HC Deb 12 June 1939 vol 348 cc1045-9
Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move in page 22, line 36, to leave out"an approved type for," and to insert "the approved standard for all or any of."

This Amendment is consequential on the fact that you may now have a requirement to provide a shelter, not for the whole of those employed in the factory but for part of them.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

I wish to raise the case of a factory inspector insisting that the amount of accommodation that shall be provided shall be the accommodation for the maximum number of employés engaged at any time. A number of factory owners contemplate, particularly where they have a branch establishment in the country, in a safe area, that should there be a war they would immediately remove the greater number of their employés to the country. I understand that in some cases the Home Office inspector is laying it down that, irrespective of this consideration, the owners shall be required to provide accommodation for the total number of employés working in the factory. In one case of which I can give the right hon. Gentleman particulars, where a firm now employs 1,000 people, they have gone to a great deal of trouble, and they claim that, for various reasons, in the event of war the number of people who would be working at that factory could not possibly exceed 300 or 400, and they think it is unfair that they should be compelled to provide accommodation for 1,000 people when they know very well that not half that number would be working there in the event of war.

10.42 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

I think this is really bound up with the definition Clause, in regard to which Amendments later on the Paper will come up for consideration in due course. It is perfectly clear that, as the Bill is drawn, the obligation upon the occupier of a factory or the owner of a commercial building is to provide shelter for all the persons who are ordinarily employed, and the definition Clause makes that clear. This Amendment is purely a matter of machinery and does not affect the scope of the employer's obligation. If it is in order for me to pursue the matter in reply to what the hon. Gentleman said, I think the answer to his argument is that what we aim at securing is that as far as possible all factories and commercial premises shall be fully equipped with shelters capable of accommodating the people who ordinarily work on the premises. It may well be that a particular employer contemplates arrangements by which, in the event of war, a proportion of his employés shall remove elsewhere, but if shelter provision were made on the basis of that assumption — it can only be an assumption — the building in question would remain incompletely equipped, and it might well be that in fact the employer would not be able, when the time came, to give effect to his intention, or it might be that attack would come on his premises before he could give effect to his intention; and the view of the Government is that it would be a very serious matter if, as the result of the requirement to provide shelter having been limited, as suggested, to the number of people that the employer expected might be at work when the contingency arose, inadequate shelter was provided. The scheme of the Bill, therefore, is designed to ensure that full provision will be made, irrespective of the present intentions of any occupier.

Mr. Kennedy

It is the number of persons employed at what time?

Sir J. Anderson

The number employed at the time when the notice is served.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

In Clause 21 it states that an employer has to provide protection for the persons working"in or about the mine." The heading of the Clause reads: Exchequer grants in respect of provision of air raid shelter in factory premises, mines, commercial buildings, etc. At a mine there may be 1,500 men employed below on one shift and 350 men employed on the surface, and I should like to know whether a coalowner has to provide shelter for the whole 1,850 or whether the men who are working below will not be provided with shelter. The reference is to men working"in or about the mine" and I should like to know whether shelter has to be provided for 1,850 men or only for those working on the surface.

Sir J. Anderson

This point is really relevant to the definition Clause. In that Clause, Clause 80, it says that the number of persons who work in a factory or mine who have to be taken into account '' shall be the number employed at any one time in a normal day. There is an Amendment on the Paper dealing with that point, and I suggest that it would be convenient if the matter were dealt with when we come to it.

Mr. G. Griffiths

The point is that I was referring to the number of men who may be working on one shift.

Sir J. Anderson

The Amendment to which we shall come in due course deals with the problem of shifts, and I suggest that it would be convenient to deal with the point then.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Is it not the case that that Amendment deals with the"standard and approved" type of protection, and that a mine may call for protection which may be quite different from that which may be the standard and approved type in the case of a factory or a commercial building. I have read the booklet which has been published by the Department and issued to the mine owners. There are certain buildings at collieries, such as the winding gear, the fan house, etc., which require extra special protection, because immediately anything happened to any of those places the whole mine would be completely dislocated. I suggest that the Lord Privy Seal should find out whether a different type of protection should not apply to mines and to colliery buildings.

10.49 p.m.

Sir J. Anderson

As I explained on an earlier Amendment to which this is consequential we have got away from the conception of a standard type and we have got down to standard protection. We call upon a mine-owner to provide the type of shelter best suited to a particular case. As long as that shelter provides protection of a standard not inferior to what is contemplated by the Bill, then the requirements are met. The change of form suggested now goes a long way to meet the point.

Mr. David Adams

May I ask the Minister what is meant by the very remarkable sentence contained in Clause 21, page 22, line 39? It says: A grant equal to the appropriate proportion of so much of the expenses of a capital nature incurred by him in providing or securing the provision of the shelter as the Minister considers reasonable. Can the Committee have some explanation of what that very remarkable statement means? Are we to be dependent upon the general feelings of the Minister at any particular time, or is he given something definite?

Sir J. Anderson

May I to save time call attention to the fact that the Clause does provide for regulations and deals with what is reasonable, and no expense should be deemed to be reasonable in so far as it exceeds the standard provided by regulation.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 23, line 5, leave out"an approved type for," and insert"the approved standard for all or any of."

In line 36, leave out from"Act," to the end of the Sub-section.—[Mr. W. S. Morrison. ]

Question proposed,"That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

10.53 p.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I should be very glad if the Lord Privy Seal could grant a request which I am going to make for the miner's Members of Parliament. It is not very often that we ask for anything. May we have the instructions that he is giving to the mineowners so that the miners' representatives may be able to understand those instructions?

Sir J. Anderson

I am not quite sure that I know precisely what the instructions are to which the hon. Member refers, but I can promise that any com- munication or instruction which may have been given by the Department to the employers in connection with this matter will be made freely available to the representatives of the miners.

Mr. G. Griffiths

Thank you. Question put, and agreed to.