§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill which I am introducing this afternoon is relatively short, but this does not mean that its contents are trivial. On the contrary, it deals with a field of major importance—how we can improve the safety and health of people at work and develop better methods of preventing industrial disease. Although the Bill deals only with two aspects of this complex problem, the steps it proposes are not only important in themselves, but establish vital new principles on the basis of which we can build our future policy.
The medical part of the Bill, Part I, represents a significant step forward in the provision made for occupational health. Many people feel that a move in this field is long overdue. What I am proposing is to bring together a small, expert, service which will act as a focus for occupational medicine. I am confident that the establishment of this service will enable my Department to give a better service to all those in employment or training or seeking employment.
As to joint consultation on safety, I believe that this part of the Bill is a significant advance in industrial democracy. It recognises that safety and health cannot be dealt with simply on paternalistic lines, but that the workers themselves must be increasingly involved in our efforts to reduce the toll of life and injury from accidents at work.
The new provisions will extend and strengthen arrangements for the participation of employees' representatives in safety matters, and for consultation between management and employees about these subjects at the place of work.
On both the subjects dealt with in the Bill I have had valuable and constructive advice from my advisory committees. As is only to be expected on matters with such far-reaching implications, we have 45 not always agreed with each other. But, despite that, it remains true that without the help of those committees we should have no Bill today, and I should like to take this early opportunity of saying how much I have appreciated the contribution of those who have given their time to advising me on these important subjects.
May I now turn to the details of the Bill? The first part of the Bill seeks authority for the establishment of an Employment Medical Advisory Service in place of the appointed Factory Doctor Service, and for a number of consequential amendments to the Factories Act, 1961.
The appointment of "certifying surgeons", as appointed factory doctors were then known, was first authorised by the Factories Act of 1844. This makes the appointed Factory Doctor Service one of the oldest public health services in the country. The duties of the service have varied from time to time, but it is now mainly concerned with the routine medical examination of young persons in industry, and of persons employed in hazardous trades subject to Factories Act regulations.
Since 1844, there have been fundamental changes in the provision of medical care and in the development of community health and welfare services generally. The School Health Service, first set up as long ago as 1906, was an important development in the medical supervision of children and young people, while the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 made a comprehensive health service available to every citizen.
So it was right that we should ask ourselves whether, in the light of the present framework of health services, the appointed Factory Doctor Service was the best kind of service to deal with the vastly different circumstances of today. In November, 1964, a sub-committee of my Industrial Health Advisory Committee was set up to review the service and make recommendations.
The report of the sub-committee, published in 1966, made a number of criticisms of the existing system. It pointed out that the appointed Factory Doctor Service relies almost exclusively on a system of routine statutory medical examinations which are themselves often of 46 questionable value. There was criticism, in particular, of the requirements for the medical examinations of young persons which result in a fair amount of time being spent on largely unnecessary examinations. There is a large number of doctors in the present service—about 1,500—but most of these are general practitioners who spend only a very small proportion of their time on their appointed factory doctor duties, and, in the nature of things, they can acquire only limited expertise in occupational health. There are some, of course, who have wider experience in this field, and some very valuable work is done by them.
The sub-committee made two main recommendations for reforming the appointed Factory Doctor Service. First, it felt that the wholesale routine medical examinations of young people should be abandoned in favour of a selective system concentrating on the relatively small number who really need medical advice. Second, it recommended that the medical resources released in this way should be redeployed to bring about a more compact, integrated and expert medical service with wider duties over the whole field of occupational health.
The Government accepted these recommendations, and we have since been working out with the sub-committee the best ways of putting them into effect. What we now propose in Clause I is that there should be established, in place of the appointed Factory Doctor Service, an Employment Medical Advisory Service. Its responsibilities will include the work done by medical inspectors of factories and appointed factory doctors together with that carried out in Government training centres and industrial rehabilitation units. It will also be concerned with any medical problems which arise in connection with employment, and as an expert service will be available to give advice and help to anyone needing it.
The new service will become a medical service for the whole of my Department and its head will be my Chief Medical Adviser. It will be separate from, and independent of, the Factory Inspectorate. This, I think, must be so because the responsibilities of the service will extend far beyond the Factories Act field. I hope, though, that the long and honourable traditions of the Factory Inspectorate will be carried forward into the work of the new service.
47 The transfer to the E.M.A.S. of the doctors in the Medical Branch of the Factory Inspectorate—the first specialist branch of the inspectorate to be established—should ensure this, and, of course, the two organisations—the Factory Inspectorate and the E.M.A.S.—will work very closely together. Indeed they must, for they are faced with many common problems. All this goes rather beyond what the sub-committee originally recommended, but we have discussed these proposals with it and it has generally welcomed them.
The remainder of this part of the Bill is concerned with amendments of the Factories Act. Clause 3 lays down certain provisions for medical examinations of persons employed in factories. The Clause is necessarily rather complicated, because we felt it right to define fully the grounds on which an employment medical adviser could require a factory occupier to allow him to carry out a medical examination of one of his employees.
Broadly, however, the effect is that where an employment medical adviser believes that a person's work is affecting his health he may serve a notice on that person's employer requiring him to permit the E.M.A. to conduct a medical examination. I should add that the Clause does not compel a worker to submit himself for examination.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
Am I right in thinking that the Bill will apply if desired, or in the correct circumstances, to persons not covered by the Factories Act? Could the medical service apply, for example, to people employed in professional entertainment who are not otherwise covered by the Factories Act?
§ Mrs. Castle
I would not like to give my hon. Friend an off-the-cuff answer about professional entertainment, but we will find out and give my hon. Friend the answer during the debate.
Clause 4 alters the power of suspension in Section 75 of the Factories Act, which is concerned with the employment of women and young persons in processes involving the use of lead compounds. Under the present law, appointed factory doctors have powers to suspend workers where they think continued employment in a process may endanger their health. 48 Under the Bill the procedure will be different. The E.M.A. will advise the employer and worker in writing that a particular process is likely to have further adverse effects on an employee's health, and the employer will then be guilty of an offence under the Factories Act if he continues to employ that person. So we ensure the protection of the employed person, but the E.M.A. does not go beyond his rôle as a professional adviser and does not himself suspend the worker. Enforcement will be for the factory inspector.
Clause 5 is an important new provision concerned with young persons. In place of the routine medical examinations, which we are abolishing, there will be a new system concentrating medical attention on those young people in need of it This new system will be based on the local authority's programme of health supervision at school. The School Health Service will identify those school-leavers who are not unconditionally fit for employment and refer them to the careers officer and the E.M.A. When the young person takes up factory employment, Clause 5 will require that the occupier engaging him must notify the careers office of that fact, together with certain other particulars about the young person and his employment, within seven days. The object of this is to ensure that E.M.A. and careers officers know where, and on what kind of work, young persons are employed so that they can follow up those who are not fully fit. The provisions will also be useful to the Youth Employment Service in its review of young persons' employment generally.
Under Clause 7 the provisions of the Bill relating to the medical examination of persons employed in factories and the occupier's duty to notify the engagement of young persons shall also apply to docks, wharves, quays or warehouses, the processes of loading, unloading or coaling a ship, work carried out on a ship in harbour or wet dock, and building operations and works of engineering construction.
The provisions of this part of the Bill will, I am confident, make a valuable contribution to the well-being of people in employement. What I think is particularly important about the present proposals is their potential. We are not pretending that the Employment Medical 49 Advisory Service will be a comprehensive occupational health service and I am not sure, in any case, that we are all agreed on what is meant by such a service. What I think cannot be denied, however, is that my proposals are capable of being expanded and developed in a way which the appointed Factory Doctor Service could not be.
We would do well to remember that the Factory Inspectorate started in a very modest way in 1833. I see the present proposals for the Employment Medical Advisory Service as laying the foundation for considerable improvements and changes in the field of occupational medicine.
There are just one or two general points that I would like to make on this part of the Bill. First, my proposals imply no reflection on the way in which appointed factory doctors at present carry out their duties. Over the years the service has made an important contribution to occupational health, and I should like now to pay tribute to it. I hope that some of the existing appointed factory doctors will feel able to join the new service as employment medical advisers. Their long experience in occupational health could be a valuable basis for the development of the new service.
The second point concerns the relationship of the new service with the Health Service. It is clearly important that occupational medicine should be closely associated with other branches of medicine, and we intend that the Employment Medical Advisory Service should work very closely with the Health Service. Ways of achieving this are being explored with the health departments. In particular, we are examining with them ways of making the laboratory and other specialist facilities of the N.H.S. available to the E.M.A.S., since one of the most practical ways of fostering the cooperation which we both want is by the joint use of such facilities.
Finally, I should make it clear that this new organisation will supplement, not supersede, health services which many employers already provide privately for their own employees. Although the E.M.A.S. will formally cover the whole Factories Act field, it is clear that a firm with a good works medical service of its own will need little attention from it. We 50 are not seeking to interfere in any way with these private services. Both the employers' service and the State service have important contributions to make, and we hope that they will work closely together. Ways of ensuring this are being discussed by my officials with the interested parties.
In short, I do not see the E.M.A.S. as an organisation working in isolation, but as a new strand to be woven into the pattern of medical care co-operating closely with existing medical organisations. To help me achieve this, I propose to set up a council to advise me on the future lines of development of the new service, and I hope that all those organisations concerned with the future of occupational medicine will be represented on it. In addition, it is proposed to appoint panels of doctors who have specialised knowledge of particular aspects of industrial medicine to advise the chief employment medical adviser.
I turn now to the second part of the Bill, which provides for joint consultation on safety and health. It is now over three years since my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) gave notice to the House that, if industry itself did not voluntarily improve and extend its arrangements for consultation between management and workers on these subjects, the Government would introduce statutory provisions to this end.
Since that warning was given, a very considerable effort has been made in many parts of industry, and I would be the first to pay tribute to the Confederation of British Industry and all that it has achieved in this connection. Nevertheless, a survey undertaken by my Factory Inspectorate last year showed that even now only 47 per cent. of all factories employing more than 50 persons has any form of joint committee concerning itself with safety, and, even amongst the larger firms, one in five of factories with more than 500 employees has no such arrangements.
Of the 5½ million persons employed in factories with more than 50 employees, 1.7 million—or nearly one-third—work in places where there is no arrangement for formal joint consultation. It has been argued in some quarters that legislation on this subject is unnecessary. I suggest that the facts speak for themselves.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Can the right hon. Lady help the House by saying whether, in the course of its investigations, her inspectorate was able to see any difference in the pattern of accidents between firms where these committees exist and those where they do not?
§ Mrs. Castle
No. I do not think that I could give the House any information on that point. But what we were concerned about earlier was the question whether this joint consultation, the need for which was generally agreed, should be left to voluntary initiative or whether there should be statutory backing where voluntary arrangements have not been negotiated. The facts which I have given show that, despite the warning that was given all that time ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin, there is still not an adequate coverage.
It has also been argued by some that the provisions in the Bill will undermine the voluntary effort which has been made by industry to improve its joint consultative arrangements. Some people say that employers will now sit back and wait for the unions to take the initiative or even lose interest in safety matters altogether. I cannot believe that employers will behave in a way so damaging to their own interests. On the contrary, I believe that the Bill will stimulate employers to negotiate voluntary arrangements.
It contains an express provision in Clause 8(5) that nothing in its contents is to preclude the making of voluntary agreements, and I have inserted this provision quite deliberately so as not to upset existing satisfactory voluntary arrangements or to discourage future ones.
Before turning to the detailed provisions of this part of the Bill, I should like to make one special point. Hitherto, legislation dealing with safety and health has consisted of a series of standards and requirements placing duties on occupiers or employers to provide certain minimal conditions. The standards are enforced by my Factory Inspectorate and the other inspectorates in this field. If there are infringements of the legislation, in the last resort there are prosecutions in criminal courts.
The Bill, which supplements these provisions, is based on a different principle. 52 It depends for its effectiveness upon the initiative of the trade unions and on the activities of employees' safety representatives, who will have certain rights of inspection. There will be no safety representatives unless the unions appoint them. There will be no joint safety committee established under the Bill unless the safety representatives ask for one.
The responsibility for making the Bill effective, therefore rests with the trade unions. Only if they take the initiative and exercise their rights is the employer required to grant facilities to safety representatives and establish a joint safety committee. If the unions claim these rights, the Bill gives them full backing in exercising them effectively.
I hope, therefore, that the Bill will stimulate the trade unions to play a more active part in safety and health matters than they have always done in the past. There have, of course, been some notable exceptions, and the T.U.C. has been clamouring for greater responsibilities to be placed on the unions in the way that we propose. I hope and believe that the unions will now seize this opportunity, because safety at work depends to a very great extent on the behaviour of individuals at work: on the wearing of protective goggles or footwear, on seeing that work places are kept clean and tidy and free from obstructions, or that dangerous materials and liquids are stored safely away.
We intend to issue advisory literature which will explain how we hope that the Bill will work out in practice and give more detail about the duties of safety representatives, a model code for joint safety committees, and so on. This literature will obviously have more impact if it has the agreement of both sides of industry, and I hope that I can count on the co-operation of the T.U.C. and C.B.I. in preparing this advice.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the T.U.C. has been asking for this very provision since 1964. How will she deal with the problem of appointments at work places where there is no recognised union?
§ Mrs. Castle
It is correct that the T.U.C. has been pressing for this type of legislation, and I mentioned that in my speech because I recognise that it is 53 anxious for these responsibilities to be placed on the trade unions in the factories.
As I said earlier, there will be no safety committees unless trade unions ask for them. Therefore, by definition there will have to be union organisation in a factory before the provisions of the Bill can apply. I hope that this will be another factor in encouraging union organisation among work-people.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some employers in the furniture industry refuse to recognise the union organisation, even though it is there? Am I to understand that under those circumstances the workpeople will not be able to be represented? Or is my right hon. Friend saying that, provided the trade union is there, it can demand the setting up of a safety committee, even though it has no negotiating rights?
§ Mrs. Castle
There has to be a union organisation there. As I said, there will be no safety representatives unless the unions appoint them. As for the recognition of unions, my hon. Friend will know that through both the C.I.R. and the proposals in the Industrial Relations Bill I am doing everything I can to establish the right of recognition of unions where they have members in a factory.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
The Bill refers to giving this right to recognised trade unions. The right hon. Lady has said that she has not yet put legislation on the Statute Book which will deal with the right of recognition. I do not think that she has very effectively answered her hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. R. W. Brown). I am worried about this point.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am delighted to find that the hon. Gentleman is converted to the importance of employers recognising unions. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will use their influence to bring home to employers that any civilised modern employer recognises unions as a matter of course. I am glad that we are so successfully altering the mental climate of the Opposition on this matter.
I turn now to the detail of Part II of the Bill which begins at Clause 8. Subsection (1) provides that in factories at which the number of persons employed is 10 or more safety representatives may be 54 appointed by the trade union or trade unions recognised by the occupier of the factory for the purposes of negotiating terms and conditions of employment in that factory. This is the point which hon. Members have raised with me. The test of whether or not a union is so recognised is, of course, whether it can produce a current agreement relating to those matters to which it is a party. If there is one recognised trade union, then that trade union may make the appointment. Where there are two or more recognised unions the unions must make the appointment jointly.
The Bill says nothing about how many representatives may be appointed. This allows for the greatest flexibility, which I think we would all agree is desirable to deal with the many different situations in different types of factory. I hope, however, that the advisory literature which I have just mentioned will give some guidance as to suitable scales for the appointment of safety representatives.
The subsection goes on to deal with the establishment of joint safety committees. Where more than 100 persons are employed, and where safety representatives have been appointed, then, if those representatives tell the occupier that they wish a committee to be established, he must appoint persons to serve on the management side and the safety representatives must appoint members to serve on behalf of the employees. The purpose of the committee is defined as keeping under review circumstances which affect, or may affect, the safety and health of employed persons.
Clause 9(1) sets out the functions of safety representatives. First, they are to promote co-operation between all employed in the factory in achieving and maintaining safe and healthy working conditions. I hope that this will enable management and unions to bring home to workpeople the important part they have to play in the every-day safety and health of their working environment, because there is so much that they can do to reduce the accident record. The individual steps—the wearing of protective clothing, or putting the cork back in the bottle of highly inflammable liquid—may seem small and insignificant, but together they would add up to the greatest single step that has ever been taken to 55 reduce industrial accidents in this country.
Secondly, safety representatives are to carry out inspections in the interests of the safety and health of those on whose behalf they are appointed. There are two kinds of inspections. First, there are the regular or routine inspections to see that all is in order from the point of view of the safety and health of those who work in the factory. Representatives are to be entitled to inspect every part of the factory in which they work not more than once in every three months. Inspections may be made more frequently by agreement with the occupier. It may well be that different representatives will wish to inspect different parts of the factory and that is allowed. All the Bill stipulates is that not more than two persons shall inspect any part of the factory at any one time.
Representatives are to have the important right of inspecting the scene of certain accidents and dangerous occurrences. The purpose of these inspections is not to apportion blame, but to ascertain the circumstances, so that, if possible, a repetition of the accident or occurrence can be prevented in future. As we are working within the context of the Factories Act, safety representatives will be entitled to inspect any accident of which notice is required under Section 80 of that Act—that is, any fatal accident or any accident which disables an employed person for more than three days from earning full wages at the work in which he is employed, or any accident which the occupier expects to become notifiable.
If we limited the right of inspection purely to notifiable accidents, we might run the risk of unnecessary delay in inspection since three days would have to elapse before it was known for certain that an accident was notifiable. We have, therefore, extended the right of inspection to accidents which are expected to be notifiable.
The representatives will have to tell management of their intention to make an inspection, and occupiers, for their part, are to be required to afford representatives such facilities and assistance as the representatives may reasonably require for the purpose of carrying out these inspections. This form of words is in- 56 tended to safeguard employers against unreasonable demands by representatives—for example, the closing down of continuous process plant which may have nothing to do with the inspection or the accident. Representatives are also to be allowed to have access to all relevant documents which occupiers have to keep under the Factories Act, 1961, or regulations.
When the inspection is completed, representatives may record, in a register to be provided by the occupier, the date of the inspection, the parts of the factory they have inspected and a note of anything which they have found which they think prejudicial to the safety and health of those employed. The Bill does not make this an absolute requirement, but I hope that representatives will, as a matter of course, do this. Such records would be of very great value to occupiers and safety committees and would, incidentally, minimise the risk of disputes about when and where an inspection has taken place.
The responsibilities placed on safety representatives are therefore considerable. and, clearly, the system can work only if arrangements are made to see that they are not out of pocket as a result of doing this work. Because the pecuniary loss will vary from case to case, it is difficult to lay down precise rules about this in the legislation, but I hope that employers and unions will deal with this important point by agreement.
Clause 10 sets out qualifications for appointment as a safety representative. A safety representative must be 23 years of age and must have worked in industry for a period of not less than five years. This is to ensure the appointment of an adult and mature person, experienced in industry who will be no stranger to the industrial background.
Secondly, the representative must, so far as practicable, have worked in the factory for at least two years before he is appointed. That cannot be an absolute requirement. If it were, new factories—for example, those in development districts—would be deprived of representatives. But it is clearly desirable that whoever is appointed should, whenever possible, be knowledgeable about his place of work and be in some way identified with its well-being.
57 Appointments are to end when representatives leave employment in the factory or are dismissed by the trade union or unions which appointed them. Subsection (4) requires the safety representative to take reasonable steps to inform himself—or herself—of any requirements of the law which relate to the safety and health of those who work in the factory. It is undesirable to produce a race of barrackroom lawyers as a result of the Bill, but there is no doubt that if the safety representative is to do his job effectively he must know something about the Factories Act and any regulations made under it which apply to his factory.
The subsection goes on to require the occupier to give the representative reasonable facilities to acquaint himself with circumstances in the factory affecting the safety or health of persons employed there, so that representatives may know what is going on in the factory.
Finally, subsection (5) requires the occupier to keep posted in the factory the names of any representatives who have been appointed.
I do not wish to detain the House much longer. On Clause 11, I will merely say that the effect of subsection (3) and Schedule 3 is to tie this part of the Bill in with the Factories Act, 1961, so that, for example, factory inspectors will have the same powers in relation to this part of the Bill as they have in relation to that Act. This means that if an employer fails to set up a safety committee when the safety representatives ask for one, or fails to give the safety representatives reasonable facilities to carry out their inspection, he will be guilty of an offence under the Factories Act.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown
Will a factory inspector be required to consult the safety representatives on his visit to a factory? Hitherto, when he has visited a factory the representatives have often not known that he has arrived. Will my right hon. Friend specify that a factory inspector will consult the representatives?
§ Mrs. Castle
I agree with my hon. Friend that that would seem to be sensible. No statutory provision for it is spelt out in the Bill, however, and I would have thought that it was unnecessary.
I have so far referred only to factories, but, the Factories Act applies, in whole 58 or in part, to other places, processes and operations which are deemed to be factories under the Act, and the Bill will apply to those, also. They are electrical stations, docks, wharves, quays and certain warehouses, the loading, unloading, and coaling of ships, work aboard ships in harbour or wet dock, building operations, and works of engineering construction. The arrangements to be made in these cases are set out in Clause 8(4) and Schedule 2. First, electrical stations are to be treated in all respects as if they were proper factories, so no problem arises here.
The situation in other cases is more complex. Indeed, because of these complexities I have been under considerable pressure by employers to exclude these other operations from the Bill. How, it has been argued, can one apply the whole apparatus of safety representatives and safety committees to groups of men like building workers or men unloading a ship who may be on one job today and another tomorrow? But often these are the very groups of men who face the greatest hazards, and I think that it would be quite wrong to exclude them from arrangements the whole purpose of which is to reduce accidents. We have, therefore, not excluded them, but worked out a special formula for these cases.
Let me take the question of building operations as an example. Under the Factories Act, every employer of labour on a building site is the occupier of what is called a deemed factory. If, therefore, more than 10 workers are employed by an employer on a site they may appoint safety representatives, who will be entitled to inspect those places for which the employer is responsible. If, however, the building operation is within a factory proper and the building employees are also the employees of the factory occupier, then, for the purposes of deciding the entitlement to safety representatives, the employees working in the proper factory and the employees on the building operations will be added together.
Although this may sound complicated, it is basically the same principle as for the factory proper. Where we diverge is in the principle to be applied for the appointment of safety committees, and here, because of the transitory nature of so many deemed factories—such as building sites—we have decided to relate 59 the entitlement to the firm and not to the site or deemed factory.
Therefore, we add up all the employees of any employer working on building operations and if the total exceeds 100, and safety representatives have been appointed, those representatives are entitled to request the establishment of a committee for the firm as a whole.
The only other modification is that, where practicable, safety representatives are to be appointed from amongst those who have had two years employment with the employer—not in the deemed factory.
§ Mr. Costain
The right hon. Lady has mentioned a very important point. In the case of an employer employing 5,000 people throughout the country how are the numbers of safety officers worked out? Does the formula apply in regions, or on sites? What is the right hon. Lady's interpretation of the statement that she has just made.
§ Mrs. Castle
Two principles are involved. The safety representatives will be related to the individual sites. The safety committee will be related to the firm as a whole. Although it sounds complicated when one explains this legislation, I think that it is quite a straightforward principle.
The principles that I have just outlined for building operations will apply to the other notional factories which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Can the right hon. Lady tell us a little more about the "notional factory", especially as it applies to a ship in a British port? This provision introduces very wide powers in respect of people who have to go on board a ship to work.
§ Mrs. Castle
I do not want to take up too much time. I have gone into the Bill in great detail because it is important to be clear about the details. I think that I have made them clear. The principles that I have outlined for building operations will apply to the other notional factories. The hon. Member has raised a detailed Committee point. If he raises any further details my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will 60 try to deal with them when he winds up the debate.
Clause 12 sets out the appointed days, which are different for the two parts of the Bill. There are good reasons for this. We cannot bring the new Employment Medical Advisory Service into being overnight, because we need time to recruit the high-quality staff required and to make the necessary administrative arrangements for central and regional organisation, and for liaison with the National Health Service. The Bill therefore gives me discretion to fix the appointed day for Part I, though I hope that it will come into force in July, 1971, which will be the appointed day for Part II. Here again, we shall be giving industry a reasonable breathing space to make its preparations.
This, then, is the Measure that I commend to the House today. Short though it is, I hope that the House will agree that it is a significant milestone in the safety, health and welfare legislation of this country.
As I said at the outset, it by no means takes us along the whole road that we have to travel if the country is to have a modern code of safety, health and welfare, adapted to new developments and new needs. That is why, as the House knows, my Department has had under consideration for some time proposals for a comprehensive revision of existing legislation.
A first consultative document, setting out our proposals, was circulated in December, 1967, the main aim of which was to combine the Factories Act and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act in one measure and to extend its coverage to employments not covered by those Acts or those of similar character like the Mines and Quarries Act or the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act. This is an immense and highly technical field and the consultations have taken a great deal of time. They have been invaluable in highlighting the problems which face us and some excellent suggestions for technical improvements in our legislation have come out of them.
It would be possible to go ahead with legislation of the kind envisaged in the first consultative document. A massive amount of detailed work would still be required, however, both in this House 61 and out of it, and the result would be one more traditional piece of legislation of the Factories Act type. This legislation, as I should be the first to recognise, has many solid merits, but we have to admit that it has not succeeded in bringing down the number of industrial accidents to a level any of us would find acceptable.
So, the more I have studied this problem, the more I have become convinced that the old approach to these problems is inadequate, that we ought to be asking some far-reaching questions about our safety legislation. Are we, for example, putting enough emphasis on voluntary action and self-help by employers and unions? Do we need joint safety machinery, regionally and nationally, run by industry itself—as the T.U.C. has been suggesting? Industry changes very quickly and the law is apt to lag behind the changes. Is the present machinery adequate to cope with major new hazards which are emerging from new technology coupled with the increasing scale of industrial operations? Again, are we doing enough to protect the public from the risks to them of industrial processes—whether large-scale risks through the blowing up of an industrial plant or small-scale but still important risks such as those which may arise in a launderette?
All this leads me to conclude that we need to get away from the conventional approach; that the mere consolidation and revision of existing legislation is not enough. I have, therefore, decided to set up a small, high-powered body to conduct a general inquiry across the whole field—not merely the Factories Act and O.S.R.P. Act. It would look at the whole range of legislation, not so much in detail as from the point of view of its effectiveness in preventing accidents and of the sort of changes needed if we are to make a significant impact on the toll of death, injury and ill-health. It would examine how we can best extend protection over the whole field of employment with only minor exceptions.
I propose to discuss with the C.B.I., the T.U.C. and the nationalised industries precisely what the scope of the new inquiry should be and I shall make a further statement to the House as soon as possible, as I want to waste no time in getting the inquiry to work. That is why 62 I think that a small, compact body—say three or four members, plus the chairman—would be the best instrument.
In commending this interim Bill to the House, therefore, I do so as an earnest of our determination to bring the standards of safety and health for people at work up to the high levels that we have the right to demand as a civilised society. And in doing so, I am confident that I shall have the support of the whole House.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)
All legislation inevitably impinges on somebody's liberty or restricts his freedom of action, and that is why it must be approached carefully to see whether or not it is ultimately in the interest of the vast majority. I am sure the House will appreciate the careful and detailed explanation given by the right hon. Lady of this fairly complex, even though short, Bill. It is an important Bill, and, even if it passes fairly unrecognised among the great British public, we should give it detailed attention.
Britain has a very good general health record, and that is also true in the industrial sphere. We have made some notable progress in recent years. Where safety is concerned the record is also good, although no one can afford to be complacent and the record could be made even better. That is why I think any initiative should be welcomed, provided it is likely to prove effective, and that must be the test of this Bill. I hope that the accent in the discussions which will follow its implementation will, where both Parliament and industry are concerned, be concerned with prevention rather than cure.
The Bill falls into two parts, as we have heard and, in my view, they are really separate pieces of legislation, although the subjects are certainly interrelated. In some ways I wish that the right hon. Lady had made them separate pieces and brought them forward as such. We on this side would like to give a general welcome to Part I. There are one or two items of criticism and comment which could be made and perhaps greater definition is needed in some instances, but I am sure that this can be tackled in Committee. On the whole, the move to establish an Employment 63 Medical Advisory Service appears to be an enlightened one and we would support it.
I know that I am not alone in hoping that the scope of the occupational health side in industry will advance as a result of this legislation. In a highly industrialised society like our own the individual health of the man and woman employee is vitally important, and that is where preventive medicine comes into play. In the first Clause of the Bill there is a definition of the new Employment Medical Advisory Service. It refers to:the safeguarding and improvement of the health of employed persons".It is important that this work should extend beyond a mere checking of individuals for physical susceptibility to their working environment and the eliminating of the more obvious industrial hazards of which we are all aware. Surely, once this new service gets off the ground behavioural and psychological patterns should form part of the new service's study.
The Society of Occupational Medicine, which has about 1,100 members, was originally against the creation of this service but I do not think I am doing it any injustice when I say that it is now a little more in tune with the Department of Employment and Productivity. At first it feared that the concept of occupational medicine within industry was likely to be primarily toxicological and thus rather limited in scope. It wanted to include the environmental, the psychological and the behavioural, as regards both groups and individuals, and the epidemiological and the physiological. But now that the service is to be advisory, as we have been told this afternoon, I think the society will be able to play its part in making the new service work.
I welcome the broadening of this concept. It is important because all of us, whatever our walk in life, should seek to make life as tolerable and interesting as we possibly can for those who have to do monotonous jobs. Medical experts should try to spot those whose particular work is having an adverse effect on their performance and their life in general.
For instance, I wonder why some men strike and cause unexpected industrial disruption. Is it always for more money 64 or better conditions? Like a number of hon. Members on both sides, I suspect that it is sometimes done out of sheer boredom, and it is an effort to try to break the monotony of the long period of repetitive work which starts remorselessly on Monday morning and stretches right through to Friday afternoon. Why do others throw bottles at football matches or rip up railway carriages? Perhaps this is pent-up frustration bursting out after the greyness of a week's work which never varies in its rather soulless pattern.
People in industry today are better paid than ever before. We know that there are variations, but it is true that they are a lot better off than they have ever been. But for 90 per cent.—perhaps more than 90 per cent.—television is the only form of entertainment and their major recreation. Its danger, in my view, is that it is a window on other people's worlds, and throws into relief the stark fact that vast numbers of other people are enjoying far more interesting lives than they are themselves. We know that television presents life rather larger than life, so that even somewhat humdrum jobs—like being a Member of Parliament—appear relatively glamorous. It is little wonder that resentment tends to grow in the heart of the individual who is doing a routine job, month in and year out, and, as a result, his performance may suffer, and his health as well. I hope, therefore, that the new service, when created, will devote its attention to these problems.
I was impressed last September when I read the speech of the present President of the Trades Union Congress, Mr. John E. Newton, who had some interesting observations to make on this subject. I shall quote just one passage:The T.U.C.'s Centenary Institute of Occupational Health has already begun an investigation into the effects of shift-work on workers' health. Perhaps this Institute, as it grows, will so be able to extend its activities that it can make a wide and penetrating study of the other common features of industrial life which have their influences on attitudes as well as on physical health.Nobody who has not experienced the effects of years of confinement within the walls of mass production, without apparent means of escape, can understand the debilitating effects on the mind, the vocabulary, on the spiritual capacity of human endurance. Nobody, without this experience, can really understand why men down tools, when on the surface there 65 seems to be only a pretext, to escape momentarily from the monotony of an unnatural existence.I think that that puts the matter very well in a nutshell, and I should subscribe to that view every time.
I turn now to Part I of the Bill. The right hon. Lady paid a deserved tribute to the Factory Doctor Service, to which we are now wishing "goodbye". I am sure all hon. Members agree that, while it may have had its deficiencies—because, over the years, British industry has outgrown it—it has nevertheless done good work. There is now every case for streamlining and improving the way in which we operate a medical service in industry, and this despite the chronic shortage of medical men in this country, which, I fear, will continue for some time.
There are at present about 1,500 factory doctors, but nearly all of them are part-time. We are now to have the employment medical advisers. I am glad that that is to be their name, because I am sure that their advisory rôle will eventually have the confidence of industry. They will be much fewer in number than the factory doctors, but, as we have heard, they will be full-time and have wider functions than their predecessors.
It is important that this service should provide a satisfactory career structure for doctors. Otherwise, it will not necessarily attract men of the right calibre or the required number of recruits. Incidentally, I am told by the Society of Occupational Medicine—which I took the trouble to consult when I learned that I was to speak on the Bill—feels that, in addition to developing the new service, the right hon. Lady should encourage the expansion of health services in industry, plus some original research into the real needs, preferably as a joint project between the Government, industry and the trade unions. Perhaps this would overlap into the area of the inquiry which the right hon. Lady has announced.
If I may strike one discordant note, I was disappointed that the comprehensive legislation about which the Government have been talking for so long is not to come about. I am sure that any inquiry which will do something to improve the situation is to be welcomed, but this seems likely to be yet another inquiry with which we are burdened, and I am 66 sure that a number of hon. Members on both sides will be disappointed that comprehensive legislation is not to be forthcoming as was originally announced some years ago.
As regards the medical examination of young people, it must, surely, be sensible that the ritual of years gone by of routine medical examination should now be abandoned in favour of a more selective system, concentrating on those young people in need of medical advice.
There are those who would like to see a national occupational health service established. Some consider that this should be independent of the National Health Service, while others believe that it should be fully integrated with it. When the right hon. Lady announced her intention regarding Part I on 24th July last, she used these words:… the Government should take some step forward in occupational medicine, and my proposals will be a significant move in this direction".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1969; Vol. 787, c. 429–30.]The right hon. Lady touched on the same point today, but I wish to raise it again in view of its importance. Apparently, some people have read into the phrase which I have quoted that these proposals would be a significant move towards a national occupational health service, and, as a result, have felt that there was, perhaps, no longer any need to establish voluntary group services or even company services.
The powers provided under Clause I could be read as giving credence to that belief. It would help the House if an assurance could be given that the object of Part I is reasonably limited, namely, the reform of the factory doctor service and the rationalisation of existing resources; and, second, that the new powers are not such as to enable a national occupational health service to he established without further legislation brought before the House. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will be good enough to deal with that question when he replies.
I have referred already to the scarcity of medical manpower. It is particularly acute among registered medical practitioners holding qualifications in occupational hygiene or having practical experience of occupational health problems. Doctors with these qualifications exist, 67 in the main, in companies, including the nationalised industries, in group occupational health services, in universites, and in the medical inspectorate. It is essential that the fullest use should be made of these resources. Duplication and overlapping between these services and the new one must be avoided. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would say that the existing group services should be fully used, that there ought also to be the fullest possible use in the new service of, for instance, works medical officers, and that the new services and facilities mentioned in Clause 1(2) should not be created until the existing services are fully employed.
Clause 1(3) calls for no specialist training or experience, apart from the usual medical practitioner qualification. I do not put too much emphasis on this, as I am sure that the new service will try to recruit those who are fully qualified, but it does mean, or could mean in some situations, that those who are appointed as employment medical advisers will know less than those whom they will be advising. Surely, a specialist qualification in occupational hygiene ought to be a requirement here, or if, because of staffing difficulties, it is not possible, at the outset, it should at the earliest possible moment be a qualification in this service, which, I am sure, will last for many years.
The service is to be advisory, as we have heard, advising the right hon. Lady herself, or her successors. The official report of the Appointed Factory Doctor Service, however, recommended that it should be an advisory service to industry also. There are no references to that function in the Bill. At least, I can detect no mention of the point. It is important, nevertheless, because of the valuable process of feed-back of information to the employer. Obviously, this advisory service will have a two-way communication function; it will be helpful to industry, too, and, if certain imformation can be fed back, it will help to promote and improve the health record. The medical advisers will have wide powers to carry out medical examinations and investigate problems. I am sure that it is not in their interests or in the interests of the Government that they should hoard their information.
68 The right hon. Lady told us that subsection (4) of Clause 1 makes it clear that the new service will be independent of the Factory Inspectorate. She mentioned co-operation, and I was very glad to hear it. The present Medical Inspectorate is controlled by the Chief Inspector of Factories. That ensures that the two current inspectorates work closely together and that there is a cross-fertilisation of ideas and of knowledge. In some ways, therefore, the separation of the technical and the medical inspectorates could be to the disadvantage of safety and health, unless they are told to get together and work in harmony. I know that company medical officers have always placed high value on those close working arrangements. They have maintained them, and I believe that they would wish to continue to maintain them.
A number of points arise concerning patients—for example, whether a patient can refuse to be medically examined. The right hon. Lady said that it was possible for an individual to refuse, although, in the interest of the individual, he or she would be very unwise to refuse, unless the circumstances were unreasonable.
One point which I foresee arising concerns the man who may work in an industry in which there are certain hazards and who, because of a detected change in his health, might be advised by the new service that he ought, perhaps, to get another job in case his health is at risk. This raises certain questions of redundancy, which perhaps can be gone into in Committee. I am sure that the House is glad that a more realistic and selective approach towards medical examinations will be adopted.
It becomes important that youngsters who are not fully fit for employment are identified by the School Health Service. Doubts exist, however, in many counties whether the School Health Service is able to do this properly and effectively. I understand, for example, that Northamptonshire has not medically examined schoolchildren for the past two years because of staff shortage. That is not an isolated example. I know that a number of other counties are in similar straits.
One of the essential purposes of this legislation today is to safeguard the health of young people in the first years 69 of their working lives, to ensure that they do not go into or stay in jobs for which they are medically unfit and physiologically unsuited. Initially, this will depend upon the efficiency of the School Health Service. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will be prepared to comment on this important point when he replies. Will every local education authority be able to respond to the duties which are imposed upon it in subsection (6) of Clause 1? I rather doubt this.
The other particular point which I wanted to make on Clause 1 is that the cost of medical examinations has in the past been borne, quite rightly, by the employer. He does not object to this because the present frequency is determined by regulations and the other examinations are at the discretion of the Chief Inspector. Now, however, discretion is to be passed over to the employment medical adviser and the employer will be faced with an open-ended commitment over which he will not have direct control. As the Bill is drafted, there will be no legislative control over this discretionary power.
One solution might be for the employer to continue to pay for the prescribed examinations and for the Employment Medical Advisory Service to meet the cost of those undertaken at the behest of the medical advisers. This is not an easy matter, however, and I do not pretend to be able to submit a solution this afternoon. I hope that the Department will consider this point, because we want to be fair and just and we want to get the new service off to a good start and have full co-operation on all sides of industry.
I turn to a perhaps slightly more controversial note in Part II of the Bill, of which the right hon. Lady has given us an interesting description. It is superficially an interesting and, apparently, helpful step towards the improvement of safety in industry, but it has a number of controversial aspects, with which I would like to deal briefly. I am sure that my hon. Friends, as well as hon. Members opposite, will have various points that they would like to take up.
The more one reads Part II of the Bill the more one doubts whether the practicability of the scheme can be realised. It is only fair to say that industry is hostile to some of the pro- 70 posals which are before us today, and we must obviously probe them deeply in Committee. It is my duty to try to view the Bill as a whole, and I am certainly not here today as counsel for the defence on behalf of the employers. It would, however, be entirely wrong not to take their views fully into account if we are to do them justice, just as much as we must give paramount consideration to the desires and the welfare of all those who work in industry.
It would be true to say that management is both legally and morally responsible for industrial safety. There have in the past been some notorious exceptions of people who have fallen down on their commitments, but I believe that today the vast majority of employers—all the reputable ones—realise that safety is an important matter and that, quite apart from preserving the rights and the welfare of their employees, they need to maintain full safety to ensure that production is not interfered with. Part II of the Bill seems, however, to give rights to trade unions and safety representatives without insisting on countervailing responsibilities from management.
Britch case law has been built up on the view that management is responsible for safety, and if a legal action arises it is the management which is sued. Ever since the end of the Second World War, and particularly over the past decade, industry as a whole has made considerable efforts, and resources have been devoted to establishing various forms of joint safety machinery. As I see it, there is a danger that this legislation could undermine that voluntary machinery. It certainly seems likely to inhibit the development of further voluntary effort, particularly in the way it has been described to us today and in the way that the Bill is drafted.
The improvement of safety standards must, in the last analysis, depend upon willing co-operation between management and worker. I am sorry that there is no encouragement of joint action in the Bill. In this respect, an opportunity has been missed. Even the inspections by the union-appointed safety representatives do not have to be carried out jointly with management representatives. I should have regarded this as essential to establish the proper basis right from the start. The right hon. Lady has told 71 us that safety committees will be established not after consultation with the management but on the unilateral demand of the safety representatives. Here again, co-operation is essential.
The proposal to establish safety committees arose, as we have heard from one intervention, from the pressure by the T.U.C. over the years for some form of statutory control. It all finally crystallised in a letter which the right hon. Lady's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), sent to the C.B.I. in June, 1966. I do not think that I am breaking any confidentiality. because the letter has been well circulated in industry and probably quite a number of hon. Members have seen it. It is material to our discussion today, and I should like briefly to quote from it. My quotations are not selective but are balanced.
In writing to the then Director-General of the C.B.I. the right hon. Member for Southwark said:I share the view which the C.B.I. have always held that machinery for joint consultation on safety matters is best established on a voluntary basis. Nevertheless, I feel bound to agree with the T.U.C. that the progress which has been made in setting up joint safety committees at works level over the past ten years or so has been far from satisfactory. I am afraid that I cannot leave matters as they are. I am most reluctant to seek compulsory powers but, unless there is a marked improvement, I can see no alternative.In these circumstances I have come to the conclusion that the best course is for industry to be given the opportunity over the next few years to achieve satisfactory results by voluntary means, in the knowledge that if the opportunity is not taken the Government will feel obliged to take powers of compulsion.In his final paragraph he stated:I very much hope that in the event the position will have improved sufficiently for it to be unnecessary to deal with it by legislation, and I feel sure that the Confederation will want to do all in its power to ensure that satisfactory progress is made.Well? Has there been satisfactory progress? The right hon. Lady says that there has not been, but the fact is that between 1966 and 1969 the number of factories with joint safety committees rose from 5,826 to 9,487, an increase of 62.8 per cent. I should have thought that by any reasonable standard that was just what the right hon. Gentleman would have expected or sought.
72 With respect, the right hon. Lady tried to confuse the issue somewhat by saying that only 47 per cent. of factories employing 50 or more persons had any form of joint safety committee. That statement is misleading. We know that under the Bill safety committees will be appointed only in places where there are more than 100 persons employed, and the D.E.P.'s own figures show that in 1969 58.6 per cent. of factories employing more than 100 people had safety committees. That represents 3,594,178 workers out of a total of 4,806,850 workers. In percentage terms, 74.9 per cent. are covered, whereas the figure given by the right hon. Lady was only 47 per cent.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
Let us get this matter into perspective. The hon. Gentleman has chosen the years 1966 to 1969. He could have selected the years 1869 to 1969, because it has taken 100 years to get that far. Progress like that is far too slow.
§ Mr. Smith
We can go back to the dim ages, of course, but I am dealing with 1970. The request made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark was for industry to pull its socks up. Industry has pulled its socks up, and has done extremely well. In those circumstances, the benefit of the doubt should have been to industry by the right hon. Lady that it would make this progress, instead of her bringing in Part II.
§ Mr. Peter Archer
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is precisely the 25.1 per cent. of those in places which do not have these committees who are most in need of protection?
§ Mr. Smith
There are parts of industry still in need of protection, but good and useful progress is being made, and is being made with the right sort of cooperation between the two sides of industry. While I welcome any measures to improve industrial safety, my great fear is that if this sledgehammer type of legislation is applied wrongly, it will put up industry's back, and we shall not get the right kind of co-operation. We can go on quoting statistics backwards and forwards to each other, but the facts available show that industry has not been falling down on the job. It is in industry's 73 interest just as much as it is in the interests of the employees to maintain a good safety record.
I do not want to make too much of a political point of it, but the fact that the right hon. Lady has now brought forward this Bill throws doubt on undertakings given by Ministers, particularly as the right hon. Member for Southwark was the right hon. Lady's predecessor in office. Again, we shall have to deal considerably with some of these aspects.
Counter-proposals to Part II have been put forward by industry. The right hon. Lady was good enough to say that she was grateful for the advice she had received from a number of resources, but she has not chosen to adopt the advice given to her by, for instance, the C.B.I. Those proposals should, on the whole, gain the support of the House. They would provide the best solution for both sides of industry.
I shall not go into the proposals now in any detail, but they would provide legislation which would clearly recognise existing voluntary arrangements, and only give the right to appoint safety representatives where no such machinery existed or where a majority of the workers in an establishment were dissatisfied with that existing machinery. I believe that legislation in this form would positively encourage the setting up of voluntary arrangements, and the improvement of existing schemes if those were thought to be unsatisfactory. The proposals would be applied to unionised and non-unionised establishments, and we on this side would support them.
Under the Bill, safety committees will be required to be established only at the behest of safety representatives in factories of more than 100 employees where recognised trade unions operate. Without going into the issue of whether or not unions should be recognised, a considerable stumbling block at this time seems to be that if there is not a union, these safety regulations cannot be brought in.
The C.B.I. tells me that it is particularly concerned at the introduction in Clause 8(3) of the concept of… the trade union for the time being recognised by the occupier for the purpose of negotiating terms and conditions of employment …".It seems to the C.B.I. that one interpretation of that wording could lead to a 74 trade union obtaining back-door recognition. For example, where a company, though not employing any union members, recognises a national agreement for the purpose of its own terms of condition and employment, the Clause seems to suggest that the union which negotiated the national agreement will have the right to appoint safety representatives despite the fact that it had no members there. Equally, in a factory employing, perhaps, 2,000 workers, only a handful of whom—electricians, perhaps, or maintenance men—are union members, the Clause appears to give the union the right to appoint representatives, even though the employees in the establishment are unrepresentative of that union.
Special problems face particular industries. As other hon. Members want to speak, I shall refer to these only briefly, but we should not overlook them. In the operation of the Measure, one is thinking not so much of factories as of ancillary services where there is not a static factory. A large number of difficulties here present themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) referred in an intervention to the docks. We know that in the docks there are complicated arrangements in regard to labour and supervision by the port authorities. The proposals in the Bill were drafted with the idea of permanent factories, and in some circumstances their application to the docks could well produce chaos.
The Bill will empower safety representatives to insist on inspecting a ship every time it berths. Because of the multiplicity of gangs working shifts there could be a multiplicity of inspections each time a ship came in. As we are all well aware, one of the greatest problems in the docks is had time keeping, and that problem could well be accentuated if the gangs did not want to start work—as quite legitimately they could—until they were sure that all the equipment associated with the loading or unloading of a ship was safe. I hope that special attention can be given to the problems of the docks.
The construction industry has been mentioned as one which will need special consideration. I have read the case put forward by the industry, and I agree that those in it have in the past tackled safety 75 problems most professionally. Construction employees are probably more vulnerable than those in any other industries except perhaps those in such heavy industries as steel. Site workers may remain for only a few days. Operations on a site can take only a day or two, or they can go on for years and many contractors and sub-contractors may be involved. The Minister said that the Bill formed a comprehensive approach to workers on the site, but there is a danger that untrained safety workers, working on sites with the best of intentions, could become a danger to themselves and others.
It is essential in Clause 10(1) to say that the man appointed must have worked in "the" industry and not just "in industry", otherwise we might have absurd cases where a man, who has been working in, for example, the catering industry joins the construction industry and, because he is a strong union man, is given the opportunity of being safety officer on a site. It is important that one of the relevant factors in that appointment is that the man should have had experience in the particular industry concerned.
§ Mr. R. W. Brown
The hon. Gentleman should surely also apply the same to employers, many of whom employ men merely because they got a B.A. at Oxford. The same considerations surely apply to the employment of such people as safety officers.
§ Mr. Smith
I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman on that point. I do not believe that people should be appointed to posts unless their qualifications are relevant. The professional approach is the best in this activity, as in many other activities. We should have men for this job who have been properly trained and are properly experienced.
The position of the construction industry has long been recognised, and there is special legislation for it, including provisions for the appointment of safety supervisors. To some extent, the Bill will bring these special regulations into disrepute and make nonsense of the present statutory provisions for safety officers. We shall want to debate this aspect in Committee.
Among other questions which need answering—and such questions are bound 76 to arise in such a Bill, although time precludes me from going into all of them—is: what mechanism there will be for training safety representatives? What has the T.U.C., which is very keen on this Bill, done in recent years in promoting safety courses? There also appears to be no restriction in respect of the numbers visiting the scene of an accident, and there is no time limit for fixing a visit. This could be difficult in certain circumstances. Supposing production by vital machinery is stopped and the safety representative is telephoned and asked to go over there, but replies, "I have other duties and I will come tomorrow." This may sound an exaggerated case but it could arise and could seriously hold up production in some factories. We should also examine the point of having a register and of who will inspect it and, indeed, act upon it when reports are entered.
This new safety system could be helpful, and perhaps will be in the hands of the co-operative. I hope so. But I believe that there is scope for potential trouble-makers and disruptive elements, if they find themselves appointed to the rôle of safety inspector. Safety must be a co-operative effort and one in which all elements of management and unions need to co-operate.
Despite some marked objections to Part II of the Bill, I cannot advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against it. This would give the impression that we were against improving industrial safety and health, and we certainly are not that. But if the Government approach the Bill in a co-operative spirit, we can achieve some useful Amendments in Committee, enabling the Bill to work more successfully than it can do in its present form. When we have seen the Bill in operation, we shall be able to identify the weaknesses exposed even more clearly than we think we see them now, and the next Government can correct some of the faults.
We are constantly talking about environment and pollution, but, in a highly industrialised society like ours, man still has to earn his living, and the personal preservation of man must come first. We must do a great deal to protect our countryside and stop polluting it. We must pay greater heed to individual welfare, particularly where it is 77 dominated by the working environment, which takes up most of the time of the vast majority of individuals. If we can take a significant step forward in the lifetime of our generation in making industrial life and work healthy and reasonably satisfying, we shall perhaps achieve far more than some of the spectacular advances of science which are being heralded at present and have been presented to us over the past few years.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. John Binns (Keighley)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the First Secretary on her initiative in bringing the Bill before the House. As she said, many of us on this side of the House believe it to be long overdue. Her Department is the Department of Employment and Productivity and I believe that, if we are to get the best out of our industrial production, it is essential that the health and safety and environmental conditions of those employed in industry should be of the utmost concern to her Department. That is why so many hon. Members on this side welcome the Bill.
I welcome the Bill mainly because it stresses clearly that the health and safety and welfare of those engaged in industry is a matter of concern not only to the Department, but also to the Government. Not only does it lay down a series of protective measures which will be the right of all those concerned in industry, but it backs them with the force of law. But if these measures are to be backed with the force of law, it is essential that the scope and terms of reference of those who have to carry out the duties laid down in the Bill be spelt out with far more clarity than the Bill contains, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think us churlish or super-critical if I and some of my hon. Friends try to elicit answers to certain points from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who is to reply.
Clause I enables the Secretary of State to set up an Employment Medical Advisory Service, which will be part of her own Department. This is a great advance on the old Factory Doctor Service; and in saying that I do not detract at all from the good work done by most of the doctors in that service. But most of the personnel of that service are general prac- 78 titioners already under great pressure in their own practices, and they can visit a factory for only a limited amount of time. This is why the setting up of the new service will offer tremendous scope for the creation of a real—and I want that word "real" to sink in—industrial medical service, and also the development of research facilities into industrial diseases and welfare.
One point which needs clarification is that, if the duties of medical staff in the new service are only to be to carry out medical examinations of employees or inoculations in time of danger from epidemics, I cannot see the service being attractive to well-trained members of the medical profession. If, on the other hand, it is my right hon. Friend's intention to take advantage of the wide scope the Bill gives her to set up research establishments to do research into things like chest and skin diseases and the neurotic effects of boring and repetitive work, which is the price many workers have to pay for their employment, I feel sure that the medical profession will see in this service the chance of an interesting and even exciting career. I hope that my hon. Friend will give us this assurance in his reply.
We should also be told what is to be the position of many of the well-trained and well-qualified nurses already working in industry. Is it the intention to bring them within the scope of the Employment Medical Advisory Service? If not, is it intended that they shall go on working within industry, paid by the employers and expected to co-operate fully with the service?
What would be the position if someone in a factory were suddenly taken ill and a doctor had to be brought to the premises quickly? There is now no Factory Doctor Service. Is the E.M.A.S. to set up a service within each town or area so that a doctor may be brought to the factory immediately? Is this to be a fully comprehensive industrial medical service, or only a partial service? My right hon. Friend has already said that it is not to be a fully comprehensive industrial medical service. If not, why not? If it is to be only a partial service, where will be the division of responsibility between what the employer is expected to find in the way of first-aid and other medical facilities and what an E.M.A.S. will find through the Department?
79 Clause 3 gives an E.M.A.S. power to carry out a medical examination of employees. I should like an assurance that, whether these examinations take place on the employer's premises or somewhere like a hospital or clinic, the employee will suffer no loss of remuneration for the time he is off the job. This is the kind of matter which it is better to clear up now rather than after the Bill has become law, when there may be room for future dispute.
Part II of the Bill deals with the appointment of safety representatives by the trade unions and the setting up of the joint safety committees. I welcome this part of the Bill, because I am sure that if this kind of legislation had been on the Statute Book some years ago a serious factory fire in my constituency, involving a considerable loss of life, would have been averted. I am sure that other hon. Members can think of occasions when similar industrial tragedies would have been avoided if safety regulations of this kind had been in operation.
However, much as I welcome these provisions, there are four matters about which I should like clarification. First, will the safety inspectors and members of the safety committees have to receive any training for the work they are to undertake after appointment? I believe that they ought to be given training in, for instance, fire prevention, guarding dangerous machines, eye protection, dust protection, ventilation and hygiene, all the many things which affect the health and safety of workers. These people should have training so as to know something about the best and most up-to-date methods of dealing with these problems. If that training is to be given, who will be responsible for it? Will it be the responsibility of the trade unions, the employers, or the Minister?
Secondly, what will be the procedure in the event of a dispute between the trade union representatives and the employers' representatives on the committee, perhaps over the introduction of certain safety measures? Will there be a point of arbitration? If there is, with whom will the powers of arbitration rest, the Minister, the E.M.A.S., or an independent committee?
Thirdly, will there be legal safeguards for the representatives to prevent them from suffering victimisation or any other 80 unpleasantness because of the carry out of their duties? This is quite a possibility. As these will be statutory duties, legal protection should be afforded.
Finally, if an accident can be proved to be attributable to the neglect of safety provisions, the injured person now has a claim against the employer; if safety becomes the responsibility of a joint committee of employer and trade union representatives, will that affect the legal position of a man making a claim for compensation for industrial injury?
I have asked many questions, but they need to be answered. I support the Bill wholeheartedly. It is a step towards the real industrial charter which we, as members of the Labour Party, promised our constituents at the last General Election. If the Bill is brought into operation we shall benefit not only the health of our workers and provide better health standards for them, but save many hundreds and thousands of productive man-hours for industry.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Binns) will forgive me if I do not immediately comment on his speech but try to draw my comments on it into the threads of my own.
In an excellent and thoughtful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) pointed out that safety and health had rarely been a growth point in industry. It is now one of the developments of the new attitude towards safety and health and one of the happier aspects of the present industrial relations system that the Bill is superimposed on a movement which is already going well. Part I is the result of substantial consultations with the organisations, the medical world and the individuals, involved.
Part II, however, is very different. It is the result of hurried consultation. It could be said that the matter was broached by the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), of blessed memory, but it cannot be said that there has been constant discussion about safety. The new propositions were hurriedly advanced and quickly presented to the organisations involved, which were asked for quick replies. The result is that Part II is ill digested and inadequate. If it had been left a little 81 longer for more detailed discussions, a Bill agreed on all sides could have been produced, and in health and welfare it is co-operation that matters.
I have an urgent request to make to the right hon. Lady, that she should use her good offices to ensure that purchase tax is removed from safety equipment and protective clothing. If there is any one step forward by the Government which could show good will, it is the removal of this absurd purchase tax on safety boots and safety helmets, for instance. If anything could be more completely ridiculous than that, it is difficult to imagine.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
The right hon. Lady would, clearly, have the right to make demands in this respect, but it is a Treasury matter and the Treasury has consistently refused to do this.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mr. Harold Walker)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me when purchase tax was imposed on these things?
§ Mr. Page
If it was originally imposed by my own party, surely its removal would be one of the reforming measures which the hon. Gentleman would like to be making, riding with his plastic lance towards a cardboard windmill. The removal of purchase tax has been urged by safety officers, and the insufficient consultation with safety officers has been extremely disappointing.
The right hon. Lady said that the Bill would introduce "a medical service for the whole of my Department". Clause 1(2) states that the Secretary of State may maintain laboratories. In contradistinction to the hon. Member for Keighley, I wonder whether it is wise to introduce into the Department of Employment and Productivity yet another activity entirely extraneous from the duties which it now possesses?
It now has something to do with monopolies. I doubt whether any of the Ministers are really as competent as those in the Board of Trade to deal long-term with the question of monopolies in the C.I.M. is it right that this Department should have opened to it an entirely new 82 medical area? Certain research should be carried out by the Department and there should be access to this through the Medical Research Council and its research establishments. I am all for research; I think it should be extended. But it would be better controlled in the whole orbit of medical research rather than departmentally, for there will not be enough background knowledge in depth to support the right kind of research.
I have been actively involved in manufacturing industry for the last 25 years and on a smallish number of occasions have been close to industrial accidents. From my knowledge and experience I know the heart-sinking agony which goes through the minds of colleagues when they feel that they might be responsible for an accident. I am dedicated to any action which Parliament can take to reduce, and if possible remove in some areas, the incidence of industrial accidents. I wonder whether Part II is designed to do this.
I said that this Bill was undigested and I regret to say that I found the speech of the First Secretary indigestible. There is such a small amount of detail written into the Bill. It is dangerous, when this is the case, to leave the insertion of important matters of fact and knowledge to be done in Committee. There are at least 150 sensible questions which could be asked after an intelligent reading of the Bill and which are nowhere answered in the Bill.
For example, Clause 8(1)(a) deals with safety representatives and safety committees in factories. By whom is the appointment of these representatives to be made? I have asked a number of colleagues in different parties and have received different answers from each. The Bill says:there may be appointed from among them by the recognised trade union or unions persons to act as safety representatives under this Act".By whom will this appointment be made? Will it be by the shop stewards or a committee of shop stewards or will it be by the local official of the trade union? I feel that the latter would be the most satisfactory and that is how it seems to read. The local union official should ask for nominations from his members in a particular place of work and should then offer such names to the 83 employers—and we must talk about employers rather than occupiers at this stage. Agreement should then be reached as to who the safety representative should be.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington said that it was possible to visualise cases of an obstructive individual, appointed as a safety representative, making co-operation difficult. By having the name accepted by union and employer we should remove that possibility. I would like to see the representative appointed by the unions and not locally within the factory. It is up to the Government to clear up the position of non-unionists. Take the case where there might be 100 non-unionists and six trade unionists. There is the question whether the union representing those six should make the appointment on behalf of the bulk of non-unionists.
§ Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)
My hon. Friend will have noticed that the unions will have a say in appointing representatives only if they are recognised as a negotiating body, and therefore in the case that he cites the trade union may not be recognised as a negotiating body and not be able to make appointments.
§ Mr. Page
Reading this Bill is rather like the reading by a blindfolded fortuneteller of a sieve. It is filled with holes, and as in the dark she puts her hands over this globe, so more and more holes appear, all of them having some meaning not included in this very loosely-drafted Bill.
How many safety representatives will there be in a factory of 10? Will there be three because three unions are recognised? There is no indication how many members there should be on such a committee. In a place of work with, say, 100 people there should be three representatives, or any other sensible number, and it should not be left so loosely drafted. It is frightfully vague.
The Under-Secretary has shared with me the rather unaccustomed smell of the sea through out sittings on the Committee stage of the Merchant Shipping Bill. I believe that this Bill will require Amendments to be tabled to the Merchant Shipping Bill on Report. Perhaps, with his forward-looking attitude, the hon. 84 Gentleman has already got them worked out. As I remember it, the master of a vessel can at the moment refuse entry to a ship to anyone of whom he disapproves. There are special regulations in the Merchant Shipping Bill which will allow representatives of the trade unions, employees on the vessel, to have access unless there is some special reason why they should not. I do not think that it will be possible for representatives of a shore-based committee to have access to a ship when it is in port, as the Merchant Shipping Bill stands.
I turn to Clause 9(2). It is sensible that there should be a time gap of three months between the periodic inspection by the safety representatives or by the two-man team of the safety representative group. As a fringe unbenefit, or whatever the right word is, because the period of three months is written into the Bill there is a danger that the ordinary safety inspection by the safety officers will be considered unnecessary. I hope that it will not be. I am a great believer in the trained safety officer, who has an important and responsible rôle to play, but there is a danger that it may be said, "This has just been inspected by a couple of members of the committee, so it is unnecessary for the normal safety inspection to be made".
Turning to Clause 9(5), I noticed a chink in the First Secretary's armour. She said that the keeping of records of inspection by safety committees was not compulsory and that it is a good thing if the question is left open. However, she said that there was a duty on the employer to provide suitable record books and suitable facilities. I wonder why the keeping of proper records of inspection is not mandatory. Inspections should be made and proper reports should be made on the findings of the committee. Reports should be made of any breaches of safety rules by fellow employees.
Nothing is said about to whom the records are open to inspection. They should be open to inspection by the safety committee and by the employer. I wonder whether it has become impossible for the right hon. Lady to put in the Bill any duty on employees or trade unions because of her undertaking in June or July, 1969, that no penalty clauses would be included in industrial relations legislation introduced during the lifetime of 85 this Parliament. By saying that she handcuffed herself when it came to putting responsibilities or obligations on workpeople or trade unions. If there is an obligation, there must be a penalty if it is not met.
A small, and possible Committee, point arises under Clause 9(6) about the way in which notice of inspection should be given. The Bill should provide that notice of intended inspection should be made in writing. It almost provides that notice can be given very casually to any member of the management. That is not good enough. I cannot think why the Bill was drafted in that way.
A number of duties are put on employers. There are three stated offences which may be committed by employers, but there is no limit laid down on the penalty which may be imposed. I am no legal draftsman, but I wonder whether this has been done on purpose or by mistake. Should not a statutory limit be put on penalties for any offence of non-compliance with the duties by employers? I stand to be corrected by the Minister if this point is covered by existing Factories Acts. It should be an offence if proper notice of intention to inspect is not given, if proper records are not kept by the inspecting employee and if unions do not comply with the requirement to change, at the appropriate stage, people who are actively engaged as safety representatives or members of the safety committee.
We have become accustomed to partisanship in any Bill introduced by the First Secretary. In the good old days of the right hon. Member for Southwark and the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams), I do not believe that there would have been so much controversy and partisanship in the presentation of a Bill of this sort. I record my disappointment that the matter of health and safety, on which there should be a completely unified attitude on both sides of the House, has again been thrown into the political arena as an election issue.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Fletcher (Darlington)
My right hon. Friend the First Secretary said that this was an interim Bill. I was glad to learn that a high-powered committee is to be appointed to consider every aspect of industrial safety and welfare. This is 86 a modest, but important Bill. It deals with the medical services, as they relate to the question of health and safety in workshops; and it sets up safety committees and officers.
I do not think there can be any controversy about the medical aspect of the matter. The old situation in which the family doctor acted in a part-time capacity as a factory doctor has long outlived its usefulness. It was first incorporated in legislation in the 1840s when they were known as certified surgeons. This matter is due for revision. The employment medical services outlined in the Bill will meet the problem, particularly in view of the shortage of doctors. It is absurd that doctors should examine perfectly healthy young people who are coming into industry when their attention should be directed to those who need medical attention.
My only apprehension is how the Employment Medical Advisory Service will operate. How far will it co-operate with the Factory Inspectorate? I hoped that my right hon. Friend would outline the necessity for having a separate service running alongside the inspectorate. A case could be made out for incorporating the Employment Medical Advisory Service with the medical branch of the Factory Inspectorate. Why cannot this be done? It is all very well to talk about close co-operation, but a liaison committee is needed. People must recognise that someone is in authority who gives orders and directs policy. It would be better if the Employment Medical Advisory Service did not run alongside the Factory Inspectorate, but were part of it. I should be very pleased to hear the reasons which prompted my right hon. Friend to incorporate that provision in the Bill.
Safety officers and committees have been advocated by the T.U.C. for many years. We must ask how effective the committees can be. They are not compulsory. Employers will be under no statutory obligation to accept a committee as described in the Bill, and many of them will no doubt be paper committees. We want to know what supervision there will be to see that employers carry out the provisions of the Bill.
There is tremendous scope for development in safety and welfare. In 1968, 87 312,000 people suffered an industrial accident which resulted in their being off work for three days or more. A total of 625 of these accidents were fatal. It has been said that the figures continue to rise, but the statistics are rather misleading, although they show a small increase of 2.8 per cent., this results from social insurance provisions being better than they were in previous years. I can remember working in a factory before the war when a man with a lacerated finger would stay at his machine. He could not take three or four days off because the medical benefit was so low.
Moreover, millions of people outside the factory were unemployed and the worker feared that his job would be gone when he returned after a few weeks off. As a result, many people worked with lacerated fingers, possibly working in suds and oil. Sometimes, their injury turned septic and they faced really serious injury. Another factor in those days, before the use of skin barriers was widespread, was that people suffering from dermatitis through working in oil often had to work week after week with those conditions, afraid to take time off for the condition to be cured. Those days have gone. People are now not much worse off financially if they take time off because of minor injuries. So we should not take too much notice of the statistics for small injuries.
The best indication of the position is given by the figures in the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. This shows that since 1947 the mining industry fatality rate has been reduced by two-thirds, and the incident rate in certain classes of serious accidents by one-third. During the same period the number of accidents causing disablement for more than three days has risen by over 70 per cent. More people are off work because of minor accidents for three days or more, but the number of serious accidents is declining, so we must not place too much value on those statistics.
But we should focus our attention on the detailed statistics in the annual report broken down into the Factory Inspectorate districts. These give the ratio of accidents per 1,000 employees in various parts of the country. In some areas it is particularly high, while in others it is comparatively low. In the 88 Birmingham area, for instance, which is noted for engineering and heavy industry, the average is 27 accidents per 1,000 employees. In my own region, in the North-East, we find that the average is 63 per 1,000, and in Darlington, my own constituency, the incidence is 70 per 1,000 employees. The Wear is even higher, at 88, and is surpassed only by Wakefield, in Yorkshire. which has 102. I wonder whether it is possible to break these figures down into industries, and concentrate on those areas with a high incidence and a very high rate of accidents?
These high averages may well be due to the fact that employers and workers are apathetic about creating machinery to prevent factory accidents. I was a guest recently at a meeting of the South-West Durham Safety Group, at which we were told that of 135 companies in the region only 19 had sent representatives. Many of them were not key executives, but were chosen from the office and elsewhere to represent the firm. It seems to me that in the Darlington area we are reaping the harvest of this apathy in that we have the third highest accident incidence rate out of 101 districts in the country. I hope that one of the by-products of the Bill will be to focus attention on the necessity to reduce accidents, particularly in those areas where they are above the national average.
When we come to the question of organisation, we must ask what sort of training the safety officers are to have. There is an Institution of Industrial Safety Officers, a semi-professional body with very high standards. It can no doubt produce competent safety officers, but we also need to recruit, particularly on the safety committees, men with industrial experience, such as electricians, with 20 or 30 years' experience in the shop. They are very valuable people who will know quite a lot about safety, health and welfare in a particular industry, but who may not be the type to go in for a comprehensive professional examination such as that given by the institution. There is a part for the trade unions to play here. They could organise meetings, weekend schools and so on to consider this aspect of training.
The initiative must not be left to the individual firm. If it does not have a very profitable year such spending is 89 the sort of expense that is cut straight away. It would cut spending on safety and similar matters that it might well consider to be on the periphery of industrial production.
So we must consider the organisation very carefully and whether it be possible to place training and supervision under the umbrella of the Factory Inspectorate. I know that it is overworked and has problems of recruitment, because factory inspectors are highly specialised in their job and there are the attractions of outside industry with greater remuneration, so that it is difficult to build up this specialised staff with specialist knowledge that is dedicated to the job.
The inspectorate has 400,000 factories to supervise and 80,000 construction sites, and the inspectors spend a great deal of time in the courts. Therefore, I hesitate to suggest that another duty should be placed upon them. But we need someone to supervise training activities and all sorts of other safety activities and to bring the safety committees together. Each inspectorate could have in its locality a programme of lectures, weekend schools, seminars, visits to other factories, educational film shows, and social occasions, such as annual dinners. This would have to be organised by someone. If this could be done we could get an awareness, which does not exist at the moment, of the need to do this job.
I should like to see the sort of dedicated people we find in the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, who give their spare time to the work, and pass examinations, take a similar interest in accident prevention. There is no financial provision in the Bill for this; there is financial provision under Part I, but not under Part II. I hope that funds may be provided to the Factory Inspectorate so that inspectors can supervise in their localities the various factory committees, perhaps advise managements on appointments, and so on, and, perhaps, arrange for the award or a cup to be competed for by factory safety committees. These sorts of activities can best be supervised by the Factory Inspectorate. We shall have to recruit more factory inspectors and I hope that consideration will be given to this.
We have to ask ourselves how effective these safety committees will be. A safety 90 officer can, under the Bill, inspect a factory on not more occasions than four a year; every three months he is allowed to inspect the factory. The Bill ought to be amended to read "not less than three months". It could happen that a new machine could be introduced to the factory and there might be a question of faulty dust extraction; and this could go on for three months before coming to the attention of the factory safety officer.
I know that on the other side of the coin an awkward safety officer may insist on comprehensive inspection the whole of the time. There must be a little give and take about this and the power should be used with discretion. The only other thing which a safety officer can do, having made his inspection, is to register his report with his employers. A register will be kept. What effective use is to be made of the register? To whom is it to be available? There is no point in keeping a register packed with facts and statistics if no one uses it. The register should be made available to the factory inspector. It would give the inspectors an indication of the types of industrial accidents which occur at different firms.
I have had a letter only this morning from the secretary of the Darlington Trades Council, who suggests that an effective method of preventing accidents is to remove the limit of £300 as the maximum fine under the Factories Act and increase it by 10 times. A fine of £3,000 would make employers safety conscious. I do not go all the way with that; we have to consider whether it would be more effective to work for co-operation or whether it would be more effective to wield the big stick. I believe that the Bill goes quite a long way in reaching a compromise.
We shall never avoid all accidents. Factory inspectors estimate that 50 per cent. of the accidents in workshops are unavoidable. They cannot all be avoided, but the remaining 50 per cent. can, amounting to 150,000 accidents per year. This modest Measure, if it cannot cure the problem, at least will create a climate which will make people in the factories much more safety conscious.
A contribution has to come from both sides of industry, including the man who says, "I have done it this way for 30 years and I have never had an accident 91 so far", and on the other side, the managements who are productivity-conscious rather than safety-conscious and, as a consequence, close their eyes to a lot that happens in a factory so long as production continues to increase.
I welcome the Bill. I hope that it may be amended in Committee in the manner that I have suggested, but my right hon. Friend should be congratulated upon its introduction. I hope that it will be passed by the House without a Division.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
At this stage of debate much has been said that an hon. Member would have wanted to say had he been called earlier, but I should first like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) on his very thorough examination of the Bill on the first occasion on which we have had the pleasure of hearing him speak from our Front Bench, and I am sure hon. Members opposite would also wish to congratulate him. Because of the number of hon. Members who want to speak in the debate I propose to delay the House only a very short time to make one or two points about what seem to me inadequacies in the Bill.
We on this side welcome Part I. Medical examination and medical services in factories have long been encouraged by us on this side of the House, as, indeed, by hon. Members opposite. There is, however, one point which wants further examination. It is not clear to my mind what, under the Bill, happens about information gained by the medical officers. Is it to go to individual employees? What if it is a case of an individual employee being wrongly medically classified for the work he is given? Is it the intention of the Minister that those employed in the medical work will report to the foreman or directors that such-and-such a man is in the wrong job because of his medical category, or that such-and-such a man should not be employed on that job but ought to be put on another?
I ask it in the kindest way because there are many people who suffer from quite small complaints which, however, can become very much worse because of 92 the nature, perhaps the monotony, of their work. The purpose of this provision vis-à-vis the individual needs to be spelled out clearly. I well see the value of medical experience and work here, and that it leads to a certain progress, and to a greater awareness of its importance, and the more research we do to that end the better, but I do not think the Bill clears it up.
As to Part II, I should like to concentrate my remarks on how the Bill will affect the construction industry, in which my interests are already well known. The House will recall that I asked the right hon. Lady a Question about the visits of factory inspectors to a number of factories and whether their experience had shown that in factories where there had been safety committees safety rates were better. I was extremely surprised, and I am sure the House was, by her answer, which, if I recall correctly, was that there was no information on this point. It seems to me remarkable that the one thing that really matters seems to have been overlooked and yet the Bill is introduced. I am suspicious enough to come to the conclusion that this Bill, even if not wholly so, is a party political manoeuvre for the General Election. I can already see a Socialist Party manifesto claiming credit to the Government for improving health and safety in factories when the need for the Bill has not been proved.
No one in the House will doubt my interest in safety. The very first time I was lucky in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills I introduced the Home Safety Bill, a Measure which I understand has save many lives in the home. Nobody needs to sell me the idea that we are not safety conscious, but I need a great deal of convincing that safety is increased merely by appointing a committee. A good safety record in a factory or on a building site can be achieved only when every member of the team is his own safety officer and is conscious of safety.
The safety committee has powers to inspect and to recommend, but no responsibility. The person who is responsible is the employer. If the safety committee and an employer disagree on a particular safety measure and, because of the Bill, the employer is persuaded by the committee to introduce safety measures which he feels to be wrong and as a result of which there is an accident, will the Minister say who is to blame, who takes the 93 can? I can find nothing in the Bill that relieves the employer of his responsibility. I can find plenty in the Bill which gives the committee the right to interfere.
The building industry is a remarkable industry when looked at in parliamentary terms, because in this Bill it is deemed to be a factory. That may seem to be logical, but will the Minister tell me why the building industry and building sites are deemed to be a factory under the Bill but when it comes to S.E.T. they are nothing of the sort? Why is there this differentiation?
The right hon. Lady in a remarkable reply to my intervention said that the appointment of a safety committee depended on the total number of employees in a firm. Does she mean that a firm of building contractors employing workers from John o' Groats to Lands End, from Dover to Bristol, is to be regarded as one factory within the meaning of the Bill in relation to safety committees?
The Bill contains a reference to casual labour. Perhaps the Minister will tell me where I can find a definition of "casual labour" in the Bill?
Reference has been made to the docks, and that industry is not dissimilar to the building industry. If there are to be powers of inspection every three months, where will the boats be for this inspection? A boat should not be in dock for more than two or three days. How will the inspection be carried out? Perhaps this will be yet another excuse for holding up a loading gang and so affecting vital exports, because the Government in their wisdom have introduced a Measure which provides for more control and less co-operation.
The Bill will be a sea lawyer's paradise, giving a wonderful opportunity to those who want to make trouble and disrupt our industries. Where all strikes have failed, under the guise of safety it will be possible to delay matters while an inspection is made.
Will the Minister say whether the Bill deals with ships which are in home waters and not in docks? I have for some time been pressing the Board of Trade to introduce safety measures for pilots' ladders, as one of my constituents was killed because a pilot's ladder was improperly fixed. Such safety regulations are common-place in the rest of the world. Will the safety committee be able 94 to report the master of a ship for not carrying out safety regulations? If so, how will the prosecution take place, and what penalties can be inflicted?
As I promised to keep my remarks short, I have dealt only with those points which particularly affect the construction industry and my constituents. I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee it will be improved in the ways I have suggested.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles
I welcome the Bill, as one who has been interested in industrial safety for 18 years. I do not believe that people fully appreciate the extent of the suffering which is caused by the lack of safety precautions in factories. A few crude statistics will illustrate the size and nature of the problem. An increase in the number of safety committees will not solve it. This legislation needs teeth to compel employers to practise safety precautions, to the maximum of present-day knowledge, both from the point of view of accidents and of health.
May I mention four statistics? The annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories states that there were 254,454 accidents in 1968, a great many by any standards. That figure omits accidents in the docks and the construction industry. According to what the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) said, we can add to this the construction industry accident rate of 46,000 per annum. Something should be done to reduce these accidents.
Mr. Vincent Hanna, in The Sunday Times of 8th February, in an article, which I commend all hon. Members to read, about industrial safety and industrial accidents, said this:Next year in Britain, more people will die accidentally than were killed by bombs in any one year of the Second World War.Third, in our factories, about seven times as many workers will be killed or maimed next year as the number of British Servicemen in any one year of the last war. This shows the size of the problem of injury and death, but it does not tell of the suffering of the individual who has an accident, the person responsible, and the families of those who have had accidents.
The fourth statistic is that the number of days lost due to accidents in 1968 95 was 21,900,000. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are entitled to be worried about the number of days lost through strikes, but they should get their priorities right. Four or five times as many days are lost through industrial injury as through strikes.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
While in no way detracting from the great importance of safety at work, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would not agree that his comparison is not really fair, since no factory is ever stopped, production lost and export deliveries cancelled because of a lack of safety at work, as compared with strikes?
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I am sorry, but I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman's reasoning. It is absurd. There are examples of accidents closing factories over and over again through careless procedures. Workshops within the factories are closed by accidents. The hon. Gentleman must understand that this is what happens in industry. If he wants to blind himself to this, that is his affair, but factories are closed by accidents.
Mr. Hanna has also made an assessment of the financial costs to the country. His estimate is: loss of productivity through accidents, £55 million; loss of productivity through fatal accidents, £11 million; cost of industrial injuries, £111 million; cost of accidents to the National Health Service, £43 million. Industrial injuries cost this country £220 million per annum by a very conservative estimate. Something must be done.
The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) said that he could not understand why trade unions should be responsible for initiating the industrial safety side. The one thing which was uppermost at all levels whenever I lectured on this subject to trade unionists was the prime importance of a safety committee and safety provisions. The union to which I belong takes great pride in the fact that it recovers for its members more every year than it takes in union dues. This is a tribute to the legal department of the Transport and General Workers' Union, but the union still says that this is blood money. We do not want it. What we really want to do is cut 96 down the waste of human endeavour caused by accidents. This is where we should be concentrating our activity.
Trade unions, with their limited financial resources for training, spend a large proportion of that money on safety training. This has been clearly recognised by my right hon. Friend and her Department. I am pleased to see that the initiative will now come from the trade unions, and, if I know the unions, it will not be long before they demand a wide cross-section of representation within the factory, for everyone's sake.
The suffering of the families involved is perhaps the most telling point. The worries of the man who has died are over, but those of his family have only just started, particularly if children are involved. If only for the sake of the children of those who have died, or who have been injured badly enough to be prevented from working further, both sides should welcome the Bill; it will reduce the number of sufferers.
Clause 3 refers to the right of a doctor to enter the premises. This may seem strange, but, with new processes, with the use of new materials, it is right that the medical authorities should be brought in as early as possible. There is a reference in today's national Press about a toxic substance being used in boat building on the South Coast, and there is apparently a question mark hanging over its effect on the health of the workers. The doctors should be in from the first.
Virtually every hon. Member is on what I call the "pollution bandwaggon". Everybody is talking about pollution. Talking is fair enough, but surely greater emphasis should be placed on the prevention of pollution, within the factory, where it starts, where a man is faced with pollution on the shop floor all the time he is working. If the medical authorities had the right to control some pollution within the factory, the amount in the atmosphere and the rivers would be considerably reduced, to the advantage of us all.
I hope that my hon. Friend will tell his right hon. Friend that, in the opinion of many safety-conscious people, the medical expert should have the right to interfere in his own or neighbouring factories if there is a risk to health, whether 97 in the factory or the immediate environment. This would go a long way towards controlling pollution.
Clause 9 of the Bill lays stress on the importance of enlightened self-interest in preserving the health and welfare of people in the factories. It encourages—this is what we want—unions to set the pace in getting representation for safety purposes and to indulge in enlightened self-interest. Also, it stresses the importance of continuing inspection.
I end with the plea which I used to advance every time that I spoke on this subject. In the days when I was more actively concerned with these matters, I always told shop stewards and branch officers that, in the event of an accident, they should report immediately in the accident book the time, place, nature and cause of it, together with the names of any witnesses.
Some people may say that that is being rather self-defeating and that it comes back to the argument about how a man is to be compensated for an accident. But the House has heard a lot about the importance of records, and I would like to see accident report books used, first of all, to provide evidence in the event of there being a court action but, more important, from the point of view of its long-term advantage as a means of preventing similar accidents occurring. If accident report books are used constructively, they can show the way to future means of prevention.
§ Mr. Peter Archer
No doubt my hon. Friend appreciates that an entry in an accident book is admissible evidence in certain circumstances. Is he saying that he would like to see employees have the right to inspect accident books?
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
Employees should have every right. They should have the right to make entries, and initial them as well. I am not trying to remove any legal rights. It is important to use accident books in courts of law. My point is that they can also be used to prevent similar accidents. A report book provides the Factory Inspectorate and those concerned with welfare and safety with a continuing record which can assist them in their attempts to prevent further damage to human beings.
98 I welcome the Bill. I have heard hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that they want to see Amendments made to it. I imagine that my right hon. Friend will be glad to see their Amendments, because they will enable us to have a full and free discussion of these matters. This is not a partisan Bill, but one which is long overdue. Though at present the country has a reasonably good safety record, as a result of the Bill I hope that one day it will lead the world.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that no fewer than 12 hon. Members still wish to speak in this debate. The rule is to be suspended not for the Bill, but for the next one. Brief speeches will help.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I give a cautious welcome to the first part of the Bill, I wish to criticise the second part of it, and I shall comment on the third part.
I agree with the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) that the time lost through accidents far exceeds that lost through strikes. It is not as a matter of economics that we should look at this problem. It is a human problem involving personal suffering which we must try to prevent. As 850 people are injured every day and 12 killed every week, it is not good enough to think in terms of compensation. We have to do more to try to prevent this sort of situation arising.
The boy who loses his fingers, the young lady printer's assistant whose scalp is torn off in a sheet feeder machine, and the car worker who loses his arm trying to unjam a machine, are all examples which could be multiplied many hundreds of times. It is right for the Government and Parliament to spend time considering the best way to help.
I welcome the changes proposed by way of the Employment Medical Advisory Service. However, I would like a little more information. I see that the cost is to be £900,000. That seems to he a large expenditure in relation to the changes which are involved. Is it a net figure, or is there a saving which has to be taken out in the winding-up of the 99 factory doctors? I ask for this information so that we can have a balanced picture.
I said that I proposed to criticise the second part of the Bill. I do so for three reasons. First, I ask the Minister how he expects trade unionists and workers to understand passages such as that contained in Clause 8(4):(4) In this Part of this Act 'factory' has the same meaning as in the Factories Act, 1961; and any provision of sections 123(1) and 125 to 127 of that Act which has effect to give to provisions of that Act an application extending beyond factories shall have the like effect in relation to this Part of this Act, but so that this subsection in so far as it relates to the application of this Part of this Act by virtue of sections 125 to 127 shall have effect subject to the provision made by Schedule 2 to this Act.What gibberish! How can a trade unionist, shop steward or anyone else on the factory floor understand what is meant by it?
Secondly, it would be interesting to know why the trade unions are to appoint safety representatives. Why not the workers on the factory floor? The Minister said that there would be no safety representatives unless the unions asked for them. Have the Government no concern for the many workers who are not members of trade unions, or do not have a trade union negotiating an agreement on their behalf?
What is meant by the nonsense about "recognised trade unions"? The Minister said that they were those which had negotiated on behalf of the men. However, the right hon. Lady told the House not very long ago that one of the reasons why it was impossible to have binding agreements was that no one knew who was bound by them. She tells the House today that recognition is according to those who are party to agreements.
The Donovan Report makes it clear that one of the faults in present agreements is that we do not know who are the parties to them. It is not good enough to build into this legislation the sort of ambiguities contained in that situation.
What is wrong with the old democratic principle of letting the men on the workshop floor elect their own representatives regardless of union regulations or 100 nominees? I see disadvantages which we should not overlook. Among them is the fact that 30 per cent. of disputes into which the Department is drawn involves questions of recognition. In other words we are throwing into this pool of already over-sufficient disputes yet another potential dispute about whether a recognised union is involved.
Look at the multiplicity of representatives who are to be appointed. The Bill provides that there shall be one from each union which is recognised. At Ford's, for example, there are probably 20. It means that there will be 20 representatives trotting around the factory and at times it will seem like an army charging through every workshop. The picture that that presents is not a very satisfactory one and if that is not the intention, it should be spelled out better in the Bill.
I see another danger in that if the trade unions nominate the representatives there is the risk that the whole question of safety regulations will be bound up with negotiating bargains on such matters as piecework rates. The enforcement of safety regulations will come into question. It is not necessarily true that, when a union negotiates on behalf of its men, it is in the men's financial interests to have a full observance of safety precautions.
For that reason, again, I am not happy with the idea that a union which is involved in bargain-making and which may have a split personality about safety should find itself facing the possibility of having to divide its views between the financial interest of its members and the requirements of safety. That would be a misfortune. It appears that the right hon. Lady has not yet learned the lesson of her own failures.
Here, again, we have the introduction of compulsion. I should have thought that the prices and incomes policy would have taught the right hon. Lady at least that when one tries to apply compulsion one is likely to have the maximum opportunity taken to evade it—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not widen the debate. Otherwise, hon. Members can answer the points he makes about other matters than the Bill.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I accept your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. But I am somewhat concerned that the Bill introduces compulsion. To take the dictionary of the 1960s, one would find the definition of compulsion as a regulation obstacle to find a way round. Instead of seeking to secure not only the maximum co-operation, but the maximum spirit of safety-consciousness in factories, we will find it looked at as a regulation to find a way round.
For safety at work to be effective people have to want to make it work. Once they want to make it work they will do it voluntarily. We cannot legislate to make people safety-conscious. Therefore, in agreeing with the hon. Member for Darlington, who spoke of the apathy of workers in factories, we must recognise that what we are seeking to do is to make people safety-conscious. We will not make them safety-conscious by making things compulsory.
I turn now to the third part of the Bill, which I neither welcome nor criticise because it is not there. The Government have totally failed to take the opportunity which could have been taken by parliamentary time to codify and bring up to date the old Acts on factory safety at work. There has been no major revision since 1937. No opportunity has been taken here to amalgamate the Factories Act and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act with the extraordinary situation where one set of inspectors can only do part of a factory, office and sales office and the rest has to be done by somebody else instead of going right through and doing the whole job while he is there.
Did the Government consider including in the Bill—if so, why have they rejected it—transferring to the Department of Employment and Productivity responsibility for safety now covered by other Ministries—for example, the Ministry of Technology, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport? Did they consider dealing with the question of fire safety? We have a situation where this is covered by nearly 100 different enactments: the Factories Act, the Theatres Act, the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, the Caravan Sites Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Gaming Act, and so on. Why was not the opportunity taken in this legislation to codify 102 and bring into one sphere this very important aspect of safety for those at work?
What about safety standards for new machinery? Machinery can come into this country without very much in the way of regulation about the safety elements which have to be built into it. Indeed, a great deal is going on by way of harmonisation in the Common Market in this area. Are the Government considering what can be done to see that we harmonise with it?
What are the Government doing to help the Factory Inspectorate? There are about 600 inspectors who have to cover nearly 1 million premises. They are overworked and under-staffed. I suspect that they are also under-paid. In 1833, when the inspectorate was set up, the inspectors were paid £1,000 a year each. I do not know what the equivalent would be in today's salary terms. But it pinpoints that we are not giving the inspectorate the status, in terms of finance, to attract and keep the number of people who ought to be brought in to help.
I understand that the situation now is that one inspection in four years is about average, and it can be as much as 10 years before a factory is inspected. These kind of figures drive me to the conclusion that the Minister could do a great deal more by encouraging and paying more to people in the Factory Inspectorate to get the standards of health and safety in industry properly observed. No one can possibly judge and set a figure on the numbers of accidents which are already prevented by the work that they do. As machinery becomes more complex, faster and larger, the risks of accidents become greater.
While welcoming the step forward which has been made in the Bill, I very much regret that the Government have failed to grasp the opportunity of doing so much more which would have helped. We have been promised that a small high-powered committee of inquiry will be set up. I fear that it will take minutes, but waste many months.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Watkins (Consett)
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) gave a cautious welcome to the Bill, but he went on to hedge his welcome 103 around with quite a number of reservations.
I follow the hon. Getleman in giving a qualified welcome to the Bill, although my qualification, as he will appreciate, will be along somewhat different lines from those which he explained. I qualify my welcome because, frankly, I do not think that the Bill goes far enough. I am at one with the hon. Member for Basingstoke in saying that I regret that the opportunity has not been taken to combine the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963, with the Factories Act, 1961.
On 30th June, 1967, the then Minister of Labour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), stated in a Written Answer that he was not only contemplating this, but also a radical revision of all the health and safety legislation and regulations.
In December, 1967, the first consultative document setting out his thinking and outlining some of the proposals was circularised throughout industry. The consultations proceeded apace throughout 1968, although it was rather noticeable that they slowed down somewhat during 1969. I recognise that, whilst there were certain important areas of disagreement within industry about some of the proposals, my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State, who at that time had taken over responsibility for this type of legislation, throughout the greater part of 1969 had other things on her mind concerning industrial relations. We have now had this Bill produced. It is a considerably lesser Measure than was envisaged in the first place, and I regret that it is not the radical, even revolutionary, piece of legislation for which many of us had hoped in the light of the initial announcement.
If, however, I seem critical, I nevertheless welcome the Bill as a very important step in the right direction by providing, as my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate, a basis for building in future. I hope that the process of building will not be too long protracted.
I welcome the establishment of an Employment Medical Advisory Service, as set out in Part I. I want to make particular reference to the powers set out in Clause 1, which enable the Secretary of State to authorise research into the 104 causes of accidents and sickness at work. In this country, there is a vast amount of research into this subject. At the same time, I believe that it is fragmented research, because a large number of important bodies are conducting research which is not effectively co-ordinated for application.
In the Factory Inspectorate there are people with an unparalleled wealth of knowledge and experience of the causes of accidents and the means whereby they may be prevented. I am not convinced that that vast wealth of knowledge and experience is sufficiently collated, and I hope that the proposals contained in Clause I will be an important step towards making proper use of the vast reservoir of talent that is available. Research is being conducted by trade unions, employers' associations, universities, and some important voluntary bodies. We have within our grasp an important opportunity to ensure the co-ordination of this research and its application—which is the most fundamental and important aspect of research. The proposals contained in the Clause provide the opportunity to co-ordinate that research and hasten its application.
Apart from the human misery that arises from industrial sickness and accidents, there is another important aspect which, until recently, has been almost completely overlooked. In today's debate, so far, only a few minor references have been made to the vast economic cost to the nation of industrial injuries. To employers, there is the cost of lost production, damaged plant, legal costs and common law compensation; to the workers who suffer injuries, there is the cost of loss of wages and the potential loss of future earning capacity which often arises; and to the nation there is the cost of welfare benefits for the loss of wages and the cost of medical and hospital treatment.
We can only guess at the huge cost to the national economy which results directly from industrial injuries. My hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) quoted some interesting figures on this point, but I suggest that we can do no more than guess at the cost, because we do not have an effective and accurate means of evaluating it. Nevertheless, there now exists a technique which, if applied, would go a long way 105 towards making that sort of evaluation. I refer to the technique referred to as "damage control" or "system loss control", as its distinguished exponent, Mr. Frank Bird, and his distinguished associate, Mr. Harold O'Shell, said they preferred to have it called when I had the opportunity of meeting them during a visit to the United States last year and discussing the whole subject with them in considerable detail.
The British Steel Corporation and the British Shipping Federation are among those who are studying this technique, which enables a calculation to be made of the overall cost of industrial injuries and, furthermore, the much lower cost of applying the necessary measures to avoid many of the avoidable accidents which contribute to that cost. The proposals outlined in Part I of the Bill could materially assist the widespread application of the technique of damage control and its huge potential to reduce injury and sickness.
Several hon. Members—including my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles—quoted figures to illustrate the magnitude of the problem. I want to add only one further statistic. Every year there are about I million successful claims for accident benefit. That is surely the overall measure of the magnitude of the problem that needs to be tackled. I particularly welcome the proposals contained in Part I of the Bill which provide for research to be conducted, and very much hope that research will not only be conducted but will be quickly applied to the whole of this vast problem.
Part II of the Bill has proved to be the contentious part of today's debate, containing as it does proposals for compulsory joint consultation on accident prevention. This long overdue reform is much to be welcomed. Under the terms of the Bill, however, it is restricted to premises covered by the 1961 Factories Act. I should like to see it extended to cover the premises which come within the ambit of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. That is another reason why I regret the fact that the opportunity has not been taken to combine the two Bills. It means that thou- 106 sands of employed people will be denied the protection which the Bill will apply.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)
Does not the hon. Member also agree that millions of employed people may be denied protection because they are linked with the trade union movement?
§ Mr. Watkins
If the hon. Member will allow me to go on a little further he will find that I shall deal with that point—although I do not accept what he has said.
Even the limited application proposed in the Bill will be difficult to enforce. Clause 8 empowers trade unions to appoint safety representatives where 10 or more persons are employed. That is a very good formula, because it places responsibility fairly and squarely where it should be—on the trade unions—to organise shops so that employed people shall be protected. At the same time, we must not shut our eyes to the problems of enforcing this part of the Bill.
Hundreds of small establishments employ very few workers, many of whom are not organised into trade unions. A problem arises not only in terms of the sheer numbers involved, but from the fact that such establishments contribute towards the formation of a twilight zone in industrial relations. I qualify that statement at once by saying that not all small employers are in the twilight zone, and many larger establishments are in that zone. But many establishments in that zone do not recognise trade unions and will bitterly resent the appointment of workers' representatives to discuss workers' safety. We need only read the disgraceful statement made last week by the President of the National Federation of Building Trades Employers, attacking the Bill, to be made aware of that type of mentality within industry.
I speak as one who has had experience in industry; indeed, I checked the wording of Clause 10 and discovered that I would qualify as an elected or appointed safety representative. I know how easy it is for hostile employers in the twilight zone to make life very difficult for people who are appointed to represent employees in these matters. Some of my hon. Friends and I may seek to amend this part of the Bill in Committee, to strengthen the proposals for the protection of safety representatives.
107 When I refer to the twilight zone in industry I speak from parliamentary as well as industrial experience. I am one of those hon. Members who have had the good fortune to get a Private Member's Bill on to the Statute Book. My Bill referred precisely to that field of industry where the greatest number of difficulties are likely to arise. My Employers' Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Bill received the Royal Assent on 22nd October last. Hon. Members who played a constructive part in assisting to put that Measure through will recognise that among the difficulties we had to deal with were the difficulties of enforcement.
That is the point I am making in relation to the Part II proposals, in the present Bill. On that occasion, the difficulties were so great that we had to leave a great deal of the enforcement to regulations. I remind my right hon. Friend that she has not yet laid the regulations. I should like to give her a slight nudge in the right direction.
If I have seemed critical of some parts of the Bill it is only because I think that it does not go far enough. I recognise that it embodies two cardinal principles: first, a move towards an occupational health service; and, second, the principle of compulsory joint consultation in accident prevention. Enlightened employers of labour will have no cause for concern over the proposals in the Bill, because they apply precisely these principles already, but, unfortunately, the most enlightened and advanced employers are not representative of a large area of our industry and that is why legislation of this sort is necessary. It is an important step in the right direction and I welcome it.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Dr. M. P. Winstanley (Cheadle)
The Bill is not exclusively concerned with industrial accidents or with industrial injuries, and the employment medical adviser would have other very important functions to perform. Nevertheless, I am sure the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) and other hon. Members are entirely right to emphasise the crucial matter of accidents. The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) gave the House many figures which we ought to remember, and over which we should ponder, because they are important.
108 It seems to be a melancholy law of medical science that as we get rid of one disease a new disease appears to take its place. Some of these new diseases—if I may use that term loosely—are of our own creation, and that is certainly so with accidents. It is a horrifying thought that accidents, from the point of view of illness and death, are now beginning to rival the major killers such as cancer and heart disease. This is something about which the House should clearly be concerned.
It is a pleasure to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Eccles because he is the hon. Member for the constituency in which I am a part-time appointed factory doctor. Perhaps I should say "was', since I do not actually function in that capacity now and possibly—although I do not know—that office might prove to be a disqualifying one under the Crown and I have no wish to leave this place for that particular reason. I am glad to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Eccles because we have both been concerned in the same factory with trade union representatives and management on the whole question of safety. I shall return to that subject later.
It is right to emphasise that this is a very limited measure. The hon. Member for Consett referred to it as a step, and it is only a step. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Binns) appeared to think that it was a giant leap. He was asking questions about what would be the fate of industrial nurses. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher) was asking what would happen to all the part-time medical officers in industry. But there is no intention in this Bill suddenly to unscramble all the arrangements which now exist.
It is a limited measure dealing only with a comparatively few people—and, I am afraid, too few people. If my information is correct, there will be only 100 full-time medical officers in the right hon. Lady's Department, and as many of those will be concerned with rehabilitation services, this will leave an even smaller number of whole-time employment medical advisers for the scheme envisaged in the Bill at the moment. I know that there may eventually be an increase, and obviously I would welcome that, and I support the steps which have been taken, but it is a mistake to assume that it means 109 a giant leap into a new comprehensive and integrated industrial health service. It does not. In the main it makes minor administrative modifications only. They are necessary, and I welcome them.
To an extent at least, certain aspects of the Bill smack a little of amateurism. I do not want to be misunderstood here, but there seems to be a feeling among certain hon. Members that once one sets up a safety committee, everything automatically becomes safe. That is not so. Several hon. Members have spoken of the need for education and training, and I emphasise this very strongly. It is not just good intentions which are required; it is skill as well. The whole business of accident prevention and of looking after industrial health is highly complicated and concerns well developed advanced techniques about which we are learning more and more almost daily. The Bill is not a measure of radical reform but I welcome it none the less. Certainly it is time for changes to be made and for a new approach to industrial health, for a new approach to industrial safety and for a new approach to the kind of problems with which the Bill deals.
Again, however, I think we should pause before we automatically reject the old. The right hon. Lady has announced almost triumphantly that we are to abandon routine medical examination of young people, such as apprentices, entering employment. That is the sort of thing with which I had to deal as a part-time appointed factory doctor from time to time. It is true that routine medical examinations can be a waste of time but it all depends on how routine the examinations are. I believe that the conscientious doctor in the factory, if he knows the factory and those in it, can convert those examinations from routine ones into very valuable exercises for obtaining information about the whole person, not just compiling statistics about the person's height and weight and whether or when he had measles or was immunised or was vaccinated. I agree that one should get rid of that kind of routine examination. But if the medical examination is a kind of comprehensive interview to assist the employment medical adviser to advise on the best kind of employment to fit the young person, to suit his health, 110 background, and so on, such an examination can be valuable.
I notice that the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) referred to the fact that many routine school medical examinations were not now being carried out. He appeared to regret that. Since we are now relying on the school medical service instead of examinations on entering employment, and are now taking the school records, I feel, having seen this at first hand, that if any routine medical examinations are a waste of time, those in school are sometimes more of a waste of time than some pre-employment examinations. It so happens that the vast majority of school children see the doctor not too frequently but reasonably often.
The school medical service was introduced at a time when there was a real financial barrier between many patients and the doctor. That barrier has now gone. Therefore, in the routine medical examination done at school, the school medical officer is often doing little more than unearthing matters which are already being attended to. Unfortunately, however, as people leave school, or as they grow older in school, they tend, for all sorts of reasons which I shall not go into now, to see the doctor less and less they tend to be less under continuing medical scrutiny than they were at an earlier age. In a sense, therefore, there is a danger here that by abolishing the one and relying on the other we may be leaving a gap.
I have no doubt of the need for taking many steps in industrial health matters. Whether all the steps taken in the Bill are right, I am not wholly sure, but I am sure that the general intention is correct.
There are two matters on which there seems to be misunderstanding. First, there has been a cross-current in the debate seeming to suggest that, on the whole, industry always needs to be pushed to apply any sort of safety standards or introduce industrial health schemes, while, on the other hand, the trade unions are totally dedicated to safety. Both notions are correct at times, but often not. I know many firms which voluntarily, without any of the compulsions envisaged under the Bill, have instituted very effective industrial health services within their concerns, and they have done 111 most valuable work. I do not at the moment discuss the motivation for such actions, though I shall come to that later.
At the same time, I am bound to say that I have on occasion, though by no means always, found trade unionists resistant to safety measures of one kind and other. One may encounter resistance, for example, when there is a conflict with piece-rate earnings. One may have difficulty in persuading workpeople to wear safety clothing if it is time-consuming or if they find it uncomfortable. There is difficulty in persuading people to co-operate in rules and regulations which are established purely for their benefit and protection. Such experiences can be rather dispiriting when one is concerned in that type of work.
Neither side of the House should assume automatically that industry will do nothing unless pushed and that the trade unions will do everything provided that they are allowed to do so. The truth is somewhere in between.
People may have genuine and perfectly proper motives for instituting good industrial health systems. On the one hand, although one cannot measure health in terms of the master's profit, the two are, or may be, linked; where there are bad conditions and bad safety standards, productivity declines. Similarly, on the labour side, the same considerations may apply. In bad conditions, earnings decline. Moreover, human motivation is not concerned solely with profit. There are such things as job satisfaction. I am sure that many people's contentment and happiness in industry depends upon the extent to which management—I include the trade unions here—considers the working environment as a whole.
Industrial health is an evolving subject, with new elements coming in almost daily. We hear of new diseases, or diseases relatively recently recognised, such as asbestosis. The question of industrial deafness is just beginning to enter our deliberations, although the countries of Europe have led us in this respect for many years. We are now beginning to meet problems of irradiation in industry, with the increasing use of X-rays in engineering techniques. The use of enzymes in certain processes is bringing new problems.
112 These problems call for a wholly professional approach. I emphasise again that the amateurish idea that all we need to do is allow people to join in a committee and, somehow, things will be all right, that the employment medical adviser will come along from time to time and give expert advice so that all will be well, is an illusion. We must do a lot more than that.
I come now to my two main criticisms of the Bill. First, why not here and now, when we are taking this step, put the whole appointed factory doctor machinery, now translated and under its new name, into the National Health Service under the Department of Health? We talk a great deal about integration. We have been talking about integration in connection with the Green Paper. Let us extend the Green Paper. Let us try to combine into one service the different parts of the Health Service, the industrial health services and those which exist under the umbrella of different Government Departments. At present, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Employment and Productivity, the local education authorities with their school medical service, and so on, all deal with certain aspects of health. It is time to bring them all together so that we may make maximum use of the resources which are in such short supply.
If we are to avoid waste and duplication, if we are to avoid the damaging kind of separation which allows people to do similar jobs in separate self-contained pockets, with no proper contact one with another, we must bring the Services together. Let us, without radically changing the new service proposed, put it into the National Health Service. This would assist its integration in relation to the general practitioner, the local hospital with its casualty services, the school medical service, and so on. Let us bring them all under one umbrella.
Second, we ought to look at the implications of the present division from the point of view of the patient. With growing specialisation in medicine, there is a tendency for more and more people to look at more and more separate parts of an individual rather than for one doctor to look at the whole person. I accept that specialisation is necessary, whether in hospital work or in industrial medicine, but, when one appreciates the 113 variety of sources from which one individual may derive medical services, one wonders at the amount of duplication. In one family, people may have medical advice from the general practitioner under the executive council, from the hospital under the regional hospital board, from the appointed factory doctor under the Department of Employment and Productivity, from the school medical service under the local education authority. On and on it goes.
When considering the establishment of an industrial health service, we should think here and now—I do not say that it can all be done at once—of bringing all the services together for the benefit of the individual, remembering that it is crucial that, somewhere or other, there should be one person who is prepared to look at the whole patient, the whole patient in his environment at work, at home or at leisure. That person is the general practitioner.
In my view, it is most important that we do not under this Bill cut across all the connections which the general practitioner has with industrial health. In making changes, we must find new ways to bring the family doctor closer to the people who are looking after his patients while at work. Let us bring the family doctor into that sort of atmosphere and environment. Only when we have done that shall we bring the family doctor in touch with all the different services which are dealing with his patients so that he can see the whole environment in which they work and live. Only in that way shall we provide the sort of humane and efficient medical service which all hon. Members want to achieve.
Those are my main reservations. I have doubts on one or two detailed points. I am not sure, for example, what is to be the position of persons such as myself—or such as I was—employed as a general practitioner but also on the staff of the Ministry of Defence as a doctor looking after industrial safety in a large ordnance factory in the constituency of the hon. Member for Eccles. In that case, I doubled the post of Ministry doctor and appointed factory doctor. There are advantages in that, but I am not sure how that sort of arrangement will continue under the Bill.
I should welcome comment on the numbers involved. How many full-time 114 employment medical advisers will there be? How many shall we have immediately, and how many in the future? I leave the other detailed points for a later stage.
I give the Bill a cautious welcome. I implore the House to realise that this is not a giant step forward in industrial health. We are simply doing a certain amount of administrative manoeuvring, and there is a great deal more that remains to be done.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
We do not seem to be able to win on this side. If we have not brought in legislation, we are told that we ought to do so. We are told that we ought to pass legislation for the benefit of this or that section of the community. No sooner do we do so, however, than down on our heads comes the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), like a ton of his own bricks, to tell us that it is merely electoral propaganda. How he can say that in face of the devastating figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) I do not know.
I welcome the Bill, as all of us on this side do. My right hon. Friend has always shown great concern for the health and safety of employed persons, and this Measure is a continuation of that concern which the Government share with her. While welcoming the Bill, I want to draw to her attention a serious omission. After I have illustrated the omission by an example, I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider amending the Bill as a result.
The son of one of my constituents, a Councillor Smith, had been employed for six months as a technical assistant at the Hirst Research Laboratories. He was 17½ years old. The Hirst Research Laboratories at Wembley are an offshoot of the G.E.C., and specialise in research into fluorescent lighting. This young boy was inexperienced but he was put to working on an electric heating drum which was used for cleaning the interior of fluorescent lighting tubes.
In his employment, he often worked under the supervision of a Mrs. Schwartz, an experienced technical assistant at the laboratory. About nine months earlier she had used the drum, and had noticed that two of the heating elements in it 115 were defective and needed replacement. She gave the boy the job of replacing the heating elements, a job which she regarded as little more difficult than that of changing an electric light bulb, although it involved some soldering. The young man did the job, and Mrs. Schwartz was not at all surprised that after he had done it he switched on the equipment to test what he had done. When he did so, he was immediately electrocuted.
The findings at the inquest were that the equipment was not properly earthed; that one of the heating elements inside the drum was loose and shook against the side of the drum with dangerous results when the drum moved; and that the solder tag from one terminal touched the inside of the drum, so that the inside of the drum became live when the supply was switched on.
From what I understand of the case the employers might well have been found wanting had the case gone to court. As a matter of fact, through their insurers they paid £500 and the costs of the funeral and the inquest. The boy was undoubtedly acting in the course of his employment, and, in my opinion, his employers possibly failed to provide him with safe equipment and to supervise him properly.
I might add that it is far cheaper to kill a person than to maim him. The sum of £500 would be what the court would award for loss of expectation of life, whereas had the boy been totally incapacitated for life he might have been awarded £30,000 or £40,000. As matters stood, the claim would have been merely for loss of expectation of life.
The boy's father's solicitors wrote to the Department of Employment and Productivity to inquire whether, as a result of the evidence given at the inquest, at which the local factory inspector was present, any action had been taken or was proposed to be taken under the Factories Acts because, on the face of it, it would appear that grave breaches of statutory provisions had been committed by the employers. The Department replied:No action has been taken by H.M. Factory Inspectorate as it appears that the laboratory where the accident occurred was not subject to the Factories Act, 1961, or to any other statutory provision enforced by this Inspectorate.116 I took up the case, and wrote to the Attorney-General—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman can use the case to illustrate the need for this particular Bill. He must not, however, pursue it in too great detail.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
To illustrate his point, the hon. Member has mentioned the name of a famous company. Does he seriously suggest that the company does not care whether it kills or maims its employees?
§ Mr. Tuck
No. I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. I am suggesting not that the firm does not care but that this omission in the Bill could let in quite an amount of shrugging of the shoulders on the part of other companies if this kind of thing should happen. I suggest not that this company did not care but that it was negligent. I suggest that had those premises been subjected to the Factories Acts, the firm would not have been able to get away with it, but would, in this case, have been prosecuted.
I got in touch with the Department of Employment and Productivity, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State informed me thatfor some time now, the Government has been working on a comprehensive revision of the Factories Act, 1961, and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963. The intention is that a single new Act should replace the two Acts I have just mentioned and have a greatly extended field of application. Indeed, the proposal made in the First Consultative Document which was issued to interested organisations for comment in December, 1967 was that the new Act should apply to any premises in which persons are employed.Those proposals were also indicated to my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins) by the Secretary of State in an answer to a Question on 24th July, 1969.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether the Factories Acts should not be extended to cover such a case as 117 that which I have outlined. It is all very well to say that a Measure will be brought in later, but I want this sort of thing stopped now so that this kind of case cannot happen without the factory inspectorate cracking down on the wrongdoer. I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that employers do not duck their responsibility because the area or the premises concerned does not fall within the Factories Acts. I do not know how many other factories might be able to take advantage of this loophole, and I strongly urge my right hon. Friend to act now: the better the day, the better the deed.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Meriden)
As has been made clear by some hon. Members on both sides, this is a curate's egg Bill. With regard to the Employment Medical Advisory Service, I want to pursue some of the ideas advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith), particularly with a view to the psychological pressures there are on people in industry today.
I hope that the hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) will forgive me for saying it, but I believe that it is now clear that the present Factory Doctor Service is largely unable to identify or deal with the problem of psychological and mental stress in industry. It involves not only sickness, but safety, because just as a man can get bored and frustrated working, perhaps in the motor industry, and eventually out of sheer tedium strikes because it is a refreshing break in that tedium, so, by the very selfsame token, that sort of tedium can lead to carelessness, and then to accidents, and perhaps then to fatalities.
As the Chief Factory Inspector makes clear in his report, many accidents occur because people for some reason or other do not wear the safety equipment that is often provided. This may often be because it is less convenient to wear it. Many times it may be because of tedium, or because of a moment's carelessness a worker may not put on protective visors. Protective leggings may not be available where a worker is using molten metal, and so on.
I hope that we can pursue the question of job enrichment much more deeply than in the past when we consider the medical and social aspects of working conditions. 118 Already some companies in this country, I.C.I. being notable among them, have taken up the whole question and are introducing such a concept into a number of their workplaces. This has the desirable effect of stretching the capabilities of the man or woman in the factory. The worker can give of his best. This may increase his own earnings, but it also has all sorts of industrial relations connotations. My information so far—these are early days yet—is that the accident figures where people are stretched and given more than purely routine jobs fall quite dramatically in many instances. Surely, the whole purpose of the Bill is to improve the physical and mental welfare of people working in industry.
The Tavistock Institute is doing considerable work on this subject. It is carrying out a survey for British Railways and the Liverpool dock employers. The railways are not strictly covered by the Bill, but the Liverpool dockers are. If we can find what makes a man tick and what he is capable of, and can stretch his capabilities, in some cases he may be able to act as his own supervisor. This is being introduced more and more in industry. A man can work through a whole process and be his own checker and quality control specialist.
This is partly what job enrichment is about. In many cases, in addition to the improvement in interest in the job the number of accidents falls and there are considerable benefits to a man's mental and physical health. Therefore, I hope that the new services can be very much involved in this approach. It is not a job only for medical practitioners, but for enlightened management and Government—as one of the principal employers—trade unionists and everyone engaged in industry.
We are still comparatively in the dark ages of sociology in industry, but much work is going on in this country, the United States and Europe—notably Norway. If the fruits of this research are applied to industry the benefits to all concerned could be tremendous.
Part II of the Bill is perhaps a more contentious part. I was involved in safety matters as a works manager in a small company 10 to 12 years ago. The whole question of safety cannot be solved by setting up committees or by exhortations to employers or anyone else. I also 119 have a background in the Services, and, there, safety is very much an individual matter for every man. Everyone is trained to be safety conscious from the word "go". For example, the most junior man on board a frigate or submarine can send the vessel to destruction, with perhaps many dozens of men on it. Therefore, there is a real interest in safety in the Services and it devolves on everyone in them.
I am sure that the same is true in industry. Many ordinary men and women at work can and should be made aware all the time that safety should be a positive thing. They should all be looking positively at the safe way of doing a job rather than waiting until there is an accident and then dealing with the situation. But there are many aspects of safety in which the ordinary man and woman in the office or on the factory floor cannot become involved. One does not usually consult the people in the factory when one is planning it and laying out the plant and machinery. This work involves architects, planning and production engineers, and so on. This is a positive side of safety that will not be dealt with by any committees or anything in the Bill.
I wonder how the Bill will affect the people who work in the small factory with which I was concerned. About 70 people, mostly women, were employed there. Of their own free will they did not choose to belong to a trade union, though they had the opportunity to do so. The conditions, payment and general terms of employment were based on a national agreement between the appropriate trade unions and the apropriate employers' organisation. How will they deal with the appointment of safety representatives?
I understand that there is a possibility that the trades unions which are parties to the national agreement could come from outside and appoint people inside the factory to be safety representatives. If that is the situation, we are in deep waters. If it is not, will that factory and thousands like it be completely outside the scope of the Bill?
The Under-Secretary of State will remember the debate we had in Standing Committee H last Thursday morning, when his hon. Friend the Member for 120 Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Renée Short), talking about trade unions outside a non-union factory bringing job evaluation into the factory, said:…I do not see why, if there were no trade union organisation in a factory, a union in the area could not be called in to approve an evaluation scheme.If we substitute for "evaluation scheme" the words "safety representatives", we have exactly the same argument.
The hon. Gentleman replied then:If my hon. Friend is suggesting that trade union officials should be called in to act on behalf of non-trade unionists, I very much doubt whether she would convince Mr. Jack Jones of that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1970, Standing Committee H; c. 127.]I think that he is absolutely right, but I am not clear what will be the situation under Clause 8 in the sort of factory in which I worked. We should get this matter cleared up, because otherwise we shall be in a labyrinth of problems over recognition.
When the Secretary of State was taxed on this point my my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell), she did not answer, but made a rather snide remark about the Conservative Party waking up late in the day to union recognition. But the whole aspect of union recognition by democratic means, if a majority of workpeople in a factory want their union to be recognised, was completely endorsed two years ago in our policy document, "Fair Deal at Work", before the publication of the right hon. Lady's White Paper, so that remark was not appropriately timed. As all of us in industry know, problems of recognition raised their head from time to time, and they could be compounded by Clause 8.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has mentioned the problem of the construction industry. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, who, I know, is very reasonable and sympathetic, will listen carefully to some of the arguments the industry has adduced. I understand that the Bill is based on the Swedish experience, and that it follows a visit by representatives of the C.B.I., T.U.C. and D.E.P. to Sweden a year or so ago. It is a pity that certain other aspects of industrial relations legislation are not also based on Sweden.
121 It is interesting that, as far as I can ascertain, in the construction industry in Sweden, where such legislation already exists, the accident rate is about 1½ times higher than that in the British construction industry. Incidentally, it would be interesting to know the effect of British standard time in increasing the accident rate in recent months. I believe that our own construction industry was the first in the world to produce, last autumn, an authoritative safety manual issued to all operatives in the industry.
It is regrettably a fact that the strength and power of the unions in the construction industry has been diminishing over the past few years. It is also regrettable that the "lump", the problem of people using sub-contract labour-only contracting services to escape S.E.T., and so on, have been growing over the past few years. We are still awaiting legislation on Phelps Brown. These are all reasons why it will be difficult to take any form of effective action on the lines of the Bill on construction sites throughout the country. Where would labour-only subcontractors fall into the application of the Bill, in that construction sites are dotted all over the country, although, apparently, they are to be treated as one factor?
The construction industry has introduced its own authoritative safety manual. It has special courses for training its own safety officers. I believe that these are the first such courses by industry in Britain. They are for people at all levels, including operatives and supervisors, and a number of mobile safety training units are, I understand, going round the country now. What will happen to the construction industry's safety supervisors under the Bill? These supervisors are already statutorily provided for in that industry. Are we to cater for them in some special way?
I am not doing some special pleading here. The construction industry has a bad accident record purely by the terms in which many operatives have to work—on scaffolding, outside and in all sorts of other difficult circumstances. The record is bad in comparison with that of other industries, although it is improving and efforts are being made by all concerned to improve it still further. But no one can be satisfied until the improvement has gone much further and the sort 122 of accidents we hear about are things of the past. But whether Part II of the Bill in its present form will be enforceable and workable in the construction industry is a considerable problem.
When talking about the whole question of safety, I come back to the almost philosophical point with which I began. Is there a danger, by bringing in this sort of legislation, from which considerable sections of industry will be excluded because they are not trade union or because committees will be set up which will be talking shops and could give encouragement to sea lawyers, that we shall diminish pressures on men and women and managements and safety officers to do what they have been doing for some time with some success? I do not think that anyone can claim with hand on heart that he knows the answer. No doubt this is why the committee announced by the right hon. Lady is to examine the question.
Of course, all this cannot be measured in economic terms alone. It involves family tragedies and loss of earnings to individuals. While it is true that, on the whole, the accident record in industry has been improving, bearing in mind all the changes in social security legislation, fatalities in recent years have started to rise again in number, which must give us all cause for concern. We shall probe many of the problems I have outlined more deeply in Committee. With the greatest respect to the right hon. Lady, the drafting of the Bill needs considerable tightening up, as other Bills recently from her Department have needed tightening up.
With this qualified praise, I hope that the Bill will receive an unopposed Second Reading and that we shall be able to make it more effective in Committee.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
In accordance with the wishes of Mr. Speaker, and no doubto f yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall atempt to be brief. That will excuse my not following many of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed).
There has been a grudging acceptance of the Bill by hon. Members opposite, with the possible exception of the hon 123 Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), speaking for the Liberal Party. Although the hon. Gentleman welcomed the Bill, he made one or two faulty assertions about it. He implied that it was a small Bill and not important. It is, on the contrary, a landmark in the long history of industrial health. When the hon. Member referred to the question of incorporating this new system in the general health services, he omitted to see that we are beginning, as my right hon. Friend said, to weave this Measure into the general health pattern. He missed that valid point.
The Bill is a landmark in the history of legislation for the protection of the young—it makes special reference to the young—and for the improvement of factory conditions. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) made a very good speech, but it fell lamentably short when he tried to criticise the compulsion element by saying that much of what is required is already being carried out by industry. I think that he will agree that, as usual, there is always the guilty or recalcitrant industrialist, and that it is this that makes the Bill necessary. My right hon. Friend is justified in bringing forward the Bill to meet that factor.
What is particularly important is that the Bill will bring in a much more effective use of the industrial medical services in occupational health. The hon. Member for Cheadle talked of bringing the services of the medical profession more and more into industrial injuries services, but I am sure he would agree with those of us who have been interested in industrial injuries over a period of years that the real culprit in this and in the recognition of industrial diseases has been the medical profession itself.
I refer to pulmonary diseases, for example, such as pneumoconiosis and silicosis. The medical profession has been a stumbling-block here year after year. It has not recognised industrial diseases in the early stages which we in the industrial areas have recognised without medical experience.
Despite what has been said by some hon. Members opposite, I am particularly pleased that the initiative in the Bill is placed squarely upon the trade 124 union movement. As a trade unionist and member of the Transport and General Workers' Union, I know that the unions will welcome this responsibility and will push ahead with it. I shall not develop the arguments about bringing trade unions into a factory where there is no trade unionism or of enforcing trade union representation there, but am I to understand that, in such a factory, no safety committee will be set up? This is a particularly important point in very small industries, for example, where perhaps precautions are not of the highest for various reasons and where labour is often very transient.
Then there is the question of the two years' qualification for appointment as a safety representative. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins), who made a very able speech, stated that he would qualify, but I suggest that, under the terms of the Bill, he has not done two consecutive years previously in industry and would, therefore, not qualify.
§ Mr. Probert
I was not aware of that. I apologise. But, under the Bill, if he had not that sort of experience he would not qualify. No doubt this point will be developed in Committee, however.
Full liaison between the Factory Inspectorate and the safety committees will be vital not only for the harmonious working of the safety committees, but to make sure that the inspectorate has all the statistics necessary to the prevention of accidents.
The construction industry has been mentioned, with the possibility of notional factories. I do not want to answer the contentions of the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). As one of my hon. Friends said, the hon. Gentleman is always dropping a ton of his bricks on these Measures. However, one detail is worth consideration. Exhibition halls, strangely enough, are not covered by the Factories Act. This is an important matter in the construction industry and I should like to know whether in future they will come within the category of a notional factory. This is a matter of great importance to my union.
125 I heartily welcome the Bill. I am glad that my right hon. Friend is to consider the appointment of a committee to look into the causes of industrial accidents. It has already been said that industrial accidents account for five or six times the amount of time lost to industry by strikes. Quite apart from preventing hardship to the individual, this committee will provide many useful statistics.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Probably to the relief of hon. Members, I, too, propose to be extremely brief. Although I shall later have a serious criticism to make, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Bill. It is intended to rationalise existing medical resources to prevent factory accidents. Those of us with some experience of these matters see earlier plans maturing in my right hon. Friend's proposals.
In certain respects, the Bill amends previous Factories Acts. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) said that as this was the first Bill of this kind since the Factories Act, 1937, it should have been a more major Bill. I must remind the hon. Member that, as he should have known, there were Factories Acts in 1961 and 1963—I was a member of the Standing Committees which considered them. In those days, some of us wanted to make major advances which were not made for reasons which the then Government thought sound.
It is proposed to link the work being done at Government training centres and industrial rehabilitation units with that done by medical inspectors at factories and factory doctors. I am glad that the school health centre is also to be linked. This is important particularly for young people going into new types of jobs and industries where new research may be expected.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think me churlish or uncharitable if I make a grave criticism of the Bill. I appreciate some of the reasons, but I think that the Bill does not go far enough. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins). I, too, wish that the shops and warehouses legislation of 1963 had been included.
My right hon. Friend will recall the grave consequences of the factory fire in Glasgow in 1967, when 22 people lost 126 their lives. I shall not detail the circumstances, but my right hon. Friend will recall that on 15th May, 1969, in a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) about that fire, she explained what she intended to do. In a reply of 10 paragraphs, ignoring the opening and concluding paragraphs, six of the remaining eight referred to further consideration being given and said that action would be taken in the context of the new safety, health and welfare legislation then being prepared.
It is a great disappointment, particularly to hon. Members from Glasgow, to see that my right hon. Friend has not found it possible to do something in this Bill. On that occasion, even though the safety measures were provided, there was human error, and that added to the poignancy of the incident. But, having drawn attention to the matter, I do not want to pursue it.
My right hon. Friend has said that a small high-powered committee is now considering overall plans for the future. Is that committee to take into account incidents of this character? Alternatively, is my right hon. Friend awaiting the Holyroyd Report on fire prevention so that she may include any proposals which it may make? It would be appreciated if she could say something about the Government's intentions. Some of the officers of the fire prevention service in Glasgow are to retire at an early date and are anxious that any information and further consideration of these matters should be passed to their successors.
In as much as the Bill is designed to prevent accidents, it has my good will. I hope that in Committee my right hon. Friend will look at Amendments, but not necessarily only about fire prevention. which may be proposed in respect of its main provisions.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
I do not want to catalogue the terrible list of casualties that come out of our industry today. It is important when we are speaking of this grim problem that we have some understanding why the figures tend to show very little sign of improvement. Indeed, there are symptoms that the accident rate is rising. Those of us who act professionally in the sphere of 127 industrial accidents are constantly made aware of the terrible price paid as a consequence of these accidents.
Whatever sums we may obtain for our maimed and injured clients or for the families of the dead we well know how puny they really arc, for no one can make up for a limb, no one can in terms of money make up for a father lost to a family. No hon. Member of this House in discussing such a Bill can ever forget the seriousness of the problem.
In the early days of my professional practice a report was published about two Scottish mines. It was of particular interest to me because it gave me my first insight into what it is that is playing a major part in increasing the incidence of industrial accidents. This report was published in 1951, and made a study of accidents in two Scottish mines. It found that the long-term fluctuation in accident rates from mine to mine showed substantial correlation and that a similar positive correlation existed between the two mines when studied in detail.
There were great differences between the two mines, differences which made it unlikely on the face of it that the correlation could be due to such things as mechanical conditions, the depth of the workings, underground travelling distances, heights of roof and degree of mechanisation. All these things made it clear that the correlation could not be looked for in physical conditions. The enforcement of safety regulations and medical facilities were all much the same. It was against this background that it was found that not only was there a correlation in the long-term fluctuation in accidents but there was a bi-fold accident cycle superimposed on a general trend in the accidents in the mines. These observations led research workers to assume that the possibly important factor in the increasing long-term accident rate could be defined as a growing lack of cohesion in the working community—a lack of cohesion which we today in South Wales understand particularly well. In that case, it was accentuated by the long-wall face techniques introduced in some of the mines.
To test their hypothesis the research workers introduced a series of community projects aimed at increasing the cohesion 128 of the working group in a particular section of the pit. They had off-the-job concerts, and group trips to Glasgow and Edinburgh for football matches, and they fostered various informal parties. On the job there was the same goal, an increasing group cohesion, brought about by emphasising the inter-dependence of workers, by instituting a system, for example, of painting sections of the pits yellow to indicate to the men following that all had been left in good and safe order for them to carry on.
In the first year of that experiment accidents were reduced to 54 per cent. of the number predicted from the curve built up by the previous correlation between the mines. There was evidence too of change in the form of fewer improperly set supports for roofs and the like.
What the study showed clearly was the great importance of human relations and more particularly of group morale and cohesion in safety and accident prevention. That was a report of the early 1950s and any one who comes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) and myself do, from an area like South Wales cannot help but be aware of the increasing alienation of the worker from his job. We see a huge upheaval naturally in an area like South Wales, where as a result of successful regional policies we are finding that modern techniques are coming in and old mines are either being mechanised or going out of production.
In my own constituency, since the Labour Government came to power we have created, or are in the course of creating, more than 3,000 jobs. Even to state that is immediately to indicate the enormous upheaval going on within the community. My right hon. Friend, with her sensitivity, will, I am sure, be keenly aware of what a different type of life it is from a tight little pit community with a few hundred men, not particularly mechanised, to the life that the self-same men are bound to lead when they leave those pits to go into the huge 4,000– or 5,000– man factories in my constituency. It is a different world. The whole community spirit, the cohesion—all of that is bound to be slackened and we begin to find what Marx prophesised; namely, that there would be an alienation of the man from the job as society developed more and 129 more on the lines of large-scale capitalism.
It applies not only to large-scale capitalism but to any large-scale industry. The anomie found within the factory culture is bound to be one of the big factors in industrial accidents. It has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) that there is a correlation between strikes and the monotony of the task. It is true that if men are placed into a factory and find that they are literally nothing but machine-minders they lose the self-esteem which they used to have when they had a craft in the pit or forge. When men are reduced to nothing they must protest.
When we talk about the strikes that take place, then those of us who have become embroiled in them know that those strikes are a sympton of a deeper malaise, and industrial acts and illnesses are also often symptomatic of a deeper disorder. Men sometimes release their anger because they lack the dignity which they want in work by protesting against employers. Sometimes they retreat. They retreat into illness, and sometimes in a Welsh valley it may be possible for a wife, in a more matriarchial society, to allow the man to retreat into illness because she tends to mollycoddle him.
Sometimes, however, his self-esteem is too great and the man cannot escape into illntss. Then he escapes into an industrial accident. It is jejune and naive to imagine that accidents occur only because of mechanical hazards. There is an unconscious motivation, and I have dealt with too much clinical material during the last 20 years not to have become keenly conscious of this fact. We all have our classic cases. I have one man who years ago on three successive occasions was able to prove to the satisfaction of the court that he had suffered an accident as a result of someone else's negligence. All of us with any connection inside the factories are aware that there are people called accident-prone. They are the ones who demonstrate clearly what I am suggesting is the malaise. That man of whom I am speaking was always able to push responsibility upon other people, always able to stand up to cross-examination. He became an absolute menace to any insurance company which dared to challenge 130 his claim that liability arose out of the negligence of others. We have all met such people with classical syndromes of this kind. They are widespread.
We begin to see a pattern. I am keenly conscious of the fact that sometimes we see people who show definite bitter and revengeful attitudes towards their parents or educators, blaming them because of their unhappy life. It is usually said that their parents had forced them to take up an occupation which they did not like. They tend to say that the parents could see what would be the outcome. If they followed their original wishes, these industrial workers have told me, and became artists and teachers, they would not have become cripples.
I have been struck by the fact that a lot of clinical work has been done in the United States which makes it abundantly clear that there are groups of this kind who almost invite accidents. We know from experience that suicidal people usually have a revengeful attitude to someone they want to punish through their suicide. In the same way, there are workers who may consider accidents as something like a substitute for suicide. If we approach this problem of industrial accidents by thinking of it as a physical factor without seeing it in the context of human relations or of the terrible estrangement of man from his work in a modern society, we are being purblind and all our efforts in modest Bills of this kind or in safety regulations may come to naught.
There are many other examples of certain types of people beginning to have accidents. I have seen it often in men who are very ambitious. When I heard an hon. Member talk about men becoming in-built, supervisors of themselves, I felt that there was need for caution. A man may orgininally have had some ambivalence towards the authority of his own father. Unconsciously his success as he advances from the shop floor to being a foreman in a steel works represents the usurpation of the authority of his father with whom in life outside he had tensions. Perhaps he felt guilty of having unconsciously, if not consciously, wished to be rid of him, and reminded of his father's age, perhaps by approaching middle age, he may unconsciously seek self-punishment in accidents which can take a serious turn.
131 This is not extravagant. This type of material is already becoming known more and more to those who have any knowledge of contemporary psychiatry as it has been applied, in particular, in the United States. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary has said that it is her intention to set up an inquiry. I am sure that she did not mean to be jejune, but she referred to an accident occurring perhaps because a cork was not in a bottle. That is not the question, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend realises it. The question is: why did not someone put the cork back in the bottle? When we look at that motivation, we may begin to see the aetiology of a large number of industrial accidents. Knowing how disastrous the consequences can be, I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that if she sets up an inquiry it is informed by at least some people who have psychiatric experience. If she creates an advisory board under the Bill, it should be manned not merely by people with skill in physical medicine, because if that happens, in our endeavour to conquer the problem of industrial accidents, we may find that we are not preventing accidents but merely trying to pick up the pieces.
I sometimes see sad examples of a lack of sensitivity in understanding about industrial accidents. I see them, oddly enough, for example, in my professional matrimonial work. Often a man who has had an industrial accident has trouble with his marriage. It is well known to hon. Members who are in the trade union movement that one of the consequences of a serious accident often is that a man becomes impotent, at least temporarily. Women, being women, often do not understand this and they begin to believe that if their husbands are not making love to them they must be making love to someone else. I have known of divorce case after divorce case in which feelings of hostility have been expressed to the man by the wife as a result of an industrial accident from which his inadequacies began, and the suspicions have flowed from it.
If we are to solve the problem of industrial accidents, I am convinced that we must have a policy which is really informed by insight. I hope that my right hon. Friend, through the Under-Secretary, will make it clear that these types of phenomenon will be examined 132 in depth by the inquiry and that the advisory board will be such that it understands that it is dealing not only with industrial accidents but with the alienation of man from his work in the 1970s.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
The Bill has received, and deserves, a general welcome, but many speakers have pointed out that there are some things which they would have liked to see in the Bill but which are not in it. I am no exception to the general rule.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will forgive me if I do not follow him along the line which he has so adequately explored. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the First Secretary will take due note of the unique point which he made which is worthy of her attention. I sincerely congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Bill.
The lacuna which I wish to refer to is that there is no mention in the Bill of an area of occupation with which I am particularly concerned, to which I referred when I intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary namely, professional entertainment. It may be that there are some areas of work which will be brought in under the Bill. It is conceivable that film production will be regarded as a form of factory employment. It is possible that in film production it will be possible for safety representatives and safety committees to be created. I hope that my right hon. Friend will ask the Under-Secretary of State to say whether it will be possible under Part II to set up safety committees in film production. If so, presumably it will be possible in television production as well.
It is necessary that such committees should be established in this respect. This may be thought to be a very recherché area. However, if stunt artists work with fully trained artists it is safe, but it is unsafe if stunt artists work with someone brought in to fill a gap, when what should be a perfectly safe stunt can become extremely unsafe. A committee would deal with that problem and would ensure that everybody participating in a stunt was well trained, thus greatly reducing the degree of danger. That is one matter with which I hope my hon. Friend the 133 Under-Secretary will deal when he winds up.
When we turn from these areas, which are almost quasi-manufacturing areas, to the theatre proper, we encounter an absurd situation. To illustrate my point, I take the example which one often uses, namely, the Royal Opera House. I do so because nothing illustrates the absurdity of the present situation, with which the Bill fails to deal, than what goes on there.
There are three groups of inspectors operating at the Royal Opera House. One group is concerned with safety in the auditoria and the people who go into the theatre. That comes under the local authority. A second group of people is concerned with the manufacturing side of the industry where scenery is built, and conies under the factory inspectorate. There is a third set of inspectors who are concerned with the administrative side. There is quite a large number of them, and it is an important organisation.
There is one area of the Royal Opera House which is entirely uncovered, for which there is no legislation and where the people who work are unprotected. That is where the whale of the work is done, where most of the employees work, including all the performers, all the backstage people and all those concerned with the moving of scenery. None of these people is covered by any legislation. The Factories Acts do not apply to them, the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act does not apply to them. No legislation governs the main area of employment in any theatre.
That creates an absurd situation. When the architect of the National Theatre asked what he should do, he was told that provisions were laid down specifying what he should do for the workshop and that those provisions were tightly drawn. He was told that there were provisions which laid down precisely what should be done in the auditorium, as well as for the administrative offices. When, however, he asked what he should do about back-stage conditions and what provision there should be for dressing room accommodation, washing facilities, toilets, and so on, there was none at all. Throughout the whole history of legislation to protect employees, this has been an area which Government after Government have specifically refused to include.
134 I am disappointed that this legislation today does not specifically include legislation to cover that area, although, as I have said, it is possible that by default Part II may be made to apply. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will be able to say that he will not close his eyes to the possibility, in Committee, of doing something to rectify this omission.
Ever since 1949, when the Gowers Committee reported in favour of there being legislation to regulate back-stage conditions, Government after Government have said that they intended to do something about it. In 1961, the Opposition said that they would include it in the legislation which they were then studying. In 1966, my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Labour said that he could not include it in the legislation which he was proposing to introduce just at that time. He said, however:I can, therefore, only repeat my assurance that we shall explore whether time can be found for such legislation in a future Session.As recently as 17th February this year, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State wrote:On the question of safety, health and welfare legislation, given that the new comprehensive statute outlined in the first consultative document is intended to apply to the entertainment world, I cannot hold out any hope of support for a Measure dealing with an individual industry.That was in reply to my request to the Government that if they could not introduce legislation themselves they might at least provide me with time so that I could introduce it. We find nothing about this in the Measure now before the House, which, once again, leaves it out of consideration.
This is too much. It has gone on far too long. I sincerely hope that in replying to the debate my hon. Friend will say either that the Bill as drafted applies, or can be made to apply, to films and television; that if, as I suspect, it does not, and cannot be made to, apply to theatres, he will not exclude the possibility of the consideration of Amendments to make it so apply; and that if, as I think may be the case, that would be outside the Short Title of the Bill, he will as a last resort say that legislation will now be introduced, and that this time he means it.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
While I would not seek to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) into the specialised field which he has covered and on which he is so well informed, his contribution disclosed another example of a habit in this country of legislating for industrial protection according not to the danger which confronts the employee but to the purpose of the operation or the place where it happens to be carried out. I support the plea made by my hon. Friend.
In the closing minutes of this debate, I should like the House to think of Part II of the Bill, and I begin by giving it a very warm welcome. It would be most ungracious of me if I did not. I am welcoming a very long-awaited visitor, and one for whose visit I have pressed since I entered the House of Commons. This proposal has a very long history. It was first debated in the House on 25th February, 1954, when the then hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) introduced it as the purpose of a Private Member's Bill which was narrowly defeated. It was the subject matter of a resolution of the Trades Union Congress in 1964. It was part of the subject matter of a Bill which I ventured to introduce as a Private Member's Bill in 1966, the Employees' Protection Bill. I was less fortunate than my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. David Watkins), but all things come to those who wait.
I even detect in the Bill shades of the draftsmanship which appeared in my original Bill. I do not claim any copyright, I do not even claim the credit. The credit should go to Mr. John Williams, who for years has conducted a campaign, sometimes almost single-handed, for precisely the provision which is contained in Part II of the Bill today. One of the more pleasing aspects of the Bill is that it is something of a reward for that campaign.
I will not attempt to embellish the statistics quoted by some of my hon. Friends. It does not require proving that the cost in human suffering and economic waste is intolerable, has been intolerable for a long time, and is becoming increasingly intolerable year by year. One only 136 requires to see the statistics in the annual reports of the Factory Inspectorate.
It is easy, too, to know why accidents take place. I agree entirely with the plea so movingly made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) for an attempt to find some insight into accidents by a sympathetic examination of the human situations which bring them about, but I am sure that my hon. Friend would not attempt to suggest that accidents are always caused as casualties of an Oedipus complex. They are caused through defective equipment and defective systems and, very often, through sheer carelessness.
We know why accidents happen. On the part of employees, it is always a little easier to do something dangerously than to do it safely. I once worked down the pits, and it was at one period my job to clean out what was then called the bull end, which was the end of the conveyor belt on the face. I knew how easy it was to get a shovel underneath if the guard was removed. Of course, I removed the guard when I began to get tired, although if I saw the overman coming I put it back again. It is very easy, because none of us believes that the particular occasion with which we are concerned will be the occasion of an accident.
For employers—this is not intended as any disrespect to them—it is a little more expensive to do the job safely, to introduce proper equipment, quiet, safe equipment, and a safe method of working, than to cut a corner and do it dangerously. If one has to choose between cutting one's prices in a highly competitive market and simply clipping a corner on safety, it is very tempting. That is why it happens.
I do not believe that the provisions which we have at the moment are sufficient to deter either employers or employees from taking risks of this kind. The legislation which we have, as I have ventured to say on other occasions, is quite inadequate. I shall not attempt to develop the matter tonight. The concept of civil liability adds very little to the deterrent. It is very easy, as we all know—indeed it is highly desirable—that every employer should insure against liability.
Insurance companies are very reluctant to raise premiums even against employers who are the subject of persistent claims, 137 because they want other insurance business of the company with which they are dealing—transport insurance business, pension schemes, and so on. There is very little deterrent here. Something which has occurred to me often enough over a very long time is that the concept of civil liability sometimes operates in the reverse direction, because it is very tempting to insure, not that an accident does not happen, but that if it happens it is somebody else's fault. We may drive full tilt at a roundabout provided it is our right of way.
I would not suggest that the proposal in the Bill is a complete solution. As I understand, this is to make somebody responsible for taking the initiative in bringing together those voluntarily prepared to accept special responsibility in this field, to see that they meet together and that they consult together from time to time, exchanging their views and experience in different parts of the factory, and then go back to their departments and their colleagues and spread their enthusiasm and the knowledge which they have obtained. More than one hon. Member tonight has said that what we require in this matter is education. This is education. That is what the whole thing is about. I have been privileged to see schemes of this kind in operation; I have seen safety committees and safety delegates—admittedly, at the moment, in just those factories where everyone is anxious that they should work; and it is just in those factories where they are not working that they are most needed. Where I have seen them I am quite convinced that they help daily, weekly, in preventing the causes of potential accidents—things like the wearing of safety helmets, which someone mentioned tonight. Of course, employees do not like wearing safety helmets, but where one can say to a man, "We discussed them in the safety committee last week", that can he an enormous help.
If I sniff the air a little suspiciously, as some of my hon. Friends have done, I hope that it will not be thought that that in any way detracts from my welcome for the Bill, but, like my hon. Friend the Member for Consett and some other of my hon. Friends, I have been a little puzzled whether the Bill is intended either as a stop-gap till we get legislation to revise the Factories Acts and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, or 138 whether it is a substitute. I sometimes begin to have a slight suspicion, because the revision of the Factories Acts was announced in the House on 30th June, 1967, and we had the first consultative document which is now a well thumbed, dog-eared effort, in December, 1967.
Some of us discovered its existence from sources outside the House, for we were not ourselves invited to participate in the consultation, although it is fair to say that my right hon. Friend's Department very quickly invited us when we indicated that we would be interested to intervene. We made our submissions, and the document was discussed, and here we are at the beginning of 1970, and while we are all very much in favour of the small, compact, highly-specialised inquiry which my right hon. Friend announced tonight, and, of course we welcome it, and we are grateful to her, I wonder whether this may not initiate another long period of thought without action.
We already have the ideas. We have a great deal of knowledge. I see on the Table in front of my right hon. and hon. Friends a pamphlet recently published for the Society of Labour Lawyers, by the Fabian Society, by a sub-committee of which I was privileged to be a member, and entitled "Occupational Accidents and the Law". If my right hon. Friend wants a few more ideas they are there. There really is no shortage. What we now want is some revision of the Factories Acts, and we hope that we shall not be told that we are now to have to await legislation till after yet a further inquiry.
To turn very briefly from what the Bill omits to what it contains, many of the points have been raised already and very ably by some of my hon. Friends and I will not pursue them, but there are three points which continue to trouble me. The first has been mentioned more than once in the debate. The title of the Bill is, Employed Persons (Health and Safety) Bill. I turn, full of enthusiasm, to Part II and read in the second line that it applies only to factories. That means that half the labour force is cut out. I accept that the deemed factory will be included, but I am a little puzzled, even now, how far this provision extends. I did not find Clause 8(4) an easy incursion into English literature, and I have 139 sympathy with the hon. Member who said that laymen who have to implement the provisions will be faced with some difficulty. Looked at in detail, it becomes more worrying. It says:… and any provision of sections …"—several sections are mentioned, including Section 127 of the Factories Act, 1961—which has effect to give to provisions of that Act an application extending beyond factories shall have the like effect in relation to this Part of this Act…Section 127 provides that for some purposes building operations shall be included within the provisions of the Factories Act. If they are included for some purposes, what counts as giving them "the like effect" for the purpose of the Bill? Does the Bill apply to them for some purposes and not for others? My hon. Friend might be forgiven if he does not answer that point in detail tonight, but it is a question which may be asked in Committee, and no doubt he will direct his mind to it.
It seems that the purpose of the Act is to protect persons employed by the occupier. Clause 9(1)(a) states that the functions of safety representatives shall beto promote co-operation in achieving and maintaining safe and healthy working conditions in the factory between the management and the persons employed by the occupier to work in the factory;".So an outside electrician can march happily to his doom down an unfenced hole and no one is under an obligation to save him.
This is a little worrying and unnecessary. The Swedes solved the problem in their Workers' Protection Act, 1949, and, as far back as 1929, the International Labour Office, in its Recommendation on the Prevention of Accidents, saw no difficulty in extending this provision beyond factories. Why is this necessary, and what is the argument for confining this provision to factories? So far we have not heard it.
Secondly, inspection is to take place at three-monthly intervals, or, at least, there is no statutory obligation to permit inspection at more than three-monthly intervals. In the workplace for which the Bill is designed, the worst workplace which will not co-operate without pressure, one can imagine the management saying, "That has got rid of the inspect- 140 ton, we are all right for another three months". Why have a period at all? Is it seriously imagined that the people concerned will insist on an unnecessary inspection just to give themselves some exercise? Surely it would be better to omit the period and leave it to common sense. It is not to the advantage of employers or employees deliberately to disrupt the work of the factory.
Clause 11 provides that any one who does not comply with the Bill commits an offence, but no penalty is prescribed. There may be a provision elsewhere which will tell us the maximum penalty, but why not put it into the Bill? If we are threatening someone with a penalty in order to turn the screw, why not tell him the penalty with which he is threatened? Is there any argument against this?
If the Bill is to work, an atmosphere of co-operation and helpfulness is needed. We are inviting people to give up their time, their leisure, and their energies to co-operating. We do not want actively to discourage them. Will there be any guarantee that they will not lose money for the time that they spend on these activities? What about their production bonus and wages structure? They will also need copies of the Factories Acts and the regulations and various other publications. Will they be provided and, if so, by whom?
Finally, will they have some assurance that when they complete a report they will not be making a rod for the backs of their own colleagues? If, subsequently, an accident happens, will it be said, "Your own inspectors have made a report and have not mentioned this point: they must have thought that it was safe"? Can we have an assurance written into the Bill that it will not remove the responsibilities from the shoulders of the management? The purpose of the Bill is to assist the management in discharging its responsibilities.
This country has a very fine record in industrial safety. Perhaps that is putting it too high: it was the first pioneer in this field. The Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802 was the first industrial safety Measure ever introduced, I believe; at least, I have not been able to find an earlier one. Since that time, we have not made the progress which some of us hoped for. I did not personally have any hopes in 1802, of course, 141 but since then many have hoped that we would move much faster.
Part of the reason is that there is no ready-made lobby here. If we raise pensions, we know whether one is a pensioner or not. If we eliminate factory accidents, 312,000 people will not have accidents in the next year, but the results will be limbs which are not amputated, eyesight which is not lost, families which are not widowed and made fatherless. But the victims will never known. Of course, it is never us. Any of us here might be one of these potential accidents, but we will never know: that is why there is no lobby by those concerned.
I repeat to my hon. Friend that I warmly welcome the Bill. If there are times when he might have had reason to doubt it, it is only because this subject has become the Cinderella of the parliamentary timetable. We must seize such precious moments as are afforded us to produce the best possible Bill.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Holland (Carlton)
The hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) said that he would concentrate on Part II of the Bill. I want to talk about Part I as well, so I will not immediately follow his remarks, although some of my later remarks will coincide closely with some of his.
I congratulate the right hon. Lady and the Under-Secretary on Part I. The reorganisation of the industrial health service is very timely. The appointed Factory Doctor Service was set up before the National Health Service or the School Health Service as they have developed today. As the right hon. Lady said, in its time the Factory Doctor Service has done a most useful job, and I know that the whole House will join her in paying tribute to the valuable work of those responsible for maintaining effective health standards over these years.
But now, much duplication is involved which is wasteful of our scarce skilled medical resources. So, although I normally disapprove of any increase in bureaucracy, in this case I see a lot of sense in appointing a small number of medical officers covering a wider function to replace the much larger number—my hon. Friend said 1,500—of part-time factory doctors engaged on routine medical examinations.
142 We have received, fairly late, representations from members of the social and occupational medicine department of a Scottish university urging that Scotland, like Ulster, should be excluded from Part I, as the health service in Scotland, the representations say, is different, and since the Porritt Report commented favourably on the Scottish system. I have given that information to the House, but, speaking as a Sassenach, I welcome Part I.
On the withdrawal of school medical service in certain counties—
§ Mr. Holland
I have not had time to consult the people who sent the representations, and it would not be fair to disclose their identity without first asking their permission. That is my only reason for not saying who they are.
On the point about the withdrawal of part of the school medical service in certain counties, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) referred—and I think that he named Northamptonshire as one of them—it is difficult to know whether the new service will be flexible enough to cope with that kind of situation, or whether it is envisaged that the release of appointed factory doctors will facilitate an improvement in the school health service provided in the counties concerned. I understand that there are four counties where there is no guarantee that children will be medically examined before they leave school. However, I am sure we shall be able to clear up in Committee many of the problems arising out of this part of the Bill. They do not detract from our general welcome to Part I.
The right hon. Lady said that she was not seeking to interfere with good private health arrangements which companies have already. I applaud that, and I only wish that her good intentions extended to Part II of the Bill. Were the Bill concerned only with the logical improvement of the industrial health service set out in Part I and the relevant sections of Part III, then on both sides of the House, just like the mosaic in the Central Lobby which depicts the patron saint of Wales, 143 harmony and light would prevail. However, the Under-Secretary will not be unduly surprised at this stage to learn that harmony and light does not extend wholly to Part II. Certainly, no one on either side of the House who has any interest in these matters can fail to be deeply concerned about the high and rising figures of industrial accidents. No one is opposed to trying any experiment designed to reduce even marginally the number of accidents in industry.
Unlike the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), I will not get involved in quoting figures of accident rates. Of all statistics, these are among the most meaningless. When we talk about reported accidents, an increase may be due to a better reporting procedure or a better procedure generally in the Health Service.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
The hon. Gentleman may not want to quibble over statistics, but will he not agree that it is a fantastically high figure?
§ Mr. Holland
Yes, it is. I merely said that we do not want to get involved with statistics on this matter. When we talk about the totality of industrial injuries, we probably include a large number of accidents involving cuts or sprains which, if they occurred at home, would not be regarded as serious, but which, if they occur at work, become "industrial injuries".
I think that we all agree that we do not want a single avoidable industrial accident. Such an accident can cause unnecessary misery to a fellow human being, as the hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton said. In my view, that is reason enough for doing all that we think may be effective to reduce avoidable accidents. In passing, I might mention that, like the hon. Member for Con-sett (Mr. David Watkins), I hope that the right hon. Lady will be nudged into alleviating this sort of misery, which may be increased because the employer concerned is a man of straw.
What worries this side of the House about Part II is that it appears to be trying to do the right job in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. In framing this part of the legislation, it has clearly been decided that safety repre- 144 sentatives in unspecified numbers shall be appointed by the trade unions in any establishments employing 10 or more people, if the trade unions so desire. The right hon. Lady made much play with the fact that the onus is upon the trade unions. It is a voluntary act by a trade union, to be implemented according to the whim of the trade union, and, if the trade union decides to take action that shall be binding on the employer.
If employees are not represented by a trade union—there are 14 million employed persons today not represented by trade unions, although some are in establishments where there are recognised trade unions—then, by a curious sin of omission, as has been pointed out by hon. Members on both sides, those employees will have no right to safety representatives, since they will have no machinery for appointing them. I do not want to stress this point unnecessarily, because it has been made by hon. Members on both sides. However, it is a matter that should be looked into most carefully before the Bill goes through all its stages.
I deprecate that there is nothing in the Bill about safety committees, except on a voluntary basis. There is no compulsion about setting up safety committees unless the trade union appointed safety representatives want them. If they do, and if they ask for them, then there is compulsion on the employers to set them up. This is a curiously inequitable piece of legislation which places all the obligations on the employer, without any options, and all the options for the trade unions without any obligations, and neither options nor obligations for the employee who is not a member of a trade union.
Is it necessary to spell out the obvious conclusion? Do the Government want to be party to such a blatant piece of partisan poppycock?
The implication in Clause 9 is that unions should elect representatives whose area of inspection might far exceed their spheres of interest in industrial relations or in work. For example, if manual unions were recognised only for negotiating purposes, their appointed representatives would have the duty of carrying out three-monthly inspections in all areas of the company—in the laboratories, research areas, the drawing office, and so 145 on—without really knowing what they are supposed to be looking for.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington pointed out that the Bill also makes a nonsense of the qualifying experience required for a safety representative by specifying that he must have worked in industry, any industry—my hon. Friend made the point that it was not "the industry"—for five years without any regard for the industry in which he is to be appointed a safety representative. The two years' employment with the company qualification will not help in certain circumstances.
For example, in the construction industry, where there is a lot of casual labour and a high labour turnover, it may not be practicable to appoint on a particular site a union representative who has been with the firm for two years. So, under the Bill, a newcomer may be appointed, provided that he has worked for five years previously in any industry—for example, in the hotel and catering industry, or the clothing industry. I can think of many unsuitable examples.
If such representatives were trained in safety engineering, as was urged by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Binns), in his very pertinent speech, it would not matter that they were inspecting areas unfamiliar to them either from their own work point of view, or from their previous experience. But the proposed safety representatives are not required to have any safety training, and that is a great pity.
In the absence of training and knowing what to look for, protection is needed in the Bill against representatives making many trivial but time-wasting criticisms and comments about alleged hazards in areas where they do not understand the method of working or the built-in safety features of the machinery in use.
Safety training covers a good deal more than merely taking reasonable steps to inform oneself of any requirements relating to health and safety in the Factories Act, 1961, or the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, 1963, particularly as the Bill makes no attempt to define what are "reasonable steps" and places no obligation on safety representatives to achieve any specified degree of competence in their knowledge of the law.
146 How familiar, for example, must the safety representative be with the provisions of the Factories Act, 1961, relating to health and safety? The first 56 Sections of that Act relate to general provisions for health and safety. The special provisions and regulations add another 17 Sections to this list to be studied. Must all safety representatives be thoroughly conversant with these 73 Sections of the Act, plus all relevant Sections of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises, Act? If so, what evidence will they be required to afford as to their degree of knowledge of these matters? To whom must they produce such evidence—to their employer or to their union? If it is to their union, does the union then have to give a signed undertaking that its representatives are qualified under the Act?
I do not claim the expertise in ports and ships of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page), who shared the Merchant Shipping Bill with the Under-Secretary in Committee, but in the case of ports, and ships in British ports, even the simple act of producing a document to the employer would be difficult of fulfilment, since in the ports a certain site, establishment, or ship may, I understand, be under multiple and overlapping occupation for the purposes of the Bill.
Incidentally, may we also be told how many times in a period of three months British port workers will have the right to inspect a specific British ship which may be on coastwise trade and may put into half a dozen or more ports in three months and which therefore, under the terms of the Bill, becomes a new establishment every time it puts into port? This is a curious anomaly. It may be that the Under-Secretary does not have an answer to my question at this late hour. If he has no answer, perhaps we may pursue the question, profitably in Committee, with co-operation and understanding.
I return to the question of the safety representatives. We must also bear in mind their responsibility. What will be a safety representative's liability if, after an inspection, he fails to report to his employer an infringement by another employee of the Factories Act or regulations arising from it—an infringement which subsequently proves to be partly 147 responsible for an accident which could have been avoided if prior notice of the infringement had been given? This is a lawyer's point. What are the possible penalties in law which may be imposed on a safety representative if he fails to fulfil his obligations under the Bill?
Provisions concerning penalties for employers are made in Clause 11, but there are no specific provisions—not even an immunity provision—for safety representatives. It would seem possible for an employer to sue both the safety representative and the union that appointed him for damages that could be substantial if a failure on the part of the representative to carry out his statutory duty contributed to the occurrence of an accident. If that situation is not resolved in clear and unequivocal terms in the Bill it will be resolved not on the basis of what the right hon. Lady or her hon. Friend may say, think or declare, but on the basis of a decision by the courts.
It is no bad thing, as a general rule, to let rights carry at least a few responsibilities. In saying that I am following the excellent example of Mr. O'Hagan, a member of the General Council of the T.U.C. In replying to a debate in 1964 on industrial safety, from which, I gather, certain provisions of the Bill have evolved, Mr. O'Hagan said—this is on page 426 of the report of the T.U.C. for 1964—If representations have got to be made that we must have workers' representatives on the factory floor then those workers' representatives must, I think, of necessity carry some responsibility.I go along with those remarks, although I argue that in the case of safety representatives responsibility should be defined so as to preclude an open-ended liability in the civil courts.
The alternative proposals for Part II, submitted by the C.B.I. to the right hon. Lady and referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Learnington—which we regard as offering a sensible means of implementing what appears to be the objective of Part II—would clearly state the obligations that would be placed on safety representatives as well as clearly stating the obligations that would be placed on the employers.
If the right hon. Lady wants to make a contribution to industrial safety, I 148 wonder why she has not included a requirement for the appointment of trained safety officers—in small firms obviously on a part-time basis—on similar lines to the requirement for trained first aid personnel. Such a requirement would make a good deal more sense than the proposed arrangement in the Bill. Apart from the obvious advantage of having inspections carried out by people who are supposed to know what they are looking for and are trained to make constructive suggestions there would be two other equally important advantages.
First, such an arrangement could also apply to firms where there is no trade union representation, which this Bill does not. Second, such an arrangement might even have a noticeable impact on the level of reportable accidents. Certainly, trained and qualified personnel, even if only on a part-time basis, would prove to be more valuable witnesses before any board of inquiry into the cause of a serious industrial accident than would untrained personnel.
Is there any justification or evidence for believing that the appointment of safety representatives compulsorily, as defined in the Bill, will make any noticeable difference to the number of reported accidents? Clearly, the Government do not think so, because they seek such representatives only in factories and on sites where there is trade union recognition. On that basis, the message of the Bill is that if an employer does not recognise a trade union, or the employees do not want to belong to a union, then safety representatives are unnecessary. What confidence this shows in the efficacy of the system!
There are two possible conclusions which could be drawn from this. One I find difficult—virtually impossible—to accept and the other I find difficult and virtually impossible to believe. The first one was referred to by implication by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell), and that is the one which I find it difficult to accept. It is that the right hon. Lady does not care about industrial accidents if they happen to non-union employees. The second—the one I find it virtually impossible to believe—is that industrial accidents occur only where there are 149 trade unionists. These are the implications of the Bill. I know it sounds crazy, but so, in my view, does Part II sound crazy.
A warning was given by the right hon. Lady's predecessor, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), in an undertaking to the C.B.I. on 23rd June, 1966—which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington—in which the right hon. Gentleman asserted that unless there was satisfactory progress in the setting up of joint safety committees on a voluntary basis the right hon. Gentleman intended, when the next major revision of the Factories Act takes place, to seek powers which would enable him to require the establishment of machinery for joint consultation on safety.
Between May, 1967, and March, 1969—less than half the period from the date of the right hon. Gentleman's letter to the present time—the number of joint safety committees in all factories employing more than 50 persons—and I am looking at the figures of the right hon. Lady's own Department and not the figures given by my hon. Friend from industry—increased from 3,919 to 5,470. The figures are taken from the D.E.P. Gazette of July, 1969, and they record the results of the two surveys taken by the Factory Inspectorate. Incidentally, the right hon. Lady referred to a survey earlier this year and I am wondering whether she meant March, 1969. That is the record which I have from the D.E.P. Gazette.
But that increase, substantial though it was, does not include the figures for the increase in the other 20 or so months under review. Nor does it take account of the substantial progress being made in some industries to incur the total involvement of all employees in safety, education and responsibility for safety methods along the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Speed). From this side of the House we believe that industry is entitled to know—if satisfactory progress has not taken place in the establishment of joint consultative committees on safety since mid-1966—what increase in the number of such committees would have been regarded as satisfactory?
Then there is another question relating to the Government's failure to fulfil the 150 previous undertaking: why is Part II not, as promised, part of the next major revision of the Factories Act? On 13th May, 1968, nearly two years ago, I asked the right hon. Ladywhen she expects to be in a position to introduce new comprehensive legislation in the field of industrial health, safety and welfare".She replied then, reasonably enough, that she wasanxious to press ahead with this legislation as soon as the complexity of the subject and the parliamentary timetable allow".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th May, 1968; Vol. 764, c. 839.]Two weeks later, in response to a similar Question from her hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Ted Fletcher), the then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), said:I give my hon. Friend a firm promise now that it is our intention during the lifetime of this Parliament to endeavour to bring the new Bill forward."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1968; Vol. 765, c. 1225.]It is not good enough for the right hon. Lady to defer that kind of legislation while she sets up another committee of inquiry. Although I welcome the proposal to set up a special committee to consider the causes of accidents, the legislation should not be delayed until the committee reports.
Are we to have the new legislation in the lifetime of this Parliament? If we are, why introduce this Bill now, separately? Is it not the plain fact that this piece of legislation—I am limiting my remarks to Part II—is being introduced with unseemly haste as a sop to what the right hon. Lady thinks is trade union opinion, to try to sweeten her relations with the trade unions, which have been soured in recent years by the Government's persistent interference with the right to freedom of industrial bargaining through the Prices and Incomes Act and by their abortive attempt last year to introduce the Industrial Relations Bill?
What did the T.U.C. say in its resolution about safety representatives in 1964? It said:The Factories Act should be extended to provide for—In opposing the motion, the General Council of the T.U.C. came down in favour of continuing efforts to encourage the voluntary system. I shall quote from what Mr. O'Hagan said about voluntary efforts, replying to the debate from the platform:
- (a) the election of safety delegates, with powers of inspection by the workers concerned…
- (b) the setting-up of safety committees in factories;
- (c) the right of workers' safety delegates to accompany the factory inspector on his visit to factories;
- (d) the advice of the factory inspector to the firm to be available to safety committees or safety delegates."Voluntary efforts have been slow, but safety—I want to say this quite definitely—is a matter on which equal partnership must be sought if it is to be successful. Compulsion by itself is not the answer. There has got to be the fullest measure of joint consultation between the two parties, the employer and the worker, if we are to succeed in our efforts for eliminating accidents".Then he went on—and this is signifi-cant—The danger of compulsory safety committees is that we shall not get this means of consultation, not this joint effort, to reduce risk to life and limb, but simply a committee which will function successfully in the well-organised places or where the trade unions and the workers are safety-minded. Where you have apathy, the same old story will remain. We do not want that.The General Council was overruled by Congress, and that resolution was reaffirmed at the 1966 Congress. In 1968, Congress carried a motion calling for the introduction of new legislation whichshall include provisions requiring factory inspectors to contact workpeople's representatives when visiting factories"—that was not in the motion in 1964, but it was in 1968—and the setting-up of joint safety committees with statutory powers in all industrial establishments".It included other provisions which are not relevant to the present Bill, such as compulsory provision by employers of adequate facilities for employees taking meals away from work.
In 1969, the appropriate resolution called for legislation to establish joint safety committees throughout industry and agriculture. Thus, the Bill before us will not satisfy the demand of the 1969 Congress, since there is no compulsion about setting up compulsory safety committees throughout industry and agriculture. It will not satisfy the demand of the 1968 Congress, for it contains no 152 requirement for factory inspectors to contact workpeople's representatives. It does not accord with the 1964 resolution, reaffirmed in 1966, because it does not require the setting up of safety committees in all factories, it does not require that factory inspectors shall be accompanied by the safety representatives when they visit factories, and it does not require that the factory inspector's advice must be available to the safety committees or safety representatives.
I am pleased that the Bill does not require factory inspectors to be accompanied on their visits by untrained employees with no responsibility for the matter under review. I am glad that the Factory Inspectorate is not to have these representatives adding to its burdens in other ways. I am sure that the inspectorate is relieved. It would place it in an intolerable situation unless the object of the exercise were merely to expect the inspector to train the factory representatives to learn something about safety engineering and the way to work.
The right hon. Lady has by no means satisfied the requirements of the T.U.C. Part II will not do that. What will it do? Will it reduce the number of reportable industrial accidents? Constructive joint consultation may well do this. Because of the chance that it may, we welcome the principle of consultation on industrial safety. There is no evidence to show that compulsory consultation reduces accidents.
The evidence, which I accept is meagre, unreliable and probably totally misleading, but it is the only evidence available, seems to point the other way. The only Western country I know where there is compulsory legislation—let me qualify this—with enforcing penalties for nonobservance, is Belgium. The accident rate there is much higher than here and most other countries. To quote the example of Sweden, visited by Members of the sub-committee is irrelevant since there are no penalties and no enforcement and observance is left to the parties concerned.
No doubt many members of trade unions are fully competent to make useful contributions to the improvement of industrial safety. I know from personal experience that many do. Employers have cause to be grateful for constructive 153 suggestions made at joint consultative meetings. There is no assurance under the Bill that these competent people will be appointed and that constructive suggestions will emerge, or that if constructive suggestions do emerge they will ever reach management.
This is because the Bill provides only for reports of the safety representatives to be entered in a register provided by the employer, but presumably retained by the safety representative, since the Bill makes no provision for its disposal. Under the Bill, nothing written by the representatives, if they ever ever write anything, need ever reach the right desk for action. It is a pity the Bill is not more specific, but it is like so much of this Government's legislation.
Part H of the Bill misses the real problem, is ambiguously worded and fails to provide an adequate follow-through for its half-formed ideas. The arrangements in Part I and Part III applying to streamlining and reorganisation of the industrial medical service make a lot of sense. We think that they are timely and we certainly congratulate the right hon. Lady for that part of the Bill.
We believe in giving credit where it is due, and are not prepared to recommend a vote against a Bill containing such proposals. But Part II is so bad in concept drafting and basic assumptions that if any sense is to be made of it, there will have to be some drastic surgery in committee.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity (Mr. Harold Walker)
In the five years that I have been a Member of this House this is the first debate I can recall on industrial safety. As I listened to hon. Gentlemen opposite I reflected upon the many opportunities that they have had, on Supply days and in Adjournment debates, to debate this subject. None the less they have had to wait for the Government to present this Bill to express their concern on behalf of non-trade unionists as well as trade unionists.
I appreciate the general welcome extended to Part I but regret that Part II has been given a much more qualified reception. It is not good enough for the Opposition to say that they believe that everything possible should be done to 154 reduce accidents, but when the Government produce specific, concrete and positive proposals, then express their objections to them. That is inconsistent.
The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) deplores the fact that the Bill gives trade unions the right to appoint representatives but does not give similar rights to non-unionists. The logic of his argument is that the appointment of safety representatives should be universal and mandatory. I can only say that it is known in Standing Committee that I can be very accommodating, and if there hon. Gentlemen wish to move an Amendment we will look at it very carefully. That, however, is the logic of hon. Gentlemen's position.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to be in an ambivalent position, in that he did not seem able to make up his mind whether we were selling out to the T.U.C. or were failing to satisfy its demands. Hon. Members opposite will have to clear their own minds on that kind of question before the Standing Committee deals with the Bill.
I want to try to deal as quickly as possible with the principal questions that have been asked, and, in any case, with as many questions as possible. The House will appreciate, as it always does, that this is the kind of occasion when if I cannot deal with all the questions I shall select the principal items and hope that we can deal with the rest in Committee, or perhaps clear up one or two of them by correspondence.
Questions have been asked on Part I about the scope of the Employment Medical Advisory Service and its relationships with the School Health Service, the National Health Service, the Factory Inspectorate, the existing works medical service and group health services in industry to which the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) referred. On Part II, questions have been asked about the training of safety representatives, the application of the provisions with regard to notional factories such as docks, ships, and so on, and their relationship between the inspectorate and the safety representatives. We have been asked: what are recognised unions? Not least we have had reference to the scope of the inquiry of which my right hon. Friend spoke.
155 The hon. Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley) spoke of the origin of the concept of the Employment Medical Advisory Service, for which he seemed to be lacking in enthusiasm, to put it at its best. He made some rather eloquent pleas for the retention of at least some elements of the existing appointed factory doctor service. The concept originated in the report, published in February, 1966, of a sub-committee of my right hon. Friend's Industrial Health Advisory Committee. Included in that sub-committee were representatives of the C.B.I., the T.U.C., the British Medical Association, the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons and the Society of Occupational Medicine. I list them in that way so that the hon. Member may be very sure that the sub-committee was representative not only of industry but of medicine.
The two main recommendations of the sub-committee were, first, that the system of wholesale routine medical examinations of young persons required by the Factories Act should be abandoned in favour of a selective system of examining young persons based on the School Health Service's programme of health supervision in schools, and second, that the appointed factory doctor service should be replaced by a more expert service with a wider range of duties. For want of a better term the new service was provisionally known in the report, and for some time subsequently, as the "A" doctor service—
§ Dr. Winstanley
I do not depart from those recommendations at all. I agree that routine medical examinations, if they are just routine, are a waste of time. I merely say that routine arrangements whereby people are seen regularly are not necessarily a waste of time, which is rather a different thing.
§ Mr. Walker
I am sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. But, having ambarked on that line, I should make it clear that since the report was published there have been two important developments. First, the system which the sub-committee proposed for examining young persons selectively has been simplified and strengthened. Secondly, instead of simply replacing the appointed factory doctor service with a more expert service under the Factories Acts, the full 156 opportunity has been taken to establish a medical service which unifies all the tasks of the D.E.P. to which my right hon. Friend made reference.
I turn now to the question, raised by several hon. Members on both sides, about the relationship that will be established and will exist between the Employment Medical Advisory Service and the Factory Inspectorate. Once the decision had been taken to make the E.M.A.S. a medical service for the whole of the Department, with responsibility for these other medical activities to which I have referred—medical supervision of persons at Government training centres and industrial rehabilitation units—it followed that it would be inappropriate for the E.M.A.S. to come under the control of the Chief Inspector of Factories, whose responsibilities are confined to the enforcement of the Factories Acts and related and subsidiary legislation for industry and also the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. The responsibilities of the E.M.A.S. will extend well beyond that scope, as Clause 1 makes clear.
Another factor in the decision not to put the new service under the control of the Chief Inspector of Factories is that its work will be essentially advisory, and, although the Inspectorate gives very much advice, its primary duty is the enforcement of legislation. It was, therefore, decided that the most appropriate internal departmental organisation would be that the E.M.A.S. would form a separate and independent division of the Department, with its head as chief medical adviser to the whole Department.
It also followed, from the decision that the E.M.A.S. should cover all the Department's medical activities, and because it was, in general, desirable that the individual doctors within the E.M.A.S. should be available to undertake the full range of duties for which the service is responsible, that the existing medical inspectors should be absorbed into the service, where, with their considerable knowledge and experience of occupational health matters, they would form an invaluable body of expertise with which to start off the new service. It is, of course, the case that the Chief Inspector needs, and will continue to need, the advice of doctors in discharging his obligations to enforce the legislation for which he is responsible, 157 but there is no reason, if the appropriate instructions are given to the E.M.A.S., why such advice should not be just as readily forthcoming and as expert if the doctors are not under his control.
The Employment Medical Advisory Service will, after all, still be part of the Department of Employment and Productivity. It will have the functions of giving medical advice to any part of the Department which needs it—for example, those parts of the Department which are responsible for looking after disabled persons, industrial rehabilitation and young persons, as well as the Factory Inspectorate. It is likely that the establishment of the E.M.A.S. will result in more and better medical advice being available to the Factory Inspectorate.
The E.M.A.S., employing some 120 to 130 doctors—this point was raised specifically by the hon. Member for Cheadle—will be a very much bigger organisation than the medical branch of the Factory Inspectorate at present. This expansion will be particularly felt in organisation, although there will, of course, be beneficial effects at headquarters level as well. The hon. Gentleman asked for some information about the numbers who will be serving the E.M.A.S. There will be 122 medical personnel. There will be 81 full-time, but the additional part-timers forming the original nucleus will bring it to the equivalent of 102 full-time personnel.
I turn now to the question raised particularly by the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington about the relationship between the E.M.A.S. and private works medical services. A number of firms think it worth while to employ works medical officers or nurses, either on a full-time or a part-time basis, who advise them how to discharge their duties and, beyond this, on how to promote the health of those working in their factories. In some areas there are group industrial health services—the hon. Member drew our attention to them—which provide a works medical advisory service for firms in the area on payment of an annual fee based on the number of employees in the firm. In contrast to individual works medical services, these are run by a governing body, usually composed of employers, trade unions and medical representatives.
158 We think that the works medical services generally do a good job. They set high standards in such matters as first-aid, first-aid training, personal hygiene and, it is claimed, the provision of emergency treatment and casualty services at some places of employment, often resulting in the saving of the employee's time. In so far as such services are already doing the sort of things which the E.M.A.S. will be doing, my Department is wholeheartedly in favour of them and there is certainly no intention of allowing E.M.A.S. to duplicate their activities.
The E.M.A.S. would in practice recognise that private industrial medical services are already doing much valuable work in occupational health. We recognise that works medical officers possess a body of knowledge and experience of occupational health matters which it would be unwise to ignore. Although the formal position would be that the only E.M.A.S. duties which would be carried out by works medical officers would be the periodic medical examinations under the regulations, the E.M.A.S. would in its day-to-day practice recognise that the duties of works medical officers extend far beyond that. Clearly, the E.M.A.S. will not need to devote as much attention to a factory which already has a good works medical service as it will to a factory which has none.
We hope that there will be close co-operation between works medical officers and the E.M.A.S. As the sub-committee made clear in its report, both the employers and the State have important contributions to make through complementary rather than competing services. It will be made clear in the instructions which we shall issue to the employment medical officers that they should work as closely as possible with the private industrial medical services and that they should not seek to duplicate the work of good private services. I am glad to say that the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington reacts understandingly to the assurances which I am giving to him and the House.
I now turn to the relationship of the E.M.A.S. with the health services. Both the Department of Employment and Productivity and the Health Departments are agreed that responsibility for occupational medicine and, in particular, for 159 the Employment Medical Advisory Service must remain with the D.E.P. We are the Department responsible for working conditions in factories, shops and offices and are most closely concerned with conditions of employment generally. It is equally clear that occupational medicine cannot be dealt with and must not be dealt with in isolation from other aspects of the health services.
We are therefore proposing that there should be a close relationship between the Employment Medical Advisory Service and the National Health Service. We are exploring with the Health Departments ways of achieving this. One respect in which close co-operation may be furthered concerns the laboratory, X-ray and other investigatory services which will be necessary to supplement the work of the E.M.A.S. and about which questions were asked during the debate. It is proposed that National Health Service laboratories should generally be available for use for E.M.A.S. work and discussions are proceeding with the Health Departments as to how this may be best achieved.
§ Mr. Holland
Would it be an advisory service for industry? In the Press handout which the hon. Gentleman kindly made available to me last week it was suggested that there would be an advisory service for industry. The Bill does not seem to say this.
§ Mr. Walker
I will come to that; the hon. Gentleman is anticipating my speech.
I was saying that we propose that the National Health Service laboratories should be made available for E.M.A.S. work, and we are having discussions with the Health Departments as to how this can be achieved, and this will be an important point of contact between the two services. Another useful point of contact will lie in the employment of part-time employment medical advisers, many of whom will, no doubt, be working for the National Health Service for the remainder of their time. There will thus be this useful point of integration, whether they work either as general practitioners or in hospitals.
Anxieties were expressed during the debate about the adequacies of the School Health Service and the relationship of 160 that service to the E.M.A.S. The proposal that the evidence of the School Health Service should be used to identify young persons who are not unconditionally fit for all forms of employment was a unanimous recommendation of the sub-committee to whose report I have referred. The new system of medical supervision of young persons in employment will depend to a large extent on the efficiency of the School Health Service in identifying those who are not unconditionally fit. It will be the cornerstone of the new system, and, therefore, we have been concerned to obtain the strongest possible assurance from the Department of Education and Science that the service can undertake the work.
It is, however, important to recognise that in the identification of unfit young persons the School Health Service is not being asked to do very much more than it has already done. For many years it has, by means of a standard form, been notifying the Youth Employment Service of young persons who are in some ways unfit for employment.
There are only two aspects of the new system which are new for the School Health Service. The first is that, for the first time, there will be a direct link-up between the school doctor, the employment medical adviser and the careers officer in the case of unfit children. Hitherto there has been no connection whatever between the information passed from the School Health Service to the Youth Employment Service and the activities of appointed factory doctors concerning young people.
The second new aspect is that a rather different form will be used for the transmission of information from the School Health Service to the careers officer and the employment medical adviser. This revised form is already in use in the School Health Service and is held by local authorities to be a considerable improvement on the old form.
We did not accept the recommendations of the sub-committee until we had had the most detailed discussions between the two Departments primarily concerned—our own and the Department of Education and Science—and until we had been completely satisfied that the School Health Service could undertake the rôle that we were asking of it. Although the recommendation of the sub-committee 161 was unanimous, after publication of the report there was criticism from some members about the alleged inadequate staffing of the School Health Service. Indeed, there has been reference to this today. It was in response to those criticisms that we sought further assurances.
To assure the House, I ought, perhaps, to quote the statement which we subsequently received from the Department of Education and Science and which was put to the sub-committee of the Industrial Health Advisory Committee which produced the original report. It is as follows:We are advised that the School Health Service is adequately staffed and competent to cope with the work proposed, and in particular that the school medical officer will have sufficient medical information available to complete the required certificate knowledgeably and reliably before the child leaves school.The majority of local education authorities arrange for a full medical examination of all school-leavers, and will continue to do so. A very small number replace this by a selective examination, but these arrange for all school-leavers to be interviewed by a doctor, who will naturally be particularly alert to observe any who may require a qualified certificate. We do not encourage the replacement of a full medical examination on leaving by a selective examination, but equally do not discourage authorities who wish to experiment in this way.We propose when the time comes to bring to the attention of authorities their duties regarding the provision to school-leavers of certificates of fitness for employment.That was the full statement that was made to the sub-committee, and I thought that I owed it to the House to quote it in full to assuage the anxieties which have been expressed during the debate.
The lion. Member for Warwick and Leamington referred to the position in Northamptonshire. I have tried to obtain information, albeit and inevitably, although it was not the hon. Gentleman's fault, rather late in the day. He will appreciate the difficulty of obtaining information at this time. However, I assure him that I intend to look very carefully into this question. Perhaps I can write to him on the point, or maybe he will return to it in Committee.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says, but I quoted Northamptonshire because it is something about which I know. But I understand that a number of other counties are in 162 the same position. It is an important point, and I hope that the information will be made available.
§ Mr. Walker
This was the kind of point about which we felt anxiety ourselves, but we have gone into the matter most carefully and we have had assurances in the form of a statement from the Department of Education and Science, which was put to the sub-committee.
§ DR. Winstanley
I do not underestimate the importance of transmitting the information from the school medical officer to the employment medical adviser, but is it not the case that the school leaver's general practitioner may have important and valuable information to pass to the employment medical adviser? What arrangements are there for that?
§ Mr. Walker
That may or may not be true. I would not start to quarrel with the obvious professional experience of the hon. Gentleman, but I am not sure how we could incorporate that in the Bill, even if we thought it advantageous. However, if he has any suggestion to make, we have an open mind on this point, and I should be more than happy to hear from him on it.
The hon. Member for Carlton raised in an intervention a small but important point about to whom the advice of the inspectorate and the E.M.A.S. will be available—what has been called the feedback. The point was also referred to by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). I assure the House that it is intended that the new service will be available to give medical advice and help on any aspect of the Department's work. There will be a corps of experts in occupational health available to anyone needing medical advice in relation to employment—general practitioners, works medical officers, trade unions, employers.
I turn to Part II of the Bill and the provisions for the appointment of safety representatives and the establishment of statutory joint safety committees. It has been suggested that the Government sought their precedents in the legislation of other countries. But we did not have to turn to other countries. We have a very respectable precedent in the United Kingdom in the shape of the provisions in the coal mining industry which in many ways go hand in glove with what we are 163 proposing. They are incorporated in the Mines and Quarries Act. I do not know whether it was deliberate or accidental, but the form of words used is in many respects almost identical with that in the Bill. Some of the anxieties expressed about this Bill should have been expressed in 1954 when the provisions in the Mines and Quarries Act relating to the appointment of inspectors were endorsed by the House.
§ Mr. Holland
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a difference between appointing people in one industry, namely, mining and quarrying which is a specialised industry, in which the people working in it understand it well, and appointing them globally over a wide variety of industries?
§ Mr. Walker
None the less, some of the problems that have been described in the debate are problems met with in the coal mining industry and they did not prove insurmountable.
§ Mr. Peter Archer
Would my hon. Friend agree that in the Coal Mines Act the inspectors are appointed not by the union but by the "workmen"? This is where there is no recognised union, because the employers will not recognise them or something like that. There can still be inspectors.
§ Mr. Walker
Section 123(1) of the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954, says:(a) in a case where there is an association or body representative of a majority of the total number of persons employed at the mine or quarry, by that association or bodythe appointment may be made. Section 123(1)(b) says:In any other case, jointly by associations or bodies which are together representative of such a majority.In other words it is associations or bodies which are representative. It is clearly analogous to the appointment by trade unions.
When we look at precedents for the establishment of statutory joint safety committees, the House may not be aware that as long ago as 1927 the then Home Secretary, Sir William Joynson-Hicks, as he then was, had an Order drafted to use as a kind of Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the employers, to coerce them into establishing joint safety committees. I have the draft 164 Order here. There was a threat of establishing joint safety committees in industry. That was no act of a radical Socialist but the action of a Home Secretary concerned for industrial safety.
I agree with the hon. Member for Carlton that safety representatives should not be exposed to legal action by virtue of the duties imposed upon them. I am assured that the Bill in no way exposes such representatives to legal action. We have the precedent in the Mines and Quarries Act.
There is no question about the desirability of the training of safety representatives. If they have some kind of training, however brief, in the kind of hazards they are likely to encounter and how to deal with them, in accident prevention generally, the law as it relates to safety and the health of those employed in industry, they will be able to do their job better. It will make them more useful, and they will be able to play a more positive part in the promotion of safety and health among those who work in the factories. This is certainly a matter in which the T.U.C. has shown considerable interest.
As these representatives are to be appointed by the unions it is not unreasonable to expect that the trade unions will accept some responsibility and play some part in their training. Members of safety committees are either appointed by the safety representatives, in which case this still applies, or they are members of management, in which case management must undertake some responsibility for the training. I can assure the House that the question of training is receiving the careful consideration of my Department and the General Council of the T.U.C. We will welcome any support and initiative of the General Council in this direction. In addition, we have seen welcome indications that the principal voluntary bodies in the industrial safety field are aware of the need for more training.
To come to the question of deemed factories, these are notional factories. In these cases the place of operation is the unit; for example, the building site, dock or ship. If the employer in the notional factory employs more than 10 persons, the unions representing those persons may appoint safety representatives. The qualifications are that so far as practicable the 165 persons appointed shall have worked in industry for five years and have been in the employment of their employer for two years. Representatives may inspect only those places for which their employer is responsible. For the purposes of deciding whether there is an entitlement to a safety committee, all persons employed by their employer on any deemed factory operation, are added together, and if that total exceeds 100 and safety representative have been appointed from anywhere—it matters not where—these representatives are entitled to request the establishment of a committee for that firm. I could go on to give practical examples but—
§ Mr. Costain
I am very grateful, Mr. Speaker. Where will the committee sit? If there is a firm of contractors operating all over the country, where will the committee sit?
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman has a close association with the building industry and he therefore knows, no doubt, that in the building industry, particularly in the larger firms, there already exist some very useful—indeed, I may go further and saw valuable—joint safety committees on a voluntary basis, and some are operating at company or firm level, covering a number of different sites irrespective of the geographical location of the sites. So, while there are difficulties, they are not insuperable, as the hon. Gentleman was suggesting.
§ Mr. Walker
I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety about this and a reply on this point should be given and I shall seek to give a reply before the end of the debate. I am trying to cover as many of the points as possible and to deal fairly with them, and one was an important point which I must try to deal with. That was the one of the recognised trade union for the purpose of appointing safety representatives.
Three separate cases of possible difficulty have been raised, one where the factory has a majority of workers who 166 are not in the union but a minority are in the union and their union is recognised; second, where there is a federated firm which follows a nationally negotiated agreement but the union is not recognised; and, third, where there is a federated firm which follows a national agreement though none of the employees belongs to the union concerned.
In the first case, the minority can appoint safety representatives who will be entitled to inspect the whole factory. The second case is rather different. Here it is asked what is the position of the firm if it refuses the union recognition. Because the firm follows the national agreement and employs members of the union, the union would have the right to appoint representatives. It is said that this might lead to a demand for recognition in other matters. None the less, the position will be that safety representatives can be appointed. The final case is rather different. As there are no members of the union employed in the factory the employer will be allowed in that case to refuse the union the right to appoint safety representatives.
I try finally to deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), and I assure him that the Bill applies to the making of films only. I regret that it cannot be amended to go beyond the scope of the Factories Act. I hope I have replied to that, and certainly I have tried to deal with the principal points which have been raised in the debate.
Let me conclude by saying that one speech which struck home to me because of my former industrial experience was the one made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), who talked of the cost of industrial injuries and accidents as being not only in terms of lost production or in terms of financial loss, but in terms of the sheer misery, suffering and tragedy which are involved in the toll of accidents. It is my belief that the Bill will make a significant, constructive contribution to the diminution of these accidents. Therefore I am pleased to have the opportunity of commending it to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Cormmittal of Bills).