HL Deb 28 April 1959 vol 215 cc1065-105

3.15 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the purpose of this Bill is to amend and also to amplify the Factories Act, 1937, which is referred to as the principal Act. I have no doubt that a good many of your Lordships are able to remember the Parliamentary debates which took place on the Factories Act of 1937. In another place there was a two-day debate on Second Reading, the first day on a Thursday, the second on a Monday. I happened at that time to be Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and I had the duty of winding up the first day's debate from the Government Front Bench. It has always been a happy recollection in my mind that the two Front Bench Labour speakers who came between the Home Secretary (who moved the Bill) and the end of the debate and whom I had to try to answer were Mr. J. R. Clynes, who was by that time a very elderly man, very highly respected by all Parties, and Mr. Short, who had been Under-Secretary at the Home Office in the Labour Government and who had devoted a great deal of work to the subject of factories, although he had never had an opportunity of introducing a Bill.

The 1937 Act made comprehensive provisions for the health and safety of workers in factories and for the limitation of hours, and particularly of overtime, of juveniles and women. On safety and health this Bill brings up to date most of the provisions of the 1937 Act, but one clause of this Bill, Clause 25, introduces new matter and makes a new departure in factory legislation. As your Lordships will see, that clause provides that: The Minister shall promote health, safety and welfare in factories and premises and operations to which the principal Act applies by collecting and disseminating information and by investigating or assisting in the investigation of problems of health, safety and welfare; and for the purpose of investigating such problems he may provide and maintain such laboratories and other services as appear to him requisite. The clause goes on to provide that the Minister may appoint persons to advise him in connection with his functions under this section, paying their expenses, and that any expense incurred by the Minister shall be paid by Parliament. Hitherto, factory legislation has consisted almost wholly of regulatory measures which require occupiers and others to do certain things or prohibit them from doing other things. Now, by this new approach envisaged in Clause 25, by which the Minister will improve his advisory services, by collecting information and investigating various problems and passing on the results to industry and to other interests who may be able to make use of them, we hope to obtain fruitful results.

There is one thing which I particularly remember Mr. J. R. Clynes saying in the Second Reading debate on the principal Act, and with your Lordships' permission I should like to quote his words. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 320, col. 642]: In my boyhood, when I worked in a mill, the factory inspector was regarded as the enemy of the industry. That is not so now. I was frequently warned to get out of his way, to keep out of his sight. He was colloquially known as 'the finer', for he used to put fines on the master for breaking the law, and we were supposed to be helping the trade if we helped the employer to escape the penalty of his wrong-doing. That was the kind of atmosphere which, not only during Mr. Clynes' boyhood but at any time, may easily arise if there is suspicion on both sides: if the inspector thinks that the people who are inspected are mainly concerned with trying to evade the law, and if the people who are inspected think that the main concern of the inspector is to catch them out and to gain credit by detecting some pettifogging little breach of the regulations. This attitude is well known to us, of course, very largely as a result of the necessity of appointing large numbers of inexperienced inspectors to carry out war-time and post-war controls. But our factory inspectorate is not a large one. We are trying to increase it.


Hear, hear!


We now have 409. We aim at having 445 inspectors very soon; we do not want too many, because we think that in this matter quality and experience are more important than numbers. Our factory inspectorate, we feel, on the whole, does enjoy the confidence of the people with whom they are dealing. Our inspectors consist of people with long training and great experience, who are able to achieve our object of collaboration. What we want is neither that the law should be evaded, nor that it should be enforced in an unreasonable and pedantic way; but that all parties, the Government with their inspectors, the employers and the workpeople, should co-operate together in the most interesting as well as most important task of finding out how to reduce risks of accidents, how to increase the safety of people who are employed in our factories.

A great many of the improvements and innovations in this Bill for promoting safety are concerned with fire, with the prevention of fire and with escape from fire, as your Lordships will find in Clauses 9 to 16. Clause 9 makes certain changes in Section 34 of the principal Act which lays the responsibility for seeing that proper methods of fire escape are provided on district councils, who were in 1937 also the fire authorities who ran the local fire brigade. Since then, as your Lordships probably know, the management of fire brigades has been transferred to larger authorities; and it was a very difficult question when this Bill was introduced in the other place whether the duty of seeing that proper measures for escape from fire were taken should fall upon the authority which controlled the fire brigade, and presumably knew more about it, or on the smaller authority which made the building by-laws.

Under the Bill as it was first introduced, the responsibility was on the smaller authority, who are also responsible for building matters. By an Amendment, however, in the other place responsibility has been transferred, under Clause 9, to the county councils or county borough councils in England; but not yet in Scotland. In Scotland there appears to be much more feeling on the part of the authorities that this may not be the right solution. It has not yet been finally decided what changes will be necessary in the administration in Scotland of Section 34 of the principal Act. An Amendment may have to be moved when the Bill goes into Committee in your Lordships' House, but I am not yet able to say what the solution will be in regard to Scotland.

Clauses 10 and 11 also introduce innovations which were not contained in the principal Act. Under Clause 10 The Minister may make special regulations as to the measures to he taken to reduce the risk of fire breaking out in any factory or of any such fire or smoke therefrom spreading in any factory, and such regulations may, among other things, prescribe requirements as to the internal construction of a factory and the materials used in that construction. Special regulations may he made providing that some other person, as well as, or instead of, the occupier, shall be responsible for a contravention thereof. That is, as your Lordships will see, a very broad, general provision; but your Lordships can think of the great variety of conditions in different factories. One kind of factory may have some kind of material used in the construction which may increase the danger of fire, whereas in a different type of factory that same material may be perfectly safe. It is not possible to lay down detailed requirements in an Act of Parliament, but this Bill proposes, for the first time, that the Minister should have power to make this kind of regulation, on, for example, the use of certain building materials which might be thought to increase the danger of fire.

Clause 11 provides: In every factory there shall he provided and maintained appropriate means for fighting fire, which shall be so placed as to be readily available for use. The remaining clauses regarding fire (that is, Clauses 12 to 16), as your Lordships will see, all refer to the principal Act and bring the regulations for escape provided in the 1937 Act up to date, with a number of improvements to those provisions.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl, as he is on the point, could give me some information. I am a little puzzled by Clause 11 (6). I do not quite see how it is intended to work or why it is in the Bill.


Clause 11 (6) states: The Minister may by order grant exemption from the requirements of subsection (1) of this section and any such order may apply to any particular factory or part of a factory or any class or description of factory. I think that provision is obviously to give the Minister the necessary elasticity in making orders which might be burdensome and unnecessary to some particular type of factory where it was not necessary to have these installations.

My Lords, the part of the principal Act which caused the greatest amount of discussion was the part regulating hours of work and overtime of women and young persons. I think that previously the maximum amount of overtime allowed in a year was 600 hours. We reduced that to 100 hours. We provided that the number of weeks in a year during which overtime could be worked should not exceed thirty, and we made certain limits within which women and juveniles might work. We thought that the changes which we were making were fairly hold and advanced changes, very great improvements. Our critics on the other side of the House, I remember, did not think so, and we were criticised for a great many things. One was for not introducing into that Act a provision for holidays with pay—although, of course, that was introduced very soon afterwards in a separate Act. We were also criticised for not abolishing overtime altogether. I think we must remember that at that time we had 1,500,000 unemployed, so people were naturally apt to look on overtime in a slightly different light from that in which they see it now. But it was generally thought by our critics—and I remember particularly a speech by Mr. Arthur Greenwood at the start of the second clay's debate—that we had not gone far enough, and that we ought to have gone a good deal further in restricting these hours of work.

It is one of the little ironies of modern political life that these restrictions which we laid clown in the 1937 Act have since been almost continuously suspended, both by the people who introduced them and by the people who thought they did not go far enough. Defence Regulation 59 was introduced during the war in the interests of production. It suspended these restrictions, or gave the Minister power to grant suspensions: and since then that power has been continued by every Government since the war ended. The Minister now desires to bring all these Defence Regulations to an end, and he spent a great deal of time in consultation with the trade unions considering whether it would be possible to amend the Act of 1937. He thinks that the provisions regarding overtime in that Act are much too rigid. He did do his; best to see whether he could work out alternative regulations, but he was not able to find a solution which would be sufficiently flexible.

What the Minister has done, therefore—what is proposed in Clause 22—is to give himself power similar to that which he held under Defence Regulation 59, but with certain important differences. Under Defence Regulation 59 he could grant exemptions in respect of young persons under the age of 16: under this Bill he will not be allowed to grant exemptions to people under 16. The Defence Regulation imposed no obligation upon him to consult anybody before he granted an exemption, but Clause 22 now imposes upon him very detailed obligations to consult the various interests who may be affected. Indeed, he cannot grant an exemption unless one of those interests has applied to him in the first place. In fact, the Minister acts more or less as a kind of post-box in the matter.

The general exemptions—for example, those which are granted in respect of a whole industry—can be made only by way of special regulations, subject to the procedure laid down by the Second Schedule to the 1937 Act, which requires careful consultation with the affected interests and which says that in certain circumstances a public inquiry must be held. Then in the case of an individual exemption, while no time limit to that was provided in Defence Regulation 59, under this clause the granting of a special exemption order—that is, one extending only to particular persons—is limited to one year, subject to renewal if it can he shown that the exemption is still needed.

My right honourable friend has spent a great deal of time in considering this difficult question, my Lords, and he thinks that Clause 22 strikes a reasonable balance between the need for elasticity in this matter, the interests of production, and the need to protect certain classes of people against excessive hours.

My Lords, I must apologise for taking up so much of your Lordships' time. This Bill is not quite of the same order of importance as the Factories Act of 1937, or the Act of 1901, but it does make very substantial improvements in modernising our present factory laws. One remarkable feature of this Bill, I think, is the unprecedented unanimity and agreement with which it has gone through all its stages in another place. It was originally a Bill of twenty-seven clauses and two Schedules: now it is a Bill of thirty-three clauses and three Schedules. The Amendments to every part of the Bill (with one very early exception, which did not come quite into line with the rest of the Bill) were almost entirely unanimous. The Amendments moved and accepted were never voted on on Party lines in the other place, and they came from all Parties.

My Lords, I think that a few of your Lordships have lately been a little exercised on the question of how far it is in order to quote verbatim what has been said in another place; and I am certainly not going to quote anything that has been said on this Bill. Indeed, I would not ask your Lordships' permission, even, to quote what I myself said in another place in 1937 if it were a matter of quoting my own words. But I should like, if I may, to repeat a quotation from Lord Shaftesbury which I read during the Second Reading debate on the 1937 Act. That, again, is a quotation from another place, because at that time he was Lord Ashley, and was, as a member of that other place, pleading for favourable consideration for his Factory Bill of 1844.

At that time the rapid industrialisation of Great Britain had largely destroyed the older and happier relations which used to subsist between master and man; and the harsh economic theories which were then fashionable tolerated a great deal of inhuman conditions in our factories and mines. Although Lord Shaftesbury's Act of 1844 is one of the landmarks in our industrial history, the restrictions and limitations which it imposed on conditions and hours of work in factories were, in fact, very moderate indeed. They did not go nearly far enough, and Lord Shaftesbury himself was very conscious of that: they did not go as far as he wanted. What he said was [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 320, col. 725]: We ask but a slight relaxation of toil, a time to live and a time to die; a time for those comforts that sweeten life, and a time for those duties that adorn it. Later on, he said: But I dare to hope for far better things —for restored affections, for renewed understanding between master and man, for combined and general efforts, for large and mutual concessions of all classes of the wealthy for the benefit of the common welfare and specially of the labouring people …". That was Lord Shaftesbury's ideal in 1844: and in the last 115 years we have moved some way towards the goal which he had, although it has often been an uphill journey. We hope, my Lords, that this modest but not insignificant Bill will help us to move a little further on, not only in securing better safety for the factory worker but also in promoting the free and willing co-operation which we all want to see among all kinds of people who are engaged in British industry.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Dundee.)

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on his informed and understanding speech, his second excellent star performance on this double bill, may I be allowed to congratulate also the Government, and particularly the Minister of Labour, upon this signal advance towards the goal towards which Lord Shaftesbury first set foot? We should remember, too, in appreciating what this Bill achieves, that this year is the centenary of the death of Robert Owen.

This Bill is a remarkable example of Parliament at its best in one of its phases, of the active co-operation of Government and the Opposition in making progress in a common aim. I believe that the Government themselves moved over sixty Amendments to their original Bill, all of which were carried and all but a few of which emanated from suggestions of members of the Opposition. It gave rise to seventeen sittings of the Committee on the Bill, and the Minister was good enough to say (I will not quote him) that if it had not been for the voluble thanks of members of the Opposition for concessions he had made, fifteen sittings would have been enough. So I think that this is a remarkable Parliamentary event, apart altogether from the excellence of the measure as it now comes to us from another place.

In your Lordships' House we are privileged to have on this side, and no doubt on the other—I see some noble Lords before me who certainly qualify—experts in this field who, I am sure, will make useful and constructive contributions to the debate and who on Committee stage may well be able to make some further improvements on the Bill. Experience drawn from a life spent in industry, as trade union officials, employers and medical advisers, enable some of my noble friends to make extremely useful contributions.

As the noble Earl said, the two most important aspects of the Bill are the fire prevention and welfare provisions. The fire prevention clauses are very important. I have always felt that the danger of fire and the regulations for dealing with it fell far short of what was required. For some years, including some of the war years, I was Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee of the London County Council and I know the enormous amount of expert knowledge which is accumulated by fire authorities of the great county councils. In transferring responsibility for the fire safety provisions in factories to the county fire authorities and county boroughs, where appropriate, this Bill makes a revolutionary step forward. I hope that the change will do a great amount to prevent the serious number of deaths and injuries arising from factory fires and accidents. The Bill might perhaps go a little further in permitting county fire authorities to make constructive forward proposals in the construction and alteration of factories, and no doubt that point will be looked at when we get to Committee stage. The noble Earl mentioned Clause 10 with regard to the construction of factories, and I should be glad later on if he would enlighten me on a point which still seems to me obscure—namely, whether these powers operate in existing buildings as well as in buildings it is proposed to construct.

Health provisions are very important, too. For the first time, the Government accept the responsibility for the health and welfare of factory workers and set about the task of prescribing regulations to that end. Particularly, the Bill requires that in all factories employing more than fifty people there shall be a trained person in charge of first aid. I should like to learn a little more about how this training is to be provided, because it is important that this should be got going soon. I think that something should be done for the smaller factories where often these provisions are most needed.

I would make two points in conclusion. One is that the carrying out of all this good work depends largely on the factory inspectorate, and it is very important that not only should the quality of the inspectorate be maintained and improved but its number should be very considerably augmented. Already factory inspectors are over-worked people, quite unable within the time at their disposal adequately to do the work required of them. I hope that the numbers mentioned by the noble Earl will not be regarded as the top numbers for the factory inspection staff. The second point is that there ought to be some provision for compulsory third party insurance, as it were, to make sure that those who are entitled to compensation under the provisions of the Bill get that compensation even though the employer is insolvent or unable to pay. Perhaps when we come to the appropriate stage we may look at that.

There is one further point. The accord between the Government and the Opposition has had the effect that this remarkable Bill has been given little mention in the Press. Our newspapers thrive upon disagreement land not upon agreement. Therefore, few people know about the Bill and its contents, and if it is to work it is essential that everybody who is concerned, both employers and, even more important, the workmen themselves, should know about it. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he could give us an undertaking at some time throughout the discussions that the. Minister will publish a booklet explaining in popular language what it is gall about and leaflets which can be distributed in the factories, so that the workers will know what their rights and, no less important, what their duties are under the factory regulations as they will now be. Publicity of that kind is absolutely essential to get the benefits of this remarkable piece of legislation.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to make one or two remarks upon this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has given your Lordships some reminiscences about the Act of 1937 in another place, and perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I do the same. First, I would say that this is a good Bill, which I, for one, cordially welcome. I am sure that the great mass of employers welcome it, too. As the noble Earl said, factory legislation has a very special place in our Parliamentary system. I was privileged to be a member of the Standing Committee in another place on the 1937 Bill. My noble friend Lord Tenby presided over the Committee excellently in his most genial manner. The Committee sat for more than three months; we started in winter and finished in the height of summer. Party controversy was at a minimum throughout. There were a number of spirited debates, but members on each side of the Committee were found on each side of the question. Back Bench advice was accepted in a way in which it is seldom accepted in Parliament nowadays. I think that all of us look back on that summer as one of the most satisfactory experiences of our political life.

I am delighted to see, reading the Report of the Committee stage of this Bill in another place, that the same spirit prevailed and the same experience was had by those who conducted their work in this respect. After all, here we are legislating for something like 8 million to 10 million people, and with one end in view only—namely, to improve the conditions of their safety and welfare in industry. I suppose that because this Bill and the Act of 1937 passed with so little Party controversy, as the noble Lord said, it has received practically no attention in the Press. What a pity that is!


A great pity.


I think it is a grave reflection on the Press that they should pass over a measure of this sort. One of the principal deterrents to accidents is knowledge. and if people in industry knew with what care Parliament endeavoured to plan out the legislation under which factories worked they would possibly take more care to avoid many of these accidents which can only be put down to lack of thought and carelessness. I hope that the Minister will follow up the excellent suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, that as much publicity as possible should be given to the Bill when it becomes law.

I should like to say that those whom I represent much appreciate the close and courteous consultation that the Ministry had with both sides of industry before introducing the Bill. It is a Bill based upon, and it constantly refers to, the major Act of 1937 and the Act of 1948. I hope that as soon as Parliamentary time and duties permit, a consolidated measure will be brought forward so that those who have to conduct these matters in practice can go to one source to find out what are their obligations. I know that Consolidation Bills are a great trial to many people, but they are an advantage to those who have to work out these matters.

Perhaps I might refer to one or two small points in the clauses which I think are most satisfactory. Clause 17 consists of only two-and-a-half lines but it is of great importance. It says: The facilities required ߪ shall include a supply of hot and cold or of warm water. I think it is quite time, in 1959, that those who work in factories should be able to wash their hands in warm water. It is a considerable advance, as many of us will know. The lifting of excessive weights has hitherto been an offence only with regard to young people. But lifting of excessive weights liable to damage the health of the individual lifting them is obviously a wrong thing to ask anybody to do, and I am delighted to see in Clause 19—and I think this emanated from a suggestion from the BackBenchers on the other side—that the word "young" shall be omitted.

The Minister has referred to Clause 25, which is possibly the most important clause of the Bill and one which gives an imaginative Minister of Labour in the future something concrete to work on in improving the health, safety and welfare of those who work in the factories. I am sure that in the present Minister and the present Government we have that imagination which will make a reality of the powers given under this clause; and I wish them well. There is an interesting clause, Clause 24, where railway running sheds are for the first time brought into the scope of the Factories Act. This has been a bone of contention for a long time and we have heard great debates on the Gowers Report and other matters. At one time theorists considered that once the railways were nationalised there would be no real need for any of these regulations and rules, because everything would be perfect. However, that has not happened, and I am glad to see that the same protection is to he given to those who work on the railway running sheds as is given to those who work in factories. I am sure we all welcome that provision.

I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, say a few words about the factory inspectorate. The position there is important. The present establishment is 440, although it is hoped to raise that a little. There are, I am told, 409 in posts and another 7 at this moment who have passed all their examinations and are awaiting posting. That 416 out of 440 is a much better figure than we have had for many years, and I am sure that all those who are interested in this field are glad to see that the factory inspectorate is filling up so adequately. I, for one, was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Dundee say that the quality of factory inspectors was in no way being impaired by this extra recruitment. I do not quite agree with the strictures that the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, made upon the present inadequacy of the factory inspectorate. I do not believe that there is a great field which they cannot cover at the present time. Some of them may be overworked, but they are not the only people in the country who are overworked. Moreover, they do an admirable job and, so far as my friends and I know, they cover the field adequately. I hope that the remaining vacancies will be quickly filled up with men and women of the highest calibre, and I am sure we can trust that inspectorate to carry out the duties that Parliament lays upon them.


My Lords, I should like to make it clear, if I did not do so, that there is no reflection on the quality of the inspectors now employed. I think there are not enough of them.


I agree that there can be no reflection on the quality of the inspectorate. I do not think there is anything more I wish to refer to in the Bill, except to remark on the difficult clause, Clause 22, which has been brought in because the arrangements made in the 1937 Act with regard to overtime and shift working of young persons has been found to be faulty. More and more, with the expensive machines that it is necessary for industry to purchase if we are to keep up our efficiency, industry will have to turn to double-shift working. They are doing that in certain industries now. It has come in many of our competitor countries, and it could well come here to an increased extent. We must make arrangements for that. The Minister does this in Clause 22, but he has taken the utmost care to see that any such questions as this are brought in by general agreement between employers and workpeople and not by the regulations of the employers alone. That is the right system, and I cordially commend it. I trust that this Bill will play a part, as I am sure it will, in keeping the standard of British industry in regard to the question of the safety and welfare of those working in it in the forefront of industry throughout the world, and will maintain for us our proud record.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in congratulating the Government on this Bill, in giving it a warm welcome and in thanking all concerned in another place for the constructive work they have done on it. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said that this was not of the same order of importance as the Act of 1937. That may well be the case, but this is an extremely important Bill and it is going to mark a distinct step forward in factory health and factory safety. In my view it will remain almost a dead letter unless the Government get really active in harnessing the enthusiasm of all working in factories, in any capacity, in the cause of health and safety.

We have to remember that there are still some fourteen sections of the 1937 Act which, for one reason or another, have never been implemented. Therefore it is not so much our passing a Bill and putting these, as it were, good resolutions on paper; the great work will begin after we have finished with it. I think we can say that we are happy that the initiation of this work will be in the hands of the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Labour, because, in my view, no one is keener on health and safety in factories. The right honourable gentleman, whatever else he does—and his achievements are not inconsiderable—will never be able to look back on a better piece of work than has been done in this Bill.

Noble Lords have mentioned that it has not received any praise in the Press. That is, of course, strictly according to form. As a small boy I remember the late Sir Hiram Maxim telling the story that he was an impecunious inventor so long as he was trying to invent something to save human life, but the moment he invented the Maxim gun his fortune was made. It is precisely the same with our work here in this House. If we are not indulging in acute controversy or slanging matches, then little notice is taken of it. But the misfortune does not lie in the lack of publicity for anything we have said, but in the lack of publicity for what is in this Bill. Therefore it throws a much heavier duty on the Government to overcome that lack of publicity in the manner in which my noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston has suggested. I might amplify his suggestion by putting forward the view that there should be two pamphlets: one, the larger one, which would draw to the attention of every employer—I think it should go to every factory owner—the principal provisions of the Bill, and the other a shortened version, in leaflet form, setting out the rights and responsibilities of employees; and the help of their trade unions should be enlisted in distributing it through their branches.

In my view the most important features of general application in the Bill are those dealing with fire prevention and safety and the new powers of fire officers; the fact that the Government accept responsibility for the safety and welfare of factory workers; the new responsibilities connected with the obstruction of floors and staircases, which should prevent many of the 12,000 accidents which happen from this cause every year, and, of course, the improved facilities for washing. With regard to the fire clauses, I think the most important part is that they introduce for the first time the principle of fire prevention, so that fire prevention becomes almost as, if not more important than, putting them out.

I welcome, too, the change of power from the district councils to the county and county boroughs. In doing so, I make no reflection on the district councils who have been the fire authorities in this matter since 1937. It is quite right, in my view, that the certification of factories in respect of fire escapes should be in the hands of fire experts. There have been tremendous developments in knowledge of this kind of fire prevention in recent years, and it is essential that this knowledge should be fully used in order to save life. It is no use pretending that the district authorities have the trained staff, and, with the best will in the world, a sanitary inspector or other local government officer, already overworked, has not been able to discharge these extra duties. Proof of this lies in the fact that the district authorities have exercised this power for twenty years, and only some 50 per cent. of our factories have so far been certified to be safe. Also, in very few cases have the district council officers been able to re-visit to see that the precautions are still being maintained. In future, because fire prevention officers know every factory in their area, it will be possible for them to re-visit, and I should not have thought it would take very long before we could be in the happier position that all factories have been examined and certified.

A great deal has already been said about the factory inspector. I think the important part of this Bill is that it will enable the fire brigade officer to become an important assistant to the factory inspector. A great deal of the success of this part of the Bill will depend upon the co-operation with which these two important officers can work together. I particularly welcome the clause in the Bill which says that fire alarms must be heard simultaneously in all parts of the building, and that they must be tested every three months. It is all too easy to feel that, when we have the alarms which go off when touched anywhere in every part of the building, we have taken out a sort of insurance policy and that nothing is going to happen.

There was a case in the Press only last week of a factory blaze when people had to jump from the first floor windows. One person died in the fire, and the firm was fined for having failed to insure that all the employees were familiar with what to do if there was a fire. It was not so much that there were not adequate escapes or fire alarms, but one of the employees who gave evidence said that she had been there twenty-four years and had never heard the fire alarm, and did not know there was one. That is why it is so important that these things should be tested and employees should be properly informed of these matters. We hope that the need will never arise, but it is vital for everybody concerned to know what he should do if it does. When these precautions in the Bill are properly implemented, there will be no further reason for the disastrous loss of life in factory fires, such as happened in the Keighley fire.

Another step which has been welcomed, and to which I give a restrained welcome, is the insistence that a supply of hot, cold or warm water must be available. The noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said how nice it was that factory workers would now have clean, warm water. But there is no insistence in the Bill that they are going to have clean water to wash in, because its provisions will be satisfied by a bucket of water, cold or hot. The first man to wash his hands in an engineering shed will wash them in the water and will get clean hands. But the twelfth man in the same bucket will get oily mud and, therefore, what the Bill should say—and what I hope it will say before it finally leaves us—is that it should be clean running water. I would remind your Lordships that the 1937 Act laid on factory owners the responsibility of providing: "adequate and suitable facilities for washing." Many factory owners have interpreted that as scarcely any water at all, or at least providing boiling hot water or absolutely cold water; therefore it was thought necessary that we should say, "warm water". This Bill should compel those people to provide decent amenities, and I hope that, before the Bill leaves us in Committee we shall introduce an Amendment which will make that improvement.

I also noted with restrained approval the fact that factories with more than fifty employees must have a properly trained person in charge of the first aid box. My enthusiasm is restrained, because I think the numbers should be much smaller than fifty employees whereby a factory should be obliged to have a suitably trained person in charge of the first aid box. I would rather see the number reduced from fifty to twenty. I am wondering whether all the training facilities are available. Some months ago the Red Cross came to see me in my area for help in inducing factory owners to send workers to classes for first-aid train- ing. We were very enthusiastic, and I think that in my own factories we got the right people, and they were enthusiastic, too. But that was months ago, and they are not trained because the classes have not started. I understand that it may be because of lack of money. I am wondering, therefore, whether the Government propose to make a grant to voluntary organisations to enable them to provide these badly needed facilities. I am quite sure that if they do it will be the cheapest and best, and perhaps the only way in which this training can be provided.

It would be very much better if all factories, large and small, could have access to proper facilities, doctors, nurses and all the rest. This may be no longer an idle dream, because in this Bill, for the first time ever, the Government accept responsibility for promoting the health, welfare and safety of factory workers, and the Minister has taken power to set up laboratories which will not be used simply for research. This power could, in fact, if the Minister or his successor had the courage, be used to provide an occupational health service. If it does, Clause 25 will be the most important clause of this Bill; and I believe that this Bill will be more important than the 1937 Act. I am going to leave it to my noble friend Lord Taylor to enlarge on that aspect, because that is very much his life work.

Meanwhile, there are one or two omissions (as I regard them) from the Bill, and I should be grateful if the noble Earl would make a note of them. Perhaps he will comment on them when he winds up, or we can give notice to discuss them on Committee. They all arise in my mind from the fact that neither management nor workers in factories are sufficiently safety-conscious. It seems to me that daily familiarity with machines breeds contempt. I say, quite frankly, that employees are no better in this than employers, and in many cases show greater indifference to dangers than do those who employ them. It is a very sad thing, because it makes it much more difficult to get over the importance of this matter. Guards are removed for greater speed; and, unless the boss is about, the foreman looks the other way.

What we have to do is to build up a partnership of safety, in which everyone in the factory is a working partner. I believe that for this we need to provide, and have written into the Bill, an insistence that factories employing over a certain number of workers should have their own safety or accident prevention officer. He need not be a full-time officer, but he must be properly trained. If we do have properly trained safety officers, there will be not nearly so much need for the first-aid box.

I hope also that in order to assist this work the Government will greatly strengthen the provisions for consultation and research into safety. I am aware, of course, that there is a sub-committee of the National Joint Advisory Council which works on health and safety, but I do not think this is nearly enough: there is great need for more co-ordination in these matters. In the smaller factories, so long as safety officer is properly trained, he need not be a full-time officer, and the work need not take up the major part of his day; but he must have full authority and enjoy the full confidence of the men. Such an officer, properly trained, can indeed be a crusader for safety. I therefore hope the Government will be prepared to write this proviso into the Bill, and will be prepared to provide the necessary training, facilities. Would they also be prepared to consider adding to Government contracts, as an addendum to the "fair wages" clause, a clause whereby a contractor would be required not only to pay fair wages but also to employ a suitably trained accident prevention officer?

Another point is that in factories I regard full information as a prerequisite of confidence. At present, in the least satisfactory firms (always, of course, those with the higher incidence of accidents) the employees never see the reports of factory inspectors or fire officers. They are withheld from them, for obvious reasons. In my view they have a right to see these reports. They have a stake in them: and that stake may be their own lives. That, again, is a matter which I think we should put right in this Bill. Then I feel that there should be much more direct contact between the factory inspector and the workmen. When the factory inspector goes to the factory, I should like to see him going round for ten or fifteen minutes with the chap whose name is on the first-aid box. In that way the first-aid man can learn far more of the snags, the chief places where accidents are likely to occur; he can become far more enthusiastic and make his fellow workers more enthusiastic in the cause of health and safety. Therefore, within this Bill we should provide for publication of safety reports to employees. I hope that the Government will think about this matter, because it is one that we shall raise again.

To some noble Lords who perhaps have no great experience of factories some of these precautions may seem unnecessary. But from my experience in industry, and as a Member of another place, I have learned otherwise. I have seen too many lives completely and utterly broken by avoidable factory accidents; lives not only of the people immediately concerned, who are killed or injured for life, but also those of their families—their wives and children. In an average year, there are 150,000 factory accidents, some 16,000 of them serious, and nearly 500 fatal. That means, perhaps, as many as 50,000 personal tragedies. If anybody has sat on one side of a small table and taken down the miserable unhappy position that arises when there is a serious or fatal factory accident, he would not dismiss lightly the need for provisions of this kind; and if anybody has been in a factory where there has been a bad accident it is something he will never forget. So I do not apologise for emphasising this point, or perhaps taking a little time over it. I think it is our duty to ensure, by every means in our power, that these numbers are reduced to the lowest possible level.

What of those who, despite our best endeavours, are killed or seriously injured? I say that we should make such financial provision for them and their dependants as will avoid reduction in their living standards. No one will pretend that the scale of benefits from the Industrial Injuries Acts provides that sort of cover. I know that this is not a subject to be discussed on this Bill; it cannot be altered by this Bill. But after these benefits have been received, the only hope, if negligence can be proved, is a successful Common Law claim. This Bill will greatly extend the possibilities of Common Law claims, because it extends the responsibilities of employers. It creates more opportunities for employers to neglect their duty, and therefore must mean an extension of the possibilities of Common Law claims. But it does not mean that, when there has been a successful claim, the injured person or his widow is going to be paid the sum awarded by the courts.

If we read of an accident case in which a motor car or motor vehicle is involved and a sum is awarded in court, we know that it will be paid because the guilty party, if I may use that term, is insured. But we do not know that in the case of an award of this kind, under a Common Law claim, particularly; because it is the fact that the smaller firms—those where, unhappily, there is the greater likelihood of accidents—are the ones who would not be insured and who would, in fact, be bankrupted by a large claim of that kind. In such a case financial hardship would be added to crippling injury. We do therefore most earnestly ask the Government to consider whether to this Bill there cannot be added a clause which would compel all employers to take out insurance similar to the compulsory third-party insurance carried by car owners, with similar penalties, including imprisonment, so that a factory worker can be fully compensated in the event of accident.

My Lords, this Bill is a very fine piece of work. I believe that it can be still further improved. I hope that we shall all work together in that improvement, and that we shall send it as speedily as possible on its way to save our factory workers from injury or death.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Stonham. I must say that I agree with everything that he has said. When the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, and my noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston were speaking about the lack of publicity which the most detailed and interesting Committee stage in another place had received—scarcely a word was mentioned in the national Press—I could not help feeling that we had a little responsibility there, and that it is our job in this House and in another place to translate the prosaic words of the Parliamentary draftsman into what the Press looks for, which is the living human story. As I was listening to my noble friend Lord Stonham, I felt that he achieved that object.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when introducing this Bill, took us back to 1844, when Lord Ashley introduced his first great Factory Act. I must say that I was thinking of that and of the great Earl of Shaftesbury, when I was thinking about this Bill and how, eighty-four years ago, in your Lordships' House—within the lifetime of a few of your Lordships—he persuaded this House to pass a Bill which finally put an end to the use of little boys as chimney sweeps. Charles Kingsley's Water Babies had been published about twelve years before, and there was some legislation immediately following it. But it was abortive legislation. It did not work; and it took twelve years for Lord Shaftesbury to get that legislation through in a working form. That was the last of his great series of legislative measures which made this House and another place really the cradles of industrial health legislation in this country and, indeed, in the world.

We take the Factories Acts for granted, but we forget the background against which they operate. The typical British factory is a small place. There are something like 233,000 factories in this country, but 195,000 of them—that is. 83 per cent.—employ 25 workers or less; and 69 per cent. of all factories have 10 workers, or less. In those 195,000 factories, which are little factories, there are working just over 1 million people. or 15 per cent. of our factory population. They are not like the big factories with which so many of your Lordships are familiar. They are mainly engaged on sub-contracting jobs for larger firms; they are mostly "scruffy" places, but they are highly efficient and highly competitive—they have to be or they would not be successful. They would go bankrupt if they could not turn out their goods. The directors are working on the benches. There are no slackers in the little factories: the directors would not let there be any slackers. They would see them. They could not afford it. The office and paper work in these little factories is usually done by the directors or by their wives in the evenings. It is not done in the factory—they have not got an office—but at home. Physically and environmentally most of these factories are a very poor sort of place, but socially as well as economically they are extremely good places to work in. They are the happy little ships in British industry where everybody is "Bill", "Tom", "Dick", "Gert", "Daisy" and "Maud"; it is a family party in these little factories; and splendid places they are, though they are pretty messy!

Then we might extend the picture upwards, to include factories having up to 250 workers. I choose this figure for a special reason, because it is quite uneconomical—indeed, it is unnecessary—for a factory with 250 workers, or less, to employ a whole-time factory nurse. Such a nurse costs £650 a year in salary if she is a State-registered nurse, and she will use, in stocks and materials, stores and overheads, another £350, which is a fairly heavy overhead for a factory of that size. Moreover, such a factory will not produce nearly enough real nursing work to justify having a nurse. Indeed, if she is there she will be used for other jobs—she will be used for welfare or clerical work. If that happens, she ceases to retain her nursing skill; she ceases to be a good nurse when she is wanted simply because she has not a sufficient turnover of patients.

I have been speaking about factories having up to 250 workers. This group includes 98 per cent. of all our factories in the country, and in such factories there work 52 per cent. of all our workers, or 3.7 million people. At the other extreme there are about 800 factories each employing over 1,000 people. In these factories there work 1.8 million people, or 24 per cent. of our factory population. In these large factories the health needs of the workers are, on the whole, extremely well catered for by full-time nurses, by full-time and part-time medical officers paid for by the management. Such services have a very real value to the firms, not only in humanitarian terms, in terms of raising morale, but also in terms of actual production. For as your Lordships will be well aware, absence due to illness is about 100 times as important as absence due to industrial disputes.

The Government have been most reluctant to try to make an estimate of what ill-health costs British industry. I do not blame the Government, because it is an exceedingly difficult statistical calculation; and one has to be a little foolhardy to do it. But if your Lordships will look in this week's Lancet you will observe that I have made an attempt, and I found the figure to be about £780 million to £1,000 million per year lost as the result of ill-health and accident in industry. The greater part of this loss is not due to serious illness but is due to minor illness and minor accident. It is an extraordinary thing. By starting an efficient medical department in a large engineering firm two colleagues of mine found that they cut absence, in terms of days lost, as certified by doctors' certificates, by up to 50 per cent.

Your Lordships may wonder how that happened. I can give you an example, as instanced by a patient I saw yesterday. This man had run a drill through the top of his finger. An X-ray established that he had put the drill through his terminal phalanx, and unless he had received penicillin he would almost certainly have developed an infection of the bone, which might have lasted for many weeks. It might even have left him with an ineffective finger. Supposing there is no industrial medical department or industrial health service to look after such a person, he goes to his general practitioner the following morning, because it is only then that his finger has begun to throb. His G.P. prescribes some penicillin and gives it to him. By that time the man has lost half a day's work; and the same thing has to happen for seven days running. Supposing, however, there is a factory medical department, the man goes to his general practitioner and collects the penicillin; and the factory medical department will inject it for him, (or, in my case, the industrial health service), with the result that the total work-time lost is perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. So, from the national point of view, apart altogether from the human point of view, an efficient industrial health service is a paying proposition.

If your Lordships will permit me—you will see why in a moment—I will now turn to the problem of industrial dermatitis. Your Lordships are aware that this is not a notifiable industrial disease but is a prescribed industrial disease. There are certain reasons why it is not notifiable. The main reason is that if it were notifiable Her Majesty's inspectors would be presented with an impossible task in trying to follow up all the cases. There are so many cases that the inspectors could not cope with them. The disease is, however, prescribed for the purpose of industrial injuries benefit.

Because this is not a notifiable disease we do not know exactly how many cases of industrial dermatitis there are, but the best estimate I have been able to get is about 80 cases per 10,000 workers per annum. I have a colleague and friend, Dr. Leo Bourne, who is an industrial dermatological specialist. He has analysed 300 consecutive cases of industrial dermatitis seen at a London hospital. The important point was that 75 per cent. of them came from factories employing fewer than 250 people, and 50 per cent. came from factories in which there were neither doctors, nurses nor first-aiders—which means places employing less than 50 people. The smaller the factory, the greater the risk of dermatitis; and the answer can be given in three words—inadequate washing facilities.

As my noble friend Lord Stonham has said, Clause 17 of the Bill now makes a praiseworthy attempt to specify what are adequate washing facilities. But as he also said, it does not go quite far enough. Recently two other colleagues of mine, Mrs. Margot Jefferys and Dr. Christopher Wood, made a survey of 50 small factories in a typical old industrial borough. The results will be published quite soon in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine, with pictures which show what these factories are like. Very often they have only a small sink at the corner of the stairs, without a towel, with a tray for soap which has no soap in it; and just a cold water tap. If your Lordships will permit me I will quote what they said: Where washing facilities were concerned, only one small firm was without so much as a tap or a basin; the rest complied with the law in varying degrees. One employer, with an eye to costs, and only as a result of a court case, has ingeniously installed a wooden trough fed by overflow hot water from a dirty tank, for his workers to wash in. Two other firms in the same building allowed their workers to share this privilege. The effect of this, like that of the bucket mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is to produce by the time the twelfth person has washed, a kind of witches' couldron of chemical muck, containing swarf, oil, detergent and all kinds of things; and these are the places where workers get industrial dermatitis. If only we cart clear up this one small point—and it means only a couple of words in the clause—this matter will be put right.

My noble friend Lord Wilmot of Selmeston has said that the number of factory inspectors is inadequate. I agree. Think of nearly 200,000 little factories to be visited! It is a terrific task. And at each place someone has to be argued with, and each has to be revisited to see that what was required has been done. It is a huge task, and we have not "thought big" enough. I do hope that the Minister will look again to see what can be done. It may be that we should have more inspectors without university degrees but with practical factory experience. I do not propose to enlarge on that aspect.

There is the other side of the picture of washing facilities. What happens if proper facilities are installed? I can tell your Lordships, from personal experience. At Harlow we have about 8,000 industrial workers in 70 factories, and we have established an industrial health service and an industrial dermatitis clinic which functions once a month. At risk in our service we have a little under 7,000 workers, and we should expect to see 60 cases of industrial dermatitis every year. In fact, we average less than 20. Quite often we have only one case, or even none, for our monthly clinic. There is no magic about it. Our smallest factory has only four workers, but, like all the rest, it is a new factory and has hot and cold running water. Barrier creams, protective clothing, exhaust ventilation and the rest are important in preventing industrial dermatitis; but the greatest need of all is adequate washing facilities.


Soap and water.


My Lords, I turn to Clause 18, dealing with first-aid. It is an extraordinary fact that employers have to provide first-aid boxes in the smallest factories, but there is no need for them to provide trained first-aid workers unless they have more than 50 workers in the factory. That is to say, 90 per cent. of our factories do not have to have a first-aid worker, which means that nearly one-quarter of our workers, have no trained first-aid cover. When, nearly four years ago, we started the Harlow industrial health service, following the advice of Dr. Austin Eager, builder of the excellent Slough industrial health service, we started to pay great attention to the training of first-aiders, to the stocking and equipping of first-aid boxes; and especially at small factories we made job-analyses or work-studies of what first-aiders actually do. We found that their work was very different from conventional first-aid—that is, first-aid as practised on roads or race courses, or at the back of a theatre where one normally finds a St. John man or Red Cross lady. Instead of comparatively few major casualties, such as one sees on the road, plus a few faints, there is a constant stream of minor casualties; and the first-aider in industry may see five, ten, fifteen or twenty patients daily, all with minor cuts and abrasions, most of which will never be seen by anybody else. He is giving not first-aid but last aid, definitive treatment—full treatment—for minor injuries and ailments.

As a result, we have had to work out a new way of teaching industrial first-aid. I feel a little like the celebrities on "What's My Line?" who at this point work in a reference to their forthcoming production, because we are about to produce a book entitled First-Aid in the Factory which will soon be serialised in the Medical World and later published in book form. I hope that the book will do something to raise the standards of industrial first-aid practice and teaching. We have found that the best person to teach industrial first-aid is the trained industrial nursing sister, because she really knows what goes on in factories; whereas the average doctor does not know about that, because he sees only major cases. But it is necessary to escape completely from conventional first-aid teaching with its emphasis on elementary anatomy and physiology, the treatment of fractures and the rather unrealistic atmosphere of the first-aid competition. Instead, emphasis must be placed on the proper treatment of minor cuts, usually through a skin absolutely covered with cutting oil, on chemical splashes, foreign bodies in the eye, gassing with trichlorethylene; and, of course, the first-aider must know precisely what his limits are. With proper treatment by first-aiders, sepsis of minor injuries, estimated by my honourable friend Dr. Stross in another place at one in twenty, can become virtually a thing of the past, as has very nearly been done in Harlow.

I say all that because in Clause 18 the right honourable gentleman the Minister takes power to lay down prescribed conditions for first-aid training. His officers have, in fact, approved our course of training, and I am glad to say that the new first-aid box regulations which will soon be introduced (I have been privileged to see the Draft Regulations) are nearly, but not quite, what we have found necessary at Harlow. When the present Minister of Labour and National Service was Minister of Health he said very nice things in another place about a book I wrote, Good General Practice; and I should like to assure him we have tried to do just the same thing for industrial first aid.

I now turn to what can be, but is not necessarily, the most important clause in the whole Bill, Clause 25. As I understand it, it was put in almost as an afterthought to a Bill primarily concerned with fire precautions and fire prevention; and it was put in to regularise something that was already being done—namely, the collection and dissemination of information by the Minister's officers. But as the Bill was going through Committee I think that the Minister and the Members in another place came to realise that this simple clause can mark the beginning of a new era in industrial health.

Under this clause it becomes the statutory duty of the Minister to promote health, safety and welfare in factories by positively investigating the problems concerned. "Problems" is a very wide word indeed, and it is as wide as the Minister likes to make it. The biggest problem is how to meet the health needs of the 3¾ million people who work in 228,000 factories employing 250 workers or less. As I said earlier, it is quite uneconomical, and indeed unnecessary, for such factories to employ their own full-time nurse, let alone a part-time doctor. It would be a gross waste of our limited supply of nurses and doctors. The answer is the co-operative industrial health service, such as we have been privileged to create at Harlow, which was itself modelled on the Slough industrial health service.

Such services can be based on an industrial health centre or on a hospital, as is the experiment at the Central Middlesex Hospital. The service must be fully mobile. The doctors and nurses must be just like the district nurse, doing her round of homes. There must be regular visits by both doctors and nurses to all the firms covered. We find that we can cover 5,000 workers with two full-time and three part-time sisters (so it is not a very luxurious or expensive job), plus the local general practitioners in the area working on a sessional basis. That is to say, the only extra doctor we require for running the service is five-elevenths of myself.


That is quite a bit.


I am not sure about that. The cost of the service is between 30s. and £2 per employed worker per annum. So it costs a firm employing twenty-five people £50 a year to belong to such a service. In return, the firm gets a twenty-four hour accident cover in the factory itself and in the industrial health centre; X-rays; special clinics of all sorts; it has its first-aiders trained; it has first-aid boxes supplied and stocked and regularly inspected; its hazards investigated; and a visiting doctor who will help on any health problem which may arise, however small it may be.

Groups of small firms, however, cannot possibly start these things for themselves. The Slough and Harlow services came into being because of generous grants from the Nuffield Foundation and the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust. We now need many more such pilot services. Up to now the Minister of Labour has been unable to give any practical financial help towards launching such schemes. With the very slighest modification of Clause 25 I think that should be made possible. The pattern which has been worked out for Slough, Harlow and Central Middlesex area may not have general applicability. There must be many more experimental schemes if we are to find the ideal ways—and there will not be one ideal; there will be many ideals—of covering these small factories.

The only way to do it is to try it; and the only way these small factories can start is to have a little help from somebody. The kind of help we had to start our service at Harlow was £18,000, spread over a period of five years in tapering grants, plus the capital cost of the building, for which we pay an economic rent. So far, all the Government help for these services has come through the Ministry of Health and Regional Hospital Boards. We want to see the Minister of Labour able to make his duty in respect to health in factories a reality.

Finally, my Lords, under Clause 26 the Minister takes power to provide and maintain laboratories for investigating problems of health, safety, and welfare. This may mean absolutely nothing. It may mean no more than a couple of dingy rooms in his Ministry, which is what I believe there are at present; or it may mean the beginning of an industrial hygiene laboratory service, with regional laboratories and full field staffs to which those of us who practise industrial medicine can turn whenever we need a practical problem investigated. I hope that this is what the Minister really means. If he does, we shall have taken perhaps the biggest step forward since the Factories Act of 1937 was introduced.

I began this speech with a reference to the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury. But he was not alone in his battle to improve the conditions of the life and health of the workers of this country. There have been, and there still are, thank goodness! a large number of progressive employers, starting off with Robert Owen, Josiah Wedgwood and all the rest. There have been doctors, both inside and outside Government service—men like Charles Thackrah, of Leeds, who founded British industrial medicine, and Sir Thomas Legge, of the Factory Inspectorate, and many more. There have been Members of another place, such as Sir Michael Sadler, William Cobbett, and William Wilberforce; and working men and women like John Pounds, the crippled cobbler of Portsmouth; Francis Place, the breeches-maker of Charing Cross, and Robert Applegarth, the joiner from Hull, and many more. In the improvement of the conditions of those who work in our factories, no one group or class or Party or profession can claim a monopoly of virtue. It is in such a spirit that this Bill was examined and greatly improved in another place; and I am sure it is in such a spirit that we shall all work with the Minister to ensure that the Bill leaves this House an even more useful instrument of well-doing than it is to-day.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, after hearing the speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor, I am appalled at how little I know of the subject for which to some extent I am responsible in my industry; and I must say that I think the speech which we have just heard is of such great value, both as an historical subject and as practical advice to managers, that I should hope that when the Minister comes to exercise his powers under the relevant clauses for the promotion of health and welfare in industry he may make use of the speech of my noble friend, because it contained much information of great practical value. The same, I think, applies to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Stonham.

However, it highlights to some extent the difficulty in which the factory manager and the administrator are placed. The Government expect the small and the big manager to know about a very great deal. In my organisation I am able, when Parliament passes an Act like this, to send it to the legal adviser. He or she then produces an account and we are able, between us, to digest what we need to know of the Act, put it into effect and circulate the requirements to managers lower down, who simply have not the time or the training to digest complicated information of this kind.

This is not an argument against this legislation. We are all, I hope, agreed that this is a valuable step forward; and the unanimity and, indeed, the enthusiasm with which this Bill has been treated, particularly by the Opposition, show how necessary and how desirable this type of development is. But it makes it absolutely essential that the factory inspectorate is adequate for the purpose; and here again I would emphasise that this is no reflection on the factory inspectors. But the factory manager, be his factory small or large, depends, and must depend increasingly in the future, on the factory inspector to put him right; not as somebody who comes round very occasionally, or perhaps never, but as somebody who is available, as these matters become more complicated, to give that sort of helpful advice which is the true rôle of the inspector—not one who is looking primarily for breaches of the law, but one who is assisting in the carrying out, in the most convenient and useful way, of the wishes of Parliament.

My noble friend Lord Stonham referred to the fact that this Bill is likely—or it is presumed that it will be likely—to increase the number of occasions on which litigation may take place. Even if it does not actually increase that litigation, it will increase the number of oppor- tunities for bringing actions against employers; and my noble friend suggested that, to meet this, there ought to be some form of compulsory insurance. It is true that some of these clauses greatly increase the liability of the employer. Clause 5 extends the requirement under the old Act that there should be a safe means of access; and this is now extended to every place where work takes place. I am no expert in these matters, but this seems to me to imply that it will be easier and more promising for somebody who suffers an injury and sues his employer for a breach of statutory duty to bring such litigation.

I do not know whether there is any possibility of extending this method into the field of industry, or whether it falls within a possible extension of the factory inspectorate, but I understand that in other countries it is not necessarily left to process of law to decide liability in the first instance. It would seem to me that here there might be a case for an extension of the factory inspectorate's responsibility to establishing at least some prima facie responsibility or liability. I have recently had to deal with a case which was a very doubtful one. It was one of a possible industrial disease which might or might not have arisen from our negligence in a factory. But in this matter we, as employers, were not really free agents: we were in the hands of our insurers—and this is the difficulty in which a good employer may find himself. In the same way as we are all advised in the event of being involved in a motor car accident in no circumstances to admit liability, however much we may be to blame—and it is always the first question your insurance company asks you—the employer may well be inclined (and, even if reluctant, he may be forced) to put the responsibility for deciding whether or not to resist a claim for damages on to the insurer; and he, in effect, becomes the arbitrator of safety in these matters.

In this particular case, because the individual was not a member of a trade union, we were placed in the ridiculous position of having to hire a lawyer to advise him in his negotiations with our lawyers, who acted partly on behalf of the insurers. Of course, we did not take it so far as to get it into court, which would have been absurd; but, in effect, that provision was made which might have been given by a trade union if he had been a member of one—and I will not go into that question now. But the matter is not as simple as it might be; and the leaving of decisions in this matter to the process of law does not always produce the best and the most just solution, and nobody necessarily expects that it should. I think that in the future some further steps might be taken towards establishing liability by investigation on the part of Government inspectors. However, that is a long way ahead.

I should like now to refer briefly to the subject which my noble friend Lord Taylor discussed—namely, the industrial health service. I do not think it can be over-emphasised how valuable it is to an employer, and how valuable it is to the country, to have such a service. It is not only the accidents which can be treated; it is the everyday ailments which otherwise would remain untreated—the most rdiculous little things about which people are reluctant to go to their doctors. They are reluctant to take the time to go down to the surgery, and, indeed, might feel slightly ashamed because they would be afraid of wasting the doctor's time. But if there is a trained industrial sister who is available, and who can be regularly visited, those minor ailments can be treated, and a real saving to the country in terms of a saving of time off from work and a saving to the overworked health service is thereby obtained.

I urge that this is one of the next steps which some subsequent Government should introduce and do its best to develop, because it is striking how many accidents of a minor nature may occur which can be dealt with effectively without calling in a doctor. It so happens that there are many firms in this country which, for one reason or another, do not have such a service. I should have thought that it was possible to introduce it, if not on a whole-time basis for small firms, at least on a part-time basis. That is one way in which this assistance can be given. There can then be regular visits at certain stated times—preferably not just one day a week, because to some extent it loses its value, although it will still be valuable; but visits at regular times two or three days a week. This is how I believe it would be possible to extend it to these smaller firms to which, on Lord Taylor's argument, it would not be economic or right to extend it in the full sense.

I have only one other point that I wish to make, and that is to repeat again my regret that the admirable developments foreshadowed in this Bill are not to be extended to, or that comparable extensions are not to be made in, the field of offices. It would not be suitable once again to argue on the Gower Report, but I would draw your Lordships' attention once more to that large section of industry, both in offices and outside, where suitable provisions do not apply and where there is great loss to health through the absence not only of health regulations but of expert service. The damage that is done to the health of office workers—and I have seen this myself—by merely being put to sit at unsuitable tables, where they cannot put their knees under the table, or where they cannot pull the drawers out, is something which we have yet failed to take into account. Therefore, in welcoming this Bill and in giving to it as much an enthusiastic response as my noble friends here and my honourable friends in another place have given, I hope that the Government will not forget the possibility of doing something in a field which is not covered by the Bill.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to say a few words of welcome to this Bill, which I consider to be one of the most important Bills which have been before your Lordships for quite a long time. As one might expect, the clause in which I am particularly interested is Clause 25, because that shows an enormous advance in what we must agree is entirely the right kind of direction. The whole picture of industrial disease is still far too large, although one can say that in the past a good deal of work has been done on the prevention of some of the major industrial diseases. One thinks of the extremely fine work done by Dr. Henry of the Home Office, when he carried out that long investigation into the cancer of the mule spinners of Lancashire.

A large amount of work is being done to stop the use of materials causing cancer of the skin among workers, and also in regard to respiratory diseases. But, as I have said, this work touches only the fringe of the position, and I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, speak about what had been done by medical services in the factories. I have come across many cases myself and I agree with every word he said about the enormous amount of time which is saved if people working in a factory can go to see some qualified person here, instead of having to go to see their medical practitioner in the evening or take time off to go to see him.

Another point was interested to see is the provision under Clause 18 for first-aid instructors in every factory employing more than fifty workers. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has already said a great deal about this subject and now I know many things about it I did not know before; therefore what I am going to say does not follow entirely what the noble Lord said. If factories cannot get trained industrial first-aiders, it would be far better to have people who work in the factory take a course in ordinary first aid. They would be able to deal with accidents quickly and in many cases prevent permanent injury to workers. After all, if factories are to have first-aid boxes in the corner, they want people trained to know what to do with these boxes.

On my third point, again I agree with what has been said, but I should like to emphasise how important it is that workers should be able to wash. There must be running water, with proper washbasins and proper soap. I do not know whether this needs to come into the Bill—it is really a Committee point—but I should like to see the term "running water" used rather than "hot or cold or warm water". If the Bill does not insist on running water, there would be no improvement at all in many factories. I think that washing can do more to preserve the health of the working people in factories than any other one thing.

There is the curious point on Clause 19, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, about young people not having to lift heavy weights. I certainly do not see why heavy weights should be lifted by people at all, whether young or old. If a job is going to be an unnatural strain, then people should not be asked to do it and some kind of mechanical method should be evolved. Finally, I would join in what has been said in tribute to the factory inspectors. I have seen the excellent work that they do. Whether there are enough of them I am not sure, but I feel that they have a big job to do under this Bill, when it becomes an Act, and if we really want to get the work done in the factories we may need to have more inspectors.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to three speeches from these Benches from noble Lords who speak from great practical knowledge of the subject with which this Bill deals—the type of speech that is always welcome in your Lordships' House. I myself cannot speak from that point of view, and speak only because I was forcibly reminded, particularly by what my noble friend Lord Taylor said about the importance of medical arrangements in the factory, of what I saw when I visited the U.S.S.R. two or three years ago. I had the opportunity of seeing the arrangements in several Russian factories and workshops. I should not like to say that they were typical of all factories over the whole of that great country, because no doubt it is the best of them that are shown to visitors, but it was obvious that they carry arrangements for first aid and medical attendance much further than I have ever seen them carried in this country. And during the war years, when I was working on civil defence in the North West Region, I had an opportunity of seeing the medical arrangements in some of our largest factories and workshops.

In Leningrad, I recall particularly a great tool shop where some 10,000 work-people are employed, where they had a whole-time medical staff of 17 in a large clinic actually at the disposal of the work-people in that factory, together with a visiting staff of specialists who come on one day or another during the week to look at particular diseases and difficult injuries resulting from accidents which had been reported to them. I have never seen anything like that in this country. Obviously the arrangements were first-class. It was the duty of something like half the medical staff to spend their day actually in the workshop, going round watching the men and women at the bench, seeing whether the tasks they were given were within their power: seeing whether they looked fit to do the job, and whether arrangements at the bench were adequate from the health point of view. They had the right—and they told me that the right was used—to withdraw a man or woman from the bench when they were not satisfied that the arrangements were satisfactory. That seemed to me the sort of position for which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was arguing this afternoon.


My Lords, I was not arguing for anything of the sort. I should be filled with horror at the idea of having 17 medical officers for 10,000 workers. I think that that is gross extravagance. They would all be sitting about eating their heads off and wasting public money.


My Lords, obviously they were not. Without knowing a great deal about it—I am not certain that medical qualifications in the U.S.S.R. would be as high as in this country—I think that a proportion of the staff, largely women, were more in the nature of the nursing sisters to whom the noble Lord referred. At any rate, as I went round these different factories and workshops in the U.S.S.R., it was evident that a great deal of attention is paid to this work. We in this country were the pioneers in factory legislation, but to some extent we have lagged behind the health arrangements in some other countries. I hope that this Bill is going to do something to bring us back into the vanguard.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I have been struck by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, because throughout this debate I have been impressed by the fact that locality has a great deal to do with the emphasis that management has to place on providing the medical and first-aid facilities necessary for the proper protection of the workers. A factory right out in the blue, such as I have had to do with in India, requires everything up to an X-ray service and hospital of its own, whereas in other factories in busy cities my experience is that, except for the simplest first-aid treatment or ordinary routine preventive measures, the local ambulance and hospital service can be on the spot in a remarkably short time. That does not in any way absolve the management from exercising the greatest possible care, but it does emphasise the fact that conditions vary with the location of work, the type of work done and the number of employees who are on the job.

While I am on my feet, I may say that I have been impressed by the suggestion from noble Lords opposite—it had not struck me—that this highly important matter to the industrial life of our country has not received the publicity that it might have done. There is one factor in regard to the health of workers, accident prevention and fire prevention and fighting which occurs to me as one of real interest and one in which all of us can take a part. I refer to the interest in these matters which can be evinced by chairmen and members of boards. It may be mischievous, but often in a well-run establishment there is little to criticise when one goes round, unless one has a very sharp eye or the undertaking is badly run. One fact sticks in my mind, however; in my experience, here and in other parts of the world, it is the most highly efficient works managers and engineers who seem to develop "blind spots". I do not know whether other noble Lords have found that to be so. Sometimes the independent bird's-eye view of the director or chairman can light on things which the executives have overlooked, even if it is merely a question of pushing at the bar of an emergency exit. I have had a good deal of fun in finding emergency exits that do not open when pushed. I remember one senior officer I used to go round with in a railway undertaking in the East who, if he could not find anything to grumble about, would say: "Let off a fire extinguisher". And it was remarkable how often it did not operate. In one case, where there was a large oil storage establishment, the watchman did not even know how to operate the fire extinguisher.

My point is that a general feeling of enthusiasm should be engendered throughout the factory—always, of course, without any sense of fussiness, or encouraging anxiety among the workpeople, or anything like that—towards a straightforward facing of the risks that are run and the duty of all concerned, from the top to the bottom, to be alert at all times to see that those risks are reduced to the absolute minimum. Why do I say that? Because, quite apart from the human angle and the question of welfare of the men and women, their families and dependants, as has been mentioned, there is the economic angle: that it simply does not pay to have people off work. If that is the only way to appeal to a board of directors—and it is not—that appeal can be made. It is simply poor economy to-day to permit any risk to be run; and if the slightest injury is incurred, it is poor economy not to have it treated at once. Right the way back in the beginning of the designing of a plant (I am thinking particularly of fire protection) thought applied to the design of the plant and the location of cloak-rooms may affect the ability of tile staff to get away in the event of fire. I do urge upon the authorities, so far as they can—they cannot do it in terms of an Act of Parliament, of course—to encourage the enthusiasm of all, from top to bottom, to pay attention to risks and to the fact that ready-at-hand methods of combating them are available.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the unanimous support which you have given to this Bill and I am grateful for the personal tributes which have been paid by noble friends opposite to the work of my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour who has put so much hard work into the preparation of this Bill. I am glad so many noble Lords have stressed the importance of the Bill, representing it as a measure of the first class. I did not want in my opening remarks to make exaggerated claims on its behalf, but I am delighted to find that the great advances and additions which the Bill will effect in our factory legislation are so well appreciated by your Lordships. I would also thank noble Lords for the vast range of valuable and interesting suggestions which have been made in the debate. All of these will be carefully considered by the Government, and it may well be that some of them will be further discussed in the subsequent stages of the Bill. I was especially interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, told us about the co-operative industrial health service, particularly in the new town of Harlow with which he is so intimately concerned, which seems to provide a helpful solution to the problem of making available trained assistants to the smaller type of factory.

Apart from the great number of detailed points which have arisen in the debate in connection with the administration of safety regulations in factories, I think the burden of your Lordships' speeches has been largely directed to the point of publicity and the dissemination of more information on the subject. Some of your Lordships complained that little attention had been paid to this Bill by the Press and that we should take what steps we can to rectify that omission. The noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, asked whether the Minister would send out pamphlets or printed booklets to all factories, telling them more about it; and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that the great trouble about making a success of factory legislation really was that neither managers nor workers are really safety conscious. That is only too likely to be true, and it is a fault shared by us all when we are perhaps driving a motor car, walking under a ladder or even skiing or playing football. Safety consciousness is not something which ordinary human beings have to a sufficient extent in their make-up.

I think that all these matters are covered by Clause 25 of this Bill, in which it is provided not only that the Minister shall promote health, safety and welfare in factories, but also that he shall collect and disseminate information by investigating, or assisting in the investigation of, problems of health, safety and welfare. He has the duty under this clause of disseminating information, and your Lordships will see that the expenses of doing so are to be defrayed out of monies provided by Parliament.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? The collection and dissemination of information referred to in Clause 25 is not the point I was on. We want the dissemination of information of the essential facts of this Bill, so that people should know their new responsibilities and duties.


I quite agree, but I do not see why the facts relating to this Bill should not be disseminated by the Minister under Clause 25, and I do not see why he should not defray the expenses of doing so, as provided in that clause, out of monies provided by Parliament.

Most of your Lordships' points will be taken note of and possibly dealt with later. May I deal with two small points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston? He asked about the training of first-aid assistants under Clause 18. They would have to be qualified and have a certificate from either St. John's Ambulance Association, St. Andrews Ambulance Association or the British Red Cross. Of course, there are penalties in the Bill for the use of untrained people. The other question the noble Lord asked was whether the provisions of Clause 10 applied to old buildings as well as to new factories. The answer is, Yes, they do.

There is one matter upon which I do not think any of your Lordships have touched and, indeed, I do not think I touched on it myself. Although the main emphasis in this Bill is not on punishing people for contravening regulations but rather on promoting co-operation between all classes engaged in industry, it is, nevertheless, necessary to have legal penalties in reserve in order to deal with those who deliberately refuse to carry out the law or deliberately try to avoid it. That is as much in the interests of the great majority of factory owners who try to carry out the law as it is of everybody else. Your Lordships will probably have seen that in Clause 28 of this Bill, and in the Second Schedule, great increases are made in the penalties provided by the principal Act of 1937. In most cases they are doubled or trebled; but in the case of penalties concerning Section 34 of the Act—that is, concerning offences on measures for escaping from fire—they are quadrupled: they are increased from £50 to £200. The penalty for continuing offences is raised from £5 to £20 for each day, and similarly the penalty for obstructing an inspector is quadrupled from £5 to £20.

I will conclude by once more thanking your Lordships most sincerely for your support and for the valuable suggestions you have made, which will all be considered, and by expressing the hope that your Lordships' support of this Bill will be continued throughout the remaining stages.

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