HC Deb 19 November 1942 vol 385 cc486-7
14. Sir Herbert Williams

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the increase of fatal accidents in factories from 944 in 1938 to 1,646 in 1941, that is to say, 74 per cent., and in non-fatal accidents from 179,159 to 269,652 in 1941, that is to say 50 per cent., he will institute an immediate inquiry, with a view to a reduction in the suffering involved and in the impairment of the national war effort; and in particular will he inquire into the effect on the accident rate of the overtime still worked despite the recommendations of the Select Committee on National Expenditure against it?

Mr. Bevin

Ways and means of reducing the number of accidents are already the subject of continuous inquiry by the Chief Inspector of Factories and his staff, and recommendations are made from time to time in official publications and by factory inspectors in the course of their visits to firms. The Industrial Health Research Board have also published reports from time to time on the causation of accidents, but their later investigations during the first two years of the war show that under war conditions there are too many variable factors influencing accident rates to enable reliable conclusions of practical value to be reached as to the relationship between accident rates and working hours. Repeated changes in the type of work, and the employment of a large number of persons either new to industry or to the particular operation on which they are required to work, inevitably contribute to an increase in the number of accidents so that the effect, if any, of longer working hours cannot be isolated.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is the Minister satisfied that the Safety First organisation is functioning relatively as efficiently as it was in pre-war times, and is not the collaboration between works committees and other representative interests in the factories tending to deal with this matter?

Mr. Bevin

I think there is very great room for improvement, but the difficulty is that men are working, as the Question puts it, long hours. We call on them for fire watching and many other extra duties, and the ability to give time to these voluntary efforts has been seriously hampered.

Sir H. Williams

Has the Minister any indication whether this increase in accidents is continuing during the present year?

Mr. Bevin

I have not the figures up to date.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Does not the Minister think it would be a good thing if we had a Debate on the Chief Inspector's report, and that it would have a salutary effect if that were done?

Mr. Bevin

We had one not long ago, but that is not a matter for me.