§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Whether we are in mortal peril of poverty by stages, or whether we are to double our living standards in the next twenty-five years—and who am I to discuss in detail these trifling issues which separate the Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal?—I nevertheless suggest that the time has certainly come when the people of this country should get their priorities right in connection with our industrial problems.
The Report of the Industrial Safety Sub-Committee of the Ministry of Labour's National Joint Advisory Council is a document which reveals that, indeed, many of these priorities are quite wrong at the moment. For instance, they show that injuries to workers cost us about 20 million man days per year, which is a very startling figure. They 857 show that accidents reported under the Factories Acts cost us over 700 workers killed, 180,000 injured and 60,000 people absent from work each day. I will try to examine some of the causes in a moment.
I suggest that when we see that sort of figure and place it against the 3 million or 3¼ million working days lost per annum in industrial disputes, with all the excitement that those disputes occasion, it really shows that we are not paying anything like sufficient attention to the very serious causes of this great loss, described as about 20 million man-days a year, as distinct from the time lost in industrial disputes.
I do not attempt to minimise the importance of that, but, as I began by saying, I think we should try to get these matters into their correct perspective. Indeed, if we look a little further into the sickness which deprives the nation of about 280 million man-days per annum it is obvious that—although we cannot break down that figure to show how much—a very big percentage is caused by illness accruing from working conditions. Looked at in that way, the question of the amount of time which a nation is losing is seen in far better perspective.
I know that the Ministry itself, no matter how effective or efficient it becomes, can never be a substitute for efficient safety organisation within the factories themselves. For many years I had the privilege of being a member of what, I think, was one of the most effective safety committees in Britain. I do not suggest that it owed its effectiveness to my being a member—it probably did a lot better when it got rid of me—but at least I did learn in the course of that type of work how much improvement there can be within a factory if those sensible things which occur to practised and experienced men and women in industry are put into operation. The Report which I have mentioned comments very rightly on the need for safety committees in all types of work places, irrespective of their size or of the type of work done.
We find that the accidents which cause most loss of time are not actually connected with mechanisation as such. They are the result of such things as falling bodies, lifting castings and the like, which have been placed in the wrong position. I recall from the time when I was a 858 member of the committee to which I have referred so many accidents which should have been avoided, caused by such things as light distributed in such a way as to leave shadows in places where there should not be any; trucks not placed within broad white lines; handles of trucks sticking out over gangways.
To deal with such matters is within the competence, not only of those who are members of safety committees but of the average adult person working in a factory who should, I think, make himself responsible in that way, and should certainly make himself responsible for showing inexperienced people just where they are going wrong in the course of their work. One can think, almost with horror, of having watched an apprentice with a defective spanner pulling on a nut, with both feet together and nothing to fall back on except a lathe upon which he could get a cracked head. It is so easy for the experienced man to suggest a different weight distribution—one foot behind the other—which makes such a very big difference.
For years we have talked about files without handles and other elementary things, but something else which causes a very great deal of lost time is the guards that are made for machinery. For my sins, I worked for a long time on piece work. I know that when cumbersome guards are put on machines—milling machines, punches, etc.—and the piece work price is fixed, it is almost certain that very soon afterwards that guard will come off in order that the man can increase his earnings. I suggest that the people who design these guards really should take account of the fact that unless these guards can be used without loss of piece work earnings—without loss of efficiency to the firm, in fact—much of their value will be negatived, because the men do not wish to use them. So many accidents result from that sort of practice.
Again, all who are conversant with factory life have seen the awful business of the first-aid box being so often in the care of a man whose job is dirty. I believe that those boxes are a menace in themselves. They merely serve to keep people from the ambulance stations to which they should go. They go, instead, to the first-aid box. On a previous occasion I told the House that we were once troubled by the incidence of sepsis. 859 After extensive research we discovered that it invariably came about as a result of a man going first to the Red Cross box and then deciding that as he already had a dressing on his wound he had no need to go to the ambulance room. We abolished the boxes and the number of such cases was immediately reduced. I should have thought that the time had now come when we could do away with these things, except, perhaps, to put them in museums as evidence of our first elementary thinking on the subject. Otherwise, they serve no useful purpose now.
I want to turn to the Factory Inspectorate itself, and to deal, first, with a very specific section of it which is rarely mentioned. I refer to the Canteen Advisory Service, which was set up by Ernest Bevin in 1941 and which did wonderful work during the war in advising firms on the setting up of canteens. This scheme has expanded enormously, and I understand that there are now about 20,000 canteens upon which the Service advises. I understand, indeed, that it does a remarkably fine job in connection with countries within the Colombo Plan, which are being advised on canteen equipment and arrangement.
I have heard a disquieting rumour that the economy measures which are to be taken may well include economising at the expense of the Canteen Advisory Service. I was a little happier when I read the Minister's reply to a Question put to him by one of my hon. Friends, in which the Minister said that the Factory Inspectorate would not suffer in any way by these cuts. I take it that he was referring also to the Canteen Advisory Service, which is a part of the Inspectorate. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us something about this Service and to assure us that it is not to suffer any cuts.
The full establishment of the main Inspectorate is 380 but, of course, the number available for actual practice is only about 314. If we take the numbers engaged in training others, the incidence of sickness and of annual leave, it will be seen that the full complement can never be in the field at any one time. This force has to cover about 340,000 work places under the Factories Acts— 860 over 1,000 work places per inspector. In 1954, the inspectors were able to achieve only some 50 per cent. of their programme of factory visits. That was because there was an insufficient number of inspectors to enable the level of inspection to be raised.
I recall that some time ago I asked the Minister a Question about the number of inspections per inspector, and I was a little alarmed to find that the number was diminishing. I should like to know the reason for that. It is most vital that we should know why it is that the number of inspections per inspector is falling. Then we have the old problem of the numbers within the Inspectorate who possess technical or scientific degrees. In pre-war days the percentage varied between 60 and 70 per cent. Since the war, of course, it has fallen quite alarmingly, and I understand that among more recent entries it is now down to about 16 per cent.
Before the war, about 70 per cent. of the inspectors had some industrial experience. I understand that the number has now fallen to below 50 per cent. Out of 79 in the basic grade, I believe that only nine have such qualifications, while not one has a qualification in civil engineering. This is a vital issue. We are entering a period when industry is expanding, when the more technical aspects of production will predominate, and it is vital that, instead of seeing a diminishing percentage of people possessing technical qualifications, we should be aiming at an even higher ratio than we ever had in pre-war days.
I hope the Minister will be able to satisfy us about this. I know that the issue has been raised before, but I do not apologise for raising it again, since I believe that it is a vital matter which the House of Commons must take into account. As industry becomes more complex, surely it is essential that we should have more people possessed of the necessary qualifications to give them the power to understand precisely what is happening in industry.
On 26th June this year, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) asked the Minister of Labour how many inspectors there were with university degrees in engineering, chemistry or physics in the 95 districts. The Minister told him that there are now 96 861 districts, that of these 36 have no inspectors with the qualifications in question and 11 have more than one such inspector. In 1939, when there were 92 districts, the corresponding figures were 24 and 23. Although we know that efforts have been made to bring the Inspectorate up to its authorised strength, quantitatively, there has been no announced plan for increasing the numbers so that their duties may be adequately discharged.
May I turn to the Inspectorate and its establishment? I have given the figure of 380 as the full complement, and I know that for a considerable period it has not been possible to reach that number. Recently, we have reached the point at which we are within a few of the full establishment. I suggest to the Minister that it is now perfectly obvious that the establishment of the Inspectorates is nothing like large enough. I have given the figures of the factories which each has to look after, and I have pointed out that the inspectors have not managed to complete more than 50 per cent. of their obligations in this respect.
I do not believe that at any foreseeable time an establishment of 380 can hope to cope with the work which now falls to them, and I therefore make the point most seriously that the Minister must now consider a substantial increase. I should have thought that double the Inspectorate would by no means be too large and that on the question of technical qualifications, at least 50 per cent. of the Inspectorate should be possessed of such qualifications.
I should like to raise one or two issues on specific points which have arisen within the last year or so. The Minister knows that the Keighley accident, in which eight people were burned to death and three were injured, aroused a great deal of anxiety throughout the country. It is a vital issue about which we must ask the Minister more questions. I applaud the open and very frank way in which the Factories Department and the Parliamentary Secretary himself faced the issues which arise from the Keighley accident. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) raised the issue on 18th May in what I think was a very responsible speech; he did not seek to make political capital out of it; he wanted the facts and he himself gave us some important facts.
862 In his reply, the Parliamentary Secretary was forthcoming, and I applaud him for it. That debate, however, coupled with subsequent statements and information, makes one extremely apprehensive about the manner in which those sections of the Factories Acts which deal with the dangers of fire are being carried out. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that between 50 per cent. and 70 per cent. of the factories which should have fire alarms installed; in fact, have not got them. That is fantastic—70 per cent. of the factories concerned entirely without fire alarms which, under the Acts, it is essential that they should have. I know that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary intimated that the Chief Inspector of Factories had ordered a survey to be undertaken throughout the country. That is a huge task; the figure which the Parliamentary Secretary gave was 40,000 to 50,000 places of employment.
Because the Inspectorate is too small—I return to the point I made about the size of the establishment—to perform such a task whilst carrying out its usual duties, the Minister has found it necessary to enlist the services of officers from his local employment exchanges who, of course, have no basic qualifications for this task. The fact that the present deplorable condition exists, coupled with the need to use people from other branches of the Ministry of Labour, proves conclusively that the establishment is far too small and must immediately be made far bigger.
Compliance with the standards laid down by the Acts for escapes from fire is in the hands of the local authorities. It is their function to issue the certificates in this connection. In very many areas, especially the rural areas, where the sanitary inspectors are the only people who can do this job, it is true to say that no certificates have ever been issued, while in quite large urban areas—I think in London itself—the number issued is very small indeed as a percentage of the places of employment which are subject to this part of the Act.
I suggest that this shows, especially in the case of local authorities which are not in large areas, that they are not performing these duties satisfactorily. The Minister has power, I know, when he is certain that a local authority is not doing its job, to authorise the inspectors to do it themselves, but, of course, such a delay 863 presupposes that the workers concerned are, in the meantime, exposed to very great risks. The question therefore arises whether the local authorities, especially the small ones, are the right people to undertake this very serious and onerous work. Possibly the solution would be to give the task to the district inspectors in the first place and for them to charge the local authorities with any expense involved in the work. I throw out that suggestion to the Minister.
May I say a word about fire prevention officers, who function in conjunction with the local authorities? I think they can play a vital rôle in this very important matter, which the Keighley accident brought to public notice. Of course, officers of this type are purely advisory and cannot enter factories unless invited to enter by the owners. Of course, we all know what happens. The man who is proud of his factory invites the inspector to see what a first-class job of work he has done in fire prevention, but the person who is not too sure, or, worse still, the one who is almost certain that he has not complied with the regulations, is the very one who will not invite the fire officer to go in at all.
Therefore, in this respect, we should consider whether inspectors should not now be allowed to call upon the services of the fire prevention officers irrespective of any invitation from the employers. It is not a lot of good, I suggest, to have at our disposal qualified men, able to do a good job in this direction, unless we make it possible for them to act in their particular capacity. I should have thought that, especially while the establishment of the Factory Inspectorate itself was so low, it would be a very good thing indeed if we gave to the inspectors the power to co-ordinate their work with the fire prevention officers, and be able to take them along with them when they go to places of the types which I have mentioned.
The Factories Acts themselves are based largely not on the prevention of fire, but on trying to make certain that when a fire takes place the workers can get out of the building. There again, maybe we should be going into fire prevention in a far bigger way than we do in regarding the essential task of the inspectors as being to make sure that the workers can get away. Referring again 864 to the Keighley case, the thought arises that if that case disclosed a sort of typical approach, then the position is much worse than has appeared to be the case up to now.
What really happened? I understand that an inspector visited the mill in November, 1951, and that a follow-up letter was sent about the absence of a fire alarm. Five subsequent visits by the inspector took place, and at the end of these five visits there was still no fire alarm.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)
It should be stated, in fairness to the present inspector, that it was a different one who made the original inspection, and that that fact may account for the lack of knowledge on the part of the present inspector.
§ Mr. Lee
I accept that. I am not trying to make a point against any person at all, but only trying to find out how the Ministry is handling this problem.
Five visits were made by a factory inspector after the letter had been sent informing the employer that he really must instal a fire alarm. In spite of all that, no prosecution took place until after the fire and consequent fatalities.
§ Mr. Lee
This is an issue upon which we must press the Minister. It may be that this is an exception, or it may be that a series of this sort of accident took place without any follow up. What frightens us is that this may be typical of the way in which we are handling this matter. If that is the case, thousands of workers—I do not wish to alarm anybody—are subjected to the same sort of risks which brought about an awful tragedy in the mill at Keighley. No prosecution took place until after all this had happened.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us whether that is typical of the sort of action which is taken by his Ministry when certification has been refused and when the employers concerned have refused to comply with the demands of the Ministry. In replying to the Adjournment debate which my hon. Friend initiated on 18th May, the Parliamentary Secretary spoke of action taken to obtain 865 the installation of fire alarms. He was then referring to the Chief Inspector's letter and that kind of thing. I should like to ask him whether he is now in a position to report on any progress made in consequence of actions which have been taken subsequent to the Keighley fire.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that his Ministry was considering introducing new regulations dealing with highly inflammable materials in factory construction, and my hon. Friend made quite a point of this in his speech. I had a little experience of the Factory Department of the Ministry in my day there, and I know that the Department is very careful about the introduction of regulations, and is probably right in most instances. I am a great admirer of the people who are in executive positions in the Factory Department, and nothing that I say today should be taken as meaning anything else, but I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary can now tell us what is the result of their thinking on this question of new regulations.
I have said that, so far, we have been concerned with getting workers away. Of course, in very many of these old buildings there are the most inflammable materials, in the case of which, once a spark has set them off, there is nothing that one can do about it. I should have thought that we should now be in a position to try to prevent these things happening by stipulating the type of material which should be used in the construction of these factories. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the Ministry has come to any conclusion about new regulations on this alarming question of fire prevention?
I do not wish to go into detail about accidents in various industries, which I had hoped to talk about. I thought that it was important that the points which I have tried to make should be brought out on this occasion. I hope the Minister will take it as the opinion of those of us on this side of the House that the Inspectorate itself must now be enlarged—I would say doubled, but certainly enlarged very considerably—and that the number of people qualified with a technical degree must be increased.
I know what the obstacle is; it is the question of pay. I believe it is true to say that in the Factory Inspectorate 866 people with technical qualifications are receiving salaries about £100 less than similar people in other sections of the Civil Service. If that is the case, it is ridiculous to expect people to work under those conditions. I do not now appeal to the Minister of Labour, although I know the right hon. Gentleman's interest in the matter, but I say to the Prime Minister and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the nation is alarmed about this shortage of factory inspectors and of people with technical qualifications. No economy can be considered as a proper economy if we are, as a result, denuding the Factory Inspectorate of the technical staff which it so badly needs.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister to make the most vigorous efforts to enlarge the Inspectorate and to get more people with technical qualifications. I hope that the Government will adopt a more realistic approach than that of a cheese-paring policy towards the factory inspectors, because if we can have that broader approach, based on the knowledge that these men are vital to the efficiency of industry, we shall make progress, and without it we shall continue to lose thousands of man-hours which otherwise could be saved.
I have not referred to the pain and suffering which is caused to those who are the victims of accidents, and which is in itself a tremendous subject. I believe that, when we talk about trade gaps and our industry being on the down grade, and so on, it is useless, almost hypocritical, to say that we are doing everything we can to rectify the position while accidents of the type which I have tried to describe are taking place.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)
In recent years there have been great advances in medical knowledge and skill and, as a result, many people are daily being restored to active and healthy life after illnesses and accidents which, a few years ago, would have been permanently crippling, sometimes even fatal. We are concerned today with what I might call the other side of that coin; we must match this advance in curative medicine by a similar one in the matter of prevention.
As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said in his opening 867 speech, it is estimated that about 300 million days of recorded absence from work through sickness and injury occurred last year, and of those probably about 20 million days were due to injury. These figures, of course, cover all occupations, not merely those covered by the Factories Acts. Moreover, a great deal of this sickness and injury is not occupational in origin. Nevertheless, much of it is, and may in time be preventable.
It is in this context that the work of the Factory Inspectorate, and the Acts which it has to administer should, I think, be judged in our debate today. No fewer than one-third of our working people work in factories and other places, such as building sites or docks, which are covered by the Acts and the Inspectorate. I say straight away that my right hon. Friend believes that the time has come when a new impetus should be given to this work. I shall be telling the Committee in some detail of what is being done in the course of my speech.
For the moment, I will only spotlight the importance and momentum of this effort by pointing out that at a time when, as the Committee knows, economies are being made in the overall work of my Department, I shall, in fact, be announcing actual increases of staff and expenditure devoted to this particular activity.
Perhaps it would be as well if, at this stage, after that pleasant piece of news I have for the Committee, I were to deal with one point which was made by the hon. Member for Newton in the early part of his speech. I refer to the canteen advisers. I think he was a little wrong, if I may say so, in describing this service as part of the Factory Inspectorate. As I am advised, and according to my understanding, that is not so. It is an auxiliary service; as a matter of convenience and obvious affinity with the Factory Department, it has, as it were, come under that umbrella; but we do not regard it as part of the Factory Inspectorate.
We must not get ourselves into the position of saying that, because we once start a service, which may be good and even necessary at the time we start it, we have, therefore, to keep on with that service for ever and a day without regard to changing conditions. If we are to devote the maximum resources at our command to the most urgent tasks—and there never will be enough resources in 868 this or in any other activity to do everything we wish to do at any given time—we must keep a very firm list of priorities, even though that means being somewhat ruthless with less urgent or less necessary, though I readily admit worthwhile and useful, activities.
I should tell the Committee straight away that, in the review of all our work which we have recently made, we have come to the conclusion that the conditions under which the Canteen Advisory Service was set up in wartime, and in which it was continued immediately after the war, no longer exist. In fact, there is very much less need for it today, and, looking at the matter in the light of the need for economy in the public service, we have come to the conclusion that the Canteen Advisory Service as such should come to an end. At the same time, arrangements will be made to ensure that the Chief Inspector continues to have at his disposal expert advice on canteen matters. The buildings and general conditions in canteens are, of course, properly covered by the Factories Acts and can be inspected in order that they might be kept to a satisfactory standard.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
Before my hon. Friend replies to that question, would he tell us what economy, in £s per annum, will be achieved by the reduction in the Canteen Advisory Service that he has announced?
§ Mr. Carr
The hon. Member for Newton is quite right in saying the number is 21; but he has me in an awkward position, and so does my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), when asking about the exact economies. My right hon. Friend has not yet completed his consideration of the investigation into the Factory Department and the Inspectorate which has been made. As the Committee will know, he has promised that in due course he will publish a White Paper on the subject.
Although we welcome this debate, to that extent it is a little early, and, therefore, I can only announce in some 869 respects rather preliminary conclusions. I would not like to commit myself to the exact number of advisers, but I must make it quite clear that it will not be 21, or anything like it; it may be a matter of one, two or three—perhaps even only one—but I would not like to commit myself finally at this juncture.
We concluded that in these works canteens, which are so well established now, in which conditions are entirely different, the standard is such that, provided that expert advice is there, the matter can be covered by the normal Inspectorate work under the Factories Acts. That does not vitiate the fact that, with this one exception which, as I say, is really outside the Factory Inspectorate as such, I shall, before I sit down, be able to announce an increase in the resources devoted to this subject at a time when, for reasons which the Committee knows, economies are having to be made in other directions.
The first thing to realise in discussing health and safety in industry is that the prime responsibility rests on industry itself, both employers and workers. The hon. Member for Newton showed that he realised that, as indeed, he must, of course, from his own long personal experience. Whether it be in the making of preventive guards or the operating of them, one cannot inspect people into safety, important though the rôle of legislation and inspection may be. In the last analysis, our job is to provide the right conditions and give the right guidance to the people in industry so that, as it were, they make themselves their own inspectors of what is safe and what is not. Employers and trade unions, jointly and severally, have a big responsibility both in education and in creating the right conditions for the appreciation by everybody who works in industry of the need for safety.
The rôle of Government in this matter is, I think, four-fold. First, we must see that the factory law keeps in step with modern needs and development; secondly, we must see that the minimum requirements laid down in the Acts and in the many codes of regulations made under them are observed; thirdly, we must be able to give advice to industry as a whole on these matters; and, fourthly, the Government must undertake, and must stimulate others to undertake, investigation, research and development. 870 If I may, I will try to deal with each of those four functions in turn.
It would perhaps be useful, first, to give some indication of the present trends and problems in this matter of safety and accidents. Before 1952, there was a downward trend in the number of accidents reported each year under the Factories Acts. Since 1952, that downward trend has ceased. I think that that should be a matter for concern. It is difficult to know quite why it should be so. The number of accidents reported has actually risen slightly each year since 1952, but, when allowance is made for the increased number of people at work, the incidence rate of accidents has remained more or less stable since 1952. Until 1952, however, it had been dropping slightly year by year.
Over the last few years, we have had an incidence rate of about 22 people per 1,000 suffering an accident every year. Expressed in total terms, that means about 160,000 accidents in factories and 25,000 accidents in other work places and they have involved approximately 700 fatalities every year.
An important trend in the causes of accidents is shown in the relative decline in those caused by power driven machinery. That is a tribute to the work done by means of legislation and inspection and by those who design and manufacture guards, and so forth. Most of the accidents in factories now occur as to 27 per cent. in the handling of goods, 14 per cent. as to persons falling, as to 9 per cent. by persons being struck by falling objects, as to 8 per cent. by stepping on or striking against objects, and as to another 8 per cent. in the use of hand tools. Together, those account for no less than 66 per cent. of all the accidents occurring in factories. They are also the main causes of accidents at other work places, such as building sites.
The building industry has a high accident rate and I shall say more about that as I develop my speech. Since 1950, the total number of accidents in it has increased steadily each year, from 12,340 in 1950 to 13,903 in 1954. This explains why special consideration has been given to safety problems in that industry.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
Would the hon. Gentleman 871 tell the Committee which branch of the building industry shows the greatest increase in accidents?
§ Mr. Carr
In replying to an Adjournment debate, a few weeks ago, I dealt with this subject in detail. However, as I have a great deal of ground to cover, I have not come armed with an analysis of all these figures, since this would have kept me on my feet an unreasonable time. However, I will obtain the information and will write to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Carr
The accident rate in the building industry is certainly largely due to falling. If I cannot obtain the figures before I sit down, I will let the hon. Gentleman know the analysis later. I have seen the figures, but there is such an enormous mass of them to keep in mind that I cannot remember them at the moment.
The fact that accidents are now mainly caused in the ways I have mentioned emphasises the importance of such aspects of accident prevention as what we call in industry "good housekeeping", also education, training and supervision. This is particularly true of the building industry, which has not the advantage of fixed factory sites, and where sites come into operation and go out of operation, where people move in and out, and where different trades come on to the site and off it again.
These are matters which cannot easily be regulated by statutory provisions and call mainly for the positive organisation of safety at work. I do not want to underestimate the importance of inspection and legislative control in this sphere but it must be recognised, particularly in the building industry and increasingly in factories, that we have to look for organisation for safety at work both to employers and to workpeople. One way in which we could see this mood reflected would be by having more works safety committees.
§ Mr. Carr
There are works safety committees in many large factories, but the proportion becomes progressively less in the smaller ones. While I want to see more works safety committees, it must be realised that a factory committee may not be appropriate in all cases. However, whether there is a committee or not there ought to be some recognised arrangement in each factory for joint consultation on safety matters, and that should apply even in the smallest works.
To be effective these committees should be established on a voluntary basis, because to be effective such committees must be an expression of the wish to do something. If that wish is not present, such a committee might merely take away responsibility from an individual or individuals amongst the workpeople and managements who had previously shown an interest in the subject. In the reports of the Chief Inspector of Factories cases are to be found where the safety record of a factory with a committee has been less good than that of a similar factory without one. So, although I want to see such committees, they should be an expression of a determination to do something, and they will not achieve the desired result if imposed by force.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that one important factor is the extent to which a management will pay attention to the recommendations of a safety committee, and that to prove its effectiveness beyond doubt one would have to know the number of recommendations rejected?
§ Mr. Carr
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is the point I was trying to make. I do not want managements to be able to say, "We have our safety committee and, therefore, there is no more we need do about it." That is more dangerous than not having one. As I have said, there must be the determination and the spirit to achieve something.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
The hon. Gentleman is being most generous to the Committee in giving way. Would he permit another interruption? What are the figures of the safety committees now? Is there a promising trend shown in a greater number of safety committees in different industrial concerns? The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that we had a debate on this matter 873 two years ago. Has the position improved since then?
§ Mr. Carr
The position has improved, I think. I cannot give figures offhand, but I will let the hon. and learned Gentleman know. That is one of the items in the report of the sub-committee of the National Joint Advisory Council to which I shall refer but, before doing so, I want to say something more about the trend of accidents.
One important feature of the present position is the incidence of accidents to young workers. In the case of boys and girls, the incidence rates have not fallen in recent years. This is particularly important because, in the next few years, we shall have an increasing number of young entrants into industry. Owing to their inexperience—I think that is the cause of it—they seem to be prone to take risks. However, if we take advantage of the fact that they are at an impressionable age, we should be able to train them to safer ways of working, so special attention to their safety is of the highest importance.
What has been done recently to encourage industry to pay more attention to safety measures, to set up safety committees and so on? The main action has been that the National Joint Advisory Council in 1954 set up an ad hoc sub-committee to review the subject. That sub-committee included representatives of employers and trade unions in the normal way. Its report was published in May this year and was given wide publicity, with the full backing of the leaders of all sides of industry. One extremely encouraging point has been that the first printing of 14,000 copies of the report—I think I am right in the number—has been sold out. As far as I can discover this represents a genuine sale and not merely a distribution across desks which leads sometimes, as alas we all know, into the waste paper basket. There has been a genuine sale reflecting a real interest in this subject.
It is too early yet to assess the results, but we hope that the recommendations of the sub-committee will provide a new boost to industry to take action in this respect. The recommendations concerning the Ministry of Labour and other Government Departments are already receiving attention, especially in relation to the problem of training young workers in 874 safety. The National Joint Advisory Council has acted promptly on one recommendation by setting up a Standing Industrial Safety Sub-Committee to keep progress under review and to report annually. That will give continuing help.
There has also been set up recently an Inter-departmental Committee on Industrial Safety Research, comprising representatives of Government, research committees and the Ministry of Labour. We felt that there was need for co-ordination and direction in this respect. I should also say that the report of the National Joint Advisory Council sub-committee has been brought to the attention of the bodies concerned with recruitment and training in industry, and also of the educational authorities, and that has provided a new stimulus to publicity and guidance in this matter.
I turn to the present state of the factory law and impending developments. I need not describe to the Committee the basis of our Factories Acts as, I think, it knows it well. The main Act under which we operate is the Factories Act, 1937, supplemented in certain respects by the 1948 Act. The basic requirements of these Acts are themselves supplemented by far-reaching powers given to the Minister to make regulations.
There are already over 150 sets of regulations, and the most important group is that of those under Section 60 of the 1937 Act. There are 55 such regulations under Section 60 of that Act, of which 12 have been made since the war. It is this power of the Minister to make regulations which enables the legislative requirements to be kept up to date and in line with industrial development. We in the Ministry have just completed a thorough review of the position.
In regard to the need for new and revised regulations, I would say that there are about a dozen codes at present under consideration or in various stages of preparation, and it has been decided that a new, special effort is to be made to speed up the work required to complete some of those revised codes. Some are comparatively short and simple; some, certainly from what I have seen of them, are, to say the least, long and complicated; some are entirely new; others are revisions of existing codes.
875 Included in the dozen or so I have mentioned are regulations relating to ionising radiation, works of engineering construction, ship building and ship repairing, lighting, horizontal mill machines, power presses, and the fencing of abrasive wheels. Those are all new ones, in addition to the revision and bringing up to date of earlier regulations, such as those for the chemical and rubber industries. It is hoped that the code relating to ionising radiation will be completed, if not by the end of this year, then early next year, and several other new codes will be made in the next year or two.
I am sure that the Committee will realise that it is impossible to lay down in detail any timetable for the issuing of regulations. Many of the problems involved are extremely complex and require a great deal of consultation, not only with technical experts, but also with both sides of the industries which will be effected. However, as I have said, a genuine, new and special effort is being made to expedite this work.
I turn to the subject of advisory publications. In the Ministry we attach a great deal of importance to the advisory publications, which can cover a wider range than can regulations, and which can be issued in advance of regulations, in many cases. We intend to put new speed into the provision of the advisory booklets and pamphlets, into revising some of the existing ones on health and safety matters, and into issuing new ones. The Department will, of course, look for advice on these questions to the new Standing Safety Sub-Committee of the N.J.A.C., to which I have referred.
The Factory Department, in its effort in initiating new regulations and in developing the advisory service, has for many years been assisted by the work and reports of a number of joint committees appointed by the Chief Inspector from the two sides of particular industries. I do not think we ought to consider this subject without saying once again how valuable the work of those joint committees has been and how valuable I am sure it will be in the future. There is one dealing with iron and steel foundries, the well-known example which led eventually to the making of regulations covering that industry, Now, more recently, a committee has been appointed for the 876 non-ferrous foundries. The help of these committees is valuable, and we certainly mean to continue to make use of this method of approach.
It ought also to be borne in mind that an important by-product of the production of regulations and advisory publications is that it reduces the burden of advisory work for individual inspectors. It develops, as it were, a bible on the subject, which can be passed to the industries concerned, so that every single problem does not have to be taken up to the same extent with individual inspectors.
Before I turn to the Inspectorate itself, there is one more subject on which I want to comment briefly, and that is industrial health. We seldom have a full debate on this subject, and I think it is worth putting some of these facts on record all at one time. In 1954 the Minister decided that a new impetus was needed, and he therefore appointed the Industrial Health Advisory Committee.
Following discussions with this Committee we are now taking various steps, including the following. First, there is the development of medical supervision. We are convinced that great benefit will flow if a larger proportion of factories have some medical supervision than is the case at the moment. The Chief Inspector is engaged in discussions with a number of industries with a view to stimulating the development of medical supervision, and those include steel foundries, iron and steel manufacture, and the chemical industry.
Secondly, two pilot surveys of industrial health provisions are already in progress. The first of these is a general survey of all factories in Halifax. That is now nearing completion. The second, which also has been already started, is of the pottery industry at Stoke-on-Trent. Those surveys are expected to throw light on the need of industrial health services and the best way of developing them.
Third, there are the regulations under the Acts, and the regulations to which I have already referred as being in course of preparation: for example, those dealing with ionising radiation, and those dealing with the rubber and chemical industries where we feel there are special risks which ought to be covered by regulations.
877 Finally, as a result of discussions with the Advisory Committee, there are new investigations and research proceeding under the auspices of the Medical Research Council and the Department itself into health problems in a number of industries. These problems include particularly those of dust in the foundry and cotton industries, the risks arising from the use of toxic solvents, and the widespread risk of dermatitis which, of course, has been throughout industry a cause of a great deal of illness and loss of time. The Medical Research Council and the co-ordinating inter-Departmental Committee already have a number of projects under consideration, but they are not sufficiently far advanced for me to make any announcement about them today.
Having reviewed the general trend of safety in factories, having spoken about developments which we foresee on the legislative side, and promised that we are going to speed up the work in that respect, having said something about industrial health, I turn finally to what is the central subject in our debate today, namely, the Factory Inspectorate. I begin, in response to a question put by the hon. Member for Newton, by telling the Committee something about the action which we have already taken to reduce fire risks in factories, following the promises I made in the debate that we had at Whitsun about the tragic fire in the woollen mill at Keighley. I recapitulate the promises of action that I gave in that debate, and I shall try to say something of what we have already done in fulfilment of those promises.
First, the Chief Inspector of Factories, I said, would write to all factory occupiers reminding them of their obligations to have effective fire alarms. That has been done. Secondly, I said he would also send to all factories advisory leaflets about the installation of alarms, including advice about the most suitable types for different factories. That also has been done. Thirdly, I said that a survey would be carried out by the Inspectorate, assisted by officers from the employment exchange service, of the position regarding fire alarms in all factories. That survey has been started, and will be completed by the end of October.
§ Mr. Collins
Can the hon. Gentleman say when the Chief Inspector of Factories sent those notices to factories? Was their dispatch selective, or were they sent to all factories? I have four factories, but I have not seen one notice.
§ Mr. Carr
We have between forty thousand and fifty thousand to cover. I understand that dispatch started last month, and I should have thought that by now it would have been completed. I will make inquiries, and let the hon. Member know. If it has been completed I will, if I may, have a word with the hon. Member and discover how he has escaped it, because we do not want anybody to escape receiving that letter.
§ Mr. Carr
On the question of means of escape we have, as promised, taken steps to speed up examination, first, of the Crown factories, which are undoubtedly the responsibility of the Factory Inspectorate, and we hope that that will soon be done. We have also instructed inspectors to make use of their powers under the 1927 Act to encourage local authorities to carry out examinations and the licensing procedure for themselves. We have also told the inspectors that, if necessary, they are to use their powers to carry out examinations themselves if there is no likelihood of the local authorities being able to do all that is necessary in a reasonable time and manner.
The hon. Member for Newton asked whether this prime responsibility should be taken away from local authorities. I am reluctant to do that. We ought not to overlook the very large success which has attended the work of many local authorities in this respect. There are some areas where local authorities have carried out the responsibility in an admirable manner. Equally, there are many others where they have not done so. In saying that, I am not necessarily apportioning blame, because it is a matter of staffing and of getting round to all the jobs that they have to do. But if we have over-riding power for our inspectors to do this where the local authorities cannot do it I think that we ought to leave matters as they stand at the moment. In any case, the technical complexities of altering the law on the subject would take 879 somewhat longer than getting on with the job on the basis that I have mentioned.
I said something about fire drills. We have told our inspectors that they are to press employers to adopt the procedure of fire drills in suitable cases. When we have seen what success we are getting from this voluntary persuasion we shall be able to consider whether or not there is need for enforcing the regulations. As promised, work has been put in hand on drafting new regulations imposing special obligations on factories whose processes are carried on with a high fire risk. That promise was made only in May. We cannot give details of where we are getting to at the moment, but I assure the Committee that the Chief Inspector and his staff are actively engaged in considering what can be done by way of regulations.
Discussions are also taking place, as promised, with the Home Office about effecting closer relationships between factory inspectors and fire prevention officers. Our inspectors have been asked to press factory occupiers to call in those officers to give them advice. It is true that fire prevention officers have not a right of entry, and I am advised that to give it to them legislation would be needed. The best thing we can do is to watch the position, but we are telling our inspectors definitely to use what persuasive influence they have on employers to call these fire prevention officers in and make use of the services that exist. I think that the proper course is to see what result comes of it. The publication of advisory literature on fire prevention in factories is also being discussed with the Home Office, as promised.
Immediately after our debate on the Keighley fire, my right hon. Friend visited Keighley and met members of the Factories Inspectorate working in that area. The hon. Member for Newton raised the question of the failure of the follow-up procedure. I said in that debate, as I felt it right and my duty to say, that there had been a failure of the follow-up procedure in that case. I can assure the hon. Member that we have not been content just to leave the matter there and to assume that that case was an unusual coincidence. We have had a look at that procedure and we believe that the failure was an isolated case.
880 Certainly we have evidence that the follow-up procedure should normally work satisfactorily. Apart from this, my right hon. Friend is giving consideration to the Report of officials on the whole organisation of the Factory Department which is concerned with matters of this kind. We should keep in mind that the Factory Inspectorate is now part of a great Department with a regional organisation, the Ministry of Labour. We intend to see whether there are ways in which the general services which exist throughout the country can give help to the Factory Inspectorate, not to take the inspectors' work from them, but to give them help in routine matters of this kind, and to see whether, in that way, they can both save time and be more effective.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Has the Minister given due consideration to the fact that there are two other agencies, which have not been mentioned since I came into the Chamber? I apologise for not having been here at the start of the debate. They are the two very important agencies of the trade unions and the insurance companies which are carrying the risks for employers' common law liability and so forth.
Ought there not to be closer liaison between them and the Factory Inspectorate? I assure the Minister, from practical experience, that a competently administered trade union and its opposite number on the insurance side, men who are dealing with these consequences all the time, are better informed on many of these situations than are the factory inspectors themselves.
§ Mr. Carr
I am sure that we want to make use of all agencies of that kind. I am sure that the trade unions have a genuine interest in and a knowledge of this matter. Our co-operation with bodies such as those is close. If help is needed, I am sure that they will come forward and tell the Inspectorate.
I come finally to the general question of the Factory Inspectorate. My right hon. Friend particularly wants to be associated with me in saying that in the seven months that we have been at the Ministry of Labour we have had time to learn and note the work of the Factory Inspectorate, and we should like to pay tribute to the work that it is doing and 881 to say that we have complete confidence in the ability of the inspectors to continue to improve the safety and health of those who work in factories.
Excluding certain senior posts at headquarters, the authorised strength of the general Inspectorate is at present 322. At the end of the war it stood at 309. The change since that date is largely accounted for by the addition of about a dozen inspectors in 1948 to cope with extra work arising out of building Regulations. The difficulty ever since the war has been to recruit up to the full establishment. In 1947 there were no fewer than 100 vacancies. By 1950 the shortage was still 56. By 1953 it had been reduced to 14. At present, I am glad to say that the Inspectorate is at last virtually at full strength.
Considerable criticism has been made of the "inadequate" size of the Inspectorate, but I submit that it was really quite useless to talk about increasing the establishment until some factual evidence had come forward that it was possible to maintain even the present one. That position has been achieved in the last two or three years, and, therefore, the time has come to think about whether the establishment is adequate, and to look to the future. As the Committee knows, that is what we have been doing.
An official Report has been presented to my right hon. Friend and he is considering it at the moment. The Report deals most thoroughly with the size, staffing and organisation of the Inspectorate. As I said earlier, my right hon. Friend has not yet completed his consideration of that Report and, from that narrow point of view, this debate comes a few weeks earlier than perhaps we might have wished. My right hon. Friend has, however, been able to make decisions about the number of staff, and these I shall be announcing. In addition, my right hon. Friend will be able to make further decisions in relation to organisation, training and other such matters when his final consideration of the Report is completed.
One of the most controversial points which was raised, quite properly, by the hon. Member for Newton, in opening the debate, was that of the qualifications required by the recruits to the Factory Inspectorate. What proportion of them 882 should come to it with technical qualifications, and what proportion should be men and women with degrees in non-technical subjects? I think that it is generally agreed that there should be a mixture of both types. I think that there are only a few who would advocate all technical or all non-technical recruits. There has always been a mixture in the past and, in my opinion, there should be a mixture in the future.
The argument concerns the proportion of this mixture. In deciding that, two factors have to be considered. The first is the nature of the work, and the second—and I earnestly commend this for serious consideration to those who for very good and excellent reasons are fanatical about increasing the technically qualified content of the Inspectorate—is the urgent need for technical manpower throughout the whole of our economy. Therefore, there is an added interest these days to make sure that all those with technical qualifications arc used with the greatest efficiency and, as far as possible, only in jobs where they use their qualifications to the full.
I want to look at the work of the Inspectorate against those two criteria. The only practical way of arranging the work of the general Inspectorate is on a geographical basis. It would be impossibly complicated and cumbersome to allocate particular inspectors to the particular industries in which they had special technical qualifications. The Factory Inspectorate could never be sure of sending the right specialists to the right factories, even if it had an unlimited supply of them. That, I think, applies more and more as industry becomes more and more technically complicated and more and more specialised.
If we were to depend for general inspection on the technical qualifications of the general Inspectorate, we should need not only more inspectors but an ever greater variety of different specialists. I ask the Committee to consider very carefully whether that is the right way to proceed. The work of the general Inspectorate certainly requires a knowledge of technical matters but it is in itself an executive job, and it does not involve an inspector actively practising his technique, say, as an engineer or as a chemist.
Many arts graduates have made excellent inspectors and have in fact reached 883 the highest positions in the service. So the knowledge of technical matters, which the Inspectorate does undoubtedly require, is in our opinion something which the arts graduate can pick up, provided—and this is important—that he is helped by suitable training and by the co-operation of his technically qualified colleagues both in the general Inspectorate and in the special branches of the regions. Against this background of the general nature of the work, coupled with the acute shortage of technical manpower throughout the country, it has been decided that there is not a case for aiming at any fixed percentage of technically qualified persons within the general Inspectorate.
Within the limits of this policy, however, every effort will be made to increase interest of potential candidates for the Inspectorate who have technical qualifications. The technical strength of the Inspectorate must be judged as a whole, particularly remembering the rôle of specialist branches. The rôle of these branches becomes ever more important as scientific and technical developments become more complicated and specialised.
I suggest to the Committee that it is in the staffing of these special branches that the Inspectorate can make the fullest use in all its work of people with scarce technical qualifications. In particular the engineering and chemical branch is of great importance. I may say that we are particularly concerned about the engineering and chemical branch. The load of work on that branch is exceptionally heavy. As the moment it is not able—and I admit this—to give as much help as is desirable in dealing with inquiries from the districts, or in dealing at first hand with all the problems calling for specialised knowledge. Moreover, the work of that branch will be substantially increased by the decision, which I have already announced, to expedite the production of several new codes and regulations and advisory publications. I shall shortly have something to announce in that connection.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Does that mean that there is now a retreat from what was said by the hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the former Parliamentary Secretary, in 1954, that it 884 was hoped to get 50 per cent. of technically trained men?
§ Mr. Carr
I think that the hon. Member has misconstrued the statement of my predecessor. My right hon. Friend put this matter into perspective in answer to a Question the other day. I think that I made the position quite clear—that we intend to try to attract more technical graduates to the Factory Inspectorate, but we do not believe that there is any logic which leads us to a fixed percentage.
I think that if the hon. Gentleman will look back and re-read the 1928 Report, which he quotes so freely that sometimes I wonder whether he knows the whole of it off by heart, he will find that it did not go quite so far in this matter, even in the conditions of 1928, as he himself sometimes suggests. No doubt, the hon. Member will catch your eye, Mr. Hynd, later and be able to explain his case then.
I want the Committee to consider more carefully than perhaps it has done this question of the general work and the diversification of specialists. The man in the field, if he is a specialist in only one faculty, is in fact only a specialist in a tiny bit of the work that he has to do. We have to consider whether, in these conditions, it is not better to concentrate so far as possible in building up the standard of work in our specialised branches, and whether this is not the best way of making use of our scientific manpower.
The hon. Member raised the matter of pay. The pay of the Factory Inspectorate is being reviewed, following the Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service and the subsequent agreement between the two sides of the National Whitley Council. That means that the matter is sub judice at the moment and I cannot, therefore, make any statement to the Committee. I am sorry about that, but I am sure that the Committee understands how these matters work, and will forgive me for not making a statement. I think that it would not be out of place if I expressed some hope that these deliberations will finally bring about some improvement in the position.
§ Mr. Carr
I now turn to the size of the Inspectorate. It is impossible to assess with any accuracy by how much the work-load of the Inspectorate has 885 changed. The actual number of factories which are covered has declined over the last thirty years, but I am not bringing that fact forward as an argument that the work has become less, because although the total number of premises has declined, the number of power factories has increased, and the inspection of power factories requires much more time and work than the inspection of non-power factories.
The changes both in law and in the nature of industry which have increased the load are the ones which are naturally obvious. On the other hand, there have also been changes which must have reduced the load, particularly the fact that there are now many more modern factories and also that industry is much more knowledgeable and co-operative in all these matters than it used to be. We must realise that the need for inspection in 1956 is very different from the need for inspection even twenty or thirty years ago. We have come to the conclusion that no formula for measuring work-load can give valid results, because conditions vary too much from area to area. It becomes less and less desirable to try to work to rigid rules.
Up to the end of 1954 it was the aim of the Factory Inspectorate to comply with the general standards of inspection recommended by the 1928 Committee of Inquiry. Since then, in the last two years, we have found that that formula introduced too much rigidity. For example, sonic factories where conditions were reasonably good and risks low were receiving unnecessarily frequent inspections, and vice versa.
Since 1st January, 1955, a revised scheme for planning visits of inspection was introduced on an experimental basis. Under this scheme the normal work of inspection is planned in each district by the inspector on a yearly basis. He decides which factories are to be accorded priority, having regard to the nature of the work, the standard of compliance with statutory requirements, the length of time since last inspected, and all relevant considerations of that kind. We are satisfied that these more flexible arrangements are on the right lines. We are aware of the point, which is of much importance, that inspectors should be able to make more check visits to follow up deficiencies in complying with the Acts which have 886 been drawn to the notice of occupiers during inspection.
Whatever else may be said about the work-load, it is certain that the coverage of building sites and works of engineering construction has added to it considerably. Although the general Inspectorate was increased by about 12 when the Building Regulations came into force, it is our opinion that more needs to be done. I come to the statement which I promised the Committee about the changes which we hope to make. The hon. Member for Newton talked about doubling the size of the Inspectorate. It is no use the hon. Gentleman expecting me to follow him in that view, and I doubt whether he seriously thought that I would. I have very grave doubts whether, were he in my position, as he once was, he would be thinking of proceeding with any such suggestion, either. I am sure that these matters must be dealt with gradually and steadily. In the last few years we have brought about an increase in the Factory Inspectorate in that we have brought it up to establishment.
My right hon. Friend proposes to increase the number of factory inspectors by such stages as are practicable in relation to recruitment and absorption. In the first place—this is a matter of priorities—the strength of the engineering and chemical branch, at present 18, is to be increased to at least 44. Subject to further consideration in detail this will enable my right hon. Friend to station one engineering inspector and one chemical inspector in each division.
In addition, there is to be some reinforcement of the general Inspectorate in order particularly to enable the inspectors to pay more attention to building operations and works of engineering construction. However, I cannot, for the reasons I have explained, so early in our consideration, put any figure to that general increase; and I cannot associate myself—I do not think the hon. Member expected me to—with any target such as that of doubling the present size.
I am afraid that I have given a lengthy review. I have done so because I wanted to cover the whole of the ground and, as far as I could, to answer the questions of hon. Members. In view of what has been achieved in building up the Inspectorate in the last few years, and in view 887 of what I have said about the new drive in regard to regulations and advisory pamphlets, the new decisions about the staffing of the Inspectorate, and the further consideration of its organisation which my right hon. Friend is still conducting, I hope that the Committee will feel that this Government, and my right hon. Friend in particular, are in earnest about giving a new drive to this important subject. That is what we intend to do now and in the future, and I hope that the results will be seen in fewer accidents and less illness and, therefore, more economic efficiency and more human happiness as well.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
We have just heard a very lengthy explanation of the work of the Department and, in the tail end of the hon. Gentleman's speech, we were told of some welcome improvements in that the Inspectorate is to be increased in size and that, at least, there will be prima facie some consideration of an increase in the salary of the inspectors. It was a lengthy and unique speech in that the debate is to last from 3.30 until 7.0, and this speech lasted for almost one hour. I am sure that the Committee would have received this with great irritation but for the fact that we have had this welcome information given to us. There has been a tendency in the preparation of the brief to keep the Committee quiet rather than to tell us of the important developments which are to ensue.
It is a tenet of Parliamentary practice that when we are in Committee of Supply there should be no Supply without redress of grievances, and, despite what the Parliamentary Secretary said, I still think that we have quite a number of grievances about the Factory Inspectorate and factory safety regulations. Reference has been made to my constituency. That could hardly be avoided in view of the fact that the accident in Keighley was the most tragic for many years. Eight people were burned to death due to the negligence of the employers in not having a fire alarm. Having said that, I pay tribute to the Minister for what he did after that terrible accident. He certainly got busy; he certainly "shook them up" locally. There is not the slightest doubt that it was as a result of his personal action that the regulations were changed.
888 My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) spoke about the inspection of factories by local authorities and said that in some areas it was almost impossible for this to be done. That point should be seriously considered. My hon. Friend comes from Lancashire and I come from Yorkshire; we were both reared in the engineering industry and weboth know that around the large industrial cities there are many small villages in which there are large mills. These mills are in areas where the local authority is a rural district or a parish council. These small local authorities have no borough engineer or medical officer of health, as such, and therefore no sanitary inspector. That means that there is no one competent to make the inspections. The only people who can do the work are officials from the Ministry of Labour. I hope that this matter will be considered. It certainly is germane to our discussion.
The fire at Keighley took place on 25th February, and eight people were killed. I have received information from a member of the council, which debated the matter last Thursday week, that since the fire not one single fire certificate has been issued by the local authority. If I were a cynic I should say that that was a very good job, too. Why should I say that? I should say it because the mill where the tragedy occurred had had a fire certificate granted to it despite the fact that the fire escape did not reach to all storeys and that there was no fire alarm. There is something seriously wrong when such a situation can arise in which fire certificates are granted without even the most cursory examination of the premises. I suggest that this question should be examined again.
The number of factories in my constituency is 161. Eighteen of them employ fewer than 20 people and, therefore, escape the provisions of Sections 34 to 37 of the Act which deal with safety from fire. Since 25th February, fifteen applications have been made, and one-third of the factories had been issued with certificates before the fire occurred. The position to date in Keighley, therefore, is that 79 factories have not taken the trouble to apply for certificates. That seems to me to be scandalous, and I should like to know what can be done to tighten the procedure.
That is the story despite the effort that the Minister of Labour himself has made 889 and despite his visit to my constituency. Despite the shake-up which has taken place in the Inspectorate, that is the position today and we have a long way to go. In fact, we are not far advanced from the situation described by the Parliamentary Secretary on 18th May, when he said:There is no doubt that non-compliance with this essential provision is widespread and Serious."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 1956; Vol. 552, c. 2429.]The hon. Gentleman was referring, of course, to the provision of fire alarms. Therefore, as I say, a great deal still has to be done.
I do not consider that the penalties under Sections 34 to 37 of the Act are adequate. The owners of the mill in my constituency at which eight people were killed, and where there was no fire alarm, were fined £15. In other words, the value of the lives was placed at less than £2 per head. This is a ridiculous and scandalous state of affairs, especially when one considers the fines that are sometimes imposed for minor motoring offences and when one remembers that people have been sent to gaol, even quite recently, for stealing bottles of milk. Surely, there is something wrong with an Act of Parliament which provides that the maximum fine shall be £20. I hope that something can be done by way of regulations to secure stronger penalties.
In many parts of the country, the response to the campaign initiated by the Minister has been quite satisfactory. I still think that a great deal depends upon the quality and type of the Inspectorate personnel. I was very pleased, therefore, to hear the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary today that there is to be an increase in the number of the Inspectorate and also that the question of remuneration is to be considered.
There is still need for many new regulations. I do not understand why, in the case of textile mills which have wooden floors—wooden floors are necessary in certain processes of spinning, but the wood could be laid on top of concrete—regulations cannot be brought in to allow a period of, say, ten years for the mills to be reconstructed and have concrete floors put in, against the penalty of having them pulled down, because, otherwise, the fire menace will always be present. In February, there were four factory fires in Yorkshire. In another instance, in the 890 constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), the machinery actually fell through the floor. Fortunately, it happened when nobody was in the mill.
The problem of these old mills is as well known to the Minister as it is to me. It seems to me that it can be overcome only by the making of new regulations. In view of the essential nature of both cotton and wool to the country's economy, it may be necessary, according to the prosperity or otherwise of the company concerned, for the Government to provide facilities for the provision of capital to enable reconstruction to be undertaken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton spoke of safety committees, which do valuable work. I do not want to enter into party politics on this issue, but I feel that the value of safety committees is greatest in industries and factories where there is strong trade union representation. In such places these committees are of real value, for the boss knows that other avenues are open to the trade unions for bringing pressure to bear. Insurance companies, too, are conscious that when death or accident befalls a trade unionist as a result of an employer's neglect, the payment of a considerable sum by way of compensation under the common law is likely to follow.
I wonder whether, when the position is being reviewed in the Department, the suggestion can be considered of making safety committees compulsory in large undertakings which employ fifty or more people. This would be a welcome step and would prevent a number of the accidents which now occur. With a view to fire prevention, I should like to know whether regulations could not be introduced to ensure that textile mills are equipped with sprinkler valves. In the case of certain processes, this is essential.
It is strange that regulations under the Factories Acts do not, as far as I know, apply to railway running sheds. I do not know whether legislation would be necessary to secure their application in this direction. I should like to hear an authoritative statement from the Minister as to whether the provisions of the Factories Acts could not be extended to railway running sheds where, because of the age of the sheds, many of the conditions are deplorable.
891 The Opposition has been wise in selecting this topic for debate today so that we can ventilate the whole question of factory safety, which is vital and important to us all. I only hope that there will be great vigilance on the part of local people. I am well aware of the concern of the Minister and of the Parliamentary Secretary for human life, but a sense of urgency should be shown within the Department at a reasonable level so that factories can be examined at the earliest opportunity and without notice.
There should be ways and means also of stimulating the local authorities. The Minister has been very generous in helping them and in providing staff and advice, but it still remains the responsibility of a local authority to issue a fire certificate. We need to consider seriously those cases in which local authorities issue fire certificates to buildings which are not safe.
Finally, when the fire service estimates—this matter was also touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton—were considered by the Select Committee on Estimates in 1950–51 under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), the Committee examined the various difficult liaisons—I think that is the correct word to use—in respect of the duties of the various Departments. There seems to be some sort of malaise since Factory Inspectorate moved from the Home Office. There seems to be a certain amount of sour grapes. I do not know whether that has yet been cleared up.
There is also the question of the power of the Home Office in respect of fire precautions. I do not see why, as was hinted at by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton, fire safety in factories, mills and workshops, just as in places of public entertainment, could not be the responsibility of fire brigade officers. I believe we shall come to that in the end.
I thank the Minister again for what he has done following the fire at Keighley. The Parliamentary Secretary has shown in his speech that we are at least making progress. I hope that the points that I have raised and those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton will be considered, because I believe they are relevant and helpful in relation to improving the situation.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I welcome this opportunity for a periodical review of the operations of the Factories Acts and the various regulations which have been made during the last few years under the main Act of 1937.
I should like at the outset to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon a very far-reaching survey of the activities within the general structure of the principal Acts. Though many of the figures had previously been published, they were put together today in a most encouraging pattern, one which shows that in the great body of our principal industries substantial progress has been made in all aspects of health, safety and welfare during the last few years.
This is a matter which ought to exercise every Member of Parliament, but notably those on both sides of the House who represent industrial constituencies. My constituency is overwhelmingly an industrial one, and today I propose to deal largely with industrial matters not only as affecting my constituency but arising directly from my experience in industry during the last few years and in a wide variety of branches, particularly, of the engineering industry.
Last year about 450 men and women were killed in industrial occupations and about 160,000 injured. In addition, about 250 men and women were killed in occupations which are subject to the Factories Acts, though the actual fatalities did not occur in workships. Some 20,000 men and women in the same category were injured. That makes the total of about 700 fatal accidents and 180,000 injuries in one year. To that must be added a further 450 fatal accidents in the mines and a further very large number of injuries in coal mining or in occupations analogous to coal mining.
It is self-evident from these figures how very large the problem is and what a dreadful toll of human life is being taken year by year, largely as a result of inexperience on the part of managements and operators, largely as a result of inadequate safeguards being applied, and largely—I would emphasise this to the Minister—as a result of neglect to observe the provisions of the 1937 Factories Act.
I shall not deal with fire matters, particularly as the hon. Member for 893 Keighley (Mr. Hobson) has covered the subject adequately as the result of the tragic experience a few months ago in his constituency, but the magnitude of the problem will be apparent.
I cannot stress too strongly that the figures which I have given are in respect of reported accidents only. Hundreds of thousands of minor accidents occur in factories every year which never find their way into the general register of the factory concerned and are thus not classified as reported accidents. Consequently, they do not find their way into the Ministry's statistics.
The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) and the Parliamentary Secretary were concerned, of course, with the tremendous loss of productive time in British industry today as a result of reported accidents, but I would draw their attention to the fact that—I speak here from personal experience, without statistics, but I am sure I am correct—the loss of time through accidents which are not reported is much greater than that through accidents which are reported.
§ Mr. Collins
In this respect the hon. Member might have regard to the fact that the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance pays out in respect of 750,000 claims a year in respect of accidents, which is about three times the number of reported accidents.
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is a valuable piece of evidence which, I sadly confess, I had missed in my researches. If what the hon. Gentleman says is correct, it would suggest—I put it no higher than that—that the ratio of accidents which are not reported to those which are reported is as two is to one.
There is an enormous—I say "enormous" advisedly—loss of time in productive industry today, notably in the engineering group of industries, as a result of minor non-reported accidents, and of these none contributes to a greater loss of time than sepsis of fingers, arms and legs. When I refer to sepsis, I do not wish to impinge upon a forthcoming speech—if he should catch the eye of the Chair—by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross).
I know from my own experience that in factories, notably in the engineering group, saw milling, and so on, very large numbers of minor accidents which are 894 only scratches are very often caused by a steel or wood splinter entering the operative's finger or arm, and if it is not attended to at once, sepsis is the inevitable result. In those factories which have no surgeries, but which rely upon first-aid boxes, referred to by the hon. Member for Newton, particularly in the context that many of the first-aid boxes are operated and administered by men and women with dirty hands—that is abundantly true—more often than not minor scratches of the kind I have described go untreated. The result is invariably sepsis and a tremendous loss of productive time.
In those factories, small, medium or large, where the managements have been sufficiently enlightened to spend capital moneys upon the installation of surgeries, staffed by State-registered nurses and similarly qualified and experienced persons, working time lost through minor accidents is greatly reduced. I am no Socialist. I loathe bureaucracy in every form. I do not like controls, regulations, inhibitions or restrictions. None the less, I am the strongest possible supporter of the objective requirements of the 1937 Factories Act, and I say to my right hon. Friend that the time has come in our industrial history when every factory employing more than 150 men or women should be required by regulation under the Factories Acts to have a surgery manned by a suitably qualified and experienced man or woman, preferably a State-registered nurse.
It may be said that there are insufficient trained personnel available in the country to do this. That was the argument, now largely disproved, which was advanced in pre-war days against requiring that every factory over a certain size should have a factory canteen. I shall come to that point in a moment. I want to impress on my hon. Friend that the improvement in continuous working of operatives in factories where those hazards to which I have referred exist, and where surgeries are available for treating them, is astounding when compared with those factories which have neglected to build surgeries and first-aid centres, and which are still reliant upon often ill-equipped first-aid boxes.
My right hon. Friend will know from his own observations that even though a first-aid box may be fully equipped first 895 thing in the morning and replenished during the day most of the bandages, and so forth, do not go to the treatment of injuries, but are generally pilfered. That is one of the principal difficulties of maintaining equipment in first-aid boxes. Another is the fact that the person in charge has ordinary production duties and his mind is on production work. That is why the system is often inefficient in its general operation.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I am not disagreeing with what the hon. Member says. There is a good deal of force in it. Has he considered that because of the difficulty of maintaining the contents of the boxes, for the reasons he has stated, in many factories the boxes are kept locked and that when required it is often very difficult to find the man who has the key?
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is a corollary of what I said. The man in charge of the first-aid box is often a person who has production duties. For that reason the first-aid box is kept locked and, if it is left open, its contents are invariably pilfered.
§ Mr. Nabarro
It is all part of the same difficulty. In larger factories—and I mean factories with 150 operatives or more—there should be a surgery in the care of a suitably qualified person. Many of these difficulties would thereby be removed with a consequent benefit to production.
A second reform which is long overdue is in connection with factory canteens. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made a welcome statement today about the disbanding and winding up of the Canteen Advisory Service which was introduced in the war before factory canteens in establishments employing more than 250 persons were compulsory. During the war years an Order was made that every factory employing more than 250 persons should have a works canteen. The point now arises whether, after the Canteen Advisory Service is disbanded, the industrial canteen contractors, who do very useful work in all parts of the country, notably in industrial areas, will be able fully to provide those services 896 which the Ministry's Canteen Advisory Service formerly provided?
The fact of the matter is that today we have a regulation that all factories employing more than 250 persons should have a canteen. I believe that this figure is much too high. The regulation was brought in as a war-time Measure. It was introduced to deal with shift working, often twenty-four hours round the clock, and often in factories and workshops where shift working had not previously been conducted. Today no enlightened employer should have any difficulty in providing a good canteen in any factory where more than 100 persons are employed.
Surely it would be a great aid to production, output and general welfare facilities to be able to say to employees that in the middle of an eight and a half or nine-hour shift they shall be provided with the facility of being able to buy a hot meal? Surely that should apply with equal force to a factory employing 100 persons as hitherto it has applied to factories employing more than 250 persons? There is now no difficulty with building materials or industrial building licences. It should be a compulsory requirement that all factories and workshops employing more than 100 persons, instead of 250 persons as at present, should provide proper feeding facilities.
I want to make a very short reference to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Keighley on the subject of regulations under the Factories Act, 1937. Many of the existing regulations urgently require attention. Many new sets of regulations arising from developments in technology over the last few years are long overdue. I want to give an example. I do not expect an answer today, but I would like my hon. Friend later on to write to me to justify why he has failed to amend regulations in respect of woodworking machine tools, having regard to the fact that the woodworking regulations were made in 1922, thirty-four years ago.
Does my hon. Friend know what a high speed electric router is? I am sure that with his industrial experience he will have come across it. He will know that a high speed electric router is a most dangerous machine. It was first used in this country in 1934 for woodworking purposes, but, later, under the impetus 897 of an expansion in aircraft production, notably in the early stages of the late war, the uses of this valuable machine spread to non-ferrous alloys. Today it is ubiquitous. Its spindle revolves at a speed higher than that of any machine tool commonly used in this country. It is applied on a general principle of a French spindle which is a much simpler tool, though still highly dangerous.
When the woodworking regulations were made in 1922, the high speed electric router was not even invented and brought to this country. No attempt has been made to bring the regulations up to date, although many accidents have occurred as a result of just this one type of machine that I cite. In my own personal experience of a factory for which I was responsible at the time, a man cut off the tops of three fingers as a result of an accident on this machine, and I believe that, indirectly, that accident might have been caused through the failure to classify it as a highly dangerous machine within the terms of the woodworking regulations, which I suggest urgently need revision.
Finally, I want to draw my hon. Friend's attention to one aspect of what he had to say today about factory inspectors. I do not go as far as the hon. Member for Newton who suggested that the proper thing to do would be to double the number of factory inspectors. Equally, I believe that in reply my hon. Friend missed the principal point. Of course it would be undesirable to staff the Factory Inspectorate on the basis of having highly qualified technicians of a specialist character. My hon. Friend is absolutely correct in that. Every factory inspector must be a "generalist," if I may use a somewhat hackneyed expression, in his approach to the manifold duties which are his responsibility.
For instance, he has duties such as seeing that the walls of the workshop are properly limewashed or painted. He has the sort of duty which calls for assuring that juveniles and young persons employed in the factory have been properly inspected by the factory doctor. He has the general responsibility of going into the works canteen and seeing that the arrangements are adequate. He might visit the factory at 10 o'clock at night—and how many times have I been caught by factory inspectors in the works on this 898 very point—with a light meter going around the machines and holding his light meter by the machine tools on which operatives are engaged to make sure that the lighting is correct for the work being conducted.
Those are all mundane processes and they do not call for highly-qualified technicians or university graduates to enforce the law. Of course, they do not, and women could perform such duties. What we want in the Factory Inspectorate is a much greater devolution of responsibility. I should like to see possibly 100 extra women employed in the Inspectorate. My hon. Friend told me today that the strength was 322. I should like to see 100 extra persons, all women, charged with largely non-technical responsibilities of a mundane and enforcement character, for the reasons to which I have referred. I use the word "mundane" metaphorically.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I thought I detected some slight inconsistency in the remarks of my hon. Friend. He was calling for the recruitment of women, yet at Question Time today he very boldly said that a woman's place was in the home.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am sure, Sir Leonard, you would rule me out of order if I strayed into a discussion upon the emancipation of women, which would be only slightly germane to discussion of this subject. What I am saying is that there is a large number of young women who, coming straight from training courses—if necessary from universities—would willingly take up industrial duties within the Factory Inspectorate and deal with enforcement of many non-technical requirements of the Factories Acts. I hope my hon. Friend will not say in reply that there are women factory inspectors. I have suffered at their hands too often not to know that there are women factory inspectors. I am saying that there are many less technical duties within the duties of the Inspectorate—I have instanced only a few—which could well be dealt with by women of a lesser stature and rank than a full factory inspector. They should be recruited as general assistants to the factory inspectors in the various regions and areas of the country.
Those are a few of my comments upon the operations of the Factories Acts at 899 present. They are somewhat critical in character, but they are derived from my personal experience in factories in the post-war period and from observations brought to me by constituents in a largely industrialised constituency. My hon. Friend will not be able to reply today to all the points I have made. I hope that he will not omit to send me a full statement of the views of his Ministry on what I consider would be valuable adjuncts to the future operation of these important statutes.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
In one thing at least I find myself entirely in agreement with the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). When he spoke of the danger of neglecting so-called trivial wounds of the skin, particularly of the fingers. I am sure he was quite correct. It is not true, of course, that all those wounds become septic. If they did workers would become much more careful and would ask for treatment. Perhaps one in ten become septic, but out of that number an appreciable percentage leads to serious incapacity and sometimes total incapacity through necrosis of the bone by neglect, injury to the joints, stiffness of the joints, and so on.
The last part of the observations of the hon. Member, in reference to the dilution of the Inspectorate, struck me as being unusual, perhaps, for him. He was asking that we should put people of a different character into the Inspectorate. They would be a type of junior inspector and it would be something like comparing quack doctors with fully-qualified doctors. If that were all we wanted in the way of auxiliaries, I should have thought it possible to have them trained in the factory itself, for the hon. Member referred simply to observation work. After suggesting that it was not necessary to keep the Canteen Advisory Service, the hon. Member suggested that there should be a canteen in every factory where 100 or more people were employed. There seemed to be a contradiction in terms.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Member is doing me a great deal less than justice, as he will recall that I drew attention to the rapid growth of industrial canteen contractors in the post-war period. They are more than sufficiently equipped to 900 advise on any subject relating to industrial feeding. Those contractors were largely not there before the war, but they ought now to take the place of the publicly-paid Canteen Advisory Service, if I may so call it.
§ Dr. Stross
Nevertheless, I should have thought that the Canteen Advisory Service of the Ministry had other things in mind than advising on layout and industrial feedings. It could give a rather broader service. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that many people from abroad are shown over the Service and are taught a great deal about it. It has many requests of that kind.
Turning to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, I thought the last part of his speech a comforting placebo to those of us who listened to all he had to say. He told us that the engineering and chemical branch is to be raised from eighteen to forty-four. Naturally, I was delighted to hear that. He could not give the figures for the increase in inspectors with special knowledge of the building industry and we shall wait with some anxiety to see what those ultimate figures may be. I believe that at the moment the number of inspectors in the engineering and chemical branch is ten engineering inspectors and eight qualified in chemistry. I believe they all advise from London.
I understand they have been so overloaded with work that sometimes months have to go by before they can get to a problem. The fault, if any, must lie with the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend who, if things go wrong, accept responsibility just as they have a right to ask for praise when they are successful in their work. It is not unfair to say that some problems are just not ever answered. They become stale before it is their turn to be looked at. That, of course, is most undesirable. For that reason, the Committee was happy to hear that there is to be an appreciable increase in these key posts.
I should like at this point to refer to the addiction of the Parliamentary Secretary to the arts and arts-qualified men as being quite suitable to this work. He was, perhaps, accusing me of being somewhat of a purist because I want more people than we have been getting who are qualified in chemistry, physics and, 901 of course, engineering. I do not despise an arts degree; indeed it was far more difficult for me to write Greek verse than to obtain an honours science degree later. I accept that and I also accept that a good arts degree gives a man an excellent mental training, but we see that in the large factories, staff who are employed full-time on this work are chosen from technically-qualified men,
I think it is unfair to graduates brought in at 21 years of age and with or without a little training at Loughborough, if they are lucky, that when they go to supervise the work of a qualified safety officer they are faced by the fact that they really cannot match up to his knowledge. That is not fair and that is why I think it right to press that this great service, which looks after the health and welfare of 8 million workers, should have the best qualified people in it. I know that in his heart the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with me.
I have pressed this issue for some years because of the admiration I have always had for the Factory Inspectorate. As medical officer to the miners of North Staffordshire for twenty-five years and to the pottery workers throughout Great Britain, I have always admired and esteemed very highly the work I have seen the Inspectorate do in the area where I lived and worked. I would not take second place to anyone in my regard to the work the inspectors are doing. Therefore, anything I say must not be considered in any ay critical of the individuals in the service. It is critical of the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend and of the evil genius which lies behind them and which does not allow them to do what they ought to do with reference to salary scales.
When we had an Adjournment debate on 12th November, 1954, the predecessor of the Parliamentary Secretary, who is now Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, was very frank and candid on this problem. I raised the question as I am raising it now, and he said a number of things which I should like to quote verbatim from the OFFICIAL REPORT.
In answer to my complaint that the salary scales were such that we could not attract enough scientifically qualified men into the service, the Minister said that the responsibility was not entirely with his Department and that 902these things had to go through the great mill of the Civil Service machine as a whole.That is what I described a little while ago as the evil genius which looms over the shoulder of the Parliamentary Secretary and will not let him do what he would like to do.
He also said that I wasquite right in pointing out the very wide gap that now exists, for example, between a chief inspector and his colleagues in other parts of the Government service. That is an acknowledged fact, and I do not deny it.The Parliamentary Secretary Knows quite well that these salaries for the heads of Departments were the same in 1938—£1,650. Since then, there has been a 40 per cent. increase in the salary of the Chief Inspector of Factories, but for chief inspectors of mines, taxes and education the increase has been very much greater—between 80 per cent. and 120 per cent. If we have this downgrading of the Chief Inspector we get a downgrading, pro rata, of the whole of the service.
The former Parliamentary Secretary said that in the entry grade the position vis-à-vis starting rates in industry was very unfavourable by comparison, meaning that similarly qualified men are very much better off if they go into industry. I should like to quote the fourth point he made:One of the difficulties is to know why certain pockets in the Civil Service tend to lag behind others, or appear to have been left behind.This was in answer to my accusation of someone or other using the hen-pecking technique against this Department, this Ministry and the servants of this Ministry, and of downgrading the Ministry. That is not too strong a word to use when we compare the service with its position before the war.
I made it quite apparent, for example, that I was disturbed about this, and the Parliamentary Secretary knows that I have pursued him about it. Ultimately, as reported in column 1642, the former Parliamentary Secretary used these words:I do not agree that the standard of the inspectorate is dropping at all rapidly. That is something that may come far in the future if we fail to recruit more people in the next few years.There was no denial, it will be noted, that the standard had dropped but an assertion that it was not dropping rapidly.
903 My last quotation from his speech is his comment on pay. He said:… on pay, I cannot do more than say that I think the hon. Gentleman is quite right, and is justified in pointing out that the factory inspectors are lagging behind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1954; Vol. 532, c 1642–3.]Today we have heard that we cannot be told what is to happen to salary scales. We can only hope, therefore, that some realism will be introduced into the Department and some determination to see that we get a salary scale which will attract the sort of men we all agree we must have in sufficient numbers to see that the work which we are discussing this afternoon is well carried out.
We were told, as I have said, that there was no rapid deterioration. Let us consider what has happened since 1954. The Department still advertises regularly for recruits on the lines laid down in the regulations of 1928, and I have an advertisement here from a copy of the Manchester Guardian dated 1st June this year. I will read a phrase or two. Half-way down it reads:Candidates must normally be university graduates, preferably in engineering or natural science, or have comparable technical qualifications.At the beginning of the advertisement the salary scales are stated. Would-be entrants are told what they will be. Including extra duty allowance, where payable, the London salary was £533 at the age of 21, then, according to age, up to £708 at 26 or over, and rising to £969. That, I think, is about £100 or £120 a year less than the Works Scale. Those on the Works Scale are all technicians, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that there has never been difficulty in recruiting suitably qualified scientists or men with professional qualifications on that scale. Indeed, when evidence was given against a claim by them for increased payment a Treasury spokesman pointed out that people were queueing up to join, that there was a waiting list of people willing to join and that therefore no increase in salary should be granted because the position proved that no increase was needed. We all accept that; if people are queueing and are willing to join the service, and if there is no difficulty in obtaining recruits, that is evidence that the salary scale is reasonable.
904 With the Factory Inspectorate, however, as the Parliamentary Secretary told us today, a few years ago we were 100 down, and we have only recently been getting up to standard. From the point of view of technical qualifications, recent recruitment has been deplorable. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said, before the war the standard was that at least two out of three were qualified in chemistry, physics or engineering, whereas today the ratio is one in eight or one in ten.
As a result of a Question I asked the other day, I found that since March, 1953, we have appointed forty-eight inspectors, out of whom two are graduates in engineering, two in physics and two in chemistry, and not a single person had any qualification in building construction or civil engineering. Indeed, since 1945 hardly a single recruit has been brought into the service with experience in building and constructional engineering—and this at a time when we know from the last Report of the Chief Inspector, dated 1954, that out of 708 fatal accidents, 172 were in the building industry.
I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary knows that I am not overstating my case but simply giving the facts as they are—and because the facts are at long last accepted, we have this welcome news that we are to have such an increase amongst people with building experience and experience in engineering and in knowledge of chemical problems. I remember being told that in 1954, out of the ninety-five districts, thirty had no technically qualified staff, but since 1954 the figure has worsened and is now thirty-six. I call that a fairly rapid worsening of the situation.
Is it not obvious that we must think not only in terms of a terrible fire such as that which has been mentioned today? In these thirty-six districts there are no technically qualified staff; the men and women of the staff had arts degrees originally and have had to learn as they went on. Can anyone believe for a moment that, when processes become more complicated almost day by day, there is not a chance of a disaster of a chemical or engineering nature as well as from a fire? Should not, therefore, those who are in charge, at least to the extent of 50 per cent., know what the problems are and know them intimately? They should not have to learn them on 905 the job, but should have learned them in universities, in the first place, followed by practical experience, and should then enter the service to give us the advantage of their knowledge.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary think it fair to ask the Inspectorate to discuss problems with managament when the inspectors are meeting people in management who know very much more than they do because they have been specifically and technically trained, while the inspectors have not? Does not the Parliamentary Secretary accept that it is so easy for a technician to know when he is talking to a lay person, however long that lay person has been associated with a particular job; that really the technicians despise the lay people, because there must be a proper foundation of knowledge before one learns the sort of things which I think the inspectors should know when they speak with management?
Moreover, does he think it reasonable that a Member of Parliament, such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), should have to bring to the attention of the House and of the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance that, in his opinion, people in his division were dying of cadmium poisoning? That is what my right hon. Friend had to do. That knowledge did not come through the Inspectorate. That particular poisoning is now scheduled in this country for the first time. It is not reasonable that we should have to face that sort of thing. Was not this a failure on the part of a non-qualified Inspectorate? If it was obvious to a Member of Parliament, surely it should have been apparent to the Inspectorate.
§ Mr. Carr
It would seem that the hon. Member is arguing, therefore, that the whole of the Inspectorate should be technically qualified—not only that, but that the only inspectors to go to a particular factory should be technically qualified in the work of the factory he is visiting. Does he think that that would ever be a possible way of organising the work?
§ Dr. Stross
The Parliamentary Secretary should not quiz me like that, for at once he shows that he does not understand the problem, as I hope that he will understand it when he has been in the Ministry longer. Once technical training is obtained, a man can turn his mind to other things quite easily. If he is a 906 scientist he has a method, a system and a knowledge. He knows where to refer to. The Parliamentary Secretary used that argument in his brief and I was shocked to hear him say it. He must not do it. It is wrong.
§ Mr. Carr
With respect, I happen to have a degree in natural science, and I have always found it particularly difficult to make headway with engineers. I may be particularly stupid, but I have found others in the same difficulty. In referring to the work of the building Inspectorate, the words I used were:In addition, there will be some reinforcement of the general inspectorate in order particularly to enable the inspectors to pay more attention to building operations and works of engineering construction.I want the hon. Gentleman to be clear that there is an increase in the general Inspectorate to cope with the building work, and not an increase in a particular Inspectorate.
§ Dr. Stross
I am delighted to hear that the Parliamentary Secretary is scientifically trained. I am all the more shocked that he still sticks to what he says, but I will not pursue that, as I know that other hon. Members wish to take part in this debate.
I am not ashamed of raising the question of salary scales. I think that it is very important. In answer to a supplementary question which I put to him the other day, the Minister said that he was quite sure that it was not the Treasury which was at fault. I should like to know who is. I am perfectly sure that it is not the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister. Someone is responsible, and if it is not the Treasury it must be someone inside the Civil Service. It is about time we knew who is responsible for the running down of this great service. That it is running down, I think there is no difference between us.
Why should not this Inspectorate be like the works grade? I know that the Minister has told us that it is not necessary, but, as we have pointed out again and again this afternoon, the extra cost would not be great. Why should it be necessary to take men with arts degrees and send them to Loughborough at a cost of £630 a year over and above their salaries? It costs £7,500 a year to keep twelve of them there, and that would go a long way to improve the salary scale if it were offered each and every year.
907 I would say to the Parliamentary Secretary that, in the country as a whole, whether it is the magistracy or the T.U.C. or factory management, there has been for long, and quite rightly, a confidence that they could really rely upon the experience and skills of the Inspectorate. Indeed, this Inspectorate of ours has been a model. We used to boast about it all over the world, and people came from all over the world to learn from it. This confidence tends to be shaken. A disaster like the Keighley fire is the sort of thing that shakes confidence. In these days of automation, is it impossible that, through lack of experience, there may be a most serious breakdown, or what is called a "run-away"?
We should protect ourselves. The public believes that the Inspectorate is tremendously knowledgeable, but I am not sure whether, with the recruitment that we have had in the last few years, this is strictly true. There are more ways than one in which I think the Ministry could bring about what we all desire—improved health and improved safety, and the saving of life and limb amongst the industrial population.
We have spoken today about safety committees. May I, before I sit down, make this suggestion, which I am sure will not be strange to the Parliamentary Secretary? In many industries, joint consultation by means of a joint standing committee composed of employers, on the one side, and the trade unions on the other—with the Factory Inspectorate sitting in—which met at regular intervals to review how the regulations were being kept and to ascertain whether they were being properly enforced or carried out, could and would be most valuable. It would mean a levelling up. The factories which are not so reliable or whose standard is poor would be levelled up until they reached the standard of those factories where the regulations are really regarded as important and are kept. Such a suggestion was made to the pottery industry recently. The committee has not been established. I hope that it will be established soon, as otherwise I shall come to the Parliamentary Secretary for his assistance.
Finally, may I say again, as I said before, that I hope it is understood by 908 other people who, like myself, have a great affection for the Ministry, and for the Factory Inspectorate in particular, that any criticisms I make are rightly directed at the Parliamentary Secretary and his right hon. Friend?
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollok)
This debate is now drawing to its close, and I think it essential that all those who want to say something should be allowed to do so. I shall, therefore, drastically cut what I have to say. When my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) noticed that I wanted to catch your eye, Sir Leonard, he growled "stick to coal", in his usual endearing manner. I shall do so. I have been in coal mining for many years, but for some years now I have been managing factories, and I believe that in its regulations the coal mining industry has something to teach those whose duty it is to see that the Factories Acts are applied.
Those who manage mines have to acquire a sound knowledge of the law relating to safety and to management. They must pass a very stiff examination before they can become colliery managers. Every day reports about the condition of the mine and of the machinery in and about it are flowing to the manager's table. The manager is never out of touch with what is happening in the mine or in its engineering shops in respect to safety. All those reports are flowing in every day and must be signed by him individually. He cannot say that he did not see them. He must see them, and sign them, every day.
Nothing comparable takes place in factories. When I left mining and went into factory management of a fair number of factories, I was astonished to find two main differences from coal mining. First, I found an abysmal ignorance among many managers of the Factories Acts. Indeed, when I thought that it was my duty to learn the Factories Acts, as I had learned the Mines and Quarries Act, I asked at the factories for a copy, and I discovered that it was as difficult to find the Factories Acts in a factory as it was to find the Bible in a manse. Some large factories have officials to deal with the Acts involved, but most small factories have not. Therefore, it is vital that the manager should know the law.
909 Secondly, I have found a surprisingly low level of person employed as factory inspectors. I say that with great respect to factory inspectors, but they were the type attracted by the salary level. They did not reach the standard required for mines inspectors years ago. We used to enjoy bringing the mines inspector into the board room and having his advice, but that would certainly not be possible with the type of person whom I met as factory inspector. Nor would he expect it.
In Scotland, some females are employed as factory inspectors. I heard an hon. Member opposite say that women were a "dead loss" as factory inspectors, and I quite agree. When a factory inspector speaks to a chief engineer, he or she should be able to do so with knowledge; otherwise, the inspector will receive no respect. Frankly, I do not think that females should be employed in this capacity unless they are highly qualified.
I come to my main point, which is this. The Parliamentary Secretary reduced the question of accidents to a matter of statistics, but an accident in a factory can ruin the life of a person, or it can shatter the hopes and aspirations of his family. Yet in this country any factory, large or small, can be managed by anybody. One can appoint an old friend or a pal from a university. Today, many accountants are being appointed. The law does not say that he shall have any knowledge of the job or of the law of safety. I suggest that the Minister should consider requiring a certificate of competency to be obtained by anybody wishing to undertake factory management. No man should be allowed to manage a factory unless he has previously passed an examination which ensures that at least he has a sound knowledge of the Factories Acts. That should be a minimum requirement. This is a vital point.
I have noted the infrequency with which factory inspectors visit factories in Scotland. The conclusion one forms is that there are not enough inspectors. These factory inspectors ocasionally have had to prosecute firms and have to go into the courts to conduct their own prosecution. I have seen female inspectors cross-examining managers of big firms, and, frankly, it looked ridiculous. I thought that the inspector would be far better employed carrying out her duties inspecting 910 factories, and leaving the law to lawyers.
Another aspect of factory inspection which should receive the attention of my right hon. Friend is the electrical side. In these days of complex electrical installations it is important that we should have the benefit of the advice of factory inspectors with wide knowledge of electricity. Yet the electrical inspectors get to the factories under their control only about once in three years.
There are many matters which I, in common with other hon. Members, would like to see improved, but I have made one point which the time at my disposal allows me to make, and I hope that my hon. Friend will give it consideration.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) said with truth that there is great ignorance of the Factories Acts among factory managers, but I should have thought that that was something which factory inspectors ought to put right. It is one of their jobs.
I would join issue with the hon. Gentleman in his remarks about women factory inspectors. I have no particular brief in this matter, but I can say that in my experience I have found women factory inspectors who are competent and on top of their job. In my view, the Minister ought to consider this question of factory inspectors conducting their cases in court. No doubt, at times factory inspectors, whether men or women, would be at a disadvantage in this capacity, and this duty should be undertaken by lawyers rather than by factory inspectors. However, so far as my experience is concerned, I would not care to argue with factory inspectors in such circumstances whether they were men or women, so long as they were competent.
One point that has emerged very clearly in this debate is that the suggestions which the Minister has made with regard to the increase in the Inspectorate do not, in my view, go nearly far enough. A number of figures have been quoted. My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) mentioned a figure of 180,000 accidents in the factory inspectors' reports. But that is nothing like the total number of accidents which cause absence from work.
911 The average number of claims made to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for industrial accidents each year is something like 750,000. That is nearly four times the number of notified industrial accidents, all of them causing absence from work and loss to the employee, as well as claims upon the Treasury. In fact, the average amount of such claims is £10 million a year.
I have estimated that the lass of working time amounts to 150 million hours, which is the equivalent of about 60,000 workers wholly unemployed for a year. This is very nearly one-third of the present total unemployed, and at a modest estimate the amount of production lost through accidents is no less than £100 million a year, which is a very high proportion of the national product, quite apart from the cost in dead, maimed and injured, which it is impossible to compute in terms of money but which is very heavy indeed in terms of human suffering.
These figures apply only to accidents. They disregard the loss to industry through industrial disease. In many ways the factory inspector's job is to prevent conditions which give rise to industrial disease. Therefore, the figures which I have quoted for injury alone will be very much larger if we consider industrial disease as well.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to compare the £10 million cost to the Exchequer in industrial benefits and the £100 million cost to the national product in lost production with the £500,000 cost of the Factory Inspectorate. I hope the Minister will seriously consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Newton that the Inspectorate should be doubled.
We need more specialists, but we also want a much larger accretion of strength to the general Inspectorate. If the Minister should double the strength, it would be one of the finest and most sensible economies that he could make, and it would repay ten-fold to the Exchequer and a hundred-fold to the national product.
Speaking as an employer, I have a particular horror of accidents. I am very severe with my own employees in the case of any infringement of the safety regulations, and I believe that I have now inculcated into them a respect for 912 all kinds of regulations. I was particularly interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Newton speak frankly and apparently without any condemnation of the workers who will thrust aside the guards on machinery in order that they may achieve greater speed and larger earnings, particularly if they are employed on piece work. That is something which should always be condemned, but whatever we do as employers of workers, we know that accidents will happen. I am sure that if there were sufficient factory inspectors to permit one inspection per factory each year, and to permit also of the inspectors going back to check up and see that their instructions had been carried out, the toll of accidents would be at least halved.
At present, we know that insufficient visits are made, and we know that in 1954 the inspectors were able to carry out only half their programme. There is no wonder at that when we consider that we have 300,000 industrial establishments and only 360 inspectors. Even in the industrial areas, four visits a day is the maximum possible, while in the rural areas they can sometimes manage only two, or perhaps three. They have to see that all factory orders are being complied with in respect of cleanliness, temperature, ventilation, lighting, methods, conditions, construction and maintenance, hoists, lifts, protection of steam boilers and a hundred and one other things.
There is also the office work involved in the preparation of cases and reports and the investigation of complaints and accidents. The factory inspector has to take cases to court, attend inquests, undertake committee work, give lectures in technical schools and is supposed to do the vital job of detecting new hazards in industry. Now the Parliamentary Secretary has announced they will have to master the mass of new orders which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
It is a highly important job, requiring very considerable knowledge and experience of industry, as well as academic qualifications. With their present personnel, they cannot carry out routine in spections within one year in more than half our factories. What are these routine inspections like? In a good factory, the inspector will come in, have a look at the accident book, look at the juvenile 913 register, walk through the machine shop to see that all the fences are in place, make one or two comments on the need for lime-washing and go away for another two years. That may be all that is necessary in a good factory, in which he knows regard is had to safety measures.
What I should like to see is some positive action. I should like the inspector to have time to call the chaps together and give them a talk, in large as well as small factories, because I believe that the incidence of accidents in small factories is higher than it is in large factories. The inspector should call them together and reinforce what the management are trying to do to make the workers accident prevention conscious. He should have time to talk to them and create some sort of enthusiasm. We know that at present he has no time to do these things.
When he goes into a bad factory, or perhaps one newly taken over, the chaps may be on piece work and may be foolishly co-operating with a bad management by sacrificing safety measures in the interests of speed. Of course, the inspector orders them to fence the machinery, provide guards and do everything that common sense and decency should have told them to do anyway, but he does not go back within a few weeks to see that his instructions have been carried out. He has not got the time to do it, although there is a clear instruction to that effect.
He does not prosecute the employer, and I will give way to the Parliamentary Secretary if he can quote me one instance from the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories in which a prosecution has taken place for unfenced machinery or any other misdeed on the part of the employer until there has been either a fatal or very serious accident. They prosecute only after somebody is dead, and it just is not good enough. It is quite scandalous that we have to wait for death or serious injury before something is done about it.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), I do not blame the factory inspectors for this situation for one second. They are a first-class body of men. The real culprits have been successive Governments, because this neglect has not just happened but has been going on for a long time. The only reason we have to put this case to the present Minister is because 914 he is the one now responsible, but it is a scandal that it should have continued for so long.
I submit that if factory inspectors are to do their jobs properly and visit every factory once a year, to go back on check visits and do constructive, forward-looking work in this way, then we ought to double their numbers at present and we ought to give them more money. We must improve the standard of qualifications of the men and women who are to enter the Inspectorate, and the position in this regard is worse than it was before the war. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton said, the difference in salary with comparable people in the Civil Service is at least £100 to £120 against the factory inspector. When one compares their salaries with what they could get in industry, there is no wonder that recruitment is poor, and that once people get inside the Factory Inspectorate, they soon come to their senses. I therefore hope that these things will be altered as quickly as possible.
I would say to the Minister that the Inspectorate is discharging functions of vital importance to nearly half the nation's working population. The inspectors have the job of saving life and limb, and there are not enough of them for the task they have to do. There will not be enough until we pay them properly, and this is a matter of the greatest importance. I hope the Minister will be able to convince the Chancellor that, contrary to the belief that the present policy is saving manpower and money, it is wasting it. I urge him to spend another £500,000 in order to save £10 million.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
A few weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan) asked a Question about the number of days lost through the causes which we have been discussing today, and I recall that the reply of the right hon. Gentleman received a great deal of publicity in the national and local Press. I was surprised at the extent of the public reaction, and at the number of people who personally expressed to me their surprise at the number of days lost, and their concern about the matter.
We recognise, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has told us, that the surprise of people about these figures 915 is not an indication that the position is any worse than it has been in the past. The trouble is that we have not yet recognised the extent to which the country has been wasting some of its limited resources of manpower in this way.
We recognise that there has been an improvement in the figures for the days and hours lost. Moreover, the figures themselves do not reflect the increase that has taken place in the total amount of manpower in employment in this country. In other words, a percentage figure gives a far better indication of the situation than the actual figures. Nevertheless, the figures of time lost from industrial sickness, injuries and accident are indeed very disturbing even now. In comparison, even our records of hours lost from industrial disputes are of comparatively manageable proportions.
Quite rightly, we devote a great deal of our time to the problem of improving relations between the parties in industry, but how much more should we do to try to lessen this industrial sickness and injury? Here, I believe, we have the greatest potential reservoir for further increases of output and production. Britain can no longer afford this wastage of her limited resources.
I want to mention one aspect of this question which has not received much attention, if any at all, in the report of the sub-committee of my right hon. Friend's Department. I refer to the importance of bright and attractively illuminated workshops. I am sure that some of the older industries, with their older types of plant and workshop, have suffered under great disabilities in this respect, and I respectfully suggest—certainly, it has been my own experience—that when we have a well-aired, well-lighted and brightly-painted building, we are much more likely to create the sort of mentality which goes with the desire for safety in factories, and to get rid of the causes of trouble.
This has been my experience; and we, in the Development Area of South Wales, have seen a very good example shown by very many of the newer factories on the trading estates and in other parts of the Development Area. I am quite sure that this is an important aspect of the subject, and I am surprised to note that it has received no mention in the Report. I do 916 not want to exaggerate the importance of it, but I want to know to what extent my hon. Friend's Department can influence the renovation of the older factories to bring them into line with the newer ones.
As regards the Inspectorate, I agree with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be undesirable to have any fixed proportion of technical personnel. I am sure that it was quite reasonable for the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), in his very interesting speech, to stress the importance of bringing the force up to establishment, and, indeed, to call for a greater increase. I am sure that he will also agree that my hon. Friend was on sound ground when suggesting that the first thing is to get the force up to establishment, before we try to increase it.
On both sides of the Committee it is felt that there is a strong case for an increase in the number of inspectors. We are glad that my hon. Friend has given an assurance that that is being considered. He has told us that the matter of salaries is to some extent sub judice. The Factory Inspectorate, like the police forces and all those bodies which, during the days of unemployment, attracted people because they afforded security of employment, have suffered since the war. It may be that to maintain these services, and particularly the Factory Inspectorate, at the desired level of strength and of quality, we shall have to pay considerably more.
The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) made a very good point, I thought, when he said that the extra expense might be more than compensated in the savings which would result from the prevention of injury and disease. I hope that the Government will consider this aspect of the question.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I wish to address the House quite briefly on one rather narrow point, which is nevertheless of some importance, because it does involve the possible saving of human lives. Before I do so, may I first join in the tributes which have been paid to the Factory Inspectorate? It is my duty from time to time to meet members of the Inspectorate, particularly when there has been a fatality in industry, and I have always been impressed by the very high standard of service which most of them give to the community, and the 917 very conscientious way in which they discharge their duties. There are undoubtedly many men and women who are alive today, or who have not suffered injury, because of the work which the inspectors have done, and because of the co-operation which they get from the majority of industrial users.
Why the record should be so good when there are so few inspectors is something of a miracle; perhaps it helps us to appreciate the value of the services which these men and women give. When one considers that about half the total productive processes in this country are carried out in some 50,000 establishments with less than 400 people, one can well be amazed that the inspection and supervision of industry continues as smoothly and efficiently as it does.
The particular matter to which I wish to draw attention arises from the Docks Regulations made in 1934. I did give rather short notice to the Minister's Office that I proposed to raise this Question, but I shall quite understand if I cannot get any answer today. It may well be that the Docks Regulations are some of those to be revised in the programme which the Parliamentary Secretary outlined this afternoon.
The particular Regulation to which I wish to draw attention is Regulation 2 (b), which is contained in the Regulations issued in 1934, Statutory Rule and Order No. 279. The Regulation reads:Provision for the rescue from drowning of persons employed shall be made and maintained, and shall include"—there follows then a reference to life-saving appliances, to which I need not refer. The Regulation goes on to say:(b) Means at or near the surface of the water at reasonable intervals, for enabling a person immersed to support himself or escape from the water, which shall be reasonably adequate having regard to all the circumstances.This Regulation is, in fact, based on one first introduced in 1904, under the authority of the old Factories and Workshops Act, 1901. I gather that the Regulation has been incorporated in the 1934 code in almost identical terms, and it follows, therefore, that this Regulation has existed in this form for some fifty years.
The surprising fact about this 50 years old Regulation is that it seems that very 918 few dock authorities in the country have ever done anything to comply with it. The dock workers inform me that the only provision found in many docks and quays is ladders some 200 feet apart, or in some cases no less than 300 feet apart. It really cannot be supposed that ladders at that distance apart are adequate to comply with the Regulations. Such a distance assumes that every person is able to swim some 150 feet, in whichever direction is open to him; and if one remembers that most workers who fall into the docks will be fully clothed, and the weather may be cold, one realises that it is expecting an effort that even strong swimmers could not undertake.
The courts have recently expressed the view that at any rate 300 feet is not a reasonable interval. In some cases, I am told, the ladders were in fact built in the docks before the Regulations were introduced, so that it is quite clear that they really were not placed with any satisfaction of the Regulation in contemplation. I should have thought, in view of this recent judicial expression of opinion in the courts, that the time was now ripe either for the Regulation to be rewritten, if it is not clear, or for the Ministry to take some action.
Naval architects in technical journals have suggested that ladders are certainly not the only means by which the Regulation could be satisfied. It is suggested, for example, that floating spars could be lowered down the dockside when a ship is being loaded or unloaded. These floating spars are made of timber 3 inches or 4 inches in diameter. They would enable a person who fell over to have a reasonable chance of striking out and grasping something. They could either be continuous along the dock when a ship is in position or else at frequent intervals. Floating spars would certainly give a chance to a man who fell in, which is, I suppose, all that one could expect from the Regulations. The great advantage of floating spars, as it seems to me, would be that they could be taken out of the water when the ship was not there if it were thought that they might be a nuisance to small craft using the docks.
There are other means as well. One or two dock authorities, have, I gather, used vertical hanging chains, some 10 feet or 20 feet apart, so that a man may, if he falls in, have a chance of swimming 919 or kicking out a few feet in order to grasp something. Recessed bars have been suggested as another means, such bars being let into the side of the dock. At any rate, it seems to me that some more active effort ought to be made by dock authorities, instead of the situation we find in so many docks today.
It may well be that the Regulation itself is rather difficult to construe. The wordsMeans at or near the surface of the water at reasonable intervalsand the immediately following words,for enabling a person immersed to support himself or escape from the waterare clear; but the difficulty, as I see it, comes with the words,which shall be reasonably adequate having regard to all the circumstances.The dock authorities may well have thought that this provision was so vague, giving them no indication of what was reasonable or required, that they have done nothing about it. But, in addition to the recently expressed judicial opinion that an interval of 300 feet is not reasonable, the courts have also suggested that it is wrong for dock authorities to make no attempt to comply with the Regulations. In view of that very strong Judicial opinion, I hope that the Minister may be able to give an indication of his attitude and that of the Inspectorate. Another surprising thing is this.
Although, the Regulations, in one form or other, have existed for fifty years, as far as I can trace there has never been a single prosecution. It is not that people do not fall off dock walls and get drowned, because they do, but I cannot trace a single instance of any prosecution under these Regulations. It may be that the construing of the Regulations is regarded as too difficult. In that case, I certainly hope that their revision will be included in the programme announced today by the Parliamentary Secretary. I am sure that the explanation cannot be that the Ministry is satisfied that the Regulations are being observed in the docks, for my information from those concerned all over the country is emphatic that the Regulations are not being complied with. I should like to know whether there have, in fact, been any prosecutions, and if not, what is the reason.
920 I have tried to get figures from the hon. Gentleman's Department of the numbers of fatalities involved, but it has been explained to me that this is difficult because these fatalities in docks are not recorded separately from the figures of other deaths. Then there are those who fall over the side whilst under the influence of intoxicants, and it has never been suggested that any regulations could save them. It has, however, been estimated in one fairly large dock area, whose name I do not propose to mention, that four or five people a year are drowned in that one dock system alone. If we multiply this by the number of docks throughout the country, it could well be that 20 or 30 people die yearly from drowning in the docks, whose death could be prevented if a reasonable attempt were made to comply with Regulation 2 (b). If that is the case, it is incumbent upon the House and upon the Minister to take every practical step to see that some chance is given to people when they fall into the water.
I am profoundly dissatisfied with what I believe to be the position throughout the docks, and I hope that, if not today, at some time in the future, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to assure the House that action is contemplated.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
It is a good thing that we should be able from time to time to discuss the operation of the Factories Acts and the prevention of accidents in industry. First, however, I apologise to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that I was unable to be present to listen to the whole of his speech, but I had other duties elsewhere in the House. I will, however, read in HANSARD what he said, and I will do so with the greatest of interest.
I do not want to deal with the question of whether there are sufficient or too few factory inspectors. I am one of those who likes to see as few inspectors as possible, but if the need for them is proved, it is essential that we should have adequate numbers and that they should have the necessary technical qualifications to do their job in industry, particularly as many new problems of electricity, and so on, now come into industrial operation. It is essential that the inspectors should be qualified to advise and to deal with this kind of problem.
921 I want for a few moments to refer to accidents and injuries caused by fire. From the Report by the Industrial Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council, it is difficult to see exactly what figures are involved in this type of accident, but I have no doubt that they are significant. What we cannot see, even from the numbers of accidents involved, is the loss of production and, particularly in the case of fire, the loss of valuable industrial equipment and stocks.
Reference has been made by a number of hon. Members to the tragic fire at Keighley not so many months ago. That was near to my own constituency, and all of us in Yorkshire and in the North of England were shocked by that tragic occurrence. The matter was impressed very much on my mind the other day when visiting a mill in the North of England which had recently been taken over by a new concern, which was no longer manufacturing textiles but intended to use it for another purpose. All the machinery had been removed from the mill and at the time of my visit the new owners were paying particular attention to the fire-fighting apparatus in the building. They had employed a local person with specialised knowledge of the subject.
They had removed from the walls the rows of fire extinguishers, of the red, conical type, which had no doubt been there for many years. These bits of equipment were taken to pieces and were found to be almost 100 per cent. useless. For years, no doubt, the chemicals inside them had been corroding the metal parts. The nozzles through which the foam was intended to flow had become corroded and useless. As I saw these bits of apparatus taken down and how useless they were, I thought of factory inspectors and others who on their visits probably see rows of similar apparatus, gleaming behind a new coat of paint perhaps every few years, making a shining selection which could almost be called whited sepulchres but which when needed to be used might be quite useless.
One or two of the extinguishers which I saw had retained the necessary chemical composition to cause the proper reaction, but instead of the fluid coming out through the appropriate nozzle, the whole thing had exploded; and had it needed to be used, it would merely have covered the individual who was trying 922 to extinguish the fire. In addition, the fire hoses had been removed from the walls. They had been there for many years, possibly for as long as half a century, and these also were found to be quite useless.
Listening to the debate today and hearing of the various functions performed by different local authority officers in trying to tackle this problem, I wondered whether we go far enough. On occasion when going around our industrial towns, which have their excellent fire brigades, one sees men who are constantly on duty polishing the fire engines and with nothing else to do. It occurs to me whether they would not be better employed, particularly as they are all highly trained in every aspect of fire fighting, in going round to some of the local factories and works and systematically going through the existing fire-fighting apparatus.
§ Mr. Drayson
I am glad that the hon. Member has mentioned that. It is a fact that these fire prevention officers are not allowed to go into factories unless they are invited. That is a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs. I consider that fire-fighting officers, in the same way as those who are concerned with civil defence, should have a map and plans of their area. They should know of all the likely places where fires might break out and they should be able systematically to go round and see that the equipment on the spot is properly maintained.
However, I saw only the other day those examples of old and defective equipment, equipment which had become defective by age, and I am very glad of the opportunity of this debate to draw the Minister's attention to the grave possibility that in other places, too, defensive equipment is likewise old and defective. I am sure that he is aware of that possibility. I think he and the local authorities should have power to enter places where fires are likely to occur, to satisfy themselves that all reasonable precautions are being taken against the danger of fire and that the fire-fighting equipment is up to date and effective. By this means many lives and limbs could be saved, and valuable industrial assets, too, which otherwise may be put out of commision.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I wish briefly to bring forward some matters that were put to the Parliamentary Secretary on 20th June by the Foundry Committee of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and also by T.U.C. experts on the matter. I must say that the union leaders have a very high regard for the Parliamentary Secretary's experience and background knowledge of foundries and also for his sympathetic interest in the matter, but they do not feel that everything that could be done is being done. Indeed, when one considers the mass of human misery resulting from pneumoconiosis and foundry accidents one feels that more action must be taken. I think that if we Members of Parliament were subject to the same risks and dangers as foundrymen no expense would be spared to avoid those dangers.
§ Mr. Hobson
My hon. Friend has referred to the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I have been a member of that union for thirty years. He said there have been communications of a complimentary character between the Department and the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I think we ought to place it on record that the communications which have been made have pointed to the fact that the Factories Acts do not cover men engaged in maintenance work, if they have accidents.
§ Mr. Allaun
I do not quite see the relevance of that remark. I was referring to the recent visit to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Foundry Committee of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.
The attitude towards many of these dangers is sometimes, I fear, "out of sight out of mind". It is possible even with existing knowledge to forestall quite easily many of the dangers which at present exist even in small works, even old works. During the past week I visited in my own constituency Hodgkinson's foundry, an old and a small foundry. Because the management was concerned about these matters it introduced an entirely enclosed knockout, so that the small particles of metal, which previously entered the lungs of the workers, are now removed from the foundry air. If this can be done in a small and old foundry, how much better placed are the large foundries to carry out such precautions.
924 The unions made certain recommendations to the Parliamentary Secretary. They called his attention, first, to the question of premature retirement. It is a striking fact that between 1931 and 1951 the number of men aged from 55 to 64 in the foundry industry fell by 35 per cent., whereas the total numbers employed fell by only 8 per cent. That suggests that men are completely worked out by the age of 50. It is a terrible thing that a man approaching the age of 50, while not too old to find a job, should be too old to keep a job because of the exertions of his previous employment—strangely enough, even in the more mechanised foundries. It is significant that of all the unions, only three, those of the constructional engineers, the miners and one other, have a higher incidence of industrial injury than the foundrymen's union.
More detailed surveys should be taken of the foundry industry. In the 1954 Report, 385 new cases of pneumoconiosis in steel and iron foundries came to light. I do not know whether the 1955 figures are available. I should very much like to know, and I should also like to know whether they show a further worsening of the position.
Even with existing knowledge it is possible to prevent industrial disease from dust. For instance, I believe that the unions are absolutely right in saying that every abrasive wheel should be fitted with an exhaust to control the dust. Similarly, every dressing shop should have adequate ventilation by statutory requirement, not merely by recommendation. Every pneumatic chisel can be fitted with an exhaust hood. Recently, I saw a remarkable film of the excellent work done by Mr. Laurie, of the Factory Inspectorate. Here is an invention which withdraws the dust created by the pneumatic chisel. It is attached to the chisel itself. This invention is in existence, but I wonder to what extent it is being used. That is the important point.
Another suggestion, not raised by the unions, but generally raised by many foundrymen, is that the weight of a moulding box when fully rammed with sand should be stamped on it, because that would indicate to the crane men and the foundrymen whether the crane is adequate to deal with the weight.
Mr. W. N. Lord has been able to trap the fumes given off by a mould before 925 cooling, and it seems to me that this may be of value not only to foundrymen but also to the general public. If cancer can be caused by fumes, then the trapping of fumes may be a solution of that problem for the general public.
I know that the time for the debate is running out, and I must keep my remarks short, but I must point out that, although the Garrett Report made certain recommendations, there is yet nothing to prevent even new foundries from being built at standards far below those suggested in the Report. We recently passed the Clean Air Act, under which, on a certain date, all furnaces, old and new, have to be of a certain standard. In the foundry industry there is no requirement about the standard of the furnaces, and there is no standard in existence even for the new furnaces which are being laid down at this moment. It should be laid down by Statute. Enough money should be provided to the Factory Department to enable it to undertake full research into all these problems. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to go some way to meet the recommendations of the men and the unions most closely concerned.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
It has been my good fortune to listen to practically the whole of the debate. I share that honour with others and particularly with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, but fortunately for us this is a vast subject and it has many facets. On the question of the kind of Inspectorate we want, we had as usual a very eloquent speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). He and some of my hon. Friends veered definitely towards the scientifically-minded inspector. I am not so sure that we should become unduly obsessed with that aspect. What we want is a competent Inspectorate, adequate to the need.
There is much to be said for the knowledgeable layman in the Inspectorate, as there is, of course, for the technician or the scientifically-qualified inspector. One may have a first-class general knowledge and the other a specific knowledge of a particular subject. The great responsibility upon the inspector, however, is not to impress the management 926 with the kind of scientific knowledge he possesses when he turns up for an interview but to see that the provisions of the Factories Acts are fully implemented.
That lies with the scientific and technical advisers at the Ministry and is not sweetly reposing in the breast of a particular inspector. We do not need a technician to go all the way to Keighley to tell various firms there that they ought to have a fire alarm put in a place where it can be sounded and from which everybody in the works can hear it.
§ Mr. Moyle
Yes, a police officer would be adequate to the need.
The increase in the rate of accidents in the building industry is very disturbing. When the Parliamentary Secretary kindly gave way to me, he referred to one aspect of my inquiry as relating to the engineering industry. As the hon. Gentleman knows from his own industrial experience, the building industry has undergone revolutionary changes. He will know that part of the industry has undergone an astonishing change by reason of the use of steel skeletons in building. The massive buildings of today are virtually erected by the use of steel skeletons and a tremendous amount of that kind of work is carried out.
I was very glad to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that he is well aware of these developments. I hope that the whole matter is being reviewed and that regulations will be drawn up in such a way as to do everything possible to protect the men who take amazing risks in the course of their employment and who, incidentally, do not receive wages commensurate with the risks that they take.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) spoke of industrial health and referred to the statement made recently by the Minister of Labour, who astonished the House of Commons by saying that 280 million man-hours were lost each year and that at any given moment I million people were absent from work through injury or sickness.
§ Mr. Moyle
In any large industrial establishment, conducted by an intelligent and progressive management, there can be found a fine industrial health service with a proper surgery, with nurses in attendance and a doctor available. Minor injuries and illnesses are treated on the spot. Not only is that an economy to the industry concerned, but it relieves our overcrowded hospitals. While that is true of large industrial establishments, hundreds of small factories have nothing better than a first-aid service which is supplied because one or more employees have undertaken to study first-aid under the auspices of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.
Would it not be possible for the Ministry, in conjunction with the Factory Inspectorate, to conduct a survey in each locality and have the local authority informed of those industrial establishments which provide physio-therapeutic services? The local authority should keep a register of those services and they should be made known to any management or owner of a factory, small or large, so that where there is no service available and an injury occurs on the job, advantage can be taken of the nearest adjacent service. I hope that all these points, and particularly the last that I have mentioned, will receive the attention of the Ministry.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Barber],—put and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.