§ Order for the Second Reading read.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. lain Macleod)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
A Measure which makes further provision for the health, safety and welfare of those employed in factories is sure of a general welcome, although it may be a critical welcome here and there. I do not doubt that there will be controversy about what is in the Bill and also, perhaps, about what is not in the Bill. All the same, we have always tried to approach the problem of health, safety and welfare of those employed on a reasonably non-party basis.
This is not a major Bill by the standards of the great Bills of 1901 and 1937, but it is a good deal more than a collection of after-thoughts or a tidying-up Measure. The Factories Acts impose statutory obligations, for the most part inevitably upon employers, to do some things and to refrain from doing others, with the object of establishing by the force of law minimum standards of safety, health and welfare in industry. This approach over the years has achieved a very steady improvement in those standards.
I should like to recall what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said when, as Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, he wound up the Second Reading debate on the Factories Bill of 1937. He said that there are a great number of people who are sound in wind and limb as a result of factory legislation, though knowing nothing about it. This is a tribute to the essential soundness of that legislation, which has been built up for a century or more.
I do not think that this is the sort of Bill on which it would be helpful to the House—and it would certainly be tedious—for me to try to go through it Clause by Clause. Those are matters which, in the main, we can leave to Committee. I think that the most useful contribution which I can make is to talk about the three major developments in the Bill.
854 That to which I first direct the attention of the House is contained in Clause 19, which represents a new, and I think an important, departure in factories legislation. I believe that we have probably reached a stage when adding to the law by compelling those concerned in industry to do some things and not to do others—necessary though this is—may not always be the best method of proceeding from the present position. This is not an entirely new policy. It has been the practice of the Factory Inspectorate over the years to act not only as officers who apply the law, but also as those who give advice, and I know that this advisory work is welcomed in industry and has assumed increasing importance.
Apart from action taken by individual employers, many industries have set up machinery to discuss these problems of safety, health and welfare at a national level. During the last few years both the British Employers' Confederation and the Trades Union Congress have taken very useful initiatives in this field to develop interest throughout industry. Both have expert committees which deal with safety, health and welfare.
It therefore seems to me right that this voluntary method of dealing with safety, health and welfare should, for the first time, have a firm statutory basis. This is achieved by Clause 19, which imposes an obligation upon the Minister to promote safety, health and welfare by the collection and dissemination of information and by investigating or assisting in the investigation of problems.
If the House agrees to this Clause, I am to have not just a statutory authority but, more important, a statutory duty to work in co-operation with those concerned in industry and to help them in studying these problems. Much of this kind of work has been done in the Ministry and I have tried to intensify it a good deal in the last few years. For example, since 1954 we have set up the Industrial Health Advisory Committee, which has done very good work indeed, the Industrial Safety Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council and the Advisory Committee on Safety and Health in the Building and Civil Engineering Industries, which are industries where there are special risks.
855 I propose to develop this voluntary co-operative approach as far as I possibly can, because I am certain that, with industry organised as it is at present and with the increasing interest of both sides in these problems, it will prove a sound and practical way of making progress. If I may mention two examples of the kind of work which I should very much like to see developed, they are the industrial health surveys at Halifax and in the pottery industry which were carried out recently and from which invaluable knowledge has been obtained. It seems to me that this is a development which the Ministry ought to pursue in the future.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I notice that Clause 19 refers to the principal Act. Will the Minister make it clear to the country that there are thousands of railway installations, many shops and offices, not covered by the principal Act and to which this Clause will not apply?
§ Mr. Macleod
That is quite true. The only place where railways are covered in the Bill is in one of the subsections of Clause 17. The hon. Member's point is perfectly correct.
I come to Clause 17, which contains the second major development. The principal Act, the Factories Act, 1937, and a number of related Acts contain detailed provisions restricting the hours of employment of women and young persons. In the 1937 Act alone there were 28 Sections devoted to this matter. The Act limited the number of hours to be worked in each day and to be worked in each week, the maximum period of employment in each day, the length of any spell of employment, the earliest time for starting work and the latest time for stopping work. Because of the detailed restrictions laid down, there were equally detailed provisions for partial exemptions and variations. The Act also laid down how much overtime, beyond the limits specified, could be worked each day, each week and each year.
In the main, the 1937 Act came into operation in the summer of 1938, and, in part, in the summer of 1939, and it has never worked in its entirety. I think that those who have studied it will probably agree with me that, looking back on it, it was made too rigid at the time. It is fair to say that it was made in 856 a different atmosphere towards both economic affairs and employment. Coming into action, as it did, only shortly before the war, it never operated with the full rigour with which its authors meant it to operate. What happened was that at the end of 1939, by Defence Regulation 59, the Minister of Labour was given powers, which he has exercised ever since, to grant relaxations from certain requirements of the Act. It is true that those powers have been used sparingly by Ministers of Labour, and that there has been a slight trend downwards in the number of relaxations which have been granted, but I have no doubt that without these powers of relaxation industry would have been very severely embarrassed.
The question is not, then, one of wartime powers which, with the passing of the war and the years immediately following the war, could be dispensed with; the problem, I am certain, is that the 1937 Act was too tightly drawn. We have had thirteen years of peace to study the operation of this part of the 1937 Act and, first under the Labour Governments and then under the Conservative Governments, these powers have been exercised virtually without criticism from either side of industry. I think that experience during that time has shown that it is a good system to have a basic law—the 1937 law—limiting the hours of work for women and young persons which could be departed from only when a good and special case had been made out.
The House knows that it is part of the Government's general policy to dispense with such Defence Regulations. That is done by Clause 24. I do not think that a simple revocation—that is, a return to the simple doctrine of the 1937 Act—could be accepted at present. If this is so, then some powers to relax these provisions must continue, and my suggestions for doing this are contained in Clause 17.
In view of certain representations which the T.U.C. made to me on this matter and about which, I know, the T.U.C. is deeply concerned, I considered whether it would be possible to amend the 1937 Act itself rather than to take permanent powers for a Minister to give relaxations from it. After a most careful examination, however, I came to the conclusion that the exemptions that are needed are so 857 infinitely varied in scope—not merely from industry to industry, but from firm to firm, and many of these are individual exemptions—that no amendment of the 1937 Act itself was possible.
Accordingly, I sought to do something different. It seemed to me right—again, I am grateful to the T.U.C. for some suggestions, particularly concerning consultation, which I have embodied in the Clause—that if the House accepts my analysis that there must be some powers of relaxations, I should try to limit those powers and to shackle myself and my successors as much as possible without imposing upon industry itself burdens that would be extremely difficult to bear. The powers that my predecessors have had and which I have at the moment under Defence Regulation 59 are more or less absolute. It is, therefore, a question of how many safeguards we can introduce if we intend to make this sort of provision permanent.
The House will, I am sure, agree that now that the war emergency, which gave rise to Defence Regulation 59, has passed, a Minister of Labour should not have wide and unfettered powers even if previous Ministers of Labour have used them, as they have done, in a way which has created no problem. I would like, therefore, to indicate the checks which have been inserted in the Clause.
First, I can only grant a relaxation on an application which is made to me. Secondly, I can only grant it if it is clearly desirable in the public interest. Thirdly, there is an obligation to consult, and, fourthly—this is entirely new—there is an obligation to publish what is being done. If the relaxation is for industry as a whole or for the whole of one industry, as was the Cotton Order, which was introduced by the Labour Government and is still in force, the exemption takes the form of what is called a general exemption order and the procedure which I must follow is laid down in specific and detailed terms.
If I get an application from a joint industrial council or a similar body, or jointly from the workers and the employers in an industry, both sides are to that extent committed and the need for consultation is thereby less, although I would, no doubt, wish to consult both sides of industry, perhaps, on detailed 858 points before I made an order. If, however, the application is made by one side of industry only, it is laid down in the Bill that I must consult the organisations representing the other side. Any order granting a general relaxation will be a Statutory Instrument, will be laid before Parliament and will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure. Clause 25 makes this clear.
In addition to general orders, the Clause gives me power—and so did Defence Regulation 59—to grant relaxation to individual establishments. Perhaps I may give the figures which I gave recently in a Written Answer to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu). There are at present, under Defence Regulation 59, 767 individual orders, issued from Ministry headquarters, and there are also 1,665 orders issued by district inspectors under the Evening Employment Order.
The two general orders that are in operation are the Evening Employment Order, which was made in 1950 and which enables district inspectors of factories to grant certain exemptions, and the Cotton Order, made in 1947, which is an automatic relaxation and can apply to any establishment within its scope that chooses to make use of it. The size of these figures proves the point which I tried to make earlier that although in many ways I would like to do so, it is not possible to amend the 1937 Act so that all the cases that call for individual exemptions can reasonably be covered. Indeed, if we tried to do that, we would probably have to make our revision so wide that it would be wider than this method of granting exemptions.
Next, I must have appropriate consultations before making an order. Secondly—this is a new safeguard—there are requirements to publish particulars of special exemption orders in the London Gazette and the Edinburgh Gazette. General orders do not need that provision, because they will come before the House in the ordinary way if the House so wishes. Information as to these special orders has not previously been made available. This is a new departure. It seems to me to be wholly the right thing to do, and exactly in accordance with what we may call the spirit of Franks, that it should be known how I or any other Minister of Labour is exercising the powers which Parliament 859 has given him. I also intend to publish fuller information than has been done in the past in the Ministry of Labour Gazette. One more important limitation that I shall have under the Bill and which does not apply to my powers at the moment is that I shall no longer be able to relax the provisions of the law on hours of employment in respect of young persons under the age of 16. I can do that at the moment. I do not think that that power should continue in the future and this Bill will delete it.
I know that the House will wish to consider this Clause with particular care; so will I. As I have said, I have tried to put into it as many limitations on my power as I can think of. If the House can think of any more that will not affect the aim of still allowing a reasonable flexibility to what was, I am confident, looking back on it, too rigid an Act twenty years ago, I will be glad to consider it. In short, I am now asking the House for far fewer powers in the future than I have at present. We are not, however, legislating in the dark, because we have the experience of thirteen years of peace and the experience of several Ministers of Labour to guide us. I hope that when we finally pass this Measure we can satisfy ourselves that what we propose is both sound and workable.
The third major theme in the Bill relates to fire. There is a new approach in the Bill which is founded on the simple, ancient platitude that prevention is better than cure. It seems an odd thing, but we have never before dealt in factory legislation with the prevention of fire. We have dealt with fire warnings and we have tried to do what we could to minimise the loss through fire after a fire occurs, but the House will need no convincing that it is a much better approach, if we can help towards achieving it, to stop the fire from starting. A good deal of the Bill is taken up with the provisions in relation to fire.
Clauses 6 to 13 and 18 all have as their aim the diminishing of risks to which workers are exposed from fire. The principal Act dealt with fire to a limited extent by requiring means of escape and effective fire alarms in certain classes of factories. It is true that many fires occur 860 in factories in which there is no loss of life. Many, of course, take place at night, perhaps as a result of some carelessness which has happened during the day, or during the evening hours when the workers have left.
Even so, over the past five years 86 workers have been killed by fire, and I am sure that the House will have particularly in mind the tragic fire in a woollen mill in Keighley in February, 1956, in which eight workers lost their lives. From the action that we took then and followed up since flow some of the proposals which are in this Bill.
Quite apart from the loss of life, which would alone be sufficient to justify any action which the House should take to minimise it, there is immense damage to property. I need only remind the House, to give one example, of the disastrous fire which took place at the Jaguar factory, in Coventry last year.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
My right hon. Friend has mentioned the Jaguar factory fire, to which many hon. Members have referred copiously from time to time. Is it not a significant omission from the Bill that an effort is not being made to restrict the use of certain materials in new factory building which might themselves enhance the risk of the spread of flames? That was fundamentally the cause of the Jaguar fire.
§ Mr. Macleod
If that be an omission which can reasonably be put right, I hope that my hon. Friend will try to raise it in Committee, which is the appropriate stage. I am very much concerned to do all we can without putting impossible burdens upon industry, and, indeed, upon my Factory Inspectorate as well, to see whether we can reduce the risk of fire. The total financial losses through fire exceeded £27 million in 1955, and the figure was very similar in 1956 and 1957.
The Bill does two things with regard to fire. First, it improves the existing law and the arrangements for enforcing it on means of escape and fire alarms. Secondly, as I have said, for the first time, it deals with fire prevention and fire fighting. The provisions on fire take up eight Clauses of the Bill. I do not intend to refer to them all, but I should like to draw special attention to Clause 861 6 (4), which permits district councils, if they wish, to get help from fire authorities in carrying out their responsibilities for examining means of escape.
It seems to me that this is a very sensible development. The fire authorities have expert fire prevention officers and they have a duty under the Fire Services Act to give advice on request about means of escape. I very much hope that district councils will take advantage of the authority that will be given here to call in help from fire authorities to assist them to perform their statutory obligations.
In many of them, as my investigations following. in particular, the Keighley fire, have shown, we have been a good deal behind where we should have been, when we remember that these provisions have been in existence for many years. I want to see a drive continued until we have 100 per cent. certificates for all the factories concerned.
When I came to consider Clauses 7 and 8 relating to the prevention of fire and fire fighting equipment, I considered whether, instead of doing this by regulations or by orders, it would be appropriate to make a substantive provision in the Bill. I am convinced that we must guard as far as we can against the pitfall into which the House of Commons tripped twenty years ago in being too rigid in the words which it employed, even when it sees its objective clearly before it, and I came to the conclusion that because conditions varied so much a universal requirement in the Act would be inappropriate. This matter is best dealt with, and so is Clause 7, by taking power to make regulations requiring measures to be taken to reduce the risk of fire spreading.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is the answer to the question which the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) asked a short while ago?
§ Mr. Macleod
It may be. I am not sure whether, in this Bill, I have powers precisely on the point which my hon. Friend raised. I should like to look at the matter. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will take the point further when he winds up the debate.
862 There is one thing in the Bill which is a little confusing and which I should make clear. It refers at different times to regulations, orders and special regulations. What are called special regulations have to be published in draft, and those affected have the right to object. Both Clauses 7 and 8, for example, in the main are carried out by special regulations. They are laid before Parliament and they are subject to the negative Resolution procedure.
The second class is that regulations made under this Bill and an order made under Clause 17 which we have been discussing about hours of work are also subject to annulment in pursuance of a Resolution of either House of Parliament. There is the third category, like the one which applies, for example, to Clause 14—first-aid requirements—in which an order is made by the Minister which is published but is not laid before Parliament. There are, therefore, those three different ways in which this Bill can be carried forward.
I have no doubt that the extension of the law dealing with fire will raise some very difficult problems of administration for the Factory Inspectorate. The Factories Acts cover a great variety of subjects, but this is a very specialised field and this is why we have made arrangements to encourage co-operation between the inspectors and the fire prevention officers in dealing with these problems. This co-operation has worked well on a voluntary basis, and there are further provisions to encourage it in the Bill. Clause 13 enables arrangements to be made for officers of a fire authority to assist inspectors in carrying out their duties relating to fires. They will have powers of entry and inspection for the purpose of giving that assistance, and I have no doubt that this will be to the great advantage of factory employers and to the country as this system of joint examination develops.
There is one more Clause, apart from what I have described as the three main themes, to which I should like to refer, because this is a matter in which the House of Commons takes considerable interest. I refer to penalties which are dealt with in Clause 22. This Clause brings the provisions of the earlier Acts of 1937 and 1948 more into line with modern legislation. I am glad to see that 863 the author of the 1948 Act, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), is in his place.
We make four changes here. First, and in general, in the First Schedule the penalties for contraventions where there is a specific penalty provided are doubled. That is in line with what we have done in recent Acts, notably the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954. Secondly, the maximum penalty for an offence for which an express penalty is not provided is also doubled, but provision is made for a lower maximum to apply in these cases where the offence is committed by an employed person.
Then the Bill provides for the repeal of Section 133 of the 1937 Act, and this will do two things. Section 133 enabled additional fines to be imposed for a contravention which resulted in injury or death. It seems to me to be a much better approach, which is the one that the Bill puts forward, that the court should be able to impose substantially higher fines for contraventions which are considered likely to cause death or bodily injury, whether, in fact, they have or have not done so. Clearly, this is in line with the central object of factories legislation, which is to prevent accidents happening rather than to penalise the people concerned after the event.
Fourthly, the provision made under the Factories Acts whereby I can award part of the fine to the family of a workman killed or injured is abolished. This provision has been used, on the average, about twice or three times a year. I think it is out of date, in view of the developments in industrial injury insurance and in other fields, and, again, we have followed the precedent of the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954.
I am sure that the House knows that, whatever we may do here and whatever laws we may pass, the administration of the Bill depends more than on anything else on the strength and efficiency of the Factory Inspectorate. The staffing and organisation of that Inspectorate are matters to which I have tried to give a good deal of attention since I became Minister. I am very glad to be able to report to the House that recruitment to the Inspectorate has greatly improved in the last couple of years, and that there are now more inspectors in post, both in 864 the general inspectorate and in the specialist branches, than ever before. The number of inspectors at present in post is 406, and there are 11 who have passed their examinations and are awaiting appointment, out of an authorised strength of 442. That means that there are 25 vacancies still to be filled, and these are almost entirely in the chemical and engineering branches, for reasons which I shall give in a moment or two.
In the general inspectorate, 343 inspectors are in post, nine are awaiting appointment, so that there are only five vacancies out of a total of 357. That is encouraging and, on the whole, extremely satisfactory after some of the lean years we have had.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
On this point, may I ask whether the Minister is satisfied that his policy is correct, even in these days, with reference to the quality and technical training of the general inspectorate?
§ Mr. Macleod
Yes, in general, I believe that it is. As the hon. Member knows very well, about two years ago I presented to the House a White Paper on the staffing and organisation of the Inspectorate, following a careful examination which we carried out in the Ministry, and the Government took the decision of strengthening the Inspectorate following upon it. I am satisfied that we are on the right lines, and I believe—I hope, anyway—that the comparatively small number of vacancies that may still exist will soon be filled.
In the specialist branches, 65 are in post or awaiting appointment, and that means that there are 20 vacancies, of which 11 are in the chemical branch, and eight in the engineering branch. This is because, as hon. Members know, of the decision of the Government to treble the size of these two particular branches. In the other specialist branches, there is one vacancy in the medical establishment, but the others are up to strength. We now need to strengthen the chemical and engineering branches by the numbers we have given. There has been an increase in the Inspectorate as a whole of about 100 in under eight years. If we take into account the inevitable retirements and resignations, that is really quite a good record for that time.
865 The Chief Inspector, in his Annual Report for 1957, which was published during the Recess, and which those hon. Members who are specially interested in this subject will have read, refers to some of the difficulties which have resulted from the need to absorb so many recruits over a short time. We must recognise that by this Bill we are putting a further burden upon the Inspectorate. There is no doubt that they have been, and will be, extremely hard pressed and hard worked, but, equally, there is no doubt about the success with which they have tried to carry out their most important functions; and I know very well from all the contacts I have in industry, and the visits which I make, how much the work they do is appreciated and the respect and admiration which the Factory Inspectorate commands.
I said at the beginning of my speech that we have more than a century of experience in this field, and that is true. We have a record in factory legislation which is unrivalled by any other country in the world, and it has always been so. The first effective Act, which applied only to textile factories, I think, was passed in 1833, and I take pleasure in the fact that every major Act since then—the 1844 Act, the 1878 Act, the 1901 Act, and the 1937 Act—has been passed by a Conservative Administration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, and I am very glad it is so.
§ Mr. Macleod
I have a very great admiration indeed for Robert Owen, and the Opposition really must not mind if I allow myself one small party point in what is a non-party Bill. I think that they will recognise that this is rather less than my usual ration.
I do not doubt that we shall have a particularly close examination—I hope we will—in Committee of the Measure now before the House, particularly, perhaps, the provisions relating to what I have described as the three themes of the Bill—those relating to fire, to the development of voluntary co-operation between the Ministry and all the voluntary organisations, and those that relate to hours of work.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Cleveland)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what has determined in his mind the boundaries of the Bill? He may or may not remember that I have had correspondence with him on the subject of the new approach to safety in electrical power systems which have been fast developing in recent years. I may not be right about this, but was this not an opportunity for bringing into the Bill a great deal more than the Minister has brought into it?
§ Mr. Macleod
Any Factories Bill could include an enormous number of provisions, and quite a number of these have come about as a result of discussions which I have had with the T.U.C. and the B.E.C. particularly, for which I am most grateful. The limits within which I have worked—quite apart from the fact that something had to be put in place of Defence Regulation 59, as it disappeared—were to take the matters which seemed, on the whole, most urgent, and fire comes first, and also take as many as possible on which there was some reasonable amount of agreement between the T.U.C. and the B.E.C. If there are matters on which we can expand, within the Title and framework of the Bill, I shall be very glad indeed to consider it.
This is a Bill to further the health, safety and welfare of persons employed in factories. It is perfectly true that there could have been more in the Bill, but it is equally true that it is, in its own right, an important contribution to the factory legislation of which, I think, we have all been so proud for over a century, and I am very glad to commend it to the House.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said, at the beginning of his speech, that the Bill, and, indeed, any Factories Bill, would be sure of a general welcome. I entirely agree with him in that, of course, but it does not follow that, in giving this Bill a general welcome, we shall not find it necessary to have a tough Committee stage when we on this side will want to include in it more than is there now, if we should be in order in doing so.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman served the House very well this afternoon by dealing with the Bill as he did. Those of us who have been in the House for some time become a little tired of Ministers taking hold of a Bill, beginning at 867 Clause I and going all the way through it. I found it most attractive that the right hon. Gentleman should pick out what he called the three major themes, developing them and giving us a good deal of information which will help us in our consideration of the Bill on Second Reading.
The right hon. Gentleman's only lapse was his slight departure into party politics. I do not think that he was very good at this. I did not think that his television broadcast was very good, when he spoke about ration books. He has grown up a good deal since those days, and it seemed a little infantile to talk about ration books today. However, he could not resist his little party point this afternoon.
The right hon. Gentleman said that all the Factories Acts which we have had had come to fruition and reached the Statute Book under Conservative Governments. We give him that point. Equally, all the major wars involving this country happened under Conservative Governments, and I have no doubt that statistics could be prepared showing that more people have died under Conservative Administrations than died under other Administrations. I think we can leave the matter there and return to our, so to speak, non-party look at this Bill.
I agree that safety, health and welfare in industry should be dealt with on a non-party basis. They are matters of vital importance to millions of people who work for their living. Some of them are covered by the Factories Acts, but we must not forget that there are about 12 million people working for their living who are not covered by the Factories Acts, and I am sure that we shall have a good deal to say about them both on Second Reading and in Committee.
I agree with the Minister that compulsion is not necessarily the best way of providing for health, safety and welfare in industry. Our arrangements for wage negotiations, for example, have been based, very largely, upon voluntary negotiation and agreement, and we have become used to that kind of thing between both sides of industry. It is good, therefore, to reach as much general agreement as possible voluntarily. At the same time, I am not myself sure that the Minister should feel that everything that 868 ought to be done can be done voluntarily or that it can be done as quickly as it ought to be in that way. It may well be that there ought to be slightly more compulsion to do what is obviously right in matters of safety, health and welfare. If there is any difference between us at all, it is, I think, on the question of when there should be compulsion and how much compulsion there should be to meet desirable ends. There is no difference between us in the House as to the need to promote health, safety and welfare in industry.
The Bill provides for voluntary arrangements, and I am very glad that the Minister has seen fit to incorporate in it provisions enabling him to have financial assistance in the task of collating information on safety, health and welfare and giving it, when necessary, to those concerned in these matters.
The Minister referred to the reasons for the change in relation to women and young persons and the exemptions which are to be made. I do not want to take up a great deal of time on this subject, but I am bound to tell him that, in Committee, we shall have to devote much attention to it. I am not by any means happy about the number of exemptions being granted even today. After all, the number of hours that young people are permitted to work, even under the main Act, are today much in excess of the normal working week for adult workers. The 48 hours permissible under the Act are now in excess of the normal hours of working of most adults. There is already, therefore, within the main Act, a margin of additional working hours over the normal which, it seems to me, ought to be taken into consideration in any discussion about further exemptions for such periods of time as are laid down in our legislation. We shall have a good deal to say about the present Act and about the necessity for tightening up on exemptions rather than letting them go through freely.
One must accept, however, that there has been a change in the industrial world. New technical processes today very often call for continuous working over periods much longer than normal shift working, double shift working and so on, and, as we invest more money in new machines and, for instance, the application of electronics to industry, those high capital cost 869 machines must, inevitably, run for much longer periods. It may well be that there should be some flexibility here, and I myself hope that, within management, that flexibility can be obtained, not by requiring women and young persons to work longer hours but by a rearrangement of work among adult male employees.
I shall not pursue the matter in great detail because time is getting on, but, with those few remarks, I want to make it clear to the Minister that there will be considerable argument in Committee about these matters. Perhaps between now and the Committee stage we may have further consultations among the interested parties with a view to establishing that the tendency should be towards a reorganisation in industry so that male adult workers can be employed in the new processes instead of asking more than the main Act provides from women and young persons, which, I repeat, is rather more than the average number of hours now customarily worked.
I welcome the fact that there is to be consultation all the way through. I am particularly glad that, in the event of an application for exemption by an employer, the trade union organisation will be consulted, and vice versa. It is very important that, when applications for exemptions are made, they should be made, in the main, after consultation and with good will on both sides of industry. I hope that more applications will come from joint organisations rather than from one side or the other. When they come jointly from both employers and workers, through, for instance, the wage negotiating machinery—a joint industrial council or wages council—the Minister's task is made much easier. I would go further and say that, if both sides have come to the conclusion that an application for exemption should be made, they themselves will probably have looked at all the technical details of the particular process and will probably have investigated the methods by which an exemption could be avoided.
I hope, therefore, and I hope that the Minister shares this view, that we shall tend towards not granting exemptions but tend, rather, towards reorganisation in industry and the use of adult male labour in these processes which are, and will be, 870 coming into greater use as the years go on. We should not allow these developments to take young people and women beyond the statutory limit of working hours provided for in the main Act.
The right hon. Gentleman drew our attention to the requirement in the Bill about fire. Injury and accident as the result of fire is one of the most terrible aspects of this whole matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Keighley fire. I remember the tragic case of a young boy who was missing and who, at the time of the fire, was in a lavatory, a small cubicle lavatory, exit from which in case of fire was absolutely impossible. That boy, no doubt, was burned to death in that place. It is shocking and tragic to think that some of the girls lost their lives in that fire because, owing to the blinding smoke, they went back up the stairs seeking safety and ran into a raging inferno from which they could not be rescued.
If my memory serves me aright, from reading the factory inspector's excellent report of that fire, people were employed in an old factory with stone walls and wooden floors. No drip trays had been provided over the years for the oil which naturally comes from moving machinery, and, therefore, oil-soaked timber floors soon caught alight from the blow torch which a mechanic was handling to repair a pipe. The report showed that the people in that factory did not know how to go to get out in the event of a fire such as that which occurred.
It is a terrible thing to say that the Keighley fire was a blessing in disguise, but I know that that remark will be taken in its best sense. It may well be that, without the Keighley fire, the attention of the House would not have been drawn so dramatically to the way in which men and women unknowingly are risking their lives in factories of this kind from which they have no chance of escape once a fire starts. I therefore welcome the fact that the Minister, in drafting the Bill, has dealt with this matter, in my view, extremely effectively.
May I draw the attention of the House to two points? There is the structural obligation upon the local authority, with which I presume the right hon. Gentleman will not be concerned, although, perhaps, it may well be that his inspectors consult him on matters of 871 that kind. He is, however, concerned with the question of fire warning, which is all-important, with making sure that there is a regular fire drill so that people know how to get out in case of fire, and with making sure that the passage ways to emergency exits are kept clear from any obstructions and that the doors open easily from the inside. These are the obligations which the right hon. Gentleman accepts on behalf of his Department. I am bound to say that the new fire arrangements will require a good deal more inspection than is at present possible.
Again, I am speaking from memory, but I cannot help but feel that my memory is accurate when I say that the factory inspector's report rather suggested that only one in four factories could be visited in the year in which he was reporting. I am not sure whether that was in 1957 or 1956. I have the reports here, but I will not take up time by turning up the one in question. I am not sure that that is enough. I do not think that it is a good thing that inspection of fire hazards should be at such a lengthy interval as once in three or four years.
Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent. Central (Dr. Stross) about the number of inspectors on the Department's establishment, I think that, with the increased obligations that the Bill brings to bear upon the right hon. Gentleman's Department, the right hon. Gentleman will have to look at the size of the Factory Inspectorate. On the face of it, that may seem rather silly in view of the fact that the staff is below establishment, and I know very well the difficulties that the right hon. Gentleman has encountered in getting anywhere near the full establishment. I have no doubt that those difficulties, with which he has persevered and which he has overcome to some extent, will be fully met in the next twelve months or so as the trainees begin to play their part.
I am sure that my hon. Friends who have particular interests in potteries and textiles would be able to say a good deal about the lack of inspection—not because inspectors do not want to inspect, but because time does not allow them to do the physical inspections which they know are necessary. Discussion with any 872 inspector would reveal that he feels that he should carry out more inspections than he is capable of doing.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Is the right hon. Gentleman referring to inspection as to means of escape or inspection as to structure?
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is exactly what I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about. Is he aware that, in present circumstances, the local authority has no statutory power to exclude the use of certain material in factories which might enhance the spread of flame?
§ Mr. Robens
Yes, that is so, and I was coming to that point, because I think that it is a valid one.
The Minister referred to the Jaguar fire. Again, I should not like to be categorical, but I think that anyone who read the report knows perfectly well that this fire spread through the use of a certain material for the false ceiling in the factory. This material was probably designed to make insulation in the factory very much better and used in all good faith by those who were taking the particular commodity—I will not mention its name, but I believe that it was sold in all good faith. But the fire reached the ceiling and travelled overhead much quicker than it travelled below and as a consequence the factory was almost completely destroyed.
It is, therefore, important that fabric used to insulate a factory—building insulation being a perfectly proper thing to do—should be treated with a recognised solution that prevents the spread of flames and permits only smoulder, or the use of that fabric should not be permitted in places where people are liable to be burnt to death because of the rapid spread of fire. However, these are important points with which we can deal in greater detail in Committee.
The other note that I made of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was in relation to penalties. Looking at the Clauses dealing with penalties, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman, by putting this size of penalty into the Bill, is causing any great hardship. I agree that it is not a matter of penalties but of prevention. However, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, if he can get the information in 873 time, to answer this question. When penalties are paid by a company that has infringed the Act, is that regarded by the Inland Revenue as a trading expense and is half of the penalty, or more, according to the profits, paid by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? If so, the fine then becomes a farce. In certain cases, the Chancellor will be paying at least half of the fine.
§ Mr. Robens
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. But one asks a question of this character so that the Front Bench spokesman may put the answer on record. What is the use of fining a company with decent profitability if the fine can be charged against its trading expenses and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the hon. Gentleman says, pays at least half of it?
§ Mr. Robens
I am not an expert in these matters, but I should have thought that one would want to impose the burden where it belongs, if that is the law, and not ask the Chancellor to bear part of the burden.
There are a few matters to which I wanted to refer. So far, I have been commenting on what the Minister said. Perhaps I may condense what I have to say. It had been my intention to make a rather longer speech, but I shall leave certain matters until the Committee stage.
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct: the Bill will receive a general welcome. I must, however, remind him once again that 12 million industrial workers and others are left outside these provisions, and are covered by a number of different small Measures to a very limited extent only. I am a little surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not see fit by this Factories Bill to take up at least some of the things recommended in the Gowers Committee's Report. I am bound to tell him that we shall try in Committee to make those adjustments which I think the right hon. Gentleman ought very properly to have made.
It is not as though this Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member have not promised time and time again in this House that they would introduce legislation to deal with the 874 recommendations of the Gowers Committee. I do not expect all the Recommendations of the Gowers Committee's Report to be carried out in this Bill, but a very large number of them, specially those dealing with health, welfare and safety, ought, in my view, to have a place in it. The Government have had the Report a long time. They produced a Bill dealing with the agricultural aspects of the Gowers Committee's Report, and that Bill received ready acceptance in the House and is now the law of the land.
However, the Government have left out the whole of the transport and railway men, as my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) indicated earlier. Apart from the ordinary sanitary provisions, there is no provision at all for office and shop workers. If it is a good thing that a woman should not work within four weeks of the birth of her child, if her work is within the ambit of the Factories Acts, then it is a reasonable thing, I should have thought, for the same provision to operate if she works in a shop or a warehouse or any of the other places outside the ambit of the Factories Acts. Is not that a reasonable thing? If it is, why cannot we have the relevant recommendations of the Cowers Committee brought into the Bill?
I want again to emphasise this to the right hon. Gentleman. If he had brought into the Bill some of the Gowers Committee's recommendations which are applicable by the Bill and relevant to it, he would have done the right thing from the point of view of this Government, because he is a member of a Government who for several years now, both in the House and out of the House, have promised to implement the Gowers Committee's Report. The then Home Secretary, who is now in another place, on 14th July, 1955, gave this promise; the Prime Minister who is no longer in this House, on 28th July, 1955, promised that the Gowers Committee's Report would be implemented by legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) introduced a Bill, the Non-Industrial Employment Bill, in 1955, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), who was then Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in answer to a direct question by 875 myself inquiring whether, if a Conservative Government were elected at the forthcoming election they would implement the Gowers Committee's Report, said this:Upon the main question whether the Government are willing to give a pledge that it is their intention to introduce a Bill to deal with the matters mentioned in the Gowers Report as soon as possible, I can certainly say that that is the intention of the Government, and I am most willing to give that pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 26th April, 1955; c. 32.]On that pledge my hon. Friend the Member for Leek withdrew his Bill. Those of us who sat in the Committee, despite our desire to pursue the Bill, did not do so; on that pledge we withdrew the whole Bill, relying on that Government promise to implement the Gowers Committee's Report. I think it is treating the House very badly not to take this opportunity to implement that Report. I do not say that the whole Gowers Committee's Report can be implemented by this Bill, but there are a large number of its recommendations which could easily fit within the ambit of the Bill as it is now drafted.
There was a General Election in the month following the withdrawal of my hon. Friend's Bill. Is this really to be written up as one of those pledges which were given so that 12 million workers outside the ambit of the Factories Acts would believe that their health, safety and welfare would be protected if a Conservative Government were returned? The Conservative Government were returned, and, apart from what has been done for the agricultural section of the workers, nothing whatever has been done to implement the Gowers Committee's Report. We shall have another General Election within the next twelve months, and this Government are likely to go out without having implemented the promise they made in April, 1955.
This is not the way to treat the House. If the Government feel that the Gowers Committee's Report went too far or, for one reason or another, that it should not be implemented, let them have the courage to stand up and say that they do not propose to implement the Report. Let them not, from the Prime Minister downwards, tell the House, not once but many times, that the Report is to be implemented and then produce a Bill which does nothing at all for anybody 876 who works outside the ambit of the Factories Acts.
Certainly we shall give the Bill a general welcome, but I am bound to say that I regard the introduction of the Bill as another classic example of the way in which promises are so easily made and so quickly forgotten.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr, Robert Carr (Mitcham)
If I were to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) in his concluding remarks I suspect that we should be repeating the debate we had about eighteen months ago which, if I remember correctly, I, in the capacity I had then as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, had to wind up. It is easy, of course, in considering this or any other Bill, to point to things which are not in it. That is something we can always do. I think it is as well to remember what is in it and what been done.
Before the right hon. Gentleman or any of his hon. Friends criticise this Government for failure in these matters of safety, health and welfare, I think it should be recalled that in the comparatively few years preceding the Bill we are discussing today the Government have put on the Statute Book legislation dealing with the safety, health and welfare of agricultural workers and also of those who work in mines and quarries. Whatever may not be in this Bill, whatever may yet, in the opinion of different hon. Members, require to be included in future legislation, it is not fair to say that this Government have not already contributed a great deal to this legislative framework.
§ Mr. Robens
I did not make the case that the Government had done nothing by way of legislation. I took up what the right hon. Gentleman said, that ever since 1834 only Conservative Governments had done anything about it. My complaint was and is that, though the Government made a pledge, to which the hon. Gentleman was a party when he was Parliamentary Secretary, to implement the Gowers Committee's Report, nothing has been done, apart from the legislation for the agricultural workers. I further said that here was an opportunity which had been missed. That is all that I said about that.
§ Mr. Carr
As I said, we could easily repeat the debate of eighteen months ago. My remarks were intended merely to restore some proper measure of perspective to the view of the performance of the Government in this work, a performance which, by any standards, has, I think, been a pretty good one over the last seven years.
There is one other factor which I think we ought to be concerned about, and that is that there is a very definite practical limit to the speed with which and the extent to which new legislation can be effectively digested. It does no good at all for the safety, health and welfare of those who work in industry merely for us in Parliament to pass laws. It is no service to them 'to pass laws at a faster rate than they can be effectively worked out with the resources available.
Here, of course, we are concerned, fairly obviously, with the Factory Inspectorate, and perhaps it is also fair to remember here that, although, as my right hon. Friend said, we are at the moment somewhat below establishment, the increase has been very considerable, as my right hon. Friend also said, in the last few years; and, of course, the actual establishment has itself been very considerably raised. Therefore, a big advance is at the moment in progress in the strength and organisation of factory inspectors, and to go beyond that advance at the present time would not bring about any practical help in this field.
Perhaps it is natural that someone who once occupied the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour should give a particular welcome to a Bill which is another step forward in factory legislation. I cannot help feeling some slight though benevolent envy of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) for the privilege he has in the part which he will play in bringing the Bill to the Statute Book.
I should also like to take this opportunity—it so happens that it is the first time that I have spoken in the House since relinquishing my office of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour—to pay a tribute to the work done by the Safety, Health and Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour and the Factory Inspectorate which works with it. It was always a very 878 pleasant and easy duty to speak on their behalf in the House and elsewhere while I was at the Ministry, and it is a very pleasant privilege to be able to pay a tribute to them now that I am no longer at the Ministry.
I wish now to turn to three points in the Bill. The first is the fire provisions which have been underlined both by my right hon. Friend and by the right hon. Member for Blyth. There has been general concern in the country about the increase in the number of industrial fires over the last few years. Most of us, as has already been stated, have in mind the Keighley disaster of 1956. It was, of course, after that disaster that we carried out the universal survey of the fire alarm system in the factories of the country. Clause 12 of the Bill enforces regular and frequent testing or examination of fire alarms. I am quite sure, as the right hon. Member for Blyth said, that this is both a necessary and effective means of dealing with the fire alarm problem in the future.
I am equally glad to welcome Clause 6 which deals with means of escape. One of the needs in this matter is to catch up with the work of certification of factories in respect of the provision of adequate means of escape. This is a heavy task for district councils to perform and I greatly welcome the power which the Clause gives—which I am sure will be of great assistance to district councils—to employ fire prevention officers as well as their own officials in the task of inspection leading to the certification of factories.
Similarly, I welcome the provision which gives councils the right to fix a time limit within which the work which they specify must be carried out, and also the right which they now acquire to carry out reinspection at regular intervals.
While it is right and helpful that we should improve the means of protecting the worker in case of fire, it is also, I am sure, greatly to be welcomed that we are now moving in the direction of thinking about preventing fires and of compelling factories to have proper fire-fighting equipment.
There are one or two points about Clauses 7 and 8 which I should like to put to my hon. Friend and with which, perhaps, he can deal at the end of the debate. Clause 7 speaks about the 879 powers which the Minister will have to require measures to be taken to reduce the risk of fire breaking out or spreading, etc. At the end of subsection (1) reference is made to…requirements as to the internal construction of a factory.…I should like to question my hon. Friend as to the significance of the word "internal". It is all very well to ensure that the internal arrangements should be right and that proper materials are used, but that seems to me of little value if the external structure is wrong. I should like to hear what my hon. Friends have to say about that.
I realise that there may be difficulties of jurisdiction between one department and another, between local authorities and Government Departments, but this is an important problem and any demarcation troubles of that kind ought to be got over in some way or other.
I also wish to say to my hon. Friend that in operating these two Clauses, the fire prevention and fire-fighting Clauses, I hope that the Ministry will make an effort to make the maximum use of the knowledge about fire prevention and fire fighting which is available within the insurance industry of the country. I believe that the insurance industry has contributed money in many ways with a view to obtaining information on this subject. Indeed, it pays about half the running costs of one of the D.S.I.R. research stations.
The insurance industry does a great work in passing on this information to employers, but I wonder whether enough employers are aware of the knowledge which is available to them and which, incidentally, if put into effect, could save them quite a substantial amount in insurance premiums. It seems to me that by making use of the knowledge available, and also by making employers aware of the carrot involved by way of reduced premiums through using that knowledge, we could push ahead in this direction more quickly than otherwise.
From my own experience of the past, I welcome Clause 13 which gives to fire prevention officers the right of entry and inspection of premises if so requested by factory inspectors. Although much has been achieved by the voluntary co- 880 operation with fire prevention officers, I am sure that the fact that it is now proposed that they should have the right of entry and inspection similar to that of factory inspectors will strengthen the position.
I now turn to another matter. On Clause 14, the first aid Clause, I should like, I am sorry to tell my hon. Friend, to be a little more critical than I have been about the excellent fire prevention Clauses. It seems to me that Clause 14 is rather a puny Clause. There may be more in it than meets the eye, but I must confess that I had hoped to see in a new Factories Bill a greater impetus given to the improvement of first-aid work in factories. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to tell me that beyond those rather ineffective words lie plans for a new drive in this matter.
I have always felt that a factory of any size at all ought to have a separate surgery or first-aid room, or whatever one likes to call it. I do not believe that a system of boxes spread throughout a factory, however well kept, however sufficiently supplied and however many trained workers in first-aid there may be, is sufficient for the purpose. I realise, of course, that such a system is the basis of a first-aid service and is an essential requirement, because however adequate treatment rooms may be, there are many cases of injury where the worst thing to do is to move the injured man or woman and where it is essential that first aid should be given on the spot. Nevertheless, I believe that the provision in addition of separate first-aid rooms is so fundamental as to constitute a minimum requirement which it is not unreasonable to lay down as a legal requirement.
§ Dr. Stross
Can the hon. Gentleman advise us what size of factory he has in mind—the minimum number of people employed—for this provision?
§ Mr. Carr
I would rather not be specific, but I should have thought factories employing about 100 and upwards. I readily admit that, before being specific about it, considerable thought ought to be given to the subject. I hope that on this point I have said enough to encourage my hon. Friend to let us know what is in his mind.
I should also like information on another point, not specifically mentioned. 881 I understand that one of the main causes of absenteeism in industry is dermatitis. Can my hon. Friend say whether there are any plans for intensifying the attack on this disease, and whether he is satisfied that the Minister's present powers are adequate?
Clause 19 deals with the promotion of health, safety and welfare, and is one that the whole House should welcome. The Ministry of Labour has been carrying out advisory and investigating work for some long time past, and I do not think that anybody who has been in contact with it can have any doubt about the tremendous value of that work. It is so important, and so much in line with modern developments that we should welcome what is now in the Bill; namely, that it becomes, as my right hon. Friend himself said, a duty on the Minister, and not something that he can do if he likes, to initiate advisory and investigating work.
One of the chief questions at the moment is how far we are to rely on simple enforcement to make progress, and how much progress can be made by advice and encouragement. The more complex industry grows, and the greater the number of technical processes, the more impossible it seems to become to make very much progress simply by enforcement.
I do not question for one moment that there is much substance in the argument in favour of technical qualifications for inspectors. Nevertheless, it must be realised that as the complexity of modern industry develops so does it become more and more impossible for general inspectors to have all the technical qualifications needed to cover the whole range of the industry in their areas. I am, therefore, convinced that it is right that the development of the organisation should be on the basis of a general inspectorate. If the inspectors have industrial qualifications and experience as well, that is of great assistance, but for the highly-specialised knowledge we should depend on a more or less centralised and specialist technical branch.
Even if the organisation is developed in that way, the problem is so great, and, as a result, we should need such a vast number of inspectors, that I really believe that it is to encouragement and advice that we must look for major advances in the future. The extent to which the 882 members of the inspectorate have managed to become the friends, rather than the enemies or "policemen" of employers is a great tribute to them. There is no doubt that that is their relationship with the larger employers, but whether the same thing applies to the smaller employers is more doubtful. The smaller employers still tend, perhaps, to regard the inspector as someone to be feared and circumvented as much as possible, yet it is very often in the smaller factories that the need is greatest.
For the reasons I have given, I do not thing that we can envisage an expansion of the Inspectorate on such a scale as to be able to deal with the nub of the problem merely by enforcement. More and more must we look to encouragement, to information, to getting industries together on joint committees with the Ministry and the Inspectorate, and thereby getting industry itself to pull up some of its own members by the example of some of their better and more advanced colleagues. I am sure that that is the best way in which to make progress here. I therefore believe that, in the long run, Clause 19 is one of the most important Clauses—perhaps the most important Clause—in the Bill.
When my right hon. Friend comes to use the powers given to him by Clause 19. I hope that he will show wide imagination in the choice of subjects for advice. For that reason I was glad to hear what he had to say about health surveys. Such problems as the effect of noise on workmen could also well be looked into more closely. Again, although some investigation has been made, I am sure that more work is required on the effect on the individual of the more advanced forms of mechanisation to enable us to find out what happens to individuals when, instead of working next to a lot of other people, they find themselves working almost alone, with huge and impressive machinery all round them and, perhaps, with nothing to do for as much as 99 per cent. of their time except to watch a lot of controlling instruments doing their job. There is wide scope for inquiry into the effect on people's health—particularly on their mental health—of such conditions.
It would be possible to go on almost endlessly probing points both within and without the Bill, but I should like to 883 conclude with a few very general remarks. Modern industrial research and practice does seem to offer conclusive proof that working conditions affect, not only the accident and sickness rates in factories but productivity and the general level of morale. Good working conditions, and the feeling in a factory that the management cares about those working conditions, help to increase the workers' sense of security and confidence—something that is at the root of good human relations in industry. It is in that wider context and in that wider philosophy, that the Bill stands to be judged and, as I believe, to be approved.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing this Measure, because I know that he has been deeply interested in the subject for a very long time. In fact, when he and I were both new Members of the House in 1950, we joined together with some others of our hon. Friends, to write a small book entitled "One Nation". One of the recommendations in that book was that the time had come for further advance in factory legislation.
It must, therefore, be of particular satisfaction to my right hon. Friend that not only could he write that in 1950, and be a Member of the Government which put his hopes into effect not so many years after, but that he should be the actual Minister responsible for the Bill. I offer him my particular congratulations, and assure him that this Measure will, I am certain, have the support of all his right hon. and hon. Friends and, I am equally certain, of all, or nearly all, right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
It is very pleasant for me to follow the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Can), who has made a speech that was thoughtful, interesting and easy to follow. We remember with pleasure, too, his sincerity as Parliamentary Secretary. Though we often tended to criticise him, and asked many questions of him, I am sure that he knows full well that that was because we are all deeply interested in this work.
Early in his speech the hon. Gentleman paid a tribute to the Ministry and to the Factory Inspectorate. Those of us who do not know them so well would 884 also like to join in that tribute, and to say how grateful we are. We understand the quality of the Inspectorate's work. We feel that it is often overworked. I shall have something further to say about this a little later, but the Minister himself has told us that he recognises that the Bill, short as it is, and small as it appears to be, must give additional work to the Inspectorate.
The right hon. Gentleman added that he was optimistic that the inspectors would carry that additional work, as they always have carried their work in the past. We hope that that will be so, but I should like to analyse what may happen, and to point to some of the trends connected with it.
All of us remember the work done by Sir George Barnett. It is right to say that we all hope that he will be well in his retirement and enjoy his life. We offer every congratulation to his successor. We know the quality of the tasks which he has undertaken and I am sure that we wish him everything that he would wish himself.
Before I come to points raised in detail by the hon. Member for Mitcham, I should like to say that I found it personally very interesting, as a Member representing a constituency in Stoke-on-Trent, to find that a special officer has been allocated to the work of fire prevention inspection throughout the factories there. He is an officer of the fire brigade who has had this special job allocated to him. This is a very good thing. We all realise that, even in Stoke-on-Trent, where our Inspectorate staff is of a very high standard indeed. So blighted was our area and so dangerous our industries that we have always tended to get the best people; but although we have this good quality they cannot get round all the factories as often as they would like. This special assistance from an officer of the fire brigade seems to us a most suitable and proper thing.
My special interest is to discuss Clauses 14, 15 and 19. If there is some justification in my criticism of these Clauses my general remarks on the Bill as a whole will follow automatically. That may appear to be dealing with the Bill the wrong way round, but I think that it is logical. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Mitcham in his criticism of Clause 14. This Clause, which appears 885 to be so simple, deals with first-aid, which is very important as every medical man and intelligent employer must know. I presume that the hon. Member for Mitcham was speaking in the guise of an intelligent employer; and I am sure that he is a highly intelligent one.
If first-aid is to be useful it must be as good as possible. It must be what name implies, that is, first-aid always and immediately available. It should be of the best possible quality, because if a mistake is made in the first place with an allegedly trivial injury it may make for serious consequences later. The more trivial the injury the more optimistic is the worker and an untrained person dealing with him might say. "It is only a scratch, anyway."
It should be noted that according to the 1956 Report of the Factory Inspectorate at least one in 20 of reportable accidents showed signs of infection afterwards. All reportable accidents are not wounds, scratches or abrasions, but if one in 20 cases becomes infected later it often means a stiff finger joint for the rest of a person's life, the possible loss of a linger, the withering of a tendon, and loss of work, with unnecessary pain and suffering. If this is borne in mind it will be realised that proper provision of first-aid is a matter which should be looked at. Therefore, I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Mitcham.
The Chief Inspector makes a very definite reference to this in his 1957 Report. His remarks on first-aid boxes on page 13 of that Report make very sad reading. He speaks of inadequate stocks, dirty dressings, which obviously would bring about infection, and "queer" things in the boxes, such as old bottles of cough linctus of a patent nature. This is not a suitable or proper state of affairs. I believe that a special survey of first-aid boxes preceded the publication of the Halifax industrial health survey in which these boxes were very carefully looked at.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
What would my hon. Friend say about the practice, which is sometimes reported to trade unions, of keeping boxes locked to avoid the pilfering of instruments? Such cases have come within my personal knowledge on a number of occasions and they should be deprecated. In fact, I believe that the practice is a breach of the law.
§ Dr. Stross
There is some point in this. I would always keep the boxes locked, but on the condition that there was an absolute guarantee that the key was immediately available and there was somebody always present appointed both to open the box and to supply dressings and who was trained in first-aid. Pages 13 and 14 of the Halifax survey report show that in an appreciable number of factories no identifiable person was available to give first-aid, and many of the first-aid boxes contained unsuitable or unclean material.
The Halifax survey probably gives the best guidance that is available up to date on general conditions throughout the country. Had it not been for that survey we should not have had Clause 14 in the Bill, though both the hon. Member for Mitcham and I object that the Clause is not strong enough. The second part of the Clause contains a ready-made defence for the employer whereby he can avoid penalty. It is apparent, therefore, that the hon. Member for Mitcham and I will move an Amendment in Committee to have the Clause either deleted or so altered that this ready-made defence will not be so easily available.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I should like to reassure the hon. Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) that, as so often happens in legislation, there is rather more behind the words of the Clause than appears at first sight. Section 45 of the Factories Act, 1937, never worked properly, because there was never a definition of what is satisfactory. I intend to have discussions and to make an order to ensure that the standards are fully equal to those laid down by the St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross. When these discussions have taken place such an order will be introduced. That is the intention behind Clause 14.
§ Dr. Stross
I am delighted to hear it. I had expected to hear something of that kind and I would have gone on speaking for half an hour if necessary to get that statement from the Minister. It is important and reassuring.
In 1938, the Ministry issued Statutory Instrument No. 486, which listed among the antiseptics to be found in first-aid boxes gentian violet and a 2 per cent. alcoholic solution of iodine. I do not 887 know what the right hon. Gentleman's advisers have told him, but I know that the advisers who met last year discussed the contents of first-aid boxes. I hope that they have forgotten about iodine in a 2 per cent. alcoholic solution. It is a poor disinfectant. It will kill bruised or half-dead tissue, but will allow germs to multiply so well. It would be wrong for me to give alternative suggestions, but I cannot help deploring the outdated and unsuitable dressings and solutions which, up to date, have been kept in these first-aid boxes.
The training of first-aid personnel is important. The Minister knows that there are not enough of them. He has been advised that this is so. The Halifax survey refers to it on page 15. The Minister must consider what he should do. He has just promised us to look at the matter carefully. I will merely make this suggestion: in this House, and on this side certainly, we prefer positive inducements to action rather than penalties. Penalties are not good things per se. Everybody knows that workers who undergo first-aid training nearly always have to do so outside their normal working hours. It is extra work that they voluntarily accept for themselves.
I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say that I think it is a little unfair to expect this from them. I have a feeling that if a positive inducement could be offered by way of a cash payment for the extra hours they have to put in, or something equivalent, we should get more people willing to train. It is not enough to make the training courses available; it is desirable that we should have a sufficiency of people who enter upon training and who qualify.
Leaving this point for a moment, I want to ask the Minister one or two questions on Clause 15. This is a very small Clause and, on the face of it, does not seem very important. I am discussing now special regulations for safety and health and I would remind the Minister that Regulation 31 of 1947 gave a list of dangerous occurrences that might occur in factories and provides for their notification. May we have an assurance, under this Clause, that if there is an escape or an accidental release of radioactivity, it will be regarded as a dangerous occurrence and will be scheduled?
888 Secondly, may I put this point to the Minister? At present, if Harwell sends out any material which emits ionising rays the Inspectorate is notified and, as a result, reasonable precautions are taken. What happens, however—this is my question and it is an important one—if the material that emits ionising rays is resold, or if it is incorporated into a machine? It may be that there is a regulation of which I do not know; if there is not, I hope we shall have one, because, obviously, this is important.
The regulations or legislation should make three points which I will put to the Minister, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with them at the end of our debate. The first should be that no person should sell or let or hire for use any appliance or machine which contains a source of ionising radiation, or is capable of producing such radiation, before informing in writing the Chief Inspector, that is to say, he must inform the Chief Inspector before despatching it.
Secondly, the owner or occupier of a factory should be asked to notify the district inspector if he has any intention to use any form of substance which is radioactive. I am not asking for a lot, and maybe I am asking for something which is already in train, but it is worth making the point.
Thirdly, I feel that in every case where illness is suspected as being due to radioactivity then, just as in lead poisoning or other similar conditions which are notifiable to the district inspector, notification should be made to the district inspector so that he can make investigations.
Those three things would go a long way, if they are in any way associated with Clause 15 as I think they are, to giving us all a great deal of reassurance. If we are to act in matters where radioactivity is concerned, the time to act is now. Let us act either by putting these points in the Bill or in a regulation. The sale of isotypes is increasing rapidly—
§ Mr. Nabarro
What is the difference between an isotype and an isotope? I know what an isotope is, but not an isotype.
§ Dr. Stross
Did I say isotype? I beg pardon, I meant isotopes—their sale is increasing rapidly. I was informed that it amounts to nearly £1 millon a year. Industry requires them, medicine requires them and, therefore, if we are to act at all, we should act now.
Now I come to Clause 19, to which the Minister referred in his speech. We all agree that the provisions are good, as far as they go. I am not so enthusiastic about them as is the hon. Member for Mitcham, because they are a bit anaemic. In other words, I would have liked to see something more robust and much more far-reaching. Under the Clause the Minister will collect and disseminate information and he will also investigate, or assist in the investigation of, problems of health, safety and welfare. I admit that there is a new feature here, as the Minister described. He imposes upon himself an obligation now to do so. We are delighted. It opens the door, but, frankly, we want to tear the door off its hinges and we are critical because we think that the beginning is too small.
The Minister has taken advice from the Advisory Committee on the last two occasions it has met in the last year, and this has covered a wide range. Voluntary organisations are good. Nowhere else are they as good as in this country, which is the home of voluntary organisations. However, where the health, safety and welfare of many millions of men and women are involved we on this side of the House want to see a greater urgency than is displayed in the Bill. That is our essential criticism of it. This is not news to the Minister. He knows what the T.U.C. thought about these matters in 1953. It has been urging him, as fast and as hard as it can, to afford the country a comprehensive occupational health service. The T.U.C. has made it clear to him that it would like his Ministry to have this service rather than any other. I am not sure, however, that the T.U.C. now thinks it is right about this.
The Minister of Labour is in the most remarkable position, having served for some years as Minister of Health. He knows what a magnificent and comprehensive machine it is. He knows that his own dignified office controls a machine that is much smaller, and yet—for certain historical reasons which I will not go into—there was a time when the T.U.C. felt 890 strongly that, because of the Inspectorate being in the employ of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, it would be right that in this Department we should have an occupational health service. I am not sure that this is a correct view.
The Inspectorate we admired so much were transferred in 1940 from the Home Office to the administration of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors. They could easily be transferred again to the Ministry of Health. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Health is not in his place, because I would have made him blush. Perhaps I can more easily put my point this way: research by the right hon. Gentleman's Department is not effective, because it has to use other people's research or get the required information elsewhere. He has not the necessary finance or staff for his own research. On the other hand, we do not want duplication of research. There is a case for the right hon. Gentleman to consider, and for the moment I will leave it at that, because I want to come to a few words about the Bill as a whole, which concern the Inspectorate.
The Minister said that there would be more work for it. I suggest that it will be additional technical work in the main. Take building, for example. Building is not as simple as it was fifty years ago. The monster power stations kill more people than fires do. The huge, new multi-storeyed buildings are much more dangerous than buildings of the older type were. Yet what has the Minister done? In his White Paper and today he defends the employment in the class II grade of the additional 26 inspectors—two for each of the 13 divisions—without any technical knowledge at all.
In the White Paper it is stated categorically that they are to inspect the difficult constructional enterprises, the monster buildings, when there is hardly anyone on the site who does not know more than they do. Indeed, what they know they have learned as they go along and by using the time of their chief inspector who has to train them when he gets them. Whereas only one in 20 has any technical qualification now, it was two out of three in 1938.
Today, the Minister defended that situation on two grounds, and the hon. Member for Mitcham fell into the same 891 trap. I think that they are mistaken. The Minister has, of course, done an excellent thing in trebling the specialist inspectorate in chemistry and engineering. He has had a great deal of help from the Treasury in doing that; the Treasury has done its best to persuade people from other Departments to fill the gaps. It has not been entirely successful as yet, but it has been a proper thing to do.
All I am asking is that we ought to be able to have at least one person with technical experience and qualification in each of the 96 districts. If we could have that we should be getting somewhere. People like myself feel strongly that we cannot possibly be content or cease to criticise until that is done. We are not dealing just with machines. We are dealing with millions of men, women and young children; nothing is too good for those millions of people, for they are the country as a whole, and when we legislate for them it is national legislation on behalf of the whole country.
We should not be afraid of enlarging the Inspectorate, but in addition to that—the Minister has certainly done his best under great difficulties—we should return, partially if not entirely, to the quality that we had pre-war. I know that in the end it is a matter of money, of the scales at the entrance grade. The Minister ought to fight as hard as he can and insist that he gets his way, because the harder he fights the more he will find support throughout the House; and certainly from this side.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has made some interesting suggestions about the Factory Inspectorate, and in the course of what I have to say I should like to follow some of the things that he has said. The question of who should control the inspectorate must be a very difficult one indeed, because its activities seem to impinge upon many Government Departments. The hon. Member made a case for transferring it to the Ministry of Health. I could make an equally good case for transferring it back to the Home Office. I suppose that the Ministry under which it comes is not all that 892 important so long as there is adequate liaison between the Government Departments. It seems to me that we are putting an enormous burden upon the factory inspectors, and in my remarks I hope to make a suggestion which may relieve them of some of the work that they have to do.
First, I wish to congratulate the Minister on the Bill, which is a good one on the whole. I will not range over all its Clauses and paragraphs, nor all the subject, but will confine what I have to say to the Clauses which deal with fire.
The Minister said that perhaps in the 1937 Act some of the provisions on hours of work were a little too stringent. I think that the fire prevention and firefighting equipment provisions have not, perhaps, been quite stringent enough or that there has not been sufficiently stringent enforcement, the reasons for which I shall touch upon.
I welcome the fact that, at last, the expert experience of officers of fire brigades in fire prevention is officially recognised. That is a step in the right direction. It is about time that their knowledge was used officially. The Minister has referred to Clause 6 (4) which provides that fire brigade officers can carry out inspections at the request of a district council. But fire brigade officers have been carrying out these inspections at the request of district councils ever since 1948. Every fire authority in the country has carried out hundreds of inspections, no doubt illegally. It is at any rate a good thing that legislative sanction should now be given to them.
I would remind the Minister—-no doubt he knows it although he is not the Home Secretary, nor ever has been—that every fire brigade officer is trained in fire prevention, and every fire brigade has special fire prevention officers who have undergone an extensive course, lasting six months, in fire prevention. I should have thought that even more use should be made of their knowledge, perhaps relieving the factory inspectors of some of their duties.
The right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) referred to the difficulties which factory inspectors have in making enough inspections and visiting enough factories in the course of a year. There is no reason why every factory in the country 893 should not be visited at least once a year or even more frequently in the very difficult cases, by which I mean factories which are rather old and the means of escape from which are not too good anyway. I dare say that the factory inspectors have not time to do it, but there are fire prevention officers who could do it. It may need some reorganisation in the fire brigades.
My impression of the fire-fighting arrangements in this country is that we have to have far too many people fire fighting and not enough on fire prevention work. The proportions might be slightly altered, as no doubt they could be and would be if more work were given to the fire prevention officers in the local authority fire brigades
Although the Bill is a step in the right direction, it rather lands us in the position where there is still more confusion and overlapping of duties as between Her Majesty's factory inspectors, the local district councils and the officers of fire brigades. Inspectors and the local district councils apparently can, if they wish, consult the fire brigades, which means the fire prevention officers, on much of their work, but that is not good enough.
It is rather a puzzle to me why nowadays local district councils are kept in the picture at all. Their position seems to come from the status given to them under the Factory Act, 1937; but in 1937 every rural district council and urban district council was a fire authority. They were made fire authorities under the Fire Brigade Act, 1938, but today fire authorities are county and county borough councils. There are only about 138 of them and I am at a loss to know why these powers of enforcement are still given to local district councils, who do not have the staffs to undertake the work and who in any case usually call upon county or county borough council fire brigade staffs to do the work for them. Is it not time to regularise the position and to give far more direct responsibility to local authority fire brigades, which are those employed by the county councils and county borough councils?
[f the factory inspectors are overworked, the time has certainly come to place fairly and squarely on fire authorities the administering of Sections 34 to 36 of the 894 Factories Act, 1937. Those Sections deal with means of escape. Responsibility for operating Clauses 8 and 12 of the Bill, which deal with the provision of firefighting equipment and with the testing and examination of fire warnings, should also be placed on fire authorities, in effect, on their fire prevention officers. Is not that the cleanest, best and the most sensible thing to do?
I hope that at some stage we shall have a better explanation of Clause 13, which says that an officer of a fire brigade shall have the like powers of entry and inspection as an inspector, when authorised in writing by an inspector. A fire brigade officer does not have direct power to enter premises. Apparently, he has to be authorised in writing by an inspector.
That provision puzzles me, because it does not seem to tie up with the Fire Services Act, 1947. Section 1 (1, b) of that Act says that a fire brigade officer can enter premises for the purpose of making an inspection for fire fighting and Section 1 (1, f) says that he can enter premises for fire prevention purposes, if invited so to do. I hope that the Minister can sort this out and explain the precise powers of fire brigade officers, which are now covered partly by the Bill and partly by the 1947 Act.
Clause 7 is very important and may do tremendous good in furthering the Bill's provisions. It permits the Minister to make special Regulations about the measures to be taken to reduce the risk of fire breaking out. Whose advice does he take when he makes those Regulations? Does he consult his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who has an Inspector of Fire Services with a very competent staff? Does he by any chance consult the Central Fire Brigade's Advisory Council, a body set up by the Home Secretary to deal with technical matters of this sort? Does he also consult the Scottish Central Fire Brigade's Advisory Council about Scottish matters?
All those considerations demonstrate that sooner or later fire prevention must be administered in toto by fire authorities. The present position is not at all satisfactory when fire prevention, means of escape and other important subjects relating to fire are covered by factory inspectors, police, weights and measures inspectors, public health inspectors, building inspectors, sanitary officers, city 895 engineers or surveyors. The responsibilities are spread among many different officials with different local authorities, because there is nobody who is fully trained in fire prevention, except at county council and county borough council level. The result is that there are widely different interpretations of the various Measures dealing with fire prevention, leading to widely varying standards.
It would be advantageous to have an extension of the principle first stated in 1951 in regulations for children's homes, presumably enacted by a Labour Government. Those excellent regulations laid upon administering authorities a requirement to consult a fire authority on fire precautions for children's homes. That is the only occasion where there is a requirement to consult a fire authority on something which comes within its jurisdiction. In Committee, I shall put down Amendments designed to secure an extension of that principle.
Our approach to fire prevention in factories has taken the right turning. I do not want to say anything which would deflect the Minister from his excellent intentions. Incidentally, I hope that not too much reliance will be placed upon mechanical aids. The Factories Act, 1937, placed on the occupier of a factory the responsibility of seeing that effective steps were taken to ensure that all the persons employed in that factory were familiar with the means of escape, with their use, and with the routine to be followed in case of fire. In 99 per cent. of our factories, the owners regard their duties as having been fulfilled if there are some arrows or notices indicating where the fire escapes are.
Fire drills are rarely held. In some of the older factories it is essential that a fire drill should be held at least once every six months, with everybody in the factory taking part. When I was a small boy at school, there was a fire drill every term, which meant three times a year. I hope that when considering his Regulations, the Minister will see fit to include provisions for compulsory fire drills, as well as for mechanical aids and notices.
I do not want to harp on the Bill's omissions, because it is a good Bill, but it should contain provisions under which the users of factories would be compelled to display adequate notices on containers 896 clearly stating their contents and making it compulsory for factory users to notify those contents to the fire authority when those contents are explosive, or highly inflammable, or dangerous because of being radioactive, or in some other way requiring special measures in case of fire.
For the last fifteen years, I have been a spokesman for the National Association of Fire Officers. We include in our membership a number of fire brigade officers who have been seriously injured—and some will bear the scars for the rest of their lives—because of having had to fight fires with materials which they would not have used if they had known what was in the container which was on fire. Some officers have been killed in incidents of that sort.
Fire authorities should be notified about containers of that kind. There are too many such incidents in which fire service personnel are injured. In some cases, when it is all over and done with, the owner of the factory can be sued, and there are other remedies at common law. However, that is not the complete answer. If a container which holds butane gas is in or near a fire it may be necessary to fight the fire with something quite different than would be the case if it contained propane gas. Nowadays, firefighters have to use a much wider range of materials—chemical solutions, foam and that sort of thing—to put out fires. Factory owners should do their best to assist firefighters in this respect, and it would be to their advantage to do so.
I hope that the Bill will have an uninterrupted passage through the House, that it will proceed as quickly as possible and that it will command the support of hon. Members on both sides.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. R. Harris) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his discussion of various aspects of the problems of fire—an element in which he shows himself to be completely at home at a very premature stage of his development.
The Minister of Labour described the Bill, with becoming modesty, as "not a major Bill". Certainly it is not; it contains some important elements, but it is essentially a collection of piecemeal reforms and changes, at a time when we ought seriously to consider whether or 897 not the need has arisen for a major review of all the legislation affecting the safety, health and welfare of those at work.
In this connection there are two important dates in this century—1907 and 1937—and it seems to me that we have now reached an appropriate stage for a major reconsideration of the problems of safety, health and welfare in industry. I make this suggestion because, especially since 1937—as those whose task it is to practise in the courts know—there has been a massive amount of interpretation of Factories Acts legislation, and that process of judicial interpretation has revealed serious loopholes in what is intended to be legislation for the protection of men at work.
Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has pointed out, in the last quarter of a century, especially, dangerous new processes have been developed employing dangerous new substances in factories and places of work, and these call for a fundamental review of our present arrangements. My hon. Friend has already mentioned radiation materials, which clearly raise large and very special problems. It is at least reassuring to know, from the intervention of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), that an isotype is not a type of isotope, but, even so, the problems created by these new materials raise grave issues and call for a fresh approach to the problem of safety at work.
My fear about legislation of the type of this Bill, which is really something of a hotch-potch of various considerations and minor changes thrown together, is that we are merely adding to a mischief which already exists.
There are two main shortcomings in the provisions of our legislation dealing with safety at work. The first is that only a minority of workers are protected by the statutory provisions. The figures have already been given. Over 7 million workers are covered by the provisions of the Factories Acts, but another 12 million workers are not statutorily protected.
I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) will speak about this matter if he catches the eye of the Chair. Railwaymen, distributive workers, and people working in offices and shops and also in 898 many branches of industry, are quite unprotected by legislation, although they enjoy the benefit of the common law, which has its strict limitations. That is the first shortcoming of our present legislation, which the Bill woefully fails to do anything about.
The second shortcoming is that only a small proportion of the operations which give rise to industrial accidents come within the scope of the Factories Acts. The Industrial Safety Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council has pointed out that only one in six of reported accidents is caused by power-driven machinery, in respect of which the Factories Acts provide some very clear and excellent legislation.
One would wish that some of the precise and absolute terms of Section 14 of the Factories Act, 1937, relating to the duty to fence dangerous machinery, were extended to other provisions of the Factories Acts. But only about one in six of reported accidents is caused by power-driven machinery. Most accidents occur when goods or materials are being handled, or workmen fall or are struck by falling objects, or occur as a result of the absence of safety in their place of work, yet the statutory provisions to deal with those broad sources of danger are not adequate in present legislation.
Let us take the question of the safety of the place of work, which one would have thought would be a primary consideration in the drafting of a satisfactory code of safety legislation. It is true that Section 25 of the Factories Act requires all floors to be of sound construction and properly maintained, but there have been great difficulties in bringing within that Section many places of work in factory premises. There is no general provision imposing an obligation to see that the place of work is safe.
Section 26 (1) of the Act requires that safe means of access to every place at which any person has at any time to work shallso far as is reasonably practicable, be provided and maintainedbut the place of work itself is not required to be safe under the provisions of that Section, unless it happens to be a place of work at a height of more than 10 feet from the ground. If a workman has to work at a place from which he is liable to fall more than 10 ft. certain 899 provisions are then imposed in order to ensure his safety. We again get the phraseso far as is reasonably practicable"—that famous escape clause which appears in too much of this legislation.
It is a curious thing that while that Section copes with situations of danger at a height of more than 10 ft., the Building Regulations, which are a later piece of legislation, take into account the danger of falls from a height of more than 6 ft. 6 ins. That is another illustration of the need for a general review of these provisions. The absence of any precise duty to provide a safe place of work is a serious omission which could have been dealt with by the Bill.
Those of us who have to deal with these problems in the courts know of the absurd difficulties that have arisen, for example, in trying to distinguish between the safety of the means of access and the safety of the place of work, and whether a man working at the top of a ladder is working at a means of access or working at a place of work. There should not be these difficulties which, in borderline cases, often result in men, whom it was the whole spirit and intention of the Act to protect by legislation, being without remedy at all, or, at least, without the protection of the statute.
Another very large source of industrial injury is requiring men to raise weights so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to them. The state of the law on this matter is somewhat remarkable. I notice that in this Bill, busy as those concerned have been, they have managed to find time and space to provide for an amendment of the Section of the principal Act relating to hoists or lifts and lifting machines. I submit that the absence at the moment of general legislation against requiring men to lift excessive weights is a far more urgent and far more important problem.
Section 56 of the Factories Act provides thata young person shall not be employed to lift…any load so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to him.Employers cannot make a young person lift a load so heavy that it is likely to cause him injury, but they can require an older person to do that. Why draw the line and limit the protection to the young 900 in this respect? If the load is so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to the person who is requiring to lift it, there ought to be a prohibition against requiring workmen to engage in operations of that kind.
Section 56 (2) provides:The Secretary of State may make special regulations prescribing the maximum weights which may be lifted, carried or moved by persons employed in factories; and any such regulations may prescribe different weights in different circumstances and may relate either to persons generally or to any class of persons or to persons employed in any class or description of factory or in any process.The Minister has under these powers made certain regulations to deal with certain trades and processes and now there are maximum weights prescribed in respect of workers of both sexes, for instance, in flour mills, potteries, wool textile mills and in jute-spinning processes. But there is no general provision and it is only a general provision prohibiting the lifting of loads so heavy as to be likely to cause injury to those required to lift them which is adequate to deal with the matter.
I have noticed that the Ministry of Labour has published a most excellent pamphlet on this matter of the lifting of weights and in that pamphlet—the last edition of it was in 1943—the Ministry recommended that the maximum load a man should be required to lift should be 130 lbs. Why is it that that excellent recommendation was not included in this legislation, which we are now being invited to pass, in view of the fact that strains, ruptures and back injuries are so frequently caused by the lifting of loads heavier than those recommended by the Ministry itself?
There are many other matters which those of us who come into contact with factory legislation think that it is timely to mention and to pursue further. I should like to reiterate the specific reference made by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) to the problem of dermatitis. At the present time there is no specific provision in the Factory Acts with regard to dermatitis. It is a disease which causes many casualties in industry. It is an unpleasant disease.
Surely the time is long overdue for precise provision to be embodied in factory legislation requiring, for instance, 901 the provision of protective clothing, barrier creams and special precautions against irritants that are likely to give rise to dermatitis. Some of the best employers already provide these precautionary measures, but there is, nevertheless, a marked absence of adequate provision against the dermatitis danger in many places of work, and I think that it will he conceded on both sides of the House that in the last resort in regard to problems of this kind an element of compulsion is necessary.
I should like to have seen also in this legislation, if it has to come bit by bit, some wider requirement about provision of goggles in processes involving the risk of eye injury. I confess that I have a horror of eye injuries, and I always marvel at the willingness of men to engage in processes dangerous to the eyes, and to submit to the risks that they do.
The present provisions in regard to goggles are contained in Section 49 of the principal Act. These provide thatin the case of any such process as may be specified by regulations of the Secretary of State, being a process which involves a special risk of injury to the eyes from particles or fragments thrown off in the course of the process, suitable goggles or effective screens shall…be provided to protect the eyes of the persons employed in the process.The only Regulations, unfortunately, which the Ministry has seen fit to issue in regard to this vital part of safety at work are the 1938 Regulations which in their Schedule specify a limited number of processes. I may say that the attempt to interpret them in numerous cases has at least given my profession the benefit of gainful employment. I cannot feel that this is entirely satisfactory as some of the distinctions drawn between the risks in one process and another are entirely arbitrary, and the situation needs to he dealt with very urgently.
For instance, one of the processes which are covered in the Schedule to the Regulations is the process offettling of metal castings involving the removal of metal.But a number of cases in which it has been necessary to define the limits of fettling, where fettling begins and ends, for the purpose of bringing workers within the protection of the Regulations, have proved most difficult and complicated.
902 For instance, in one case it was decided that a moulder knocking, off surplus metal before passing the casting to the fettler for fettling, is not employed in one of the scheduled processes, although one would have thought that this moulder, knocking off surplus metal, was liable to create for himself the very source of danger against which the Regulations were intended to protect him. The need for protection of eyes is a wide field affecting a very large range of workers which might well have been made part of new legislation of a fundamental character.
Lastly, I confess that in this phase of industry in which safety is being emphasised and in which we have had a certain amount of lip-service from the Government benches to the desirability of safety committees and the necessity of safety officers, it seems to me that this might have been an appropriate moment to embody in the Factories Acts a requirement that in factories employing a suitable number of persons there was a statutory duty to employ a safety officer. In accordance with Regulation 98 of the Building Regulations, a safety man must be employed, and a firm which fails to employ one is in breach of duty.
When we are faced with the grave nature of the problem of accidents at work and with the fact that a large number of smaller firms are remiss in this respect and have given rise to serious industrial trouble because of the absence of safety officers, it seems to me that this is a moment to make a similar provision in the Factories Act. This would be an important step towards a proper code of safety for men at work.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), because I know from many and lengthy private conversations with him how voluminous is his experience in the courts of industrial injury and all its consequences.
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member that here is an opportunity to reform the principal Statute of 1937, but, with great respect to his professional knowledge—to which my own is complementary, in that for many years have been engaged, as an industrial executive, in operating the machines and running the workshops and in being 903 responsible for the safety, health and welfare of the men under my direct charge—I believe that the majority of the points with which he seeks to deal by way of reform should form the subject of appropriate delegated legislation.
In other words, what is needed is reformed regulations within the Statute. There is nothing wrong with the principal Statute of 1937 except that, like all of us, it tends to grow old, and the regulations made under it require reform and rejuvenation and bringing up to date at regular intervals.
As twenty-one years have elapsed since the statute reached the Statute Book, I should have thought that much of this might well be attended to in the next twelve or eighteen months. I hope that I may be permitted one party political point at the outset, and then I shall be done with party politics for the rest of my speech. In my time in public affairs, which is not very long—principally since the war, but perhaps going back over twenty years—it has always seemed to me that the Conservative Party has been responsible for the three major legislative instruments upon which the safety, health and welfare of the majority of workers in industry must largely depend. Those three statutes are the Factories Act, 1937, the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954. and the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956. Of course, there are sins of omission; there are legitimate complaints about the omission to legislate for certain recommendations in the Gowers Report, but I might well quarrel with the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) about the desirability of implementing several of those recommendations. That would be much more controversial in a party political sense than the subject which we are discussing today.
§ Mr. Robens
Will not the hon. Member agree that there are some recommendations in the Cowers Committee's Report, particularly concerned with health, safety and welfare, on which he and I would not disagree and which could be put into the Bill? Or does he believe that all the recommendations ought to be kept out of this Bill?
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is a matter of degree, and I have no doubt that in Com- 904 mittee the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman will cause a large number of Amendments to be tabled resting on recommendations in the Gowers Report, arguing that they could be brought within the ambit of reformed factory legislation of this kind.
I want to say a good deal about the fire prevention provisions in the Bill, which cover, broadly, Clauses 6 to 13 and Clause 18. In introducing the Bill my right hon. Friend referred to the fact that he considered the prevention of fire very much better than the cure, but I fear that in the provisions of the Bill we may well be leading the Minister of Labour, and future Ministers of Labour, into very deep water indeed. I immediately intervened when he referred to the grave Jaguar fire at Coventry two or three years ago, but it would not have been pertinent in the course of a very short intervention to refer at any length to the causes of that fire.
I will now give the causes of that fire. In the war years the large Jaguar plant at Coventry had to be blacked out. The management decided to use bituminised roofing felt, which was readily available in those days, as blackout material; it also had certain insulatory qualities—qualities for the retention of heat in the building and, therefore, conservation of fuel. This material was duly erected about 15 years before the fire occurred. When the fire broke out it spread much more rapidly through the roof linings than on the floor of the workshop. The principal cause of the calamity was the employment of inflammable material as a roof lining.
I was brought very closely in contact with this problem because 18 months ago I introduced into the House, under the Ten-Minute Rule, what at first sight appeared to be an extremely innoccuous Measure called the Thermal Insulation (Industrial Buildings) Bill. This Bill made a very rapid passage to the Statute Book, warmly supported by no fewer than three Departments of State—the Home Office first, the Ministry of Labour second and the Ministry of Power third. It was also supported by an equal number of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
When that Bill was first printed it made no reference whatever to fire. I was quickly brought into touch with this 905 aspect of matters by expert fire officers, who sent me detailed reports upon the Jaguar fire at Coventry. That prompted me to inquire of the Home Secretary exactly what were the causes of the rapid spread of flame, and he confirmed that the rapid spread was due to the use of this bituminised roof lining. In Committee on that Bill—and this is a unique provision in an Act of Parliament and has paved the way for what my right hon. Friend seeks to do in Clause 7 of this Bill—an Amendment was made and Section 3 of the Thermal Insulation (industrial Buildings) Act, 1957, now reads as follows:The Minister may by regulations direct that a local authority shall reject for the purposes of this Act plans of a proposed industrial building deposited with them if the plans show that conformity, in the case of that building, to the prescribed standard will depend (wholly or to a substantial extent) upon the use, in the construction thereof, of materials of a kind specified in the regulations which do not conform to such standard of resistance to the spread of flame as may he specified or described in the regulations, unless the plans also show that the materials will be used in such a way as not to enhance the risk of fires breaking out or spreading in the building.The Regulations referred to were then made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and laid before the House on the day that it rose for the Summer Recess—31st July. They are contained in Statutory Instrument No. 1220. They have not yet been debated, but I am told that they will form the subject of a Prayer to annul, for the purpose of obtaining additional information and, particularly, in relation to my right hon. Friend's Clause 7.
The Schedule to the Regulations contains a long list of materials proscribed—not "prescribed" but "proscribed"—for the purposes of insulating a building. This is a unique departure from earlier legislation. It is a provision in an Act that says that certain materials must be excluded. But what is my right hon. Friend proposing in Clause 7? In Clause 7—entitled "Prevention of Fire"—he says that special regulations may be made…as to the measures to be taken to reduce the risk of fire breaking out in any factory or of any such fire or smoke there-from spreading in any factory, and such regulations may, among other things—and I stress these words to my right hon. Friend: 906prescribe requirements as to the internal construction of a factory and the materials used in that construction.Therefore, my right hon. Friend is now proposing, under this Clause—and let there be no mistake about it—regulations proscribing the use of certain building materials in any factory in this country in order to prevent the risk of spread of flame. There are hundreds of millions of square feet of erected factories in use. Does my right hon. Friend really mean to suggest that under the regulations here referred to, he will, for example, say that a wood roof erected in 1925, with glass roof lights in it, shall not continue in use because it enhances the risk of spread of flame? Does he, by this Clause, seek to control the structure and the specification of construction of all factories in this country?
If he does, I suggest that he is running into very serious trouble, indeed. He might, perhaps, seek to control the nature of the structure, and the inflammability or otherwise of materials in new factories by themselves—and if I am appointed to the Standing Committee I shall argue this point at greater detail in it—but the present wording of this Clause infers that he proposes to take powers to control the specification for the prevention of fire in all existing factories. That would, of course, lead him into very deep water indeed, and would, I suggest, be utterly impracticable.
Further, I say to my right hon. Friend that I am highly suspicious of the interpolation of the word "internal" before "construction". Why, for purposes of fire prevention, does he seek to prescribe requirements only as to the internal construction of a factory building? Surely, the spread of flame may equally be enhanced by the external construction of the building. For example, is not the use of wood shingle tiles on the outside of a roof an agent that would spread the flame once a fire had caught alight either inside or outside a building?
I see no reason for the use of "internal" in relation to "construction". I suggest that my right hon. Friend should make up his mind on this before the Committee stage, because I shall, in Committee, seek to have the word "internal" omitted. My right hon. Friend should make up his mind whether he really wants to prevent fires in factories, in which case 907 he will have to control the structure, internal and external, of all factories constructed after a certain date—say, 1st January, 1960.
If his regulations were to be comprehensive, and to apply to existing factories, he would be led into very deep water by requiring the reconstruction of existing factories in order to eliminate the use of certain materials that "might enhance the risk" of spread of flame—to use words suggested by the Minister in relation to Section 3 of the Act to which I referred earlier. These are important matters and I hope that my right hon. Friend—and I apologise to him if I did not express myself too well in the short intervention I made in his speech—will consider them. Those are my apprehensions in regard to the way in which the Clause has been worded.
I want to say a word about Clause 5. My right hon. Friend will clearly be aware, of course, of the provisions of the Factories Act, 1937, in regard to the very important topic of boilers. They are dealt with in Section 29 of the principal Act. I am very interested in Clause 5 of the Bill and in the first subsection to be substituted, which reads:A steam boiler shall not be used in any factory unless it has been examined in such manner as the Minister may by special regutions prescribe…That, of course, is done at present by every industrial undertaking that has a boiler. It is done for the very good reason that a boiler is never installed in a factory unless it is insured. Once a boiler is insured with one of the famous specialist houses that deal with boilers—of which the Vulcan Boiler and General Insurance Co. Ltd. is the most nationally famous, and I name it only for that reason—they examine that boiler annually because of the risk of accident from explosion or other cause.
There is, therefore, nothing very revolutionary in my right hon. Friend writing this into the Bill, but I want to commend to him something that I regard as of much greater importance—the contents of the city ordinances in the United States of America. Pittsburgh was cleaned up, and transformed from the filthiest to, possibly, the cleanest town in the United States by virtue of the operation of city ordinances which required, amongst other things, that before any boiler or any 908 furnace was installed, a plan of it should be submitted to the city authority, and approved.
That practice has spread to local Acts of Parliament in this country. For example, the City of Manchester recently brought in a Bill that included a Clause that caused a good deal of exception to Members by deliberately discriminating against oil-fired boilers. The Corporation said that such a boiler should not be installed unless it had the prior sanction and permission of the Manchester City authorities.
The objection raised by my hon. Friends was largely based on discrimination against a particular type of boiler. They said, "We do not mind having all boilers examined. Let all boilers be examined, be they oil-fired, coal-fired, gas-fired or fired by electricity, and not just one type." At a conference that I had the privilege to address on 3rd July last, I asked the Chief Fire Officer of the City of Manchester why he chose oil-fired boilers only. He replied: "In my view, the risk of fire is very great." To that I replied, "The risk of fire from any boiler is very great if it is misused, or badly installed."
I therefore hope that before the Committee stage my right hon. Friend will look at the city ordinances of the United States of America, or, if he has no time to do that, I direct his attention to the Anglo-American Productivity Team's Report of 1953 on fuel conservation, where he will find several pages of good advice to future Ministers of Labour devoted to the most important matter in any densely built-up urban areas of checking carefully the proper installation of boilers and furnaces of all descriptions in industrial and other establishments. I think that the wording of Clause 5 leaves a good deal to be desired and I hope that in Committee we may add "installation" before the words "be used."
May I pass to a question of omissions from the Bill and ask the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies if he will give me a short explanation in each case. A good deal has been said by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) and others about first-aid arrangements in factories. They figure in the Bill as they figured in the main Statute of 1937. Neither of those 909 hon. Members really put his finger on the key point about first-aid arrangements in factories. We all know that practically every workshop, in consonance with the requirements of the Act, has a first-aid box. My experience of first-aid boxes in workshops is always the same. The material in them is deficient, dirty and rarely or never kept up to date, and anything of any value in the box is pilfered.
§ Mr. Nabarro
"That is right", says the right hon. Gentleman. He is entirely in agreement with me. In my experience of industrial workshops, which goes back over many years, I have never been able to operate any sort of workshop with a first-aid box in it without everything of value in the box being taken out over-night.
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is right. They are the first to go. They are followed by tweezers and valuable lotions, bandages, and tourniquets.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The point on which progress should be made is of much greater importance. I do not believe that factory safety can ever be assured unless in all workshops of over a given and prescribed size there is a surgery attached with a fully qualified person in continuous attendance. There is no requirement in the Factories Acts to this effect—only the general requirement about first-aid devices.
I should like to tell my right hon. Friend—and this is based on direct experience which will be confirmed by trade union Members opposite—that the number of hours which would otherwise be lost by factory workers through minor injuries is more than recovered in the course of a year by the immediate provision of first-aid by a fully-qualified nurse or qualified attendant in an established factory surgery, as opposed to whatever benefits may be obtained from a first-aid box.
In any engineering works where there are steel splinters, in sawmills where there are wood splinters, in any factory where the factory workers' hands are brought in touch with materials which may cause dermatitis, the immediate application of 910 remedial lotions or medicines can often prevent a worker being off work entirely for a fairly long period. I want my right hon. Friend to require that every factory employing more than 100 persons has a surgery and has in continuous attendance during working hours in that surgery an appropriately qualified person. By that means factory first-aid can be brought to a high level and the large number of days lost through illness and minor ailments of one kind and another, largely preventable, could be regained.
Finally—and I deal again with an omission which has not been mentioned by any hon. Member in this debate so far—I come to the question of factory feeding. The late Mr. Ernest Bevin said, I believe during the war—I hope my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that any factory employing more than 250 persons must have a factory canteen. That lapsed in the post-war years. Today there is no general requirement at all other than that in certain prescribed industries by regulation workers must be given the facilities to be served with hot beverages at regular intervals, but not hot food. I think it thoroughly retrograde that there are many factories in this country today employing more than 100 persons where there are no facilities available whatever for factory workers to buy hot drinks, such as tea, coffee or cocoa, or to obtain food. In many cases there are no satisfactory facilities for them to eat their own food that they take with them, let alone to buy hot meals.
Having regard to the importance that we attach to high production and levels of productivity, I say to my right hon. Friend that in my view, based on my own personal experience, the time is long overdue when we should require by statute that every factory employing more than 100 persons has a canteen attached to it, with facilities to serve hot meals during the main break, be it at lunch-time for the day workers or in the night for night workers, together with beverages and snacks.
Those are two significant omissions, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, when he winds up, will deal with them briefly and that my right hon. Friend will consider between now and a later stage of this Bill embracing within the Measure requirements 911 both for canteens and for surgeries so that where more than 100 persons are employed in a factory both a canteen and a surgery shall be obligatory.
I warmly support my right hon. Friend's Measure, limited in extent and scope though it is, and I hope that in Committee and on Report I may make a minor contribution towards improving the Bill which I feel sure, in broad principle, will carry with it the generous and warm support of the House.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) who, in the main, dealt with non-party political matters in a manner which the House likes to hear. Unfortunately, when he got on to party politics—he told us it would be the one occasion in his speech when he would do so—he was, as one would expect, completely "off the beam."
The hon. Gentleman said that the three principal statutes which affected industry were entirely the product of a Conservative Government. I do not think that even the Minister would make that claim. We all know that the Mines and Quarries Act followed a very full review of the subject by an inquiry which was set up by the Labour Government, and we all know, in respect of agriculture, that the provisions in the Agriculture Act followed a Bill introduced by one of my hon. Friends, which was withdrawn at the suggestion of the Government. Therefore, we can claim that that Measure followed moves from this side of the House.
However, I do not want to spend too much time on party politics. I want chiefly to deal with one great omission from the Bill, namely, the conditions in which office workers have to live. But before doing that, there is one other small matter which I should like to mention. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) is here. He has been "Tooting" very well for Mitcham and today that can be excused. I was delighted to hear what he had to say about noise. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that this ought to be the subject of legislation and research.
When I occupied a position with the Birmingham City Council, responsible for 912 dealing with nuisances of one sort or another, a case arose in my own ward—so that I saw it from both sides: from the point of view of the person who had made the complaint, and then from the point of view of the administrator who had to try to get something done about it. It concerned a shocking industrial noise nuisance. This nuisance, which was caused by large fans making loud noises throughout the night, had very serious consequences during the many months which it took to get it stopped. In fact, one lady had a nervous breakdown and had to be removed to the hospital, while a second lady went even further and committed suicide, because of the terrible effect of the noise, day in and day out, on her nervous system.
It was very forcefully borne upon me that the legislation then in force was completely inadequate to deal with such a situation as that. Indeed, to get the case taken to court at all, we had to get a medical officer who was prepared to say —as I have found, in my experience, very few medical officers would say—that the noise was in danger of creating a breakdown of health. It was only when we had had two experiences which really proved that that was so that we got the matter into court at all. If that was the effect on the surrounding inhabitants, how much more would those conditions aggravate the health of people actually working inside the factory?
My experience in this respect and in many others is that the time is over-ripe for an inquiry into the noise nuisance and for the setting down of some standards of noise. It should be as easy to measure noise as it is to measure light and similar matters, and I hope very much that by Clause 19, which has been commended on all sides of the House today, the Minister will endeavour to make preliminary investigations into the matter.
On the subject of office conditions, I feel that I can here speak with more than a little knowledge about this very important matter. Before I came into the House, I spent some years in the office side of industry in Birmingham, as a member of the Clerical and Administrative Workers' Union. It seems to me that 2½ million office workers are now being discriminated against by the Government. Time after time—and my right hon. 913 Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) made some categorical statements about it today—we have had promises from the Government. It may surprise hon. Members to know that there have been 13 attempts to introduce an Offices Regulation Bill into the House, and that not one of those proposed Bills has found its way on to the Statute Book. Yet people are working in offices in the most disgraceful conditions.
The last attempt we had was that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lady-wood (Mr. V. Yates), which is within recent experience in the House, but that Measure was talked out by hon. Members on the other side who had not been present during the debate that afternoon, but who came in to keep talking so that we could not have a vote upon it. There can be no doubt at all in the minds of many of us that that was the result of pressure from business interests. Indeed, the Minister said today that we have gone as far as we could in this Bill, having regard to the support which the Government could get from interested parties.
Therefore, I want for a few minutes to examine some of the very important problems—
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I did point out in my speech that this is a heavy burden which we are already putting upon those concerned. I mentioned the Factory Inspectorate. It is that much more than anything else which limits what can be done in a Factories Bill. I know that this has no relevance to the point about shops and offices, but, as far as factories are concerned, we are putting on our Factory Inspectorate as much as it can take.
§ Mr. Howell
I am much obliged to the Minister for intervening. While it would be true to say that to bring into this Factories Bill shops which are now completely outside it would create a great burden on the factory inspectors—although I think it should be done—I myself feel that it could probably be sent to the local authorities for implementation, at any rate as far as offices are concerned; and it is with offices that I am particularly concerned.
If we have factory inspectors going into factories, it cannot be a very much greater job for the inspector to have a look round the offices. Indeed, we all 914 know what happens quite well. The factory inspector is immediately shown into the offices so that word can go round the factory, before he goes there, that he is in the building. That, however, is a point which I will not pursue now, though we all know that, in practice it is quite common.
Coming back to my point concerning the main headings under which I think legislation should be applied to offices. I would start with the question of space. There are still many hundreds of slum offices, and I cannot see the logic, from the Government's point of view, of having a drive, as they are doing, against slum houses while allowing slum office conditions to remain. It seems to me to be outside the hounds of comprehension that we should try to improve the health standards of people living in slum houses but do nothing at all about the health standards of people working in slum offices, in which they have to spend eight or more hours a day.
I think it would be very easy to lay down regulations, as the Gowers Committee suggested, to establish 47 square feet of office accommodation per worker, that figure to include in it office furniture. Some of us feel that it is not quite adequate—I think it is the figure which applies in the Factories Acts generally. Many of us have seen the pokey offices and terrible conditions in which people are working. There seems to be no reason why, in that respect, the provisions of the Factories Acts should not automatically be made to apply to offices.
Ventilation and heating are more important in offices than in factories, because in factories the worker is mobile most of the time, whereas in offices a person may be sitting at a desk for the whole day working on figures, so that ventilation and heating become very important factors. I myself had experience of this, as an office representative of my union. I worked for a large firm in Birmingham which was then represented in this House by an hon. Gentleman who no longer sits here. I now have the honour of representing half of his constituency for him, possibly because he did not put his conditions right; I do not know.
I found that all the heating of the factory was up in the ceiling. The office 915 was a great barn of a place, and all the office staff worked there together—the buying office, the sales office and the drawing office—everybody in one large room, with the director sitting in offices with glass windows, no doubt so that he could look out on us from time to time, which he very frequently did. I did not complain about that, but what I did complain about was that as a result of the heating arrangements we all suffered from stuffy heads and cold feet, because the heat descended from the ceiling whereas our feet were as cold as ice. Despite several attempts to alter it, when I left that state of affairs still existed. That case is from my own personal experience.
In Bristol, within very recent history indeed, a lady, a member of my own union, complained through the machinery of the union about the bad conditions in her small office. I must say that most large offices are very good indeed, and that it is usually the small offices which are the main trouble. This lady worked where there was no heating or ventilation. The only ventilation which existed, and which would be permissible under the Public Health Act, was to open the door and leave it open, because then one could argue that the room was suitably ventilated and under the Public Health Act that is all one has to prove. When this lady complained about the lack of heating, our union representative was told, after the complaint was taken up, that she should come to work in a fur coat. Apart from that being a rather dangerous suggestion to make to a lady secretary who has to sit all day in an office, such conditions are really quite disgraceful.
The sanitary arrangements, especially in some small offices, have to be seen to be believed. They really are bad. Here again, I know that the local public health inspectors have some powers, but they are not adequate. Provided that the accommodation is suitable, very little can be done. During the last year or so, my union recently had to deal with an astonishing case in a new block of offices in the City of London. On one floor, occupied by two firms, three lavatories only were provided. The lavatory at each end was reserved for the managing 916 director of the appropriate firm, and the third one in the middle was used by all the office staff, both male and female.
This was a most unsuitable arrangement. After representations, the two managing directors were persuaded to agree to use the same lavatory, so that the men and the women could have separate accommodation, but even so it was not a satisfactory arrangement, and it shows how the arrangements for approving plans for new offices are quite inadequate. They ought to be the subject of legislation so that there could be control over that matter, also.
I am glad to say that, in my visits to industrial firms in Birmingham recently, especially some of the larger ones, I have found that more and more attention is being paid to decorations and colour schemes. I was very impressed, during the summer, by what had happened at one place in my constituency where the company had brought in consultants to advise on decorations. The result was really first-class. All the workmen spoke very highly of the effect of having good colour schemes and decor. The effect on morale was excellent. In many offices, however, in Birmingham and elsewhere, especially smaller offices, things are by no means what they should be. There is no power to cause offices to be decorated, even whitewashed, and, as one knows from experience, the effect is very depressing. This, again, ought to be the subject of control by the Minister.
The hon. Member for Kidderminster spoke about meals. I agree very much that attention should be paid to this, but I regretted that he suggested that meal rooms or canteens should be provided only where more than 100 employees are working. The conditions in offices in this respect are often quite inadequate. It is an unfortunate fact that the person most likely to miss a midday meal is the office girl, or the woman in industry who want to rush out at lunch time and do as much shopping as she can before she comes back for the afternoon's work. The facilities provided are often primitive, not more than a gas ring being provided for people to try to heat their own meals, without, in many cases, a suitable place to eat.
The same thing applies to a supply of drinking water. The Minister surely 917 cannot justify a situation in which there is not an obligation upon an employer to ensure that drinking water is available for people in offices. Yet that is the state of the law today. If that is true of drinking water, how much more is it true of a supply of hot water. A supply of hot water and the provision of hot drinks in winter time is an additional safeguard to health, and is something which ought to be ensured by legislation.
Where women and girls are employed in large numbers in offices, as they often are, rest rooms should be provided. This is seldom done. All my colleagues and medical friends to whom I have talked have said that they regard legislation on this subject as essential, particularly for the very many girls and women working in offices. I should be more encouraged if, from my knowledge of the vast new office blocks now going up, I had some reason to think that the future would show an improvement; but this is not the case.
Mammoth concrete structures are going up to provide office accommodation, yet no allowance is made for rest rooms for the staff. I admit at once that the cost of floor space, particularly in large cities and important commercial areas, is very great, but the fact that these buildings are to house throughout the day great numbers of women and girls ought to be regarded by us in this House as a reason for insisting that rest rooms are provided.
Works clerks are probably worse off than anyone. As we all know, especially those of us who represent industrial constituencies, most payments in industry are now made on a production bonus basis; people are paid by results. All the results of people's work have to be counted, recorded and tallied, and the works clerk must be on the job throughout the whole day.
In addition to the disadvantage, shared by many office workers, of sitting down in an inadequate office to do his booking, he also has to work in difficult conditions in foundries, polishing shops, and so forth. He has to work longer hours than many people do, being required to be there as long as the workpeople are there, to record the data on which they can be paid. The conditions in which work clerks have to work need even greater attention.
918 I have referred to conditions in new office buildings now being erected. I should not be so disturbed if I thought that our nationalised industries and municipal and Government establishments were setting a better example. They are not. In coal mining, for instance, the offices in which many people work at colliery level are absolutely scandalous. In most cases, there has been no improvement at all since 1947, when the coal mines were taken over by the nation.
Going from one extreme to the other, we had a recent example at London Airport. There, because there is no legislative provision for consultation and no provision for setting standards for conditions in offices, the Queen's Building, recently erected and owned by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, was designed in such a way that the centre of it, known, technically, I think, as the buried area, had no natural lighting, no heating and no ventilation. There was considerable trouble about this, and my union was involved. There was, in fact, a protest by the office workers at London Airport, who, by an overwhelming majority, more than five to one, refused point blank to work in this new office building.
Now, at a cost of about £40,000, the matter has been put right by ripping out walls and doors only recently constructed. The point is that this silly mistake would not have occurred in the first place, public money would not have been wasted, and had feeling would not have been created, if there had been laid down a legislative standard and some arrangement for consultation. This example shows that the conditions I am complaining about do not have their origin only in the past. The absence of such powers leads to a perpetuation of inadequate conditions today.
We have heard many times in this House talk about the Gowers Report on Health, Welfare and Safety in Non-Industrial Employment. Having reread the Report, I find in almost every paragraph the subjects about which I have been talking—space, natural lighting, ventilation, and heating. The Gowers Committee reported that it would be appropriate to apply the terms and conditions of the Factories Acts to offices. I have the appropriate quotations here, but I do not want to take up too much time.
919 The question I ask is why, after all these years, eight or nine years, since the Gowers Report was approved, as that was the unanimous recommendation, offices are still left out? Why is it that the Minister today gave not one word of explanation as to why office and shop workers, whom it had been unanimously agreed ought to be included, were excluded? Why have we had this great sin of omission on the Minister's part? Why has he not told us anything about it? The answer can only be, because of the pressure to which we know the Government have been subjected by commercial interests. Are we to take it that commercial interests dictate the motives of the Government far more than human considerations?
Anyone considering the sort of thing about which I have been talking cannot possibly excuse this situation for much longer. In my view, office workers have every right to be extremely distressed at the very shabby treatment which they have had from the Government. If we take the Bill in its broad setting, and consider the Government's activities on a broad basis, we find that office workers were the first to be picked out by the Ministry of Labour when the "get tough with the trade unions" attitude started. Health workers, probation officers and others were the first to be selected as the Government's victims.
I know that it would be out of order to debate the matter which we shall debate on Wednesday, but the worst sufferers from the ending of arbitration will be faithful office workers, who do not go on strike, and members of local government services, who are to have their loyalty tested to the utmost degree and their good sense strained because of the activities of the Government. If we add these attacks on health workers through the Compulsory Arbitration Order to the negative attitude of the Government to do anything for 2½ million office workers, we can see the reason for the dismay of office workers. All I hope is that the office workers will have the good sense to draw the right conclusions from these facts.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) has shown us beyond doubt 920 that he knows very much about conditions of offices and office workers. Unfortunately, my experience has been confined more to the factory floor than the office, because I did not have the luck or the ability, whichever one may call it, to aspire to office work, but the hon. Member certainly pointed out one or two important points which we should particularly remember. Those who have reached the point where they are employed in offices are not exactly living in the lap of luxury, and certainly one expects that many of the things that the hon. Member mentioned, particularly drinking water and toilets, would be available. The House, I am sure, has listened with interest to the hon. Member's remarks about those matters.
As far as heating and ventilation are concerned, it was interesting when the hon. Member said that one employer suggested that if a girl employee was cold she should go to work in a fur coat. It would be difficult if that was the same girl whose boy friend convinced her that a fur coat made her fat. The whole thing would have come unstuck.
The hon. Member referred to the point made by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), namely, the question of noise. I think that noise will become a more important factor as time goes on. Even now, there are measurements of noise, in the number of decibels, and so on, but still it depends upon the constancy of the noise, whether it remains at the same pitch or whether there are alterations. Having worked for many years in power press shops, I realise the difficulties that can arise where there is constant noise which may be at a low decibel registration, but which, because of the constancy, could drive anybody up the wall and bring about great mental problems as a result of hearing that noise for a long time. A great deal more has to be done in the work of noise prevention.
I believe that the most important factor in the Bill is Clause 19. As has been said, a great deal of legislation has been passed which was designed to ensure that reasonable standards should be maintained and that penalties would be applied where those standards were not rigidly adhered to. But I have always felt that we cannot legislate for good behaviour; we can legislate only against bad behaviour. I believe that Clause 19 is a way of making certain that we can 921 bring about and extend obvious examples of good behaviour throughout industry. This action taken by the Minister is putting upon himself an obligation to discover good practices in industry and to try to show to other industries exactly how those good practices work. Surely this is a follow-up of the line which my right hon. Friend has been taking with his Department for so long.
Another interesting feature was the booklet on positive employment policies which followed the same line—of trying to look round industry to find out the best systems which brought about the best co-operation between those engaged in an industry and then advertising them to show to other industries exactly what could be done if all sides of industry would work together for a common end.
In dealing with problems of good behaviour, we also come up against the problem which every factory inspector and employer will come up against from time to time. This is the difficulty of trying to protect the man who is very familiar with his machine or with the process with which he is associated and convincing him that it is essential that certain safety precautions should always be taken whenever he is carrying out his work. It is important to remember that familiarity always brings about a position in which one does not realise the hazards that are present. After all, I think that all of us, whether in industry or not, tend to feel that accidents happen only to other people and not to us. We tend to believe that we are a bit more clever than everybody else, and it is only when an accident happens to us that we realise that the hazards are as great, and probably greater, to a man who is completely competent in operating a machine because through familiarity he believes that accidents cannot possibly happen.
I believe that a good example of how all sides of industry have been able to solve accident problems has been the reduction in scalping accidents, which were pretty high many years ago. We know that many attempts were made to guard drilling spindles, but there was still the problem of the girl operative with long hair who could not be convinced that she should cover her hair before operating a machine. It was only when propaganda was circulated to show that she could appear just as attractive with her hair 922 covered as uncovered that we got on top of that problem. In dealing with many of these problems connected with reducing accidents we have to consider psychology as well.
The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) pointed out one very interesting fact, which was that only one in six accidents are caused by power-driven machinery. One can appreciate that while some people may take special care in the use of power-driven machinery they may believe that they can take risks with other items of apparatus. There are many people who do not realise that a hand-operated fly press can do as much damage as a power-operated press. The hon. and learned Member went on to talk about protective clothing and barrier creams and goggles. However, in legislation one can say only that they shall be provided. In many cases the men themselves have to be convinced that these safety aids are essential and that without them some harm could happen to them.
A great deal of propaganda is being spread throughout industry. In the organisation with which I was associated we had our safety committee, and through that safety committee we got posters specially designed to show all those engaged in the factory the hazards which were at hand; for instance, posters such as are now distributed and which one sees in many factories throughout the country showing the danger of a mushroom-headed chisel. There are many who would not realise there could be any danger from such a tool, but a chip flying off a chisel can do grave harm, if, for instance, it flies into the eye.
All the way through a great deal has been done, I believe, over and above the regulations which have been made. There has been propaganda to try to make certain that all those engaged in industry realise the great waste which goes on every day because someone has not made certain that either his or someone else's life is adequately protected on the job. I believe that the Minister, in using Clause 19, will certainly be able to emphasise more than ever that the great work still has to be done of trying to find out where the best practices are and then of showing the rest of industry exactly what they are and how they are applied.
923 The second important matter in which I am interested is the revocation of Defence Regulation 59. I would certainly agree with the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) who pointed out the large number of orders which have been put through and which extend the working hours of certain types of people in certain types of industry. I think that Clause 17, which is substituted for that Regulation, is very tightly drawn and ties the Minister's hands much more than they were tied by Defence Regulation 59. We should certainly look at that in Committee and try to make certain it is so drawn as to ensure that those orders will be made only where full consultation has taken place and where we can be assured that it is absolutely necessary that the requirements laid down in the 1937 Act cannot otherwise be complied with.
It was interesting to note that the penalties are being doubled, but what I was interested in more than anything else was that while, before, the penalties were for failure to comply, resulting in the death of someone, now we emphasise that the likelihood of a failure to comply may cause death. We do not confine ourselves to the event of death occurring. This is an important move forward, to make certain that if a person does not comply with the requirements, and, as a result of non-compliance, there might have been a death, that person shall be penalised. That is a move forward from the position where there was a penalty to be paid because there was actually a death.
I do not want to take up any more time because a number of other hon. Members wish to speak. I commend the Bill to the House and congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing it forward.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
When the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) was talking about Clause 19 I wondered if he had any idea what the Minister proposes to do with the information once he has received it. I agree that Clause 19, so far as it goes, enables the Minister to secure the assistance of persons appointed by him to gather a good deal of information about health, safety and welfare, but not one word has yet been said as to what is to be done with the information when it arrives.
924 I agree with the hon. Member that education in the factory, on the factory floor and among the operatives is highly important, but I should have thought that practice was much better. I should have thought that the best way to make the average factory worker accident-conscious was for the employer of his own volition to provide those facilities and amenities which are absolutely necessary in a modern factory.
We know, of course, that that is not possible. The reason for the introduction of the 1907 Factory and Workshop Act was that the Government of that day felt that the generality of employers would not respond and provide decent conditions without a statutory obligation. The reason for the amending Measure in 1937 was to bring the earlier legislation up to modern standards and to provide the employer with a statutory obligation to provide these amenities.
When I listened to the Minister today introducing the Bill I thought what a great pity it was that Parliament was having to spend its time on this tiny Measure. The Bill, as far as it goes, does improve matters, but I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) in wondering why advantage was not taken of this Parliamentary opportunity to introduce a comprehensive Measure. Why was it not used to modernise our factory legislation? Why was it not used to extend to many millions of other people what we are now seeking to do for the 6 million or 7 million people employed under the provisions of the Factories Acts?
Why I question what the hon. Member for Totnes said about what the Minister is likely to do with the information he gets from the committee he is to set up under Clause 19, is the Government's failure to implement the recommendations affecting the health, safety and welfare facilities which are now available for many large sections of the working population not covered by the Factories Acts and the Mines and Quarries Act.
I remind the House of what it was the Gowers Committee said in paragraph 6 of its Report. Perhaps I ought to interpose here that that Committee was set up in 1946 by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and 925 that it reported in 1949. It had this to say in paragraph 6:Non-industrial employment embraces a very large variety of occupations. In many or them the number of employed persons is extremely small. We have felt it impossible therefore within the compass of this report to attempt more than to examine in detail those occupations which absorb the greater part of the working population with which we are concerned.The Report then details those sections of the working population not covered by any factory legislation, as follows:Shops and Offices.Hotels, Restaurants, and the Catering Industry generally.Indoor and Outdoor Entertainment.Rail and Road Transport…Domestic Employment.When this Report was written, agriculture and fishing were included. Since that time, however, the Government have seen fit, under pressure, to introduce legislation providing minimum standards of safety, health and welfare for those engaged in the agricultural industry.
Lest anybody should imagine that some sections of this industry are not suitable for application of the Factories Act. I will read from paragraphs 115 and 116 of the same Report:115. Locomotive running sheds are the places where locomotives are serviced when they are not running. We consider them separately because we heard many complaints 2bout them, and because they more nearly resemble factories than any other premises we have reviewed. In addition to coaling, washing, and greasing, servicing may include the cleaning of boiler tubes with jets of high-pressure steam, the removal and replacement of wheels, springs, and other heavy equipment and much minor repair work. In most sheds there are coal or ash hoists, inspection pits, and workshops equipped with an extensive range of tools, many of them power driven.116. Apart from complaints of a general nature, some of our witnesses drew attention to the dangers arising from inadequate lighting and ventilation, particularly when the sheds are filled with smoke and steam from the locomotives under overhaul.This small Measure will deal with, and there will come within its provisions, a small section of railway staff, known in the industry as shopmen. They are men engaged in the shops run by the railways. They come under the provisions of the Factories Act, but those who are engaged in the running sheds, doing almost identical work on a smaller scale, will not be covered. Does the right hon. Gentleman, 926 and does his Parliamentary Secretary, believe that this kind of piecemeal legislation will improve relationships in the railway industry? Does he believe that, when Parliament is spending its time in improving protection for the railway men engaged in the railway shops but has ignored for the last eight years all appeals made from this side of the House to do something for those engaged in the operating, locomotive, clerical and goods departments? I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and to his Parliamentary Secretary that this kind of thing is likely to create a good deal of discontent in the railway industry.
I do not want to weary the House at this hour with the record I have in my hand, but we have been given repeated promises by almost every Department of Government concerned. One of the first culprits in this record is the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), who stood at the Dispatch Box a number of years ago now and defended the Government for not bringing in legislation because, he said, the British Transport Commission was spending a fairly reasonable sum in trying to bring its equipment up to date.
I have in my hand a statement about the local guards' room at Paddington. used by the men who man the local trains. This matter was brought before the Joint Advisory Council Schemes Sub-Committee on Welfare in the Railway Industry as far back as 1949. I will read the report of the condition of that room on 1st January, 1958, at the same time pointing out to the House that nothing has been done about it since then. The report states:The Guards' Room at Paddington is below ground level and since 1948 the question has been in hand with a view to a more satisfactory room above ground level being provided. The existing room is alleged to be unfit for habitation due to the unpleasant smell, especially the urine seeping through the wall from the adjoining lavatories. The lockers have evidence of condensation. The management claim that difficulty was being experienced in finding a suitable alternative site. The matter has formed the subject of an appeal to the annual general meeting of the union. At the meeting of the Joint Advisory Council for Welfare, held on 4th December, 1957, the management explained that there was no immediate prospect of accommodation becoming available at ground level, but every endeavour was being made to introduce a new ventilating system, and arrangements were being made to instal an extra fan to eliminate condensation.927 I suggest that to bring in a Bill of this kind at this time is not good enough. Repeatedly over the years statements have been made by, for instance, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Minister of Agriculture, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, and by Sir Anthony Eden when he was Prime Minister. The latter told a deputation of the Trades Union Congress on 28th July, 1955, that the programme for the 1955–56 Session would contain provisions for health, welfare and safety in agriculture. Regulations for the health, safety and welfare of railway men were in draft and would probably be introduced in the 1956–57 Session. The Shops Bill was about to be drafted. It was started in 1956–57 and dropped.
There was a meeting on 21st October, 1955, at St. James's Square, which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham and the Parliamentary Secretary will remember, over which Sir G. Myrddin Evans presided, at which there were present representatives of the N.U.R., A.S.L.E.F., T.S.S.A., the Shopmen's Council, the T.U.C., the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. The chairman said that, after protracted negotiations, a Bill containing provisions for health, safety and welfare on the railways was in draft and would be introduced during the 1955–56 Session.
What has gone wrong since 21st October, 1955? That Bill has not been introduced into this House. We have been told—I have been told personally—on a number of occasions by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that this was due to absence of Parliamentary time. If it is Parliamentary time that is required, why is this Bill now taking up Parliamentary time when it might easily have been expanded to include provisions for health, safety and welfare on the railways?
I wish to put one further consideration to the Parliamentary Secretary. We heard this afternoon from the Minister that he was proposing under this legislation to provide for modern developments in the production of various kinds of articles in factories. There is a programme of modernisation going on on 928 the railways. Dieselisation is being extended rapidly; electrification of locomotives is rapidly coming into operation. Everyone knows that the modern diesel train, and that hauled by an electric engine, is much quieter in its operation than the existing steam train.
The result of electrification means that large numbers of cables have to be carried beside the running line, and in order to maintain the cables and keep them operational large numbers of signal and telegraph staffs will need to work for long hours alongside the lines. The permanent way men, if the higher speeds are to be maintained, will have to give continued attention to the track. All this will happen, while the noise created by the train will be substantially diminished. Yet the responsibility for providing a look-out man to protect a gang of workmen is placed on the shoulders of the ganger, a man getting less than £11 a week, who may find himself one day with a limited number of men under his control and having to decide whether he should withdraw one, reducing the strength of the gang, to act as a look-out man or take the risk that nothing untoward will happen to the gang. It is unfair these days to place a responsibility of that kind upon a ganger. It ought to be placed fairly and squarely upon an official of the British Transport Commission.
I should have thought that if there was any Parliamentary time available it would have been used to protect men of that kind. But no. It is being used to introduce this Bill. The Minister said that he did not want to place an undue burden on industry. Is that the reason why health, welfare and safety provisions for the railways have not been introduced? It seems to me—I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell)—that for some reason which has not yet been disclosed—I hope someone will disclose it before the termination of the debate—there is a reluctance on the part of the Government to introduce the remaining provisions embodied in the Gowers Report. With my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South, I had hoped that opportunity would have been taken of this Parliamentary time, because a Bill to provide health, safety and welfare provisions for shop and office 929 workers and railway workers would have taken up very little more Parliamentary time than the present Bill does. It seems to me that there must be some other reason, and I hope that we shall be enlightened about it before the end of the debate.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the men employed on the railways are entitled to the same statutory protection as people engaged in other sections of industry? Has he ever looked at the reports of the Chief Inspector of Railways for recent years and read of the scores of accidents occurring on the railways that might have been averted? Does he not think these people are entitled to the same protection as others? It is no answer to say that, because the railway industry is now publicly owned, it ought not to have such statutory provision. That was the argument advanced by the then Railway Executive before the Cowers Committee. The Gowers Committee rejected it and said that there was no reason why an industry brought under public ownership should be absolved from its responsibility to accept statutory obligations.
If it was argued that, because the railway industry was now publicly owned, it ought not to have statutory obligations embodied in legislation, why was the 1954 Mines and Quarries Act introduced? After all, the National Coal Board has stated emphatically that it accepts the statutory responsibility placed upon it by the 1954 Act. If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Report of the Nationalised Industries Committee for last Session he will find that the Chairman of the National Coal Board, Sir James Bowman, was questioned on this fact and admitted that to apply the provisions of the 1954 Act involved the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. What is good enough for the National Coal Board ought not to be too good for the British Transport Commission.
It will be no answer at all for the right hon. Gentleman to say that there will be a difficulty in providing the inspectors, because paragraph 304 of the Gowers Report provides him with a solution to that problem. The Committee says:We are very reluctant to suggest an additional inspectorate but we are forced to the 930 conclusion that the true analogy is with the mining industry rather than with shops and offices and that to carry out these duties…It is talking about the railways.…effectively a centralised administration is needed. We therefore recommend that the enforcement of minimum standards of welfare and safety on all railway premises should be the responsibility of the Minister of Transport who should be empowered to establish an inspectorate for this purpose.So the answer is not to put more work on the existing Factory Inspectorate but to accept the recommendations of the Cowers Committee about the railways, to accept the recommendation in paragraph 304 and establish a special inspectorate for the purpose of the Minister satisfying himself that the minimum standards provided by the law are in operation on the railways. The right hon. Gentleman is likely to get far better industrial relations on the railways in that way than in this piecemeal fashion.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I regret very much that I was not here earlier to hear the speech of the Minister and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens). I am almost compelled to intervene, because when I entered the Chamber—I have been away on other parliamentary duties I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) describing some of his experiences. The Minister rose to question him and said—I hope he will correct me if I misinterpret him—that the Bill was limited by reason of the difficulties of securing sufficient factory inspectors.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
I think it arose out of something which, perhaps, happened before the hon. Member entered the Chamber. Towards the end of my speech the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) asked me what were the limiting factors from the mass of material involved in deciding what went into the Bill and what did not. I gave him an answer and later added to it a point which I made in another context in my speech, the burden on the Inspectorate. That had nothing to do with the question of shops and perhaps little to do with the question of railways; it was concerned with the bulk of the material in the Bill.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I would call the attention of the Minister to the fact that I have not yet raised the question of shops. I may do so before I have finished, but at the moment I am on the question of the scope of the Bill.
I understood the Minister to say that he had decided on a narrow Bill instead of a wide one embracing so many other things that could have been embraced by reason of pressure on the Factory Inspectorate, and he conveyed the idea that it was because of the shortage of factory inspectors. That is how I interpreted it.
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman took great pride in the fact that the Factory Inspectorate was almost at full establishment. I understand that it was not until after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth that the right hon. Gentleman suddenly conceived the idea that the scope of the Bill was limited by the limited number of inspectors. If the number of inspectors is limited, why is the right hon. Gentleman dispensing with the services of qualified inspectors? Why is it that for two years he has been advertising for people with the necessary qualifications to become factory inspectors while he has been dispensing with the services of those who have been in the Department for a long time and who are fully qualified, although not established civil servants?
I have a case in point and I have written to the Minister about it. It concerns a man who has been in the Inspectorate since about 1942. He joined as a result of answering an advertisement. He passed an examination as a factory inspector and subsequently passed another examination. However, being a year too old, he could not join the permanent staff. His ability has never been questioned, but the Department dispensed with his services this year, although he was well under the normal Civil Service retiring age. If the right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill is limited by the limited number of factory inspectors, is he trying to deceive the House?
I want briefly to refer to conditions in shops and warehouses which were covered by the Gowers Report. I shall not refer to railway establishments, on which my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartle-pools (Mr. D. Jones) spoke so effectively. One does not need to search far to find 932 many shops and warehouses where conditions are far from being conducive to the community's health. Most warehouses for perishable commodities which are to be sold in shops are very far short of those conditions which should be required for the storing of food and other perishables. I can take hon. Members into warehouses where there are no conveniences, where there is no place for men to wash their hands and where the nearest public convenience is at a railway station, almost a quarter of a mile away. I know of cellars where dental technicians have to work in the most filthy conditions imaginable, and where there is no provision for light, safety or welfare.
When food is stored in warehouses, where it has to be handled by people who do not have the facilities for washing their hands, then, in failing to provide against such conditions, the Minister is neglecting an opportunity and is failing to discharge his duty. The Government have deliberately shelved all responsibility for the application of the Gowers Report because it would have involved them in some trouble with some of their supporters. Legislation was passed through another place, apparently supported by the Government, and yet, when is was brought to the House of Commons, it was quickly shelved. The Government in that way neglected an opportunity to protect the health and welfare of those who work in shops, offices and warehouses. I cannot understand why they have neglected their opportunities, and the blame lies on the Minister who has tried to use the excuse of a shortage of factory inspectors.
How many factory inspectors have been discharged during the last two years, inspectors who have been qualified and who have acted for a long time? I know that many have been discharged because they have not been fully established civil servants. However, they have been discharged at a time when they could have done useful work for the Department, a time when more factory legislation is necessary to improve the health, welfare and safety of those working in offices, shops, factories and warehouses.
Such conduct is a deception of the House. What are the standards for the Inspectorate which the right hon. Gentleman requires? I am informed that only persons with degrees will be accepted into 933 the Inspectorate. There are those who have passed other examinations and who have served as factory inspectors for many years and who have the "know-how" and experience. Such people are able to make a valuable contribution to this work. Why has the right hon. Gentleman dispensed with their services, especially over the last two years, at a time when their services could have been used to enable him to introduce a much wider and much more comprehensive Measure than the limited Bill which we now have?
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Mason (Barnsley)
It is not my intention to detain the House for more than a few minutes. I intervene only because I was astonished at the glaring omission, from the Minister's speech and from the Bill, of any reference to radioactive hazards creeping into factories. There was no mention of the safety precautions which ought now to be introduced to protect the health of factory workers from the increasing use of radioactive isotopes and substances.
Clauses 2 and 4 of the Bill deal in some length with dangerous substances and fumes, and the scope of the Bill could have been widened to protect workers from the radioactive hazards to which they will be subjected in due course.
Although we have not had time to do anything about it, we remember that during the Recess a committee of the United Nations, composed of 83 scientists from fifteen countries, reported upon radioactive hazards and said:All steps designed to minimise radiation of human populations will act to the benefit of human health.This is the first House of Commons debate that we have had since that report was published which gives us an opportunity to debate radioactive hazards within industry, and which would have given the Minister an opportunity to do something for the health and safety of workers in this connection.
The Minister obviously cannot do a great deal about natural background radioactivity or about that emanating from tests; neither can he do much about X-rays, or the use of radium in hospitals. That is a matter for the Minister of Health. But he can do something about the industrial use of radioactive substances, and this debate would have 934 provided an excellent opportunity for him to have given much more serious thought to the matter and to have introduced it in the Bill. I therefore hope that the question will be considered at some length.
The atomic energy industry and the use of radioactive substances are developing with amazing rapidity and are becoming very widespread in their application, but systems and guarantees for health and safety are sadly lagging behind. Some of the older industries have been subjected to radioactive hazards, such as luminous paint producers, and the painting of luminous dials on watches and clocks. Much of that is private work, and is done at home. The Minister should have been giving some thought to the way in which this work can be controlled. He may remember that not long ago there was a case where the painting of luminous dials was being done at home and where the whole house was contaminated. In the end, all the furniture which had become contaminated had to he destroyed.
There are many ways in which radioactivity is creeping into work. It occurs in the manufacture of cathode ray tubes and shoe-fitting devices. all of which have to be tested and used in the factories themselves, and the people there are subjecting themselves to a form of radioactivity. Not sufficient thought is being given to the way in which their health can be safeguarded.
I think, also, of the luminous indicators and panels which are used in connection with the automation that is sweeping into the factories. Factory workers are having to sit alongside scores of luminous dials for eight hours at a time, and we should be thinking of the effect of all that radioactivity upon their health. We should also remember the many uses of radio-isotopes which are penetrating every form of industrial activity. They are used in engineering and steelworks, and factories are using them for photographing metals to check their weaknesses, wear and tear, and the weakness of welding. They are also being used to find leaks in pipelines and for hundreds of other uses, and the Minister should have taken this brilliant opportunity to do something about it.
There is not sufficient control. A gradual introduction of these radioactive 935 substances and radio-isotopes is being made in industry, but radioactivity cannot be seen, smelt, felt or otherwise sensed, and because of that it is a hidden menace all the time these substances are being used. No immediate danger can be sensed by the worker; just as the coal miner at the coal face, who is working in dust all the time, has no knowledge at any one moment that he is exposing himself to danger and yet, over a period of time, will undoubtedly become a sufferer from silicosis or pneumoconiosis. We are learning to cope with that danger in the coal mines now, but we also have an opportunity to start right at the outset to introduce the necessary safeguards to protect workers against the effect of radioactive substances.
The Minister mentioned the Factory Inspectorate. I remember referring to the introduction of a special factory inspectorate to go round atomic power stations and places where radio-isotopes are being used. I can understand some of the objections raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside (Mr. Winter-bottom); it is obvious that a higher standard will be required of this branch of the Inspectorate if it is to have the specialised job of knowing all about the dangers flowing from radioactivity and the use of isotopes and radioactive substances. There may be difficulty in getting the right type of inspector for that job. The Minister might say something about that.
It may be that in atomic power stations—the Harwells, the Windscales, the Calder Halls and the Dounreays—the scientific technologists and engineers who are brought up in that sphere of activity will be aware of the dangers of these radioactive substances, but the factory workers cannot, and it is, therefore, the job of the Minister to introduce legislation to help them. These workers cannot fully appreciate the hidden menace of radioactivity. I hope that the Minister will take steps to devise some form of safeguard and keep the new situation well in mind.
I should like to know whether the Minister has given consideration to.the setting up of a committee, on the lines of the Adrian Committee, to report upon the growing industrial use of radioactive substances, and to what extent they are creating a danger within industry. This danger is bound to grow, and it will be 936 of very great importance in a few years' time, as industrialists realise to what extent they can cut down overheads by using radioactive isotopes. The setting up of such a committee could serve a very useful purpose, because at the moment knowledge is scant, and it might also be able to state what safeguards are required. I put that suggestion forward and hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will make a few comments upon it.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) did well to remind us of the fast-changing atmosphere of our industrial scene, in which we are now beginning to use new metals and materials, with a consequent danger and hazard to health and life. The moral of what he was saying is that, from now on. in our examination of the Factories Acts we shall need to adopt a new way of thinking not only of physical dangers, in respect of which provisions have been enshrined in the Factories Acts for so long, but of the new dangers which, unless we can advance in our thinking about safety at the same rapid pace at which the scientists are advancing, will cause some very disturbing figures of illness rates and, perhaps, death rates.
It is a remarkable fact that when we discuss matters which, in the course of the year, mean the loss of literally millions of hours of productive time, either from accidents or industrial disease, the temperature in the Chamber is not nearly so electric as when we discuss a sporadic strike which, although it may cost us a few thousand working hours, has an infinitesimal effect as compared with the terrific amount of time lost through accidents and industrial illness.
I sometimes wonder what we have to do to try to engender a proper value of these things in the public esteem. We on this side of the House have given a welcome to the legislation which the Minister has brought before us today. We believe that, in some ways, it marks a new departure. Instead of trying to ensure that after a fire has taken place we do what we can to see that the people in the building can get away, we are now trying to find methods of eliminating or, at least, minimising the risk of the fire taking place.
937 Much of our discussion has centred round Clause 19, which is one of the most important Clauses in the Bill, but we are riot certain that the Minister is right in his suggestion that voluntary methods will he altogether suitable in bringing about the kind of result which he wants from Clause 19. The Clause gives him power to appoint persons to advise and help him to promote health, safety and welfare in factories. That in itself may be very helpful in trying to bring down the high figures, to which I have referred of time lost in accidents and industrial illness.
I am, however, sceptical whether the wording of Clause 19 will do much more than merely help in collecting and disseminating information. To do that in itself does not necessarily provide the authority to ensure that the information is acted upon. I think that it will probably mean, as so many of these things generally do, that the good employer will do what we want him to do and the bad employer will not. I should have thought that in enacting this kind of legislation it would have been better had the Minister armed himself with more powers in order to ensure that all the good work which will be done in obtaining information will not be lost on a great number of employers and that their employees will not benefit from it.
Reference has been made to the manner in which industry is now changing. It could be that with the introduction of new electronic processes and automation. we shall have to think in terms of large sections of industry in which the three-shift system is employed and concern ourselves more with getting rid of the stale air in departments and the bringing in of new air, rather than merely concentrating on some of the old methods of trying to ensure industrial health in our factories.
I am told that nervous reactions which come from new processes are already showing a tendency to cause more accidents than have previously been the case. I know that accidents in general in factories are showing a very welcome downward trend, but I think that we should examine more minutely whether the nervous diseases about which we are now hearing are causing a bigger proportion of the accidents than has been the case in previous years. This is one of 938 the problems which in the future we shall have to keep very much in mind. As the scientists continue to take over our productive processes, I believe that it will be necessary for us to apply a more scientific approach to the problems which that scientific revolution will of itself bring.
The Minister of Labour said that a great deal would depend on the factory inspectors in seeing that the new provisions are carried out. I take second place to no man in my admiration of the work of the factory inspectors. I should have thought that the greatest cooperation we can give to the factory inspectors is not that which we can enshrine in legislation. I believe that in the end much depends on the type of internal organisation which exists in any factory in order to ensure that the silty things which people do and which cause so many accidents are prevented.
I know that in a great many large factories there is now a very efficient first-aid or accident prevention organisation and that wherever we have managed to get this subject taken seriously by the top ranking executives on the employers' side and the trade organisation, shop stewards and so on, on the employees' side, we have done much to eliminate many of the accidents which would have taken place without an organisation of that kind.
The factory inspector may manage to visit a factory once in twelve months, or something of that kind, but if we have to wait until he can come along to point out what is wrong we shall not keep accidents down very much. I believe that it is incumbent upon employers and trade unions to encourage in every way those who take a primary part in the life of industry to emphasise the importance of getting their own factory organisation, which can play such a great part in preventing accidents.
Much has been said about first-aid boxes. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) made a very agreeable speech, and we were all glad to hear his contribution to this discussion. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) also added to our knowledge of this subject. For my part, I have always, on the occasions when I have spoken about the Factory Acts, emphasised how I detest first-aid boxes. I think that they are a menace.
939 I recall that when I had something to do with accident prevention, in probably one of the biggest factories in Britain, we were very concerned about the number of accidents from which sepsis resulted. We had the factory doctor to look into this, and we all did what we could to assist. We found, without the slightest doubt, that when men with cuts and open wounds had gone to the man in charge of the first-aid box, who had bandaged the wound, instead of treating that as a first-aid process until they could go to the ambulance room itself, they considered that was the end of the story.
In many of these cases the men are concerned about what will happen to their piecework bonus and other payments while they are away from their work. If they have to go some distance to the ambulance depot and perhaps wait in a queue for the services of doctors and nurses, it will cost them a lot of money. In the majority of cases, if the wound is bandaged it is all right and does not turn septic, but when we made our examination we found that the basic cause of sepsis was the circumstances which I have described. We eliminated those boxes, and the number of sepsis cases dropped almost immediately.
I am disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has couched Clause 14 in these words and I should like to see him do something to discourage the use of these boxes in factories of any size, where they can have ambulance rooms and facilities of that kind. I know that there is a problem with the small factory which cannot very well employ full-time nurses and doctors, but I wonder whether on many of our industrial estates, where we have large numbers of small factories, we could not develop communal centres which could serve a large number of small factories. Instead of the first-aid box being the end of the procedure, it would then merely be a question of fixing a loose bandage until the men concerned could reach the ambulance centre on each of the industrial estates.
I do not suggest that that solves the whole problem, because I know that with small factories, where perhaps ten people are working in virtual isolation, there will still be some use for this kind of first-aid box, but I believe that we should always emphasise the need for people to get aid other than that of the first-aid 940 box. In large factories, where the boxes deter people from getting proper and adequate attention, I believe that they are a menace and I should like to see them eliminated.
Clause 3 emphasises the new arrangements for the examination of lifts and working gear. Lifts are to be examined every six months and other working gear every fourteen months. This is such a serious problem that within fourteen days we are to send to the inspector for the district a copy of any report in a case where a hoist or lifting machine cannot continue in use with safety.
I applaud that, but it is a remarkable thing that while we are rightly emphasising how important it is that such machinery should be examined regularly and that immediate reports should be made, a great many lifts and hoists and other machinery of that type in offices and in many other places are not covered by the Factories Acts at all—probably more than the number covered by the Factories Acts. It is remarkable that when we are emphasising the need for care and supervision of that kind of machinery because of the dangers inherent in it, there are still types of employment, in which I believe over twelve million people are employed, using precisely this type of machinery about which we are concerned but not covered by legislation in any way.
The very fact that in the Bill such emphasis is rightly placed on this kind of thing is perhaps the greatest indictment of the Government for not implementing the Gowers Report. Many of my hon. Friends have emphasised this today and I hope that even now the Government will introduce legislation to deal with that question. I do not think they have more than a few weeks in office, but we will help them in every way we can. They could even do it within the context of the Bill, and I give the Minister an assurance that we shall give him every opportunity in Committee to accept Amendments which will embrace many of the matters within the Gowers Report which we feel should be contained within the Bill.
May I turn to the new provisions covering fire prevention? I should be very churlish if I did not welcome these provisions. On 16th July, 1956, we had a 941 discussion about these matters, which I opened for the Labour Party. I tried then to examine the conditions within the Factories Acts in respect of fire prevention. We had had the terrible fatality at Keighley and we were all very concerned to find out how we could help to lessen the possibility of that kind of thing happening again. As reported in col. 866–7 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 16th July, 1956, I tried to examine the weaknesses of the Acts as I saw them then and to make certain suggestions as to how we should try to overcome them. I will not quote from HANSARD unless anyone wishes me to do so, but I made three suggestions on that occasion. The first was that we should give the task to the Factory Inspectorate and that in the case of small local authorities who were unable to meet their responsibilities in this matter, we should have the power to charge the expense involved in the work of the inspector to those local authorities.
Secondly, I suggested giving inspectors power to call upon local fire officers, irrespective of any invitation from the employers concerned, in order that, with their specialised knowledge, they could assist in fire prevention questions. I was interested in the speech earlier today by the hon. Member for Heston and Isle-worth (Mr. R. Harris) in this connection.
My third suggestion was that we should amend the Factories Acts from being merely a vehicle for getting people out of buildings after a fire had begun and make them positive measures for the prevention of fire. I should be very churlish if I did not welcome the proposals now placed before us by the Minister, although I should resent being told that my thinking is only two years in advance of that of the Government, because to me, at any rate, my reputation matters. Nevertheless, I applaud the Government for overtaking my thinking on these matters within two years. It shows that there are certain points upon which we can compliment them even at this late stage of their existence.
I recall that after the Keighley fire the Chief Inspector ordered a survey of firms that ought to have had fire alarms and other equipment installed but had not provided them. The Minister will remember that. I appreciate that to inspect the premises of 40,000 or 50,000 942 firms is a huge job, and that the Minister had to make emergency provisions—get staffs from local labour exchanges and so on—to assist in that terrific job. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary could say how that survey has gone, it would be of great assistance to us. It is important that employees should know that this very necessary alteration has taken place, and that fire alarms have been installed in those factories.
Incidentally, perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell us the point of Clause 9. I am not clear in what way it varies the provisions of the Factories Acts. It deals with safety provisions, and rather extends the power of the Chief Inspector to exclude certain firms from the provisions of the Acts, but what is its precise meaning? I cannot believe that it seeks to extend facilities for avoiding the installation of fire-prevention equipment, and I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us precisely what it means.
Clause 6 reveals a further weakness. It points out that there would be no offence in using a factory between the period of application for certification under Section 34 (1) of the principal Act, and the grant or refusal of the certificate. I know that this is a difficult matter. I suppose that, in the end, we could get to the point of achieving perfect safety only by not producing anything in the factory. On the other hand, it is important that we should tighten up these provisions.
A firm might apply for a certificate and the local authority might refuse to grant it, giving a period during which the owner or occupier of the factory could put matters right, after which further inspection would be made. It might be found, at the end of the period, that the person concerned had not conformed with the authority's requirements and the authority might again refuse certification.
The owner or occupier of the factory could procrastinate further by objecting to the refusal of the certificate, taking the matter to a court of summary jurisdiction, and, in that way, gain a further 21 days' grace. As the Bill now stands, that action, of itself, would not constitute a breach of the law at all, but, in the meantime, a number of employees might be exposed to great danger to their lives or their health from the very factor that had caused the certificate to be refused.
943 I am, therefore, somewhat apprehensive about this time factor, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to have inserted some provision making it obligatory upon the employer to exhibit, when certification has been refused, some sort of notice so that all the employees would know, (a) that certification has been refused; and (b) why it has been refused. The cause of refusal might be a narrow staircase. If the employees knew that, it would be of help to them in getting out of the place in case of fire during the period to which I have referred.
If during that period anything happened, I should not have thought it good for workers to be told that no offence had been committed because the whole matter was going through the courts. There is something to be said for giving the workers extra protection during that period, though I would not go so far as to say that the factory ought to be closed down. As I have said, we can always get to the point of perfect safety provided that the factory is not producing. That is no answer to our problem, but I certainly believe that we should be taking powers far in excess of that for which the Minister is now asking if, during that period, we are to give to factory employees that confidence to which they are perfectly entitled.
From some of the criticisms that I have made of the Bill it will be seen that we are not altogether satisfied with the provisions which alter the Factories Acts. Nevertheless, we think that they are a distinct advance on anything that we have previously had, and, for that reason, we welcome them.
Clause 7 breaks new ground in prescribing requirements relating to the internal construction of factories and the materials used in that construction. We have had an interesting discussion on this matter; the hon. Member for Kidderminster and others have mentioned it. I gave the "off the cuff" opinion that Clause 7 perhaps covered this point. The right hon. Gentleman was not too sure. I hope that between now and Committee he will have another look at this vital point. I know that when he is recommending under another Clause certain types of material as being the better types to use for factory construction he will have in mind not only factories which 944 have floors saturated in oil and similar conditions which are likely to cause an outbreak of fire, but also the fact that new factories must be constructed of materials which form the greatest protection to employees.
This is a big job, but it would be a pity if he did not use this Measure comprehensively. Once he had decided on the better types of materials for this purpose, he should ensure that new factory construction should include these materials; indeed, I would almost go so far as to say that they should be confined to these materials. Certification of old factories should depend upon the use of these types of materials in the repair and alterations which must take place if employees are to be freed from the fear of fire in those old factories.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment, in Committee some of us will want to know whether Clause 7 will apply to factories belonging to the Crown or to the Atomic Authority. When I had the privilege of introducing a Bill based on the Gowers Report, I pointed out that office conditions in the House of Commons, for instance, were bad. Would Clause 7 be applicable to factories under the Crown or belonging to the Atomic Energy Authority? I hope the Minister will bear that point in mind.
§ Mr. Lee
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will take note of the point made by my hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend has stressed the importance that we attach to proper consultations on hours of work. This is a very difficult subject. We had experience during the war of occasions when the 1937 Act was not applicable. As the Minister said, one could not apply it rigidly in those conditions. I have often wondered whether some of the excesses to which we went in disregarding the 1937 Act were justified. I do not think they, were, but we were very often panic-stricken during that period.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will ensure that, so far as possible, any applications for a waiver of these conditions will only come to him after there has been complete consultation, and, if possible, agreement between the people concerned in the factory or industry. I should have thought that the fact that 945 one side alone was making the application would make it almost certain that there had been a failure to agree before the matter went to him; otherwise, the application would be a joint application. A lot depends on getting co-operation from both sides before we agree to waive the conditions which we are now laying down. If we were suddenly to spring it on one side, and the other side thought that a march had been stolen on it and had obtained permission to waive these things, that would not be exactly the best way in which to ensure co-operation in industry.
I have tried to praise where I thought praise was due, and to criticise where I thought the Bill does not go far enough to meet the conditions which will apply, and are now applying, I suppose, in some advanced industries—conditions which are likely to become revolutionary over this period of the new scientific technique. This is going to mean the need for constant vigilance in this direction.
Although we start off by saying that it is now ten years since my right hon. Friend introduced his Measure in 1948, I do not believe that from now on we can think in periods of ten years. I think that from now on, we have to appreciate that the House—and this is not a criticism of hon. Members—will have to take far and away more interest in these problems than it has done up to now, and that it will be necessary to have almost a continuous running review of the changes which are taking place in industry, to keep ourselves acquainted with the nature of these changes, to make sure that we do not permit dangerous things such as flow from the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley to take place, involving tragedy, accident, illness and so on, while we are still cogitating whether we will apply regulations 'or introduce legislation into this House. This is the sort of period in which we are now living.
In conclusion, I would say that we have shown a welcome for those things which are matters of common agreement among us—the need to transform the Acts from something which only try to help after accidents have happened into provisions which will anticipate accidents, but which will also provide that where they do happen, the best help that we can give to the people unfortunate enough to be concerned in tires or things of that sort will 946 be given. Above all, I hope it means that the Government are aware of the need for what I have described as a continuous survey of the new conditions which will come to industry. I hope that they will come to the House in the knowledge that we will do everything we can to assist in the passing of such legislation. I believe in our ability to look after these things, so that the number of accidents and the amount of sickness through industrial injury are minimised to the fullest possible extent.
For that reason, we give a welcome to the Bill on Second Reading, but we reserve our position, in that we will try to move Amendments of a wide variety in Committee, and I believe that by doing so we shall make a far better Bill of it by the time it comes back to the House.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Richard Wood)
I should like first to tell the House how grateful my right hon. Friend and I are to the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) and other hon Gentlemen on both sides of the House for the general welcome—bearing in mind the conditions which the hon. Member for Newton and others have made, and which have to be taken into account—they have given to the Bill. I have listened with great interest to all the speeches in the debate, and I hope that, in the course of my reply, I may be able to mention one or two of the points which the hon. Member for Newton made. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is not here. I must contradict the answer which he confidently gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth about taxation and the effect of fines.
§ Mr. Wood
I am afraid that my hon. Friend got it quite wrong. A company could not deduct a fine in arriving at the amount of trading profit which would be subject to tax. I think that is the answer to the question the right hon. Gentleman put.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr), my hon. 947 Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) and, I think, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) all discussed a number of technical matters which, I am sorry to say, I found a little beyond my intellectual equipment. There was talk about isotopes, about the psychological effects of working alone with large machines, and about the effect of noise.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnsley has just been talking about radiation hazards. I understand that the answer to the questions put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton about steps which my right hon. Friend can take against these hazards is this. He is able to make regulations under Section 60 of the 1937 Act and, in fact, he has done so. In so far as a committee inquires into these various hazards as they may emerge, there is the Radio-Active Substances Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Darwin, which has these matters constantly under review.
I fancy that a great many of the detailed points which have been made during the debate will have to be discussed in Committee. There have, however, been several themes running through the debate, and I should like to deal with one or two matters to which particular attention has been paid. I will take first the comments about the Gowers Report.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton and other hon. Members chastised and chided us for not having acted on the Gowers Report. The hon. Member for Newton urged us to make haste because, he suggested, our life was not very long. He will, of course, forgive me if I take an entirely different view about that. The right hon. Member for Blyth discussed the same matter, and the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) and other hon. Members asked why there had not been any action by the Government.
As several hon. Members pointed out, the recommendations for statutory regulation of conditions affecting safety, health and welfare were mainly concerned with the industries of agriculture, the railways and shops and offices. We have acted, in the 1956 Act, on the recommendations regarding agriculture. 948 As regards the railways, as several hon. Members have said, there have been considerable discussions. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools went into the greatest detail about them. The matter was last debated in the House in May, on a Motion of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. F. Noel-Baker), to which my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation replied. If I may remind the House about it, my hon. Friend then said:We still accept that legislation should be introduced in due course…The only point of difference between us is on the question of when legislation should be introduced.…The practical effect of what could be done is…being done now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1958; Vol. 587, c. 1656.]
§ Mr. D. Jones
That may be the view of the Minister and of the British Transport Commission, but it is not the view of the railway men. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation made the point also that there is a joint committee on welfare. That joint committee is advisory. The sole decision rests with the British Transport Commission, and there is no legal obligation.
§ Mr. Wood
I certainly understood from the hon. Gentleman that it was not their view and not his view, but I was about to say that the hon. Gentleman pointed out that a fairly reasonable sum of money had been spent since 1951 on improvements for workers in the railways. I think that the sum is about £15 million.
§ Mr. Wood
Up to the end of 1956, £11 million were spent and I think that a further £3 million were authorised up to the end of 1957. But nearly £15 million have been spent on the railways, and, whether it is accepted or not, the Government's view is that the rate of work on welfare schemes in the railways is as high as would have been achieved by any legislation and that the statutory regulation of safety, health and welfare on the railways about which various hon. Members have been suggesting we should take action, would not have achieved any more.
§ Mr. Robens
For the sake of having these facts correctly on record, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware 949 that on 28th July, 1955, the then Prime Minister told a deputation from the T.U.C., in discussing a Bill covering railway premises, that this was being drafted and it was hoped to introduce it during that Session? What has happened to the Bill that was being drafted and that was to be introduced during the 1955–56 Session?
§ Mr. Wood
If I may say so, I think that when the right hon. Gentleman was absent from the Chamber, the point was made that the Bill had been drafted and discussed, but the view which the Government have taken, and by which I stand, is that such a Bill would not produce a penny more to the benefit of people working on the railways than we have been able to produce over the last five or six years. I cannot see the point of taking action which will not result in greater money being spent on welfare for the people on the railways.
§ Mr. Robens
Does not political honour enter into these matters? At that meeting at which I think the Home Secretary and the Minister of Labour, the present Minister's predecessor, were present, the Prime Minister said that the Bill was being drafted and that it would be introduced. Surely there is some political honour in these matters. Why has it not been said that there is no such intention and that the Prime Minister was wrong?
§ Mr. Wood
I certainly was not aware that the Prime Minister ever gave a firm pledge to introduce such a Bill in this Session. However, I feel that the main point in which I should have thought the whole House is interested is how the greatest benefit will be brought to the people who work on the railways. I still stand by what I said just now, namely, that their welfare would not be increased at all by the passage of such a Bill and that the action that we have taken in the last six years has resulted in as much as would have happened under any legislation.
I think that the rest of the debate has centred around the general question of safety.
§ Mr. D. Howell
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the omission of the Gowers Report, would he care to give some reason why no provision at all is being made for offices? His escape Clause in respect of the railways is that it is not necessary and that the money is being provided by 950 an alternative method. He says that provision is already made in respect of agriculture and quarries. Why is there a complete blank for offices?
§ Mr. Wood
I listened with interest to the hon. Member's speech. It would not be for me to suggest that he was in any way out of order, but it surely would not be suitable in a Factories Bill such as this to take action to legislate for workers in offices and shops. That is why there is no mention of those workers in this Factories Bill.
§ Mr. Robens
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on 14th July, 1955, the then Home Secretary in this House, from the Dispatch Box, in reply to Questions, promised legislation on the health, welfare and safety of those employed in shops, coal depots, cinemas, theatres, offices, dental mechanics' workrooms and road passenger undertakings, and that he said:A Bill is being prepared and will be introduced as soon as time can be found for it."—[OFFICTAL REPORT, 14th July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 2097.]That was on 14th July, 1955. We are now three years later.
§ Mr. Wood
I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a later debate on this question, in June, 1957. As he knows, the Home Secretary was speaking in this House in a debate on legislation on this subject, and he then announced—and it is only just over a year ago—that he had decided not to give priority to that matter. It was instead given to the Factories Bill. That is what in fact the Government have done by bringing forward this Bill and giving it the priority we have.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
The hon. Gentleman will remember that in the Gracious Speech of two years or so ago a promise was made to introduce a Shops Bill. The Shops Bill was introduced into Parliament. We waited very anxiously, in 951 accordance with the promise in the Gracious Speech, for that Bill to go through the normal processes of this House, but ultimately it was withdrawn. When, a long time ago, we were discussing the Gowers Report an undertaking was definitely given to the Trades Union Congress that a Bill was in draft to implement the full Gowers Report. That being so, why is it that we are dealing only piecemeal with this subject, instead of with a comprehensive Measure in accordance with the promise previously given by the Government, in particular the promise in the Gracious Speech?
§ Mr. Wood
I really cannot think that anything the hon. Gentleman has said adds anything to what has already been said on this matter. I certainly cannot add anything to my reply, that the Government have decided to give this priority to the Factories Bill. That is in fact what we are doing, and that is why we are discussing this Factories Bill tonight, and not the other Measures which the Opposition think we ought to have introduced.
I think I really must try to get on now. I was saying that the other main subject which has been debated tonight is the general subject of safety. I have been impressed by the same facts to which the hon. Gentleman drew our attention, by the immense preponderance of time lost by sickness and injury over the time lost by industrial unrest. I think it is important, as he pointed out, that we should try to reach proper values about this matter.
I was interested to find that in a recent year for every minute lost through strikes we lost nine minutes through industrial injuries and over two hours through sickness. That, I think, puts the matter in perspective, and should leave us in no doubt at all as to the place in our considerations which industrial health and industrial safety should occupy.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has mentioned that point, with which I agree entirely. The time lost by industrial injuries is serious compared with that lost for other reasons, but surely the Ministry has no accurate record of how much time is lost by industrial accidents occurring in shops, warehouses and other places where there is no statutory obligation to report accidents to the Ministry.
952 While I am on my feet, may I make another simple point which I have made many times before? In fact, I first made it to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) when he was Minister of Labour. It is that children under 18 years of age are allowed to clean bacon machines in shops with the guards off. There is no offence against the Factory Act because there is no statutory protection in this case. The Minister has a receptive mind and I hope he will take this point, namely, that while we are taking steps in this Measure to tighten up and improve the existing factory legislation for those within the purview of that legislation, we are leaving millions of people unprotected either for common law damages or for the proper guarding of dangerous machinery in non-industrial employment, and we are insistent that these should be dealt with.
§ Mr. Wood
I apologised at the beginning of my speech for the deficiencies of my intellectual equipment, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am beginning to get the drift of the Opposition's case. All I have been saying is that we are discussing tonight not those workers whom the hon. Gentleman would like us to discuss, but workers in factories. If it were possible for us to add the statistics for those workers, which the hon. Gentleman would like us to add, no doubt they would lend even greater point to the comparison I made between industrial injuries, sickness and strikes.
We talked earlier about first-aid, and a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite have said—I think deservedly—rude things about first-aid boxes. During an earlier speech my right hon. Friend answered some points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. For myself, I would think it important, and a great advance, that factories should have sufficient people properly trained in first-aid. I am not saying that it would not be an even greater advance if some things which some hon. Gentlemen would like were also achieved, but I believe that the Bill sets out to achieve a great advance.
As hon. Members know, there has recently been an industrial health survey in Halifax during which certain shortcomings were revealed in this respect. It is only right that we should be entirely 953 correct and completely fair to Halifax, with which I myself have certain cherished connections. Therefore, I say frankly to Halifax that I think any industrial survey in almost any town in this country would reveal shortcomings such as that survey revealed there.
As my right hon. Friend said earlier, the point of this Clause is to strengthen a Section of the 1937 Act, which will enable my right hon. Friend to prescribe necessary conditions before a person is considered properly trained in first-aid treatment. My right hon. Friend mentioned in his intervention the form which an Order made under this Measure would take. Having said that, I think all hon. Members would agree that it will be no simple matter to secure throughout industry people fully trained in first-aid in every factory with fifty or more workers. At the same time, there is no doubt that many firms have admirable arrangements in this respect. However, not only will we have to think carefully before we frame Orders under this Clause, but it will also naturally be necessary for some time to elapse before a proposed Order comes fully into operation so as to allow time for the necessary training to take place.
Having said a word about first-aid, I should like to turn to the inspiration of a good deal of the Bill, which is fire generally and, in particular, the disastrous fire at Keighley two and a half years ago which has frequently been mentioned during the debate. One of the great causes of the extent of that disaster was that there was no adequate fire alarm. The right hon. Member for Blyth said that some good things had come out of that fire, and perhaps one of the great lessons has been that an adequate fire alarm is essential.
To come to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Newton after the Keighley fire the Chief Inspector of Factories wrote to about 50,000 factories which were required to have fire alarms, and visits were also made to them by a large staff—a very large undertaking indeed. In 1956, a few months after the disaster, 55 per cent. of the 50,000 factories had fire alarms, and two years later—a month or two ago—the proportion rose to 66 per cent., two-thirds of the factories that should have fire alarms. Be- 954 cause of the very large number, it was thought right and wise to pay special attention to those factories where the provision of an efficient fire alarm was of particular importance and significance and about 12,000 factories which for one reason or another were in particular need of efficient arrangements were inspected very recently, and 90 per cent. of them have fire alarms in good working order.
As to means of escape, in 1956 only 53 per cent. of a slightly larger number of factories, 60,000, whose means of escape had to be certified had obtained certificates. That was just after the Keighley disaster. The present figure is 65 per cent. That is an average figure over the country. The position varies fairly considerably in different parts.
One or two of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) raised points about Clause 7. When we reach the Committee stage we shall probably have considerable discussion about it, but the answer to the hon. Member is that the Clause applies to Crown property and to plant of the Atomic Energy Authority.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster raised the subject of my right hon. Friend making regulations about the use of materials. These are subject to the procedure under the 1937 Act and must be published. As he pointed out, the materials are used in internal construction, a matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham questioned, the point being that materials used in external construction were the responsibility of local authorities and subject to byelaws made by them. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham that we should certainly make use as far as we possibly can of the experience of insurance companies in this matter.
I was anxious earlier—I shall not do so now because it is getting a little late—to say a word about steam boilers. I think it would be easier, if the right hon. Member for Blyth would agree, for me to say a word about them when we reach Clause 5 of the Bill later. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster was the only hon. Member to raise the subject.
§ Mr. Wood
He suggested that my right hon. Friend should do a considerable amount of homework before we reached Committee, and perhaps my right hon. Friend may be allowed a chance to do it before we discuss the matter further.
The House is only too well aware of the shortcomings of legislation in this matter. We can turn Bills into Acts and my right hon. Friend can make regulations under the Acts, with the general objective of trying to strengthen the framework of safety in which men and women work; but however soundly constructed that framework of safety is, the number and gravity of accidents depend on a great many things and especially, as was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South, on simple things like lifting, perhaps the commonest cause of accidents. Care or carelessness, effective supervision, ignorance or good training are immensely important, in the framework which we are able to produce by legislation, in preventing or causing accidents. Ultimately, the behaviour of thousands of different individuals, who are the people whom we are trying to help by this legislation, depends on how seriously public opinion decides to take this matter of industrial safety and industrial health.
Both employers and trade unions have great responsibilities, as have the Government. The greatest task which faces industry and the Government working together is to try to create an enthusiasm for the prevention of accidents or sickness which is equal to the anxiety, which is generally felt all over the country, to try to redress the consequences of those accidents and sickness. Over the last eighteen or twenty years, I have watched the gradual quickening of the public conscience towards the rehabilitation and resettlement of men and women who have been disabled and made ill in industry. I get a little hope from that, because much work is being done, both in industry and by industry co-operating with the Government, to try to prevent others being hurt and getting ill.
Our joint objective, the objective of the House and industry together, in the years ahead is to try to advance as far as or further in the prevention of accidents as we have gone forward since 956 the war began in the method of dealing with the consequences.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
When indicating the scope of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman originally said that the Inspectorate was well nigh up to full establishment. Later, because of what had been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), he said that the scope of the Bill was limited by the number of inspectors. The Minister is responsible for the dismissal of qualified factory inspectors at a time when their services are necessary—on the ground that prevention is better than cure. How many inspectors have been dismissed over the last two years, and for what reasons? Why are the Government dispensing with factory inspectors at a time when inspectors have an important part to play and at a time when the Government are advertising for qualified recruits to the Inspectorate?
§ Mr. Wood
I must apologise to the hon. Member for not having dealt with that matter, which I had noted. What my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the debate was that there were now more inspectors, both in the general Inspectorate and the specialist branches, than ever before. Because we are very close to the full cadre of the Factory Inspectorate, in the last few months we have been discharging a number of temporary factory inspectors—a matter about which the hon. Member knows, since he has written to me about one of those inspectors.
The point which the hon. Member has been making both to me and to my right hon. Friend is that my right hon. Friend, rightly, said that the Factory Inspectorate was stretched very highly. I think that my right hon. Friend would probably still say that even if we had 100 or 200 more in the Inspectorate. The reason we are discharging the gentlemen to whom the hon. Member has referred is that we are getting near the full permanent cadre of the Factory Inspectorate and, as my right hon. Friend says, there are more inspectors in the Inspectorate than ever before.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).