HC Deb 10 July 1973 vol 859 cc1234-5
3. Mr. David Stoddart

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will initiate talks between himself, the TUC and industry and commerce to consider hours of work in the United Kingdom and the effect of long hours of work on the health and safety of employees and upon industrial relations.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I see no reason to initiate talks at present, but I am prepared to take account of any particular points the hon. Member has in mind.

Mr. Stoddart

That is a very unsatisfactory answer, bearing in mind all that we hear nowadays about stress at work. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that long hours of work have an adverse effect on the health and safety of employees and on their productivity? Would it not be as well if the hon. Gentleman took account of the opinions now being expressed on the question of stress? Bearing in mind that people in this country are working longer hours than people anywhere else in Europe, cannot the hon. Gentleman do something substantial about this problem and have talks with the TUC so that people in this country may earn a decent living wage for working reasonable hours?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I do not think that my reply was unsatisfactory; I thought that it was sensitive. I said that I would take note of the hon. Gentleman's points, and I shall do so. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the working of long hours is a significant factor in causing accidents, although plainly excessively long hours may cause fatigue, which, I accept, could be a contributory factor in some circumstances. The main problem arises in situations in which people work in dusty atmospheres and other adverse environmental conditions where long hours of work result in a good deal more exposure to the hazards and require higher standards of environmental hygiene. My right hon. Friend is always ready to discuss these matters with the TUC.

Mr. Redmond

Although the matter of safety and health is a cause for speed and pressure in the adoption of the proposals in the Robens Report, is it not remarkable that it should be said that the TUC, industry and the Government should get together in this matter? Is it not a matter for individual trade unions to discuss with individual industries? Does not the Question show a remarkable lack of confidence in the negotiating ability of the trade unions?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I shall not comment on that, except to say that I am sure that the trade unions should be paying great attention to it.