out is to appoint more inspectors. He is going to appoint a number of fresh inspectors, and I think the best way is to add to that number. If that is the only objection, let us add as many as are necessary to the highly competent and efficient staff of the Home Office, and we shall be satisfied in regard to these places some years before the time that would otherwise be the case.

9.36 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale

I think everyone wishes to see the closing of unsuitable rooms as quickly as possible, and the only difference between us is as to the method by which it should be done. I am glad to hear from the Government that they are resisting this Amendment from the Opposition benches, because I think the Government's method will certainly ensure that unsuitable rooms are closed more quickly than the method proposed by the Opposition. It is a matter of commonsense. These unsuitable rooms are largely known to the Government's factory inspectors, and if they are not known, the inspectors in the past have not been doing their job properly. The factory inspectors can get after those unsuitable rooms straight away, but if the occupiers of the tens of thousands of underground rooms in this country have all to apply for certificates, it will probably take years before the last of them have been inspected by the inspectors and before the full provisions of this Clause can operate. Therefore, I estimate that at least six to 12 months will be gained by the Government's proposals in the shutting of unsuitable rooms as against the proposals in the Amendment.

Another point that I think is of importance, although it is possibly a minor one, is this: Under the Government's proposals once a factory inspector has given his certificate, and unless that certificate is effectively opposed in the courts, that room is closed for ever, but under the proposals from the Opposition what may happen? A certificate may be given by an inspector that a room is suitable; and that certificate may be given on possibly rather insufficient grounds. After a little experience, it may be that the room is not suitable, that the inspector has been too free with his certificate, and yet, once the employer has got his certificate that the room is suitable, it will be very difficult to close that room afterwards, even if it ought to be closed in the opinion of hon. Members of this House. I think that is common sense.

This is not a party question. We are all anxious to see these places closed, and there is not one decent employer in this country who wishes to work his people in unsuitable surroundings. The Home Office are not in this matter impressed in any way with the cost of alterations or anything of the sort. We all wish to close unsuitable rooms on the first possible opportunity, and I suggest, in all sincerity, that the proposals made in this Clause are a great advance on anything which has been done in factory legislation before. We are all proud in helping to bring about this improvement, and I am sure that these are the best possible methods for getting rid as quickly as possible of unsuitable underground rooms, which we all deplore.

9.39 p.m.

Mr. Banfield

I am very much afraid that the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale), who has just spoken, is looking at the matter from the point of view of the printing trade. If every trade was as well organised on both sides as is the printing trade, we should have no need for this Clause at all. I was rather disappointed with the Home Secretary when he said that after all many of these places are not so had. I speak with a very considerable amount of experience of underground places, and I hope to have an opportunity to-night to say something about underground bakehouses, but I would impress on every hon. Member in this House this fundamental truth, that there is no underground room which is in any respect comparable with a room that is above ground. All underground rooms are considerably worse than workrooms above ground, and the important point about this matter is that we are bringing under this Bill thousands of workshops which hitherto have not been brought under factory legislation.

I spoke about this matter in Committee because I felt very strongly about it. It must be within the knowledge of most Members of this House that many of the worst sweated trades in our large towns and cities are carried on in underground rooms, particularly in London, and the worst type of sweating, carried on by the worst type of employer, in the worst parts of our great towns and cities, is carried on in underground rooms. I come down to this House on a bus or a tram, and I can see from the top of the vehicle down in miserable basement places—dark, dingy, damp—little girls sitting there sewing, sewing, sewing, every day when I come to this House. That is not the sort of places in which young people should be compelled to work, and, with all due respect to the Home Secretary, I am satisfied that the time has come when these places should be overhauled and thoroughly inspected and when certificates should be issued as to whether or not they are suitable as workrooms.

The hon. and gallant Member for West Birkenhead (Colonel Sandeman Allen) made a speech which was enough to make the angels weep, the sort of speech which is the absolute despair of all decent thinking people, both employers and workmen, who want to see industry carried on under decent conditions. Why should this House always be so anxious to protect the worst type of employer? That is what it amounts to. The good employer never has any fear about regulations of this kind; he does his duty, not because he is compelled to do it, but because, as a Christian and a decent man, he wants to do the right thing by those whom he employs, but here we are always so anxious, when anyone wants to bring the worst employer into line, to say, "Oh, well, after all, perhaps it is not so bad, and these poor fellows might lose a bit if we are too hard on them." It is time that this House was hard on these people. I call places of this kind rat shops. They are not fit to be used for any purpose whatsoever, but we have allowed them to be used all these years.

Now, for the first time, we are endeavouring to do something to bring them into line, and surely now is the time to do it. You have 12 months before the Bill comes into operation, and your inspectors can make a good many inquiries before then, so far as this kind of thing is concerned. There is no need for them to go to the new factories. The inspectors know where the conditions are decent, but it must be in the knowledge of any inspector who does his job—and they do their job; there is no better batch of civil servants than the inspectors of the Home Office—where the conditions are not decent, and I say that it will be comparatively easy to get this information and to issue these certificates. It would be very nice if we could start with a clean sheet in this respect. Some of us have very bad consciences, and I ask myself sometimes, "What am I doing to make life a bit better for the people I have left behind me?" Even Conservative Members returned by the votes of working men and women have a responsibility in this matter as well as I have, but we get hon. Members like the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) making a speech which, after all, is in defence of the worst type of employers.

Mr. McCorquodale

My argument was directed solely to show that under the scheme of the Clause, these rat shops, as the hon. Member calls them, will be closed.

Mr. Banfield

I am sure that, on consideration, my hon. Friend will say, "After all, Banfield knows more about this question and perhaps the Government are not right." They are not always right. I hope that they are open to be convinced. The Home Secretary told me yesterday in regard to another matter that he had an open mind, and I hope that he has an open mind on this matter. This is really an important Amendment. It will make all the difference as to whether this Clause will really do some good to people who are unable to protect themselves, because the workers in the majority of these places are unorganised, consisting as they do of women and young persons. This House owes a duty to people of this kind to protect them and to see that, as many of them have to work long hours at miserable wages, they shall have fresh air and decent surroundings.

9.48 p.m.

Miss Ward

It would he interesting to the House if my right hon. Friend could give us some indication how the machinery would operate in order to enforce the provisions of this Clause. I would like to know whether there is in the possession of the Home Office a list of unsuitable rooms which are being used for workshops and for carrying on certain kinds of business, and whether, on the passing of the Bill, the inspectors will take immediate action to close them. I would also like to know whether the Home Office inspectors follow the practice of the mines inspectors and take notice of anonymous communications. For instance, we were told during the Debate on the Gresford Report that the mines inspectors follow up any anonymous complaints which may be sent to them with regard to conditions underground and the non-carrying out of regulations. Is that practice followed by the Home Office inspectors? It seems to me a matter of some importance, particularly, as the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) has just pointed out, as a great many of the workers in underground places are not in workers' organisations. If my hon. Friend could give us information on these points, it would be helpful to the House in coming to a decision.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

The difference between the Amendment and the Clause is that under the Clause the Government say that work can be carried on in an underground factory unless the inspector refuses to give a certificate. The Amendment says that the inspector must give a certificate before work can be carried on. The Home Secretary's argument was the strongest argument for the Amendment. His first defence was that some of these under-ground places are not so bad. That, however, is true about everything. It is true about criminals, but I am certain that the Lord Advocate, if he were conducting a case in the courts, would not accept as a defence, "He was not quite so bad." That defence of the Home Secretary amounted to nothing. His other defence was that the Amendment would mean a large increase in the work of the inspectors and in the inspectorate. That was the strongest argument for the Amendment, because, until I heard this Debate, I did not think there were so many of these places that it would need a great increase of inspectors to deal with them. I thought that the places were so few that the inspectors could do this additional work quite easily. This problem is not much different from the housing problem. We are dealing with the slums of the factories. Every housing reformer knows that when we wanted to tackle the housing problem the argument was the same as that of the Home Secretary, that some of the slums were not so bad. It is true that some slums are not so bad as others, but that is not a reason for not sweeping them away as quickly as possible.

We are now dealing with the slum factory in which the workers are usually those who are least able to defend themselves. All that the Amendment asks is that the inspector should give a certificate before such a factory can be carried on. I expected the Home Secretary to say that 12 months was not sufficient time in which to sweep away these places. I would have replied that 12 months is ample. The hon. and gallant Member for West Birkenhead (Colonel Sandeman Allen) said there are some of these places better than some above ground. I wondered when I heard that what some of the places above ground were like. Nobody who has a knowledge of factory life and had a choice would ever choose an underground workshop.

There are girls working on millinery and dressmaking underground. No woman would willingly choose to work underground in preference to working above ground. In spite of what has been said, taking them as a whole underground factories are nothing like as good as those above ground; but if they are good then, under the Labour party's Amendment, they will get a certificate. What will every employer do who has a factory which he is boasting about? The minute this Bill becomes law he will telephone the factory inspector and ask, "Please come at once and give me a certificate," and within a day, or a week, or a month, he will get his certificate. As to the other type of factory, which is frequently in an out-of-the-way district, we know from our experience with trade boards what is likely to happen with such a factory. I represent a division where a great many of the workers are engaged in trades which come under trade board legislation, and it is frequently a matter of years before we can get at some of the employers in those trades, and by the time we do get at them the amount which is owing to their employés is often so large that we have to agree to accept a smaller sum, because to force payment of the full amount would mean bankruptcy.

The Amendment before us is making a contribution of a positive kind to the Bill, whereas the Government's proposal is a mere negation. It may operate, or it may not operate, everything depending on the type of inspector and the number of inspectors and a hundred and one qualifying conditions. In this age of welfare committees, sports grounds and all that kind of thing, I cannot understand the attitude of the hon. Member opposite. We spent a whole day debating the keep-fit movement and the need for giving young people opportunities for tennis and the open-air life. If we improved factory conditions that would be the best contribution we could make to keeping them fit, and would dispense with a great deal of the need for the keep-fit campaign. Day after day we were told in Committee "Give us constructive ideas." Here is a constructive idea; it does not wreck the Bill but strengthens it. I hope the Home Secretary will agree that it is a constructive proposal such as will do credit to the Bill, and if he accepts it I am certain that in years to come he will realise that it was a good day's work.

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

If the arguments of the hon. Member for the Gorbals division (Mr. Buchanan) were really well founded I think the Home Office would be well advised to accept this Amendment, but I wish to put some arguments to show that the discussion has been tending to get away from realities. The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) laid stress, and rightly so, upon the case of underground rooms, but I would recall that these are not underground rooms in the sense of being cellars with gratings. That is not the definition at all. In the Clause there is a pretty stiff definition of what is called an underground room: In this section the expression 'underground room' means any room which or any part of which is so situate that half or more than half the whole height thereof, measured from the floor to the ceiling, is below the surface of the footway of the adjoining street or of the ground adjoining or nearest to the room. I put it to the House that that is a pretty stiff definition.

Mr. Broad

Would that not include those workshops which are wholly underground and rooms with gratings?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, most certainly, but my point is that it would include many other rooms which under this definition would be regarded as underground rooms but which are not nearly so objectionable as that. The hon. Member will recall that in Standing Committee I illustrated the position by pointing out that some of the lower ground floor flats in the luxury flats in the West End would come under the definition of underground rooms in this Bill.

Mr. Kelly

They would not.

Mr. Lloyd

Hon. Members will see that under this stiff definition while we shall he dealing with some rooms that are very had there will be other rooms which are not so bad. I have a complete understanding of why there are such strong feelings in regard to this subject; it is because there are some very bad underground rooms indeed. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) spoke of the places he had been in and the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) referred to "rat shops" and there are some very bad underground rooms. There is a particular reason why there are some very bad underground rooms in addition to the fact that at present there are on the Statute Book no powers at all for dealing with underground rooms. I do not know what the reasons for it were—to find them one would probably have to go back to the political situation of that day—but in Section 157 of the Factory Act of 1901 an extraordinary exception was made of what were called all men's workshops—some hon. Members may be familiar with this point—in which no women or young persons are employed. Not only were there no special powers for dealing with underground rooms, but those all men's workshops were even exempted from all the existing provisions of the Factory Acts relating to temperatures, means of ventilation, drainage, sanitary conveniences and so forth.

Therefore there is not only the problem of underground rooms but of a special class of underground rooms which have not been brought under the ordinary provisions of the Factory Acts. Hon Members have come across some extremely bad cases, but I would remind them of the improvements which will be brought about under the Bill. First of all the present exceptions with regard to all men's workshops go completely. Next, all the ordinary provisions of the Bill with regard to cubic space, ventilation and lighting will automatically apply to these underground rooms, quite irrespective of the. Clause dealing with underground rooms as such. That is a very important point, because there are great improvements in the matter of cubic space and ventilation and a very important new Clause dealing with lighting.

Of course, we have more than that. We now have a new Clause with an entirely new power, dealing with underground rooms. I would ask hon. Members to look at the first words of this Clause, which are: No work shall be carried on in any underground room…which is certified by the inspector for the district to be unsuitable for the purpose as regards construction, light or ventilation, or on any hygienic ground, or on the ground that adequate means of escape in case of fire are not provided. If we had not heard the discussion arising upon the Amendment, simply for the purpose of putting the onus in a slightly different way, I think hon. Members would agree that our proposal is a great advance for dealing with underground rooms. Are we not slightly in danger of exaggerating the importance of reversing the process and putting the onus on either one side or the other? We had these discussions over and over again in the Standing Committee and I quite appreciate that there is a certain amount of importance to be attached to the matter. The really important thing is to have the power. This is a commonsense question as to the best way of doing it. Make no mistake about it, we have, in the Bill, power to deal with underground rooms, and for the first time we can get a grip upon the position.

I would now deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) about what the Home Office intend to do when they have the power. That is an important point. If the House were satisfied that we intended to use this power, it would not be of very great importance whether factory inspectors gave certificates of exemption. I would like to tell the House something which bears out what was said by the hon. Member for Gorbals and which I do not think has been said so far. I asked specially about this matter, and I was told that in the Home Office we believe that our district inspectors know, on the whole, the bad underground rooms in their districts. The House will appreciate that that is a point of first-class importance. If the factory inspectors know, on the whole, the bad underground rooms in their districts, I can assure the House that I have it upon the authority of my right hon. Friend that one of the inspectors' first tasks after the passing of this Measure will be to deal with those underground rooms. Hon. Members will see that we therefore have a thoroughly businesslike way of dealing with this matter without undue delay. We have the power and, broadly speaking, we know the rooms, and we intend to use the power.

One point about the alternative plan. It has its disadvantages. Many plans have disadvantages which do not appear at first sight. Hon. Members who have knowledge of administration in the Home Office should consider this matter. We feel that there is a certain amount of danger in this proposal to give certificates of suitability for underground rooms. Actually, in practical administration, when you have given a certificate of suitability it is very difficult to insist upon raising the standards afterwards, because the people can say: "We have your certificate." It may be only a small technicality, but I would point out that no power is proposed to be taken to withdraw the certificates. As it stands, the scheme is not workable. Let hon. Members appreciate the advantages of our scheme. We more or less know the underground rooms and we can get into contact with them immediately after the passing of the Measure. Supposing it were desirable gradually to raise the standard of these underground rooms in the future—

Mr. Kelly

It will have to be raised.

Mr. Lloyd

I think the hon. Member does not quite understand. I meant something in addition to what is considered suitable now. If hon. Members will look at the Sub-section they will see provisions as to the opinion of the factory inspectors on all these questions of construction, light and ventilation. Suppose that within a year our general conception of these matters rose; it will be very much easier for the factory inspector, as a practical matter of administration in the course of his duties, and in the ordinary technique of his work, to say: "I think you had better improve this or that, or we may have to regard this room as an unsuitable room for the purpose." That is a practical matter of administration. I am not trying to make a party point on this matter. We believe that we have a practical method. We believe it to be the best method and more capable of gradually raising the standard of underground rooms in the future even above the great rise in conditions which will undoubtedly take place as a result of the new power under the Bill.

10.12 p.m.

Mr. Broad

Having spent a great deal of time in Committee on this matter I have no wish to delay the proceedings m this stage, but I must say that I do not think the Minister and the Under-Secretary have been well advised. It may be true that his staff know that there are underground places, but I very much doubt whether they know where those places are and whether they have them scheduled or have any idea of the extent of them. The information which was given in Committee seemed to be a revelation, not only to the Minister and the Under-Secretary but to the staff. We are now told that there are some very bad underground workshops and that some are not so bad; but they are all to be treated alike. It would have been easy for the Minister to make a division between those workshops which were not wholly below the ground level or which were not lower than so many feet below, and those which had only reflected light and no through ventilation, which should be required to be notified, on the passing of this Bill and to be provided with certificates within a definite time.

There are so many of these workshops, as anyone will know who goes about with his eyes open. They are not always in the poorest trades working on the smallest margins, but in trades that cater for the special requirements of customers. Some of the businesses are in Bond Street, and are owned by titled ladies, and special requirements of fashion are catered for by girls who work underneath the ground level. That is the kind of thing I want to stop—little girls leaving their homes to learn their trade, and going to work underground in places of this kind. Some Members of my own generation, or a little older, may have had occasion to stay in houses in the older parts of Bayswater or the West of London, which had a semi-basement with the breakfast room downstairs, and I think they will agree that to get up in the morning and go down to that breakfast room to have their morning meal gave them a gloomy outlook for the rest of the day. These rooms were always musty and stuffy, they were never properly ventilated, and they had to he lighted with borrowed light far a large part of the day.

These are the conditions under which thousands, even tens of thousands, of women and young people work in London to-day. It is the same even in new buildings. There is a swell photographer's in the Strand where all the developing, packing and so on is done underground. It is the same in the bespoke clothing and boot trades, and in the jewellery trade. It is not so in the case of the great printing concerns, with their huge rotary presses, but it does apply to the jobbing printer who turns out your menu cards, your visiting cards, commercial stuff and so on. While the stationery department and the offices where customers are received are on the ground floor, the printing, in a large number of cases in London and other towns, is done underground. The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) nods his head. He knows that that section of the trade—

Mr. McCorquodale

And they would be closed by the scheme of the Government more quickly than they would be by the scheme of the Opposition.

Mr. Broad

Underground bakehouses were to be closed 36 years ago, but the greater part of them are still in existence to-day. They were all to be closed by this method, but practical experience in the case of the baking industry has shown that the position has hardly been affected, except where slum clearance has cleared the whole building away. In most of these cases the workshops are underground because that makes access to them convenient from the ground floor level, where the customers come in. There are upper floors, some of which may be used as showrooms, and others at the top, perhaps, as store-rooms; or they may be let off because they produce a rental; there is no reason in that class of trade for forcing workers underground and keep- ing them there, as they will be by this Clause. These places, in the main, will never be visited. Some of them, which are very bad, may be visited, but the owners of those that are not so bad will be able to say, "We are not so bad as the others leave us alone," even if the inspector does visit them. They will never be visited, however, unless some complaint is made and particular attention is drawn to them. The withdrawal of the permission to use them is to be the exception, but we want the use of them to be the exception. That is the difference between us and the Minister.

Under the Bill the general principle of underground workshops to continue, and it is to be extended in new cases, provided that the Department is notified. Certificates are not to be necessary, but only notification by those who propose to use such rooms in the future, by converting an old house or shop, and even then they can start using and go on using them without a certificate. I appeal to the Minister to meet us on this point, about which I feel very strongly. The best standard to-day in factory and workshop practice is far above what this Bill provides. The Bill is long overdue, and to say that it is a great advance means nothing at all. The Bill of 1901 was a scandalous Measure, which would never have been passed if in 1901 the workers had been as well represented in this House by those who were informed as to the workers' conditions as is the case in 1937. It makes my blood boil to think of the conditions as they were then. Every interest in this House throughout those generations had no concern for the workers, and it was only when public indignation was aroused that they were moved to say they would pretend to do something, but would do as little as possible and put it off for as long as they could. This Clause will have the same effect as the Clause to abolish underground bakehouses in the 1901 Act. Just

as that has not abolished them, this Clause, even with the Amendment that the Minister proposes, will leave underground workshops all over our great cities for another 36 years, when the Minister and I will not even be a memory in the House.

10.21 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I rise in order to remove a misapprehension under which the hon. Member is labouring. I am afraid that if the Amendment were accepted, we should see an exact repetition of the very state of affairs that he condemns so strongly with reference to underground bakehouses. The Amendment would insist upon a certificate of suitability being given to every underground room and, when it had been given, the underground room would continue to have a certificate for ever, and the result would be an exact repetition of the underground bakehouse situation which the hon. Member so strongly condemns. Our plan is a much better one. We do not want the 1901 precedent that, a certificate of suitability having been given, no change should take place and the underground rooms continue to exist, with no power of raising their standard. That is what we wish to avoid, and do avoid without the Amendment. I would now appeal to the House—it is the first appeal that I have made in the course of these discussions—now that we have the issue clearly defined to come to a decision.

Mr. David Adams

In the unlikely event of the Amendment being defeated, and in view of the general agreement that there appears to be on both sides of the House that this matter should be dealt with expeditiously, can we have an undertaking that the requisite number of additional inspectors shall be appointed?

Question put, "That the 'words which is,' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 209; Noes, 134.

Division No. 223] AYES. [10.23 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Balniel, Lord Briscoe, Capt. R. G.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Brocklebank, Sir Edmund
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h) Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)
Apsley, Lord Beit, Sir A. L. Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)
Aske, Sir R. W. Birchall, Sir J. D. Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)
Assheton, R. Blaker, Sir R. Bull, B. B.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.) Boulton, W. W. Campbell, Sir E. T.
Atholl, Duchess of Bower, Comdr. R. T. Cartland, J. R. H.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Boyce, H. Leslie Carver, Major W. H.
Balfour, G. (Hampstead) Bracken, B. Castlereagh, Viscount
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Braithwaite, Major A. N. Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)
Channon, H. Higgs, W. F. Ramsden, Sir E.
Christie, J. A. Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Rayner, Major R. H.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston) Holdsworth, H. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Colville, Lt..-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Horsbrugh, Florence Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs) Hudson, Capt. A. D. M. (Hack., N.) Remer, J. R.
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Hudson, R. S. (Southport) Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Cox, H. B. T. Hunter, T. Ropner, Colonel L.
Craven-Ellis, W. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Critchley, A. Joel, D. J. B. Rowlands, G.
Crooke, J. S. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Russell, Sir Alexander
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Keeling, E. H. Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Crossley, A. C. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Salmon, Sir I.
Crowder, J. F. E. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Salt, E. W.
Cruddas, Col. B. Latham, Sir P. Sandys, E. D.
Culverwell, C. T. Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.) Selley, H. R.
Dawson, Sir P. Leckie, J. A. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lees-Jones, J Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Denville, Alfred Leighton, Major B. E. P. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Doland, C. F. Little, Sir E. Graham Simmonds, O. E.
Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H. Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Dower, Major A. V. G. Lloyd, G. W. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.
Drewe, C. Loftus, P. C. Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Dugdale, Captain T. L. Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Duggan, H. J. Lyons, A. M. Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.
Duncan, J. A. L. MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G. Spens, W. P.
Dunglass, Lord McCorquodale, M. S. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)
Eastwood, J. F. McKie, J. H. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Maitland, A. Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Ellis, Sir G. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Emery, J. F. Markham, S. F. Tate, Mavis C.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Everard, W. L. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Thomas, J. P. L.
Fildes, Sir H. Mellor, Sir J. S. P- (Tamworth) Titchfield, Marquess of
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Touche, G. C.
Fyfe, D. P. M. Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick) Train, Sir J.
Ganzoni, Sir J. Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col J. T. C. Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Gluckstein, L. H. Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.) Turton, R. H.
Gower, Sir R. V. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Grant-Ferris, R. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Granville, E. L. Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)
Gridley, Sir A. B. Nall, Sir J. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Grimston, R. V. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Wayland, Sir W. A
Gritten, W. G. Howard Nicolson, Hon. H. G. Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Wells, S. R.
Guinness, T. L. E. B. Orr-Ewing, I. L. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Gunston, Capt. D. W. Palmer, G. E. H. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Guy, J. C. M. Patrick, C. M. Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Peake, O. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Haslam, K. C. (Horncastle) Perkins, W. R. D. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.
Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Porritt, R. W. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan Radtord, E. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hepworth, J. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Major Sir George Davies and Mr.
Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Ramsay, Captain A. H. M. Cross.
Adams, D. (Consett) Cove, W. G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Adams, D, M. (Poplar, S.) Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Adamson, W. M. Daggar, G. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Dalton, H. Groves, T. E.
Ammon, C. G. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R Davies, R, J. (Westhoughton) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Banfield, J. W. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Harris, Sir P. A.
Barnes, A. J. Day, H. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)
Barr, J. Dobbie, W. Henderson, J. (Ardwick)
Batey, J. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Henderson, T. (Tradeston)
Bellenger, F. J. Ede, J. C. Hills, A. (Pontefract)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Hollins, A.
Bevan, A. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hopkin, D.
Broad, F. A. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Jagger, J.
Bromfield, W. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire) Foot, D. M. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Buchanan, G. Gallacher, W. Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Burke, W. A. Gardner, B. W. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Cape, T. Garro Jones, G. M. Kelly, W. T.
Cassells, T. Gibbins, J. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Cluse, W. S. Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Kirby, B. V.
Cocks, F. S. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.
Lathan, G. Owen, Major G. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Lawson, J. J. Paling, W. Sorensen, R. W.
Leach, W. Parker, J. Stephen, C.
Lee, F. Parkinson, J. A. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Leonard, W. Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Leslie, J. R. Pritt, D. N. Tinker, J. J.
Logan, D. G. Quibell, D. J. K. Viant, S. P.
Lunn, W. Richards, R. (Wrexham) Walkden, A. G.
Macdonald, G. (Ince) Ridley, G. Walker, J.
McEntee, V. La T. Riley, B. Watkins, F. C.
McGhee, H. G. Ritson, J. Watson, W. McL.
McGovern, J. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.) Welsh, J. C.
MacLaren, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Westwood, J.
Mainwaring, W. H. Rowson, G. White, H. Graham
Mander, G. le M. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey) Wilkinson, Ellen
Marshall, F. Seely, Sir H. M. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Maxton, J. Sexton, T. M. Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Messer, F. Shinwell, E. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Milner, Major J. Short, A. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Montague, F. Silkin, L. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Silverman, S. S.
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Simpson, F. B. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Naylor, T. E. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Oliver, G. H. Smith, E. (Stoke)

10.33 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

I beg to move, in page 44, line 4, after "is," to insert: less than eight feet six inches in height measured from the floor to the ceiling, nor in any other such underground room if it is. I have no desire, after the long and adequate discussion that we have had on the principle of underground workshops, to detain the House very long over this Amendment. It is fair to remind the House that the Clause as originally drafted made no provision whatever for taking into consideration the height of an underground factory or workshop. When the matter was debated in the Standing Committee it was sought to argue that the word "construction" included "height," but it was easy to see that as other things were included in the Clause which equally might have been included under the word "construction," and "height" was not included, therefore, "height" was excluded. I am glad to see that some step has been taken towards meeting that objection by the next Amendment on the Order Paper, in the name of the Home Secretary—in page 44, line 6, after "construction" to insert "height." Having listened to the Debate which has taken place and recognising that it would be ungenerous not to admit that the Clause, with that Amendment accepted, marks a great advance in the state of the law, it is appallingly difficult to understand why the Home Secretary and his Department should resist the very slight step that we are now urging him to take.

It is no use treating the matter lightly. Everybody knows that parts of London are honeycombed with this most undesir- able type of factory and workshop. If we are going to make an advance, why not make the advance now, when we are passing a Bill which may last for a quarter of a century or more. At a time when it is expected that no major amendment of this legislation can be expected for another generation why not do the job completely, so that afterwards you will have no regrets? It is something to say that we are going to take height into consideration. If that is so, why not specify the height? We suggest that in all these underground factories no certificate of suitability shall be granted unless the height of the factory or workshop is at least 8 ft. 6 in., which is the minimum height required for factories above ground. We are not suggesting that you should apply the ordinary standard height to underground factories; we are content with something less. The Home Secretary should meet us and accept the standard.

If the Amendment is granted, at the best these workshops if they are half underground will still only be 4 ft. 3 in. above ground, and if they are more than half underground they will have still less above ground. Is it too much to ask of the Department that if they want to make a legislative advance in this matter—and everyone agrees that the time is more than ripe—they should define the terms and that the inspectors shall have some yardstick with which to measure? We say that there should be a specific figure in the Bill, and that the figure of 8 ft. 6 in. is the minimum which can reasonably be required. Surely it is a reasonable concession. If the Home Secretary is taking height into account, he can hardly accept anything less than this. In that case why not put the matter in the Statute?

10.38 p.m.

Mr. Ridley

I beg to second the Amendment.

I agree that the Home Secretary has gone some way to meet the point put in Committee, but I desire to stress the consideration that there should be a more precise definition in this matter. The inclusion of the word "height" in the catalogue of dimensions does go some way, but in the matter of construction light and ventilation a more precise definition may not be possible. In the matter of height alone, however, it is possible to say that below a certain minimum standard of height it is unreasonable to expect people to be employed. The real point is that in a room which is less than 8 ft. 6 in. high and of which some portion is underground you cannot expect people to be employed because it will be unfit for occupation. But I would put the point that in any new factory this specification of 8 ft. 6 in. would be readily assented to; and, therefore, it is difficult to see how it can be resisted now. I would further urge that the acceptance of the Amendment could not possibly operate harshly on the employer, because of the two reservations already in the Clause.

Already within the Clause it is possible for the inspector to suspend the operation of the certificate on account of exceptional circumstances, and it is possible for the occupier, if he is aggrieved by any decision of an inspector, to appeal against it. For those two reasons, the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend, if accepted, would not operate harshly against the employer. The employer is already protected by the provisions in the Bill against peremptory unfairness, but we think that some more precise standards should be fixed. Finally, I wish to urge that the height is a very important matter so far as ventilation is concerned. With insufficient height in a room, even a hurricane cannot provide a reasonable amount of ventilation. In rooms with insufficient height—I have worked in them—one has a feeling of being cooped up, a sense of claustrophobia, which no kind of mechanical ventilation can remedy.

10.42 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

As was said by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, we discussed this matter in the Standing Committee, and I remember when the hon. Member brought forward an Amendment at that time, I said that 8 feet 6 inches was a fair height for a room, but that I did not feel an Amendment which would exclude in all circumstances a room having any height less than that was altogether justified. Since that time there have been some investigations by factory inspectors into the question of height, and they take the view that while there are some very bad underground rooms, some are not objectionable although they have a height which is less than the exact 8 feet 6 inches. Therefore, I think it would be unreasonable to accept an Amendment inserting that precise height. The hon. Member will appreciate that we are prepared to meet him to a considerable extent by inserting height as one of the considerations which the factory inspectors must take into account, and I hope that in view of that he will not press the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Further Amendment made: In page 44, line 6, after "construction," insert "height."—[Mr. Lloyd.]

10.43 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I beg to move, in page 44, line 13, at the end, to insert: (2) In the case of any underground room which at the commencement of this Act does not form part of a factory or is not used as a workroom in a factory (other than for the purpose of storage or for some purpose excepted as aforesaid)—

  1. (a) the occupier shall, before the room is used as a workroom as aforesaid, give notice in the prescribed form and containing the prescribed particulars to the inspector for the district; and
  2. (b) shall not use the room for any such process as may be prescribed, being a process of a hot, wet, or dusty nature, or which is liable to give off any fume, without the consent in writing of the inspector for the district."
This Amendment contains the restrictions that we propose with regard to underground rooms, and it represents a very considerable tightening up of the provisions in this respect. For instance, before the room is used as a workroom, the occupier will be required to give notice on the prescribed form to the factory inspector, and the intention is that in this notice he shall give particulars as regards construction, means of ventilation and lighting, means of escape, and so forth, thus making it possible for the inspector to judge from the particulars whether the room is likely to be suitable for use as an underground workroom. Secondly, it is proposed to prohibit the use of these rooms, without the consent in writing of the inspector for the district, for the purpose of any process which the Home Secretary may determine is a process of a hot, wet or dusty nature, or liable to give off any fumes. I hope the House will accept that provision sympathetically. It has arisen out of experiences such as that instanced by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) of underground bakehouses and the unsuitability of underground rooms being used for hot processes. I think the House will sympathise with these stricter provisions in regard to future underground rooms.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Short

We do not oppose the Amendment, but I would like to point out that when we were discussing my Amendment in relation to underground rooms, the Home Secretary found great administrative difficulties in the way of adopting a proposal similar to this. In this Amendment be is putting the liability on the occupier, and I do not see why, on my Amendment, which has been rejected, the officers of the Department should have been unwilling to call upon all occupiers of underground rooms to give them the information which is being provided for in this Amendment. It passes one's comprehension why the Home Secretary should be willing to adopt this method in one case and make it appear that there are administrative difficulties which prevent its adoption in the other case. However, the Amendment will be an improvement.

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Jagger

I intervene only to point out that on the previous Amendment we were told how disastrous it would be if the inspectors had to give the certificates while now, in the very next Amendment submitted by the Government, it is proposed to give these powers of certification to the inspectors. It would seem that the Government are not prepared to accept a proposal from this side which they are willing to adopt, in other cases, themselves.

Sir S. Hoare

It may seem so, but it is not the case. In the case of existing underground rooms of which, as the hon. Member knows, there is a very large number it would be a very big undertaking to start a general certification, but we feel that in the case of new applications, which are likely to be few, we can deal with the matter in this way.

Mr. Jagger

But on another point, we were also told by the right hon. Gentleman that if a certificate were once given it could not be withdrawn. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his law from, but that was what he said.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

There is here an opportunity, in the case of new buildings, for the factory inspector to give a certificate for the use of underground rooms for whatever processes it may be desired to carry on in them. Under the Town Planning Act and various municipal Acts, municipalities have the right to decide as to the user of premises. Are we to understand that the certificate of the factory inspector in these cases will take precedence of the decision of a municipality, under the Town Planning Act or other authority, as to the use of premises?

10.49 p.m.

Mr. E. Smith

I wish to put a question to the Lord Advocate or whoever intends to reply for the Government. The memorandum issued by the Home Office prior to the introduction of the Bill, stated that its objects were to improve health standard in factories and to bring about uniformity of administration among factory inspectors. Will not these words: without the consent in writing of the inspector of the district leave the Clause open to various interpretations, and in that case will it carry out the undertaking given in the memorandum?

10.50 p.m.

The Lord Advocate

In reply to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), I would say that the certificate granted by the factory inspector would have validity only for the purpose of the Factories Acts, and would have no necessary bearing at all on the requirements of any general town planning statute or any local Statute. I am not familiar with the local Statutes, but certainly as regards the general Planning Acts the factory inspector's certificate would not have validity.

Mr. Lloyd

In answer to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith), I can see his point, but, of course, all the inspectors act under the directions of the chief inspector and, therefore, there is ample provision for central authority and uniform administration.

Amendment agreed to.

The Lord Advocate

I beg to move, in page 44, line 16, after "certificate," to insert: or the refusal of the consent, as the case may The next three Amendments, with this one, are purely drafting Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 44, line 18, leave out "the appeal," and insert "an appeal against a decision under Sub-section (1) of this Section."

In line 19, leave out "this Section," and insert "that Sub-section."

In line 20, after "shall," insert "in all cases."—[The Lord Avocate.]

10.53 p.m.

Mr. Viant

I beg to move, in page 44, line 24, to leave out from "that," to "below," in line 25, and to insert: the surface of the floor is more than three feet. In moving this Amendment I am reminded of the expression used by the Under-Secretary earlier this evening that they were desirous of stiffening the definition of an underground room, and in many ways they have made an attempt at improvement. We think that the improvement is not adequate and we suggest for the purpose of the definition that any room where the floor is three feet below the surface of the ground should be considered an underground room. As the definition stands it means that any room, half of the height of which is below ground, is considered an underground room. It means, in effect, that we are to perpetuate for some considerable time these wholly underground rooms. We consider that rooms into which daylight cannot possibly enter should never be entertained for use as workshops or factories. I rather wish, while we have been considering this question, there had been a larger number of Members in the House who had had the experience either of working in such rooms themselves or of having had members of their families working in them. In that case they would have been more aware of the deleterious effects on the health of these people. I hope the Amendment will receive the consideration that it deserves. If the House is sincere in its desire to wipe out these underground cellars, of which we have such a large number in the West End of London, it will be prepared to support the Amendment.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

This is another matter that was discussed in the Standing Committee, and as a result of that discussion I promised to make inquiries. On consideration, it appears that the requirement embodied in the Amendment would take no account of whether or not a room was relatively high, and that is a rather important aspect of the matter, because even if the floor were three feet below the level of the surrounding ground, if it was a very high room, it would not have anything like the same disadvantages as if it were a low room. I think the House will appreciate that point. We have made inquiries from the Home Office inspectors, and those inquiries indicate that there is no need to stiffen the present provision in this respect. This Amendment would have the effect of making a room an underground room if the wall on one side of the room was three feet below the ground level and the floor sloped down a little. That is a difficulty which I do not think the hon. Gentleman has foreseen, but it makes it quite impossible to accept this Amendment.

10.58 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

I think the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend might have consulted with the Ministry of Health with regard to their town planning scheme and model by-laws, which would certainly show him a better way of dealing with this matter than is proposed in the Bill. I would urge that this Amendment should be accepted, even if a room was eight feet six or nine feet in height, which is very rarely the case now in an industrial building.

Amendment negatived.