HL Deb 18 July 1916 vol 22 cc737-44


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is not a very long Bill, and I shall not have to detain your Lordships more than a few minutes in moving the Second Reading. The Bill is divided into three Parts. Part I deals with matters appertaining to the Police; Part II deals with two or three subjects appertaining to factories and workshops; and Part III is concerned with miscellaneous and general provisions.

I will first explain Part I. Clause 1 refers to the retention by ex-police-constables of their pensions whilst employed for the purposes of the war. By subsection (2) of Section 13 of the Police Act, 1890, it was laid down that if a pensioned police-constable was appointed to any office and received emoluments from public moneys, and if the pay and the pension exceeded one and a half times the salary that he received as a constable, so much of the pension in excess of that sum should be forfeited. It was supposed that the ex-constable was covered by that subsection; but it has occurred that in the High Court a decision has been given in a contrary sense, and if one of these pensioned constables went into a Government munition works he might find himself in a worse position than if he were employed by a private firm. Clause 1 of this Bill deals with that point.

Clause 2 has to do with a promise which was made when the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Bill was being passed. In the case of constables who were induced to join the Army or the Navy by promises of extra payment, the clause provides for the excess authorised, and puts them in the same position as servants of local authorities. Clause 3 will enable the Police authority to pay compensation for death or injury to people who, at the request of the police, are called out to assist them in their duties during the war—for instance, people who are engaged in ambulance work during a Zeppelin raid. Such persons would get the same rates as constables. Clause 4 provides that the expression "pay of the police" shall be deemed to include the pay of any woman who may be employed by a Police authority to perform any of the duties of the police and who is required to devote the whole of her time to such employment. These women will receive the same pay as police-constables. This Clause also deals with the amount to be paid to the Police authority from the Exchequer Contribution Account. Clause 5 provides for the regulation of street collections for charitable purposes, but it will not interfere with those who sell articles in the streets for their livelihood.

I now come to Part II. Clause 7 has to do with what is called the welfare of workers in factories and workshops. In recent years many employers have made arrangements for the welfare of their employees. These have been extended, because of the large number of women and girls who are now engaged in factories and workshops, and a special department has been set up to deal with munition factories under Government. But there is no power at present to deal with other industries, and that is the reason for the introduction of these provisions in this Bill. Where so many women and girls are employed it is desirable to make arrangements for heating, and for convenience for taking, meals, for the supply of drinking water and protective clothing, for ambulances, first aid arrangements, and so on; and also, where both sexes are employed together, for discipline. Provision will be made for the consideration of any objections submitted by the occupiers affected.

The second clause in Part II—Clause 8—provides for the abolition of the investigation of accidents by the certifying surgeon. This work has been deemed by two Inquiries to be redundant—first, by the Committee which sat from 1908 to 1911 on Accidents in Factories, who reported that this officer in this particular capacity was not needed; and again by the Retrenchment Committee, who suggested that this gentleman in this capacity could very well be abolished. The provision in this clause means a saving of £12,500 a year. The certifying surgeon will still be left with the duty of seeing after children and young persons, as to age and other matters, and also investigating lead poisonings and other industrial diseases; and an Amendment was introduced into this Bill in the other House by the Secretary of State, which gives the certifying surgeon work to do in regard to cases of injury caused by exposure to gas, fumes, or other noxious substances. The duty of the factory inspectors in combination with the certifying officer is not treatment, but has to do with seeing that no infringement of the Acts takes place, and also ascertaining, where there have been accidents, whether they were preventable.

Clause 10—the first clause in Part III—provides for the case of miners who have been on active war service. As noble Lords no doubt know, where a miner is anxious to become a mine manager or an assistant mine manager he has, in addition to passing certain examinations, to do five years' practical work. If the man were away soldiering he would become rusty for his examination, and the additional three or four years which he might have to complete would make his examination a still more difficult affair. It is very desirable to do away with that disability and to enable him to pass his examination before he has complied with the qualification as to practical experience. I would call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the standard of safety will not be jeopardised at all, because the man will not be entitled to a certificate of competency until he has completed the period of practical experience in mining. All that will happen will be that he will have the examination behind him. Those are the principal provisions of the Bill, and with these few words of explanation I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Sandhurst.)


I desire to ask my noble friend a question on Clause 8. He did not give us any explanation for the provision in this clause except that of economy. We are very glad to find that the Government are ready to economise even to the extent of £12,500 a year; and one can quite understand that this may be a desirable saving when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to admit, as he did last night, that his calculations were so defective that we are actually spending £1,000,000 a day more than the Government supposed would be necessary. My noble friend, however, did not say why it is thought desirable to abolish investigations by certifying surgeons in the cases of death or injury due to accidents. The provision is all the, more curious when, as the noble Lord told us, in the case of industrial diseases and in the case of injury caused by exposure to gas, fumes, or other noxious substances, investigation by the certifying surgeon is retained. The noble Lord did not explain whether the work of investigation now being performed by the certifying surgeons is to be done in future by the inspectors of factories. If that is intended, I doubt very much whether it will be possible. These inspectors are already overworked, and more accidents are now occurring because of the larger number of unskilled persons at present employed in factories. Therefore I submit that this is not the time for the saving of this £12,500 a year and the running of risk through necessary investigations not being made. I understand that what happens now is that the surgeon reports to the factory inspector as regards all these accidents, and it is very important that this work should continue. Yet under the proposal in this Bill there will be no protection for the worker who meets with an accident which is not caused by exposure to gas, fumes, or by disease. It is proposed to leave it to the employer alone to make the report. I submit that with every intention on the part of the employer to be fair, you cannot call him an impartial person. Therefore I contend that by this proposal you are depriving workmen of proper protection.


I venture to think that your Lordships would do well to look also at Clause 7 of this Bill before it finally leaves your Lordships' House. I do not know how much discussion the Bill received in another place, but it does look as if these clauses might be the better for a little further consideration in Committee. With regard to Clause 8, the noble Lord who has just sat down has said practically all that is to be said as to abolishing investigations of accidents by certifying surgeons, which seems rather a serious thing to do for such a small saving as the sum mentioned. The noble Lord, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, stated that this work had been deemed to be redundant, but I was unable to gather from anything he said what the redundancy was or what other inquiries there are which would be satisfactory in place of investigations by certifying surgeons.

As to Clause 7, rather large power is given under it to the Secretary of State to call for special provision to be made at factories. The matters to which the clause relates include "arrangements for preparing or heating, and taking, meals." These words seem fairly innocent, but they might cover the provision of a large and elaborate mess room with expensive cooking arrangements. The clause also applies to "the supply of protective clothing," and "facilities for washing," and there is nothing in the clause to prevent the latter including a Turkish bath. Then there are to be "arrangements for the supervision of workers." I do not know how far that is intended to go. Does it involve a matron and nurses for female workers? That may be all very desirable, but it is rather dangerous to leave it to the ipse dixit of the Secretary of State as to the requirements to be imposed on employers. There is a provision that if the reasonableness of the requirements is disputed, the matter shall be referred for settlement to a referee selected in accordance with rules to be made under this clause. Your Lordships have not before you the rules that are to be made under the clause, and I do not understand whether the referee is to be appointed by the Home Secretary or how he is to be appointed, or in what way he is to be an independent person. If he is merely to be a Government official, it does not carry the matter much further; and unless this clause is considered it is possible that hardship might be inflicted. When once a Department gets these powers into its hands, Parliament ceases to have control over the exercise of them, and I think it is possible that some safeguards might be devised. I do not propose myself to move Amendments, but I have thought it well to draw attention to the matter so that it may be considered before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill gave us, if he will allow me to say so, an extremely useful and lucid exposition of its provisions, but it is a very complicated Bill. It amends a great many different Statutes, and there is in it a good deal of legislation by reference. Personally, although I express my gratitude to the noble Lord for his explanation, I think it is a great pity that this House was not given the Memorandum which was circulated to the other House of Parliament in explanation of this Bill. I hold a copy of it in my hand. It is very enlightening and enables one to understand the Bill with much less difficulty than if it is not in one's hand, and as it was printed for the other House I cannot understand why the Home Office did not see that it was circulated along with the Bill to members of this House. I think it is desirable that we should know why we were not treated with the same consideration as members of the House of Commons.

I want to say a word or two about Clause 8. It seems to me, as far as I understand it, to go far to abolish any investigation at all by the district factory surgeon into what are called preventable factory accidents. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the National Union of Teachers have made a strong point that the protection given to children and young persons by these investigations is very important; and it is especially important at a time like this when younger people are being recruited in this class of factory than has been the case before the war. I say that these investigations are valuable owing to the fact that the certifying surgeon himself obtains, through these inquiries, information of mechanical processes which he would not otherwise be so well able to understand, and this knowledge enables him to know exactly what conditions he should affix to certificates of fitness for any particular employment in the case of young persons who come before him.

I have looked at the Report of the Departmental Committee to which the noble Lord alluded, and more especially at those pages which deal with this amendment of the law. I think a point might be made that the Departmental Committee, upon whose Report some stress is laid, had no business to touch this matter at all, as it is not included in their terms of reference. They, in my opinion, assumed a power to make recommendations on a matter on which they were not asked to give their opinion; and reading between the lines I have come to the conclusion that this particular proposal in this Emergency Bill is made in settlement of a pretty old controversy between the certifying surgeons and the Home Office, and that the Home Office are taking advantage, under the plea of emergency and of economy, to do away with provisions which I think are useful, but which, for some reason or other, they have desired to get rid of for a long period of years. I frankly admit that the whole of these are rather points for Committee, but I have called attention to the matter because I think it convenient to say that I have given notice of Amendments to Clause 8 which will raise the question in a concrete form on whatever day the Committee stage is taken.


My Lords, with regard to the certifying surgeon and the factory inspector, what I understand is that the work is now being done twice over, and that the certifying surgeon is only in that capacity employed in one third of the cases of accidents that occur. The investigation is one which requires great knowledge of machinery, because it is not a matter of treatment but of seeing whether the Acts have been complied with, and, if they have been complied with, whether the accidents are preventable in future. With regard to what Lord Balfour said as to young persons and children, I think under the Bill those duties are still left in the hands of the certifying surgeons. I regret that the Memorandum which was attached to the Bill in the House of Commons was not included with the Bill when it was circulated to your Lordships.


When does the noble Lord propose to take the Committee stage?


I should like to consult the convenience of noble Lords opposite in that matter.


It is evident from the speeches which have been delivered that a little time is required in which to study the Bill. Perhaps in the intervening period my noble friend might consider the propriety of circulating to your Lordships the Memorandum which was attached to the Bill in the other House.


I will certainly ask the Secretary of State about that. If it meets the noble Marquess's convenience, I would suggest next Tuesday for the Committee stage.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.