HC Deb 19 July 1983 vol 46 cc164-5
7. Mr. Gould

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what efforts are being made to ensure that those found places under the youth training scheme go into factories that are registered under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Selwyn Gummer)

It is the responsibility of a person who occupies premises for use as a factory to notify the factory inspectorate in accordance with section 137 of the Factories Act. The Manpower Services Commission takes positive steps to remind employers providing places under the youth training scheme of their responsibilities under health and safety legislation.

Mr. Gould

Is it not true that many thousands of youngsters are being cynically put at risk by being put in workplaces where the health and safety standards have never been inspected, and indeed cannot be inspected because of cuts in the factory inspectorate? Is it not also true that the Manpower Services Commission now feels itself under so much political pressure to massage downwards the unemployment figures that it deliberately turns a blind eye to health and safety matters? When will the Secretary of State put an end to this scandalous situation, which has already cost lives and which will continue to cause anxiety to many thousands of families?

Mr. Gummer

There are many of us in the House who care deeply about health and safety and who find the imputations in that question disgraceful. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Manpower Services Commission is for trade unions as well as employers, and the suggestions that it would treat cynically young people in this way are so disgraceful that they are not worth answering.

Mr. Craigen

What does the Minister expect the managing agencies, who will be responsible for the placement of many of these youngsters, to do in respect of health and safety matters?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman is right to place the matter in that context, unlike his hon. Friend who disgraced the House by the way in which he spoke. I say that because some of us spend a lot of time caring for the health and safety of young people. It is because of what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) rightly says that we have sought to make sure that whenever we have a sponsor of this kind he is reminded that he must obey the law on health and safety. Sponsors do that in the same way as they do it for older workers.

Mr. Barry Jones

The Minister protests too much. Will he please answer my hon. Friend's question? Is his Department prepared to restore the cuts made in the factory inspectorate? Is it not true that the total budget of the Health and Safety Executive and its staff has been cut under this Government?

Mr. Gummer

No, that is not true. The resources available for health and safety represent an increase in real terms over the resources that were provided by the hon. Gentleman's Government, and he knows that. His summing up was not correct. I am perfectly happy to answer the hon. Gentleman's question when he puts it as he has. The resources have been increased.

Mr. Gould

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the House heard the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that that matter arises under questions.