HC Deb 18 December 1961 vol 651 cc916-7
9. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Labour what is the average interval between visits by factory inspectors to premises covered by the Factories Acts; how this compares with the frequency of inspection recommended to him recently by the Trades Union Congress; how it compares with the standards laid down by the International Labour Organisation; and whether he will make a substantial increase in the Factory Inspectorate in view of the increasing number of industrial accidents.

Mr. Hare

The frequency of visits varies according to the requirements of different premises. Factories are thoroughly inspected at least once every four years. Many of them, including the larger ones and those with special hazards, are visited much more frequently. The Trades Union Congress recommend that every factory be inspected at least once every two years, with yearly visits as a long-term aim. The standard laid down in International Labour Convention No. 81 is that workplaces shall be inspected as often and as thoroughly as is necessary to ensure the effective application of the relevant legal provisions. The Factory Inspectorate is to be increased in size and I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) on 11th December.

Mr. Prentice

Is the Minister aware that we welcome the increase in the size of the Factory Inspectorate which has been urged on him from this side of the House for many years? Will he not set an objective for frequency of visits to factories closer to that urged on him by the T.U.C. and contained in I.L.O. resolutions going back over thirty or forty years? Does he not agree that the rise in industrial accidents is still very unsatisfactory and can be partly traced to an insufficient frequency of inspections?

Mr. Hare

I think the hon. Gentleman has in mind that the I.L.O. in 1923 recommended annual inspection where possible. Since then there has been a lot of modern thinking. In 1947 the I.L.O. Convention No. 81, to which I have referred, did not follow that line of thought. Of course, inspection is very important, but I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that a greater safety consciousness throughout industry is now really the most important target at which we should aim.

Dr. Stross

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember, however, that as recently as September he gave a Press conference and said that in his view an increase in the Factory Inspectorate is not the best way, or the correct way, of avoiding increases in accidents from which we have suffered in the last year? Will he bear in mind that there are only 320 inspectors in posts who actually inspect and about 300,000 places where inspection has to take place and that the Inspectorate, which is so valuable, ought to be at least double.

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman will not mind if I correct him. What I said was that inspection was not the only way to ensure that greater safety precautions were taken. I said that 65 per cent. of all accidents reported in 1960 were caused through men falling down and stumbling, bad handling, and so on. These are matters of common sense and normal safety consciousness. I feel that a real drive should be made to get greater safety consciousness on the part of all engaged in industry.

Forward to