§ 3.52 p.m.
§ House again in Committee.
§ Clause 4 [Floors, passages and stairs]:
This is a technical drafting Amendment and is put down as a result of debate by my right honourable friend in another place. It is believed that if an obstruction is necessary it could not reasonably be practicable to remove it. Therefore, my right honourable friend considers that 991 the word "unnecessary" is not required. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 5, leave out ("unnecessary").(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Dangerous fumes and lack of oxygen:]
THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved to add to subsection (5):
but no account shall be taken for the purposes of paragraph (b) of this subsection of any deposit or other material liable to give off dangerous fumes in insignificant quantities only.
§ The noble Earl said: This Amendment amends subsection (5) of Clause 6, which is concerned with certifying all confined spaces as safe. I should like to mention a misapprehension which invaded my own mind when I first read this Amendment in draft some time ago, in case anyone else has the same misapprehension. This has nothing to do with the long-terra effects on health of dangerous fumes. That is dealt with in different sections of the principal Act. This is simply concerned with the certification of a confined space as safe. One of the conditions which has to be fulfilled is that effective steps must have been taken to prevent any ingress of dangerous fumes, that any sludge or other deposit liable to give off dangerous fumes has been removed, and that the space contains no other material liable to give off dangerous fumes. The purpose of that is to make sure that there will not be any dangerous fumes which will have the effect of overcoming any person who enters the confined space. Of course, it would be ridiculous to make a condition that deposits of this kind should be removed if they were there in insignificant quantities, but we have been legally advised that this might be a statutory necessity under the clause as it stands. Therefore I beg to move the Amendment.
Page 4, line 13, at end insert the said words. —(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ LORD STONHAM
Could I ask the noble Earl about one phrase in this 992 Amendment—that is, "in insignificant quantities only"? The noble Earl did not tell us what quantity was insignificant. I submit that this is a serious objection to the wording of the Amendment. I have in mind the possibility of claims for negligence being made by workmen who may be overpowered. It may be said on behalf of the employer, "It was quite all right, because these deposits were there only in insignificant quantities." Then there could be a discussion on what quantities were insignificant. I wonder, therefore, whether the noble Earl would consider deleting the words, "in insignificant quantities" and substituting, "in such small quantities as not to affect respiration". That seems to me the important point—that someone should not be overcome. If the fumes are so small that they do not affect his or her breathing, then they are innocuous and there is no neglect. It would seem to me that the wording I have in mind would carry out the intentions of the noble Earl and would be more appropriate to this Amendment. I wonder whether he would consider that?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not see what "insignificant quantities" means. It seems to me that if they are insignificant they are not liable to be dangerous. We might just as well say, "liable to give off dangerous fumes in non-dangerous quantities"
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is not right. That is what we thought at first, but our legal advisers have told us that it is not so; that if there is any insignificant amount of material there which is liable to give off dangerous fumes, even although it is in such a small quantity that the fumes would not in fact be dangerous, the employer would be legally liable. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said, I would point out that the person who would decide whether the quantity was insignificant or not would be what is called the responsible person in the factory. I do not know whether he would find it more difficult to decide what was or what was not insignificant than he would find it difficult or easy to decide whether the quantities were likely to give off fumes to an extent likely to cause danger to respiration, or whatever the noble Lord suggested. It seems 993 to me at first sight that his words mean the same as ours. I shall be glad to look at it and see whether the substitution which he suggests should be made at a later stage, if it is generally thought that it would express our intention more clearly.
§ LORD FERRIER
I must confess that the words "in insignificant quantities only" appear to me to refer to dangerous fumes and riot the deposits. Perhaps when the matter is reconsidered some Amendment might be made which would make it clear that "insignificant quantities" applies to the deposit and not to the fumes.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
This case arises actually out of the production of polyvinylchloride, P.V.C., which necessitates men having to enter vessels to clean out a deposit which is capable of giving off fumes, but not to a dangerous extent. It would be absurd if these men had to wear gas masks and go in with a rope around their waists with a man waiting outside to pull them out when there was no danger at all. It was for this reason that we asked for this Amendment to be put in, and I am glad the Government have agreed to it. We have no feeling as to which words would be necessary; we merely want to stop unnecessary acts of this sort.
§ LORD STONHAM
I have no objection whatever to the insertion of what is intended. I am thoroughly in favour and want to make that quite clear. But the insignificant quantity might be one ounce, one hundredweight or one ton, in different circumstances. What does matter is whether the quantity constitutes a danger, and I think therefore you must have some measure of danger—not a measure of weight but a measure of danger to the person. I suggest that if a person finds it difficult to breath, that would be a measure of danger.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I am advised by our own solicitors that "insignificant" is in relation to danger, not in relation to amount.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.994
§ Clause 9 [Means of escape in case of fire]:
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved to leave out Clause 9 and insert the following new clauses.
§ Exercise by fire authorities of functions relating to means of escape in case of fire.
§ (".—(1) The functions of the district council under sections thirty-four and thirty-five of the principal Act (which relate to means of escape in case of fire) shall, after the coming into operation of this subsection, be exercisable by the fire authority; and accordingly any reference in the principal Act (except in subsection (4) of section one hundred and fifty-six thereof) to the district council which is or includes a reference to the authority exercising functions under either of those sections shall, as the case may require, be construed as a reference or as including a reference to the fire authority.
§ (2) An examination under section thirty-four of the principal Act may be carried out either by an officer of the fire authority authorised in writing by that authority or, where in any county, county borough or burgh, the council thereof is not the fire authority and the fire authority so requests, by an officer of that council authorised in writing by the council.
§ (3) Sections two hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty-two of the Local Government Act, 1933, or, in Scotland, sections three hundred and one to three hundred and three of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947 (which relate to the procedure for making byelaws, penalties for offences against byelaws and evidence of byelaws) shall apply to any byelaw made under section thirty-five of the principal Act by an authority which is not a local authority within the meaning of the said Act of 1933 or the said Act of 1947 as if it were such an authority and where (in Scotland) any such byelaw is made by an authority not having a common seal it shall be authenticated by the signature of two members and the clerk of the authority.
§ (4) In this section, the expression "fire authority" means, in relation to any area, the authority for the time being constituted the fire authority for that area by the Fire Services Act, 1947 except that—
- (a)where in accordance with arrangements made under section twelve of that Act all the functions of the fire authority under that Act in respect of the whole or part of their area are discharged by another fire authority, it means in relation to that area or that part, that other fire authority; and
- (b)in relation to an area in Scotland the fire brigade for which is administered by such a joint committee as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of section thirty-six of that Act, it means that joint committee.
§ (5) Neither subsection (1) of this section nor any change in the authority which is the fire authority in relation to any area shall affect the validity of any byelaw made under section thirty-five of the principal Act or of any certificate under section thirty-four thereof 995 issued by, or notice under that section given by or to, the authority exercising functions under those sections before the coming into operation of the said subsection (1) or, as the case may be, before the change; but the authority ceasing to exercise those functions shall send to the authority exercising them after that time a copy of any certificate under the said section thirty-four which relates to a factory in the area in relation to which the last-mentioned authority are the fire authority and of any notice under that section which relates to such a factory and was given within twelve months before that time.
§ (6) In subsection (5) of section thirty-five of the principal Act (which modifies the section in its application to London) there shall be substituted, for the words from "as if references" to "to London", the words "as if subsection (4) were omitted.")
§ The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will remember that on Second Reading, in dealing with Clause 9 of the Bill I explained to your Lordships that the other place had decided to place the responsibility for inspecting and approving arrangements for fire escape on the fire authorities instead of on the district authorities. As the Bill first stood it was the intention of my right honourable friend to leave the legal responsibility with the district authorities to make arrangements for co-operation between them and the fire authorities. But in Committee in the other place opinion on all sides of the House was so strong, almost unanimous, in favour of making the change that my right honourable friend decided to give way to this general view which has been endorsed by the House of Commons. And on reflection he is satisfied that he is right in having done so.
§ Perhaps one of the strongest reasons which influenced the honourable Members in the other place who demanded this change was the tragedy which took place at Keighley in 1956, after which a special survey showed that only 53 per cent. of the 60,000 or so factories whose means of escape should be certified by district councils actually had certificates. The Ministry of Labour wrote to district councils in 1957 urging them to speed up the work, but even now the proportion of factories examined and issued with certificates is only about two-thirds. One difficulty is that in county areas the small district councils who have the duty of examining and certifying means of escape under the Factories 996 Acts are not fire authorities under the Fire Services Act, 1947. Some councils have been voluntarily seeking the assistance of fire authorities in this work, and the Government's original proposal was that it should be made easier for this co-operation to take place. But, as I have mentioned to your Lordships, this limited proposal did not find favour in the Standing Committee in the House of Commons when the matter was debated there.
§ In the Second Reading debate I also mentioned that although it had been announced in the other place that a similar change would be made in Scotland, my right honourable friend and the Scottish Office had not yet concluded their consultations on the matter and a further Amendment might have to be moved on the Committee stage in your Lordships' House. These two Amendments—that is, the new edition of Clause 9 which I am now moving and the next new clause which follows it—do have the effect of making a similar change in Scotland.
§ The County Councils Association have welcomed this change; in fact they pressed for it before the Bill was drafted. The London County Council, to whom the change makes little difference, do not object to it. The other English and Welsh Local Authority Associations concerned—that is, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Urban District Councils Association and the Rural District Councils Association—have expressed their disagreement with the proposed transfer, and the Amendment which is on the Paper in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, I think, gives expression to their views. The Minister recognises that some of the arguments set out in their note are sound and that the case for and against the transfer is fairly evenly balanced, though he still thinks slightly in favour of the fire authorities. The Minister's view is that after the strong feeling in the House of Commons he was convinced that the arrangement now contemplated was the only practicable one, and he has been particularly impressed by what was said by Members on both sides of the House to the effect that so many of the district councils were behind-hand in this work.997
§ On the question of consultation, which of course is very important, some of the local authority associations have complained that the Minister of Labour ought to have consulted them before deciding to change the clause as originally drafted. It was clear that there was a majority against leaving the duties with the district councils, and the Standing Committee of the other place expressed its opinion in the most unmistakable terms. The Minister did not feel that he could possibly tell Parliament that certain outside bodies, however important, ought to be consulted before he could agree to carry out the wishes of Parliament.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Mathers, told me a short time ago that he has a communication on this subject from one of the Scottish local authorities, and I have no doubt that it is in the same terms as one which has been received from the local authorities by my right honourable friend. In Scotland the duties under Section 34 of the 1937 Act are at present carried out by the town councils of large and small burghs and in the landward areas by the county councils. It was said at the Report stage in the House of Commons that Section 34 duties were going to be transferred to fire authorities in Scotland so that the administrative arrangements would be of the same pattern. The Minister of Labour has had consultations since then with the Scottish Home Department and the Department of Health for Scotland on this question, and those two departments have concurred in the proposed transfer.
§ At first it was proposed that the town councils of small burghs should give up their Section 34 duties to the county councils, while the county councils and the councils of large burghs retained the duties for the areas which they already cover. None of those Scottish local authority associations objected to this proposal. However it then became clear that in Scotland, except of course for Glasgow, as regards the large burghs and county councils who are not themselves active fire authorities, a transfer would have to be made to the bodies which are the active fire authorities—that is, the committees, the joint authorities formed as a result of administration schemes under Section 36 of the 998 Fire Services Act, 1947. The joint committees of combined areas in Scotland are representative of the county councils and the town councils of the large burehs within the areas.
§ This change in the earlier proposal was agreed with the Scottish Office, and on May 8 the Minister of Labour wrote to the Association of County Councils in Scotland, the Convention of Royal Burghs, and the Association of Counties of Cities to inform them of this change. The most detailed documents against the proposed transfer have been put forward by the Association of County Councils in Scotland. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, has seen the reply which was sent to them from the Minister. If not, I shall be glad to send him a copy.
§ The main reason for making this change for which the House of Commons pressed so strongly, is that it is considered so much better that the people who have to put out the fires and who run the fire brigade should have the duty of seeing that arrangements for fire escape are satisfactory. Arrangements will have to be made, possibly by regulations, by the Minister, with regard to consultation and to remove administrative inconveniences, particularly in getting building plans approved, and I think it is probable that some plan will be agreed to under which it will be automatic that consultation shall always take place between the housing authority and the fire authority before the building plans for a proposed new factory are approved.
§ I shall not say anything about the Amendment which is to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Burden, until he moves it, because it is on a different point. But I have tried, in anticipation, to say a word or two about the Amendment to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, which is, I think, a representation of the various objections put forward by various kinds of local authorities, both in England and in Scotland, which, for the reasons I have given, my right honourable friend cannot accept although he does appreciate them. In fact, he has always thought that the question was a nicely balanced one and, in coming to the decision at which he has arrived, he 999 was rightly influenced by the great weight of informed opinion expressed on this subject in another place. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Leave out Clause 9 and insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ 4.14 p.m.
LORD MILVERTON moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, to leave out all words after the first "shall" and insert instead:
not be exercised until the district council have consulted the fire authority for the area in which the premises are situated.
§ (2) Where an application to certify a factory under subsection (1) of section thirty-four of the principal Act (which relates to means of escape in case of fire) is made in the prescribed form to the district council, no offence shall be deemed to be committed under that section by reason of the use of the factory during any period that may elapse between the making of the application and the grant or refusal of the certificate.
§ (3) Where on the making of such an application the district council inform the applicant that they will not grant the certificate unless specified alterations are made to the premises they shall specify the time within which the alterations are to be carried out and, if the certificate is not granted, it shall be deemed to have been refused at the expiration of the time so specified or such further time as the council may have allowed.
§ (4) The powers of entry and inspection exercisable by a district council and their officers for the purposes of their duties under the said section thirty-four shall include power, after a factory has been certified under that section, to enter and inspect the factory and every part thereof—
- (a) whenever the council have reason to believe that there has been a change of conditions by reason of which the existing means of escape have become insufficient; and
- (b) for the purpose of ascertaining whether there has been such a change.
§ (5) Notwithstanding subsection (12) of the said section thirty-four (which requires examinations by a district council under that section to be carried out by officers of the council) such an examination may, at the request of the district council, be carried out by an officer of a fire brigade maintained by a fire authority, if authorised in writing by the authority.
§ (6) In subsection (10) of section thirty-four of the principal Act (which enables the occupier of a factory to appeal if he is aggrieved by a refusal to grant a certificate under that section or by being required to carry out alterations) there shall be inserted, after the words "to grant a certificate under this section" the words "or to amend such a certificate", and after the words "alterations at the factory" the words "or by the period within which he is required to carry them out".1000
§ (7) In this section, the expression "fire authority" means, in relation to any area, the authority for the time being constituted the fire authority for that area by the Fire Services Act, 1947; except that—
- (a) where in accordance with arrangements made under section twelve of that Act all the functions of the fire authority under that Act in respect of the whole or part of their area are discharged by another fire authority, it means in relation to that area or that part, that other fire authority and
- (b) in relation to an area in Scotland the fire brigade for which is administered by such a joint committee as is mentioned in paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of section thirty-six of that Act, it means that joint committee."
§ The noble Lord said: In rising to move the Amendment to the Amendment which stands in my name, I should like to acknowledge the very fair way in which the noble Earl has put the question to the House. My Amendment is really in the nature of another appeal to the Government. It is not that the principle is questioned; it is that the administrative nature of the arrangements which are proposed is thought by a large body of responsible people not to be the best, either in the interests of the applicant or in the interests of the public.
§ As the noble Earl has said, it is the fact that when the present Bill was being considered in another place an Amendment was made, the effect of which was to transfer the responsibility under Section 34 of the 1937 Act for certifying means of escape from factories in case of fire, from the district councils to the county boroughs and county councils. The clear intention of the House, I take it, in making this Amendment was to associate the fire prevention authority with the work of certification. But in making the Amendment, the work of certification has for the first time been separated from the approval of building plans which has at all times been, and has remained, the responsibility of the district council.
§ Hitherto, the district council, when considering the plans of the new building, or of a building to which it is desired to make structural alterations, for the purposes of the building by-laws under the Public Health Act, 1936, would have regard to the requirements of fire prevention and, if necessary, would call into consultation the officers of the fire 1001 prevention authority. This means that fire prevention may, under the existing arrangements, be considered from the time that the plans for the building are being considered right through to the time when, after the building is completed, a certificate is sought under Section 34 of the Factories Act, 1937.
§ The effect of the Government's Amendment is to leave the first stage, the building plan stage, with the district council and to transfer the last stage, which is the certification stage, to the county borough and county council. This may prove to be a most expensive division of responsibility, since building plans may be passed by one authority and then, at a later stage, when the other authority looks at the completed building, it may require alterations involving new work or the undoing of a part of what has already been done. This, in turn, will require the submission of a new building plan. I suggest it is obviously right that there should be consultation between the district council and the fire prevention authority at all stages, but I believe that the responsibility for the approval of plans and certification of means of escape should be, and should remain, in the hands of a single authority—namely, the district council. It should always be remembered that the adequacy of means of escape in case of fire is not a matter for the fire prevention officer only; it is also a matter which involves the engineer, the building inspector and perhaps the architect.
§ If I may add an additional point, another factor in the consideration of this whole problem is, I understand, the fact that the whole question of building by-laws has recently been raised in another place, and the line of approach is to the effect that a national code should be devised for certain purposes, and that to that extent the existing bylaw control should be of a uniform nature. The associations of local authorities have already been asked for their views on this matter, and it is clear that this must affect the whole question of fire prevention. In those circumstances, it seems most unfortunate that, if a change of the nature now contemplated is made, there is the possibility that in a year or two still further changes may be made in the whole procedure.1002
§ Perhaps I may look for a moment at the Amendments which stand in my name. The administrative advantage of performance of the function by the district councils can be summarised in this way. First, the provision of means of escape in case of fire surely ought to be considered when plans are submitted to the district council for approval under the building bylaws. At the present time this is, in fact, done, as the district council now has the obligation to grant the fire prevention certificate, and know that a certificate will be required in due course. The district council could hardly approve by-law proposals and then reject the building, when erected, on fire prevention grounds.
§ Under the Bill as at present drafted, and as Her Majesty's Government propose to amend it, an applicant would be under no obligation at this early stage to consult the fire authority; and if approached (and this would be in the best interests of the applicant) the fire authority might or might not be prepared to assist, because the function of inspection under Section 34 of the principal Act does not arise until the factory has actually been completed. The district council should themselves consult the fire authority when considering plans under the building by-laws, but the applicant will have no assurance that this will be done; indeed, it may not be done in future because district councils may well feel that their responsibilities in this matter have come to an end.
§ Secondly, if consideration to the means of escape is not given at the by-law approval stage it may be that a factory will be built and, that, on inspection by the fire authority, some structural alterations will be required. This will reasonably be resented by the factory occupier, and in addition to the expense caused him he may also have to make a further application under the building by-laws. This situation is not so likely to arise where the district authority is the authority responsible under Section 34. Then, thirdly, experience shows that it is necessary to ensure that the factory occupiers continue to comply with requirements as to means of escape after a certificate has been granted to them. At the present time district council officers are able, while engaged in other of their functions in factories, to attend to this matter. 1003 Under the Amendment proposed by Her Majesty's Government it would be necessary for the fire prevention officers of fire authorities to make special visits, no doubt to the annoyance of the factory occupiers and to the prejudice of economic administration. More fire prevention officers would also be required.
§ Fourthly, the Amendment proposed by Her Majesty's Government separates the function under the Factories Act, 1937, from the function under Section 60 of the Public Health Act, 1936, whereby district councils will continue to be responsible for means of escape from flats, tenements, shops, institutions, etcetera, which are more than two storeys high. Moreover under the Amendment of Her Majesty's Government there is no guarantee that the officers of local authorities who are qualified to consider the structural aspect of means of escape and to assess the relevance of different building materials—that is, building surveyors and engineers—will be consulted and while accepting the view that fire prevention authorities should be placed in a proper position to exercise their statutory functions it is not correct that the provision of means of escape in case of fire should be made solely a matter for fire prevention officers who are usually members of the fire service. As I have said, this matter also concerns the building inspector, the engineer and the architect, all of whom have an important part to play.
§ My first Amendment, to subsection (1) of the proposed new Clause 9, has the effect of requiring the district council to consult the fire authority before certifying a factory as being provided with adequate means of escape, and this ensures that the advice of fire prevention officers, which is invaluable, will not be overlooked. My proposed subsection (2) corresponds to the first subsection of the second of the noble Earl's new clauses. Its purpose is to save the factory occupier from committing an offence between the time when he makes his application to the certifying authority and the actual granting or refusal of such an application. The third subsection is administratively consequential upon the previous subsection, and the fourth is a minor administrative improvement in the law. The fifth enables a district council to have the inspection work carried out 1004 by an officer of a fire authority, with the consent of that authority. The sixth follows subsection (6) of the second new clause which has been put down by the noble Earl and is largely a drafting matter. The seventh defines the expression "fire authority".
§ I have endeavoured to set out the reasons for the other side of the opinion to which the noble Earl so fairly referred, and without questioning the purpose of Her Majesty's Government I would suggest that, as a matter of administration and efficiency, it is worth further consideration. I hope that the noble Earl will at least consent to say, without any promises, that this matter will receive further consideration between now and the Report stage of the Bill. It is surely a very powerful expression of opinion to which he has referred—that the Association of Municipal Corporations and also the Urban District Councils' Association are strongly in favour of the Government's first thoughts in this matter. I beg to move.
Amendment to Amendment moved—
Line 3, leave out from ("shall") to end of the proposed new clause and insert the said new words.—(Lord Milverton.)
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
Without prejudice to anything which affects Scotland (about which my noble friend Lord Mathers will speak), as between the new clause moved by the noble Earl and the proposed Amendment to the Amendment moved by Lord Milverton, it seems to me that the balance of advantage is strongly with the new clause moved by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. Under the Fire Services Act, 1947, the county councils became the authorities clearly responsible for maintaining fire brigades and all fire prevention precautions. It would seem that the public interest requires that this task shall be undertaken by those most qualified to exercise it; and undoubtedly they are the fire officers maintained by the county council. Their training is a long one; the whole question of fire prevention is very much the business of fire brigade officers, and it is not reasonable to expect building inspectors of the local councils to possess the expert knowledge which is now part of the equipment of every modern fire 1005 brigade. It would therefore seem to me wise to accept the new clause as moved by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.
§ LORD BURDEN
The issue before us this afternoon on this Amendment seeems to be part of that perennial problem between county councils, urban district councils, county borough councils and so on—and the Minister is unhappily caught between the two fires. Notwithstanding the excellent case that has been made out by my noble friend Lord Milverton, I am bound to say that the Minister, having agreed to pressure in another place—his first views being on the lines of the preserving of status quo, and maintaining existing authorities—will, I think, find it very difficult to go back again and tell another place that he has changed his mind again.
I should like to call attention to what I regard as a significant phrase in the speech of the noble Earl who is in charge of the Bill; that is, that there will be consultation between the tire authorities and the district councils. I should like that point elaborated, because it is very important indeed. Will it mean that the district councils will still be in the picture by legislation or regulation; or will it mean that they will be consulted only on the goodwill, so to speak, of the fire authority? It is a most important point, bearing in mind all the considerations which have been advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I do not think we ought to leave the matter quite in the air in this way. I do not want to anticipate my remarks on another Amendment, but it is obvious that some district councils, despite the fact that not all have completed their work, have very experienced officers who know this business and have been involved in it for a large number of years. Therefore, I think it would be very helpful to us all if the noble Earl could elaborate and enlarge on that point in regard to consultation as between the fire authorities and the existing district authorities.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am glad that my noble friend lent some support to the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. Quite clearly, we are committed, I think, to this change. But, equally, it is essential that it should be made to work. 1006 Those of your Lordships who have been concerned at one time or another with dealing with local authorities in the field of planning will know just how difficult it is to bring all these matters together, and to ensure that decisions are taken properly and in due time. I would support the view of my noble friend Lord Burden that some local authorities, even when they are not fire authorities, have been able to discharge these duties quite effectively, and I am not quite sure how the position is going to work in future. It does not work so well in practice even now, where the fire authority is, in fact, the local authority.
I have had the misfortune in a different field of having to see plans changed time and again. One very ridiculous episode—I admit that this concerned offices, but it is a similar point—concerned little glass apertures that had to be let into a door, ostensibly, one understood, to ensure that the person inside the room could see if there was a fire outside. Later on we were told that the person outside should also be able to see whether there was a fire inside. Certain people objected to being looked at and put Epsom salts on these little glass apertures. Within a few months, along came the local authority representative and insisted upon the removal of the Epsom salts. In due course the plans were submitted again, and it was found that these little glass apertures were not needed at all. One wondered whether it was all to do with propriety in the office. I would not be in favour of adopting the Amendment to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and I hope that he will not press it. I also hope that the Government will give some assurance that there will be the sort of consultations which will ensure that planning will proceed smoothly in these matters.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I find myself in disagreement with my noble friends on the Front Bench in regard to this matter and that the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, are convincing. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest in this matter, as I happen to have the honour of being a Vice-President of the Urban District Councils' Association. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, holds a similar position in the Association of Municipal Corporations, so it 1007 may be that both of us approach this problem with a certain bias. However, it seems to me that this is a most unfortunate episode. Everybody who knows anything about local government arrangements and legislation knows perfectly well that Bills of this sort, which affect local government, are worked out in the Departments with a good deal of co-operation and consultation with the local authority organisations.
Here we have a Bill in regard to which all those preliminary discussions took place, after which the considered view of the Department is presented to Parliament, through the Minister. Then the Bill is dealt with upstairs in another place, and, of course, the county councils have "briefed" the people in the Committee. The county councils' position is put by all these people without the representatives of the other organisations being given an opportunity of making their case—what is colloquially called "a fast one" is put over by the county councils. The result is that the matter goes back on to the Floor of the House of Commons with, in effect, "the fast one" having knocked down the middle stump, and there being no opportunity of the batsman standing up to the bowling effectively. I suggest that the sort of co-operation which has resulted in the past in valuable Amendments to legislation cannot go on if this sort of thing is going to take place. The borough councils' and district councils' organisations were, in effect, lulled to sleep. In my view, that was a most unfortunate episode, and I deprecate it very strongly.
It is quite clear that the Department, having considered this business—and, after all, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has to bring an impartial mind to bear on these problems—had come down in favour of the situation as it stood. It is also quite clear, I think, from the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that there is a tremendous weight of opinion on that side, because district councils and borough councils have the job of vetting these plans in the first instance; and in doing so they consult the fire prevention officer.
I have a great interest in fire service matters because I worked in the National Fire Service during the war and had the 1008 honour to be a member of the Fire Service Research and Training Trust appointed by the Home Secretary; so I rather look at these things from both points of view. I know from my own knowledge that very close consultations, certainly in many parts of the country, go on at the present time very effectively between the district councils and the fire prevention officers, and as a result these plans are vetted at the first stage in that way.
The proposal of the Amendment to the Amendment to make such consultations statutory would, in my submission, lead to a much more effective and sensible handling of this problem than the one which is proposed in the Government Amendment.
Apart from these matters, the only real argument which the noble Earl put before the House was that there had been in some parts of the country a certain "falling down" over inspections which it was the duty of district councils to carry through. There is in the country a very much larger number of district councils than of county councils; and the county council has a much bigger job. Can the noble Earl assure us that the county council is in a better position to keep up on this work? After all, a county council office in a large county has to cover a large area and a very substantial number of buildines. I am by no means prepared to take the ipse dixit of the people at County Hall that county councils can carry out the work better than district councils, who have a substantial number of very competent people doing the job, covering a large part of England.
Quite apart from these matters, which are specifically in point with regard to these two Amendments, there is the general point which it seems to me ought to be made in this debate. The whole tendency during recent years has been to take powers away from what we might call the intermediate authorities (the district councils and the borough councils) and to hand them over to the county councils. I submit that there is a considerable danger that that may be pushed too far. County councils are faraway organisations in many counties; and they do not meet very often. The I small man, so to speak, on whom the 1009 country has relied to do the work in the area, in the county and in the small town, frequently cannot afford the time and cannot afford the money to put up for the county council and to be a member of it. If you go on with this process of taking away these powers from the boroughs and the districts and piling them up at County Hall, you are, in my view, striking a serious blow at local government in England. This is part of the process; and I suggest to the Government that they should not only think again about this matter on its merits, but should think again about it in the light of the whole problem of local government in this country.
§ LORD STONHAM
The arguments adduced by my noble friend Lord Chorley are ones which appeal to me greatly. When it comes to a choice between the lesser and the larger local authorities, almost automatically my sympathies are always with the lesser ones; and I therefore instinctively feel, when any such issue arises, that it is wholly wrong to take any powers from them at all. However, on this particular issue I am wholly with the Government. I think they are absolutely right, and I hope they will not succumb to the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. They have obviously thought about it a great deal, and in my submission very wisely; and they have decided that the higher authorities should be the responsible authorities.
Although it is regrettable—and, in many respects, to be resisted—that district councils and other lesser local authorities should lose some of those powers, what we are concerned with today is not that subject; not the feeling of parochialism: we are concerned solely with trying to do our best to ensure that, if fires occur in factories, the people are safe and are not injured—and obviously the authorities, the officials, who are best able to do that job must be the expert authorities. I foresee no difficulty whatsoever in the point raised by my noble friend Lord Chorley as to whether the county councils could sufficiently police or sufficiently staff this job. In effect, they are already doing it; and in other sections of the Bill we propose to give the fire officers power of entry and inspection so that they can, in fact, do this job.
1010 With regard to the matter raised by my noble friend Lord Shackleton, who I think was on the point about consultation when alterations were necessary in factories, I would say that the Government have obviously thought of that, because I think the point will be covered by Amendment No. 9, which the noble Earl will be moving shortly. That seems to me important, and I am glad that that is going to he done. The lesser local authorities ought to be consulted on building matters which are necessitated by changes in fire regulations concerning buildings in their area—of course they should, and they will be; and they have the expert people to deal with them. But when it comes to the actual fire precautions, then we must go to the people who are responsible; the people who know the job and who specialise in it; who have had special training courses; and who know the best things to suggest, the best regulations to make, and the best ways of detecting where danger will arise. I therefore hope that this Amendment will be rejected, and I would congratulate the Government on their proposals in this clause.
§ LORD MATHERS
I have been asked at very short notice to indicate the concern of the Corporation of the City of Edinburgh with regard to the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, to delete this clause and to substitute another clause for it. It seems that there has not been a great deal of time allowed to the Scottish local authorities to consider all the implications of this matter; and it is desired on the part of the City of Edinburgh that they may have an opportunity of expressing the objections that they have, so far as the Corporation is concerned, before the Report stage of the Bill is dealt with. On behalf of the Corporation, I submit the necessity, as I consider it, to give opportunity for that expression of opinion: and I believe it may apply to other local authorities in Scotland as well as to Edinburgh. I hope I may have an undertaking from the noble Earl that, before the Report stage is proceeded with, there will be accorded to the City of Edinburgh an opportunity to make representations with regard to their objections.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
On the main point at issue, I certainly agree, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, that in many cases the district councils have carried out their duties very well; but they have not invariably done so in all cases, because an inquiry after this tragedy in Keighley, in which eight people lost their lives, showed that little more than half of the factories which ought to have been certified had in fact been certified. At the same time, the Government do appreciate the possibility of administrative complications which may arise from this change, resulting from the work not being done by the authorities who are responsible for the administration of the building by-laws; and we shall certainly consider, between now and Report, what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Milverton, Lord Shackleton, Lord Chorley, and others, and will examine their arguments in order to see whether any Amendments of the Bill might help to resolve any such administrative complications resulting from the transfer of duties. In particular, the Government hope to be able to devise some way of ensuring some form of liaison—I mean permanent liaison; not just ad hoc liaison—between the district council and the fire authority at the time when the occupier of an intended new factory is submitting his plans to the former for building approval.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, for raising at what I recognise is short notice the communication which he has received from the City of Edinburgh. I do not know how far it is identical with or different from the letter to which I referred previously from the Association of County Councils in Scotland or whether it is identical with a similar communication I have received from Dundee, but I assure the noble Lord—I hope he will be good enough to give me the letter from the City of Edinburgh to make sure what it is about—that it will be considered by the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Labour and I will let him know their comments upon it.
§ LORD MILVERTON
There would be no point in my attempting to press my Amendment. In view of the fact that my main purpose in proposing it was in the interests of administrative 1012 efficiency, I should like to thank the noble Earl for his promise that between now and Report stage the Government will think seriously about making arrangements for this administration to be efficient. There was never any intention to override or set aside the fire prevention authorities. Our chief concern was to see to it that not only these authorities but also other people qualified and able to express an opinion should be consulted. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.52 p.m.
LORD BURDEN moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after subsection (1) to insert:
(2) All officers and servants of a district council who immediately before the coming into operation of this subsection are employed wholly in connection with the said functions of that council under sections thirty-four and thirty-five of the principal Act shall upon the coming into operation of this subsection be taken into the service of the fire authority constituted for the area of that district council on terms and conditions not less favourable than those upon which they are employed by the district council immediately before the coming into operation of this subsection.
§ The noble Lord said: It has been explained already that this new clause transfers to other local authorities certain functions which are at present the responsibility of district councils. My Amendment in effect is to ensure that all officers and servants who are now wholly employed in connection with these functions shall be transferred similarly and that their conditions of employment shall not be worsened as a result of the transfer. May I emphasise that it is only officers and ervants who are wholly engaged in the discharge of these functions by the district councils to which this Amendment refers and not officers who discharge these particular functions as part of a general set of duties which they perform? I am certain that in these instances the district councils will be able to find other suitable responsibilities for them.
§ I feel certain that in connection with most transfers no problems or difficulties will arise. The councils should be ready and willing to take over experienced servants, particularly bearing in mind those factors in regard to distance, numbers and 1013 all sorts of things which will arise, if the Bill as drafted comes into operation. But we cannot be sure that a few councils will not cause difficulties. May I respectfully submit that in such circumstances the staff concerned are quite reasonable in seeking adequate safeguards? May I illustrate the point in regard to a minority causing difficulty in this way?—and I am not complaining in regard to the illustration. At the end of October last year, the Minister of Labour announced that compulsory arbitration for industrial disputes would be brought to an end. Since that date, the National and Local Government Officers' Association have been compelled to refer to the Minister more than forty cases where local authorities refused to observe or implement recommendations by the joint negotiating committee. The forty were a mere minority, but I am using the illustration to show that in any work of this kind there are bound to be some awkward people. The Minister was fortified in his dealing with these cases because he had behind him the recommendations of the negotiating committee.
§ I would respectfully submit to your Lordships that in connection with the transfer of functions provided for in this clause the Minister would have no power to compel or persuade an awkward local authority to do the right thing by the staff unless this Amendment, or something similar, is written into the Bill. I deliberately say "the right thing by the staff" because I feel that the Minister would not wish to take away by legislative action the livelihood of any officer or servant of a local authority and leave him or her no redress. And that is what may happen in a minority of cases—I emphasise "minority "—when this Bill comes into operation. I hope tha have said enough to indicate that the Amendment is one of substance and is necessary in the interests of the staff involved in this new clause. I earnestly hope that it will commend itself to the Minister. I beg to move.
Amendment to the Amendment moved—
After subsection (1), insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Burden.)
§ The EARL OF DUNDEE
I understand that the National and Local Government Officers' Association have expressed some 1014 fear that some of their members who may have been employed full-time on Section 34 duties may lose their employment or part of their emoluments when those duties are transferred from district councils to fire authorities. I have no doubt that there are full-time officers employed on these duties by county boroughs, but, of course, the county boroughs are not affected by the proposed change and my right honourable friend thinks that it is extremely unlikely that outside the county boroughs there are any local government officers employed full-time, or for a substantial part of their time, on Section 34 duties. Even if there were such officers, the Government could not accept the noble Lord's Amendment, because it would result in fire authorities being obliged to employ particular officers whose services they may not need.
If the noble Lord can give me some convincing evidence that there are people employed wholly or mainly on the work arising out of Section 34 whose services will no longer be needed by their councils once this changeover is made, we will consider whether there is any need for a compensation clause providing that any person displaced as a result of the transfer of duties to the fire authorities should be compensated for the loss of their office or prospects. As at present advised, my right honourable friend does not think that there will be any need for this, but we shall be glad to consider any evidence to the contrary which the noble Lord may be able to give us.
§ LORD BURDEN
While thanking the noble Earl for his consideration, I am sure he realises that we are working under pressure at the present time and the machinery in trade union and other circles works slowly. I am sure the association concerned would not have raised the matter if they had not some knowledge of such instances. I would put it to the noble Earl that prevention is right. As there is a legislative transfer of functions in this instance, cannot we follow what has been the normal procedure in cases of that kind and include the compensation clause? That. I think, would be the right thing to do. If the noble Earl will look at that point, we will in the meantime as he suggests endeavour to get some information.
§ Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
After Clause 9, insert the following new clause—
§ Means of escape in case of fire
§ .—(1) Where an application to certify a factory under subsection (1) of section thirty-four of the principal Act is made in the prescribed form to the fire authority (within the meaning of section nine of this Act) and, if regulations made by the Minister so require, the application is accompanied by such plans as may be prescribed by the regulations, no offence shall be deemed to be committed under that section by reason of the use of the factory during any period that may elapse between the making of the application and the grant or refusal of the certificate.
§ (2) Where on the making of such an application the fire authority inform the applicant that they will not grant the certificate unless specified alterations are made to the premises they shall specify the time within which the alterations are to be carried out and, if the certificate is not granted, it shall be deemed to have been refused at the expiration of the time so specified or such further time as the authority may have allowed.
§ (3) Before specifying, for the purposes of subsection (2) of this section or the said section thirty-four, any alterations to any premises outside London the fire authority, except where they are the local authority (within the meaning of the Public Health Act, 1936 or the Building (Scotland) Act, 1959) for the area in which the premises are situated, shall consult that local authority.
§ (4) The fire authority shall inform the inspector for the district in any case in which a certificate under the said section thirty-four has been, or is deemed to have been, refused or has been cancelled.
§ (5) The powers of a fire authority under the said section thirty-four to examine a factory shall include power, after a factory has been certified under that section, to examine the factory and every part thereof for the purpose of ascertaining whether there has been a change of conditions by reason of which the existing means of escape have become insufficient.
§ (6) In subsection (10) of the said section thirty-four (which enables the occupier of a factory to appeal if he is aggrieved by a refusal to grant a certificate under that section or by being required to carry out alterations) there shall be inserted, after the words "to 1016 grant a certificate under this section" the words "or to amend such a certificate", and after the words "alterations at the factory" the words "or by the period within which he is required to carry them out".
§ (7) In subsection (13) of the said section thirty-four (which specifies the factories to which that section applies) there shall be added, after paragraph (d), the words "and the Minister may by regulations provide that this section shall also apply to any class or description of factory specified in the regulations".
§ (8) In subsection (2) of section one hundred and sixteen of the principal Act (which requires a copy of the certificate under the said section thirty-four to be attached to the general register) the words "a copy of" shall bo omitted.")—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 10 to 15 agreed to.
§ Clause 16:
§ Powers of entry of officers of fire authorities
- (a) when carrying out, in pursuance of subsection (7) of section nine of this Act, any examination under section thirty-four of the principal Act; and
- (b) when authorised in writing by an inspector, for the purpose of reporting to the inspector on any matter falling within the inspector's duties relating to fire;
THE EARL OF DUNDEE moved to leave out from the beginning of subsection (1) to the end of paragraph (a) and insert:
(1) The like powers of entry and inspection as are conferred by the principal Act on an inspector shall he exercisable
§ The noble Earl said: This Amendment is a necessary consequence of the changes made by the new clauses which your Lordships have just been discussing. The Bill, as amended by the other place, transferred the duty of examining and certifying means of 1017 escape in case of fire under Section 34 of the 1937 Act from district councils to councils of counties and county boroughs. It was envisaged that the county and county borough councils would want officers of fire brigades to carry out this work, and paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of Clause 16 was drafted to ensure that officers of all fire brigades had the necessary powers of entry and inspection for this purpose. Now that Clauses 9 and 10 have been redrafted, the duty of issuing certificates as to means of escape in case of fire is given specifically to fire authorities, and their officers are, in consequence, empowered to enter and inspect factories by virtue of the provision of those clauses and of Section 128 of the 1937 Act. So it now becomes necessary to empower other officers—that is to say, officers of the architect's department. surveyor's department and so on—of local authorities to enter and inspect premises when carrying out inspections under Section 34. The Amendment achieves this by giving to any officer carrying out examinations under Section 34 similar powers of entry and inspection as an inspector of factories possesses. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 12, leave out from beginning to ("when") in line 19 and insert the said new words.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 17:
§ Washing facilities
§ 17. The facilities required by subsection (1) of section forty-two of the principal Act shall include a supply of hot and cold or of warm water.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE, moved, after the second "of" to insert, "clean running". The noble Earl said: This is another question on which my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour had always been in some doubt. In the other place he said that it was his intention to secure the introduction of clean running water in factories by means of regulations under Section 42 of the 1937 Act. The advantage of doing that is that there are tens of thousands of small factories in this country employing a small number of worker—sometimes not more than two or three—in which it would plainly be 1018 ridiculous to insist on the provision of running water. My right honourable friend thought that, on the whole, it would be more convenient to make regulations specifying factories in which running water must be provided, rather than put a statutory provision affecting all factories from which he would then have to make a large number of exemptions. He has now decided that it would be better to make what I think is a change of emphasis, rather than principle, by making this a statutory requirement.
§ In coming to this conclusion, my right honourable friend was influenced by the Second Reading debate in your Lordship's House, in which some well-informed and useful speeches were made on this subject of running water by a number of noble Lords, some of whom have put down an Amendment on the Martialled List to achieve the same purpose as will be achieved by the Government's Amendment. Having made that decision, of course, we now have the problem of deciding what to do about the exemptions. Nobody wants to compel small factories to put in running water where such a course would be obviously preposterous. And no one need have any fear—
§ LORD STONHAM
Perhaps I might interrupt the noble Earl. It appears that he is now discussing the Amendment which comes later, No. 14, at page 10, line 39. Are we discussing all the Amendments under Clause 17, or only those at page 10, line 38, and page 10, line 39?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think we are discussing both the Amendments at page 10, line 38, and page 10, line 39, but the other Amendment, No. 14, is part of our Amendment; it is a necessary consequence of it. If your Lordships would allow me, I was going to deal with Amendment No. 14 at the same time.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE)
May I make it clear? As I understand it, the noble Earl is discussing Amendments 11, 12 and 14. He has also mentioned Amendment No. 13. But, of course, I can only put No. 11 now, and later on Nos. 12, 13, and 14.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The question of exemptions is dealt with in Amendment No. 14. My right honourable friend already has power under the 1937 Act to make individual exemptions from the sanitary requirements of the Act, and that power is still retained. But it would obviously be impossibly burdensome, from an administrative point of view, to make thousands of individual exemptions to thousands of factories, all for the same reason. So the power to make individual exemptions is retained, but at the same time Amendment No. 14 enables the Minister to do what he had not power to do under the 1937 Act—that is to say, to give exemption to groups of factories. That exemption might, and probably will, depend upon the number of people they employ. At the same time, he will also have the power to exempt individual factories employing a larger number of people if, for some special reason, it is obviously unnecessary or absurd to put in a supply of clean running water. But we are making the duty statutory and giving the exemptions by regulations, instead of not making it statutory and imposing it by regulations on those who we think should put it in.
My right honourable friend has not yet decided on the kind of regulations which he will issue dealing with exemptions. Before that is done he will have to consult a great many different people. For this reason, I cannot give any indication to-day of the number of people which might possibly be the limiting number in the first series of regulations which my right honourable friend might eventually issue. It is possible that he might try to do it by stages—that is to say, start off by exempting factories which did not employ more than X workers, and then, a little later, produce another regulation making it X minus 1, and so on. I cannot at this stage usefully give any indication of the likely number with which my right honourable friend may start, because he will obviously have to have a great deal of consultation before he makes up his mind on that.
I should like to thank noble Lords on all sides of the House for their helpful advice upon this subject, which the Government have been glad to be able to meet. I hope that noble Lords whose opinions sometimes, quite reasonably, 1020 incline to the other direction will recognise that we are not going to enforce this duty unreasonably or make people instal running water in cases where it would obviously be absurd to do so. I beg to move.
Page 10, line 38, after second ("of") insert ("clean running").—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ LORD STONHAM
When I listened to the noble Earl expounding the reasons for this Amendment, I was filled with warm gratitude for the decision which the Government had taken, and I was extremely pleased to learn that the right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Labour, not having felt able to make this change had been convinced, as the noble Earl said, by the arguments that were adduced in this House on Second Reading. It was at that point that the noble Earl began to speak about Amendment No. 14 and I intervened to ask a question. I felt somewhat like the man who fell out of a balloon and who, before he hit the ground, said. "I am all right up till now." We are all right up to Amendments Nos. 11 and 12. which have the same intent, although rather more effectively worded than Amendment No. 13, which stands in my name and in the names of my noble friends. We feel, however, that Amendment No. 14 is totally unacceptable.
We should be prepared to consider a limitation for a special reason—for example, that mains water was not available in a particular factory. That would be a good reason for saying that that factory should be exempted from the obligation to provide running water. I have a farm which, because it has machinery on it for processing, constitutes a factory. Until two years ago, there was no running piped water, and there are places of that kind where there is a difficulty in providing running water. But to say that workers shall not be able to have a proper wash—and that is what it amounts to—because their factory is small, because the numbers employed are from one to fifty, or whatever it may be, seems to me to be quite indefensible.
It is difficult to see how the Government can justify this limitation merely because factories are small. Surely it cannot be on the grounds of expense. I see no reason at all why any employer 1021 employing one employee, if you like, on a manufacturing process, should not be required to furnish that employee with reasonable means of cleanliness. I submit that the provision of a bucket of water or something like that is not reasonable provision. Presumably, the factories about which we are speaking will have normal sanitation, such as flush lavatories and facilities of that kind, and therefore they should be required to provide running water for the use of the staff.
In the third line from the end of Amendment No. 14 there is a reference to, "running water factories". There is no comma between "running water" and "factories". I have heard of running water factories before: they are those where there are holes in the roof, and the workpeople call them running water factories. I am sure the noble Earl will agree that a slight alteration is needed in the punctuation to make the meaning more clear. I hope that that little matter will be attended to.
The other matter we are discussing is not small; it is something we on this side regard as quite important. We have regulations in this Bill to say what kind of paint should be on the walls and how often it should be done—things to improve the morale of people, the way they feel, and their outlook on life while they are working. But surely it is a basic, fundamental thing that every workman should be able to wash not only once but several times a day, and that there should be a running water supply. If there is a physical reason why running water is not accessible to a particular factory, that would in our view be a reasonable exemption for the Minister to make, and for which power could be taken under regulations. But when it comes to a limitation which is totally unjustifiable and is not required by any decent employer, then we cannot be with the Government, and we shall oppose Amendment No. 14.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I, like my noble friend Lord Stonham, felt pleased when I saw the first Amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, but then horrified when I saw the second one and realised its full meaning. I made a speech on Second Reading in which I pointed out that it was precisely in these 1022 small factories that running water was required and that this abuse arises. They are in fact the places where the incidence of industrial dermatitis is higher than elsewhere, and it is because of that that we were so keen to get clean water and running water added to hot and cold or warm. We seem to have done more harm than good by trying to do this, if the result is this new subsection which the Minister is proposing, because, as my noble friend has said, it introduces the wrong kind of exemption, namely, numerical exemption. We would at once accept that where there are difficulties of water supply. There may be technical difficulties which can justifiably make it very difficult to supply clean running water; then surely they should be exempted.
But what will be the effect of introducing a number? The effect will be this: that if the number is ten or fewer workers it will exclude 162,000 factories or 69 per cent. of all the factories in this country. That will be the effect of putting in ten or less, which is, I submit, defeating the whole object of all the debates and discussions we have had on this subject. If the number is 25 workers or fewer it will knock out another 32.000 factories, bringing the total excluded to 83 per cent. of all the factories in this country. In other words, over 1 million workers will then be denied the protection of having hot and cold clean running water in their wash place. I think it is monstrous. While we would willingly accept a compromise which gave the Minister power to make reasonable exceptions where there are reasonable physical reasons, we think it quite wrong that any employer should have the right in law not to provide hot and cold or clean running water for his workers if he employs, one, two or more men on any kind of dirty process.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I was very glad, too, that the Minister felt able to put in the word "running" in these phrases. Indeed those associated with me are very glad as well; there is no hostility whatever from the organised employers in this matter. There are undoubtedly many very small factories, sheds rather, to which it might be difficult quickly to put a piped water supply. In some cases it may be structurally impossible, and I 1023 think everybody admits that many exemptions would at first have to be given. I wonder whether the Minister has considered, however, some extended time limit rather than a blanket exemption. I am not one who wishes to go against the Minister on this matter but the idea of a blanket exemption of three or below or four or below, whatever the number may be, seems to me to be rather sweeping. If administratively possible, I should have thought that permanent exemptions for structural purposes and an extended time given whereby alterations should be made where they could be made, might well fit the bill. I am throwing this out only as a suggestion. I do not wish to go as far as the noble Lords opposite did when roundly condemning the suggestions made by the noble Earl. I know that the reason it has been done in this way is for administrative convenience, but I am not sure that it has not gone a little too far, and I would suggest that the whole question might be looked at again in the Factories Department of the Ministry of Labour before a final decision is reached.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I sincerely hope that that will be done. Surely what the Minister desires to do is to exempt those who find it impossible, for physical reasons, to lay on running water. Surely it is the physical circumstances and not the number of employees that should govern this matter, and I ask the Minister to see whether it cannot be amended in that way.
§ LORD FERRIER
I should like to support what has been said about the possibility of arranging for some time limit or a like method of introducing the system in a manner which would be practicable.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I really cannot accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that these two Amendments are going to make matters worse. As matters were before, the Minister was free to insist by regulation on the installation of running water in classes of factories which he could have made as limited as he liked. Now there is a statutory provision that all factories must have running water, and the onus 1024 is upon the Minister of making regulations which will exempt, either temporarily or, it may be in some cases, more than temporarily, either certain individual factories or certain groups of factories, at least for the time being. Perhaps some noble Lords may not have quite grasped the immense variety of character of factories which employ very small numbers of people all over the country. There may be a small country sawmill, for instance, where three or four men come and work for most of the day. They go home for dinner and home in the evening. It would be utterly preposterous to require them to provide these facilities.
§ LORD TAYLOR
That is just the situation where it is so vital that they should wash before they go home or before the eat their sandwiches. These people are using epoxi-resins in the factory; they eat their meals and become dermatitis sensitive. We see it time and again.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am talking about ordinary sawmills where it takes them three minutes to get home and they wash their hands there.
§ LORD STONHAM
If the noble Earl was working in factories he would be quite sure that they go and wash their hands at least five minutes before they knock off and then go home.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The noble Lord has illustrated my point. He is not perhaps conscious of the great variety of circumstances in which different kinds of workers, urban and rural, are employed in different parts of the country. The intention of the Government is that in due course our requirement shall apply to all factories unless, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, put it, individual exemption has to be granted for overpowering physical reasons Our intention is that in due course this requirement shall apply to all factories, however few persons they are employing. We do not think it practicable to require all factories to comply with this new requirement at a single point of time, unless that point of time is to be postponed unduly. There will be many cases in which an enormous amount of plumbing work may be necessary, and 1025 the expense involved may not be inconsiderable in the case of very small factories, which form so high a proportion of the whole.
While we fully accept that in due course all factories must comply, this new subsection will enable the Minister to stagger the introduction of the new law in a reasonable manner, and I think noble Lords must admit—we are all anxious to secure the same thing, which is better sanitary conditions in our factories—that from a statutory point of view it is a great improvement on the Bill as it stood before. The Minister before really could have exempted almost all factories in the country from providing running water if he had framed his regulations accordingly. As it is, I think he has shown that he wants to put the emphasis on the statutory compulsion to have running water, but he feels that he must have these powers of temporary exemption in order to make the thing work in a reasonable and practical way. It is his intention that in due course all factories, except those where they can show a good case for individual exemption, shall be compelled to submit to this statutory requirement. I will certainly convey to the Minister your Lordships' views, which have been expressed from all quarters of the House in the same sense on this subject. But I would ask you to give a little latitude to my right honourable friend who has done his best to meet your Lordships' views in this matter.
§ LORD TAYLOR
May I ask the noble Earl one further question—namely, how long a period does he envisage before this becomes universal? If it were a matter of three or four years, one would perhaps feel that it was reasonable, having regard to the fact that it may cost a small employer £40 or £50 to put in the sanitary arrangements, assuming there are no physical difficulties. Bearing that in mind, if we could have an assurance that it will he a reasonably short period, I feel that there would not be much dividing us.
§ LORD STONHAM
Might I just add to that question another point—namely, would it be possible to consider between now and the Report stage whether some kind of upper limit to this clause could not be introduced comparable to the one which appears in Clause 18, for example, 1026 with regard to first-aid boxes? There, at the moment, there is an upper limit, as it were, of fifty; in other words, where a firm has more than fifty employees there must be a trained person in charge of the first-aid box. We may hope that it will become a lower number. In relation to the water supply question it would be a beginning if the Minister could suggest a figure like that between now and the Report stage. It might help in regard to the smaller factories who are going to he subject to the regulations.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
May I add one more question? It seems to me that what wants considering between now and Report is the nature of the exemption. Surely it should be directed to the physical circumstances. If it is impossible to do it within a certain time, then give them time. The number of people employed is quite immaterial. If it is possible to have running water and there are only ten people employed, why not have it?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The number of people employed is not quite irrelevant. We shall, of course, retain the power to give individual exemptions in any case, irrespective of the number of people employed. But when you are trying to introduce a new reform of this kind to a large number of small factories who have not got it now, I think you cannot take the line with them, "You must put it in within a year or even two years." You must have some method of temporary exemption. It seems to me that to begin with an exemption based on numbers is not necessarily the only criterion, but it is perhaps the most convenient criterion with which we can start off.
With regard to Lord Stonham's suggestion, surely an upper limit of fifty people would imply that a firm employing less than fifty people need not have a water supply. That is not what we want at all. I did not want to give any kind of guess, and I am not going to give any guess now as to any precise number which the Minister might fix upon, but fifty would be, I should say, far beyond his horizon. I thought that the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, which went progressively upwards, were very much on the high side. But if I were to make a guess, 1027 either about the numbers or the length of time, it would be an uninformed guess. Before my right honourable friend decides on the precise details of applying this Bill he has to consult a great many people in the country who have special knowledge, and I think your Lordships are well enough acquainted with my right honourable friend's ideas on the subject to be satisfied that he desires to introduce this reform as quickly as it can reasonably be introduced.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
With the permission of the Committee, may I just make this one point? The noble Earl said "if they had not got it." A large number of small factories have water laid on, but they do not make it available for washing purposes because they are just careless people. If they are exempted, they get exemption which they need not have.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I dare say that is so, but in course of time both they and a great many other factories which have not got any running water at all at the present time will be obliged to introduce washing facilities. Amendment No. 14 is necessary in our view simply because we really do not believe that it is practical to require all factories to introduce this new requirement at a single point of time. If the Bill is going on the Statute Book next month you must have some power to do something of this kind. We cannot put in the Bill rigid numbers or a rigid period of time governing exemption. I think we must be content to leave it to the judgment of the Minister and his advisers. He will obtain the best advice he can. I have already made it plain that he is grateful for the advice which he has received from your Lordships.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 10, line 39, leave out ("of").—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.1028
Page 10, line 39, at end insert—
(2) Without prejudice to the power exercisable by the Minister under subsection (3) of the said section forty-two (which enables the Minister to provide for the exemption of factories from any of the requirements of that section in cases where by reason of special circumstances the application of the requirement would in his opinion be unreasonable) the Minister may by regulations provide for exempting from so much of subsection (1) of this section as requires the water supplied to be running water factories in which the largest number of persons at work at any one time does not exceed such number as may be specified in the regulations.")—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 18:
§ First aid
§ 18.—(1) For the purposes of subsection (3) of section forty-five of the principal Act (which requires persons in charge of first-aid boxes or cupboards to be trained in first-aid treatment if more than fifty persons are employed in the factory) a person shall not be deemed to be so trained unless he satisfies the prescribed conditions; and the Minister may by regulations extend that requirement to cases where the persons employed exceed such lower number as may be specified in the regulations.
§ 5.38 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1), after "conditions," to insert:
which shall include an approved course of training in safety measures and the prevention of accidents".
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 15. Would it be convenient if I were to deal at the same time with Amendments Nos. 15. 16 and 17? They are all related, and it might shorten the discussion.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
May I make it clear to the noble Lord that if Amendments are put together like this, whilst they can always be discussed together, I shall have to put them one after the other.
§ LORD STONHAM
I thought that would be the position. I think it will make it easier if we can discuss them together. The position that I wish to bring about by these Amendments is, first of all, to get the Minister to give us an indication of the number which, in 1029 the first place, he proposes to put into these regulations. At present, only firms employing more than fifty person are compelled to have in charge of the first-aid box a trained first-aider. But the Minister is taking power so that by regulations he mayextend that requirement to cases where the persons employed exceed such lower number as may be specified in the regulations.In one of our Amendments we propose that the number of persons who have to be employed for a trained first-aid to be required, instead of "exceeding fifty or such lower number" shall be twenty. The noble Earl may say, though I do not think it is a valid argument, that putting in a number like twenty would mean that where there are fewer than twenty those people are not supposed to have a first-aid box; but nobody really believes that to be the case. In most of these matters we are not concerned with the great majority of employers, but with the minority who persistently neglect their obligations. We think, therefore, that it is an advantage if we have the specified limit at the lowest possible level which thereafter, as we proceed, can be lowered still more by regulation.
It may be said that under the clause as it stands the Minister could specify in the regulations a number as low as five. We should certainly have no objection to that; we feel that anyone who suffers an injury in a factory accident ought to have a chance of immediate first-aid treatment by a trained person, for that can mean the saving of life and often the lessening of possible consequences of injury. It is for this reason that we seek to put the limit at twenty employees and not some number between twenty and fifty as the largest number of employees enabling employers to escape the obligation to have a first-aid box in charge of a trained person. We think that is something which Her Majesty's Government should accept, although we should be pleased if they would suggest inserting a number below twenty. If they like to put the limit at ten, or even five we shall be very happy. But we think the Minister should give us a clearer idea of what he has in mind for his regulations.
1030 Then there is the question of safety officers. We seek to insert the words so that the provision will read:a person shall not be deemed to be so trained unless he satisfies the prescribed conditions which shall include an approved course of training in safety measures and the prevention of accidents".We are greatly concerned to improve the continued observance of safety precautions in factories, particularly the smaller ones which are most prone to accidents. It is fundamental to our case that, generally speaking, workers are as much in need of continuous education in safety matters as are employers, and the best and most successful way of achieving that is to train a safety officer for the factory. This is possible even in small factories, particularly if the man selected is the man whose name is on the first-aid box. In most cases he will be a very suitable choice, first of all because he will already be trained in first-aid and his training will have shown him the consequences of accidents, and made him anxious to prevent them. Secondly, he will be one of the men and not an outsider. They will know that he has no axe to grind and that he is making suggestions only for their own good.
Thirdly, what we suggest would not be very costly to employers. Recently I made a calculation on the basis of how long it takes to train a man in first-aid where the employer is paying for the man's time, as most employers do. It worked out at less than £4 for a man to take a full course in first-aid and become a trained safety first-aider. I know that a syllabus of training for safety precautions officer would be mote complicated and specialised, and would take longer; but it still need not be expensive. The St. John Ambulance Brigade and the Red Cross have started a valuable new drive to train first-aiders in factories. The course is a very good one, with demonstrations and lectures by experts and senior medical officers, and it is giving those taking the course the status they need to enjoy, from knowing their job. But, though that is very valuable, all this effort must be sustained and must not be allowed to fizzle out, because sometimes people get a burst of enthusiasm for something in a factory and it may be that in two years' time 1031 the factory first-aid box will contain only the foreman's football pools or some such thing.
If a trained first-aider is responsible, and particularly someone who is trained in safety measures, he has a different status of authority; and if an accident should happen, this man, one of the workpeople or the staff, who has been trained in first-aid and safety measures, will be in a better position than anyone else to say to the injured man, "I told you so and it was your own fault." That may sometimes be an unkind thing to say, but it is often very salutary in teaching people not to take undue risks. Also, when the factory inspector comes round this safety man could go with him, and within half an hour the inspector could tell the man a great deal with regard to safety measures applicable to that particular factory. It would also give the inspectors help in each factory. I am not suggesting that that will be sufficient training. It will be only a beginning while the Minister is organising the training courses—we appreciate that that is perhaps the major difficulty. The necessary machinery for training in safety measures is not yet ready; in fact, it is almost non-existent. We agree that the St. John Ambulance Brigade and the Red Cross, however indispensable in first-aid training, are not the people to give training in factory safety measures, but we feel that the Minister should have the power now to insist that in all but the smallest factories there must be a properly trained accident prevention officer and that he should take steps centrally, as soon as possible, to get the training course going.
The only other point, in Amendment No. 16, is a comparatively small but very important one: to insert the word "shall" for "may"—in other words, to make these powers mandatory and not permissive. We know that nobody is keener than the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Labour to make this Bill really effective when it becomes an Act, but we feel that there is a strong case, particularly in this clause, for these powers to be not permissive but mandatory. We therefore hope that 1032 Her Majesty's Government will agree to this Amendment, which I now beg to move and to the others.
Page 11, line 2, after ("conditions") insert the said words.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
There are really two kinds of safety measures involved here. The major safety measures are outside the ambit of the first-aider, and they are a quite different problem: they are a matter for factory management. In the training of the first-aider in industrial safety one is concerned—and we hope that this Bill will be concerned—with much smaller things. I have to train industrial first-aiders and we try to make our first-aiders ambassadors of safety in a factory. We try to teach them the importance of workers using guards and putting on goggles when using a grinding wheel; the importance of a welder's mate using a shield when doing oxy-acetylene welding, about "toetectors" and other such things. These are the everyday small safety measures. There is a danger that the first-aider might be thought a little bossy if he starts talking of these things to his mates without due cause, and we find that the best way is for the first-aider to say, after he has treated someone for some minor accident, "Look here, chum, you would have done much better to have worn goggles", or "You should have been using a mask."
The amount of training required in this particular form of industrial safety for first-aiders, given that there is a training scheme, is quite small. One lecture, or part of a lecture, is enough. It is a matter of explaining simple principles; and they can, of course, be excellently demonstrated if a visit is made to the Ministry of Labour's excellent industrial safety demonstration centre in Horseferry Road. So our desire here is to see the thought of safety associated in the minds of the workers with first aid; that they are not merely thinking in terms of treatment but also in terms of prevention.
The second aspect of this matter I could raise either now or on the motion that the clause stand part, but I think it would be more convenient, my noble friend having talked about first-aid training, if I were to say a word now and ask the Minister a question about 1033 the prescribed conditions for the training of first-aiders, which the clause now gives the Minister power to lay down. We are all anxious to see factory firstaiders trained properly, but it is going to be a difficult problem because, great though the size of the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade is, they do not cover all areas, and they have certain difficulties and disabilities in this matter. Most first-aid training in this country is, in fact, undertaken by these two great organisations, the British Red Cross and the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and they do a wonderful job, especially in building up in industry first-aid workers. They have built up this enormous army of voluntary workers who turn out in their spare time and do a great deal of splendid work. But for obvious reasons the St. John and British Red Cross organisations have had to concentrate on general first aid. They concentrate on treatment on the roads, at sporting entertainments, at race courses and great public gatherings and so on. Their concern has, very properly, been true emergency first-aid until skilled help can come and in the transport of the seriously injured.
The problems of first-aid in an industrial setting are quite different. The first-aides in a factory is often the only person who sees the injured persons—they are not seen by anyone else—so he is not giving first aid; he is giving total aid. He therefore needs to be a specialist in the treatment of minor injuries, of minor casualties of all kinds; and, above all, he needs to know where to draw the line in what he is doing. He has to think for himself and he has also to cope with all sorts of new problems, because the kind of workers one gets in so many British factories are now not the old-fashioned labourer but the highly skilled technician wearing a white coat who finds the rather old-fashioned St. John treatment not quite what he requires, he being a trained scientist.
The St. John and the British Red Cross organisations have brought out two new books which are a substantial improvement on the old, but they do not really meet the need of industry. In medicine we do not have any stereotyped syllabuses. Each university or licensing body has its own syllabus under the control of the General Medical Council. We are concerned that, at a time when 1034 industrial first-aid is rapidly becoming more and more important, we should not lay down, or the Minister should not, a rigid and tight syllabus and say, "Unless you follow the St. John and British Red Cross syllabuses"—which are not adapted for industry and were designed for other purposes—"you cannot be approved as an industrial first-aider."
One hopes that more and more industrial first-aiders will be taught by industrial medical officers and by industrially trained nursing sisters in the factory medical department, industrial health centres and in hospitals which are linked with industrial medical services generally. We ourselves in the industrial health service, which I help to look after, have had to devise our own industrial first-aid teaching—this teaching has already been approved by the Minister's officers—and we hope very much that the Minister will be able to assure us that prescribed classes will lay down that the course should be given only by an approved qualified person; that it should consist of at least, say, six lecture demonstrations, and should end in a practical examination. If it is such a general qualification we can have all the experimentation, the trying out of different systems of teaching industrial first-aid, which there ought to be if we are to build up the industrial first-aid and safety services as we all hope will be done. I hope the Minister, when he replies will be able to give us an assurance on this question.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I would only say that my friends object most strongly to the whole of the Amendments to this clause, which they think are impracticable and unnecessary, and endeavouring to bring in by a side wind a very major departure from the whole set-up of this Bill. This Bill and all factory legislation are a matter of compromise and agreement outside, and I think it is quite impossible at this stage to bring in a major alteration in a Bill of this sort. We think it will lead to hopeless confusion to try to muddle up safety officers, whatever they may be, with the first-aider, as he is called. It is difficult enough to find sufficient people trained in first-aid to serve the factory of 50 employees, and to reduce the number to 1035 20 would reduce the position to hopeless confusion. In general, we feel that these Amendments are altogether too drastic and should be opposed.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am sorry that the noble Lord's friends object to what seems to me to be a fairly reasonable proposition which undoubtedly is likely to form part of the law of the land at some stage. We are in some difficulty in discussing these particular Amendments. It is rather like a debate on the motion that the clause stand part, and I think it might have been better if we had separated them, though they do hang together. If I may deal with this question of numbers, I cannot for the life of me see why the number 20 should be so totally objectionable when a number like 50 should be acceptable. I hope that the Minister will not be deterred in considering this aspect of the matter.
I want to turn my attention to only one aspect of these Amendments; that is, again in following my noble friend Lord Taylor, on the question of the training for first-aid. My noble friend Lord Taylor looks at this question with his own specialised knowledge (which is probably greater than anybody's in the country) in running an industrial health service. I should like to look at it as somebody concerned as an employer seeing his own medical service working in his own business. It is a fact that in my business the medical advisers have said to me exactly what my noble friend Lord Taylor has said to the House: they would greatly prefer—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, would agree—where they have a competent service and competent sisters, to supervise their own training for the particular purposes in the particular circumstances of the business. I think, therefore, that we should be well advised, and I hope the Government will take care, not to tie ourselves to some stereotyped official standard which will not be flexible and the refore not particularly suited to industry. For that reason I hope that the Government will consider this matter. I do not know whether we can have a statement now or on Report stage which will indicate that they are aware of that problem.
§ LORD FERRIER
I feel very inclined to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton said. I get the feeling that there is an implication that employers as a whole have to be driven to interest themselves in this question of first-aid, whereas my experience is that they are very much alive to it at all times and that it is a matter on which they keep a very close eye. Like my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, my experience has been that the first-aider is not necessarily the type of man who could, or should, be entrusted with the question of accident prevention. It might—and would in my belief—lead to feelings on the factory floor of disagreement and misunderstanding if these two functions became in any way mixed. I should like to see the considerable latitude which is in this clause left with the Minister; so that, with the good will, which I am sure exists, of the vast majority of employers, everything that is practicable and feasible under the clause as drafted may be done.
With your Lordships' permission, perhaps I might speak on the three Amendments generally, and then, no doubt, the Lord Chairman of Committees will put them to your Lordships. My right honourable friend here finds himself very much in the position of an umpire. One the one side there is the noble Lord, Lord Taylor—who, inescapably, together with his institution, is the leading light in industrial first-aid —and on the other side is what it is practicable to bring about, by legislation, on the floor of the factory; and my right honourable friend has got to strike a balance. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, really hit the nail on the head, I think, when he said that we must not mix up an industrial safety officer with "the person responsible", as he is called in the Bill, but what everybody else would call "the chap who looks after the first-aid box." Quite obviously, they must be two quite different people.
As the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, has said, however this Amendment may eventually appear in the Bill, and whatever the Bill may eventually say, many factories will be very hard put to it to find a sufficiently trained man to employ as their "chap on 1037 the box"—even someone up to the Red Cross or St. John standard, about which we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. But, I have read the new book lets issued by the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and I think that all the accidents to which we have been referring this afternoon—such things as drowning, electric shock and so on—requiring artificial respiration in one of these chambers or tanks about which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was talking, are dealt with in this St. John course. I cannot speak for the other two bodies. The St. Andrew Ambulance Association in the noble Earl's country, should, of course, be referred to also. But I think that the current certificate which it would be necessary for the man on the box to hold should cover pretty well all those accidents.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I entirely agree with what the noble Earl has said: he is quite right. These are the things with which the St. John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and the St. Andrew Association deal so well. The point is that such accidents occur extremely rarely, thank goodness! whereas the ordinary factory first-aider is handling twenty or thirty minor cases a day—minor cuts and bruises; foreign bodies in the eyes—and that is our major problem; to deal with all the little things which are not taught in the conventional St. John teaching. That is why we are so concerned that the conventional St. John teaching should not necessarily be stamped into the pattern. Although we at once accept that anybody who is Red Cross-trained or St. John Ambulance-trained is well qualified basically to undertake industrial first-aid, that that should be the only thing would appalus.
I was just coming on to that point. May I bear a little longer on the St. John side of it, and especially with regard to the small cuts and bruises? I think that anybody who has undergone a St. John course should be able to cope with such minor ailments, and if there is some special requirement—perhaps taking things out of people's eyes, and so forth—no doubt the bodies concerned would consider including that in their courses for specific types of industries or factories. 1038 I have no doubt, also, that the expert words of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will be read with the greatest care by these bodies (and I daresay they have already been read in his articles in the Lancet—which, unfortunately, I have not read) as well as his new book, which I understand is shortly to be published. What is more, my right honourable friend is most interested in, and will be keeping a very close eye on, the results of the writing of the noble Lord, who is an acknowledged expert on this subject.
However, there is another complication. If these so-called industrial first-aid workers should start treating these small injuries with specialised substances, which may be necessary, who would be responsible in the case of some reaction or of some awkwardness that occurs through the use of these substances? It would be difficult for my right honourable friend at this time to legislate that the factory, the occupier, or the man in charge of the box, should be held responsible for any damage that might occur through the use of these possibly dangerous substances, and to legislate for their security, and so forth. After all, these dangerous substances are being used more and more in the ordinary medical world; and I think it is the opinion of my right honourable friend that it is far better that the trained doctor or the trained nurse, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has referred, should be responsible for the dangerous substances, and that the person on the box should be the man trained to deal with an accident. That is so far as concerns the first Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.
With regard to the next Amendment, the reason why this number of fifty is stated is that it is a physical fact that there just are not enough people of sufficient standing available to be able to accept the words of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and to make it apply to a factory having twenty employees. That is the problem. My right honourable friend has taken the best advice that is open to him, and apparently that is the conclusion: that it is difficult enough to get the men on the box for the first lot of factories. The policy is to spread 1039 "accident-consciousness" to the major factories. Of course, many of these factories already have these people, and no doubt these men may leave a job in one factory and go to a smaller factory, where automatically there will be a nucleus of first-aid established. So that at some future period—I regret I am uninformed as to when the period may be, but it will no doubt be as soon as is humanly possible to my right honourable friend—he will specify what the next group of factories will be that shall have the first-aid boxes with the trained people responsible for them.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am grateful to the noble Earl for his careful and detailed reply. I think I gathered from it, particularly from his last few remarks, that he did not quite accept the strictures of his noble friend, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, because I understood that the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, objected to the figure of twenty and that his friends thought that that was quite impossible.
§ LORD STONHAM
I probably did not quite hear the words "at the moment", but I take it that in any case it is the hope of the Government that the kind of figure I have in mind will be achieved before very long and that that is what we are going to aim at. The noble Earl did not mention one of my Amendments at all—the one where we hope to substitute the word "shall" for "may". Perhaps he will say a word about that in a moment. With regard to the question of safety officers, I fully appreciate that that particular matter just looks as if it has been stuck in—as, indeed, quite frankly it has—but the fault there is not mine: it is the fault of the Government, because at no stage of the Bill can I find any reference to safety officers, and if we want to talk about safety officers and try to get this matter brought forward we have to put it in somewhere. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 11, line 2, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").—(Lord Stonham.)
I must apologise to the noble Lord for not mentioning "shall" or "may". It is a permissive power that the Minister seeks. Without prejudice to my right honourable friend, I would say that if the noble Lord withdrew his next Amendment stating a figure of twenty, possibly then he would find that there is little difference between "may" and "shall". I have no doubt that my right honourable friend will consider that and we shall be able to say something further on Report stage, but in no way could I possibly commit him at the moment.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am grateful to the noble Earl for the opportunity that he has held out with regard to this point, though I agree that it is no more, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 18 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD TAYLOR
I am sorry if I got myself and perhaps the noble Earl a little muddled on this matter. I wonder whether before Report stage, if he cannot give an answer now, the Minister could think about the question of how far it is intended to lay down that all first-aid training shall be conducted by the three great national training organisations, or how far doctors who do not belong to these organisations shall be permitted and encouraged to carry it out.
My right honourable friend has said that the requirement will probably be the possession of a current first-aid certificate granted by one of the bodies approved for the purpose. Then my right honourable friend went on to explain the advantages of the societies that I have mentioned. But as a result of what has been said in this debate about the advantages of including certain other societies, possibly at a future date they could be taken into consideration by my right honourable friend with a view to including them as approved bodies.
§ LORD FERRIER
I am sure that nobody imagines that we are not all devoted to the cause of first aid, but an increasing number of factories to-day are employing trained pharmacists, and where there are pharmacists there is a good basis for training, possibly even in 1041 advance of the training given by some of the societies whose courses are purely in first aid.
§ On Question, Clause 18 agreed to.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON moved, after Clause 18 to insert the following new clause:
§ Accident prevention officer
§ ".There shall be added to the standard conditions of contract, a clause requiring contractors to employ a suitably qualified accident prevention officer."
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friends Lord Stonham and Lord Taylor, I beg to move the Amendment standing in our names on the Order Paper. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, and his friends will not object to this, though I suspect that they will. I should like to make clear that Amendment No. 15 has nothing to do with this one, which deals with the appointment of properly qualified accident prevention officers, or safety officers. The standard conditions of contract used by the Government, which include such items as a fair wages clause, are issued by the Stationery Office. Any noble Lord who looks at this standard contract will see that the new clause we propose is the kind of clause that might reasonably find its way into such a contract.
§ I do not propose to argue the case for safety officers, because I think that all noble Lords will accept that in appropriate factories—and I fully realise that there is the widest difference among factories—a safety officer is necessary. My experience in this field is that managements tend to lag in recognising the need for these appointments. To-day there is a certain amount of pressure from those trained in this field, not only to raise their own professional standards and to become recognised, but to have the importance of this sort of work recognised. This is a highly desirable way by which the Government can help them. I would assure the noble Earl that we shall be most accommodating over this new clause. We should be happy to accept any amendment at any stage that he would like to make. If he does not like the word "shall" in this case, we should be happy to accept the word "may", or it may be that some phrase like "as the Minister directs" or 1042 other appropriate phrase the Government draftsmen can produce may be thought necessary. The Amendment proposes to give the Government this power, in this wide field of Government contracting to all sorts of industries and suppliers, to enforce or encourage a development of this sort. I think that this is a simple improvement to a Bill on which, on the whole, the Government are doing very well.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I wonder whether I could make one or two comments on this rather extraordinary proposal. The Fair Wages Resolution passed by the House of Commons as applied to Government contracts, is I think, the correct title of the standard conditions to which the noble Lord refers. Actually it is out of date. With the passage of the Bill which makes it compulsory for all industry to pay the recognised terms and conditions of trade, in due time this House of Commons Resolution will disappear as no longer required. In actual fact, it has never been mentioned in any factory legislation and is entirely outside the consideration of any factory legislation we have ever had at any time. I think it would be regrettable to bring a whole lot of entirely irrelevant and extraneous matters into this Factories Bill.
But quite apart from that—and perhaps that argument is rather technical—some of my friends differ violently on the desirability of this factory safety officer; and often those who are most keen on seeing that accident prevention is highly developed in firms dislike such appointments on the ground that safety should be the responsibility of line management all the way down from the manager, sub-manager, works foreman or whoever it may be, and the appointment of a specialist officer may detract from the responsibility of line management. This is a controversial matter. Many think that a specialist person greatly detracts from the control and responsibility of management itself. I am not going to judge on that or declare which I prefer, but in view of this controversy I think it would be unfortunate if we injected into this Bill in this extraordinary way a mandatory accident prevention officer.
§ LORD TAYLOR
There is one thing to be said about this Amendment. It does not say a whole-time qualified accident prevention officer, and I personally feel, with the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, that there is a lot to be said for having an accident prevention officer who is in the line of management and has a responsible position who takes a special interest in accidents, and perhaps has had some training in the matter, as well as doing his job: though as to the noble Lord's earlier observations I would not agree.
§ LORD STONHAM
I think the observations of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, as to his friends are to a large extent influenced by the obviously high quality of his friends. They are very keen on the prevention of accidents and on safety measures and I think the noble Lord said that those who are keenest are most against the appointment of a special accident prevention officer.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I did not say that. I said that many who are keen on it feel that way. It is a controversial matter on which I should say the two sides among my friends are evenly balanced.
§ LORD STONHAM
I assure the noble Lord that I am not trying to misquote him, but am just developing his argument. That seems to me to indicate that those people who are very keen on safety measures and the prevention of accidents, and for that reason do not want a specialist officer, feel that way because they themselves are in effect in their own business the accident prevention officers, and they see to it, if they are in senior positions, that that kind of spirit goes right down the line—managers, foremen and so on. That is the ideal situation, of course, and the sort of thing that we should like to see in every factory. I think that most of us have a distrust of experts in all walks of life. But what we are anxious to legislate for is those factories where quite insufficient thought is given to the prevention of accidents—and that includes a great number—and where factory inspectors, with the best will in the world, cannot get round sufficiently frequently to stimulate suggestions and to try to put bad places right.
1044 Therefore, it seems to us that this is a matter to which the Government have not given any real thought. There is absolutely nothing about it in the Bill, and it seems quite appropriate for us to bring in a new clause in order to try to get something about safety training and accident prevention in the Bill. We are certainly not deterred because this happens to be one of the subjects that has not been mentioned before and is considered by some to be quite outside the discussion. I am sure that if we had had a discussion on a Factory Bill fifty or sixty years ago, and we had made the suggestion that people should have clean running water, the noble Lord would have got up and said: "This has never been heard of before nobody has ever suggested anything so revolutionary as clean running water." The noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, has indicated that some of his friends think that this is a revolutionary suggestion. I think it is a very good one, and we are glad to have sponsored it, even in a somewhat unorthodox manner. Although we know that there are few trained accident prevention officers, we feel that this is a deficiency that should be put right, and we hope that serious consideration will be given to the subject.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
Quite apart from the merits of the clause as drafted, and tying it on to the old standard conditions, I ask the Minister to tell his right honourable friend that there is a large body of opinion that feels that there ought to be a safety officer, particularly in the smaller factories. The big firms do it. The noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, is no doubt thinking of the good big firms to whom this is so important. But there are thousands of small works where it is nobody's business where workmen take the guards off machinery because they get in their way, and it is nobody's business to put them back. I have seen machines which have had guards off them for months and months nobody cares, and then one day something goes wrong. It ought to be somebody's business to see that the factory regulations are strictly observed. If some way could be found of making it some special person's job, and preferably a workman or foreman who has the confidence of those with whom he works, and, if 1045 possible, has been trained in this respect, that would make for an enormous improvement.
§ LORD FERRIER
I am opposed to the Amendment rather on the ground mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stonharn that is to say, on the question of who shall be responsible. I like to feel that everybody is an accident prevention officer, and a proposal to put this in the Bill adds to the possibility of people passing the buck " and saying it is somebody else's job because it is the job of the factory prevention officer. I want to emphasise that I say this not on the basis that we need not prevent accidents, but because I feel that everybody should endeavour to prevent them. For that reason, as I say, I oppose the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that in some industries and in some factories accident prevention officers can and do play a useful part in promoting safe practices. I also agree with what I understand is about 50 per cent. of the acquaintances of my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton (to which he does not commit himself) and with my noble friend Lord Ferrier, that in other cases and in other factories they do not play a useful part. I think that a statutory requirement to appoint such officers should always have regard to the hazards of particular industries and occupations, and it should not be made dependent on the contract on which the firm happens to be engaged.
This is precisely the position which exists at the present time. It is not something which has not been thought of before. Under Section 60 of the Factories Act, 1937, the Minister of Labour has wide power to make special regulations for safety and health, and this enables the Minister to require the appointment of safety officers in industries where he considers this to be desirable. This power has already been used in a number of cases: for instance, in Regulation 98 of the Building Regulations, 1948. There is a similar requirement applying to shipyards employing more than 500 persons contained in the Shipbuilding Regulations, 1931 and there are a number of others which I could quote to your Lordships. The Minister already has ample power to 1046 require industries having special hazards to appoint safety or accident prevention officers, and in cases where such requirements have been laid down they are employed in the ordinary way by the factory inspector.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for promising to he so accommodating in accepting any minor Amendments to this Amendment, and I wish I could respond to him in the same way. But I am afraid I must say to your Lordships that the effect of this clause would be that all firms, irrespective of their size or nature, who accepted Government contracts would have to employ accident prevention officers. These officers would require training. Small firms might well be deterred from tendering for Government contracts, particularly a contract which was of short duration, because of the necessity of releasing an employee for training. It does not seem right to use Government contracts in this way to enforce requirements in factory legislation. It would be unjust to require Government contractors to employ safety officers, while firms who do not need to apply for such Government contracts are under no such obligation.
Moreover, the proposed clause would be difficult to enforce, since the liability would depend upon the holding of a Government contract. It would presumably apply only for the duration of that contract, and the factory inspector would find it extremely difficult, without making detailed inquiries, to find out whether a firm actually had a contract at a particular moment when he wished to make an inquiry about the existence of an accident prevention officer. I think the right solution is to leave this matter to be decided under Section 60 of the 1937 Act, which empowers my right honourable friend to make regulations appointing an officer in cases where he is convinced that it is the right thing to do.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I promised to be accommodating and, therefore, I do not propose to press this matter to a Division. But I can not let this subject go without making some comment on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. It is this business of making everybody responsible which leads to 1047 "passing the buck". What we are trying to do is to ensure that there is somebody to catch that "buck" and face up to it. I have seen line management, and we know that it is intended that line management should be for everything, including the cash, and on that basis there would be no accountants. But somewhere the line has to move into the staff field, and that would depend upon the industry and the nature of the management. There is to-day an Institute for Industrial Safety Officers. If this debate has done no other service, I hope that at least it will encourage the Government to look again at the powers they have under existing legislation and to see whether they can be used. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAMmoved, after Clause 18 to insert the following new clause:
§ Compulsory insurance
§ "The Minister shall by regulations require all occupiers of factories to maintain adequate insurance against the risk of claims, by their employees, for compensation for injuries sustained during the course of their employment, and such regulations shall prescribe the penalties for offences under this section."
§ The noble Lord said: I think it would be best for me to say at once that I am not prepared to be accommodating on this clause, or to accept "may" for "shall", as my noble friend Lord Shackleton was on the other Amendment, because I hope that this new clause will commend itself to your Lordships and to the Government as a simple act of justice. It is extraordinary the number of people you meet who are not aware that it is not compulsory for an employer to insure his employees against their Common Law claims. There are people engaged in the insurance industry who are not aware of this fact. It is one of our basic principles that anyone who has suffered a legal wrong or injury should have a legal remedy, which means that he should have the right to go to court and, if judgment is given in his favour, to recover the damages awarded to him. We recognised this in the Road Traffic Act, where we insisted 1048 that an insurance company's cover note must be produced as a condition of the granting of a road fund licence.
§ When we read of cases being brought to court in respect of road accidents and people being seriously injured, much as we may regret them, we have the satisfaction of knowing that compensation is awarded to them and is paid_ We know it is paid because the person injured in the accident—the motorist or whoever it is—is insured. Whilst he may be crippled for life, he will not be condemned to live in dire poverty. There is no such comfort in respect of compensation awards for death or injury arising from factory accidents. Most employers are fully insured against Common Law claims, but there are a larger number only partly covered, and others, mainly small firms, who are not insured at all. In this Bill we seek to make factories safe places in which to work. But accidents, many of them serious and some involving loss of life, will still occur. It would be utterly wrong for this Bill to leave this House unless we have made certain that any compensation rightly due to the victims of such accidents will be paid. That is what this new clause seeks to ensure.
§ I have brought this Amendment forward because for years I used to sit every week listening to problems of constituents when I was a Member in another place. Scarcely a week went by without my hearing details of an industrial injury. When the employer was insured I could usually do something to help, but when he was not it was almost impossible to get any material compensation for the victim. I ask your Lordships to consider the position of a married man with children who has suffered such serious injury that he will never walk or work again. The accident which caused his injury was the result of negligence on the part of the employer. If the case went to court the damages might be £10,000 or £12,000, but it would be useless to sue because the employer is a small man with few assets. So the injured man and his family have to rely on a pension which is insufficient for subsistence, and they are reduced to poverty through no fault of their own. This not only affects the man and his wife, but also his children and their whole future 1049 I know that there are no statistics of the claims which for this reason are never made, or of the claims where damages are only partially recouped. But I will give a few actual examples. A man was killed as a result of the breakdown of some defective equipment. He left a dependent widow and child. The employer, who was in breach of statutory regulations, and therefore liable, had a one-man business with no financial backing at all. The dead man was a member of a trade union, and although the union's solicitor assessed the probable damages at some £3,000, it was decided that it was quite hopeless to try to recover them. This man's family was cheated out of what was due to them, simply because the employer was not insured.
In another case, a lad of 17 was blinded whilst working in a quarry. In the course of his judgment, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker of Waddington, the Lord Chief Justice, who was then Mr. Justice Parker, used these words:
I said at the beginning that it is unfortunate for the defendant, who is not insured, and how far the defendant is able to pay, or not, of course, I am not concerned with. But it does rather surprise me that in these days of a Welfare State, whilst there is compulsory insurance on the road there is no form of compulsory insurance in regard to people who are concerned with explosives, such as the owner of a quarry. It seems to be just such a case where a man who uses explosives of this sort ought by law to be compelled to insure against accidents as in this case.
I am, of course, aware that the noble Lord was applying this principle to compulsory insurance for people concerned with explosives, and that quarries may not be factories and may therefore be excluded from this Bill. But the principle is absolutely the same, and I claim, therefore, that I have the highest legal authority in support of the case I am trying to make. In another case within my knowledge a man employed by a small firm of good repute was injured and awarded damages of £2,000. The firm was not insured and did not have the money. Rather than close them down an attempt is now being made through a judgment summons to get payment by instalments.
§ I mention those cases not to support the principle of the case, which I think is unanswerable and which I hope the Government will willingly concede, but 1050 to answer in advance any suggestion that these cases do not arise. There is another and probably larger category of cases where the employer is insured up to a certain limit or subject to certain exceptions. In one case I know the policy excluded liability for any accident caused by the employer's statutory breach. One employee did sustain injuries and was awarded £12,500 damages. The employer's claim on the insurance company was turned down because the accident was caused through statutory default and therefore the firm was not covered. In that case the man was a member of a trade union and the trade union actually financed the employer to take proceedings against the insurance company to go to arbitration, and the insurance company, without going to court, eventually paid £10,000. So the insured man suffered not through there being no policy of insurance but because the employer had entered into an unsatisfactory policy. Only last month a case came before the court of appeal in which the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Denning, was rejected. In this case judgment was given for £1,300, but the total liability of the insurance company on any one claim was £1,000. That is not an uncommon type of policy. When one regards the heavy compensation due to serious accident claims, an upper limit of £1,000 is grossly inadequate.
As your Lordships are aware, the proposal that there should be compulsory insurance against risk of industrial injury is not new and there are many precedents for it. For instance, the Workmen's Compensation (Coal Mines) Act, 1934, provided for compulsory insurance in coal mines against liability to pay compensation. The relevant clause reads:
Subject to the provisions of this section, the owners of a coal mine shall not, at any time, employ any workmen for the purposes of the undertaking carried on at that mine unless there is in force either —
(a) a contract of insurance, subscribed by any authorised insurer, being a contract which…insures the owner against all liability under the principal Act in respect of the employment of workmen by him or any other person for those purposes at that time".
And it gives an alternative in the form of an instrument conforming with the requirements of the Schedule to the Act. There is a penalty of three months' imprisonment or £100 fine for any default.
§ Then again, when the Mines and Quarries Bill, 1954, was in Committee, a new clause was moved to provide insurance in respect of employers' liability. The substance was that it should not be lawful to work any mine or quarry unless there was in force a policy of insurance in respect of employers' liability risks which complied with the requirements of the section. The requirements were that the policy had to be issued by an authorised insurer that it must insure against liability to pay damages and costs in respect of any claim arising out of the employment of any person, and in default the owner or manager was to be liable to a fine not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. or both. There was also a provision for the Minister to exempt any owner who could satisfy him that he was willing and financially able to meet the insurable liability.
§ At that time the clause was opposed by the Government, not on general principle but because it raised wide questions which would be more properly the subject of general legislation rather than applied to a special industry. Of course, I would support general legislation for compulsory insurance, but I hope that the noble Earl will not say to-day that the Government, on the grounds that this question raises wide issues, object to taking up this responsibility under this Bill. A Factories Bill covers the widest possible range of industry and the largest possible number of employees in any group in this country. I believe, therefore, that this matter should not be pushed aside because of the possibility of future legislation for which we may have to wait many years, because during those years many people will have to suffer the consequences of dire injury without compensation unless we act in this Bill.
§ I hope also that it will not be argued that this proposal is administratively difficult it is not. Just as an intending car driver must produce an insurance policy before he gets a licence, so I suggest that whenever any employer submits the annual return of employees' P.A.Y.E. he should at the same time produce for inspection his receipt for an approved policy of insurance in respect of his liability to those employees. This would involve little labour and virtually no 1052 administrative difficulty. I submit that there are no interests which are adversely affected by this proposal. No opposition could be expected from the vast majority of firms, because they are at present adequately insured. The proposal is not only in the interests of employees but in the interests of those firms who do not now insure they will be protected from the consequences of their own thoughtlessness. It will remedy, as the noble Lord, Lord Parker, suggested, a small but very real anomaly in the Welfare State and prevent serious and disastrous injustice to those affected. I beg to move.
After Clause 18 insert the said new clause. (Lord Stonham.)
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
This again, I think, is a question of trying to tip something extraneous into this factories legislation. If we are going to regard the Factories Acts as a general heap into which you can pile everything which refers to the Welfare State, well and good, but I do not think that that has been the policy of this country in regard to the Factories Acts and I do not think it should be the case. The question of compulsory insurance has never come into any Factories Act and I would suggest is not one for a Factories Act. It is a matter of general legislation which may be considered over many fields, and I personally would object, and my friends would object, to its being imported into this Factories Bill.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Would the noble Lord say what sort of legislation compulsory insurance for factories should come under?
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
One could think of many if one had the time, but I am not going to write a new clause for the noble Lord at the present time. The case has been made that there is compulsory insurance in driving motor cars and motor vehicles on the roads. There are, of course, heavy criminal penalties for carelessness on the actual offender in that matter, quite a different state of affairs from what would be suggested here. Many accidents are caused by the negligence of fellow employees. There are all sorts of problems that would arise. I do not think that at this stage in this Bill it is 1053 right or correct to raise these highly controversial matters and put them in this Bill. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not do so.
§ EARL ATTLEE
Might I ask the noble Lord what kind of Bill he would suggest that this should be put in? The motor insurance is put in a Traffic Bill. Why should not factory insurance be put in a Factories Bill? I do not quite follow the logic of what the noble Lord says.
§ LORD McCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
I am not going to suggest to the noble Earl what sort of Bill it should be. He can think of one perfectly well, just as I myself can. I am saying that these things have never been put into any factory legislation up to now, and at this late stage in this Factories Bill, to bring in these extraneous matters is, I think, not correct.
§ LORD TAYLOR
Surely in the other place during the passage of this Bill they brought in for the first time the railway sheds, and the Minister accepted that.
Might I suggest that the type of Bill which it occurs to me might be used is a Universal Protection Bill, because more and more damages are caused by one citizen against another and we shall soon get to the stage when every citizen will have to insure against damage to his neighbour. That will be a perfectly logical Bill in which to include this proposal.
§ LORD FERRIER
I must say that I feel a little sympathy with noble Lords opposite in regard to the principle behind this proposal. At the same time, I think it is more than possible, judging by what the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, has said, that it is impractical to introduce it in this Bill. I am looking forward to hearing why it would be impossible. If any criticisms are to be made of the Amendment as drafted, I have two. One is that it means that everybody has to insure. Would it not be possible, where there are a large number of companies which are fully able to cope with any claim—
§ LORD FERRIER
A number are not. I am referring to the ones that are not insured but who manifestly have 1054 adequate resources to cover any claim for industrial injuries. It may not be possible for them to be released from that obligation. Judging from what noble Lords have said already, it is conceivable that this might not come within the general scope of the Bill. But if it did, in addition to my suggestion that not everybody must insure provided their resources are adequate, is it possible to include it in another part of this Bill? Railway sheds are referred to in a separate part of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Like my noble friend behind me, Lord Ferrier, I can certainly sympathise, as I think most of your Lordships must, with the motives behind a proposal of this kind, because there are some cases of hardship where an injured worker awarded damages in a civil suit against his employer has not been able to get the money awarded, because the employer was not insured and was unable to pay the money out of his own pocket. Since the question has been raised in the widest possible form, I do not want to evade discussing its merits by emphasising what is undoubtedly true, that it would not be possible or appropriate to introduce a compulsory insurance scheme in a Factories Bill which applies only to a certain proportion of people in the country. I realise that this piecemeal argument has been the objection to its being done on a number of occasions. In regard to the Mines and Quarries Act, which the noble Lord opposite mentioned, it was, I think, rightly refused on the ground that you could not introduce it to deal with mines and quarries. Noble Lords may remember, too, that in an Agriculture Bill concerning safety in agriculture, a similar Amendment was moved and the mover withdrew it, recognising that it would not be appropriate to introduce it in this piecemeal manner. I think that the same considerations apply to a Factories Bill.
Legislation on this subject, if we are going to have it, would require careful and detailed consideration both as to scope and to enforcement. After all, it is a serious departure to force people to insure themselves against liability to pay certain kinds of legal damages. It would be wrong to introduce compulsory legislation covering only some of the 1055 employers and workers in this country, and if we wanted to introduce it covering all of them, among the questions which would arise as to scope are whether such a scheme should apply to private domestic employment and to shops and offices, as well as to employment in factories, and of course in mines and quarries which do not come under this Bill and to transport and to—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Would not the noble Earl consider that the Nuclear Installations (Licensing and Insurance) Act was an equally inappropriate measure in regard to which there is provision for insurance?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am afraid I cannot answer in regard to that Bill, without notice. But I do not think we could introduce a new principle of this kind, applying to those who are employed in factories, unless we did it for other kinds of labour, too. One subsidiary question which might arise is whether employers should, as part of the proposed scheme, insure against accidents arising from the negligence of workers, and whether in that case it would not be equitable for the workers to pay a contribution to the scheme. But I think it is obvious that it is the small employers who very occasionally find it difficult to pay damages awarded to injured workers.
I have always regarded this proposal as a most seductive one because when you look at it at first sight the analogy of the third party risks in motoring insurance seems to be so logical but it is not really, because in enforcing the compulsory third party insurance which motor car owners are required to take out there are other statutory provisions relating to motor vehicles which require that they must be registered and that their drivers must be licensed, and that they shall have their documents available so that whenever a policeman asks for the production of an insurance card on a motor car one has to produce it or else one is liable to a penalty. Nothing comparable exists in the employment field. It would be relatively easy to introduce a provision of this kind in large and medium-sized factories, but they are the factories where it is not 1056 necessary to enforce it and where they do not default in regard to paying damages.
Where it would be quite impossible to enforce a provision of this kind at present unless you had hundreds of thousands of inspectors would be in a large number of very small factories where precisely the kind of employers might be found who would default. We feel that there is little point in embarking on legislation of the kind proposed unless the enforcement arrangements are water tight and can really be enforced otherwise, of course, precisely those few employers who now default would be the ones who did not take out valid insurance policies. Equally there would be little point in fining them for having failed to take out the insurance policy.
I have, if it interests your Lordships, some figures which the Ministry of Labour have obtained from the Law Society as to the number of claims on which the employers have been unable to pay, for the year April 1, 1957, to March 31, 1958. In those twelve months, out of 1,280 assisted litigants who were awarded damages, 1,269 recovered the damages in full. Of the remaining eleven, in a further three cases arrangements have been made for payment by instalments, and in six cases proceedings for recovery are pending. In one case, costs and part of the damages have been obtained. In only one case out of 1,280 has there been complete failure to recover damages. While, of course, even one complete case and seven or eight partial cases are regrettable, the proportion is not high; and the point here is that the small proportion applies precisely to these small employers, of whom there is such a vast number and on whose business it is so difficult to keep check. So that, in my submission, it would be practically impossible to enforce a proposal of this kind in an effective manner. It could be enforced upon everybody about whose ability to pay there was no doubt, but it is precisely in regard to those people who occasionally default that enforcement would be likely to break down, and the protection afforded would therefore be largely deceptive.
1057 I do not think I ought to say much about the general question of how we ought to apply general legislation, if ever we do, because I do not pretend that that matter should be raised at all on this Bill. I daresay that any ultimate solution, if Parliament thinks it right, might be similar to that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, but I hope that on the Factories Bill I have managed to give your Lordships the reasons why Her Majesty's Government, while fully sympathising with the motive behind this proposal, are unable to accept it as part of the Bill.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I am sorry that the noble Earl cannot see his way either to accept this Amendment or to say that possibly some other approach can be made, because this is a very serious matter. If I may say so, I feel that the noble Earl gave rather misleading figures, because they refer only to litigants who are assisted under "poor person" arrangements: they leave out of account all those members of trade unions for whom trade unions give assistance and legal aid therefore they are not really very informative.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I do not wish to be incomplete about this. The Trades Union Congress were asked in 1955 to produce evidence on this point, and they were able to list only twenty such cases from the whole field of industry, transport and agriculture over a period of twelve years. In all those cases the employers were either paying by instalments the whole of the amount awarded or had paid some part of the
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amend ment disagreed to accordingly.1058
§ sum awarded. I do not want to represent that even a small number of cases like that is not regrettable, but the proportion is not large.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
The numbers are not vast, but to the persons affected it is a matter of vital importance which may ruin the lives of their whole family. We feel so strongly about this matter, and not only that this is an important thing to do but that we have here a very good and right opportunity of doing it, that we feel we should take the Amendment to a Division.
This need not be a very complicated matter. After all, regulations made by the Minister can expressly exclude private workshops, mines and quarries and other places which, clearly, are not intended to be covered by this Amendment. Also, I understand that when premises constitute a factory within the meaning of the 1937 Act, the occupier of that factory must have, among other things, certain sections of the Factories Act posted up in his factory. Added to that document in future there would be a statement to the effect that he must be compulsorily insured in respect of accidents to his employees so this need not be a complicated matter but in truth could be a fairly simple matter.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 16 Not-Contents, 20.1057
|Amwell, L.||Darwen, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Silkin, L.|
|Boyd-Orr, L.||Mathers, L.||Stansgate, V.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Meston, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Crook, L.||Pakenham, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrier, L.||Onslow, E. [Teller.]|
|Bathurst, E.||Gosford, E.||Perth, E.|
|Bostonm, L.||Grenfell, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, L.||Hawke, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Chesham, L.||Home, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Waldgrave, E.|
|Dundee, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
§ Clauses 19 to 21 agreed to.
§ Clause 22 [Exemptions from provisions regulating hours of employment]:
§ 7.10 p.m.
The Committee may not remember that for the last three years the supply of mincepies and sausages at Christmas time, in so far as those commodities come from bakeries in which women are employed, can, under Defence Regulation 59, have been assured only with an order made by my right honourable friend. When this Bill as it is written becomes law, Defence Regulation 59 will be swept away, and only by a special exemption regulation could my right honourable friend make it possible for women to be employed on the Sunday before Christmas in England and on the Sunday before the New Year in Scotland. This Amendment makes it possible for my right honourable friend to make a special exemption order so that, without any delay and with the minimum of fuss and trouble, women may be employed on those Sundays. I make haste to say and to assure the Committee that in no way are the women's safeguards weakened—or anybody else's safeguards for that matter and under subsection (1) of this clause consultation with the unions and employers and all bodies concerned must be undertaken by my right honourable friend. That matter is dealt with in line 5 on page 12 of the Bill.
Page 12, line 26, after ("premises") insert ("and any exemption under this section for a particular day or particular days only").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 23 [Tenement factories and parts of buildings let off as separate factories]:
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
This Amendment relates only to those multiple-occupancy factories to which Section 102 of the principal Act applies, and its purpose is simply to make sure that those responsibilities which properly belong to the occupier should fall upon him and those that belong to the owner should fall upon the owner. Clause 4 of this Bill, to which this proposed Amendment applies, amends Section 25 1060 of the 1937 Act by imposing on occupiers a new duty that is, to keep floors, passages and stairs free from obstruction and from slippery substances and thus takes the substance of Section 25 slightly beyond the description of that section in its side heading. This would not matter but for the fact that the same description is used in Section 102 of the 1937 Act and if no further Amendment were made the effect would be that the occupier of a factory in a multiple-occupancy building would be solely responsible for the new duty, even when it was more appropriate for the owner to be responsible. This Amendment is simply to put that matter right.
Page 13, line 26, at end insert—
("(2) The reference in the said section one hundred and two to the provisions of Part II of the principal Act with respect to the construction and maintenance of floors, passages and stairs shall be contrued as including a reference to section four of this Act.")—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Promotion of health, safety and welfare]:
LORD TAYLOR moved, in subsection (1), after the second "welfare", to insert:
and by promoting or assisting in the promotion and support of organisations for health, safety and welfare;".
The noble Lord said: I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed Amendments Nos. 22 to 26 together, and no doubt they will be put separately after that. One hopes very much that these Amendments may commend themselves to Her Majesty's Government. At the start of this clause the Government make a declaration of general intention, which we think is of very great importance. It states:
The Minister shall promote health, safety and welfare in factories and premises and operations to which the principal Act applies …
It states that this shall be done in two ways. First
by collecting and disseminating information";
by investigating or assisting in the investigation of problems of health, safety and welfare …
This clause has attracted the greatest interest among all those people who are concerned with industrial medical services and industrial health. From the point of view of its potentialities, if the Minister decides to use it, as we hope he will, it can become one of the most important clauses, if not the most important, in the Bill.
§ When the National Health Service Act was passed it provided for a comprehensive health service for the people of this country with one great exception. That exception was industrial medicine, health care at work, and it was left out for a very good reason: that no one knew how it ought to be provided. It would have been comparatively easy to cover the larger work places, those with 250 or more workers, by insisting that all employers should follow the example of the good employers because even in 1948 of such factories nearly half had their own medical department. The problem was how to cover the small and medium-sized factories. As a result of the effort, primarily, of the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust we are beginning to get a solution and at Slough and at Harlow, and in the central Middlesex area, and now in Tyneside, as the result of the work of Professor Brown, co-operative industrial health services are being developed. But it has been found that tile small and medium-sized factories cannot start these services on their own. The launching costs are too high, and therefore they have had to rely on private charity.
§ The Central Middlesex Service, to which I have referred, is, I understand, already having some financial difficulties, which I believe were raised before the Minister's Industrial Health Advisory Committee quite recently. That Committee was also asked by the Minister to make a study of the health service as affecting industry in the town of Halifax, and it was a very valuable report that the Committee turned out. It showed very great deficiencies in Halifax. but it did something more, quite unexpected: it produced from the workers and the trade unions in Halifax the request, " Why cannot we in Halifax have a local industrial health service like they have, for example, in Harlow?" As I understand it, the Minister has at 1062 present no power to give financial assistance towards the creation of such a service in any area. It is true that the Ministry of Health has helped in the creation of the existing services in a sort of side way, inasmuch as it has been able to finance certain aspects of their work. For example, the physiotherapy work at Slough and Harlow is helped by the Ministry of Health, but it is not the type of initial help needed to get the scheme into being. Such local schemes are not a back-way or substitute for a national industrial health service: they are essential, preliminary, pilot experiments.
Just over a month ago I wrote a long article in the Lancet describing the Harlow Industrial Health Service, and there was a leading article in the Lancet headed "The Doctor and Factory". This is what it said:
Of course, a national industrial health service cannot be built in a day but judging by Harlow's experience, a comparatively small expenditure is all that is needed to enable industry to create its own services on an increasing scale. If, on the other hand, this financial pump-priming is not forthcoming, comparatively little will continue to happen.
That is precisely and exactly the situation. We get a Factories Act about once every ten years, and we want therefore to seize this opportunity to make sure that the Government have the power, and that the Minister has the power, to initiate and support more experiments of the kind which have been so far successful on a very modest scale. If the words of the Bill mean what they say, that
The Minister shall promote health in factories by investigating, or assisting in the investigation of, the problems of health",
then one feels that the Amendment ought to be accepted, for the greatest problem of health in the factories is how to organise services to meet the health needs of the small and medium-sized factories.
§ Amendment No. 22 seeks to give the Minister power to initiate, or assist in the initiation and support of, organisations for health safety and welfare. So far as we are concerned, this is really the key Amendment. It is, in a way, the test of whether it is the Government's intention to support such services at the present time. There are, of course, many precedents for this type of support and for this form of Government action. 1063 In the recent White Paper on the treatment of crime, which we were debating a short time ago, there was a whole list of voluntary organisations which were very properly supported, under legislation, by the Home Secretary and the Ministry of Health makes grants to voluntary organisations by way of contractual arrangements to enable them to carry out services which, for some reason or other, the Ministry itself cannot do. The Government frequently, and very rightly, praise voluntary action, and often it is a precursor to general State action. We want to see the voluntary creation of local industrial health services, but they must have financial help to get under way. Amendment No. 22 gives the Minister power, if he thinks fit, to give the help needed.
§ Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 ensure that he has this power also in respect of laboratories. We have in mind here environmental hygiene laboratories. At Slough, the environmental hygiene laboratory serving industry in Slough, and available to industry much further afield, has been created by Dr. Eager and his staff by voluntary effort. At the London Hospital, which has the only other environmental hygiene laboratory of which I know, it has been highly successful. Where voluntary effort is doing the job, we feel that the Minister should be able to help and that it is, in fact, both cheaper and better than that he should do it himself.
§ On these Amendments we would also ask the Minister's intentions. Does he intend to use the power under this clause to create a proper environmental hygiene laboratory service? His staff is already doing fine work, but there is still a great need for extensions. We do not want these extensions to cover routine blood and urine examinations, which are perfectly well done by the pathological laboratories of the National Health Service. What we do want—and I hope this is his intention—is to have environmental investigations made into air and dust, fume analyses of lead, silica, cadmium, and so on. This is not primarily a medical function: it is an environmental hygienous function and in such laboratories one needs engineers, physicists and chemists. We learn that about twelve such laboratories are 1064 needed, and that the cost of each such laboratory might be in the order of £20,000 a year. We think that the Minister has power to do this we hope that he intends to do it, and we hope that our Amendments will assist him to do it. However, we should like to know.
§ Finally, there are Amendments Nos. 25 and 26. These enable the Minister to use organisations as well as individuals to advise him. Here again we have in mind voluntary bodies to which he may care to remit a problem for investigation or advice. However, to these latter Amendments we attach rather less importance, though we think them desirable. I beg to move the first Amendment.
Page 14, line 1, after ("welfare") insert (", and by promoting or assisting in the promotion and support of organisations for health, safety and welfare").—(Lord Taylor.)
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I think perhaps I ought to mention to your Lordships that this group of Amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is outside the scope of the Financial Resolution to the Bill in the House of Commons, and had these Amendments been moved in another place they would all have been out of order. I understand that there is no constitutional impediment to the discussion of these Amendments by your Lordships, or even to their insertion in the Bill but it would not be constitutionally possible for the House of Commons to agree with your Lordships' Amendments unless the Government were to ask the other place to waive their privilege and introduce an entirely new financial resolution. However I shall not allow these trivialities to prevent my answering the very interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.
I would inform him that his ideas on health, safety and welfare are regarded with great interest and sympathy by my right honourable friend, but that it would fundamentally change Clause 25 to graft on to it a power such as this. The purpose of Clause 25 as originally drafted was to add to the regulatory provisions in the Factories Act a new general duty imposed on the Minister of Labour to promote health, safety and welfare in factories. The intention was that he should carry out these "promo- 1065 tion" functions both by doing things himself and by helping other people to do them. The Factory Inspectorate, with its special knowledge of health, safety and welfare problems over the whole field of industry, is particularly well qualified, as I think the noble Lord will agree, to collaborate with the particular industries which are tackling their own problems. Such help has been given in the past, and once a specific statutory basis is in the legislation, a considerable development in this advisory and cooperative approach is contemplated. Our purpose is to encourage industry, with assistance from the Inspectorate, to assume increased responsibility for and to take more interest in these questions.
It is certain that the mover of the Amendment has mainly in mind the specific difficulties in the field of industrial health services. The problem of how best to develop industrial health services in this country, bearing in mind among other things what is done by the National Health Service, is one of great complexity. Four years ago the Minister appointed a Standing Industrial Health Advisory Committee to advise him on these questions. Its membership includes persons nominated by the British Employers' Confederation, the Trades Union Congress, the nationalised industries, the British Medical Association and several other Associations interested in these questions. On the advice of the Committee, industrial health surveys have been carried out—one in a town, Halifax, and the other in an industry, the potteries industry—and the conclusions to be drawn from these surveys, as well as from other information put before the Committee, is currently under consideration by the Committee.
Several experimental schemes for developing these services in particular localities exist, but the problems in different parts of the country vary so much with local circumstances that it is not easy to reach conclusions on any general pattern which should be followed. The same is true in regard to the development of hygiene laboratory facilities in relation to the needs of industry. The Industrial Health Advisory Committee last year appointed a special sub-committee to assess the needs in this sphere and to consider how they could best be met. Some detailed 1066 inquiries into the existing position have been put in hand, but neither the nature nor the size of the outstanding needs nor the best form of organisation to provide further facilities, is yet by any means clear. The conclusion is that it would be premature at this point of time, while these difficult questions are under examination by the Advisory Committee under the Minister's chairmanship, to alter Clause 25 in the way proposed. Careful thought will be needed as to the best way to ensure proper progress in this field in the light of the investigations now proceeding on the Industrial Health Advisory Committee and of further experience.
As to the differences between the organisations as well as persons, the noble Lord will realise, of course, that the Minister is anxious that organisations should be helped. I am not quite sure that the distinction is a valid one, because it is possible under the clause to give all the required assistance to persons who are often members of organisations, and I do not know whether it would be possible to pay travelling and other expenses collectively to organisations. A person who represents an organisation is entitled to have his expenses paid under this clause. The Amendment would require that organisations as such should be appointed to advise the Minister, and I cannot think that either this or payment to them of the kind of expenses provided for in the subsection would be appropriate. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord will not attempt, by pressing this Amendment, to creat a novel constitutional conflict between the two Houses.
§ LORD TAYLOR
It would give me great pleasure if I could provoke such a novel constitutional conflict. Were I the Government, I would at once accept this very reasonable Amendment but I see their difficulties. As I listened to the noble Earl, I thought he agreed with what I said. In effect, he said that there was need for trying out different ways of doing this to find out how we should design our industrial health service. The difficulty is that we cannot try out the different ways because there is no money available, and there is no money available because these words are not in this Bill. That is the snag. The only place we can get the money from is the Nuffield 1067 Provincial Hospitals Trust—thank goodness!—and that is how we are beginning to develop an industrial health service in this country. It is regrettable and sad that the Minister will not do this, but, having regard to the difficult constitutional situation, I think that it would be better if I withdrew this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 25 agreed to.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 25 to insert the following new clause:
§ Exhibition of reports
§ "A copy of any report to an occupier of a factory, from a factory inspector or a fire prevention officer, which calls attention to any defect or neglect shall be exhibited with the statutory factory notices, or communicated to the accident prevention officer of the factory, for the information of all employees."
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the new clause standing in the names of of my noble friends and myself on the exhibition of reports. This new clause seems to me to be so reasonable and desirable that it needs little commendation from me, and if the noble Earl wishes to interrupt me now to say that the Government are going to accept it, of course, I will give way immediately.
§ It will be obvious to your Lordships that this proposed new clause is one of the methods by which we hope to build up a situation in our factories in which employers, managers and workers are partners in a joint effort to make the factory a safe, clean and healthy place to work in. Even the best of employers cannot do this alone the workers must co-operate. The workers need every possible encouragement and assistance if their employers are to be brought up to scratch, and the first and most important requisite is information. We are urging that employees should be given notice, in some easy way—by putting up a notice or a letter received on the statutory noticeboard—of any defects that exist.
§ I submit to the noble Earl that this information really belongs to the employees it is not only the perquisite of the employer. When an inspector visits a factory, he may make certain comments on the spot, but later, if necessary, he sends a letter to the employer drawing attention to any defects and 1068 deficiencies that he has seen, and the employer has to put them right, though it may well be that he was not aware that they were wrong. Perhaps the first-aid box was empty, a door left open that should have been closed, guards had been removed from a machine, the fire alarms were not audible in all parts of the factory, an extinguisher was faulty or the fire buckets not filled—all comparatively minor points, one might say, but all of which can, and constantly do, cause serious injuries and sometimes involve loss of life. All the things I have mentioned arise because one or more of the employees, whose duty it is to see that these things are attended to, had failed to attend to them, and in due course the employer gets a factory inspector's letter complaining of these things and asking him to look into them. If a copy of that letter were put up with the statutory notices, everyone would know about the defects. In most factories, they will know who is responsible. who has slipped up, and in such circumstances I submit that they are far more likely to make good whatever defects are reported.
§ I would emphasise that I am not talking only about the employer. I am talking about the workers as well, because everybody should be involved in promoting safety and good conditions in factories, workers as well as employers. If it is one of the not-so-good employers and if the defects complained of are of a substantial character, then I submit that it is all the more important for the employees to be aware of them. The exhibition of notices or copies of notices received from the factory inspector is therefore particularly important with a bad employer who is in serious default. Dangerous conditions might have arisen which the factory inspector had noticed and ordered to be put right. It would be quite unfair for people working under those conditions to have the facts concealed from them. I know that if there were a serious accident which resulted in loss of life the firm concerned would be condemned by everybody and might be fined £50, £100 or even more. I should not be interested in the amount they were fined, but I should be interested in, and concerned about, the people who were seriously injured or lost their lives simply because of wilful neglect on the part of unsatisfactory employers.1069
§ If we can take this step of letting the employees see copies of these letters—it means merely having a copy typed and putting it alongside the statutory notice which must be in every factory—then they can be kept informed. I think they have a right and a vested interest in being kept so informed, and that vested interest might well be their lives. I do not think it is necessary to further elaborate the point, which I think is one that must be conceded. I trust that at this late stage of the proceedings—we have not garnered much in our day towards an improvement of the Bill, although we have been given a lot of good advice—the Government will be able to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
After Clause 25, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ LORD FERRIER
I oppose this Amendment on two grounds, the first being its impracticability. What is proposed could be done, but in a large factory where there are numerous points at which such notices have to be displayed it would be quite an undertaking to have it done. Secondly, it would be most one-sided. Surely, if a notice of that sort were to be put up it would be equitable for the employer's riposte to he posted up in the same way. In any case, am I not right in thinking—perhaps the noble Earl can tell me— that the factory inspector has power, if he finds a troublesome employer who is not playing the game, to enforce conditions of this nature, which would publicise the employer's shortcomings for the benefit of the workers?
I regret to say that I cannot be as accommodating to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, as he would wish. My right honourable friend's object is obviously to get the most rapid improvement that can be obtained for safety in the factory. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, in a speech he made to another Amendment, spoke of goodwill, and my right honourable friend is quite convinced that it is goodwill between the occupier of a factory and the factory inspector that will go a considerable way towards obtaining these new conditions of safety which we all desire. The noble Lord, Lord 1070 McCorquodale of Newton, is not now in his place, but it was obvious a few minutes ago that some of his friends are not quite so receptive as possibly many of us might like in regard to safety and first-aid matters. My right honourable friend feels that if this Amendment, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, were put into operation it would make things much worse, so far as improving relations between employees and the friends of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, are concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that this information contained in a letter from the factory inspector (I think these were his words) "belonged to the employees". Surely it is the responsibility of the employer who must put right the things mentioned in that letter. Therefore, I think it would be questionable whether it should be laid down by legislation that the information contained in those letters should be compulsorily posted on a factory notice board. Normally, the items in these letters or notices are minor ones, as indeed the noble Lord said, and concern such things as fire extinguishers, bells and so on—perhaps they cannot really be called minor matters but the remedies are quite minor. I am given to understand that, generally speaking, there is the closest cooperation between the factory inspector and the occupier of the factory, and these matters are remedied as soon as possible. I do not think it would be right to create the alarm or the despondency that might arise among workpeople in a factory in relation to some small matter of negligence—I think the noble Lord used the word "wilful", although I am sure that he did not mean that in many cases. It is more likely to be an item that has been forgotten or overlooked.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier is quite right in what he suggested, and my right honourable friend considers that the factory inspector has adequate powers over the factory occupier. If there is a serious case of an occupier blatantly disregarding the instructions of the inspector, then the inspector has powers under Sections 34, 39 and 40 of the 1937 Act to close down, or to cause to he closed down, the whole or part of the factory where default has taken place. I made an uninformed guess as to the number of cases where action that had to 1071 be taken was not complied with, and my guess was half a dozen over the whole country. But I am informed that in actual fact it is less than that number. I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment, and in view of 'he reasons why my right honourable friend feels that the factory inspector has the safeguards he needs, I hope that the noble Lord will be willing to withdraw it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I should like to make it clear that what I meant, and what I think I said, was not that the letter belonged to the employees, but that the information did. I still say that. Letters which affect their safety and working conditions do, in fact, belong to them, and I still fail to see how the posting up of these notices in the factory can worsen relations between the employer and the factory inspector. If they do so worsen relations, then he cannot be a very good employer. Certainly from my experience, I have usually found that when defects have been notified by the factory inspector they have been things of which I have not been aware things that I have strongly disapproved of and I have immediately taken steps to have the factory inspector's letter posted up in various parts of the factory so that the people responsible should cease in their wrongdoing.
I do not think there is any substance in the suggestion—nor do I think it is in any way valid for the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, to suggest it—that there can be any objection to this practice because it would cost something to copy a few notices and post them in the factories. There cannot be any situation where the employee's well-being and safety can be weighed against the cost of such an operation. I am grateful that this matter has been discussed. As I said, I was hopeful that the Amendment might be accepted, and I am afraid that I cannot withdraw it.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ First and Second Schedules agreed to.
§ Third Schedule [Repeals]:1072
Page 20, line 39, after ("thirty-four") insert ("subsection (12) and").—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Remaining Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ House resumed.