HC Deb 17 June 1937 vol 325 cc712-4

11.31 p.m.

Mr. Silkin

I beg to move, in page 85, line 30, to leave out from "the," to "and," in line 34, and to insert: chief inspector, on the application of the person undertaking them, certifies will be completed in a period of less than six weeks. This Clause provides, among other things, that a person who is undertaking building operations shall give to the chief inspector certain notices which are to contain certain information. It is regarded as important that these notices should be given in respect of building operations, defined the Bill as being dangerous to workmen, but there is a proviso which says: this subsection shall not apply to any operations which the person undertaking them has reasonable grounds for believing will be completed in a period of less than six weeks, except in such cases as the chief inspector may direct. It is thus left to the person undertaking these works to decide whether he shall give the notice or not. I agree that we have the words. except in such cases as the chief inspector may direct but I fail to see how the chief inspector can know that these operations are taking place unless he is informed by the person undertaking them. The real effect is that it is left to the person undertaking the operations to decide for himself whether he shall give this notice or not. That is wrong in principle, and the Amendment provides that unless the chief inspector certifies that the work will be completed in less than six weeks, notice must be given, and it then becomes necessary for the person undertaking the work to satisfy le inspector that it will not take more than six weeks. There is a safeguard in the Clause against having to give notice in the case of minor works of repair. Notice need not be given for a week, and in that time small repairs can be carried out. I submit that it is entirely wrong in principle to leave it to the person undertaking the work to decide whether notice shall be given or not.

11.34 p.m.

Mr. McEntee

I beg to second the Amendment.

Local authorities view the Clause, as drafted, with some apprehension, and those who have a knowledge of the building trade, including builders, are agreed that the Amendment will be an improvement. I hope the Government will be able to accept it.

11.35 p.m.

The Lord Advocate

I think that, on reflection, the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment will see that there would be practical difficulties in giving effect to their Amendment. The obligation from which this proviso gives an exemption is merely an obligation to give notice to the inspector for the district. If hon. Members will look at the Clause before the part to which the Amendment is proposed, they will see that it says that: Any person undertaking by way of his trade or business any building operations shall, not later than seven days after the beginning thereof, serve on the inspector for the district a written notice … Then follows the proviso which the hon. Member wishes to amend.

Mr. Silkin

It is not only a notice, but a great deal of information as well.

The Lord Advocate

I quite agree, but I want to make the point that the obligation from which it is proposed to give a qualified exemption by the proviso is an obligation to give a written notice to the inspector. If the Amendment were accepted, what would be the situation? The person concerned would not have to give notice to the inspector for the district if the chief inspector, on his application, certified that the operation will be completed in less than six weeks. The idea seems to be rather complicated and unworkable. In order to save himself the trouble of sending a notice to the inspector for the district, the person concerned would have to apply to the chief inspector for a certificate that, in the chief inspector's opinion, the work would not take six weeks. Moreover, how could the chief inspector certify the facts which the Amendment suggests? He would have to give a certificate with regard to a building operation about which, presumably, nobody knew anything accurately except the owner, the builder or the contractor carrying on the work. In that situation, it seems to me that the Amendment would place an impossible responsibility on the chief inspector.

For these reasons I feel that the Amendment is hardly appropriate. I can assure the hon. Member that there is no risk to be apprehended from the wording of the Clause as it is drafted. If a notice were not given and a prosecution followed, the court would take very good care to see that the person undertaking the operations had had reasonable grounds for thinking that they would be completed in less than six weeks, and if he did not satisfy the court on those grounds, he would be convicted and a penalty imposed. Therefore, I think the hon. Gentlemen will see, on reflection, that the scheme of the Bill is workable and provides adequate safeguards, and that the alternative which they propose would not be the best method of dealing with the situation.

Mr. Silkin

In view of that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.