HC Deb 14 April 1959 vol 603 cc964-91

Amendments made: In page 16, line 31, column 3, at beginning insert: In section twenty-eight, in subsection (1), the words " into any workroom

In line 36, column 3, at end insert: In section thirty-four in subsection (14). paragraph (a).

In line 38, column 3, at end insert: In section fifty-six, in subsection (1), the word "young".

In page 17, line 18, column 3, at end insert: In section one hundred and sixteen, in subsection (2), the words " a copy of ".—[Mr. Iain Macleod.]

Mr. Ellis Smith

On Third Reading—

Mr Speaker

The Question at the moment is not before the House, because the Third Reading has not been moved. I gather that the hon. Member wishes to move the adjournment of the debate, but the Question on Third Reading should be proposed from the Chair first. Mr. Macleod—Third Reading.

10.48 p.m.

Mr Iain Macleod

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) will agree that we can have the Third Reading of this important Bill tonight. I feel in the position of the Dodo in " Alice in Wonderland " who, when asked who had won, said, " Everybody has won and all shall have prizes." As the House knows, I hold my party opinions and perhaps even my partisan opinions as fiercely as any hon. Member, but I feel that there are occasions when it may be right, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) has said, when we should mar the symmetry of our party recriminations. If there be such an occasion, I think that the welfare of those who work in factories can be taken to provide one.

I believe that in the matter of the number of Amendments accepted as they stood or subject only to drafting alterations the passage of this Bill has been a record for a major Bill, certainly in my recollection. If I may be allowed to read from the words of one of great experience, the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), as he closed the final Sitting of the Standing Committee: I have never had a less difficult Committee to preside over, and I have never had a more pleasant one either."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 12th March, 1959; c. 780] I do not want to go into the details cf the Bill on Third Reading. We have hammered them out. The hon. Member for Newton said a few minutes ago that in time perhaps Clause 20 will be found to have been the most important Clause in the Bill. Here for the first time we place a statutory duty on the Minister that he shall—I emphasise shall "—promote the health, safety and welfare of those who work in factories.

We have made an enormously important stride forward, secondly, in the Clauses dealing with fire prevention, particularly by introducing for the first time the conception of prevention. I do not conceal my delight, which I know is shared to the full by the Parliamentary Secretary, from whom I have I had such splendid support through all stages of the Bill, that it has been possible while we have been at the Ministry of Labour, to make what I think is a substantial contribution to factory legislation.

I acknowledge straight away that it would not have been possible to make that contribution in this full measure without the help of the Standing Committee and the House, and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) for the way in which he has led for the Opposition and to hon. Members opposite for the way in which they put their arguments in Standing Committee and on Report. I am grateful to all who supported me at all stages of the Bill.

I should like to leave the Bill with one last thought. The Bill at the moment is only a framework. It is a mistake which politicians sometimes make to think that just because they have said something then they have done something. That is not true. The work has not yet started. It starts from now, and we must look to both sides of industry, to local authorities and fire authorities, to the safety, health and welfare Department of my Ministry and, above all, to that splendid corps to which so many tributes have been paid—the Factory Inspectorate—to make sure that what we have tried to do in words will be translated in time into deeds and will result in the years ahead in higher and higher standards of safety and welfare for all those who work in the factories.

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Ellis Smith

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned.

I will state my case in as reasonable a manner as possible. Indeed, the case which I was about to present has been reinforced by our experience since the Minister opened the Report stage. I remind the House—and I do not do this in any hypocritical manner but speaking objectively—that within the last year or two and especially the last twelve months we have spent days and days in the House dealing with the conditions and the lives of people in other parts of the world.

I take second place to none in my sympathetic approach to the problems of people in all parts of the world, but I spent some time in the House with great friends of mine whom I have to thank for a great deal, who were working-class characters and whom I am determined to remember. I will try to prove worthy of them. I recall the weeks and weeks and nights and nights which they spent here dealing with the lives of our own people. This is a question of degree. I do not want to carry it too far, but I think that this is a note which someone should strike. I have tried to make my contribution in striking this cautious note.

Let me make it clear that no one appreciates the work done by the Standing Committee more than I. I have read its proceedings and I feel that great credit is due to the Minister, to his advisers and to hon. Members on both sides of that Committee for the great constructive work which they did in Committee.

I am not one who believes in quibbling. I believe that our constitutional machinery must be made as efficient as possible and brought up to date so that we can look everyone in the eyes throughout the world and say that it functions efficiently in the interests of our country and of our people.

This, however, is a question of degree. I have taken a little interest in trying to get myself informed on the democratic rights which we have won in this House over the centuries. In these days of steamrollering and when men are pre- pared to subordinate main principles because of certain ideas, it is necessary that a few hon. Members—and this applies also outside, in other walks of life—should have the courage to take a stand on occasions like this.

Since I have done that, as a result of our experience, my views have been reinforced. In what I shall say now, I do not want the Minister, and certainly not the Parliamentary Secretary, because he has been responsible for pioneering what I am speaking about, to imagine that I am striking this note in any critical sense. I am putting this forward, however, as firm evidence to show the correctness of the line I was taking earlier and the line I am taking now.

When we reached the second Amendment to the Minister's new Clause—(Floors, passages and stairs)—my hon. Friends—and I agreed with them—took exception to the word " reasonable." I was inclined to ask for a definition of what is reasonable. Eventually, the Minister said, " I will look at this later." If I understand the procedure correctly, that means that the Amendment will be inserted in another place.

According to my reading of Erskine May, it would be possible, after I produce this evidence, for Mr. Speaker to ask that the Bill be reprinted. To make a close analysis of the changes that have been rightly introduced—remember, I am speaking not critically, but objectively—and to do our duty to the people whom we represent, before we part with the Bill we ought to be able to examine it coolly at home and in the Library before we come to Third Reading or, if Mr. Speaker ordered the Bill to be reprinted and recommitted, so that we could come to the recommittal stage before it went to Third Reading.

Here is further evidence. On the next Amendment, the Minister said that the matter would be examined again. On the next one, he said, " I will consult my legal advisers." On the following one, when I dealt with provision for canteens, the Parliamentary Secretary was as magnanimous as it is possible for a Minister to be and I was very pleased. At the same time, however, this means an examination and it will mean that the Bill goes to another place and the Amendment will be inserted there.

We are the people who are elected to represent the people. We are not in the House of Commons because of our parents. We are not here because we are highly placed in life. We are in the House of Commons because up to now we have commanded the confidence of our people. If we are to retain that confidence, it is necessary to try to be worthy of our people in this way

On the next Amendment, the Parliamentary Secretary said that, if necessary. at this and consider what action we can take." On the next one, the Parliamentary Secretary said that if necessary, the Government would put down an Amendment in another place. In the great discussion that took place concerning the fire authority, when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) spoke in such an informative manner—he was well informed because of the responsibility he has held at the Home Office—the Parliamentary Secretary was greatly appreciative of it and he showed it. He concluded by saying, " I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I will look at this." He was referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. Later the Parliamentary Secretary said he would look at something else. Then my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) expressed his concern on another Amendment—

Mr Speaker

I ask the hon. Member to show me how this bears on the question whether the debate should be now adjourned. We are on the Question of Third Reading. I gather that the hon. Member's argument is in general that many points have been reserved for reconsideration. That does not seem a valid argument why we should not proceed with the Third Reading.

Mr Ellis Smith

Thank you for your advice. Mr. Speaker. I drop that immediately.

I was trying only to give concrete evidence to show that it is essential that we should not proceed with the Third Reading tonight. According to Erskine May, previous Speakers have given instructions in a situation of this kind— not in identical situations, but in similar situations—that the Bill should be reprinted. I thought that if there were sufficient support for the line I am taking such an instruction could be given in this situation. I was trying to produce evidence to show why it should be. I am satisfied that I have given enough evidence. More could have been given. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your advice and for jogging my memory. I hope I have given sufficient evidence to show that there is something in the appeal I am making that, when there is so much at stake, we should not proceed with the Third Reading at 11 o'clock at night.

I am reinforced by Erskine May. My wife told me, when she saw what I was doing, to remind the House that my copy at home is not one missing from the Library. It is one I look upon as though it were a great piece of gold. It is one of my greatest treasures. One of the finest journalists it has been my privilege to know, who retired from the Press Gallery some time ago, presented me with it. I rely on that copy, but I am armed with a modern copy which is out of the Library. I brought it out on condition 1 returned it, and that I shall do.

It is to you, in particular, Mr. Speaker. I address these words. On page 577 it says: According to present practice in the House of Commons, the former course is frequently followed, and may, in fact, be regarded as the usual procedure, except where the bill is one of great importance … Excuse my pausing there. In my view, there are few Bills which can he of more importance than this. There are few Bills which have been amended to the extent this Bill has been—to the Minister's credit, I think. I am not speaking critically. I said to my hon. Friend, when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking earlier at the Box, " It takes a big man to stand there and speak in that way." I have seen many Ministers speak at that Box and go away to be seen no more. I saw a great change in a man who had had great experience—the late Oliver Stanley who, as a result of being knocked about, and because of great experience, became one of the biggest men ever to stand at that Box. I say that to let it be clearly understood that in making these observations I am speaking in no critical sense.

This is one of the most important Bills which, in these times, could be brought before the House. It is twenty years since I served on a Committee which dealt with similar legislation and which included the then Home Secretary—and the least said about him the better. When one considers that we may have to wait another twenty years before the next Factories Bill or Consolidation Measure, the importance of this Bill will be appreciated.

Erskine May goes on: … except where the bill is one of great importance or has been extensively amended on consideration; in such cases an interval before the third reading may he thought desirable ". Is that reasonable? It is my main plea that it is. I could give further evidence from the careful notes which I have made and which are based on a careful analysis of Erskine May and Standing Orders.

I am convinced as never before that it is a reasonable proposition that at five minutes past eleven o'clock we should not go on with the Third Reading of a Bill which will affect millions of our fellow countrymen and that the House should be given an opportunity to make a close examination of the Bill in its final form before it goes to another place.

It may be that the Patronage Secretary will agree to my proposal to a postponement so that we can carry on in the sweet way the right hon. Gentleman mentioned and so that there will be no difficulty.

Dr. Stross

I beg to second the Motion.

11.7 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I do not often intervene in debates as Leader of the House at this hour. I do so partly out of deference to the Parliamentary experience of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), whom we all recognize as being one of our most experienced and lovable Members. Therefore, anything I say in answer to his Motion, and, I am afraid, by way of being unwilling to accept it, is not done in any sense of despising the attitude he has adopted on this occasion.

According to your earlier Ruling, Mr. Speaker, you thought that it would be right for the hon. Member to raise this matter after my right hon. Friend had moved the Third Reading. The hon. Member has put his case and has been supported by his colleague from his own district, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), in the way we associate with him.

The hon. Member quoted only one instance from Erskine May, which I also have with me. This copy, too, is not my own and will also be returned in due course. If the hon. Member looks at the relevant passage, he will see that it is a very general statement. If he looks at page 595 he will see that there is a statement that it is the normal practice for Report and Third Reading of Bills in the House of Commons to be taken on the same day.

It is true that that latter passage deals fundamentally with an emergency, but the words used are of general application. The hon. Member will see that the words used on page 577 are: in such cases an interval before the third reading may be thought desirable. It does not say it should be so. It says that it " may " be desirable.

If we take the hon. Member's argument seriously, as they should be taken, we have to look as his two other criteria. One was that the Bill was of great importance and the other was that it had been extensively amended on consideration, that is, consideration on Report. Clearly, the Bill is of great importance and the hon. Member was quite right to say so, but I find, looking back over twenty-five years, that the references in Erskine May date from 1933, 1934 and 1935.

That being so, I have to look back on what has been the normal practice of the House for the last twenty-five years or so. Much as we respect Erskine May, it is only case law and it can always be adapted in the light of further case law. Looking back over twenty-five years or so during which time I have been a Member, I find that Bills which may be regarded as socially desirable and not of great controversy are often taken with Third Reading following on Report.

The Amendments moved by my right hon. Friend were nearly all moved in order to meet points made in Committee. I cannot say that I have listened to the debate to the same extent as other hon. Members, because I have had other duties to perform, but in so far as I have been able to do so it has appeared to me that it has taken place in a singularly felicitous atmosphere. I, like other hon. Members, have cancelled all my other engagements in order to be present in the House for any Divisions that might take place, but there has not been a single Division on any matter concerned with the Bill. To say that the Bill is controversial would therefore be quite untrue.

To say that the Bill is important would be true, but to say that it has been extensively amended on consideration would not, in that it has not been amended in a controversial manner. Considering the need for the expedition of Parliamentary business, and for making our procedure as sensible as possible, I really do not think that it is unreasonable to take the Third Reading tonight, and I hope that the House will agree with me.

When I announced the business for this week, I made it clear to the Opposition that it was our intention to take the Report and Third Reading together. In that respect there may be a division of opinion between the Front Bench opposite and private Members, but no formal objection was made by the Opposition to taking the Report and Third Reading together. Therefore, for the Government to ask the House to do so tonight is not breaking faith in any way.

I agree that private Members have the right of intervention, and nobody has used that right more liberally or persuasively than the hon. Member, but owing to the fact that we had a virtual understanding that it would not be unreasonable to take the Third Reading tonight; that this is a progressive Measure and is not highly controversial, and that the Amendments made tonight have been made mostly in order to meet points raised in Committee, it is reasonable for the House to proceed with the Third Reading. In view of the fact that it is now twenty-five years since the insertions in Erskine May which have been referred to were made, I hope that the House will be of the same opinion.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. Robens

As I was probably responsible for advising my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Bowden), who is the other end of the usual channels, that we could reasonably take the Third Reading directly after completing the Report stage this evening, I would like to appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) to give further consideration to this matter. We are all well aware of the deeply conscientious interest which he takes in the question of the health, safety and protection of workers generally. and we all recognise that in moving his Motion tonight he acted with the highest of motives, desiring only to see that this legislation was as nearly perfect as it could be in every detail.

All I would say is that at no time in discussing these difficult matters in Committee did the Minister of Labour seek to curtail our discussion; indeed, he helped us considerably by making available to us a good deal of hitherto unavailable information. As a consequence, I can say on behalf of all those who served on that Committee that we examined the Bill exhaustively and that every consideration was shown to us by the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary. If the Bill were sent back to the Standing Committee again, I am sure that there is nothing more that the Committee could do to make the Bill a better one.

We have said today that most of the Amendments agreed to today have been accepted entirely because of the very co-operative way in which both sides considered these matters in Committee. The purpose which my hon. Friend has in mind would not be served by postponing further consideration of the Bill; indeed, it would be thwarted. Most of the work that the Minister has to do will follow the passing of the Bill into law. If we delay it becoming an Act of Parliament, then all the things for which we have worked and for which the Bill provides will also be delayed. Bearing in mind the conscientious way in which my hon. Friend attends to these matters, I think that we should have the Third Reading so that the Bill may go on its course. There will, I imagine, be opportunity for further discussion on these matters of health, safety, and welfare during the passage of orders which will be made under it and it would best serve the interests of those Whom my hon. Friend seeks to serve if he would withdraw his Motion and allow the Third Reading to pass without more ado.

Mr Ellis Smith

I should like to say a very few words in appreciation of the way in which everybody to whom I have spoken in respect of this matter has treated me since I raised it at 3.30 p.m. today. I begin with Mr. Speaker and the Clerks at the Table. Having said that, I would also put on record my great appreciation of the work done, especially behind the scenes—which nobody perhaps knows anything about—and of what has been done by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South-West (Mr. Bowden). I did not know at 3.30 p.m. that he had been consulted, but he having agreed after the fullest possible consultation that the Third Reading should be taken tonight, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

11.17 p.m.

Mr Lee

When the Minister of Labour introduced this Bill for Second Reading I remembered that it was the year of the centenary of the death of Robert Owen. Looking at the Bill as it now is, I think we can all say that it is more worthy than it was, and the more so for having been introduced on such an important occasion.

The background against which we have discussed this Measure in Committee and in the House is the fact that in Great Britain some 16,000 work people are injured and some 450 or more killed in factory accidents alone during each year. That has been the basis, I am sure, on which the Minister has seen fit to introduce his Bill. It has been the enormity of that fact which has prompted my right hon. and hon. Friends to try constructively to improve the Bill. We have discussed the part which both employers and trade unionists must take in the effort to ensure greater safety in our factories, and in this the Government themselves have a very great responsibility.

I agree with the Minister that the outstanding feature in the long-term operation of this Bill is that the Government have accepted a greater measure of responsibility than ever before for safety, health, and welfare in factories. We had a long discussion on the Amendment in which I asked the Minister to ensure that not only should he accept that responsibility but that the physical arrangements within his Department, especially in so far as the Inspectorate is concerned, should be such as would enable him adequately to carry out the very responsible functions which he has undertaken. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to tell us that that was his intention.

Within this same problem we have discussed—and it is relevant to this issue—the size of the Factory Inspectorate itself. We argued this in the Committee, where it was pointed out that even now, with all the additional responsibilities which the Government have accepted, it is adequate to the tasks which will have to be faced.

One recalls that as long ago as 1926 an International Labour Convention adopted by this country provided that as far as possible annual visits to factories should take place. We are a very long way from that position. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take this seriously into consideration when implementing the promise he made to put his Department in a position to carry out the new responsibilities which he has now undertaken. The same thing holds good in respect of the equipment of the Department.

A very good job has been done with the fire Clauses of the Bill. I recall the terrible circumstances of the Keighley fire. The fact that the factory inspectors now will have the power to invite the fire prevention officers to go into such factories will prove to he a very great advance on the position which has obtained in years gone by. However, I am not yet convinced that we have reached finality in this matter, and I am sure we all hope that the Minister will watch the future to ensure that the provisions now contained in the Bill are adequate to our needs.

At this late hour, I do not wish to go into my " King Charles' head " about first-aid boxes and so on. We have made some improvements in the position in the Bill, but I am a long way from being satisfied. We shall not reduce the number of injuries which turn septic until we get rid of the rather antiquated approach to first-aid treatment and insist as far as possible on ambulance rooms, full-time qualified doctors and nurses, and so on. In that respect, the Bill still contains limitations.

Despite all that, we welcome the manner in which the right hon. Gentle- man has met us and the constructive approach which there has been to the Bill.

I would again stress—this cannot be overdone—the problems which we discussed in Committee with regard to dangerous machines. The right hon. Gentleman invited all the trade unions whose membership is employed in machine shops where there are dangerous machines to look at the 1954 list of dangerous machines and suggest additions and improvements. I do not know whether anything has been done to publicise the right hon. Gentleman's statement, but I am doing what I can now to ensure that the trade unions—and the employers, if they can help—assist in making the list far more adequate than it is.

Improvements have been made in respect of the employment of women and young persons. However, I do not believe that we have gone as far in this as we might have done. There is provision within the Bill for working longer hours than are at present permitted in industry. I regret that we have not done more in this respect.

As the Minister has stated, my right hon. and hon. Friends have approached the Bill in an eminently constructive way. By hard work in Committee and in preparing Amendments—a job which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) undertook and did very well—we have tried conscientiously to improve the Measure. We did it because in the main we are convinced that this is the sort of legislation which is necessary if we are to improve safety, health and welfare in Britain's factories. From our vast experience of these matters, we know of the hardship which has unnecessarily been caused to hundreds of thousands of persons because of the limitations of the 1937 Act.

As a House of Commons, we—and especially those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who served on the Standing Committee—can draw some consolation from the fact that something tangible, constructive and worth having has emerged from our labours. On both sides of the House we can feel that that is so. That being the case, perhaps we could now agree to the Third Reading of the Bill in the knowledge that we have served, as we believe, the workers in industry as well as we possibly can.

We are in a new phase in which legislation in this field which appears modern and up to date today will appear to be obsolete and redundant tomorrow. I feel that this Bill is perhaps the first chapter in a series of Measures which the House will have to put through because of the vast industrial changes which are now taking place.

If we can look at the problem in the same constructive and worth-while spirit in which the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and we on this side of the House have tried to do in this matter, then I am pretty sure that the House of Commons will serve the people of this country very well indeed in future as I believe it has done in this present legislation.

11.26 p.m.

Mr Reader Harris

As it is getting on towards midnight I want to do no more than thank the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary for the very cooperative attitude which they have adopted throughout the passage of the Bill. I feel that what they have done reflects great credit upon themselves. There can have been few occasions when a Minister has gone out of his way so many tines to meet the wishes of the Opposition Front Bench and also those of the back benchers on both sides. I feel that by his action my right hon. Friend has brought great credit not only on himself and his Parliamentary Secretary but also on the whole House of Commons.

It is one of the pities that as there were no rows or riots on the Floor of the House and no insults flying back and forth the debate will not be reported very much in the Press. The Bill is a great piece of legislation, but it will go by almost unnoticed. This is a pity because, of course, when the great party machines are in action in a big political fight the work of the back bencher and his whole position and individuality become submerged. People say that back bench Members are just rubber stamps.

It is on an occasion such as this when a great piece of social legislation is going through the House and when both sides are co-operating to do something for the good of the people that the back benchers conic into their own. The Minister has accepted Amendments from the back benches as well as from the Opposition Front Bench, and it is a pity that the country cannot see us in action on an occasion such as this.

One of the most important things in the Bill which has affected my mind has been the fact that fire prevention has been carried a great step forward. It has been given still greater recognition. I think that realisation has at last come that in a fire brigade the work of a fire prevention department is now almost as important as the fire extinguishing side of the brigade's activities.

Fire prevention is becoming a science in its own right. It is still a young science, but nowadays a fire prevention officer needs to know a great deal more than he did twenty or thirty years ago. He has to have knowledge of buildings, architecture, chemistry, physics, explosives and a whole host of other things. These men are becoming experts in their own right. It is gratifying that their position should be recognised still more than it has been in the past and to know that there will be greater co-operation between them and the factory inspectors whose job also is every day becoming more important.

I want to offer these words of thanks once again to my right hon. Friend who has done a great service to the House and to the country.

11.30 p.m.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I agree with almost everything that has been said in this Third Reading debate, and I shall not detain the House for long.

I, like others who have spoken, feel that this is an important piece of social legislation. How right the Minister was when he said, on Clause 20, that a statutory duty had been placed on the Minister and his Department for the health, welfare and safety of workers. He also said that this Bill was only a framework and that once it was on the Statute Book the real work had to begin. I agree with that statement wholeheartedly.

There are, however, a number of questions that I want to ask. Does the Minister feel that, given the framework of this Bill, the establishment of factory inspectors is sufficiently large to ensure that when regulations are made they will be honoured by all the employers in the country? The factory inspectors, it seems to me, have two duties. They visit factories, and they attempt to ensure that whatever is contained in regulations is observed by the employers. I think they have another duty, namely, to advise in the most friendly way possible the employers on how they can improve the health, welfare and safety conditions of their workers.

From what I know about the establishment of the Factory Inspectorate, I have my doubts whether there are sufficient inspectors to do the job which I am sure the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary want done. In Committee they showed clearly the real concern that they have in these matters of health and welfare, and if anything that we can say on this side of the House will help them in their attempts to get a bigger Factory Inspectorate, I think it will be worth saying.

If a statutory duty has been placed on the Minister, I want to ask him another question. Does he intend within the framework of this Bill to put into the medical division of the Factory Inspectorate a group of nurses? This question was raised on my behalf by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) when an Amendment on which I wished to speak was ruled out of order. I think he made the case very well and that the Parliamentary Secretary in reply dealt with it most sympathetically. He said: My right hon. Friend and I will certainly study very carefully what has been said on this subject, and my right hon. Friend will then consider whether it will be necessary to use the powers which he already has."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 5th March, 1959; c. 658.] I should like to know whether, as a result of those considerations by the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Department, they will decide that one way of ensuring that part of the provisions are carried out is by having this small nucleus of nurses in the medical division of the Factory Inspectorate. My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said that he did not want to say too much tonight about first-aid, but he showed clearly that it was very important to use doctors and nurses in factories.

The Royal College of Nursing must be given great credit for the work it has done in training nurses in occupational health work. I am sure that it would be the first to admit that it has had the greatest help and co-operation from the Minister and his Department. It is also being helped by the Nuffield Department of Occupational Health at Manchester University to publicise how important it is for factories to use the services of nurses. I am not asking that every little factory should be required to employ a nurse. Arrangements might be made for a number of factories to have the use of a nurse, which would not mean that the nurse would have to be in the factory all the time.

If interest is shown at the centre, which is the Minister's Department, and particularly his factories department, the excellent advice that would come from that centre would bring more and more employers to realise what a useful job of work could be done. Not only would it ensure that some slight accident would not lead to much more drastic results—and that would be important from the worker's point of view—but it would cut down the number of working days lost in industry. I am sure that the Minister, who has been so co-operative on many of the points made from this side of the House, will be ready to give an answer tonight on this important matter.

11.53 p.m.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour must be congratulated on carrying out the many commitments which he made in Committee. While the Committee started off its proceedings with what was probably a little friction, by the end of our sittings we all tended to feel that we were working together. I can understand the reason for the omission, but one small commitment which was not carried out on Report related to an Amendment of mine in Committee on Clause 3, to which the Minister appended his name, but which was withdrawn after my right hon. Friend had said that he would consider the matter in time for Report. That, however, is not important. Taking the Bill as a whole, I repeat what I said on Second Reading, that we cannot legislate for good behaviour. We can legislate only against bad behaviour, and that is exactly what is being done in the Bill.

Clause 20, particularly, is a move in the right direction in an attempt to make certain that this legislation will be only a base above which we shall have more and more of those engaged in industry aiming to secure the best possible working conditions. I believe that from the Bill we can go forward to a point at which we can convince more and more people in the industry that safety pays and that they should work well above the basic requirements laid upon them by legislation. For those reasons, I welcome the Third Reading of the Bill.

11.40 p.m.

Mr C. Howell

I will not bore the House by repeating many of the laudatory remarks which have been made. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary know how I appreciate the work which they have done and the co-operative way in which they have done it. The Minister w ill probably be one of the first to agree that he has learned a lot. He certainly learned at the start, because he began by moving the Closure, which annoyed some hon. Members of the Opposition, and he did not repeat the offence.

Mr Iain Macleod

With respect, at no time, in Committee or at any other stage, did I move the Closure.

Mr Howell

We had one little dispute with the Minister when a vote was taken in the early stages and we even had a debate on the validity of the voting. I am not holding that against the Minister but merely saying that we have all learned something. I had to apply the Factories Acts for many years, and during the few weeks in the Committee I learned more about them than I had known previously. Even the Minister admitted that he was acting on a considerable amount of advice. If I can paraphrase what he said, it was that he was playing snakes and ladders and was being advised before the meeting which was the snake and which the ladder—which to go up and which to go down.

That arose from a point which I made that when we tried to interpret the Factories Acts a legal expert often told us that some other point was included in the Health Act. I told the Minister that as soon as possible I wanted a Factories Act which could be referred to as a bible and in which we could find everything on the subject, instead of having to refer from one Act to another, as I had to refer from the 1937 Act to other Acts to see whether one tied in with another.

In his reply the Minister indicated that he would like to see a consolidating Bill as soon as possible—a composite Bill in which all the amending Acts would be included. That has not been mentioned tonight, but I hope that the Minister will consider introducing a consolidating Bill, because its passage through the House would not take as long as this Bill has taken and it would be of great assistance.

I remind the Minister of a fact which surprised me. When a married woman is away from work having a child, it is an offence for the factory owner to reemploy her within a specified period. That is contained in the Health Act, not one of the Factories Acts, but it should b. in a Factories Act. It is one example of a number of facts, of which the Minister is well aware, which show why we should have a consolidating Bill.

I do not think that the Minister will claim that the Bill is perfect. It would be foolish for anyone to make such a claim. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said, some of the things we have passed will be almost out of date before they are in print. We expect that kind of thing to happen, but I feel that if we get the Bill on the Statute Book we shall be able to say that as a result of our deliberations we have provided a better Act which will be of benefit to the workers of the country. As the hon. Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. Reader Harris) said, the Bill may not get much publicity, but at some time somewhere someone will be grateful to the House for the improvements which we have made in the Bill in the last three weeks.

Dr. Stross


Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

Order. The hon. Member has exhausted his right to speak in the debate.

Dr. Stross

With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have not spoken on Third Reading.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the hon. Member refers to page 449 of Erskine May he will find that an hon. Member who moves an Amendment may not speak again in the debate. An hon. Member who seconds an Amendment is equally unable to speak again on the main Question, after the Amendment has been withdrawn.

Miss Herbison

On a point of order. Could not my hon. Friend speak with the leave of the House?

Mr Deputy-Speaker


11.45 p.m.

Dr. Stross

If the House will give me leave to speak again I shall be grateful. I am grateful to you, too, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I spared the House a long speech when I seconded the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith).

Of course, we welcome the Third Reading. The Minister, in his usual and most felicitous fashion, moved the Motion. I was particularly impressed by his warning that we should not overestimate the work we have done, for all we have done is to put words together. However happy we were in doing so and however much we agreed with each other, these words have to be implemented. I presume that implementation must come by the employers of labour, wherever they be, and that enforcement must come from the servants of the Minister in the Department and, in particular, from the Factory Inspectorate. Therefore, we now hand over to them.

I am sure that in doing that, we should all like to express our gratitude for the work they do. We have said this often during the passage of the Bill, both on Second Reading and in Committee. I will be excused, having said that, if I raise my usual complaint concerning the Factory Inspectorate. I must agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), who pointed out that she was not certain whether the force was big enough for all the work that we impose upon it. I have sometimes criticised the Minister for not making it possible for new entrants to be scientifically trained in sufficient numbers, as they used to be. We live in an age which is scientific and technical, more and more, day by day.

It is only a matter of about £90 or £100 a year at the entry grade that would satisfy the desires that we all tend to express. We get about one in ten of new entrants now who are qualified technically or scientifically. Until 1940, it used to be two out of three. I hope, therefore, that when speaking of the regard that the whole of the House has for the Inspectorate, the Minister will not entirely jettison the possibility of doing something in this matter and in this way.

The right hon. Gentleman listened patiently to a quite long speech on radioactive hazards. This is a technical matter and we can only look to the Inspectorate to defend these people among the 8 million whom we are talking about. I know that it is useful and a good thing to be able to write Latin and Greek verses, but if, by and large, that is all one has learned to do, it is very hard work to get down to modern and technical scientific problems. It is much easier if one has also had a scientific education in one's youth at the university.

Some of us who have had experience of both types of education understand that it is desirable to assist the Inspectorate by raising—I say it quite bluntly—the salaries that we pay, at least in the entrant grade. This would save us money appreciably in other directions, because we would not have expensively to attempt to educate entrants once we take them, which is really what we have to do.

We have been so happy together in trying to make a good Bill better and knowing that we were succeeding all the time, and now we are quite sure we have succeeded. I wonder, however, whether we have, in fact, done it or whether we have been deceiving ourselves all the time. How is it that nobody has taken any notice of what we have done? May it be that we are all rather silly people? Otherwise, I wonder how one can explain what the Minister reminded us of on the last morning in Committee—and I was grateful that he mentioned it—when he said: There is one more point I would put to the Committee…I think I am right in saying that practically not a line of the seventeen sittings of this Committee has appeared in the national Press."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 12th March, 1959; c. 778] If it did, I never saw it. Our local newspapers from time to time did give consideration to what we were doing. but not the national Press.

We ask ourselves why this is. Are they wrong or are we? Is Parliament wasting its time in legislating for the 8 million people in the factories? Is it a waste of time for us on both sides of the House to do everything we can to make life more tolerable, to increase production, to bring about greater safety and better health for our people? If it is wasting time we can understand why the national Press does not take note of our efforts, but if the national Press has made a mistake and is wrong we have a right to say that this is a good Bill.

We look to the national Press to assist the nation and inform our citizens, and very often by and large it does, but I noticed the other day that an attractive young lady came to this country, a film actress. I discovered it by reading the Daily Herald at breakfast that morning. The editor gave a whole editorial to her, with particular attention to her knees, which, he gave me to understand, he did not care much about really, and in his opinion there was no point in making much fuss about her. But he gave her the whole editorial, simply because the young lady has attractive knees. What nonsense. They are only hinged joints anyway, much the same as mine or yours, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

I sit down by expressing in this rather light-hearted fashion my objection to the stupidity of the national Press because it does not take note of what is being done for the 8 million who work for the good of our country in our factories.

11.52 p.m.

Mr. MacDermot

I am afraid that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has cast gloom over the House by suggesting that a young lady's knees are, after all, only hinged joints, and I should like to try to restore some of the greater sense of pleasure and happiness which was prevailing in our proceedings earlier.

Seriously, to have served in Committee on the Bill has been a most satisfying and rewarding experience for everyone. It is seldom that a Bill has been approached and dealt with so constructively, and certainly, speaking for this side of the House, it is seldom that we have found such great receptiveness as we undoubtedly found from the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary. They have treated and considered every point which we have put forward with the greatest care and courtesy. and, I think, undoubtedly surprised and pleased us enormously by the number of our suggestions which they have been able to take up and put into the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) made a kindly reference to myself, but I am afraid I must disclaim much of what he said, and I apologies to the House for the lack of skill with which the Opposition's Amendments were drafted in Committee. If only they had been drafted with a little more skill I think we should all have been in our beds by now. It is because the Minister had to implore us to withdraw all the Amendments because of the inadequacy of their drafting that the Notice Paper has been so inordinately lengthy today. However, one way or another, we have arrived at the right solution.

Many of the points to which we attach particular importance have already been discussed on Report, but I would just seek to enumerate some of the ones which we consider to mark real progress in the Bill upon the way in which the Bill was originally presented to the House.

First, as has been said, the provisions relating to fire precautions, which, taken as a whole, are probably the most important series of Clauses in the Bill, have been considerably strengthened and improved. Several new powers have been taken by the Minister to make regulations, and I will say a little more about that in a moment.

The new Clause which was passed today, applying the Factories Acts to railway running sheds, brings to an end a battle which has been waged by a number of my hon. Friends for many years. As the Minister said earlier, it was a recommendation in the Gowers Report and one hopes that it will lead to an improvement in the conditions in those sheds which, I think I am right in saying, one of the members of the Gowers Committee described as having shocked the Committee.

Among the other new Clauses today were those imposing for the first time under the Factories Acts a general duty upon employers to provide safe places of work, and considerably strengthening the Section in the principal Act which deals with the safety of floors, passages and staircases. We have dealt with those matters on Report and I refer to them only in passing.

One matter not mentioned today. for the simple reason that it was one of the few provisions suggested by us in Committee in the right form, was a new Clause, which is now Clause 15, extending the duty of employers to prevent the lifting of excessive weights, extending its application from merely young persons to all persons employed in factories. This is a matter of considerable importance because, as is well known to hon. Members, many accidents in factories occur during the lifting of weights—particularly injuries to backs. We hope that this provision will lead to a reduction in the number of such accidents.

In this friendly atmosphere, to sound a discordant or critical note is almost to assume the role of the bad fairy who turns up uninvited at the christening and pronounces a curse. I do not wish to do anything of that kind, but I am afraid that there is a streak in my nature, perhaps an unpleasant one, which makes me somewhat suspicious.

I confess that from the first time that I read the Bill I have had a feeling that it might contain an element of window dressing. We have several times heard it described as being a great piece of social legislation. We must see. It may turn out to be a considerable advance in terms of social legislation. On the other hand, it may achieve very little. I call attention to one Clause which has not been mentioned today, Clause 28, of which subsection (3) says: This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may by order appoint, and different days may be appointed for different purposes of this Act. We do not know when any provisions of the Bill will come into force, that will depend on the Minister.

We hope that he will press matters forward and bring in various provisions as early as he can. We all recognise that he cannot possibly bring them in all at once. Many will need considerable preparatory work, preparation of regulations, setting up the necessary administrative machinery and so forth. We urge the right hon. Gentleman to press on with this matter with the greatest possible urgency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central referred to the Minister's remarks about the lack of publicity for our discussions in Committee. Perhaps my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend forgot that we were competing against two very strong candidates for publicity, for there were in Committee at that time the Obscene Publications Bill and the Street Offences Bill. Any Press publicity given to the Committee stages of Bills at that time was reserved exclusively for the stonewalling of the Attorney-General on the Street Offences Bill and the perhaps more pliant attitude of his colleague, the Solicitor-General, on the Obscene Publications Bill. Be that as it may, we would all hope that in the reporting of today's debate more publicity could be given to the considerable progress made in the Bill. All who have taken part in it have worked together in the greatest co-operation.

I believe it was my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. C. Howell) who referred to the possibility of a consolidation Act. I feel that what is wanted is not so much a consolidation Act as a new comprehensive, reversionary Act. This is obviously not the time for that. This is the second Amending Measure to the 1937 Act, and it may be that the time has not yet arrived for repealing that and the amending Measures and starting afresh with a new one, but I feel confident that that stage will be reached in a few years' time. A great deal has been learnt in the intervening years, and much of what is contained in the 1937 Act is now a dead letter, or has become out of date. We hope that when we next consider Factories Act legislation it will be in the form of a new, comprehensive Measure.

Meanwhile, I want to return to the point I was making earlier. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us an assurance as to the intention of the Minister to press on as quickly as possible with the various powers for making regulations which he has reserved to himself in the Bill. I have been looking rapidly through the annotated textbook on the 1937 Act, and I think I am right in saying that there are no fewer than 14 Sections of that Act in which powers given to the Minister to make regulations providing for the health, safety and welfare of workers have never been used—and twenty years have now passed since the Act came into force. I hope that we shall not have a repetition of that in this case, but will see the powers used and regulations laid before the House at an early date.

All those who served during the Committee stage of the Bill have been highly gratified at being able to take part in the proceedings. I would end by saying, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that we are most grateful to the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary for the very receptive and sympathetic spirit with which they dealt with our Amendments.

12.4 a.m.

Mr Wood

I am very honoured to have what I imagine is likely to be the last word on the Bill before it leaves this House and goes to another place. In fact, we reach the closing stages of the Bill with feelings rather tinged with regret. We seem to have been very happy, and, collectively, we think that we have helped to make a good Bill a better one. I think that that was the view of the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), at any rate. I am delighted that I was preceded by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot), for whose legal knowledge his right hon. and hon. Friends have great respect, and for which we also learned, during the Committee and further stages, to have great respect. I think that I may say he introduced some of us to a gentleman with whom we had previously had only a passing, nodding acquaintance, Mr. Redgrave; but we all hope that we shall often hear him speak from the Dispatch Box, so long as it is from that side of the House.

The hon. Member asked about the date when the Act would be brought into force. I understand that there will have to be a number of different dates. First of all, a good many discussions will be necessary to bring into force certain parts of it, and the only assurance which I can give here tonight is that there will not be undue delay. My right hon. Friend gives the promise that we will bring into force the various parts as quickly as we can. I would tell the hon. Member that I have also taken very much to heart what he has said about regulations, and in this context I can say that we shall try to see that none of the powers which have been given us in the Bill are left rusty and unused. We shall try to use all the powers which we have taken.

The hon. Member, and others, mentioned what we know as the fire Clauses and I agree that they are among the most important in the Bill. It is perhaps here that we have made the greatest improvements as the Bill has proceeded and I have no doubt that this part is now much better than when we first considered it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton spoke about the Minister's statement concerning dangerous machinery and I hope that what my right hon. Friend said this evening will help to publicise this matter as it should be publicised.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), and others, including the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) spoke of the Factory Inspectorate. I know from past experience how close the matter is to the hon. Gentleman, and what a friend of the Inspectorate he is.

I was asked to say something about recruiting to the Inspectorate and I am very glad to be able to tell the House that the position is extremely good. The latest figures which I have are only three or four days old and they show that out of an authorised strength of 443, the number of inspectors in post is 409. While seven have passed their examinations and are awaiting appointment. The present establishment is the highest which has ever existed, but I have no doubt at all in saying that we shall never be entirely satisfied that there is really a sufficient number of them. For one thing, we have been putting on them a great many additional duties and certainly we shall need all we have. It is our hope that we shall be able to make up the deficiency in numbers as soon as we possibly can.

The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North mentioned the nursing service and I can tell her that my right hon. Friend the Minister has been very seriously considering this matter. He has a principal nursing officer at headquarters, and he has been much impressed for some time past by the great part which the Royal College of Nursing plays in its membership of the Industrial Health Advisory Committee. He will certainly consider further the needs of industry in this matter but, with the principal nursing officer, and the help from the nursing profession as a whole in the Advisory Committee, he has wide access to the good advice which the profession can give.

With regard to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), I did not have a chance at an earlier stage today to explain why we had not tabled an Amendment to Clause 3, as we had promised, about hoists, lifts and lifting machines. My right hon. Friend had promised to consider the question of the 14-day or 28-day period within which a copy of a report on a defective hoist or lift should go to the district inspector, and he had also promised to consider the need for an emergency report. Discussions on those two matters are still going on, and when the Bill goes to another place my right hon. Friend will table Amendments which will, I hope, meet the wishes originally expressed.

I think I have said enough at this late hour. I hope I have been able to answer the various questions which have been raised. I repeat that with the help of the whole House we have made this a better Measure. I am glad that it is so clearly recognised in the House this evening that the Bill is only the beginning of further work in this field and that this work must now continue. I quite see that my right hon. Friend has a very great responsibility in trying to interpret the wishes that have been expressed, particularly in the Standing Committee, and. as the House knows. he will certainly he fully conscious of the duty which the House has placed upon him

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.