§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships, and particularly to the two noble Lords who spoke from the Front Bench, for not being here at the beginning of the debate. When the Second Reading of this Bill was fixed it was intended for last Thursday, and I had to go, with my noble friend Lord Crook, to a conference concerned with much of this very subject. Whilst I apologise to your Lordships if I cover some of the ground already covered, I hope that my remarks will not be directed along exactly the same lines. This is a subject that has been debated on countless occasions. This is certainly not the first of the attempts to clarify this particular field and it is unlikely to be the last. It is unfortunate that the limitations on our procedure are such that it is unlikely we shall be able to make the Amendments to this Bill which I think could, even now, help to improve it considerably. This is no reflection on the honourable Member in another place who introduced it—indeed, he is to be congratulated on having got so far where so often so many others have failed in the past.
I do not think there will be much difficulty in most modern offices in enforcing the standards laid down in the Gowers Report. There is little doubt that these standards are already accepted and, in fact, surpassed in any up-to-date undertaking. As new buildings go up, they are properly planned and provided with the right sort of space, accommodation and lighting; and, as I say, the great majority of progressive employers will have no difficulty in carrying out the regulations which in due course the Government will make under this Bill. There will certainly be difficulty for those who have old offices, but this is a problem that has confronted the owners of factories. Factories have had to go out of business because the design has been such that it has not been possible to meet, for instance, modern standards of machinery spacing; and this is particularly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, will know, in the cotton mills of Lancashire. The same process is bound to occur in offices.
1077 I should like to say a few words about the standards, because when the time comes for the Government to make the regulations they will need to be flexible, inasmuch as there will have to be some time before they can be enforced. But there are some which can be enforced at a very early stage. There is no reason why offices which are regularly used as offices, and not these border-line cases, should not meet such requirements.
My Lords, I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of your Lordships if I were to intervene here. I did mention that point specifically, as did the noble Lord who introduced the Bill. There are some simple remedies, and regulations will be brought forward to remedy these points as soon as the Bill comes into effect; in other words, the overall remedies will not have to wait.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I owe yet another apology to your Lordships. I was in fact going to say something about what I thought those standards should be, because in business I have the job of trying to enforce standards in my own organisation. I should hope that the regulations will be of a kind that will be adequate; that there will be, at least, not merely the 4 cubic feet recommended by Gowers, but also 50 square feet which will take into account the existence of these large expensive and bulky filing cabinets—and I say expensive in the sense that we are still in such a primitive stage in our office design that we use equipment which is wildly expensive. I recently worked out how much rent we were paying for floor space for filing cabinets, and on a rough calculation it is £3,000 per annum. This is due to the fact that in order to use a filing cabinet you cannot have it of more than a certain height if you are going to look into it.
Office design has not made the progress that has been made in factory design. It is surprising how difficult it is to get good advice from architects and others that will suit the needs of a particular building. So many buildings are unsuitable for offices: they are too broad, and there is apt to be too much dead space. More skill will be necessary to use this dead space when the Government prescribe the standards required. I therefore hope that as part of the discussion the Government will have with 1078 interested parties, some consideration will be given to developing research and experimentation in this field. There are a number of progressive people who have done research and produced standards which are known to a few people in industry, but they are not generally known to the very people whom the Government and the sponsors of this Bill wish to influence.
Again, it is surprising in offices how little attention is paid to a fundamental aspect of management, where factories are concerned—namely, the flow of work and the amount of time spent by executives, clerks and others walking from one part of a building to another, because the basic principle of adjacency—and not necessarily on the same floor, but up the staircase—is overlooked.
That brings me to one of the weaknesses of the Bill, which is the definition, and, indeed, the Title. The word office in most dictionaries (I apologise if this point has been mentioned already) refers to an office that is held, rather than to an office that is occupied; it is an office of profit, or something of the kind. This definition seems to me to exclude some offices that really ought to be taken into account. I suggest that the time will come when far less clerical work will be done in offices than is done to-day. It is not generally appreciated that even now it is usually cheaper to telephone, even on a long-distance call, than to write a letter, which, when properly costed, may cost as much as 5s. to 10s. With the introduction of not merely sound "intercoms" but visual "intercoms"—closed circuit television—there will be offices that will not be specifically covered by this Bill. It may well be argued that in the case of such modern organisations it will not be necessary for the Government to lay down standards for them. But it is surprising how often people—not merely those in a humble clerical position but even managers—are required to work under the most appalling conditions; and their sense of loyalty often prevents them from making the complaints which they should make. I realise that we cannot do the job of management, and we do not seek to do so in this Bill; management has got to learn to do its own job, and in various ways it contrives to do it. But I hope that at no distant date—and this 1079 is, I think, one of the advantages of the Bill—the Government will introduce the sort of comprehensive legislation which they have for some time had in mind. I am sure that, as they begin to operate this Bill, they will find gaps of such a serious kind that they will be required to take it further.
If I may point to another aspect, I would mention the requirements with regard to first-aid boxes. A first-aid box can be the most useful thing in the world, and in many offices it is. Here we have the example of the very progressive legislation which the Government helped through not so long ago—namely, the Factories Act, in which greatly increased responsibilities are laid on the Factory Inspectorate, and ultimately will be laid on employers, for developing a sort of industrial health service dealing not merely with accidents but with minor ailments, as a result of which so much time is lost and so much ill-health caused. I should have hoped that it would be possible—though I acknowledge that it will probably not be—for this Bill to be strengthened in this particular way.
Another aspect on which I think this Bill is in some degree lacking is in regard to the appalling modern problem of noise. There is the greatest need for developing, and indeed using existing, techniques, both for sound-proofing and for sound absorption. There are materials for this purpose, and more and better materials are being developed all the time. I am sure that some of your Lordships have suffered from the noise of people, either in the same office or in adjacent offices, of a kind that has quite a serious effect on people who may be engaged in mental work. This applies not only to walls and ceilings, but also to floor coverings. This is a matter on which I should hope some standards, and possibly regulations, may be made in due course.
There is also a need for the provision under legislation of adequate rest rooms. There is a need for dealing with other gaps in the Bill. It is one of the surprising omissions from the Bill that, whereas the Government can make regulations with regard to safety, and so on, in the matter of offices, they cannot do so, apparently, in the particularly dangerous 1080 field of access to offices where so many accidents occur. I believe that to a large extent this matter is covered by the Common Law. If there is a dangerous entrance, the employer may be negligent. But I should have thought that this was something which might well have been provided for in the Bill.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer, but I wanted to indicate that this is a very big subject. It is one that is extremely difficult to cover in a Bill of this kind. When we look at the Factories Act, and see the definition of a "factory", which takes about two or three pages and we see the gallant but short attempt to define "office" in this Bill, we realise that the help of the Government will be necessary in this field. I would end by asking whether, without in any way endangering this Bill, the Government would be prepared to make facilities available, both in this House and in another place, to ensure that some of the improvements which I think might be made to it can be made. Apart from that, I am glad to see this Bill come forward. I do not think it is one which employees need worry about very much. I am quite sure that its introduction can be done in easy and gradual stages, and it is a further step towards completing that great field of protective legislation which exists in this country and to which, in this last Parliament, the Government themselves have made a notable contribution. I hope, therefore, that we shall have their good will, either for improving this Bill or for introducing follow-up legislation at an early date.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Shackleton will forgive me if I do not follow him into his vision of the future and the use of closed circuit television in offices. I can well see that it will cut down the space needed for filing, but it might create difficulties if you had to ask Miss Jones what you said on the 27th of last month. Nor do I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, in his question: Why have hot water in offices? We might even ask: Why have a tap at all?
I should like to take the middle course of warmly welcoming this Bill and suggesting that, not merely all progressive employers, but all efficient employers, must see to it, in their own interests as 1081 well as those of their employees, that there are decent working and living conditions. Of course, workers in offices are just as entitled as workers in factories to proper working conditions. Although welcoming the Bill, I regret that we have got only part of Gowers. I should much have preferred to have the whole of (lowers, but perhaps the noble Earl, when he speaks again, will give some indication of the Government's intentions in that matter. As I understand it, his right honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs has given some indications of the Government's intention of introducing a more comprehensive Bill later on.
I would mention one matter which, in my view, could and should be rectified in this Bill. The noble Earl mentioned the local authorities who would have the duty of making inspections and going into offices. He quite rightly mentioned that these would be the public health inspectors, who would go to offices for various health reasons. But the Bill also takes a retrograde step in placing the responsibility on the smaller councils, the district and borough councils, for certifying means of escape in case of fire. That means that the county authorities, who are the fire authorities, who employ the fire experts and who are in all other respects responsible for making sure that places are safe from the danger of fire, will have nothing to say in this matter. It is the public health inspectors employed by the district councils who, with the best will in the world, are not experts and know nothing about it at all, who would be responsible under this Bill. That is why I say it is a retrograde step.
The Factories Act, 1937, conferred this power on the smaller authorities, who were then the fire authorities. But we have the Fire Services Act, 1947, under Section 4 of which the county councils and the county boroughs became the fire authorities. As your Lordships will remember—in particular the noble Earl—last year when the Factories Act was introduced in another place the same mistake was made—the district councils were made the fire authorities. But because of the almost overwhelming body of opinion in another place on that matter, when the Government introduced the Factories Act here the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, moved an Amendment, 1082 which we on this side fully supported, with the result that in the Factories Act, 1959, the responsibility for certifying a means of escape in case of fire is firmly placed on the people who are the experts, the fire authorities. The noble Earl said then that the right principle was that the people who had the duty of putting out fires should also have the duty of seeing that the means of escape from fire was adequate. I should have thought—and I hope my noble friend will take note of it—that that principle is undeniable, and it is useless to make all these regulations with regard to offices (which I welcome) and to neglect the precaution of ensuring that if a disaster of fire should occur the men and women employed in the offices shall have a reasonable chance of escaping without injury. I hope that this apparent oversight can be rectified.
It becomes even more absurd when one considers that an office block which is part of a factory will presumably be inspected for fire purposes by a county authority, and an office block which is not part of a factory will be inspected by a totally different authority who do not employ an expert at all. I do not think this point needs arguing any more. But I appreciate the difficult position in regard to this Bill. I wonder whether the noble Earl would say something of the Government's attitude to the particular point I am raising. I am quite sure what their attitude must be, but perhaps the noble Earl would say whether it would be possible on the Committee stage to raise an Amendment of this kind which they would find acceptable, and which would not impede the passage of the Bill or endanger its further progress. Obviously, none of us wants to press a point which is going to impair the Bill, but it is absurd to allow an anomaly like this to go forward without correction when we have the means in our hands to correct it. I hope that the noble Earl will say something on that point.
I want to raise one other point which is not in the Bill at all. I can do it only on Second Reading by regretting that it is not in the Bill. For reasons which we all understand, the Bill is based on recommendations of the Gowers Committee in relation to offices. But unfortunately all other non-industrial employments are left out in the cold; and in most of the non-industrial employments, 1083 those which are not covered by other Acts, the conditions of health, safety and welfare are most unsatisfactory.
I think that worst of all among these non-industrial conditions are those in the theatre. Working conditions backstage are disgraceful. I have often seen the miracle in a slum area of a girl emerging from a house which I know to be an awful slum and badly overcrowded, and she comes out dapper and smart and clean and well-dressed. I think it is a miracle. But what is a far greater miracle is how people who perform on the stage appear as they do, under the absolutely incredible conditions which some of them have to tolerate. We have all heard about the glamour of the stage, but there is no greater disillusion than to go backstage and see the conditions.
We only have to consider the very modest recommendations of the Gowers Committee in this matter to realise this point. The first is that they suggest that backstage sanitary accommodation should be light and clean and not less than one lavatory for every fifteen employed persons of each sex. I remember that when I represented a constituency in another place, there had to be in every house one lavatory for not more than twelve people. I heard many complaints that that was an impossibly low standard, and I quite agree. Then we are told that the management should provide wash basins, soap, towels and hot and cold water. What luxury! When you think of it, these people have to change their clothes constantly, and put on grease paint and that kind of thing, and yet it has to be a recommendation of a Committee that they should have hot and cold water and soap and towels. The third point is that the provisions of the Factories Acts should apply with regard to cleanliness. That is proof that they do not. Many of these people are scantily clad, and time and again one can see somebody on the stage who stamps his feet or falls down and a great cloud of dust arises, so his clothes are marked and dirty and they must become filthy.
Another requirement suggested by the Gowers Committee is that there should be 400 cubic feet per person. That works out at an area of only about seven feet by five feet, a square area, in which to make up and change and hang your clothes and all that kind of thing. Then 1084 a first-aid box—that luxury is suggested, and it is not in legislation at all. Most disturbing of all, in this connection, is the view of Equity and other entertainment unions that the worst conditions of employment in the profession are those existing in the rehearsal rooms used by the B.B.C. and commercial television companies, the new companies. That is their opinion. We know that they have to take odd rooms in odd places for rehearsals. Conditions are cramped and appalling and do not, in most of them, come anywhere up to the Gowers Committee's recommendations. Entertainers are just as entitled to good working conditions as anyone else, and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to say that when the Government does introduce the promised Bill the stage will not be forgotten and that they will take steps to end the exploitation of these people who give us so very much pleasure.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, this is a modest Bill but it is nevertheless a valuable Bill, in that it takes us some way towards the implementation of the Gowers Report. I should like to express my felicitations to the honourable Member who, in the first few months of his membership of another place, was able with the support of his colleagues to conduct this Bill through the other place.
This is the only survivor of sixteen Bills which have been promoted, the first in 1910, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said. I feel a little personal—shall I say?—evocation in supporting this Bill, because 50 years ago as an active member of the National Union of Clerks, now the Union of Clerical and Administrative Workers, I took some part in the agitation which led Mr. Bowerman to introduce his Bill in the House of Commons in that year. Mr. Bowerman was at that time the Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and Member of Parliament for Deptford. Since then there have been fifteen further Bills. Curiously enough, in the last few weeks there has been issued a little brochure by the London Trades Council to commemorate 100 years of existence in and about London. It contains a number of photographs. One of the photographs is of a march which was arranged by the National Union of Clerks from the Temple to Hyde Park, to demand, among 1085 other things, that offices should be brought under control and regulation in the same way as factories. I notice that one of the placards carried by those who participated in the march, as I did, carries a statement that 25 per cent. of clerks die of consumption, one in four, and there is no doubt about it that the unsatisfactory environmental conditions under which clerks work now is prejudicial, and seriously prejudicial, to good health and wellbeing.
The case for this Bill is conclusively made in the Gowers Report. As has already been said, this Bill does not cover the whale of the non-industrial workers of this country, of whom I understand there are some 10 million. It covers only office workers who number, so it is estimated, some 5 million, representing 10.5 per cent. of the working population of England and Wales. As the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, has said, there is very little information available as to office conditions, or indeed the number of offices, and there is, so far as I know and have been informed, no definition of an office; there is no legal designation of what an office is. But we all know that there are more slum offices than there are slum dwellings in this country. This Bill is a valiant attempt to go, as it were, halfway to providing protection for the unprotected non-industrial worker at the present tine. I have seen some pretty disgusting offices, overcrowded, unventilated, badly lit, and in many cases artificially lit all day, with no proper washing facilities, with inadequate and often foul lavatory accommodation. And there are many offices in cellars—grim, grimy and gruesome, as I have heard them described. Moreover, there are no adequate lire escape facilities. I think it will be agreed that these conditions exist and that they ought to be remedied.
It is the case that considerable new office accommodation has been constructed in the last few years. But one must bear this in mind in that connection: that that new construction has not been additional; in many eases, especially in the City, it is in place of office accommodation which was destroyed during the war. Moreover, one must remember that it is the same with overcrowded offices as it is with overcrowded dwellings. When you re-house you need 1086 much more accommodation to provide appropriate, modern, adequate accommodation than the accommodation from which those concerned are decanted or have been driven out by destruction during the war.
There is the further point—in this I think I am a little at difference with my noble friend Lord Shackleton—that, so far from there being fewer office workers in the future, there will be more. The more modern techniques and science are applied to production and to distribution, the less manual labour, but the more planning labour we shall need; land the planning is done in the office. I feel fairly certain that the increase in the number of clerks to the working population from 6.9 per cent. in 1931 to 10.5 per cent. in 1951, is likely to continue. It may be rather more obvious and in greater quantum in industrial concerns than in commercial and distributive concerns, but in my submission there will be an increase even in the latter.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would my noble friend permit me to interrupt? I certainly did not say that there would be a decrease in the number of office workers. I said that there would quite likely be a decrease in the number of clerical workers. My complaint is that the definition in this Bill refers so much more to clerical workers. I am absolutely in agreement with my noble friend that there will be an increase in the number.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sorry if I misunderstood my noble friend. It is a little difficult to distinguish between a clerical worker and, say, a draughtsman, who is accommodated in the office. I should have thought that the term "clerical worker" or "office worker"—that may be a more comprehensive and more exact definition—would include What we regard as those engaged in the non-productive activities of a concern. However, that is a matter for later consideration. I am glad to know that there is no difference between us as regards the growth of the total number, whether they be clerical or office workers.
However, the case has been most convincingly argued this afternoon, and although I have made quite a number of notes I do not think there is any need for me to repeat what has already 1087 been said. This is a long-delayed Bill. It is more than overdue. It is modest, but it does represent, as I said at the outset, another stage on the road for the protection of the workers and the regulation of the conditions of their employment. Whilst it could perhaps be improved in one or two important directions, as has been indicated by noble Lords who have spoken from these Benches, I hope that nothing will be done to endanger the Bill's getting on to the Statute Book in due and proper time, especially as the Government have given an undertaking that, unless a comprehensive measure embracing the whole of the non-industrial population is prepared, they will make Orders applicable for January 1, 1962.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
My Lords, I wonder whether, before the Minister replies, I might apologise for the fact that I was not able to get here for Lord Morrison of Lambeth's speech, and say that my friends in industry will, I am sure, welcome the fact that their clerical workers in industry are to come under somewhat similar forms of protection as industrial workers. My friends in industry welcome the existence of the Factories Acts, and I am sure that arrangements of a similar type in regard to clerical workers will be equally welcome to my industrial friends.
§ 4.37 p.m.
My Lords, it may be for your Lordships' convenience if I make some remarks on the points which have been raised, and then possibly the noble Lord opposite will have further comments to make afterwards. The reporting of accidents and nuisances was brought up by several of your Lordships, in particular by Lord Amulree and by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. Of course, that matter is provided for in the Bill; and in future all accidents, if they occur in an office, will have to be reported. Equally, no doubt, if anybody knows of a nuisance or a grievance in an office, presumably he is at liberty to ring up the local authority inspector, and no doubt that inspector will come at a suitable time and will see that that nuisance, if indeed it is a nuisance or a grievance as defined in the regulations which will be published, is put right.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me. Is he right in saying "every accident"? Clause 5 seems to me to be extremely restrictive. The most difficult accidents are those the consequences of which are discovered a long time afterwards.
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord opposite has any views, but where the Bill says "Where any accident occurs in an office", I imagine that means any accident.
I think that that clause will cover any accident that will occur, or is likely to occur, in an office. But if the noble Lord opposite is not satisfied, no doubt he can make arrangements with his noble friend and express his views at another stage. I should have thought that that clause was fairly widely drawn. If the noble Lord is not satisfied he knows what he should do about it at another stage.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The provision is in fact qualified. It refers to any accident whichoccurs in an office which … causes loss of life … or disables any … person for more than three days.…
Surely the noble Lord would not imagine that every cold or small cut of the finger or something of that sort should be reported?
I think that is what this particular clause is aimed at. But possibly the noble Lord opposite will have more to say about it. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Burden said about a nationalised industry, I think that if he will read on to Clause 6 (2), he will see that any person preventing the entry of an inspector is in fact guilty of an offence; and I have no doubt that that would operate in the case of a nationalised industry just as it would with any other office owner.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if the noble Earl will allow me—and I am sorry that my noble friend is not here at the moment—his point was that if there was an office 50 yards inside a goods yard, the 1089 officer would not know or have evidence of that being there. If I may say so with respect, I should have thought the answer would be that it would be sufficient evidence if someone were to tell the inspector that he worked in an office there.
My Lords, there is a point in what the noble Lord says, but I imagine that the existence of the office in the goods yard would be known, and if it was considered unsatisfactory people working there would be able to get in touch with the inspector and take him there; and if his entry was prevented an offence would be committed. The noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Latham, both mentioned standards. Those are to be the subject of the consultations which I mentioned, and all bodies interested will be consulted before standards are laid down.
Quite obviously, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has mentioned, some matters affected by standards—for instance, noise and flooring materials—will be much more complicated than those on the provision of drinking water or the number of lavatories for a given number of persons. The point here is that regulations governing straightforward matters will come into effect as soon as practicable after they have been drawn up, while the more complicated regulations will come into effect as and when they can be made in the future. Possibly the noble Lord has more information than I have on future legislation, but it is known that my right honourable friend has been considering legislation. However, as so many noble Lords have shown, such legislation would be so complicated (the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for example, has brought in theatres and other places) that it will take a very long time; and obviously Parliamentary time has to be considered as well. That is why my right honourable friend has taken to this Bill of the noble Lord—because it will be a stopgap until such time as other legislation can be brought forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned the problem of the fire authority. I assure the noble Lord that I have brought that particular problem to the notice of my right honourable friend, and he is examining it. The noble Lord 1090 will appreciate that this is a very difficult point, involving most complicated problems, not the least of which is the local authority associations. I assure the noble Lord that all that has been said in this debate will be considered. The noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, also mentioned noise. If the noble Lords are able to think of any way of keeping people working in an office quiet, they will have gone a long way to solving the problem; but I doubt whether that is practicable under this particular Bill. I believe that it is the noise of voices which causes most of the trouble, but no doubt that matter will be covered by one of the regulations dealing with such things as insulated floors which will be under consideration. I think I have covered most of the points that noble Lords have brought forward, but I have no doubt that they will be in discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and that he will bring up further points at another time after consultation with his honourable friend in another place.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Earl who has just resumed his seat for the assistance he has given in dealing with some of the points raised in the course of the debate. I believe it is the case that for some years—since about 1952—Her Majesty's Government have promised legislation on this subject, in pursuance of the recommendations of the Gowers Report. A promise of more comprehensive legislation was also made by Her Majesty's Government during the stages of this Bill in another place; so that I do not share the doubts of the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government will proceed accordingly. If I wanted, I might be cynical about this Bill, but I have no wish to be cynical or to handle a Bill of this kind in a Party political way. I believe, however, that Her Majesty's Government are now under a fairly firm commitment to bring in stronger and rather wider legislation on this subject.
In the course of his earlier speech the noble Earl said that a question had arisen with regard to the inspection of offices in mines and in quarries, and I quite follow the point. It is a pity that it did not occur to anybody on either 1091 side in another place, and I am wondering whether it could be dealt with administratively in some way. I will be quite frank with your Lordships. In another place Private Members' legislation is very difficult—it may be rather more difficult than in this House; and if a Bill should be faced with the necessity of Amendments the Private Member is then at the mercy either of the House of Commons—as to whether his Bill will get on to the timetable for Private Members' legislation—or of the Government, as to whether they will take care of him and perhaps see that the Bill is brought on for consideration after 10 o'clock at night. If that should be necessary, I would ask the noble Earl to convey to his colleagues in the Government my hope that they will do everything they can to get the Bill through. Because it would be a tragedy if the Bill were to be lost, having gone through the processes in another place and been considered in your Lordships' House; and there is not a great deal of time left in which Private Members' Bills can be considered in another place—although, of course, the Government could take it over.
I am obliged to the noble Earl for his sympathy and helpfulness in our discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, was rather hostile to the Bill and, I thought, was not up to his usual enlightened state of mind on these matters, as I knew him in another place. But the letters from which I quoted were written on the responsibility of the persons concerned, and I have noted the noble Lord's observations and his dissent from what was said by some of those correspondents. I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, for his support of the Second Reading, which was useful. I do not think there is anything I need add by way of reply to what was said by the noble Lord opposite in the course of his later speech.
My noble friend Lord Burden raised the point about access to offices which may be some distance inside a goods yard but which does not belong to the railway. The point has been made and no doubt will be looked into. I should have thought, however, that if it were a question of being unable to secure access to an office without going through some other property, right of access, in that 1092 sense, was covered by the Bill. I am quite sure that if that should be shown to be wrong legally, nothing would be simpler than for the Minister of Transport to come to the rescue of the Home Secretary and ask the British Transport Commission to see that no difficulty is raised over access by inspectors in such cases; and I am sure such co-operation would be forthcoming.
My noble friend Lord Stonham has drawn attention to a fair number of omissions from the Bill. He mentioned particularly theatres and music halls, and those points I have noted. But if we had tried to cover all the points he mentioned—if my honourable friend in the House of Commons had done that—we should have been faced with a substantially bigger Bill than we have; he would have had difficulty in getting the Bill through Committee in the House of Commons, as the process would have been longer, and we might have been presented with difficulties in getting it through your Lordships' House. Therefore I do not blame my honourable friend in another place for taking a rather more modest line on this occasion, in the hope that Government legislation would follow.
Private Members' legislation is not Government legislation. If the Government bring in a Bill they have all the Parliamentary draftsmen behind them, and the Government Offices and the Whips—not the least useful of God's children on these occasions—who can be of great value. But a Private Member has none of these things; he is almost driven to keeping his Bill fairly modest. He might have plenty of fun and argument in Committee, but might not get the Bill through; and, of course, the purpose of bringing in a Bill is to get it passed. So I hope that my noble friend Lord Shackleton will realise the difficulties of the Private Member and be charitable in his judgment about him. However, he supports the Bill and for that I am grateful.
With regard to Clause 2, the definition of "office", which my noble friend mentioned, I think he misinterpreted the wording of the clause. The words of description here are not a comprehensive definition; they are merely clarifying words to ensure that the implications of 1093 definition put into the clause are not excluded in the legal operation of the Act. It reads:For the purposes of this Act the expression 'office' includes any room of which the substantial use is for clerical worket cetera. That does not exclude the other offices; it only makes sure that the offices referred to are included, as I read it, and I should have thought that that would be good legal sense (upon which of course I am not an authority), as well as common sense.
My noble friend Lord Stonham raised the question of the fire brigades, which he was good enough to tell me about earlier and which I understand. One of the dilemmas is that one does not want too many inspectors inspecting the same premises. That is partly the reason for the inspectors being the public health inspectors. If the fire brigade come as well, it is an additional difficulty for the occupier of the offices, though I do not say it should not be done. And of course it is a fact that the fire brigade authorities are counties and county boroughs and not county districts, as was formerly the case. I agree that there is a point here, but again it can be considered with the Government in connection with another Act. But I should not myself like too many inspectors to be "floating about" given premises. In my more cynical and cautious moments I sometimes think that we are a little in danger of the whole nation getting a living by inspecting each other.
SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I thought that remark would have some sympathy from the Benches opposite.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? It would not mean any more inspectors but simply the fire prevention officers employed by the county council. The position under the Bill, if it goes on, is that for fire purposes the offices will not be inspected at all, because the district councils do not employ fire prevention officers.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, it is no good my noble friend saying that there will be no more inspections. He referred to the fire prevention officers. That is another group that will inspect. I do not say that it is necessarily wrong—it may be right—but, 1094 by good sense, these difficulties are capable of being overcome. There is provision for the regulations to deal with the question of fire; and if that point is not covered by bringing in the fire authority, which in the county borough is the same as the authority under this Bill, I should have thought the county district could easily make friendly arrangements for the fire prevention authority to give them technical advice, if they need it, and then for the appropriate enforcement authority, namely, the county district, to enforce the provisions. That is a way in which it could be got over. However, the point has been made by my noble friend and no doubt it can be considered, subject to this overriding difficulty of Parliamentary time.
There are, of course, the other non-industrial workers. Here, it was my noble friend Lord Stonham who mentioned the theatres and music halls. I have a great deal of sympathy on that point, because I think some of them are not very pleasant and not up to the standards they ought to be. But, as I have said, the difficulty which faced my honourable friend in another place was that if he had made the Bill too big he would not have got it through at all. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Latham for the able way in which he concluded the debate from this side at that point, because he speaks with authority and experience as a former President of the National Union of Clerks, as it was then named. I should like to add my congratulations to Mr. Richard Marsh, the Member of Parliament for Greenwich, for his good fortune in being able to bring this Bill in in his first Parliamentary Session after election to the House. It was indeed good luck. I myself never brought in a Private Member's Bill at all. I was not a Private Member for very long, and that may explain it. But he did, and he has exercised good judgment and good sense in getting it through in as good shape as he could; and I think he deserves to be rewarded. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will be good enough now to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.