HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc388-91
Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move, Amendment No. 63, in page 16, line 34, after provisions ', insert 'or by regulations under subsection (2) below'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take Amendment No. 67, in page 17, line 15, at end insert 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'.

Amendment No. 69, in page 17, line 24, after 'provisions', insert 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'. and Amendment No. 70, in page 17, line 42, after 'provisions', insert 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'.

Mr. Walker

These are purely drafting amendments—necessary because the regulations made under subsection (2), which may confer enforcement responsibilities on local authorities, are not relevant statutory provisions.

The first amendment ensures that, when such regulations are made and local authorities are made responsible for enforcement in certain circumstances, the executive is relieved of responsibility for the same matters.

The second amendment ensures that local authorities will have the duty of making adequate arrangements for enforcement when given the responsibility by regulations under subsection (2), and ensures that they will act under the commission's guidance in carrying out their duties.

The third amendment merely rectifies the drafting to take account of the fact that regulations under subsection (2) are not relevant statutory provisions. The fourth amendment—to the definition of an "enforcing authority"—ensures that local authorities are "enforcing authorities" when given responsibilities by such regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Cryer

I beg to move Amendment No. 64, in page 16, line 35, at end insert— '(2) Every enforcing authority shall be empowered, subject to the provisions of section 43 of this Act, to employ such legal advice and representation as they may consider necessary in order to discharge their functions properly'. I shall be very brief, especially with the words of my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip still in my left ear. I move the amendment because I want to see spelled out that the enforcing authorities shall be empowered to obtain the advice and representation in courts of law of solicitors or counsel. The reason is simple. I described earlier tonight that there had been 70,000 eye injuries in five years and only 15 prosecutions. That is a lamentably small number of prosecutions. One of the reasons for it is unquestionably that the Factory Inspectorate does not like to go into court. One can hardly blame it. The inspectors might go into court once or twice a year. I know of a factory inspector who has been to court once in five years. These people cannot be expected to have the same degree of firmness and expertise as counsel who are experienced in representing people in court. It is a daunting experience for a factory inspector to have to go into court and perhaps present his case against the expertise of, say, a QC. There was a case recently where an inspector was up against an able and forceful QC, and his case was torn to shreds. In that case the factory inspectorate was faced with a bill for costs of £150.

What sort of background is that against which to ask a factory inspector to undertake a prosecution? Of course, he will drop out if he can. Given the opportunity most hon. Members, given the choice, might back down from the task of making a maiden speech. However, we are elected to speak and we go ahead and make it. A factory inspector faces the equivalent time after time, and that may be why the inspectorate does not prosecute to the extent it perhaps should.

The amendment makes sure that the factory inspectorate or the enforcing authorities do not in future stand alone. They will be expected to employ expertise in the law as they would employ expertise in any other respect. At the moment they are compelled to go into the legal chamber naked. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment or at least give an assurance that when the Bill becomes law a circular will be sent out drawing attention to the general powers which I know are contained in the Bill saying that those powers can be used to obtain the services of a legal representative in the courts. If he cannot give that sort of assurance I ask him to accept the amendment so that the Factory Inspectorate can shrug off the amateurishness which has been forced upon it on too many occasions in the past.

Mr. Harold Walker

I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) an assurance on this point. The Bill provides the enforcing authorities with all the powers they need. Subsections (1), (4) and (5) place on the enforcing authorities the duty to make adequate arrangements for the enforcement of the relevant statutory provision for which they are responsible. These arrangements will clearly involve legal back-up facilities as well as inspection arrangements. If an authority is given the duty to do something it automatically is given the power to discharge that duty properly

In practice we envisage that the executive will have at its disposal a legal branch which will be able to assist not only the inspectors of the executive but those of other enforcement authorities, if need be. This branch can be strengthened if necessary by calling on outside legal advice.

I am satisfied that there are sufficient powers to ensure that adequate legal advice and representation is available when needed. I hope my hon. Friend is satisfied with that.

12 midnight

Mr. Cryer

Will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of a circular, when the Bill becomes law, to guide those involved and to show the Government's determination that legal advice should be used?

Mr. Walker

That is the kind of thing to which we should give careful consideration.

Mr. Cryer

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 66, in page 17, line 10, leave out 'or agricultural health and safety regulations'.

No. 67, in page 17, line 15, at end insert: 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'.

No. 68, in page 17, line 22, leave out 'the appropriate Agriculture Minister'.

No. 69, in page 17, line 24, after 'provisions', insert: 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'.

No. 70, in page 17, line 42, after 'provisions', insert: 'or by regulations under subsection (2) above'.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

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