HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc386-8

Amendments made: No. 58, in page 14, line 27, leave out 'any of the relevant statutory provisions not contained in this Part' and insert: 'health and safety regulations or of any of the existing statutory provisions'.

No. 59, in page 14, leave out lines 29 and 30.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

Mr. Madel

I beg to move Amendment No. 60 in page 14, line 37, leave out from shall 'to consult' in line 39 and insert: ',before it approves a code of practice under subsection (1) above,'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient to take the following: No. 61, in page 15, line 25, leave out 'with the consent of the Secretary of State".

No. 62, in page 15, line 27, leave out 'seeking his consent' and insert 'doing so'.

Mr. Madel

This amendment, which is bracketed with Amendments Nos. 61 and 62, refers to codes of practice and the powers of the commission and the requirement that it must consult the Secretary of State before issuing a code of practice.

The Bill is a direct result of the Robens Report. The two central recommendations of that report were that an independent commission should be established to regulate industrial safety and health, and that codes of practice should be used to ensure flexibility and that such codes should be made and approved by the commission.

We touched on this matter in Committee. One of our anxieties was that as the codes of practice have only quasi-legal status and very often have to be issued quickly in response to changed circumstances and to new processes in industry, it would slow down the work of the commission if it had to consult the Secretary of State before issuing a code of practice. We felt that the Secretary of State would be able to maintain within his Department a substantial department of experts to advise him on the codes as they were submitted by the commission. As we have been told repeatedly, the commission will have at its right and left hands a rich body of experts and committees which it can consult, expertise, and so on. We feel that inserting this requirement to consult the Secretary of State will slow down the work of the commission on this vital matter and will lead to duplication of effort, which will lead inevitably to delay.

On the question of parliamentary control and control of the commission by the Secretary of State, the Opposition feel that this matter is properly and adequately covered by Clause 12(b), which states that the Secretary of State may give to the Commission at any time such directions as he thinks fit with respect to its functions". That being so, and Clause 12(b) being the stop-gap and the safety net which would prevent the commission from doing something which may be considered unhelpful, we feel that in the interests of speed and efficiency of the commission the amendments should be accepted. We hope that the Government can meet us on this matter.

Mr. Harold Walker

I have a very lengthy prepared reply, but I do not think that hon. Members would relish my inflicting it upon the House at this time. I have considered the amendments very carefully. I divined the intention absolutely rightly. There may be some substance in the argument that has been presented.

Perhaps the House will permit me to give some further consideration to this matter, with a view possibly to introducing in another place some compromise solution. What we have in mind is some kind of negative resolution procedure by the Secretary of State's consent; that is, that the commission should give the Secretary of State advance warning of what it is proposing and if within a given period—a month, for instance—he has not raised objections, the commission would be free to go ahead.

If we find it possible and practical to introduce an amendment of that kind, we would hope that it would commend itself to the House. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

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