HC Deb 21 October 1968 vol 770 cc872-3
29. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the question of industrial accidents and their cost to the nation.

49. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if, in view of the rise in industrial accidents by 40,000 to 938,000 in 1967, she will recommend that a Royal Commission be set up to investigate such accidents and their prevention.

Mrs. Castle

No, Sir. I am naturally concerned to reduce the number of industrial accidents, but I do not think that the establishment of a Royal Commission would be the best way of dealing with the problem.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in 1967 more than 24 million man days were lost on account of industrial accidents, which is about eight times the figure of man days lost through industrial disputes? Is it not time that this matter was given a more searching investigation?

Mrs. Castle

I assure my hon. Friend that to achieve a reduction in industrial accidents is one of my major preoccupations, but I cannot agree with him that to set up a Royal Commission is the best way of achieving it. I am already advised by my Industrial Safety Advisory Council., which represents both sides of industry, and I am satisfied that this gives me the insight into the problem which I need.

Mr. Allaun

Why it is not the best way when Royal Commissions have been considered appropriate for betting and marriage and divorce, when this proposal has considerable union support, and when, in addition to the figures given by my hon. Friend, there is the mass of human suffering involved? It is not only a question of days lost.

Mrs. Castle

It is essential that we get the figures clear, because there has been a good deal of confusion about them, as my Chief Inspector of Factories pointed out in his Annual Report for 1967. In that year, just over 304,000 accidents were reported under the Factories Act compared with 296,600 in the previous year. These figures include quite a number of minor injuries such as sprains. The 938,000 quoted in the Question is the number of successful claims for industrial injury benefit, which is not the best measure of accidents. It is encouraging that the number of fatalities dropped by 137—to 564.