HC Deb 26 July 1963 vol 681 cc1998-2000

Lords Amendment: In page 34, line 26, leave out from "exempt" to first "in" in line 29 and insert:

  1. "(a) from all or any of the requirements imposed by sections 5(2) and 6 of this Act, premises of any class or rooms of any class;
  2. (b) from all or any of the requirements imposed by sections 9 and 10 of this Act, premises of any class".

Mr. Hare

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Minister to exempt classes of rooms from the requirements of Clauses 5(2) and 6, which deal with space and temperature, by orders under Clause 45. The effect of the Amendment is to make the power of exemption more selective, since we think that there may well be classes of rooms—perhaps messengers' cubicles—which might reasonably be exempted, but where a general exemption for the whole premises from the space or temperature requirements would not be justified.

Mr. Prentice

The Amendment introduces a new type of exemption, in addition to those already in the Clause. I think my hon. Friends will agree that on the whole this is an improvement to a Clause which we have always thought was bad. We have been worried about the power of exemption which the Minister has in any case to exempt classes of premises in relation to the four Clauses of the Bill to which it refers.

This extra power to exempt rooms as well as premises might lead to the Government's intentions being interpreted in two ways. I hope the correct interpretation is that this will lead to fewer exemptions being granted overall, because if there is a type of room in certain premises which warrants it, it will be possible to exempt that room only, and the Act will apply to the rest of the premises and the employer will have to comply with the law. We would be unhappy if it were to mean that the number of total exemptions would be increased, because we feel that the exemption powers already in the Bill are somewhat dangerous and could be used to an unnecessary extent.

In relation to a previous Amendment I quoted a recent survey report, and perhaps I might refer to it again in connection with this Amendment. On the question of overcrowding—and I remind the House that the new power which the Minister is seeking deals with exemptions relating to either space or temperature—dealing with the point about space, the report says that out of 256 companies which they investigated a large number of them thought that it would be necessary to spend a good deal of money to comply with this Clause on overcrowding. It says that twelve of them considered that it would be necessary to spend over £1,000 to mitigate the problem of overcrowding, and that the problem to one firm was quite acute because it thought that it might cost £4,000 to £6,000 to provide additional accommodation for up to 40 employees.

I mention this because the Minister is going to be under some pressure to use this exemption power widely. He will be under pressure to use it to avoid firms being involved in heavy costs, and there will be a temptation for him to exempt premises where it might prove excep- tionally expensive or inconvenient for the employers to comply with the new law.

We take the view that the exemption power should be used only in exceptional circumstances, and that in general the type of firm to which I have referred ought not to be granted exemptions but should be made to comply with the law. They have been given plenty of grace under the Clause dealing with overcrowding, and this ought to be sufficient. I hope that the Minister has moved the Amendment in that spirit, and will operate it in that way.

Mr. Hare

If I might have the leave of the House to reply, the hon. Gentleman said that this would be interpreted in one of two ways, one favourable to his way of thinking, and one unfavourable. I give the assurance that it will be interpreted favourably to his way of thinking. The power of exemption will become more selective.

Question put and agreed to.