HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc871-4
Mr Wood

I beg to move, in page 4, line 38. to leave out from " examination " to " may " in line 43 and to insert " but the regulations ".

Perhaps we might take with this Amendment the Amendments in line 46, and in page 5, line 1.

I think that the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Palmer) will be particularly interested in this, because it was in reply to him in Committee that my right hon. Friend gave an undertaking. It was suggested that the expression " extensive repairs " might be too vague and my right hon. Friend undertook to try to find a more precise expression.

The purpose of the three Amendments is to rewrite Clause 5 (1) to give my right hon. Friend, when he makes special regulations under that Clause, to prescribe in them exactly what kind of repair should be followed by an examination by a competent person. For example, we may have to use some such phrase as " repairs liable to affect the safe working pressure of the boiler."

6.15 p.m.

Mr Arthur Palmer (Cleveland)

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reference to our discussions in Committee on Clause 5, which deals with the inspection of boilers. It is quite true that, earlier, this was described more or less as the forgotten Clause, but I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we succeeded in lighting a small fire in Committee and building up some controversial pressure.

I should like to make a general point which I think has a bearing on the way in which it is now proposed to make a change to meet the point which my hon. Friends raised in Committee. It would be correct to say that the changes proposed by the Minister to Section 29 of the principal Act in the matter of inspection of boilers all go in the one general direction. The intention is to remove from the Statute detailed provisions which have been laid down over a long period to ensure safety in the operation of boiler plant and to make it now generally a matter for ministerial regulations.

As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, the Minister told us in Committee that he would be guided in making his regulations by the recommendations of the expert Honeyman Committee. I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would tell us what progress that Committee is making. The Committee is not only to look at boiler practice in relation to the normal type of factory and power station, but also at boiler plant for exchangers in nuclear power stations. The changes proposed, therefore, have been drafted in such a way as to allow for the continuance of various emergency requirements until new regulations are ready which will depend on the recommendations of the Honeyman Committee. The Amendment now proposed is designed to meet the point which we on this side of the House made in Committee about the difficulty of defining extensive repairs.

We were told in Committee that, in practice, no difficulty had arisen because of the use of those words, but I am grateful for the attempt which has been made to meet the point that we raised. This may be just a feeling on my part not shared by my hon. Friends, but I think that, unfortunately, the Amendments take us further in the direction of even more statutory regulations governing boiler inspections. Not only is the regular routine inspection every fourteen months to be subject to unforeseeable regulations in the future but the repairs after examination are now also to be left over and to depend upon the recommendations of the Honeyman Committee.

I should have preferred to have seen an attempt made to define the word " extensive ", with general safeguards, in the Statute, but the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that we must now proceed by way of regulations. That may be all right, but it would be a great pity if the statutory safeguards which have always been laid down in the terms of the statutes themselves from the beginning of this type of industrial legislation were now lost and we had too flexible a system of variation under regulations.

There is a final point which I put to the Parliamentary Secretary, which may be due to some misunderstanding on my part, but about which I should like to be certain. There is in the Clause we are now considering, in subsection (2), a provision which enables, or will enable, the Minister legally to continue to make exemptions under the existing law until the new Act takes effect. That is quite all right and one can accept it in relation to the statutory period of 14 months between inspections, but I should like an assurance that that holding power, to put it that way, available in the meantime to the Minister to continue to make exemptions which are necessary to make the existing legislation work, is not now to extend to inspection after repairs. I have rather hinted that it does not, but I should like to be sure.

Mr. Wood

I think that the answer to the hon. Gentleman's last question is, " Yes, it does not extend," but I will make myself quite clear about that, and let the hon. Gentleman know. On the main part of his speech, I should like to add that, naturally, it is my right hon. Friend's intention to get the views of the Honey-man Committee on this matter and to see what that Committee advises. It would seem to be the sensible thing to do, and that what that Committee advised would be the best phrase to use to meet this point.

The effect of the Amendment, at the very least, would mean that the Minister would introduce into regulations a more satisfactory phrase than the one against which the hon. Gentleman complained —the phrase " extensive repairs " —but until the Honeyman Committee gives its advice it is not possible to be more precise in my answer to the hon. Gentleman. I have taken note of his point, and either I or my right hon. Friend will let him know as soon as the Honeyman Committee gives us advice on this matter.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 4, line 46, at end insert: (7) The Minister may by special regulations prescribe the manner in which a steam boiler, together with its fittings and attachments, is to be examined after any such repairs as may be specified in the regulations; and where such repairs are carried out to a steam boiler after it has been examined under subsection (6) of this section, then, notwithstanding that the period prescribed under that subsection has not expired, the steam boiler shall not be used in any factory until the examination prescribed under this subsection has been made. In page 5, line 1, after " section ". insert for the words ' every such examination ' there shall be substituted the words ' every examination under this section ' and ". — [Mr. Wood.]