HC Deb 26 March 1991 vol 188 cc752-3
6. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the current number of factory inspectors in post.

Mr. Forth

On 1 March 1991, 632.5 factory inspectors were in post in the Health and Safety Executive, an increase of 7 per cent. since 1988. Details of further planned increases in inspectors will be published late in May or June in the Health and Safety Commission's plan of work for 1991–92 and beyond, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has now received for his approval.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Minister agree with the director-general of the Health and Safety Executive who. when giving evidence to the Select Committee on Employment, said that there were far too many serious accidents in industry? Does not that mean that we should employ more factory inspectors? Will the Minister consider the fact that, many years ago, it was possible for factory inspectors to go round seeking out unregistered premises? That service has gone by the board under the Tory Government. As a result, one young man was killed in a plastic baling machine at an unregistered premises and a self-employed worker, taking part in the Conservative's enterprise culture, bought a defective baling machine, into which he fell while it was on unregistered premises, and was killed. Does not the Minister think it time that the Government took more time to prevent such accidents from occurring? That means employing more factory inspectors and devoting more time to seeking out the cowboys in unregistered premises.

Mr. Forth

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. There are always too many accidents. That is common ground—at least I hope it is. I part company with the hon. Gentleman over his simplistic analysis whereby he assumes that the number of inspectors in post—which is increasing and scheduled to increase further—is necessarily connected with the number of accidents. Through a careful plan of work, the Health and Safety Executive ensures that its resources are carefully targeted in sectors where accidents are most likely to take place.

I am strongly aware of the problem about unregistered premises, as is the Health and Safety Executive. There are pilot projects in place to identify how many unregistered premises there are and how best to tackle the problem. The hon. Gentleman's portrayal of complacency and inaction over the problem is totally inaccurate.

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