HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc820-7

Where running repairs to locomotives are carried out in any premises used for the purposes of a railway undertaking paragraph (vi) of subsection (1) of section one hundred and fifty-one of the principal Act (which extends the definition of the expression " factory " by including certain premises in which the construction, reconstruction or repair of locomotives, vehicles or other plant is carried on. not being any premises used for the purpose of housing locomotives or vehicles where only cleaning, washing, running repairs or minor adjustments are carried out) shall have effect in relation to those premises as if the words from " not being any premises " to the end of the paragraph were omitted.—[Mr. Iain Macleod.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. fain Macleod)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This is the first of 60 or 70 Government Amendments on the Notice Paper and I think it would save time if I now said a few words generally before explaining the proposed Clause. With the exception of the half-dozen Amendments devoted either to drafting points or clearing up small defects in the Bill, all the Government Amendments which have been tabled are designed to meet points that were raised in Committee, and are in pursuance of undertakings given either by the Parliamentary Secretary or myself.

We spent 17 days—and it was time well spent—in Committee on the Bill. We could have done it in 15 clays if the Opposition had not spent so much time in thanking the Parliamentary Secretary aid the Minister for their co-operation, but now the boot is on the other leg. If, on every one of the 60 to 70 Amendments, I were to thank the Opposition in suitable words for bringing up the points I have tried to enshrine in the Amendment, we could not get this Report stage through, even reserving the position of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) in two, let alone one, Parliamentary days. I will, therefore, cut short the usual thanksgivings that one produces on each of the 60 to 70 Amendments. I expressed my sincere thanks to the Committee during the Committee stage, and I would like to return to that point on Third Reading. In Committee, the Bill was treated in a wholly exceptional way.

This new Clause is designed to bring railway running sheds within the scope of the Factories Acts and, therefore, to carry out the undertaking that I gave to the Committee. At present, these sheds are excluded from the operation of the Factories Acts by the words in Section 151 (1, vi) of the 1937 Act. What we now propose to do is to modify that exclusion by providing that premises where running repairs to locomotives are carried out shall be factories. I am advised that this will bring within the scope of the Factories Acts all the 335 premises which the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) mentioned in Standing Committee when he argued the case so cogently.

The position did appear anomalous, and, as the House may recall, I discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. I think the Amendment fully meets the point mentioned, but I should add two points. First, this will still leave outside the scope of the Act places like sidings, where locomotives are simply cleaned or undergo minor adjustments, but not repairs. All railway running sheds where running repairs are carried out will be included.

The other obvious point is that this raises new points of policy not envisaged when the Bill was originally drafted, and I will have to discuss those with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I said in Committee that we were grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, even at this late hour, for the decision to apply the Factories Acts to locomotive running sheds. However, lest he get a strange idea about this, let me remind him that Sir Anthony Eden told the Trades Union Congress on 9th July, 1955, that legislation was in course of preparation to bring all railway installations under the provisions of the Gowers Report, and that statement was repeated in the House on the same day.

If, after having waited four years, the right hon. Gentleman now takes any credit for bringing these sheds within the scope of the Acts, let me remind him that when he introduced the Bill originally there was no mention of railways in it. It was only when the Opposition proposed an Amendment in Committee that it occurred to the right hon. Gentleman, as a sort of death-bed repentance, that he should accept it.

This is not the end of the story; it is the beginning. Railwaymen will not be content with having statutory powers for safety, health and welfare provisions applicable only to a locomotive running shed. The other sections of the railways arc equally anxious, and, far from this being the concluding chapter in this story, we shall resume in the near future our claim that the rest of the railway installations—sidings and other places where railway engines are in fact attended to—should be similarly treated.

In view of the modernisation programme that is going ahead, and the rapid introduction of electric and diesel locomotives, which make far less noise as they go along the permanent way, the danger to men working on or about the railways will be far greater than it has been in the past. It is for that reason that at an early date we shall resume our demand for the adoption of the whole of the Gowers Committee recommendations.

We appreciate that this gesture on the part of the Minister will to some extent, at any rate, relieve the position in those dangerous places known as locomotive running sheds where clouds of steam from steam locomotives and red hot ashes brought out of locomotives that have completed their turn of duty lying about the ground creat dangerous situations. This is one of the things which will be improved as a result of the new Clause and will prevent men from continuously sustaining either minor or serious injuries.

While we appreciate this gesture of bringing locomotive running sheds under the provisions of the Factories Acts, I should like to warn the Minister now that it is not the end but the beginning of a demand for the inclusion at the earliest opportunity of all railway installations within the scope of the Factories Acts.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I rise to speak on the Clause, in which we are all interested, for two reasons: first, the reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartle-pools (Mr. D. Jones); and, secondly, a personal reason, which is the way it was originally moved in Committee.

The House of Commons is perhaps the only place where one can say what one likes without penalty or fault, provided that it is within the bounds of good taste. I imagine that the House is the only place where a medical man can possibly commit a breach of etiquette by giving away a confidence he has acquired professionally. We were all affected by the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools appeared to move an Amendment which the Minister has now accepted in spirit and included in the new Clause.

When my hon. Friend was speaking I was really frightened because I knew that he was extremely ill. He was speaking with great vehemence—and I hope he will forgive me for saying this—because he was quite deaf as a result of acute middle ear infection and really running the most serious risk of not being with us at all. If we were faced with some over emphasis from him at that time it was purely for the physical reason that he could not have heard himself speaking had he spoken in normal tones. I think that all of us on the Committee are doubly beholden to him. I had the impression that railwaymen feel this matter so strongly that my hon. Friend would have risen from his grave to move his Amendment.

Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I am glad to have the opportunity of following in my remarks the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. David Jones) will not be disappointed with the new Clause, and that the Minister will be able to clear up some doubts in my mind about it.

First, the new Clause is described in the side-heading as applying to "railway running sheds ", but the body of the Clause contains the words: Where running repairs to locomotives are carried out in any premises "— apparently running sheds, because the wording continues: (…not being any premises used for the purpose of housing locomotives or vehicles "— and that is what running sheds are for where only cleaning, washing, running repairs or minor adjustments are carried out)… Which is which? Which does the Minister propose to give us? Does he propose to give us repairs, excluding running repairs or minor adjustments? What have we got?

At first sight, the Clause is something which we in the railway industry have been demanding for a long time, but now that we have it within our grasp I hope that it is not something airy-fairy which will go up in locomotive smoke. I hope that we shall not have a Smart Alec from outside the industry saying of an operation, "This is a running repair, not a minor adjustment. You should not read the body of the Clause, but its title."

In the industry a running shed is invariably the housing shed. Major repairs are done in the motive power depots, not in running sheds. I hope that the Minister will remove this apprehension and will assure us that the words really apply to railway running sheds. One reason why we want those sheds covered by the Bill is the structural character of the sheds and not merely the work that takes place there. It could be far more dangerous to do a minor adjustment to a locomotive in a running shed than to carry out a major repair in a motive power depôt

Many locomotive men are seriously injured in trying to open the smokebox door on the front of the engine. That is the type of thing which will be happening inside the running shed. To get the soot, clinker and ashes from the bottom of the chimney and the ends of the tubes the front door has to be opened. In doing that job men sometimes slip and fall into the pit; and lighting conditions in the running sheds are very different from those in the motive power depôts.

It is because of these and similar incidents that we want this Bill to apply inside the running sheds, so that the conditions in them may be brought up to the high standards that prevail inside the sheds where locomotives are manufactured and repaired.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

We are grateful for the Minister's opening remarks, in which he pointed out the constructive work which went into the Committee stage and the fact that the Government Amendments proposed today arise from suggestions made in Committee by my right hon. and hon. Friends.

At the moment, we are discussing railway running sheds and the right hon. Gentleman has accepted a great new principle by introducing the new Clause. We on this side of the House have felt for many years that there was an anomaly here. The Minister has now recognised that fact. From my own knowledge of the engineering industry I know, and it has been pointed out to me also by many engineers who are employed in these sheds, how anomalous it was that, working in identical conditions, engineers were covered by the Factories Acts elsewhere but were not covered when they worked in these running sheds. We thank the right hon. Gentleman for accepting this new principle, but we would point out that in applying the Bill to railway running sheds we are making only a small dent in the main issues dealt with by the Gowers Reports which for so long the Government have promised to implement but which they have failed to do so far.

We are pleased, therefore, that the new Clause has been proposed. It is a great advance, in that personnel employed in the running sheds will now be covered by the Factories Acts. The trade unions concerned with the people who work in these sheds have been pressing for many years for the implementation of this principle. We hope, however, that the fact that the Minister has now introduced the principle does not exclude the adoption of other recommendations made in the Gowers Reports on this subject. We hope that this does not mean that we are at the end of advance towards full implementation of these Reports in the industry.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The Opposition's attitude is well understood. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite welcome the new Clause as an important advance, but they would like the Gowers, the whole Gowers and nothing but the Gowers. That is perfectly understood, but such a cogent case was put in Committtee for the proposals now embodied in the new Clause that I discussed the matter immediately with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and accepted the principle. The substance of the short speeches which have now been made on the subject is the question whether the Clause gives what its side-heading says it gives. I assure hon. Members that it does. In Committee, the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. David Jones) spoke of 335 premises in which he was interested. The Clause has been drafted precisely with those in mind.

It is necessary to look not only at the new Clause but at Section 151 of the Factories Act, 1937, as we often did in Committee. That Section defines a factory, and it explains that there should be excluded from the definition of a factory places used for the purpose of housing locomotives or vehicles where only cleaning, washing, running repairs or minor adjustments are carried out. The point of the new Clause is to bring all those places where running repairs are carried out within the purview of the Factories Acts. I am sure that the Clause does that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.