HC Deb 02 December 1987 vol 123 cc996-1038 7.14 pm
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

I beg to move, That this House, noting that Government policies of deregulation and continual cutbacks in the Health and Safety Inspectorate have contributed to an increase in the death and major injury rate of workers in manufacturing and construction by more than a third over the last six years, and noting too that the Government 's persistent policy of putting profits before safety underlies recent civil disasters, and that the present collapse of health and safety provision under the weight of the growth of new hazards, ever fewer inspections and inadequate penalties threatens the lives of workers and public alike, calls upon the Government to reverse the 20 per cent. cut in the Health and Safety Inspectorate, to stop privatisation that puts health and safety at risk and to ensure that all employers provide adequate occupational health and safety services, and to provide funding that acknowledges that worker and user safety is a necessity and not a luxury that can be sacrificed. The King's Cross fire, the public inquiry into which has now opened, has focused the eyes of the nation on the dangerous cutback in health and safety provisions, that is steadily pushing up the rate of death and serious injury at work. It is already clear, whatever the precise cause of the fire, that the disaster would have been preventable if only essential and elementary safety precautions had not been neglected. It is clear that lessons learned from previous tube station fires have not been applied and staff have not been adequately trained. It is clear too that similar death-trap conditions, now revealed throughout the tube network, mean that such a disaster could have occurred just as readily elsewhere in the Underground system and could happen again at any time. What must cause most concern is that all of these warnings apply equally to much of the health and safety.

The King's Cross disaster, like the Zeebrugge disaster some months earlier, which was equally preventable, made headlines because many people were killed in a single, highly visible, national tragedy. Yet in the past year, 700 people have died at work—that is an average of two every day; 20,000 major accidents have occurred at work which have led to people being seriously disabled; there have been 70,000 cases of disabling occupational diseases; and over 500,000 minor but expensive and painful accidents have occurred at work. That annual carnage has gone almost unnoticed. It is seldom mentioned because it is fragmented, occurring all over the country, and it is regarded somehow as an inevitable consequence of work hazards. That view is wholly misplaced.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Would my hon. Friend agree that a great percentage of those accidents occur in the construction industry, which has the worst record of any industry? Ordinary workers, who go to work every day expecting to do a day's work and go home safe, are either killed or maimed. Is it not time that the Government did something to improve the factories inspectorate, instead of the other way around?

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend, to his great credit, is a persistent advocate of better conditions and greater safety in the construction industry. He is right that of the dangerous industries—construction, agriculture, chemicals and textiles in manufacturing—construction is the most dangerous and has the highest number of deaths. It is correct that construction sites in London have recently been the subject of a blitz by the chief inspector and many prohibitions have had to be imposed because of the failure to take elementary precautions at an unprecedented rate. My hon. Friend has made a strong point, and I hope that the Government will respond.

There is a view that somehow the roll call of death and serious injury is an inevitable consequence of work hazards, but it is not, because the factory inspectorate's surveys have shown repeatedly that seven out of eight fatal accidents could have been prevented, and two out of three deaths are blamed firmly on inadequate health and safety management. A few recent and, I fear, typical cases will illustrate those facts better than any statistics. I refer to two cases reported inSafety Managementmagazine last month: A fine of£1,500 was imposed on the Blue Circle Cement company after an accident in which a worker was killed by a fast-moving conveyor belt. The company admitted to a charge made under section 14(1) of the Factories Act, in that they had failed securely to guard the machinery. I refer to another case, which again is nothing exceptional: A … construction worker plunged to his death from an aerial dish when his employers failed to maintain a safe place of work. The company admitted the charge under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, and were fined £750 with £65 costs. I shall briefly quote three other wholly typical recent cases that show just how low the price of a life at work is now regarded. A 21-year-old was killed by fumes from fire in ICI's fertiliser plant at Teesside. The company was fined £2,000 earlier this year. An 18-year-old apprentice was killed when his clothing dragged him into an unguarded lathe. The company was fined £250. A 16-year-old was killed by fumes from the sludge that he was cleaning out of a tank. The company was fined £500. A labourer died in an unsupported trench when the sides caved in. In 1982, the company allowed another man to be killed in exactly the same way and was fined £1,150. The second death in the same circumstances earlier this year cost it just£5,000.

The Opposition have called the debate because the health and safety situation is fast deteriorating. Since 1981, the fatal and serious accident rate at work has reversed its long-term downward trend and has risen every year since, and it is still rising. In manufacturing, it is 35 per cent. higher than it was six years ago, and in construction it is more than 40 per cent. higher than it was six years ago.

What is responsible for the annually rising roll call of death and serious injury at work? Unquestionably, the prime responsibility lies with the Government's policies of deregulation and continual cuts in the health and safety inspectorate, which is now overstretched and understaffed and is suffering a major morale crisis.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)


Mr. Meacher

I shall finish this section of my remarks and then give way.

In 1979, the factory inspectorate numbered 742. It is now down to 602. That represents a cut of nearly 20 per cent. On average, registered workplaces now get a visit from a factory inspector once every 12 years. By comparison, before the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, the average was once every four years. Indeed, firms employing fewer than 25 persons are virtually left to their own devices, without any visits at all, even though small firms are notoriously recognised to be far more accident-prone.

In a radio broadcast this morning on the subject, the Secretary of State said that more resources are available and more visits are being made. He is wrong on both counts. Since 1981, the number of annual visits has dropped by over 10 per cent. The number of investigated incidents has dropped by 34 per cent. The number of notices served by the inspectorate has dropped by 13 per cent., yet the number of known infringements has risen by 11 per cent.

On resources, I can do no better than quote the words of one of the Secretary of State's own inspectors, who recently left. I shall quote from an interview in the Health and Safety at Workmagazine of February this year. She said: I did not leave because of the money I left because I was becoming more and more dissatisfied. We were given more work and more laws to enforce without the resources to do it. It meant that we could not provide the services to industry which it expected. We were constantly in demand and at the same time criticised by companies about our slowness in being able to react. Not a day went past without colleagues discussing, as a fairly major item, the state of things, the fact that they could not get things done. We were hearing about people who had applied for jobs elsewhere, people who were leaving. In the last couple of years the numbers who have left have been unprecedented… Before we had even got to investigate one particular bad accident, something worse had happened so we would have to go out and deal with that one. And the others started sliding. There was a number of accidents which I felt very strongly should have been investigated. One has the experience which tells that the accident was just the tip of the iceberg. And the next time you get a phone call from that factory it is because a much more serious accident has happened. The first time it might have been the tip of a woman's finger, the next time it is the hand that has been chopped off. That sort of pressure was causing people problems because they knew that if they could get to the workplaces soon enough they could prevent things getting worse. It is depressing, de-motivating and morale was falling. Those are the words of an inspector who left either at the end of last year or earlier this year.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

The hon. Gentleman spoke about resources. I thought that he would do so at some stage. In our earlier debate today, I made the point that in 1978–79 in real terms, at 1987–88 prices the last Labour Government spent £98.5 million on the Health and Safety Executive. This year, the amount has been increased to £102 million in real terms. Next year, it is to go up to £104.5 million in real terms. Therefore, how does he justify his claim that we have cut provision?

Mr. Meacher

Easily; by two considerations to which I shall draw attention more fully later, but I do not mind stating them now. First, large workplaces have often been fragmented, and there are now many more smaller workplaces that are more difficult to regulate and need more inspectors' time. Secondly, in the recent period, the Government passed a series of new regulations that require a substantial increase in the number of inspectors and inspectorial time to carry them out. I shall come to that matter. I persist in saying that there has not been an increase in resources, there has been a reduction. Otherwise, how does one explain the detailed statement that was made by the disillusioned inspector to whom I referred?

Mr. Fowler

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government are spending not less but more than the last Labour Government did?

Mr. Meacher

The Secretary of State must not avoid the key point. More resources are needed for the tasks at hand. If such tasks have enormously increased, the fact that the real terms sum has increased slightly is a wholly inadequate answer. The amount of resources has not increased, it has fallen.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Does my hon. Friend accept that resources are much thinner? On the Government's own figures, between 1979, the last year of the Labour Government and the current year, there has been a reduction in the general and specialist inspectorate of no fewer than 128 people. That represents a massive reduction, when the total has never exceeded 1,000 and the inspectorate is the backbone in carrying out the safety legislation that the House of Commons passes.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend has re-emphasised my point. Across the board, the number of inspectors has been reduced. It is nearly 20 per cent. below the 1979 level. Personnel on the ground are the ones who count.

Mr. McLoughlin

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not generalise so much. I refer him to British Coal's record. Coal mining is most certainly a dangerous industry. In 1978–79, the rate of fatalities per 100,000 man shifts was about 0.13. During the last year of the board's report, the figure was 0.05. The hon. Gentleman should not generalise, because there is no generalised picture. Regardless of how many inspectors leave, the individual looks after his own safety at the workplace.

Mr. Meacher

The number of inspectors is still a key point. I listened attentively to the hon. Gentleman's statistics, which are based on one way of regarding the accident rate. There are other ways of regarding that rate —some of us think they are more accurate—which do not reveal that pattern but which show that, if anything, matters have got slightly worse. However, I do not want to be sidetracked into discussing one industry, because every industry has problems.

The Government's response, which the Secretary of State will no doubt echo tonight, is that they propose to allocate a further £6.7 million to the health and safety inspectorate for next year. I must make it clear that, while we welcome any improvement, however modest, this is insufficient even to halt the present decline, let alone to contribute to restoring the 1979 position. The Health and Safety Commission sought £3 million for the current year; it was given £1 million. It sought £9 million for next year and it is to get £6.7 million.

It is the number of staff that really counts. As a result of the new money, the Health and Safety Commission now hopes to staff the whole inspectorate—which goes much wider than just the factories inspectorate —to a new ceiling of 3,620 next year. That will not even take staffing back to its level at the start of last year when the figure was 3,655. It will come nowhere near to returning staffing to its level in 1979, when the last Labour Government left it at 4,200.

Furthermore, the Government's £6.7 million does not take account of the extra resources needed to meet new commitments. When the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act was passed in 1974, it was agreed on both sides of the House that to cope with the new work that was foreseen—in hospitals, in promoting public safety and for the self-employed—it would be necessary to increase the number of staff in the inspectorate to 4,400. Since then, there have been two important developments, to which I have already referred.

First, we have many more small, fragmented workplaces which require more inspectors' time. Secondly, and perhaps even more important, the inspectorate has many new commitments which were not foreseen in 1974. As the Secretary of State must be aware, 28 new sets of health and safety regulations have been enacted since that date. The most important of them include the control of major industrial accident hazards, the road tanker regulations, the asbestos licensing regulations, the Food and Environment Protection Act and the gas safety regulations. Moreover, new technology continues to create every more complex and dangerous substances and processes, especially—

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Meacher

In a moment. The hazards arise especially from the nuclear industry and agricultural pesticides.

Without full protection, workers become industry's guinea pigs. Increasingly, the public, too, expect to be protected from dangers—from cowboy asbestos removers, construction site accidents, chemical plant explosions and hazardous fumes. It is obvious that the 3,620 staff —the ceiling that the Government seem proud to be reaching next year with their new money—falls far short of the level needed to fulfil the statutory duties on the Health and Safety Commission that Parliament deems necessary for the protection of our people.

Mr. Cash

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he might add to that list the Health and Safety Executive's regulations with regard to human genetic engineering, and that the proposal that the powers should be transferred from the Council of Ministers to the Commission must be resisted? Is he further aware that the Legionnaires' disease inquiry report, which came out this afternoon, shows the Government's strong commitment to ensuring that people are properly looked after in hospitals? Following the campaign of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), the right hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and me, the Government last year abolished Crown immunity. That is yet another example of the Government's commitment to the preservation of health and safety. The Government have a very good record in all these respects.

Mr. Meacher

The hon. Gentleman has succeeded only in compiling a longer list of the regulations that the Government have been happy to pass. However, rather like the Athenian democracy of old, they do not provide the resources to carry out the requirements. Such regulations become fairly worthless if one does not provide the necessary resources. Clearly, the Health and Safety Executive and the commission do not believe that they are getting the necessary resources.

The effects of the Government's cuts are both direct and indirect. The most direct effect is that the inspectorate now investigates fewer than 10 per cent. of reported accidents, whereas in the past all complaints were investigated. However, there is a more insidious effect. By back-door deregulation through continuous cuts in their own inspectorate, by shifting some of the responsibility to local authorities and insurance companies and by allowing more and more employers to self-regulate without health and safety inspections, the Government are signalling to industry that safety standards are being downgraded and that profitability now overrides health and safety. I am not saying that the Government are unconcerned about safety. I am saying that they are far too concerned about profits and their privatisation goals to let their concern about safety stand in their way. The same message is transmitted by the infrequent inspections, rare prosecutions and derisory penalties.

If the Government put such a low value on enforcing health and safety regulations, why should not employers do the same? The Government like to consider themselves a law and order Government. That is why they have built up the police force to investigate, deter and punish law breakers in the community. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Indeed. By the same token, the Government's indifference to investigating, deterring and punishing law breakers in respect of the health and safety regulations in industry is manifest in their building down of their health and safety inspectorate. If business men get that message, the Government alone are to blame. There is an unmistakeable link between apathy and the absence of properly policed laws.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

My hon. Friend talked about the transfer of responsibility to local government, and I have two points to make on that. First, responsibility for petroleum licensing has been transferred to the fire and civil defence authorities, as has the responsibility for regulations governing on-site and off-site plans for large industrial installations which have problems in relation to explosives and hazardous substances. Secondly, while transferring those responsibilities from the Health and Safety Executive to local government, the Government have rate-capped the very authorities that they have asked to provide resources to police the arrangements. If the Government do not lift their expenditure proposals for Greater Manchester by 1 January next year, some 90 uniformed staff, most of them involved in policing the arrangements, will be lost and there will be a freeze in recruitment.

Mr. Meacher

My hon. Friend speaks with great authority and knowledge about the fire service. He is right that by transferring responsibilities from the Health and Safety Executive to local authorities, while at the same time penalising and limiting those authorities' resources, the Government are engaging in a form of surreptitious deregulation with consequences to which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) will refer at greater length if he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

If industry sees Government persistently scrimping, and paring away their own inspectorate and continually stressing cost-cutting privatisations at the expense of standards, and if it sees a regulatory net that is now so loosely cast that the offending fish virtually have to volunteer to be caught, the tragic drip, drip of deaths, maimings and injuries will continue to grow, as it has for the past six years.

The Government are intending to expand their approach to health and safety still further. In the White Paper "Lifting Burdens", they said—it was repeated in another White Paper, "Building Businesses, Not Barriers;"—that they would raise the threshold for the requirement to prepare written safety policies from five employees to 20. At a stroke, that will exempt the majority of companies from the requirement to produce a company safety policy. Yet written policies and procedures are the essence of good health and safety management.

The Government, in particular the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, cannot seem to understand that they are starting from the wrong premise. Small firms do not consider health and safety inspections a burden. They do not want deregulation. They want more help, not less—after all, it is given free—to learn how to prevent and tackle uncontrolled hazards, accidents and health damage to their work force. Employers understand all too well the cost of occupational accidents and ill health—that cost represents anything from 2 per cent. to 15 per cent. of the wage bill, depending on a company's record.

If only the Government equally well understood the cost to the community. One hundred million working days are lost through occupationally induced sickness and ill health, at a cost of more than £4,000 million a year. Most of that cost is borne by the NHS and the taxpayer. Those figures are from the Government's own Health and Safety Executive estimates. Surely, against such a huge cost to employers and the community, such savings on health and safety inspections can be seen to be a massive false economy.

It is time to call a halt to the slide in health and safety standards. It is time to stop deregulation by the back door, whereby companies can flout the law without fear of detection. Indeed, even if companies are prosecuted—it is rare—last year the average fine was £475: a penalty that is so derisory that many regard it as a 'nod and a wink' to continue breaking the law.

It is time that the Government's leaders set an example What message is sent to industry when one of the Government's Whips, Lord Hesketh, was recently fined £850 for failing to protect his employees from cancer-causing arsenic in a timber treatment pesticide? That offence is similar to one for which an American director was recently gaoled.

It is no good the Secretary of State telling us, as I am sure he will—he did so this morning—that he is increasing funds for the health and safety inspectorate by £6.7 million when, at the same time, the Home Secretary is demanding a £24 million cut in fire brigade spending for next year. It is no good the Secretary of State telling us that health and safety resources are being used more efficiently when, at the same time, the London fire authority is receiving no block grant because its grant-related expenditure is too far below maximum expenditure levels.

I submit that a Government who cut any of the critical public services that I have mentioned in the interest of greater private profit are neglecting the fundamental duty of Government to protect their citizens. This morning the Secretary of State said that he did not want health and safety to become a party political issue. Nor do we. However, it will depend on whether Government policies reflects the fact that health and safety is not a residual, not a desirable to be paid for if there is some money left over, not a luxury to be sacrificed, but an absolute necessity. It is because Government policies do not reflect that — indeed, they reflect the reverse — that we are pressing this motion tonight.

7.43 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I beg to move, as an amendment to the motion, to leave out from "House" to end and add: noting the Government's policy for replacing outmoded legislation with a new regime which maintains or improves health and safety standards tailored to modern needs, recognises that the prime responsibility for the reduction of accidents to workers lies with the employers, employees and others at the workplace; acknowledges the regulatory and other work of the Health and Safety Commission; and welcomes the Government's support for the Health and Safety Commission's efforts in the field of health and safety at work and in the community.". I do not accept a number of things that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has said. I do not accept that the Health and Safety Commission is underfunded or has been underfunded. In fact, funding is higher in real terms than that provided by the previous Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman's inability to answer that point directly was clear to the House. I do not accept the death and accident figures that the hon. Gentleman has set out, nor do I accept his earlier assertions regarding occupation-related ill health. I do not accept that the only criteria for judging policy are resources, money, and the number of inspectors. That judgment leaves out the crucial responsibility that individual employers and employees must accept.

I believe that it is absurd to suggest that, in some way, the private sector has a worse record regarding health and safety than the public sector. There is absolutely no evidence to support that.

Mr. Meacher

I did not say that.

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but will he also concede that many private companies have an outstanding record of concern and success with regard to health and safety? I wish to set out what the Government are planning to spend, the number of new inspectors that we intend to appoint and touch on the latest figures, to be published later this month, on deaths and injuries.

At the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West, I welcomed the fact that he accepted that there is a degree of common ground. I believe that that should exist between the main parties regarding this issue. In the past there has always been a substantial element of common ground based on a genuine, shared concern and on a spirit of positive and constructive co-operation. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is an outstanding example of that common ground and co-operation. That legislation was drawn up and drafted by a Conservative Government and was put on to the statute book by an incoming Labour Government. So there has been a history of bi-partisan co-operation—and rightly so.

Health and safety is an issue of vast complexity, affecting so much of modern life. Work sites vary from factories to farms, offices to building sites, coal mines and nuclear power stations. As well as normal work site safety, the Government and the Health and Safety Commission have to consider the way dangerous goods are packaged and transported, ensure that staff are not subject to violence at work, and take account of a wide range of issues such as AIDS and genetic manipulation. As well as considering people at work, we also have to consider the public who might also be affected by industrial accidents. So the Government's task is to make sure that our health and safety arrangements are fitted to cope with the needs of a modern society and a changing and expanding economy.

The key to dealing with those changes is set out clearly in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. That places a duty, first and foremost, upon those at the work place — employers, the self-employed, employees and others. Against a background of so much change and complexity it is only they who can be sufficiently familiar with their working systems and on the spot, to identify when things are going wrong and put them right. That is a fundamental point that we must always remember whenever we talk about what the Government can, or inspectors should, do about health and safety. We can foster the right approach and inspectors can push, encourage and advise — but the foremost responsibility rests with those at the front line, working at the work place. They have to be helped, not only by inspectors, but by the full resources of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive in setting standard; assessing new substances and hazardous installations; giving medical advice; and advising on the practical steps needed to achieve better health and safety.

Clearly, the Government recognise the essential role of inspectors. I fully support their vigorous approach. Unfortunately, sometimes that is the only way to ensure that those in the front line carry out their responsibilities. Last year, factory and agricultural inspectors made more than 200,000 visits. In the course of those visits they issued some 4,300 enforcement notices, initiated over 2,000 prosecutions and set in train many thousands of improvements by means of written or verbal instructions.

But standards are not improved simply by picking off the worst. It is also important that the Health and Safety Executive carries out its advisory work as well. While it is unfortunately true that a small number of employers may take short cuts on health and safety, we should remember that when most employers transgress it is out of ignorance, not malice, and that it is much more effective to give advice than to have to pick up the pieces after an accident has occurred.

It is for this reason that great emphasis has been placed on the publication of guidance booklets. We have issued something like 4 million in the past 12 months, and one particular booklet to be published next spring will bring together a complete package of health and safety advice for small firms and for those setting up in business for the first time. Getting the message across is not easy and success reflects the close understanding that the Health and Safety Commission has of the needs and difficulties in industry. Health and safety, therefore, is not just a question of more money and more inspectors. It is also a question of giving advice and encouraging people to accept that advice.

The Government seek also to ensure that the commission has the resources that it needs to do its job. During a period when we have sought to improve efficiency and value for money in all parts of the public service, we have ensured that the commission's provision in real terms has always been as good as that made by the last Labour Administration. Indeed, for most of the period it has been better. We are also always receptive to any approach from the commission and during this year we have increased its resource provision; with Parliament's approval we shall do so again in the Winter Supplementary Estimates.

Next year, as the hon. Gentleman has conceded, total funding will increase by £6.7 million compared with the previous White Paper provision for 1988–89. This represents an increase of 6.7 per cent. on expected expenditure. The chairman of the commission has welcomed this increase and confirmed that it will enable the executive to increase the number of inspctors. Moreover, through their own internal arrangements to improve efficiency and effectiveness, the executive now gets considerably more value for money from its resources. For example, inspectors no longer make their calls on a simple periodic basis. Each workplace is now assessed and given a rating. This means that where there are real problems, or where there is potential for things to go badly wrong, as at chemical sites for example, there are more regular vistis than under the old regime.

Let me set out what has been achieved in recent years. First, and very important, in the area of ill health caused by occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals, the achievements of recent years have been very substantial. Illness due to exposure to materials such as lead is now virtually a thing of the past. Although people are still developing asbestos-related diseases, this is the grim heritage of past mistakes and previous lack of knowledge, whereas our standards now should mean that we are not storing up problems for the future. No one who visits our industries and goes out into our factories can help but notice the sophisticated exhaust systems, the enclosed cabinets and the automatic dispensing units, all of which keep workers protected from chemicals.

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Is he saying that, for example, asbestos strippers are subject to qualification and examination by the commission or is it the case that for £50 any cowboy can get a licence and set to work? Is it not true that people have recently been prosecuted because of their cowboy activities when dismantling power stations in Yorkshire?

Mr. Fowler

I will look at the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I think that he would concede my central point, which is that ill health caused by occupational exposure has been dramatically reduced rather than dramatically increased. These improvements have been reinforced by new regulations, for example on asbestos, lead, and ionising radiation. The forthcoming regulations on noise will make a huge difference to the quality of life for many people. And, perhaps most important, there are the proposed Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, which I look forward to receiving in the spring.

I believe that when people look back at this era, they will say that this decade has been, and is continuing to be, one of the great milestones in health and safety. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act was hugely important, but it was also an enabling Act, under which the original and continuing intention was to modernise, rationalise and improve the earlier regulations in health and safety. The hon. Member for Oldham, West is confusing deregulation with reform. He seems at times to prefer the old legislation, made piecemeal from the mid-19th century onwards, which the commission is steadily and vitally replacing by a new regime tailored to modern hazards and modern needs. In addition to those I have just mentioned, new regulations for major hazards, the notification of new substances and the safe transport and packaging of hazardous materials, cover subjects which were previously untouched.

In the area of major hazards, this country now has the most sophisticated controls in western Europe—in our regulations for notification, in the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations, and in our planning arrangements. At the same time we have been removing outdated and burdensome requirements. For instance, the 1987 Safety in Harbours Regulations replaced some 280 byelaws, which were often more appropriate to a bygone age and enormously complicated for vessels to comply with as they moved from port to port and found different requirements in each.

All new proposals are subject to cost-benefit analysis. The new legislation is better, more flexible and more responsive to industry's needs, and better reflects modern conditions. Nonetheless, standards have in all cases been strictly maintained and we are laying down a framework for health and safety which carry this country into the next century and which will match or better that of any other country in the world.

On the subject of fatal and serious accidents, I am now able to give the House the most up-to-date figures, which the commission will publish later this month. The total number of fatal accidents to all employees and the self-employed last year was 390, which is the lowest figure on record. With the possible exception of the Netherlands, our fatal accident rate is lower than that of any other member of the European Community, or any other leading country. Clearly I am concerned at the increase in injuries resulting from accidents recorded in the period to 1985, but again there are hopeful signs. The latest figures, to be published later this month, seem to indicate that these have now levelled off, and naturally our objective is to bring them down.

On the question of deaths caused by occupation-related ill health, there can be no comprehensive figures. We know of some of these deaths from a number of sources, but inevitably many go unreported. What I can say quite categorically, drawing on the expert opinion available, is that there has been a vast improvement over the years in this area and that this improvement continues. Also, many of the deaths which now occur reflect exposure to hazardous substances long ago.

I would like to refer briefly to the tragic events at King's Cross, to which the hon. Gentleman referred at the beginning of his speech. The Government have announced that they will be making a contribution of £250,000 to the King's Cross disaster fund in the hope that this will encourage others to join in helping the bereaved and those who suffered. This will in no way affect any claims for compensation. Immediately after the fire, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced a formal investigation under the Railways Act, and one of the team of four assessors will be Dr. Roberts of the Health and Safety Executive. The findings will be made public. I hope that the House will agree that it would be premature and unwise to speculate on the cause or the contributory factors before the formal investigation has completed its task and report. If there are found to be any shortcomings in safety practice or procedures, they will of course be pursued vigorously by London Regional Transport and the Government.

At this stage, however, I should remind the House that since 1984 the Government have approved substantial year-on-year increases in investment in the Underground, rising from £135 million in 1985.86 to £199 million this year. Investment will exceed £200 million next year and much of it is aimed at renewing and modernising the system and thereby enhancing safety. The renewal of lifts and escalators accounts for some £15 million a year and, in addition, specific expenditure of some £5 million annually is allocated for health and safety purposes such as fire prevention measures.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

The day before the tragic fire at King's Cross, a meeting which I and my colleagues from the Association of Metropolitan Authorities fire services committee were due to have was cancelled by the noble Lord the Earl of Caithness. We were to discuss the financing arrangements for the London fire brigade and others. Will the right hon. Gentleman help to rearrange that meeting, so that urgent consideration can be given to the fact that the London fire and civil defence authority will have to consider the loss of hundreds of uniformed staff which, against the background of the tragedy at King's Cross and the death of the fireman there, will be wholly unacceptable? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices with the Home Secretary to make sure that that meeting takes place as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Fowler

I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about that and I shall certainly undertake to pass on what he has said to the Home Office Minister concerned and see what can be arranged.

I have dealt with the past record but I entirely accept that no one should be remotely complacent about the health and safety position. The aim must be to improve the position further—to reduce deaths and injuries. Let me tell the House of four major objectives that we are pursuing.

First, the extra resources that are being made available will mean that the commission can recruit new staff. As compared with the present, it will have 40 more factory and agriculture inspectors in post next year — the maximum additional number that the executive can take in and train in one year. It will also be able to recruit additional numbers of other specialists and inspectors to carry out the other activities that I have outlined. Altogether, the executive will have 100 more staff next year than its present strength.

Secondly, inspectors will be concentrating more on targeted inspections and investigations. These will be focused where they are most needed—where the risk is high; where standards are poor; where management control is weak. In other words, we are seeking to prevent problems before they occur, rather than reacting to them.

Thirdly, we are adjusting the pattern of our inspections to accord with modern industrial conditions. Our inspectors will be concentrating next year particularly on small firms and construction. The factories inspectorate will enhance its programmes to identify new, small companies. The Government do, of course, expect the same levels of safety from small firms as they do from larger ones. Many small firms achieve high standards off their own bat, but others need the help and advice of the Executive.

Mr. Meacher

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, despite those improvements in working techniques, which I am sure are welcome, and the increases in the numbers that he has given, the 40 extra factory and agricultural inspectors next year compares with a cut since 1979 of more than 140? Does he further agree that the increase in the overall inspectorate of 100 compares with a cut since 1979 of about 600?

Mr. Fowler

There has certainly been, as I said this morning, a reduction in the number of inspectors, but at the same time the ratio of the number of inspectors per thousand employers has not only remained stable during the period of this Government but has shown an improvement on some of the periods in the 1970s.

Special attention will also be given to construction; indeed, about one fifth of the factories inspectorate will concentrate full time on construction. The series of blitzes, in which inspectors work in teams from street to street, concentrating at different times upon different parts of the country, will continue. That will be backed up with publicity with the aim of getting the message across, to employers and employees alike, that they have to put safety right in their industry.

We shall, with the HSC, be keeping a careful watch and consultation is planned for new regulations to provide for better coordination between contractors; to require more safety officers on site; and to require more construction work to be notified to the executive. In addition, we intend to introduce regulations, for which a consultative document has been issued, which will require safety helmets to be worn by law.

Fourthly, the nuclear installations inspectorate is also being strengthened. Nuclear safety policy is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, but it is from my Department that nuclear inspectors are funded, as part of the Health and Safety Executive. To encourage recruitment, we have substantially increased the salaries on offer, which has led to a very successful recruitment campaign. This will give the commission a record 120 nuclear inspectors, which is what they asked for, and of the quality that they want.

Health and safety is a vital matter; clearly, on that I share the concern of the hon. Member for Oldham, West. It is something that should concern all of us day in, day out, week after week, year after year. It is an area where genuine co-operation is needed between Government and industry. The record has been good. We have sustained the Health and Safety Executive by ensuring that it was properly funded and by making it more efficient and more effective. We have gone out and put over the message that health and safety is vital and that we can offer employers advice on good practice and methods of protection.

However, we do not believe that inspectors and inspections alone can improve health and safety. Health and safety can be improved only by a framework of good law and the recognition that safety in the workplace is the direct responsibility of individual employers and employees. It is the responsibility of everyone in this country, and our aim must be to improve the position still further.

8.6 pm

Mr. Terry Fields (Liverpool, Broadgreen)

The measures and increases that the Secretary of State has talked about, minimal though they be, are indeed welcome. But putting legislation on the statute book is one thing; implementing it is another. It is a condemnation of society in general that it takes a tragedy such as the King's Cross fire before we can debate such serious matters in the Chamber.

We need to remind the House that over the years the introduction of fire safety regulations has been in response to particularly serious fires which have usually resulted in large loss of life. The Factories Act 1961 resulted from a fire in a factory in Keighley in Yorkshire in 1956 when eight deaths occurred. The Office, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 was the result of a fire at Henderson's store in Liverpool in 1960, when 11 deaths occurred. The Licensing Act 1964 resulted from a fire at the Top Storey club in Bolton in 1961, when 19 deaths occurred.

As a result of the report of the Holroyd committee in 1970 and the increasing number of serious hotel fires, the Fire Precautions Act 1971 was introduced. As a result of the Ibrox Park tragedy in 1972, when 66 football supporters lost their lives, the Safety at Sports Grounds Act 1975 was introduced. Perhaps legislation will follow from the King's Cross tragedy.

Why do we need tragedies and the loss of life before Governments of all complexions act on behalf of the general public? For my union, the Fire Brigades Union, it was indefensible that the Government had to wait for a tragedy such as that witnessed in Bradford before introducing legislation to cover all places of public assembly.

Tonight's debate takes place in the shadow of the tragedy at King's Cross. It precedes the King's Cross inquiry and is set against the background, to which my hon. Friends have referred, of cuts in the fire service, which will affect the ability of fire prevention officers and departments adequately to look after the health and safety not only of firemen but of members of the general public, under the various pieces of legislation to which I have just referred. The inquiry will take place against a background of the Government's continuing to attack the fire service through their intention further to reduce expenditure, which will affect standards of fire cover and fire prevention departments that already cannot cope with the requirements of public safety.

The nature of the tragedies and the inadequacy of some of the legislation was brought home by a fire in Sheffield in 1984. The fire in Brightside lane burned for six days and involved 630 fire fighters. It practically destroyed a massive warehouse, causing £20 million worth of damage. In February, the Health and Safety Executive said that no prosecution would be brought in connection with the Brightside fire in Sheffield, even though many individuals, as well as the fire authority, were open to criticism for it. The executive reported that, as far as individuals were concerned, it had only been a normal fire fighting incident, and no extra inquiry was required. It took the vigilance of a member of my union — Terry Smith, the branch secretary of the FBU—to report that more than 100 fire fighters were suffering from ill effects, 60 of whom were still suffering six weeks after the fire.

Pressures from press publicity, and not from the Health and Safety Executive — it was stretched anyway — and pressure from the Fire Brigades Union moved the then Minister with responsibility for such matters, the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), to ask the Health and Safety Executive to carry out a full investigation. It found gaps in the abilities of the inspectors to look after their own premises. The executive found that the warehouse had not been visited since 1980, four years before the accident. It found that the fire brigade that had the responsibility under the Fire Services Act 1947 to obtain necessary information about the building for fire-fighting purposes had visited it only six years before the incident took place.

There is much to be criticised in the back-up that is necessary after incidents of this kind, particularly in relation to the effects on firemen and the monitoring of the fire's ill effects. It was found that large quantities of asbestos released by the fire had not been deposited because the day was snowy and damp, but that, if the day had been dry, asbestos fibres would have been in the air. The men went in without breathing apparatus—despite the fact that it was available.

Asbestos has already been mentioned. Nobody knows what levels of the chemical are safe. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), then Minister with responsibility for health and safety, said in 1983: We must therefore assume that a single fibre of asbestos could do real damage which may not be seen for about 20 years or more. That is the prospect for so many who work in the building industry, the construction industry and the fire service.

On top of the inadequacies in the Health and Safety Executive's attempts to look after the interests of the general public and workers, there is now a review of the Fire Precautions Act 1971. My union, along with many other organisations, is distinctly worried about the present moves of the Government. They are intent on lifting the burden of fire prevention — as they see it — from industry. That will lead to increased losses from fire, and more damage and deaths. A document sets out the proposals, which have been designed in such a way as to provide a new method of fire prevention, using the self-regulation process, aided by flexibility on the part of fire authorities in monitoring standards. There have been examples of flexibility in the construction industry. The Health and Safety Executive has shown that, when profitability in the construction industry is set against self-regulation, there is unfortunately no contest. Profitability will always win the battle.

There is talk in the fire brigades of privatising certain sections—including fire prevention—which will mean a deterioration in the service. Her Majesty's inspectorate should have a complement of between 12 and 13 inspectors, but it lacks five of those. Instead of carrying out their traditional role of examining the efficiency of individual services, the inspectors who are doing investigations around the country are carrying out exercises at the Government's behest to discover how to cut jobs in the fire service. That culminated a short time ago in Wales, where, because of a threat of industrial action, a local authority sacked the whole fire service in south Wales. That is what the Government's cost cutting is about. My union—the Fire Brigades Union—will not co-operate with inspectors who try to cut jobs in the fire service.

On Friday last, the nation mourned. I am not ashamed to say that I cried, too, when I saw my comrades in uniform on the streets of London at the funeral of that brave fireman. We mourned then, but today we have from the Government a report that 800 jobs are due to go in the same London fire service that we applauded for its courage and heroism last Friday. In west Yorkshire, south Yorkshire, the west Midlands and on Merseyside, fire brigade jobs will go. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 firemen's jobs will be lost.

The lesson for firemen is that no section of society is immune from the economics of this Tory Government and the cuts that flow from their policies. The devastating effects of the cuts in the fire service will be seen increasingly — God forbid — in more King's Cross-type tragedies, deaths and sufferings. It is intolerable that fire prevention and health and safety should be treated in that way.

I turn now to cuts that have been made in health and safety provision to protect our young people in schemes, such as the YTS, that the Government have set up. In the five years between 1980 and 1985, 28 young people died—about six a year—on the Government's schemes. One thousand suffered major injuries while working on Manpower Services Commission training programmes. The scandalous aspect was that the Government removed the requirement from employers to notify their local careers offices of when a young person became employed, because it was said that that was too burdensome. The inevitable result was that young people were injured, maimed and killed on some of the Manpower Services Commission's schemes.

The latest figures that I have for YTS — as of 15 September — show that since the YOP schemes which the Labour Government unfortunately brought in as a stop gap — [Laughter.] Conservative Members can laugh, but we are talking about the death of young people, which is a serious matter. They should behave themselves.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)


Mr. Fields

Sit down.

Forty young people have died — nine of them in 1986–87. One thousand, four hundred and eighty-seven have had major injuries, and 14,312 have sustained minor injuries. The figures show that it is 30 per cent. more dangerous to work on a YTS scheme than to work in industry—yet the jobs are in much less dangerous areas of industry, including the service industries.

Manpower Services Commission reports show that the problem of trainee supervision and control might lie at the root of some of the serious problems. Under the YTS, the Manpower Services Commission has abrogated its direct responsibility for the health and safety of young trainees in favour of the 5,700 management agencies. But Conservative Members laugh at the problems facing young people, at their deaths and at the horror experienced by their families.

The Manpower Services Commission has only one co-ordinator in each area office. Their responsibilities only partly include health and safety, and they are retired factory inspectors who are employed on part-time consultancy contracts. By effectively privatising control of health and safety in the hands of the managing agents, the Manpower Services Commission has no idea of how, or even whether, agreed changes in training schedules are being implemented in the thousands of sponsors' workplaces in which trainees receive job training and work experience. The Health and Safety Executive has admitted that it is unable to keep in step with inspections because of a lack of resources to cover the thousands of new work places that have taken on trainees.

The fall of 20 per cent. in the number of HSE inspectors between 1980 and 1986 has occurred because they have moved from comprehensive workplace inspections to "selected basis inspections" based on computerised inspection rating systems. Nowadays, the computers say where an inspector should pay a visit. In 1985–86, only establishments that were "highly rated" in terms of "potential risk", those that employed more than 250 people and that had not been visited since 1980, were inspected. That is the level of care in our society.

In 1985, in his new year message, Dr. John Cullen, the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said: If 1985 follows the pattern of previous years then some 500 people starting back to work this January will die as a result of accidents at work before the next New Year celebrations. The pressure of today's economic climate must not prevail over the essential needs of safety. The philosophy of the Government prevails over the safety of ordinary people. The Prime Minister is on record as saying that it is her intention to rid Britain of Socialism. For "Socialism" substitute health and safety at work, the National Health Service, the welfare of the people, state education and the protection of old-age pensioners, because that is the Socialism that the Tory party wants to get shot of.

I mean no disrespect to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but you know that each day the Chaplain comes into the Chamber and prays for five minutes. The worthies on the Government Benches pray with him for divine intervention. After five minutes the Chaplain leaves the Chamber and the Government go about the business of attacking the living standards and the health and safety of our working people. What religion do the Conservatives follow and to what god do they pray? Perhaps during the five minutes in the Chamber the incantation should be, "For those whom we are about to deceive let the Lord make us truly thankful."

The system that the Tories support is built on exploitation and profit. The unpaid labour of workers is the wealth creamed off by the big business interests that the Conservatives represent. One cannot hope that the wealth creators, the wage earners, working people, will be treated any better than plant and machinery or a commodity that is bought and sold. Things are bad now, but in the inevitable slump that will follow the crash in the world's stock markets the problems facing us all will increase the health and safety will be even further disregarded in the pursuit of profit.

By their policies since their election in 1979, the Government have shown a callous disregard for the dignity of working people. Inevitably the number of accidents and deaths will increase. Public relations exercises, such as the Prime Minister dressed in black or the Minister for Health visiting hospitals, are seen by ordinary people for what they are — a return to the scenes of the crimes. Increasingly, working people see them as a cynical self-publicising exercise. Despite the Prime Minister's claim that she will rid Britain of Socialism, workers will realise, from their own experience in the past eight years and from the period ahead that will be difficult for working people, that the general conditions of life—including health and safety—cannot be maintained, let alone improved, in this system. As members of the Labour party, we must say consistently that only through the Socialist transformation of society will working people be afforded the dignity that they deserve and that we demand.

8.24 pm
Mr. John Ward (Poole)

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) would not expect me to follow his line of argument. I certainly promise that I shall not be nearly as tasteless or, I hope, as controversial as the hon. Gentleman. In common with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, I believe that health and safety should have a bipartisan approach. I shall concentrate on one very important aspect of safety, safety in the home. I realise that my right hon. Friend's Department does not have direct responsibility for this, but he will know that some of us are concerned about the rate of progress in clearing up the anomalies in the regulations that cover inflammable goods in the household and children's toys.

I understand that at present lounge suites are controlled by safety regulations but that beds and mattresses are not. Girl's nightdresses must be fire resistant, but boy's pyjamas need carry only a warning. Dressing gowns must be fire resistant — unless they are made of terry towelling. Such items as oven gloves and ironing board covers are not covered by regulations, although they represent one of the worst fire hazards in the home. Children's toys must be safe in respect of sharp edges and toxic materials, but they can still be a high fire risk.

I know that the Consumer Protection Act 1971 imposes a general duty to trade only in safe goods, but in the area of household goods and toys more detail is required. I am also aware that the Minister with responsibility for Consumer Affairs has issued a draft code of practice about upholstered furniture. I welcome the fact that that code is to be mandatory rather than voluntary.

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Gentleman talks about the code of practice. I ask him to join his hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) and me later this evening and sign an early-day motion that is critical of the fact that, during its implementation, the code of practice will allow for a three-year period for the sale of highly inflammable and toxic substances. If certain articles catch fire, then after two and a half minutes one is unlikely to get out of the property; in three minutes one will not get out, and in four minutes one will be dead. That is the reality of the changes that the Minister is attempting to introduce. They are changes, but not basic changes in the safety requirements relating to these inflammable and toxic substances. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in the subject, he should sign the early-day motion and force the Minister to impose an absolute ban on these disastrous materials that are killing 300 people a year.

Mr. Ward

I note what the hon. Gentleman says and I congratulate him on making his third speech today in the Chamber.

The Institute of Trading Standards Administrators has commented on the proposed code and I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to the experts in this area. Among its comments, the ITSA has suggested a tightening of the code where it covers combinations of fillings. It surely makes sense for the Government to take this opportunity to outlaw some of the more dangerous combinations of materials that are used in household goods.

I should also like the Minister to look again at his proposals for labelling. If they are to be of value, labels must be clear and unambiguous to the consumer, who will not generally be an expert on this subject. I suggest that some of the labelling requirements do not meet the criteria of being clear and simple. If they were clear and simple, it would help not only the consumer but the producer and the trading standards officers who would have the job of enforcement.

I spoke earlier about the anomalies in the fire-resistant requirements for children's clothing and toys. I fully appreciate that we can never attain 100 per cent. compliance with fire regulations in this area. The unknowing relative who makes clothes or toys from unsuitable materials is one obvious example of our difficulty.

However, we can and we should protect the public from the supplier who produces or imports goods that are a potential hazard. I have no hesitation in saying that, if this results in some small increase in the price of the articles, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind and protection from the misery of a household fire involving children. Will the Minister consider the problems with regard to the second-hand goods market? It is much more difficult to impose reasonable safety standards, but it is an important sector and it needs further study.

I am indebted to Mr. Peter Cobb, the county trading standards officer for Dorset, for the work that he and his colleagues have done and are doing in this regard. They are our watchdogs and they do a very good job. The video that he showed me of furniture, toys and clothing burning under controlled conditions convinced me that we have a long way to go in protecting the public from the introduction of unnecessary and potentially lethal hazards in their homes.

Last year in Dorset 12 people were killed by fire, and that pattern was repeated throughout the country. Some 700 people were killed and 8,000 were seriously injured in domestic fires in the United Kingdom. That happens almost every year. As recent events have sadly demonstrated, a normal, everyday situation can quickly develop into a fire-induced disaster.

I ask the Minister to err on the side of safety when making decisions on the fire regulations affecting household goods, clothing and toys. Our constituents would expect nothing else of us, and it would be typical of the Government's steady progress in this important sector of safety for the consumer.

8.31 pm
Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

The debate opened with the tragic events at King's Cross — events that should never have been allowed to happen; on that the House is agreed. The inquiry into the disaster has opened today with a call for it to be conducted in a constructive spirit I applaud that, and I am sure that the House will join me in so doing.

The Secretary of State is right to say that we must work together to increase health and safety at home, at work. in the environment and in public places. Nothing will be gained from prejudicing the coroner at the inquiry or laying blame before we are certain of the facts. It must be said that the limited facts that have already become public knowledge—stations littered with rubbish and other fire hazards—are causing grave concern, not least since the first escalator fire was in 1985, and since then there have been three more.

Just as there is an obligation to conduct the inquiry constructively, so there is an obligation on London Regional Transport and the Government to respond to the eventual report frankly and fully and to implement all its recommendations, whatever they may be. I hope that the Minister will make that commitment, not only with regard to London Regional Transport but with regard to the report's implications for other matters. It is an obligation to the memory of the 31 people who so tragically died, to their families and friends and to millions of others who use the Underground system.

The motion raises an issue that does not only affect those who travel on the Underground; it impinges also on the safety of millions across the country — young and old, and those working in the countryside as well as those working in cities and factories.

Representing a rural constituency that is largely dependent on small businesses, agricultural work and so on, I am especially aware of the dangers that can lie in apparently idyllic countryside. For example, someone working in a manufacturing firm that employs fewer than 100 people runs a higher risk — perhaps 50 per cent. higher — of suffering a serious accident than someone working in a larger firm. Most people in Cornwall work in such environments, as do most people outside the major cities. There were 12,068 major injuries to employees in all industries, excluding agriculture, forestry and fishing and mining and quarrying, which is an increase of 17.9 per cent. on 1984. Fatalities increased by 13.4 per cent. The statistics show that the greatest risks lie precisely in those small firms. They are difficult to police and, sadly, are under-inspected by the inspectorate's overstretched work force.

The Government place great emphasis on cost-cutting and efficiency. The factories inspctorate has consistently argued that companies cut costs in the vital sector of training line managers to oversee shop floor health and safety. They increase the ignorance that the Secretary of State referred to as the most serious cause of accidents at work. As numbers increase, we find that ignorance is the greatest problem.

As the threat of unemployment has increased, as more people are in fear of losing their jobs, so employees have become reluctant to complain about the conditions in which they work, and point out the dangers that they face. That has increased as employees have become more afraid of the risk of losing their employment.

The reality of the matter is that the cut in the inspectorate of 20 per cent. in recent years has increasingly resulted in it being unable to fulfil its role. On average, it has been unable to visit workplaces more than once every 12 years. Small firms are practically ignored in those inspections.

Mr. Eves, who is Chief Inspector of Factories, said that he would like an extra 60 or 80 inspectors to ensure that the present work load was adequately done. Others have suggested that as many as 600 more would be more appropriate. I can offer no more than a muted welcome to the Minister's statement that the inspectorate will increase by 40 within the limits of its training facilities, especially as there has been a cut of 140 since 1979.

I hope that the Minister will make a commitment, at the very least, to increasing the facilities to train people. If there is a natural block, let us overcome it and ensure that it is not holding back the inspectorate. Mr. Eves said that a substantial number of smaller firms have little regard for their work force as human beings. I welcome the Secretary of State's intention to concentrate the inspectorate more on smaller firms, but that will need many more inspectors, which is why I would seek to increase training opportunities.

The responsibility for safety does not lie primarily with the employer but with the Government. However, the cost should not lie with the Government. The employer should be obliged to take these measures. A good employer will take these measures anyway, but the bad employer is the responsibility of the Government. The Government must lay down the rules within which those bad employers work. The Government must ensure that they are properly enforced.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

The hon. Gentleman says that the Government should police these safety measures. There are over 20 million people in employment in Britain. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that those people do not look after their own safety and comply with the regulations that are laid down by Government?

Mr. Taylor

Regrettably, there are not 20 million employers, but the Government must lay down the rules within which those companies work; in so doing it is the Government's responsibility to ensure that the rules are followed, and to do that we need an inspectorate that is adequate for the task.

I draw particular attention to the special needs of young people, of whom we heard a little earlier. That group is more at risk than any other in the work force, because they lack experience and training. They are often the ones who are likely to be in an industrial accident. In 1986, a TUC report announced 26 deaths on youth schemes — the youth opportunity programme and the youth training scheme. Since that report, there have been an additional seven deaths. Further, there have been maimings, which are so unnecessary and tragic; they remain a national disgrace.

A major injury is defined as a major fracture of a bone, amputation, loss of sight or 24-hour hospitalisation. In 1985–86 that figure reached an all-time high of 220 young people on YTS. Since then, the number has increased and now totals 355 since July 1986. Nationally, the level of injuries in industry stands at 60 per 100,000 members of the work force. On YTS, the figure works out at 82 per 100,000. The figure on YTS is one third higher than the figure for injuries in other industries.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Do you not understand that you cannot compare figures prior to 1 April 1986 with figures after that date, because the regulations changed on 1 April? Therefore, injuries that were previously classified as minor were classified as major after then. To compare major accidents prior to that date, as you did—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I must draw the attention of hon. Members to the fact that they must speak in a formal manner through the Chair. This is a very informal Chamber, but our informality is a little excessive this evening.

Mr. Taylor

I repeat, since July 1986, 355 young people have suffered a major bone fracture, amputation, loss of sight or 24-hour hospitalisation. There is no excuse for that, and there should be no difference between the parties on that point. We should all be worried about that and resources should be devoted to tackling the problem.

The parents of one YTS trainee who died tragically received only £52 in compensation, and six other parents received just £78, according to a Youth Aid response to the MSC report last year. That is criminal. I do not believe that any hon. Member believes that that level of compensation should be accepted. Therefore, the fact that the MSC is taking the issue more seriously is to be welcomed. The recognition of trainees under health and safety legislation should be welcomed. However, there must be financial back-up for the inspectorate to ensure that action is taken in every case.

It is difficult in that context for the health and safety inspectorate to be really effective. In 1985–86, 198 work experience placements were reported closed on safety grounds, and 200 were not allowed to take part in the scheme. At that time, the 398 excluded workplaces represented just 0.25 per cent. of the total. Since then, 171 have been closed and 44 have been refused. The moves that the MSC has been making recently are to be welcomed particularly its new staff training initiatives, packages for YTS supervisors and the health and safety information packs. Sadly, the initiatives were too late for the 35 young people who died under the scheme. That is why strenuous efforts must be made to prevent more deaths and tragic injuries.

I do not yet have the confidence to say that more such injuries will not happen. I do not even have the confidence to claim that the level of danger to the YTS trainees will be reduced to the equivalent level of danger for others in industry. It is now widely accepted that accidents occur as a result of lack of training and lack of supervision. It is vital with any youth training scheme — because those trainees are more vulnerable to accidents—that qualified staff inspect every workplace to be used by trainees and keep inspecting them to ensure that standards are maintained.

The Secretary of State also referred to nuclear power stations. In a recent article in The House Magazine, the Secretary of State for Energy said: I know that some people ask whether nuclear power stations will be safe in the private sector. But one lesson we have all surely learnt from Chernobyl is that safety is not determined by who owns a power station. Frankly, that hardly inspires confidence in the privatisation of the nuclear industry. No matter who owns the industry, the force of law and inspection should ensure that there are no dangers which can be avoided. In that case, the resources are not present to keep pace with the need.

We are all worried that in a privatised industry, if a report is made that a reactor may be less safe than was thought, the industrialist running the industry will want to continue to run that reactor to save the pennies and profits, when that reactor should really be closed down and inspected. That is not just a Liberal party concern. In a recent BBC poll, 70 per cent. of people said that they were concerned about the privatisation and public safety of the nuclear industry. No privatisation should take place without the proper safeguards. However, that should not simply apply to privatisation. No industry should operate without such safeguards. No industry should be free to endanger the employees or people living nearby.

Nuclear installations inspectorate trainees must train for three years before they are professionally qualified to have a nuclear power station under their control. That means that, if electricity privatisation is introduced during the lifetime of this Government, the build-up of qualified staff must start now. We have one third of the number of inspectors in West Germany. In February 1987, the Select Committee on Energy reported that at least seven of the present inspectors are being retained beyond the normal retirement age and that three more senior staff are due to retire this year. If we put that into the context of the fact that there are only 102 people employed, it becomes a truly frightening statistic. There were six new appointments in 1984, five in 1985 and six in 1986. The Select Committee on Energy described that situation as a "folly" which must be urgently rectified.

A summary produced by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations published in June 1987 regretted the increase of inspectors by only 20 to 120. John Horlock, the committee chairman, said that at least 50 more were needed. He said: 50 per cent. is the kind of increase the Government should be thinking about.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that, in addition to the inspectorate that he described, the nuclear industry is subject to the Health and Safety Executive inspectorate and the National Radiological Protection Board inspectorate?

Mr. Taylor

If the fears of the general public are not enough for the hon. Gentleman, surely he must consider the fears of the Select Committee on Energy and the fears of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations.

I have been speaking for some time now, and I want to make a final point about agricultural safety. This is an aspect of particular concern in my constituency. The agricultural inspectorate currently has a staff of 154. In response to a recent parliamentary question from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), the Minister admitted: On 1 April 1979 there were 189 inspectors in Her Majesty's Agricultural Inspectorate. On 1 October 1987 the total was 154, of whom 142 were in the field. The Minister's excuse for that was: In order to contain public sector manpower and spending, there have been staff reductions in the Health and Safety Executive, as in the Civil Service as a whole. In HSE this has been accompanied by improvements in efficiency with the use of sound financial management, strategic planning and careful targeting." — [Official Report, 6 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 937.] In agriculture above all, the dangers to the individual who usually works alone, often many fields from the nearest road, are especially high. The machinery is not governed with the stringency applied to machinery in factories. It is horrifying to consider that, as yet, there is no legislation to enforce safety mechanisms to be automatically included with agricultural machinery. Were that legislation to be introduced, there would have to be an adequate inspectorate to implement it and to increase education and training.

People working with agricultural machinery need more than an inspector calling round every few months. There must be immediate safety mechanisms. Truro school in my constituency has developed such a device, which could cut by half the number of people killed or maimed in farm accidents. It has developed a unique system that will switch off tractors and machinery called "Deadstop". It has received an award from BP and fired the interests of machinery manufacturers. However, it has received precious little response from the Government. It consists of touch-sensitive fibreglass pads fitted to easily reached points around the outside of a tractor or piece of agricultural machinery. Each pad is linked to the fuel pump and one touch will switch off the engine and set off a warning for help.

If anyone had seen, as I have seen, a plastic dummy caught up in a baling machine, they would understand the full horror of what could happen to a farm labourer or farmer who cannot reach out to stop the machine because his clothing is caught, who is working alone and has no hope of rescue. The system that I have described works and, at the very least, the Government should look urgently at legislation to enforce similar equipment that could save lives, if not that very equipment. Such devices should have been introduced 50 years ago.

It is appalling that there is still loss of life, when adequate research or support for initiatives such as I have described and the legislation necessary to ensure that they are used could be introduced. Such mechanisms have long been compulsory in industry, but not in agriculture.

The motion refers to funding for safety. The Government do not need to supply the funding to put that machinery in place, because that is the responsibility of the manufacturer and the employer. The Government and the Secretary of State are right about that. However, rules need to exist in agriculture, as in any other industry and so does the inspectorate to enforce them. That is what the Liberal party is calling for, and what I hope the House will call for.

8.50 pm
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

There has been much comment from Opposition Members this evening, which seems to fall into the trap that has so often bedevilled their efforts to improve working conditions— the belief that legislation and regulations will cure everything. There has been the failure to recognise that it is far more important to change people's attitudes. One cannot change attitudes by legislation or regulations.

As important as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is—I pay tribute, as did my right hon. Friend, to the fact that it was essentially a bipartisan piece of legislation — it cannot, on its own, create safety in the workplace because it must be accompanied by a change in attitude on the part of employer and employee. Employees must be much more aware of their responsibilities and obligations to their fellow workers. Of course, at the same time, employers must know and understand their legal and moral obligations. They must recognise the cost of not complying with safety regulations.

I do not mean the cost of a fine imposed by a court. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) reeled off all sorts of statistics on that subject. I mean the cost in down time, in lost work, of sick pay and of loss of reputation as an employer. That is important for employers who are hauled before the courts because of safety breaches. All those things have a cost when an accident occurs and, on the whole, employers increasingly understand that.

We have gone a long way and there are now all manner of regulations. I believe that the hon. Member for Oldham. West mentioned that there have been 28 since the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act came into force. In reply to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor), I should say that a large number have been related to agriculture. There have been regulations about guards on machinery, protective clothing and ventilators, among other things. They all help, but one cannot legislate to stop the reckless or the ignorant from hurting themselves or others. That is why we must concentrate much more on individual attitudes and approaches to safety.

I should like to concentrate on the most important aspect, which is at the beginning of it all. I was pleased that the subject of the youth training scheme was raised by the hon. Member for Truro and by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields), who, I am sorry to note, has left the Chamber, having poured vitriol on virtually everything. I believe strongly, and hope, that YTS will become the normal route of entry into work for people leaving school at 16. It is right that that should be so. However, if that is to happen, we must look properly at the role of safety awareness in YTS.

Hon. Members have bandied about all sorts of accusations that are based on hearsay rather than on actual experience of what is happening in YTS. The two hon. Members who quoted figures had to band together the youth opportunities programme with the youth training scheme to get a figure of any sensational proportions. However, YOPS was totally dissimilar to YTS. The only similarity was that it applied to the same age group. There was no other similarity between the youth training scheme, which has a proper programme of training, and the YOP scheme, which was very much an in-fill way of keeping people off the dole. That is why the Government replaced it as soon as possible.

When a managing agent wishes to run a youth training scheme, he must submit a proposal to the Manpower Services Commission, in which he must make a statement of his proposals, saying what he will do for induction training. The induction programme must lay down the major aspects of training in safety and in first aid, which should always run alongside any safety training. Every work provider's premises must be inspected to ensure not only that there is safety equipment but safe practices that comply with all the legislation and regulations applying to such a place of work. I know of many would-be work providers who have been turned down at that stage because they did not comply or did not wish to comply.

All training providers, be it the managing agent or some other outside training contractor, such as a college of further education, or any private provider, must ensure not only that the premises have been inspected for safety, but that the training programme places sufficient emphasis on safety throughout the training period. Although many people, for all sorts of reasons, wish the youth training scheme to falter and fall, the reality is that it is not doing so. All the safety regulations are checked regularly by the Manpower Services Commission.

The House will be aware that, during the past 18 months, every managing agent has had to be monitored to gain approved training organisation status. Such monitoring takes place over a three-month period. It is not a "here today, gone tomorrow" visit. The three-month monitoring programme seeks to ensure that managing agents comply with and fulfil the proposals that they set out when they were granted the scheme. Between January and March this year, as a member of an area manpower board, I saw dozens of reports from the MSC about a range of managing agents. Those reports placed great emphasis on safety throughout the scheme. The members of the board did the same when they discussed the reports.

That process is important and several managing agents were given only provisional status because there were safety problems. They must now upgrade to full training organisation status by next April if they are to continue running youth training schemes. Some have probably done so already. I know one managing agent whom the board rejected for several reasons. Sadly, when he appealed to the main MSC board, the appeal was upheld. I know a great deal about that case and I am sorry about the decision, because I think it was a serious mistake.

The matter does not stop there. For the past six months, managing agents have been inspected and monitored by the MSC's training standards advisory service. That is another step forward. It ensures that the quality of training provided by managing agents fulfils the targets and aims of the YTS. Again, close checks are made to ensure that safety is given its rightful emphasis.

This evening we have heard about alleged cuts in resources. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State refuted that completely and gave the up-to-date figures for expenditure. He did not include the figure which the MSC is spending on health and safety. In addition to the Health and Safety Executive's money, the MSC is spending some £4 million on health and safety in YTS alone. That is important.

The best way to begin to ensure that we move towards a well-trained, safety-conscious work force is to inculcate the safety ethos into fledgling workers. I do not want others to learn about safety as I did. I had worked for three weeks and was only 17 when I was close to a fatal accident. Another lad of my age who had just started work was fatally injured and I had to stand with him while he was dying and someone went for help. That was a farm accident, similar to those described by the hon. Member for Truro. It was a tragedy, but no legislation, no regulations and no equipment would have prevented it. It was caused by a lack of understanding about the way to proceed on a piece of work.

I will take no lectures from anybody about the need for safety at work, to be aware of problems and to ensure that young people at work understand the need for safety in every aspect of their work. I want everbody to understand their role and nobody to expect others to monitor safety for them, whether employee or employer. Everyone must ensure that everyone is working in a safe environment safely. The way ahead is to persuade others that they must use foresight in everything because often we use only hindsight.

At the end of the day it is not machinery, a lack of guards or anything like that which causes accidents; it is people. People can also prevent accidents, but only if they are aware of the responsibility that everyone carries for safety. Today's YTS is a major step towards ensuring that the work force of tomorrow understands its responsibilities and is safe in future.

9.2 pm

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

In opening, the Secretary of State claimed that the Health and Safety Commission's funding was higher than that under the Labour Government, and he played around with some figures in an attempt to prove it. It is a pity that he is not present to answer this point, but I hope that a colleague will pass it on to him. If that were the case, how does he explain the drastic falling away of the inspectorate during the years of the Conservative Government? It has not reinstated employees who have died in service or retired, but has allowed the numbers to decrease. It has also failed to maintain the level of publications on health and safety advice and information which was carried out under the Labour Government. If it is spending less money on publications and employees, I wonder where the money is going.

The Secretary of State referred to the responsibility of individual employers and employees alike. Indeed, many Conservative Members have done so, as if the responsibility were equal. I can only imagine that they have not troubled to read the words of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. Section 2 states: It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of his employees. Section 7 requires every employee to co-operate with the efforts of his employer to ensure his safety and that of other employees. That duty is not equally apportioned; it is not even-handed. The Health and Safety Commission has repeatedly told employers that they are primarily responsible for health and safety in the work place.

The Secretary of State also referred to the noise regulations that are still to come. However, he slid over the subject, and we should be keen to hear more about it. The code of practice on noise that has existed since 1969 has not yet been updated, although people in the medical profession have known for over 100 years that noise at work can make people permanently deaf or give them tinnitus. Only after immense pressure from the trade union movement—and, I suppose, shame that the country had fallen so far behind other advanced industrial nations in the noise regulations—are we at last catching up.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Would the hon. Lady care to reread section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 which provides that an employee has a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work"?

Mrs. Fyfe

I agree with that. However, the primary responsibility, as the hon. Gentleman will have read elsewhere in that section, is to co-operate with his employer's efforts to ensure a safe workplace.

The Secretary of State referred to deaths from occupational illness, and had the effrontery to tell the House that it was impossible to give a figure for such deaths, because many go unreported. No employer should dare to fail to report the death or illness of any of his employees. I am talking about instances in which the person is in service; however, sadly, many such deaths arise because the person has contracted a fatal illness through his work, and has subsequently been made to leave that work—because, in this day and age, it is fair to sack someone when he is too unwell to work. Such people may die years or perhaps months later, by which time the firm has lost touch with its former employee. What a comment that is on the state of industrial relations in Britain today.

I noticed that the Secretary of State did not say a word about the role of safety representatives and safety committees. Was that a deliberate omission, or has the Secretary of State managed conveniently to forget people of whose existence he would rather not be aware?

Mr. Heffer

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, because she is making an excellent speech. But is she aware that, in the construction industry, the growth of self-employment and lump labour means that the industry is no longer concerned with the safety regulations, as it ought to be, but only with making money? That has developed under the present Government. If workers who are not self-employed kick up too much of a row, they find themselves out on the streets, unemployed, because they have raised the question of safety.

Mrs. Fyfe

I thank my hon. Friend for that point, with which I thoroughly agree. It is clear that the existence of lump labour creates far more hazardous working conditions, because safety officers will not be on site, as they would with a responsible firm. Certainly there will be no trade union safety representatives elected by the workers. That is why the lump area of the construction industry has such a bad safety record. If the Government were serious about safety in that industry, they would ensure that the lump system ended once and for all.

There has been much talk about the major hazardous industries, such as agriculture, mining, construction and the nuclear industry. Because of recent events, fire too has come to our attention. There is widespread disregard throughout industry and commerce of the hazards from fumes, dust, noise, overcrowding and bad housekeeping. No one needs training on how to keep clean, but firms cut costs by not keeping places clean.

The right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was telling us on the radio this morning that health and safety should not be an issue between the two major parties and that the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 was common ground between them. In that case, will the Minister give us some assurances? Will he take steps to ensure that employers carry out their statutory duty to draw up a safety policy for the workplace, or will he leave that unenforced, as it is at present?

In my former occupation, I knew many safety representatives. Very few came from places where the employer was carrying out his statutory duty to have an up-to-date safety policy which was relevant to his workplace. Is the Minister aware that the Health and Safety Commission itself believes that the organisation of health and safety in the workplace must have equal importance with the organisation of production? If the Minister agrees, will he enforce that? If he does not agree, will he be honest enough to say so and stop trying to preach health and safety to people who care more about it than he ever will?

Will the Minister take action against employers who prevent elected trade union safety representatives from exercising their statutory right to attend recognised health and safety courses? That is another widespread abuse of the legislation under the Conservative Government. Employers know that they can get away with this, because the law will not be enforced. Employees are afraid to seek their statutory right of time off for health and safety training, because they know that their jobs will be on the line if they dare confront their employers.

Will the Minister insist that health and safety training and supervision in the workplace become a reality and that there is not the half-hearted approach typical in so many industries? Will he insist that the Health and Safety Executive guidance notes on dangerous substances are updated annually? Under the Labour Government there was an annual updating of safety levels for hundreds of hazardous and poisonous substances. In recent years, publication of updated levels has been irregular.

Will the Minister also ensure that leaflets which give information on dangerous substances, dangerous machinery and the handling of tools and equipment are more widely available? At present, they are very hard to come by. People must go to HMSO bookshops to get them. If we cared about health and safety, the leaflets would be in the ordinary bookshop in the high street. Often, they are out of print, and the only thing available is a highly technical publication. Although that may be necessary for some people, it is not meaningful for the ordinary man and woman who has to deal with those hazards.

It is essential that the lump labour practice is ended. I am pleased about the regulations which are coming into force on the wearing of safety helmets — that long-standing need is at last being met—but the regulations do not go far enough. When we walk around the streets, we see scaffolding which is a disgrace; it is obviously dangerous, yet people get away with not taking proper precautions.

The Government have been in power since 1979 and have had ample time to put right all the problems in health and safety, but they have not done so. Therefore, I do not believe that there is an equal approach by both sides of the House to the question. Only a Labour Government will impose proper health and safety standards, and I look forward to that day.

9.13 pm
Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

When there is an Opposition day, it is sad that it looks like an Opposition day off. Time and again the Opposition select interesting subjects for debate, but when the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), who made a good contribution, was speaking, only between four and nine of his hon. Friends were listening to him. I am glad that 10 Opposition Members are now in the Chamber. The number went to double figures for the first time about two minutes ago.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

Does the hon. Member agree that more Opposition than Government Members are in the Chamber?

Mr. Bruce

Certainly I would. Unfortunately, they have had to listen to some of the speeches of Opposition Members.

Hundreds of people are killed and thousands of people are injured every year, and the subject should be debated by hon. Members. However, the Labour party has brought forward this motion because, all of a sudden, Labour Members have found a statistic with which they thought they could beat the Government. They have seen the number of injuries rise at an alarming level. This has been caused because the Government are concerned to ensure that all serious injuries are pulled into the net. Last year the Government, rightly, increased the categories which would be covered to include fractures of the wrists and ankles and amputations of digits—serious injuries which should be considered seriously.

We have heard this evening that the Government have increased the budget by £6.7 million and have approved the employment of another 55 inspectors and 35 new support staff. More inspectors should be working in the factories and in the field, doing the necessary work. At the moment we have roughly five staff per constituency, which is probably an adequate number, but only one and a half of those are doing inspections. I hope that that number can be increased and that more advice can be given to people.

I am pleased to hear that the number of inspectors in the nuclear industry has been increased. Winfrith is in my constituency. It is an atomic research establishment as well as a generating station. I have had many conversations with engineers and staff of that establishment and they tell me that at the moment they feel—I appreciate that great strides have been taken to increase the number of staff — that not enough inspectors are fully trained to do their many tasks, so I welcome the news that the number of inspectors will be increased to 120.

We have talked a great deal about changing attitudes, which is very important. I remember, as a work study engineer, many times having been brought in to look at safety at work. I should like to give an example of a new managing director arriving at the company I had recently joined. We were looking at the routing of profiles on the outside of printed circuit boards, which caused a great deal of noise, dust and danger to the operators. After much consultation, many thousands of pounds were spent to bring the safety devices up to scratch, to get rid of the dust and to give people protection and ear defenders.

Only about a week after all the work had been done by the company, putting the changes into place, the staff went to management and said, "We know that it is all noisy, dirty and everything else, but why don't you just give us another fiver a week and we will go back to the old system we had before?" We have had to hammer it into people that safety is the responsibility of employees as well as of employers.

Mr. Meacher

The hon. Gentleman referred to circuit boards. I wonder whether he would agree with me that the problems sometimes lie with the employers. Recently an inspector found the case of a 16-year-old boy drilling circuit boards who was provided with a tube from his mouth to the open window so that he would not be overcome by the fumes in the factory.

Mr. Bruce

It is interesting to hear from the hon. Gentleman. The matter to which he referred sounds like an item in an article that I also read. The person was drilling holes in metal, and the fumes were from a diesel generator. I do not know whether we have the same story in mind, but it seems to be rather strange. However, I agree that any such practices are wrong.

I was about to say that management must never abdicate the responsibility constantly to check on what employees are doing. Employees become blasé. They may deal with dangerous substances. Senior management in any industry must agree that they have a primary responsibility.

Mr. Heffer

The latest report of the Health and Safety Commission points out that a young roofing operator was killed when he fell through fragile asbestos sheeting while replacing some skylights. No crawling boards were provided. Who is responsible for providing crawling boards? It is not the operative but the employer. No doubt, if the lad had asked for crawling boards, he would have been told to do the job or be sacked. That is the truth.

Mr. Bruce

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He mentioned an example and then promptly decided that the employee in question had asked for crawling boards—the report: does not state that — and that they were not available to him.

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman should read it.

Mr. Bruce

Clearly the employer should supply the necessary crawling boards. Of course that is correct. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. But it is also clearly the employee's responsibility, before embarking on a hazardous job, to look after his own safety. The hon. Gentleman knows that, in a normal workplace, many willing employees rush off and do jobs without the necessary safety devices being in place.

The building industry has been mentioned. Clearly many things need to be done. The health and safety inspectorate has spent considerable time on blitzing building sites. There is a great deal of ignorance through a lack of training of building employees. There is often a great deal of bravado. A building labourer will boast about how much he can carry and how he can run up and down scaffolding without the necessary safety procedures being observed. We must change employees' and employers' attitudes. The same applies to faclory labourers.

I was pleased to see in the Strangers' Gallery one of my constituents who works for BP. BP is a multinational company that spends an enormous amount of time and trouble training its staff. It has an excellent safety record in a hazardous industry.

We must pay more attention to machinery design and look for intrinsically safe devices and processes. It Is often far too late for employers to put add-on guards on machinery that is already in place. Add-on guards often cause accidents rather than prevent them. The ingenuity of designers is always outclassed by the ingenuity of an operator who wants to get through a system. The triple valve interlock tends to be defeated by the triple valve override that a clever operator has created. Management must ensure that sensible devices are put in place and that the interests of their employees are constantly at the forefront.

Workplaces need safety groups, and safety groups must work with management. People often talk about committees. They sit in offices and, for hours on end, discuss what safety is all about. They would be much better advised to have a safety group to walk around the factory looking at a different part each week. Such a group could include people from outside — perhaps even someone's mum — who could walk round and look at the factory through new eyes and say, "Why are you doing that? Isn't it dangerous?". That would be enough to make people think.

We can rely upon employees to ensure that the Health and Safety Executive is advised of dangerous practices in factories. It is wrong to say that the fear of being dismissed prevents employees from reporting such practices. The Health and Safety Executive takes anonymous tip-offs and any employee who feels that he is not being properly looked after should make a proper report to the Health and Safety Executive. All of us should ensure that we highlight accidents that have occurred. I have recently gone round all my friends showing them two fingers, like this — I am not being rude to Opposition Members— because I ripped my fingers open on a staple when opening an envelope. Too often, people say, "It will not happen to me." We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) how he had to stand and watch someone die after an industrial accident. The fact that such accidents occur needs to be highlighted all the time.

Of course the Government have a necessary role in making sensible regulations and we have to ensure that they are enforced. However, education and the responsibility of the individual are very important. Industry must rededicate itself to real improvements and prove that it is capable of putting its own house in order, but for employees their lives are really in their hands.

9.26 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Throughout the debate there have been many more Labour Members than Conservative Members present. For the most part, the Conservative Benches have been deserted, whereas the repeated interventions made by my hon. Friends have demonstrated their interest in the matter and the time and attention that they have devoted to it.

It is interesting how, when Conservative Members are in trouble, they always want to snuggle up to consensus and say, "There is not a division between us." Let us have a look at the divisions. Year in, year out, more days have been lost in industrial injury than in strike action — except in very special years. In 1980, which was a bad year for industrial stoppages, in spite of the Conservatives' new broom, 11 million days were lost through industrial stoppages and 13.1 million in industrial injury. In 1981, 4 million days were lost in strike action and 10.9 million in industrial injury. In 1982, 5 million days were lost through strike action and 10.8 million—double the number—in industrial injury. In 1983, 3.7 million days were lost in strike action and 9.5 million—three times the figure—in industrial injury.

The Government have introduced Act after Act to legislate against the trade unions, although industrial injury is a serious problem and more days are lost through it. In spite of that, many cuts have been made in health and safety. Incidentally, the Government no longer require notification of the loss of three or more days through industrial injury. The fact that they no longer require such notification, which gave them a great deal of information about industrial injury, shows their lack of care.

The Government have spoken about increased resources for the factories inspectorate. The safety of factories is monitored by that inspectorate. In 1979, in the general and specialist categories, there were 951 inspectors. In 1987 there were 823 inspectors. On my arithmetic, that is reduction of 128. Therefore, 128 fewer people are going round monitoring the safety standards in the factories.

Given the fact that the total number of inspectors is less than 1,000, that is a significant reduction and affects the standard of protection to which workers are entitled.

When special accidents occur, such as accidents at fun fairs, they receive a great deal of publicity. Ministers trot off to the television cameras and say that they are carefully looking after the situation. When people are killed at swimming pools, with their new swirls and multi-tubular constructions, resources are immediately diverted from the Health and Safety Executive — it can ill afford to lose those resources — to produce an inquiry and report. However, resources are not available to carry out the fundamental requirements of such a report because of the pressures exerted on such resources.

For the past two years, a consultative document regarding draft guidelines for the standard of supervision in swimming pools has been in the process of production and distribution. How long will that document take? When will the process be completed? Will we have yet another crop of accidents this summer, with Ministers going off, once again, to the media to say how much they care?

When will we have some action regarding accidents caused through lifting heavy weights? Those accidents cause thousands of people severe or minor injury each year — either way it is extremely uncomfortable for those people. The legislation is antique and the Secretary of State has said that he is concerned about that. When will they alter the Agricultural (Lifting of Heavy Weights) Regulations that place a limit of 175 lbs on a weight to be lifted? When will the textile regulations be altered that place a limit of 120 lbs on a weight to be lifted by an adult worker? When will the regulations be altered with regard to factory workers who are allowed to lift a "reasonably heavy load"? When will such legislation be clarified, considering the fact that such lifting causes so much injury and loss of time at work?

The Secretary of State spoke complacently about asbestos. However, after I had intervened, he said that there were some problems, but no new ones. The reason why this Tory Government took action on asbestos was not because of the pressure from workers or union representations, such as that of Transport and General Workers Union and the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union—that union has done excellent work on this matter. It was the result of a television programme entitled, "Alice, a Fight for Life." That programme showed how a woman had contracted mesotheliosis. Indeed, she virtually died on the programme.

The Government had been in possession of the Simpson committee recommendations for three years, but had done nothing. Belatedly, they introduced a licensing system for asbestos strippers. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether he will make representations to the Secretary of State for the Environment to provide grants for the authorities to cover the cost for removing the asbestos that is being found? The removal of this dangerous substance is placing a great burden on local authorities.

Can the Secretary of State also tell us when the present haphazard system by which anyone can pay £50 for a licence to kill will be replaced? A system should be introduced whereby only qualified and trained operators are allowed to obtain a licence.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the unions and employers have signed an agreement to improve conditions and have sent a joint recommendation to the Health and Safety Commission on how licensing regulations may be turned into an effective control system? Under the present system virtually anyone can get a licence to carry out this highly dangerous job. Both the unions and the employers want more inspectors and a totting-up system for offences that would lead to the revocation of a licence.

They want new rights for safety representatives and evidence of competence — trained operators and supervisors — before a licence is granted. That is very typical of the attitude of the trade unions and of some employers in these dangerous occupations. They have made representations. When he replies to the debate, the Secretary of State can tell us whether these representations will have any effect in improving the safety standards for those who work in that very dangerous industry.

There is another hon. Member who wants a few extra minutes. I hope that you notice, Mr. Speaker, that I am going to give him one or two minutes by concluding now. This is because I think we should maintain a balance in the House. There have been many and varied contributions from Opposition Members. It is our debate, and there have been many interjections which demonstrate the wide range of interest that exists in the labour movement.

Contrary to the hypocritical and complacent attitude of hon. Members on the Government Benches, it is the workers who suffer the slings and arrows of industrial injury. It is they who have to have the days off work and it is they who are injured. Many workers can testify that if they raise question of safety, if they raise the question of improved conduct by the employer, they are threatened with the sack and are often given it.

Mr. Terry Fields

Is my hon. Friend not aware that British Rail workers, or London Regional Transport workers at King's Cross station, were threatened with dismissal for giving out leaflets to the general public on the lack of safety measures at that station?

Mr. Cryer

That is right. That attitude is enshrined in the phrase, "Let management manage." That is the sort of attitude that the Tory Government want to support on every conceivable occasion. Workers are not supposed to have rights or to excercise those rights because it challenges the executive suite which gives so much money and support to the Conservative party.

I conclude, therefore, by stressing the great importance of this subject. We must say again and again that we lose more days each year through industrial injury than through strike action. We need better and tighter legislation from the Government to prevent loss of life and industrial injury, not the nasty, vicious vendetta that they are carrying out against the trade union movement today.

9.37 pm
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) for giving me one or two moments in which to make a contribution to this debate. His attitude is much appreciated.

Bearing in mind the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) and comments from other hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, I hope that we are not trying to argue that "Socialism is safety". I would, with respect, remind Opposition Members that one of the largest and most horrible industrial accidents occurred in Chernobyl, and I do not see too many Conservatives there.

I am interested in how accidents actually happen in the workplace, because in my last place of business I was responsible for trying to develop an attitude in my company on the subject of safety. I would like to pay a tribute to the role of the trade unions in that work. As someone who was not at the outset fully trained in that sphere, I was given much good advice, particularly from the stewards and regional officials of the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. The trade unions have an important contribution to make to discussions on safety practices.

This contribution highlights the essential element which has come out of the debate, that safety is a contract. It is not just a matter of the words of the safety statement on the notice board; it is what happens on the factory floor every day of the week. It is the responsibility of the employee, together with the employer, to ensure good safe practices and working conditions.

I found no difficulty in getting a member of the Health and Safety Commission to come and give me some advice on good practice. The service is available, and someone came quickly to carry out an inspection. But no amount of inspection, had that person come every day after the initial visit, would have ensured safe working conditions in the packing and produce industry that I worked in. It was down to the management's attitude and the way in which the management followed up those recommendations—and likewise the response that we got from the work force. Safety is about the essential operation of that partnership.

Many Labour Members have highlighted safety problems in small companies, and our larger companies could also contribute towards their safety. When the Secretary of State meets directors and senior personnel of large companies which have a partnership relationship with their smaller suppliers, he should urge them to offer their expertise in safety to the smaller companies. Large companies can bring to bear all the information and awareness which hon. Members on both sides of the House have mentioned during the debate and give it to the small companies for their use. Such a partnership would be a useful way forward.

It is particularly sad that no regulation that I know of says that no piece of factory machinery can be imported into Britain unless it complies with our safety regulations. That would be an important development.

In my closing minutes, let me pay tribute to the nuclear industry's safety record. British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. at Springfield in my constituency has a high safety record. One aspect of the nuclear industry's approach to safety that I would commend above all to British industry is its regular challenge of the assumption that something which today is considered to be safe will always be so. It is no use assuming that because something is safe once, it cannot be improved upon. Challenging assumptions is an active safety policy. The nuclear industry has an excellent safety record, with a low number of accidents and persons killed at work. The only death at Sellafield in 1986 was the result of a motor vehicle accident on the site. The nuclear industry can teach us a great deal about safety, and I applaud the Government's work in that area.

9.41 pm
Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) had the opportunity to contribute to the debate. It is fair to say that everyone who wished to speak has done so. I was particularly glad to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to the work of trade unions in the important area of health and safety, and I trust that that is common ground between us.

The importance that the House attaches to this issue has been clear from remarks this evening. Thousands of people every year die or suffer from accidents or diseases. Sometimes those occur in highly publicised incidents, but most are individual cases which are only mentioned by the local press, and that is as far as the matter goes.

Accidents and diseases have been rising in many areas at a disturbing rate. We welcome the reduction in the number of fatalities, to which the Minister referred, but I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will accept that the most objective way of looking at the issue is to look at the combined fatal and serious injury rate — the number of incidents per 100,000 of employees— over a period.

In the Health and Safety Commission's report for the year ended 31 March 1986, the chairman states: The fatal and major incidents rates for 1985 are greater than for 1981 by 31 per cent. in manufacturing industry as a whole; by 45 per cent. in construction and by 34 per cent. in agriculture. When the Secretary of State refers to an evening out of injury rates, let us not forget that we are talking about a flattening out at a level which has increased sharply in many industries over that period and which is unacceptably high.

We were unconvinced by the Minister's reference to the Government's funding of the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive. Yes, there is a small increase in real terms in the figures that he quoted, as judged by the increase in prices throughout the economy, but there are two major reasons why that argument will not wash and both were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) when he opened the debate.

First, as with the Health Service, the internal costs incurred by the Health and Safety Executive have risen more rapidly than inflation. Secondly, and crucially, there has been an enormous expansion of the areas which the Health and Safety Executive and Commission have had to cover since the 1974 Act. I do not have time to go over all of them. There are 28 new sets of regulations; and in its memorandum to the Select Committee on Employment earlier this year, the Health and Safety Executive referred to seven major expanding areas.

One must mention the importance of the nuclear installations inspectorate after Chernobyl, and the important new responsibilities for gas that the executive has acquired. The HSE has responsibility for every gas appliance in our homes. For these reasons, we are right to assert that the resources that have been provided for the Health and Safety Executive by this Government have been utterly inadequate, and the small increase that has been announced falls a long way short of what is needed.

Total staff numbers in 1979 were 4,200: now they are 3,600, in spite of the increased responsibilities. There will be still fewer staff when the increases that the Secretary of State has announced are implemented. The factories inspectorate had 951 inspectors in 1971; the latest available figures show that it has 823 now. The number of workplaces has risen since 1980 from 300,000 to 400,000. So we must judge the small increases that the Government belatedly announced earlier this year against the background of expanded areas of obligation for the Health and Safety Executive, and the number of inspectors who are available to carry out the work.

If the Government are interested in considering what action should be taken, I strongly commend to them the major TUC statement that was carried at this year's congress, entitled "Health and Safety at Work: The Way Forward". I hope that Ministers will carefully study the large number of recommendations contained in that important statement.

In view of the importance attached to occupational health, why are the Government not prepared to ratify and implement convention 161 on occupational health services? When will the Government bring forward comprehensive safety proposals for our young people on youth training schemes? Several hon. Members have rightly referred to the tragic incident at King's Cross. Is it not revealing that London Regional Transport is not going ahead with planned cuts in cleaning services? We need to know why the recommendations in the written report on the Oxford Circus station fire have not been implemented.

Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, I hope that the whole House accepts that there can be no question of responsibility being foisted on some junior manager. The board of London Regional Transport and the Government must accept responsibility for the consequences of their policy.

The change in policy announced by London Regional Transport has been reflected in changes in policy that have been made by British Rail. I mention briefly its plan to implement one-person operation on the Drayton Park to Moorgate line — a policy that was resisted by the National Union of Railwaymen. That has been mentioned in our debates on the Employment Bill. Although the NUR resisted the plan, it was only as a result of the King's Cross accident that British Rail announced that it was not going ahead with one-person operation. We should acknowledge the important role of the trade union in this area. The safety of staff and passengers is part of the NUR's constitution.

The Opposition are in no doubt that the Government's drive for profit on London Regional Transport and British Rail has been at the expense of safety standards. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to congratulate the emergency services on their bravery if the Government do not allocate the resources that they need to do the job. There is no doubt that the deregulation of bus services is already threatening safety standards on many of them, and while Conservative Members may think that privatisation of the electricity industry will be a great achievement, I assure them that the vast majority of the British people are terrified by the prospect of nuclear power stations being run for private profit. The cuts in local government are getting deeper and deeper. Hon. Members have spoken about the effect of those cuts on safety provision and on the health and safety responsibilities of local authorities. How much more suffering do we need to have before the Government give health and safety the priority that the British people demand?

9.50 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Patrick Nicholls)

It is inevitable that in the time available to me I shall not be able to reply to all the points that were made by hon. Members. If what I and my right hon. Friend have said does not answer specific points made by hon. Members, we shall try to come back to them on those points.

The Opposition ask whether the Government are playing their part. On the evidence that we have heard in the debate, the answer is that the Government have most certainly played their part. It is necessary to address one or two points which emphasise that. The first is that there has been a great deal of talk in the debate that the Government have been responsible for financial cuts in the Health and Safety Commission's financial provision. Let us get it on the record once and for all that there have been no cuts whatever of that nature. There is no question of financial cuts in the HSC provision.

We appreciate that the HSC has had cuts in the sense that it has had extra obligations imposed upon it. Inevitably, it found itself stretched, but that cannot be laid at the Government's door. The reason for it is that, inevitably, the Government are trying to do more than has ever been done before in the field of safety in the work-place. That inevitably imposes strains. It was said that cuts have taken place, but we must emphasise that we have increased the financial provision to the Health and Safety Commission. It has been topped up twice in this year's financial provision and we have heard that there will be an increase of more than £6.7 million next year.

The Opposition have tried to say that that is insufficient and that, even with provision of that sort, the Health and Safety Commission will not be able to fulfil its tasks. The Opposition may take that view, but it is certainly not the view taken by the chairman of the commission. He has made it abundantly clear that these increased payments, and particularly the £6.7 million to be provided next year, will not only mean that the HSC will be able to discharge its statutory duties, but that it will be able to fund the 50 extra inspectors and the 10 specialist inspectors as well. That provision shows that the commission will be able to fulfil its statutory duties and will also be able to increase the number of inspectors in the way in which my right hon. Friend said.

I shall now say something about taking on inspectors. From listening to the Opposition, one would think that a direct causal link had been established between the number of inspectors and the number of accidents. In some ways, it would be nice if that were the position, but it is not that simple. There is no proven direct link between the number of accidents and the number of inspectors. Certainly, it is obvious that there must be an indirect connection, and because it is there the Government have said that the number of inspectors will be increased. It is too simplistic to say that, if we increase the number of inspectors, there will be an automatic decrease in the number of industrial accidents. If it were that easy—

Mr. Heffer

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Nicholls

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has drifted in and out of this debate. In the short time available to me, I want to deal with some of the more substantial points. The effect that inspectors have is like a catalyst.

Mr. Heffer

Arrogant little basket.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Heffer

I said "baskef".

Mr. Speaker

Order. That may not be unparliamentary, but it is pretty nasty.

Mr. Heffer

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I said "a basket". If the Minister does not like it, that is too bad, but I said "basket" and nothing else.

Mr. Nicholls

It is obvious that the hon. Gentleman has dined well this evening, and we should congratulate him on that.

I shall deal with some of the specific points that have been made. One of the first contributions came from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields). The hon. Gentleman's speech was remarkably tasteless, even by the standards of Militant. He tried to say that the Government have a completely callous and complacent attitude towards the safety of youth trainees. The hon. Gentleman suggested that there was carnage among young people. He expressed his contempt for the policies of the last Labour Administration and for this Government, and tried to suggest that there were many deaths on YTS.

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased that I am able to correct him on that assertion. Since 1983, about 1.6 million people have been on YTS. The figures for fatalities are that in 1983 there were three deaths; in 1984 there were four death; in 1985 there were four deaths; and in 1986 there were seven deaths. Every one of those deaths was a tragedy for the people involved. For the hon. Gentleman to suggest that that was because of callousness by the Government is twisting the truth even more than the hon. Gentleman would want.

There is no evidence that people who are on YTS are any more at risk than any other young people in training. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) said that the MSC had taken swift action where placements were considered to be dangerous. In 1985–86,403 placements were closed and 320 were refused.

Miss Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)


Mr. Nicholls

I do not have time to give way to the hon. Lady.

That is the measure of the attitude that the Government have adopted. It is remarkable that the hon. Member for Broadgreen saw fit to make such remarks, and even thought that he had to lace his speech with references to the motives of those who attend Prayers at the beginning of a parliamentary session. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not notice, but his speech was so tasteless that even Labour Members were squirming with embarrassment.

Comment was made about the role that small firms played in accidents. Obviously, a firm starting up may not have the necessary expertise in health and safety. That is a matter of which the inspectorate is aware. Some 80 per cent. of the factories inspectorate's visits are to small firms. In the current year, it will be increasing by 5 per cent. the amount of time that it spends seeking out new companies.

The point that must be made time and time again is that, for the most part, when inspections take place it is obvious that employers are not ignoring health and safety requirements out of malice, but that they need information about how to conduct themselves. Those who say that there is something inherently dangerous about small firms are wrong. One could get rid of accidents in the workplace by not having any employment Obviously, that is not a sensible attitude.

A number of hon. Member in particular the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Mr.Strang)—

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 211, Noes 265

Division No. 92] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Douglas, Dick
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Duffy, A. E. P.
Allen, Graham Dunnachie, James
Alton, David Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Anderson, Donald Eadie, Alexander
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Evans, John (St Helens N)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Ashdown, Paddy Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Fatchett, Derek
Ashton, Joe Fearn, Ronald
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fisher, Mark
Barron, Kevin Flannery, Martin
Battle, John Flynn, Paul
Beckett, Margaret Foster, Derek
Beith, A. J. Fraser, John
Bell, Stuart Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Galbraith, Samuel
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Galloway, George
Bermingham, Gerald Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bidwell, Sydney Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Blair, Tony George, Bruce
Boateng, Paul Godman, Dr Norman A.
Boyes, Roland Golding, Mrs Llin
Bradley, Keith Gordon, Ms Mildred
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gould, Bryan
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Grocott, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Buchan, Norman Haynes, Frank
Buckley, George Heffer, Eric S.
Caborn, Richard Henderson, Douglas
Callaghan, Jim Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Holland, Stuart
Canavan, Dennis Home Robertson, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hood, James
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clay, Bob Howells, Geraint
Clelland, David Hoyle, Doug
Cohen, Harry Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Corbyn, Jeremy Illsley, Eric
Cousins, Jim Ingram, Adam
Crowther, Stan Janner, Greville
Cryer, Bob John, Brynmor
Cummings, J. Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cunningham, Dr John Kennedy, Charles
Darling, Alastair Lamond, James
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Leadbitter, Ted
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Leighton, Ron
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)
Dewar, Donald Lewis, Terry
Dixon, Don Litherland, Robert
Dobson, Frank Livsey, Richard
Doran, Frank Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
McAllion, John Richardson, Ms Jo
McAvoy, Tom Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
McCartney, Ian Robertson, George
Macdonald, Calum Robinson, Geoffrey
McFall, John Rogers, Allan
McGrady, E. K. Rooker, Jeff
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McKelvey, William Rowlands, Ted
McLeish, Henry Ruddock, Ms Joan
Maclennan, Robert Salmond, Alex
McNamara, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
McWilliam, John Sheerman, Barry
Madden, Max Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Mrs Alice Short, Clare
Marek, Dr John Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Snape, Peter
Martlew, Eric Soley, Clive
Maxton, John Spearing, Nigel
Meacher, Michael Stott, Roger
Meale, Alan Strang, Gavin
Michael, Alun Straw, Jack
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morgan, Rhodri Turner, Dennis
Morley, Elliott Vaz, Keith
Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe) Wall, Pat
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Wallace, James
Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie Walley, Ms Joan
Mullin, Chris Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Murphy, Paul Wareing, Robert N.
Nellist, Dave Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
O'Brien, William Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wilson, Brian
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Winnick, David
Pendry, Tom Wise, Mrs Audrey
Pike, Peter Worthington, Anthony
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wray, James
Primarolo, Ms Dawn Young, David (Bolton SE)
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles Tellers for the Ayes:
Randall, Stuart Mr. Frank Cook and Mr. Ken Eastham.
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Reid. John
Adley, Robert Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Alexander, Richard Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brazier, Julian
Allason, Rupert Bright, Graham
Amess, David Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Amos, Alan Brooke, Hon Peter
Arbuthnot, James Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Browne, John (Winchester)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Aspinwall, Jack Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Buck, Sir Antony
Baldry, Tony Budgen, Nicholas
Batiste, Spencer Burns, Simon
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Burt, Alistair
Bellingham, Henry Butcher, John
Bendall, Vivian Butler, Chris
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Butterfill, John
Benyon, W. Carrington, Matthew
Bevan, David Gilroy Carttiss, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Cash, William
Body, Sir Richard Chapman, Sydney
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Churchill, Mr
Boscawen, Hon Robert Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Boswell, Tim Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bottomley, Peter Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Conway, Derek
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bowis, John Cope, John
Cormack, Patrick Heathcoat-Amory, David
Couchman, James Heddle, John
Cran, James Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Critchley, Julian Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Curry, David Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Hind, Kenneth
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Day, Stephen Holt, Richard
Devlin, Tim Hordern, Sir Peter
Dickens, Geoffrey Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Dorrell, Stephen Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Dover, Den Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Dunn, Bob Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Durant, Tony Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Eggar, Tim Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Emery, Sir Peter Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Evennett, David Irvine, Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Jack, Michael
Fallon, Michael Janman, Timothy
Farr, Sir John Jessel, Toby
Favell, Tony Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Fookes, Miss Janet Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Forman, Nigel Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Forth, Eric Kilfedder, James
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Kirkhope, Timothy
Fox, Sir Marcus Knapman, Roger
Freeman, Roger Knox, David
French, Douglas Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fry, Peter Lang, Ian
Garel-Jones, Tristan Latham, Michael
Gill, Christopher Lawrence, Ivan
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Glyn, Dr Alan Lee, John (Pendle)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Goodlad, Alastair Lilley, Peter
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Gow, Ian Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Gower, Sir Raymond Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) McCrindle, Robert
Greenway, John (Rydale) Macfarlane, Neil
Gregory, Conal MacGregor, John
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Maclean, David
Grylls, Michael McLoughlin, Patrick
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Madel, David
Hampson, Dr Keith Malins, Humfrey
Hanley, Jeremy Mans, Keith
Hannam, John Maples, John
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Marland, Paul
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Harris, David Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Haselhurst, Alan Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hawkins, Christopher Mates, Michael
Hayes, Jerry Maude, Hon Francis
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hayward, Robert Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Miller, Hal Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Mills, Iain Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Miscampbell, Norman Sumberg, David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Summerson, Hugo
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moate, Roger Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Temple-Morris, Peter
Morrison, Hon P (Chester) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Moss, Malcolm Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Moynihan, Hon C. Thorne, Neil
Mudd, David Thornton, Malcolm
Neale, Gerrard Thurnham, Peter
Needham, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
Neubert, Michael Trippier, David
Newton, Tony Trotter, Neville
Nicholls, Patrick Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Viggers, Peter
Page, Richard Waddington, Rt Hon David
Paice, James Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Patten, John (Oxford W) Waldegrave, Hon William
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Waller, Gary
Raffan, Keith Ward, John
Rhodes James, Robert Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Warren, Kenneth
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Wheeler, John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Whitney, Ray
Rowe, Andrew Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Ryder, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Winterton, Mrs Ann
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Winterton, Nicholas
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wolfson, Mark
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wood, Timothy
Skeet, Sir Trevor Young, Sir George (Acton)
Soames, Hon Nicholas Younger, Rt Hon George
Speller, Tony
Squire, Robin Tellers for the Noes:
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.
Stanley, Rt Hon John
Stevens, Lewis

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed. words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions or Amendments) and agreed to.

Mr. Speaker forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House noting the Government's policy for replacing outmoded legislation with a new regime which maintains or improves health and safety standards tailored to modern needs, recognises that the prime responsibility for the reduction of accidents to workers lies with the employers, employees and others at the workplace; acknowledges the regulatory and other work of the Health and Safety Commission; and welcomes the Government's support for the Health and Safety Commission's efforts in the field of health and safety at work and in the community.