HC Deb 09 December 1971 vol 827 cc1484-6
7. Mr. Booth

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether, pending the introduction of comprehensive regulations for the storage of highly flammable liquids in factories, he will lay before the House a regulation requiring highly flammable liquids stored in factories to be contained in suitable closed vessels kept in a storeroom, which either is in a safe position or is a fire-resisting structure.

9. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now publish the report of the public inquiry into the storage of highly flammable liquids, set up in accordance with Schedule 4 to the Factories Act, 1961, which sat on 2nd and 3rd February, 22nd, 23rd and 24th March and 5th April.

10. Mr. David Watkins

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects to receive the report of the public inquiry which sat on certain dates in February, March and April, 1971, to hear objections to the draft Statutory Instrument entitled the Highly Inflammable Liquids Regulations, 1969.

46. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will draft regulations under Section 176 of the Factories Act relating to the storage and use of inflammable materials.

Mr. David Howell

My right hon. Friend expects to receive the commissioner's report on the public inquiry later this month and he will then arrange for its publication. My right hon. Friend does not intend to lay before the House any regulations covering the storage and use of highly flammable materials in factories until he has had the opportunity of studying this report.

Mr. Booth

Will the Minister confirm that there is no statutory protection whatever for workers in factories using inflammable liquids other than those who use cellulose fluids? Does he agree that there is a need for comprehensive regulations to protect those who work with such liquids from disfigurement and death? Can he give the House any reason whatever why he should not lay before the House a regulation at least providing protection from dangerous conditions of storage pending the introduction of the more comprehensive regulations required?

Mr. Howell

The position is as the hon. Member states, with the exception for cellulose solutions. The reason for which he asks is simply that the inquiry is taking place, it has attracted considerable comment on a wide range of matters and there are a great many detailed considerations to take into account. It would be a bad way of proceeding to make partial regulations in advance of dealing with the subject as a whole when the inquiry is complete.

Mr. Atkinson

This is unbelievable complacency. The commissioner—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask a question.

Mr. Atkinson

I am asking a question, Mr. Speaker. I am making the point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] I will phrase the question. Would the hon. Gentleman agree that it is absolutely unbelievable complacency for the commissioner to be coming along at the end of this month with the outcome of the inquiry, held so many months ago, when we have no knowledge of how long it will take the Government to implement the commissioner's recommendations? What is the Minister prepared to do about it? Will he send a signal to his colleagues in the Department of the Environment to make sure that they change their regulations on this problem with regard to spillage and so on in line with the report? Will he accept that injuries are taking place daily in factories and that this will be on his head unless he gets a move on with this legislation?

Mr. Howell

I do not agree with the hon. Member's first point. I think he is getting the matter slightly out of focus. These are serious and important issues, as he is the first to realise, and a public inquiry must go into every detail. When the report comes to the Secretary of State, as it will in a few weeks, it must be looked at carefully. To rush into these matters without a careful inquiry and assessment might do more harm than good, and I cannot believe that the hon. Member wants that.

Mr. Watkins

That is all very well, but can the Minister outline for us the nature of the objections raised to the original draft regulations and say by whom they were raised and why it has taken so long? Why has it been necessary to go into such time-consuming detail before the regulations can be produced?

Mr. Howell

These matters will emerge when the report is published, after it has been to the Secretary of State. These are complicated matters and such inquiries usually take months rather than weeks, if I may use the phrase. There are very important issues which have to be dealt with.