HC Deb 21 April 1964 vol 693 cc1091-3
Q6. Mr. Prentice

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the respective duties of the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health in the promotion of occupational health services.

Q10. Dr. Dickson Mahon

asked the Prime Minister if he will transfer the responsibility for promoting occupational health services from the Minister of Labour to the Minister of Health.

The Prime Minister

The general responsibility for carrying out Government policy on industrial health rests with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour except where specific responsibility rests with the Minister for the industry concerned. The basic requirements for safeguarding the health of workers in industry are laid down in legislation and are enforced by the inspectorates of the Ministries concerned, notably by Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate. Over and above these statutory requirements, it is Government policy to encourage employers where appropriate to set up industrial health services. Such action is taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour as part of his general responsibility under the Factories Act for promoting health at work, and it would not be desirable to transfer these responsibilities to another Department as suggested by the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon).

The contribution of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to safeguarding the health of persons at work is made through the National Health Service, which is available to all citizens.

Mr. Prentice

Is the Prime Minister aware of the concern of the British Medical Association, the T.U.C. and many other bodies over the fact that neither of the Departments has taken any real initiative in years to secure the spread of occupational health services; and that the only funds available for experimental centres on new estates, and the like, have come from the Nuffield Foundation? Is he aware of the concern there is that in occupational hygiene we lag behind most other industrial countries? Is not a tragic example of this the fact that the occupational hygienic centre in Slough closed down recently for lack of a very small grant that neither employers nor the Government were prepared to meet?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry that the Slough experiment was not better supported—that I do regret. My right hon. Friend is getting the factory inspectors to conduct a survey to establish the need for any services additional to those laid down by legislation. I should like to see what they report.

Dr. Mabon

Is the Prime Minister aware that the amount of money involved in the Slough experiment is only £20,000? Does he realise that this is a very severe blow to the development of an industrial health service? Will he consider looking at the matter again with both of his right hon. Friends?

The Prime Minister

I will look at it again after the inspectors have reported.

Mr. Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Slough hygienic centre was one of only three in the whole country; and that it was doing the most valuable service in decreasing diseases arising from heat, dust and noise in factories? Is he also aware that the Ministry of Labour was unable to help in this matter, although the Ministry of Health has had the highest appreciation of the service that has been given? In those circumstances, is it not desirable that there should be some co-operation between the two Departments?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman, I think, knows the terms of the Factories Act. He talks about noise, dust and general cleanliness, but the Factories Act provides—and there are inspectors to make sure that it is carried out—that the factory has to preserve adequate standards of working conditions affecting health, including noise, heat, dust and general cleanliness—[Interruption.]—the hon. Member has asked about dust, cleanliness and the rest and I am answering him—including standards of cleanliness, lighting, temperature and ventilation, and removal of dust and fumes. Therefore, these things are covered by legislation that is already in existence.

Mr. Prentice

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Prime Minister's reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.