HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc976-7
11. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action the Factory Inspectorate is taking about the accident at the Willenhall factory of David Worrall and Company Limited on 2nd April 1973, when one woman was killed and another seriously injured when a rack collapsed.

Mr. Dudley Smith

The Factory Inspectorate is investigating this accident very thoroughly and has given the firm advice on safe storage. Other action, including legal proceedings, is being considered.

Mr. Stonehouse

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that this tragic accident draws attention to the squalid and dangerous nineteenth-century conditions in many Black Country factories? What are he and his Department doing to improve those conditions, which require urgent attention?

Mr. Smith

We keep under constant review the activities of the Factory Inspectorate to try to improve and make them more efficient. There are now 671 factory inspectors, which is I think a record. As an experiment we are trying to approach inspection on a more selective basis to have more thorough and in-depth investigations. This was the recommendation of the Committee on Safety and Health at Work. There is a problem with small factories—I do not think they are all squalid—where it is sometimes difficult to get round as often as to the larger factories. We have not overlooked this matter. We are currently trying to find better ways of tackling the problem.

Mr. Harold Walker

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that it is now eight months since we had the report of the Robens Committee, which sat for two years considering industrial health and safety? I have constantly pressed the Minister for action or for an opportunity to debate the Committee's proposals in this House. So far I have met with a negative response. Is it not obvious that people are being killed and maimed while the Government are doing nothing? Is not this a powerful argument for getting the Robens Report implemented as quickly as possible?

Mr. Smith

It is a gross exaggeration to say that people are being killed and maimed while the Government are doing nothing. They are doing a great deal through the Factory Inspectorate. I appreciate the anxiety about the Robens Report. My right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement on this matter shortly. The hon. Gentleman knows that the question of a debate is not for me.