HC Deb 08 July 1963 vol 680 cc850-1
21. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the increasing number of complex chemical substances used in industry which cause irritation of the skin, he will make industrial dermatitis a notifiable disease, and issue a code of preventive practice embodied in regulations.

Mr. Hare

My Department receives comprehensive information about cases of industrial dermatitis giving rise to successful claims for industrial injuries benefit. Statutory requirements providing safeguards against dermatitis risks are included in the Factories Act and in particular Codes of Regulations. These are supplemented by detailed guidance of preventive measures given in advisory publications issued by my Department. I think that these measures offer the most practical way of providing safeguards against the incidence of this disease.

Dr. Stross

Is it not fair to say that, because of the complexity of the substances which are now in use and which are coming into use, the number of cases of industrial dermatitis tends to rise and that the consequent loss of productivity, loss of wages and suffering are very serious matters indeed? Does the Minister agree that at least one thing would help, namely, compulsory notification so that the right hon. Gentleman himself and the Factory Inspectorate would know just what the situation is?

Mr. Hare

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the seriousness of this disease and its high incidence in industry. As the hon. Gentleman will admit, many things cause dermatitis. Some of the precautions advised, such as the maintenance of a high standard of personal hygiene, cannot be suitably imposed as statutory requirements. Therefore, we must draw a line as to where we can have compulsory codes of regulations and where we have to appeal to commonsense. I will certainly study what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mrs. Slater

Is it not true that many new chemical substances are constantly changing and different compositions are being used? Has not the time now arrived for his Department and the Ministry of Health to keep a watch on new substances and study their effect on health? Is not this the time to review the situation in regard to compulsory notification?

Mr. Hare

I assure the hon. Lady that we are constantly studying the problem. What she says is right: as new inventions come along, we get new complications. I do not think that anything that has been said today necessarily proves that we should take more compulsory action than we are taking at the moment.