§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY rose to call attention to the Report of the Robens Committee on Safety and Health at Work, and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to preface my remarks by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Robens, and his Committee, on what I believe all will agree is a most thorough and well-argued Report and one which is of great value to the House and to those who have to consider those problems in industry which deserve our most serious consideration.
It would be no exaggeration if I were to say that the publication of this document should be the signal for the greatest revolution in the law on workers' safety since the first effective action taken by Parliament, as long ago as 1833. If these recommendations are accepted, nine groups of Statutes and more than 500 Statutory Instruments will be swept away and, to use the words of paragraph 457 of the Report:
The primary responsibility for doing something about present levels of occupational accidents and diseases
will be made to lie with
those who create the risks and those who work with them.
§ With all the legislation that has been passed over the last 150 years we still at this present time have more than 1,000 people killed at work every year and half a million accidents of varying degrees of severity. While these figures may not compare unfavourably with the record of other countries in so far as the statistics are comparable, I would say that they are still far too high to be justified and tolerable by any civilised community. We must, therefore, consider where the failure has occurred when so much effort has been devoted to the problem. Here the analysis in this Report is of tremendous value, and few of those who have read it will remain unconvinced by its central proposition that we have too much law and that it is administered by too many different statutory bodies and Ministries. The complexity of the machinery is so great that hardly any layman can pretend to understand it; and yet, as Lord Robens's Committee have explained so clearly, it is just as important for the individual worker or the manager to become personally involved in the question of health and safety at work as it is for him to be concerned with other aspects of his job, such as industrial relations, on which everyone might have claimed to be an expert until the Act of last year.
The Robens Committee at the beginning of the Report affirm their belief that:
it is possible to raise the satus … of the subject of safety and health at work in the minds of individuals". (Paragraph 13.)
This is going to take an enormous amount of patient and unremitting effort, not only by those who are professionally concerned but also by individual workers, by trade unions, by managers and by trade associations. I hope that in discussing the subject this afternoon the House will be assisting this process, even if we may not all agree with the solutions put forward in the Report.
§ I would begin with some of the criticisms which have been made of the present arrangements for promoting the health and safety of people at work and for protecting the public from hazards of industrial origin. First, and most important, the law on safety, as I have mentioned already, has just accumulated piecemeal, without any comprehensive reviews of the subject as a whole until this present Report; and, as a result, it is 497 immensely complex and detailed and largely unintelligible to those whose behaviour it is supposed to influence. A second consequence of this complexity is that there is some degree of overlapping between the seven inspectorates and the five central authorities to which they report, and circumstances have arisen where the responsibility has not been altogether clear, as in the case of the tragic accident at Dudgeons Wharf, which is quoted as an example in the Report.
At the same time, in spite of all this cumbersome machinery, we have still between 5 and 6 million workers who are not covered by any legislation at all. There are also particular hazards which are not dealt with in the regulations, since it is quite impossible for the process of drafting and of consultation with the industrial interests concerned and the trade unions to keep up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. Lastly in this summary of the criticisms, the vast majority of accidents are not caused by clear breaches of the regulations, but rather they tend to be explicable only in terms of the
attitudes, capacities and performance of people and the efficiency of the organisational systems within which they work".
Therefore it seems to me that any further improvement can be achieved only by tackling the deficiencies here, and not by refinement or improvement of the regulations themselves.
§ It follows from these criticisms of the present machinery, if they are accepted as valid, that we need to start again from scratch with a unified law, which should bring in all employed persons and those self-employed workers whose acts or omissions might endanger other workers or members of the general public. Secondly, the inspectorates should be merged together, and the proposed new Authority for Health and Safety at Work should have as its prime object the prevention of accidents and ill-health. The enforcement of sanctions is, of course, still envisaged as a necessary weapon in the last resort, but the positive role of promoting higher standards of practice is seen as the more effective way forward, and I entirely agree with that concept.
§ This leads in turn to the idea of a much greater degree of self-regulation at industry level. I was interested to note the remark of the Chief Inspector of 498 Factories in his Annual Report that with only 638 inspectors looking after 198,000 factories he could only be a watchdog. The risk of being caught is far too small for us to rely on it as the only motive force towards healthier and safer working conditions. In any case, as we have seen, compliance with the letter of the law is not enough. Nor could any conceivable increase in the inspection force available to the Chief Inspector be large enough to secure thorough policing from the outside. Therefore, as the Report says, the principle of self-regulation is absolutely central and should perhaps be examined in a little more detail. It does not mean, as I see it, that companies or industries are to be left entirely to their own devices, in the hope that suddenly they will pay greater attention to their responsibilities, without having any particular reason for doing so. In the proposed new law there would be a statutory declaration of the basic duty of the employer to provide a safe working system and of the employee to observe safety and health provisions.
§ There is of course the danger, which has been referred to by critics of the Report, that such a general statement of obligation would not be meaningful or helpful in practice. The arguments in favour of such a view have been, at any rate largely, as I see it, anticipated in the Report. Some lawyers have said that it would be merely a restatement of the existing common law; but then how many shop stewards or managers are conscious of, let alone familiar with, the requirements of the common law? This general declaration could make the requirements explicit and would also have the important effect of broadening the functions of the Inspectorate, enabling it to look at the total picture rather than being confined to the details that have already been made the subject of specific regulations.
§ Naturally, the general declaration has to be reinforced by other and more immediate ways of concentrating the attention of both management and employees on their responsibilities. It is suggested that health and safety should be included in the duties of one of the directors at company level; that there should be a statutory duty to consult with employees—I want to say more about that later on; that every company should have a 499 written policy for health and safety; and, perhaps most radical of all, that the company should be compelled to give in its annual report an account of how it has catered for the health and safety of its employees during the course of the preceding year, and with what results. Even more widely, it is suggested that voluntary standards and codes of practice should be adopted wherever possible instead of statutory regulations, and that these would be formulated by the employers and the trade unions together, and when aproved by the Authority for Safety and Health at Work they could be taken into account in the enforcement notice procedures which are envisaged, or in proceedings before tribunals.
§ Here I might remark in parenthesis that I realise that many trade unions feel anxiety that the enforcement notice procedures, even when backed up with the threat of ultimate action in the court, are not enough, and that greater teeth need to be put into the system which has been proposed by Lord Robens. One would like to hear something from the Government this afternoon as to how they see these enforcement procedures working. It seems to me that the nearest analogy—and I hope this is not too far-fetched—is what happens under the Planning Acts. When an infringement occurs, it is possible for a local authority to issue an enforcement notice. One hopes that the person who is guilty of the alleged infringement will put it right, and only if he persistently refuses to do so are court proceedings ultimately taken. It would seem to me that if one could translate that into the industrial context it would be a great simplification. One has to remember also that a very small percentage of the infringements of the regulations that take place now ever result in court action. Therefore, it is not a particularly effective sanction, and by extending it, by making the regulations more stringent and using legal machinery, I do not think that we are going to get any improvement on the present situation.
One important exception to this general principle should be noted; that is, the problem of noise. The Robens Committee formed the opinion that:
cost and competition factors make this a special case where the influence of an authoritative code of practice is unlikely to have a sufficiently rapid effect unless underpinned by legislation.
As noble Lords may be aware, the Industrial Health Advisory Committee produced a code of practice on noise in 1971, and I am advised that if its implementation could be guaranteed then it would revolutionise the situation regarding deafness in factories. But there are at the moment some 600,000 workers being exposed to noise which could damage their hearing. Professor Richards, the Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University, who has been studying this problem for 25 years, tells me that informed opinion in industry is that the situation will probably be worse in a few years' time, notwithstanding the existence of the code of practice. In his opinion, therefore, the greatest contribution that we can make is to put legal teeth into the system of control of industrial noise. I very much hope that this particular recommendation of the Robens Committee will be accepted by the Government.
§ I want to mention briefly two topics which are not dealt with in the Report, or are dealt with superficially. The first is the safety of transport workers directly engaged on transport operations, who were excluded from the terms of reference on the grounds that they were "covered by other provisions". It seems to me at least a matter for consideration, if not by Lord Robens, because his work is already finished, then by some other authority, whether transport workers' needs should he looked after by the Authority for Safety and Health at Work or left with these "other provisions" which, at least in the opinion of the Transport and General Workers' Union, are inadequate. Is it not illogical to provide that a transport worker is covered, as I understand he would be, by the Authority for Safety and Health at Work as long as he is inside the transport depot or in a customer's factory, but as soon as he takes his vehicle out on the road then different legislation applies? Apart from considerations affecting the transport worker himself, there is also the important question of the risks caused by transport operations to the safety of the general public.501
Lord Robens has rightly been critical of what he calls the
invisible ring-fence around the occupational safety system, with the general public left outside",
and he has made recommendations as to how this can be rectified. He refers in the passage dealing with this matter to the Brent Cross accident, when the jib of a crane collapsed on to a coach, killing seven passengers. He quotes with approval the recommendations made by the inspector who conducted the public inquiry into that accident, that consideration should have been given at that time to amending the Factories Act so as to bring the public directly within its scope. This leads him to the recommendation that—
industrial operations or materials with a significant potential for causing danger to the public should he controlled directly by specific provisions under the main body of legislation for safety and health at work.'
This, as I see it, would mean that mobile cranes, such as the one involved in the Brent Cross accident, and other large construction plant using the public highway, such as earthmoving equipment, would be subject to the controls envisaged, but at the same time vehicles designed purely for transport would remain controlled under the existing legislation that already applies to them.
§ Consider also the risk to public safety caused by explosive, inflammable and toxic substances. Here Lord Robens proposes a single comprehensive régime of control exercised across the board, applying to the importation, manufacture, acquisition, use, storage and transport of these substances. Then he goes on to admit that this last point is outside his Committee's terms of reference. Yet surely the hazards to the public caused by the transport of dangerous loads are far greater than those caused by manufacture or use within factories, as several very recent accidents have shown, notably the tragic case of the woman who was killed by acid spilled from a tanker on the M.4. Surely the expertise that will be accumulated in the unified central inspectorate would be able to advise on how such accidents could be avoided, just as well as on how to avoid accidents which might occur in the works; and to duplicate this expertise in the Department of the Environment would be both wasteful and likely to produce the conflicting standards 502 which Lord Robens criticises as having arisen from divided control of explosive, inflammable, and toxic substances.
§ The second question I want to mention very briefly is the way in which the Employment Medical Advisory Service fits into the scheme of things. Here the Robens Committee must have been in some difficulty because the E.M.A.S. Bill was in fact going through Parliament at the same time as they were putting the finishing touches to their Report; and this no doubt explains why the vast subject of the organisation of occupational medicine is dealt with in a mere eight pages. It also explains why the Committee—and there is no criticism attaching to them—felt able to make only one minor recommendation (and that a purely temporary one), that the E.M.A.S. should be transferred en bloc to become part of the Authority for Safety and Health Work, but that its position should be considered again after the reorganisation of the National Health Service in 1974. The role of the 600 full-time and 2,000 part-time doctors employed in industry is hardly mentioned at all, and the 1,700 occupational health nurses, whose contribution is said to be "important", ate dismissed in two sentences.
§ Mental health is only referred to in passing, as one of the broad problems which would be suitable for research conducted under the auspices of the E.M.A.S. Yet, as Mr. David Ennals, the Director of the Mind Campaign, has pointed out, mental illness is responsible for 60 per cent. more lost working days than industrial injuries and accidents. Mr. G. H. Beeby, a distinguished member of the Robens Committee, at a conference that I attended last September, was asked why this topic had been ignored in the Report, and he replied that it was probably because it was too difficult a subject. He wondered whether anybody knows much about mental health in relation to industry, and expressed the hope that it would be a major research project of the E.M.A.S.
§ Whereas, as a layman, one can see that physical ill-health and injuries caused by factors in the work environment are generally traceable to their physical causes, mental illness is not so readily attributable to some unique and identifiable factor which can then be corrected. But this does not mean that 503 we should not attempt to find methods of reducing the danger points, as Mr. Ennals suggests. I want to make it clear, having discussed his problem, that I am not attributing any blame whatsoever to the Robens Committee for their failure to cover the problem more thoroughly; I am suggesting, as Mr. Beeby and his colleagues have put to the Government, that it really ought to be one of the first priorities for further research under the auspices of the E.M.A.S. if, and when, it becomes part of the new organisation.
§ While the Robens package of reforms will not directly lead to a greater emphasis on prevention of mental illness at the place of employment, I think that this new proposed framework will help us to escape from the straitjacket of detailed rules, regulations and legislative minutiæ which has so far hindered an immediate attack on new risks of all kinds as soon as they appear. A much greater flexibility of approach must surely be the right answer for an era in which not only do the technologies change more than once in the span of a worker's career, but he may also experience several totally different jobs in his lifetime.
§ As a Liberal, I must also applaud heartily the Committee's insistence on worker participation in the promotion of safety and health, through a statutory duty to consult. it is absolutely essential to the concept of self-regulation by industry, that arrangements satisfactory to the trade unions are worked out and included in the code of practice on consultation. As the Committee said, there is a natural identity of interest between management and employees in this area, so that it is for the benefit of all that improved machinery for consultation should be developed as a matter of urgency.
§ As your Lordships will have realised, there is very little in this Report with which I can disagree so far as it goes, and such criticisms as I have made are really aimed at the Minister for not making the terms of reference a little wider. I hope that, in addition to noting the Report, as our Motion suggests, we shall this afternoon make it clear to the Government that we should like to see it implemented as soon as possible. One becomes absolutely dazed by the com- 504 plex shambles of baroque legislation which is described in the Report, and the wonder is that, in spite of it all, our record on safety and health is not a great deal worse. But we have some clear and practical policies recommended by the Robens Committee, which should lay a foundation that will last for the remainder of this century, adapting the rules within a simple framework to protect the worker and the general public. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am sure that we are all deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for having initiated this debate to-day. If I have any criticism at all of what he has said, it is that he has taken a great many words out of my mouth, but the House will not be dissatisfied with that. He has made two points of criticism, both of which are matters of omission which, as he said, were not in any way the fault of the Committee but were due to the terms of reference which they were given. I think we can properly regard the setting up of this Committee as a joint venture, inasmuch as it was actually appointed and given its terms of reference on June 9, 1970, and implementation of its Report will fall to this Government. I should like to think that the Report will have the full support of both sides of the House in its consideration to-day and in its subsequent implementation.
It was on July 19, 1972, that the Robens Report was first published, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment then made a Statement which I repeated in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Crook, asked for a debate, "before", as he put it, "the Government get too far". The Leader of the Opposition took the same view: he wanted a debate after time for reflection, but before the Government had committed themselves to specific decisions on the issues left open in the initial Statement of last July. Twice already debates have been arranged and have had to be postponed. For reasons that we all know, we did not have the slack period after the Loyal Address to the Throne, which the noble Lord, Lord Crook, envisaged. Nevertheless, I think the timing of this debate meets his requirements, and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for giving 505 us the opportunity to discuss the Report to-day. The Government have made good use of the intervening time, but have yet to reach final decisions. So what is said to-day will not go unheeded.
The initial consultations with the C.B.I., the T.U.C., the local authority associations and other interested organisations, to which the Statement referred, have taken place. Organisations which submitted written evidence were invited to comment and most have done so, and so have some others apart from those who supported the written evidence. So that in all there have been nearly one hundred such approaches. I am glad to say that there appears to be a considerable degree of consensus in favour of the broad approach of the Report. There are naturally criticisms and reservations, but the main proposals have received a good deal of support. The Government are most grateful to all those who have taken the time to study the Report and to present their views and suggestions.
Most of all, I should like, on behalf of the Government, to repeat our very sincere thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Robens, and his Committee. That there is so much broad agreement on so many of their proposals is itself testimony to their skill and insight in dealing with such a complex subject, in sifting all the accretions of over a century-and-a-half of legislation, and in fashioning the comprehensive framework for the future which your Lordships are discussing today. The July Statement indicated that the Government have welcomed the broad objectives of the Report, but decisions in detail have yet to be taken. I am not yet able today to tell your Lordships precisely what the Government intend to propose, so we shall listen to everything that is said to-day and take it carefully into account in making up our minds upon the precise content of new legislation. I cannot tell your Lordships when the Government will be in a position to make a further Statement, but I think that it should be possible to do so before very long.
Your Lordships will not expect me to expatiate to-day on what is being done at present to promote occupational health and safety at work and to improve working conditions. The Annual Reports of the various inspectorates show the very 506 considerable efforts that are being made in the prevention of accidents and ill-health at work. The Robens Report itself pays tribute to what is being done by the safety and health inspectorates and to the work of the trade unions, of employers' associations, of joint safety committees, of the voluntary safety organisations and, of course, of the research bodies. I should perhaps remind your Lordships that transport operations were specifically excluded from the scope of the Report, and so was general environmental pollution. Protection of the public from the immediate and direct effect of industrial hazards is another matter and should, in the Committee's view, be included in any legislation on safety at work. I shall refer to this later. I should just like to say in passing to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that what he has said about transport will be very carefully considered and taken into account.
The Robens Committee point out that the fatality rate in factories in the last decade was only about a quarter of what it was in the first decade of this century and that it compares very favourably with that of other industrialised countries. When I say "very favourably", in terms of statistics it is just that, because the fatality rate is less than half that of Czechoslovakia, two-fifths of that of France and Italy, and a quarter of that of Western Germany. But they also point out that we seem to have reached a sort of plateau at present; that we cannot be sure what the future trends will be, particularly bearing in mind the rapid changes in technology and in the number and scale of new chemical substances and mixtures that are being used in industrial processes. It is true that the last Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories showed that there has been a still further decline which takes the number of fatalities just below 1,000, but, nevertheless, the simile of a plateau is, I think, an apt one. Quite apart from the possibility that past progress might be reversed by the dangers that lie in the future, the Committee plainly thought that we could never rest content with anything like the present level of industrial casualties. They therefore considered how present arrangements for prevention might be improved.
Their first conclusion, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, was that there 507 was rather too much detailed and piecemeal law in this field, Consequently, industry tends to lay the responsibility on the law-makers and the law-enforcers. The question is apt to he, "What must I do to comply with the law?", and not, "What must I do to prevent accidents and disease?". Nevertheless, in industry generally, in spite of all this law—and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, drew attention to this fact—only about one in six of accidents actually involves a breach of the law. This is a very significant figure. Clearly, but for the law, many more accidents would have occurred; no one can deny that. But it is equally clear that mere compliance with the law is not enough. Nor, they concluded, is the law in some fields of safety and health sufficiently up to date.
The second main defect that they singled out was that too much of the existing law is, as they put it, intrinsically unsatisfactory. Again, as the noble Lord said, it is not only complex and unintelligible to those who have to comply with it; it is much too fragmented and is sometimes behind the times. The Committee put it in this way:Obsolescence is a chronic disease of the statutory safety provisions".In their view the law at present cannot keep up with the modern pace of change in every field of health and safety, largely because of the present methods of changing the law, which are often cumbersome. Thirdly, the Committee point out, the law is not comprehensive. Again, the noble Lord was bound to point to the fact that there are some 5 million workers who fall outside the scope of existing provisions. Fourthly, the public as a whole, as well as the workers in industry, are not adequately protected against the hazards of modern production, especially the large-scale hazards. These the noble Lord quite rightly picked out as the salient points in the Report, and I am glad to reinforce them.
May I sum up the Committee's broad prescription for reform in these propositions? The first proposition is: we need a more unified system of law and a more integrated system of administering it. The second proposition is: virtually the whole work force should be included within the scope of the legal and administrative 508 arrangements. The third proposition is: safeguards against the hazards of industrial production need to be provided for the public at large as well as for those engaged in industrial production. The fourth proposition is: above all, we need to engender a new attitude in industry—an attitude which is already to be found in the best establishments, but not in all—and a greater sense of involvement and personal responsibility, so that there will be a voluntary self-generating effort towards better standards of safety and health at work. I hope that in this debate to-day noble Lords will direct themselves to these four central points, and the Government will look forward very much to hearing your Lordships' views upon them.
The Committee see apathy as the most important single reason for accidents at work. They believe that this can be overcome, not only by training at all levels but by total involvement through personal interest and effort at all levels, through joint consultation, by increased contacts between inspectors and people on the shop floor and so on. Legislation should therefore require for all but the very smallest enterprises a written company policy for safety and health which should be available to all employees, and a statutory duty on every employer to consult with his employees or their representatives at the workplace on measures for promoting safety and health at work and to enable them to participate in such measures. The Committee would like to see a statement on safety and health included in the statutory annual report under the Companies Act, so that the attention of the boardroom is fully engaged, so that the shareholder is also involved and so that the extent and results of the company's efforts are publicly known. This, I believe, was a suggestion made by the Law Commission in their evidence.
The Committee did not recommend statutory safety committees or statutory safety representatives. They felt that, in the context of the general package for involvement in the workplace that they were putting forward, more flexible provisions which would not rule out some perfectly sound arrangements made to suit individual companies were to be preferred to a rigid requirement to have 509 statutory safety committees or representatives. In proposing a statutory obligation upon employers to consult with their employees on safety and health measures, they intended to achieve the objectives of the previous Government's Employed Persons (Health and Safety) Bill, while leaving the method of achieving the objective open. They proposed that the general obligation should be supported by a detailed code of practice.
The purpose of these new statutory duties would not be to add to the mass of laws and regulations which industry has to observe. Quite the contrary; they would be the basis for a far greater degree of self-regulation by industry as a whole—self-regulation in which everyone in industry would have a personal responsibility; and there would be a clear chain of responsibility from the individual worker to the boardroom, and in particular to the director charged with the oversight of safety and health in his company, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, gave his approval, too. Standards would be set and rules developed by both sides of industry in co-operation with the inspectorate and the Government. My Lords, I think that so far, at any rate, I have carried the House with me.
There would be no question of the State opting out. Those who are apprehensive lest there should be a weakening of legal control in this field should note that in several ways the recommendations provide for a strengthening of the law as a practical instrument for achieving greater safety; for example, requirements on employers to conduct periodic atmospheric testing and sampling where toxic substances may be present. There will always be a need for sanctions. Indeed, the Committee, while saying that it is not for them to indicate precise levels of penalties, clearly indicate their view that maximum fines should be increased; and they recommend that higher maximum penalties should be laid down where offences are repeated. Moreover, the Committee recommend that inspectors should have the power to issue a formal improvement notice—and this is a point I should particularly like to stress because the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about it—without reference to the Courts, subject of course to an appeal 510 procedure, and to take to court anyone who failed to comply with it within a reasonable time. They also recommend that where the need for remedial action is particularly urgent, inspectors should be able to issue prohibition notices requiring employers to discontinue the use of plant, machinery, processes or premises specified in the notice—again subject to appeal, but the notices themselves should be immediately effective. My Lords, these are sweeping powers and, again, I look forward to hearing what your Lordships have to say about them.
At the same time, the Committee say that the main function of inspectors should be not so much to prosecute where accidents or damage to health have already occurred as to secure better prevention through advice and guidance; and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that prevention is the Committee's main preoccupation. However, they make it clear that what they advocate is (and these are their words) amore discriminating and efficient approach—constructive where appropriate, rigorous where necessary".As they say,the real need is for a constructive means of ensuring that practical improvements are made and preventive measures adopted".Their aim here, as elsewhere, is to strengthen the sense of individual responsibility for preventing accidents, and to increase the sense of partnership between inspectorate and both sides of industry.
My Lords, I have gone into some detail about the proposals for a new statutory framework for encouraging more self-regulation and enhanced responsibility. I have referred to the Committee's proposal that there should be a more unified system of law, and a more integrated system of administering it, covering virtually the whole workforce. I should now like to look a little more closely at the administrative arrangements that the Committee suggest. The Committee recommend that there should be a new administering institution—the Authority for Safety and Health at Work—which would be subject to the direction of Ministers but would have freedom to manage its own day-to-day affairs. It would be run by a managing board which would include people drawn, the Committee thinks, fromboth sides of industry, the professional bodies, the local authorities and so on".511 Its functions would be to provide advice to Ministers, to manage the statutory inspection and advisory services, to administer and keep under review the statutory and other provisions for safety at work, to formulate standards, to issue codes of practice and draft statutory provisions and to co-operate with industry in the monitoring and observance of those standards.
The Authority would also obtain and disseminate information and promote research, education and training for safety and health at work. It would collaborate with other Government Departments and agencies, with the T.U.C. and the trade unions, the C.B.I. and other employer organisgions, and with the voluntary safety organisations at industry, national and international level. It would work under the policy direction of a Departmental Minister, who would appoint its Chairman and members and also an executive director. To safeguard Parliamentary responsibility, it would have a duty to observe directives from Ministers, to provide advice and information to Ministers whenever required, and to publish an annual report. In this way the Authority would be charged with the oversight of all matters of health and safety at work, and also with "safeguarding the general public", to use the Committee's own words,where there is cause to believe that they are likely to be affected by a particular industrial or commercial operation. Inspectors"—they say—should, in the course of their duties, have both the power and the duty to pay due regard to the safety and health of the public.While the Department of the Environment and the local authorities would continue to exercise their responsibilities under legislation such as the Public Health Acts and development control, and the Home Office would retain its traditional responsibility for public order, including its responsibility for the police and fire services, the Committee would have them all look to the Authority for technical advice, information and guidance on industrial safety and health matters; and in turn the Committee want development procedures to be strengthened so as to make a more effective contribution to the protection of the pub- 512 lic in this sphere. The Committee recommend that local authorities should have an explicit duty to take account of the public safety implications of all applications for planning permission, and a duty to consult the Authority responsible for industrial safety in any case where they are in doubt. For this purpose there should be a special unit within the Authority's inspectorate. The Authority would also be advised by various expert committees, for example, of toxic substances and on explosive and flammable substances.
Finally, may I mention one of the subjects to which the noble Lord referred, the Employment Medical Advisory Service? The Committee say that they would expect the Employment Medical Advisory Service which comes into operation the day after to-morrow, to become part of the Authority's organisation, but to retain what it calls—and these are their words—"a fairly distinct identity". Noble Lords will recall that the Employment Medical Advisory Service is intended to provide specialist medical advice on a wide range of employment problems, including advice on the prevention of industrial diseases. If we are going to have (if I may put it this way) an overall "umbrella" body such as the Authority, it seems right that this newly created body should come under them—and then to "see how we go", to use the phrase well known in the days of the late Lord Morrison.
The Committee recommend that not only should all the main Statutes be brought together under one comprehensive Act covering factories; offices, shops and railway premises; mines and quarries; and agriculture; but also that major Statutes dealing with specific hazards should be included: explosives, petroleum, nuclear installations, and works registered under the Alkali Act. The Committee's proposals envisage the integration of the various inspectorates concerned.
The new Statute, the Committee say, should enunciate the basic and overriding responsibilities of employers and employees and lay clear obligations upon them. Apart from that, the unifying Statute should be primarily enabling in character. It should establish the Authority and define its powers and those of the inspectorate. It should confer a 513 general power on the Authority to prepare regulations for approval by Ministers and Parliament, to promulgate codes of practice, and to undertake and promote research and training. Existing regulations would, of course, continue in being until replaced or revoked. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, went a little far in saying that all 500 regulations should be swept away. That is not quite what is suggested. Longer term work on preparing new regulations or codes, revising and bringing up to date existing ones, and generally transferring the provisions of existing Acts to an integrated body of subordinate legislation, would be undertaken by the Authority in consultation with industry.
The Committee support these proposals with four main arguments. As this is the core of their recommendations, we should be clear what they are. Unification, they say, would make for a more efficient deployment of inspectors and for better co-ordination and use of existing scientific and technical support facilities; it would enable common services to be provided more economically; and, above all, it would provide one comprehensive body of expertise to which all concerned could turn. This is the motive power, so to say, of their recommendations. It is, of course, not only the various Central Government inspectorates who carry out inspections in the interest of safety and health at work. There are also the local authorities to whom Parliament has given responsibility for inspecting the vast majority of offices and shops as a logical extension of their traditional role in public health. They also have responsibilities under the Explosives and Petroleum Acts. As the Committee point out, the reorganisation of local government will greatly reduce the number of authorities and so make for greater efficiency and more uniform standards of enforcement.
The Committee believe that there should be a greater uniformity of implementing provisions for safety and health at work, and that the new central Authority—whose management board would include a local authority element in its composition, (one of their recommendations)—should have powers to co-ordinate the work of local authority inspectorates; and those powers should be exercised through the area offices of 514 the Authority. Each area office of the central Authority should have an inspector wholly engaged on co-ordinating the enforcement work of local authorities in his area. The Committee believe that, broadly, the local authorities should have the same range of functions as at present, subject to this co-ordination.
Taken together, these are very comprehensive and far-reaching proposals. Clearly there are some issues which require careful study; for example, the precise nature and status of the proposed Authority and its relationships with Ministers and Parliament; and areas in which the proposed unified approach might pose difficulties that would have to be resolved before there can be detailed decisisons on the right organisational framework. As I have said, at the moment the Government are committed to the broad objectives but decisions in detail have yet to be made. This debate continues the consultative process.
My Lords, although I have been on my feet for some time, there are two points I should like to mention, because they might come up in the debate. The first is that the Committee recognise that each individual industry has its own problems, and that some industries have done much more to tackle them collectively than others. In eight industries the Secretary of State has appointed joint standing committees under the 1961 Act—three for the cotton industry and one each for wool, textiles, pottery, papers mills, foundries and power presses. These committees undertake studies and disseminate information, as well as advising the Secretary of State. But the majority of safety committees are organised by the industries themselves (including the nationalised industries) sometimes reporting to Joint Industry Councils. The Report pays tribute to this work. In addition, the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. each seek to co-ordinate work on occupational safety and health, and the service provided by the T.U.C. Centenary Institute of Occupational Health is perhaps a particularly notable example of this work.
While commending this work, the Report says:We have no doubt that a very great deal could be done to develop further collaboration between the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. in promoting safety and health at industry level.515 I think it is important to realise that the Committee had well in mind the work being done and wanted to see it further developed and recognised, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said. The success of any proposal of this sort would depend very largely upon the co-operation, on the one hand, between inspectors and the factories and, on the other hand, between the two sides of industry.
The other point is that although compensation was outside the terms of reference of the Committee they have a valuable chapter on the subject in which they comment that regulations concerning safety and health at work tend to be interpreted in the context of civil litigation for compensation and so, as they put it,attention is diverted from the primary objective of accident prevention to the altogether different question of compensation for injury suffered.For this and other reasons the Committee recommend a thorough review of the present system of actions at common law for compensation for injuries sustained at work. Your Lordships will have well in mind that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor announced in this House on December 19 the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider in what circumstances and by what means compensation should be payable in respect of death or personal injury, including ante-natal injury—perhaps that is not very relevant here; but it could be suffered by any person in a wide range of circumstances, including the course of employment. I suggest that this is a subject which we can to-day safely leave for discussion on another occasion, but I thought that I ought to mention it in passing.
My Lords I have thought it right to outline to your Lordships the proposals in the Report and try to put them in perspective. I have not, of course, attempted to deal with every aspect of it; nor could I both summarise a Report of this scope and also at the same time discuss all its recommendations in one speech. I see the role of the Government in this debate as primarily that of a listener—that is a strange remark to make when I have already spoken for 29 minutes; but, as I say, I have tried to put the matter in perspective. I hope that what we hear will help us to arrive at a sensible decision. 516 All I would say, in conclusion is that the Government very much welcome the general tenor of the Report, framed as it is with the object of promoting the personal involvement of all concerned in seeking better standards of safety and health at work, and I hope that your Lordships will join in this welcome.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for initiating this debate. It will be recalled that on other occasions, generally by means of Unstarred Questions, my noble friend Lord Crook and I have raised this subject. I know that Lord Crook had hoped to be present for this debate, but unfortunately his wife is indisposed and he is unable to be with us. I am sure the House will wish to join in sending him a message hoping that we shall see him later.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, gave a comprehensive review of the Report, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke in more detail. I shall deal shortly with what I consider very serious omissions. If I speak strongly on the subject I hope that your Lordships will understand when I tell you that I served in an industrial constituency in the North for some years. I thought that I could not learn any new lessons in the field of morbidity and mortality. But the things I saw in that industrial constituency so shocked me that I shall never forget the condition of some of the workers. In many cases they had followed their fathers, and grandfathers in the same works and were suffering from the same industrial diseases from which their grandfathers and fathers had died. It was not unusual for a man of 40 to tell me that he was deaf and that the members of his family were deaf. And he would have such a wheezing chest that one could decide precisely what his life expectation would be. My Lords, speaking in the rarefied atmosphere of this Chamber I feel it right in this debate to bring to you a picture of the conditions which we are seeking to prevent—and it is very necessary to emphasise that word "prevent" because the utter misery, disease and discomfort from which these people are suffering can be prevented; and it could have been prevented years and years ago.
517 We have had so many Reports that one gets a little tired of them. Those of us who have participated in debates on this subject over the years looked forward with confident anticipation to the Report that we are discussing to-day. But, my Lords, when I read in Chapter 1, on page 1, these words:… our deliberations over the course of two years have left us in no doubt that the most important single reason for accidents at work is apathy.my heart sank because that has been said over and over again. When it is said I am reminded of conditions at the beginning of the century, when men, women and children were under-sized from malnutrition and living in appalling slums with a complete absence of elementary hygiene. This was always attributed by some of the better-off people to the apathy of the working-classes; indeed, it used to be said that it was due to the laziness of the working classes. That fatalistic approach was adopted, and when I read the same old words on the first page of this Report I must confess that I was deeply disappointed.
Of course, those conditions at the beginning of the century were changed in a dramatic way. And how? A school medical inspectorate was introduced, literally a medical inspectorate with teeth; and not only did it do its job but what had to be done was enforced. School meals were introduced; maternity child welfare and health insurance legislation was put on the Statute Book. Of course it was a great success, because the changes are apparent to us who have seen both the conditions then and also the conditions to-day. The changes were dependent on the appropriate Acts of Parliament being introduced and then enforced. So when I see the word "apathy" I feel that those in authority are still not prepared to take strong action. My Lords, I will prove to you that what I believe is the key piece of legislation that should be introduced is omitted from this Report. Still it is to be left to voluntary effort—and we have seen what voluntary effort achieves.
My Lords, I always believe that an organisation, whatever it is, is only as good as its top management; and while this Report states that the apathy can be traced to the boardroom, to senior managers, the workers and the trade unions, 518 it fails to emphasise the apathy of some of those with responsibility in the Inspectorate and the Government Departments. If the Chief Inspector tells the Department that it is quite impossible to do the job of looking after thousands and thousands of workers with only 600 inspectors, the job is not being done. How can the Government, how can the appropriate Department, continue to pretend to the country that it is trying to improve conditions when it is said that the job cannot be tackled adequately because there are not the necessary personnel?
Striking evidence of this was made public last year when an inquiry was demanded into the high lead levels found in the blood of children living near the London factory of the lead merchants, H. J. Enthoven and Sons, Limited. For a couple of years previously lead had been found in the blood of the workers in that factory. There had been dust in the street, and children were licking their fingers and becoming infected with lead. But it was only after all that time, with mothers complaining of their children being ill, that gradually it dawned on the authorities that further investigations should be made. When I drew the attention of the Minister in this House to the report of the Royal Society on the Birmingham survey, in which it was revealed that in individual cases of dust there was as much as 3 per cent. of lead; that this was a serious danger to children's health, and particularly that there was a risk of brain damage, and asked what the Government intended to do about it (this was on November 29; and I will not mention the Minister's name), the Minister answered:I am aware of an article, I believe from American sources, about the possibility of behavioural change as a result of lead poisoning. But I should like the noble Baroness and the House to be aware that it is not the opinion of the Government. It is our medical advice that the raised level of lead in the blood … is not medically regarded as poisonous."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29/11/72; col. 1253.]The next day there were further questions on the subject of lead, and it was then apparent that the Government had sought further and more accurate information.
In the Recess I was watching a television programme which depicted this tragic series of events in the middle of London. If you can get this kind of apathy in high places in regard to areas like Southwark, in the centre of London, 519 what can happen in these little provincial towns, where men and women working in factories are powerless to help themselves and where authority is indifferent? In that programme officials came on the television screen and deplored the apathy of those in authority and in high places: not the apathy of the workers, not the apathy of those in small towns, but the apathy of those who were in a position to take real action.
As to accidents at work, there is a tendency to minimise them and to compare them with what happens in other countries. A worker is not concerned with how many men lose their legs in other countries; but he is very concerned about losing his own leg in this country. The figures of fatal and non-fatal accidents in factories have risen since 1961 from 161,655 to 255,907. This is how we should look at the position, and not just congratulate ourselves because in one district or in one factory there have been fewer accidents.
My Lords, debates have taken place in this House and in another place, and Members have repeatedly urged that there should be a legal obligation on employers for the appointment of workers' safety representatives and joint safety committees. This is a serious omission from this Report. One can of course read out at great length what is suggested, as we have heard to-day, but the serious omission is not to have a committee appointed with statutory authority which can point out the whole time what is wrong: and that committee in every factory should be composed of workers and employers, not just one representative who has no power whatsoever. This view had widespread support from many organisations which made submissions to and argued the case before the Robens Committee, but the Confederation of British Industry continue to oppose it. That is the giant authority which opposes the establishment of a statutory committee which would have real power and real teeth to point out what is wrong on the factory floor. The C.B.I. insist that this should be achieved by voluntary means and not by law. We have let the voluntary method function for a century, and where are we to-day? We have to produce these Reports. But still the giant organisation of employers opposes 520 a statutory authority. The T.U.C. argued for a legal obligation. They said that the voluntary approach had failed appreciably to reduce the accident rate.
I am shocked to read that the Robens Committee regard a statutory provision as being (to use their words) "too rigid". What statutory provision can be too rigid for the conditions that we are talking about? These unfortunate, helpless men and women, while we sit here in comfort, are standing at their machines for eight hours a day, doing repetitive jobs, being so de-humanised that they are sometimes not conscious of the danger in which they are. Nothing could be too rigid from the point of law to help these people. This Report, in view of the fact that it is not giving statutory authority to this committee, will of course rejoice the hearts of all irresponsible employers of labour who use the voluntary approach as an escape from their obligations. In order to save the face of the C.B.I., it is recommended that there should be a statutory duty for an employer to consult with his employees on measures for promoting safety and health at work. He can call a man to his office and say, "What do you think?", and discuss it, but there is no further statutory obligation on him to have a committee which must take action. That is the obvious next step. Consult, yes; but the obvious next step is to appoint a statutory joint safety committee, and not a voluntary one.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to interrupt. I hope she will agree with me that if you lay a duty on the employer to consult, the trade union in each factory will take note of this and make certain that that duty is carried out propertly.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, the noble Lord is a highly intelligent man, but if he thought that was enough, why was it that the T.U.C., when they made submissions to the Robens Committee, said that it was not enough and that what they wanted was a statutory committee that could take action? They wanted something much stronger, but that was opposed by the C.B.I. Then, my Lords, listen to this—and I speak more in sorrow than in anger, because I have spoken on this 521 subject so many times and I am very disappointed that there were not enough people serving on the Committee who could see that the workers had the strongest support. The Robens Committee seek to salve their conscience by making it a legal obligation to distribute safety and health policy rules in writing to the employees. My Lords, leaflets in small type to a boy who goes into a factory and who, as we know, may well be illiterate! To protect him he is to be given a leaflet. The noble Lord raises his eyebrows, and I am glad to see that he is surprised. But it is to be a legal obligation to distribute safety and health policy rules in writing to the employees. Some of the worst employers are to be saved even this puny effort, for those who employ fewer than ten will be excluded. We all know the dirty little factory run by some individual whose aim is simply to make the maximum of profit from his unfortunate workers. If he employs fewer than ten he will be excluded even from the obligation to distribute the leaflet. This will mean that many underpaid women sweating in unhealthy rooms in every town and district in the country will be sacrificed. They are to be excluded from the receipt of this leaflet: they will not even get one, even if they had time to read it.
Now we come to the national health authority that the noble Lord talks about, and here the Report says:It is recommended that a national authority for safety and health at work should be established.But it has been proved over and over again that an expensive superstructure is no substitute for proper administrative action on the ground level. We heard the noble Lord describe it just now—and of course, reading about it, it is wonderful. But we all know that in practice this cannot replace the kind of statutory joint committee which the workers want on the ground level.
Turning to another point, I think it is regrettable that the opportunity was not seized in paragraph 388 (on education) to recommend that instruction on the hazards and dangers of industrial life should be given now that the school-leaving age is to be raised to 16. Much better than issuing the little leaflets would be to have lessons for the boys and girls of 16, 17 and 18, who are to go into 522 these factories, so that they might learn about the hazards they had to face, about the workings of machines and even about industrial injuries and diseases. This would be forward looking; but there is no mention of it. Finally, my Lords,—and I am sorry to have spoken for 19 minutes—as one who has represented an industrial constituency I am profoundly disappointed in this Report, because it has failed to challenge the power of those who for generations have neglected to protect the health and welfare of the workers, and indeed, often the most innocent and ignorant workers of the nation.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I should like to join with previous speakers in welcoming this Report, though I believe that it is marked by faults and omissions. Some of them have been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, but I believe that one could argue about some of the points which she has made.
There is one serious omission—perhaps it would be better called an understatement—and that is in relation to occupational medicine, a subject which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Why it has been given so little emphasis in this Report is a matter for speculation. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, gave one possibility. I believe that it may be due to the fact that the Report accepts as the definition of occupational health and medicine, the view of the Department of Employment. Because I regard this as important, I should like just to read this short paragraph:The role of occupational medicine can be understood only against the background of the general structure of health services in this country. The main element is the personal and mainly curative work of the National Health Service which is centred on the individual and family and not on the place of work. The second broad division of the health service is the environmental, preventive or 'public health' service provided for the community as a whole. … In the field of occupational health the working environment is of predominant importance, and it is engineers, chemists and others rather than doctors who have the expertise to change it.My Lords, as one who has worked for over fourteen years in a company which had a developed health service, I believe that that definition is hopelessly restrictive and far understated. The medical 523 services which I know—the industrial medical services—were concerned with many other fields. They were concerned with establishing what jobs required special standards of fitness, and they were responsible for examining new starters to see whether they were fit for special jobs. In particular, they examined those returning from sickness to see whether they were up to the jobs which they were going to resume. The services were concerned with health education, especially in the young—a point which was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. They were concerned with the study of sickness figures and the drawing of conclusions from them. They were concerned with ergonomics—still a much underestimated and under-valued science in industry. They were concerned with emergency treatment; and this extended from dealing with cases of severe illness at work, or severe accidents requiring immediate medical skill, to the examination of people who were not sure whether or not they had something seriously wrong with them and whether they ought to go and see their own National Health Service doctor. If such a service exists, many people who would otherwise have to take a half-day off to wait in the surgery of a National Health doctor can consult the medical service in the factory to find out whether or not some special treatment is needed.
Perhaps most important of all is this question of mental health, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. Stress is one of the major factors in industry, both on the work bench and in management; and it does not seem to me that the general practitioner within the National Health Service is well placed to deal with this problem. First, he has not a close knowledge of the area in which a person is working, or of his environment. Secondly, dealing with mental health cases in an ordinary doctor's surgery is hardly suitable when there is a queue of people waiting. I have known many cases where the industrial medical service has dealt with incipient cases of stress among people of all levels in industry and where this has led to a great improvement in their condition. Where necessary, specialist assistance has also been given. Then there is the ability of the industrial medical service to recognize 524 new health hazards. The service is in an excellent position to do this. All this can be done—and is done—in close collaboration with the patient's own doctor. The industrial medical service is concerned, in other words, with the total working environment and not just with the more restricted area which is given in the definition.
Why does the Report reject the development of an industrial health service, which was recommended by the Porritt Committee in 1962? The first reason given is cost. Many large firms and organisations—perhaps the majority in this country—have their own industrial and medical services. Many, if not all, of these companies are fully aware of their responsibilities to their workpeople. On the other hand, they would not do this if they did not think it paid them to do it. I believe it does pay them, though perhaps it might be difficult to prove this in terms of pounds and decimal pence.
Take the one aspect of staying away from work to go to see a doctor because a worker is not sure whether or not there is something wrong. In my own case, over many years in industry I did not trouble my National Health doctor because whenever I thought there might be something wrong I went to see the local works doctor wherever I was working at that time. If it was necessary, he kept my National Health doctor informed of what the situation was. Other services are provided, particularly physiotherapy; and if a person has to go through an extended course of curative treatment this can be undertaken at his place of work, which means that he misses a great deal less work than he would if he had to go to a local hospital or clinic. All these activities are beneficial to management and workers in industry. They also increase efficiency. There is a good deal of support for the view that it pays in strict financial terms to have such a service.
The second objection by the Robens Committee to the idea of an industrial health service was the scarcity of skilled medical manpower. But I wonder whether this is right. If what I have said is true, surely it means that there is a considerable reduction of load on the Health Service in attendances at National Health Service surgeries, and for treatment. An industrial medical 525 service might be dealt with by nurses, because if nurses know that a doctor is available if they get out of their depth they can deal with many patients who, under the present organisation of the National Health Service, have to wait in a doctor's surgery to receive treatment from a doctor.
What do I think needs to be done? First, we want the encouragement and development of industrial medical services based partly on existing schemes. I mentioned that many large companies had their own services. These could be extended. Some of these services provide, on payment, a similar service for neighbouring factories which do not belong to the same company. Apart from the large companies, I see in the Report that 90 per cent. of the factories employing more than 500 persons have some medical or nursing supervision. These could be developed. It could not all be done immediately, but there could be an extension from this basis.
There is also the financial aspect. If there is going to be a saving to the National Health Service this method might be used to encourage schemes, especially in smaller firms. There are some six or seven group schemes in the country, and I believe that there is a great possibility of extension of these. But in order to get them going it is possible that the pump may need priming.
This ought to be a Government responsibility. Clearly, if there is to be a development of the industrial medical services this should be done in close conjunction with the Employment Medical Advisory Service which is about to start. The Report recommends that this service should become part of a suggested new Authority for Safety and Health at Work, with a unified inspectorate. Naturally it should be very much affected and concerned by what is done with the industrial health service. Above all, these occupational health services should not be allowed to become isolated from the main stream of medicine which it is suggested by some who are involved in it is tending to happen.
My Lords, I have spent most of the time I allotted myself on the matter of occupational health, though I believe it is most important. I should now in the next few minutes like to make one or 526 two points on the safety aspects, which also call for some comment. It needs to be clearly realised that, as the Report says, four-fifths of all reported accidents,arise from such apparently simple cases as handling materials, falling, striking against objects, being struck by falling objects, and the misuse of hand tools".Only one in six of these involves a breach of regulations. There is no great technical expertise required to stop these accidents; it is a matter of common sense, common sense applied jointly by management and labour. It is the accidents with technical causes which tend to receive publicity; but most accidents, as the Report makes quite clear, are the result of something much simpler.
The Report rightly recommends a mixture of codes of practice and regulations. I have heard some criticism of the idea of codes of practice on the basis that it was felt that they were going to be used instead of regulations. I believe that where regulations can be laid down then they should be laid down. On the other hand, there is much that regulations cannot do. If a code of practice insists on a joint involvement between management and labour, and a proper managerial system for accident prevention, unless one has such a system one will never get away and reduce the level of accidents off the plateau on which it appears to have settled. Regulations are difficult to draw up and, in particular, they cannot cope with technological change and new hazards. They take too long to bring out. If you give people a code of practice which they have to obey, and a system for safety consultation and reporting, you will not only move some way towards the reduction of the level of accidents, but also make the job of inspection very much easier.
It is also most important to bring safety organisation into management education. Here I should like to say one or two things about the safety officer, who is referred to in this Report, and who is a most important person. There is some worry that safety officers tend to be of not sufficiently high calibre. The Institute of Safety Officers are doing what they can to improve the calibre. The trouble is—and I see the trouble going on—that there will be a limited amount of promotion in industry for people taking safety 527 as a career. Every industry should have a system by which young men or women on the way towards management, particularly works management, should be safety officer for a period as part of their training for management. Not only would it be extremely valuable training, but they would learn a great deal about factory work and the attitude of the workpeople, experience that would be difficult to obtain in other ways. If your works managers have passed through a period as safety officer you will get not only a different attitude from works managers, but also a more objective view of the subject. They will look automatically at their work and their area of management with safety in mind. They will not have to think suddenly, "Now let's think about the safety aspects of this." It will come into their constructive thinking.
My Lords, I have spoken for long enough. To finish, I would say that I welcome the Report on Safety, but I should like the Government to take more note of the value of industrial medical services. Safety will be materially improved only if management and labour work together with a proper understanding. Management has the main responsibility, but labour must co-operate. Apathy is the one thing to be fought against.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, after the comprehensive and thorough speech by my noble friend Lord Avebury, it remains for me only to take up a small number of points which I should like to develop briefly. Before doing so, I would apologise to your Lordships' House, for it will, I am afraid, not be possible for me to be here at the winding up of this debate because of a commitment which I entered into before I knew the date on which this debate was to take place. I, like my noble friend Lord Avebury, thoroughly support the general principle behind the Robens recommendations: the principle of setting up a special authority to urge industry itself to change its attitude and its practice in the field of health and safety. I do not believe that any real change takes place when people are prodded, poked, exhorted and even punished from outside the system. It is when change is taken on as an obligation by those inside the system that real move- 528 ment begins to take place. But because I vote to support this approach to a voluntary method it does not mean—and I would reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that I absolutely agree with her—that there should not be appropriate penalties where they should and can be applied.
Of course, the present level of penalties is a farce. In the first place, it is extremely difficult to track down the breaches of the Act not only because there are far too few inspectors—and with the range of work to be done, a doubling or trebling of the number of inspectors would still not bring to light anything like the range of breaches of the Act which undoubtedly take place—but because even where these accidents are identified it is all too difficult to lay the blame. Then finally, when a case is proved in court the level of penalty is so trifling that it is ludicrous as a method of deterring any company, large or small, in this country. Where necessary let the penalties be far tougher, and wherever possible let them be far more personal, directed towards the people who have been directly responsible for the breaches of the law which have led to serious accidents.
May I take up one or two of the criticisms which have been levelled against the Robens Report, having said how much, in general, I am in favour of its recommendations? I would take up first the question of compulsory statutory committees. I do not myself believe that compulsory statutory safety committees are necessarily the answer, or necessarily appropriate; but not, however, because I do not believe in joint working. On the contrary, I think to legislate at this stage in industrial history merely for a statutory safety committee is woefully inadequate. Your Lordships have previously heard from these Benches an urgent appeal that the time is now ripe for a works council Act giving workers, as of right, a voice in the affairs of the organisations in which they work. Your Lordships have heard it from these Benches before, and I give you fair warning that you are going to hear it again, except in the unlikely event that the Government produce a plan for such an Act.
If we had a statutory works council it would be the job of that works council to lay down how the involvement of the 529 employee is best organised in a undertaking in which they are concerned. It would surely be one of the matters to which they would at the very beginning direct their attentions. I believe in a great many cases they would decide to have a committee to deal with health and safety. I am slightly critical of the people who are urging statutory safety committees because I believe in the minds of some of them—not, I know, in the mind of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill—this derives from a belief that safety is a matter for negotiation. This is profoundly mistaken. I do not believe that safety fails in factories because of the Scrooge-like reluctance of employers to part up with a few additional pounds for better machinery, better guarding, better factory housekeeping. I believe that accidents happen, not because people are against safety—safety is the kind of objective with which everybody is in total agreement; the only thing is that it is a matter which is going to be left until you can get round to it, and matters that are left until you can get round to them are, in my experience, left for good.
I have discussed with a highly successful safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry the reasons for his success—. and that success was undenied and undeniable. He said: "Because top management backed me up to the hilt, and because it was known throughout the organisation that top management backed me up to the hilt; and when it came to a clash between the immediate needs of production (always uppermost in the minds of my line management, and naturally so) and the cause of safety, then because of the backing of top management the cause of safety won. It is only when you get that that you are going to get improved safety in British industry as a whole." But, while I believe that a safety committee set up under a works council could contribute something, I do not believe that this is the important way in which employees will play their part. As I have said, I do not believe that safety is a matter for negotiation. I believe profoundly that it is a matter for participation. I believe that the elected worker representative, employee representative, should, in company with the company safety officer, make (and this is referred to in the Robens Report) frequent, unheralded safety audits, work- 530 ing on check list of what it is that ensures the safety of that particular department or factory in which they are engaged.
To-day, with modern statistical techniques, in such an audit it would be perfectly possible for that employee representative in his report to say: "If this situation is not changed, there is a 75 per cent. probability that there will be an accident within three months—I give you notice". It would be very difficult for top management to ignore that warning, particularly if within the three months an accident in fact took place. These safety audits, unprepared from the point of view of the people receiving them, with the safety officer and the worker representative participating hand in hand —and very well they can participate in matters of this kind; reporting back to the works council, reporting back to top management—provide a way in which we could make progress at factory level.
May I say that many years ago it was part of my task to be a secretary to a safety and health committee in a works. I know that we were not concerned with negotiation; we—works chemist, works engineer, worker representative—were concerned in trying to find ways of making that place safer. May I say that at the present moment, when industrial relations are strained as they have not been strained for a generation, any area in which we can get joint working on issues in which all who are concerned can be made to care greatly offers a pay-off in terms of improved industrial relations, and is valuable for that reason, if for no other.We have seen how well the trade unions and the employers could work together on training because this was a matter in which they had a common interest and about which the two sides cared. Safety is just such another matter, and let us go forward with this development.
Following the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, I should like to refer to the lamentable absence—because one could really only call it that—of suggestions for occupational health. I understand the reason why the Robens Committee were unable to deal adequately with this subject, but it is not good enough as a reason for saying that the subject should now be closed. Of course many of the large organisations, as the noble Earl, 531 Lord Courtown, has pointed out, have elaborate and very competent health services. But a large number of the employed persons in this country do not work in large organisations. For them to lose the services even of the appointed factory doctor and to have nothing put in its place is a backward step. I am well aware of how inadequate was much of the work done by the appointed factory doctors; it inevitably was, because of the shortage of time and the limitations on facilities but—and I do not want to weary your Lordships with details—their handling of some matters was of very real value both to the organisation and to the employed people. To give one example, the appointed factory doctor could put conditions on the employment of a youngster whom he had examined, arising out of his knowledge of that youngster's physical condition, limiting the way in which he could be employed. So a person who had some disability or physical limitation could earn his living satisfactorily in that place of work without risking his health. Without even the elementary preliminary examination that the appointed factory doctor made that valuable contribution will be withdrawn, except in those organisations where there is a fully organised health service, and that remains the minority.
I hope that in going forward with the Robens recommendations the Government will supplement the extremely useful recommendations given on safety with a further inquiry into the whole question of occupational health, because that subject has really not been tackled in the Report. We need not hold up the other suggestions which are put forward while this inquiry is conducted. The truth of the matter is that ever since the National Health Service was introduced the occupational health service and the issues connected with it have been ducked. We did not know where to fit the occupational health service into the National Health Service. There have been committees and inquiries but we still have not got the answer. Do not let us assume that the changes that were made last year, combined with the recommendations in the Robens Report, can be regarded as a satisfactory answer to what is admittedly not an easy question, because there is a great deal to be done, not least, if I may 532 say so in the presence of people who know a great deal more about it than I do, because the ordinary general practitioner, by virtue of his training, frequently knows nothing whatsoever about the conditions of people at work. The comments and advice that one receives from well meaning general practitioners are often worse than useless.
I had intended to stress the point made in the Robens Report about the revision of the compensation system. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, reminded us that a Royal Commission is being set up to deal with this, but for those of your Lordships who have perhaps not read the Robens Report in detail, or who have not reached that part of it, I would point out that this subject has an importance altogether out of proportion to the length of the reference to it in the Report. This is right, because the Committee were not asked to look into it; but I think we all know that the common law claim has become a lottery—a lottery which is frequently fair to neither side. This is not the approach to compensation that is likely to help in safety at work, or indeed to do justice to the parties concerned. May we urge that this matter should be looked into at speed, at a time when the changes forecast in the Robens Report are being brought into action?
I should like to make one further point. I greatly welcome the introduction of the semi-autonomous Authority. I believe this gives a chance for speed of action, for inventiveness, for the use of people with relevant experience which the traditional Civil Service procedures do not give. May I ask the Government to think carefully about the relationship between the Authority and the Department. If, as I hope, we are moving in the direction of an increasing number of semi-autonomous authorities, it is necessary to remember that they must be subject to democratic control and that such control must be exercised through Parliament. We have not been very successful in working out this relationship in the past. The relationship between the Government and the nationalised industries is an example of where inadequate thought has led to some very unsatisfactory results indeed. I suggest that at the very least the Minister, together with the leaders of the Authority, should determine, year by year, what the objectives of the Authority 533 should be; what the priorities of the Authority should be, and that annually or, at the most, biennially, a full report of the work of the Authority related to those declared objectives and priorities should be debated in Parliament. It seems to me essential, if this is to be a programme for future development, as I hope it is, that we should get this relationship right, and get it right at the beginning. It is a new device and one which could be extremely useful, but it could lead to a great deal of uncontrolled power on the part of the people in the Authority unless its relationship is determined correctly from the beginning.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MILLS
My Lords, I want to concentrate on two aspects of the Robens Report: in the first place to consider the suitability of the proposals, particularly those dealing with the form and the content of the legislation and sanctions, and, secondly, to explore how consultation on safety matters can be a real and effective way of combating injury at work. On the first aspect, I know that it is a trade union criticism that there is sufficient law to improve the safety situation in this country but the trouble is that the inspectors do not use the law. The Robens Report goes to much trouble to show how complex and how much law there is to deal with almost every conceivable situation—the fact that there are nine groups of Statutes and nearly 500 subordinate Statutory Instruments. The one thing that I have learned from reading the Report carefully is that it suggests not tackling details on safety, because the sort of criminal sanction that is available simply punishes offences and does not try to concentrate on broad principles, but that what we need is a new approach to look at these broad principles and to decide what has to be done in order to improve the situation.
The other point is the whole question of the application of the law. Is it applied as much as it should be? No, I do not think that it is. It tackles safeguarding machinery; it tackles ventilation; it tackles lighting. It does not, however, tackle the whole question of attitudes and the policies and plans that are needed in an organisation to combat accidents. I work as a safety manager in a large organisation, and if I were 534 called upon to help in any company I should, in the first place, look at those attitudes. I should look to see what policies there were and what plans were available to tackle the whole broad question of safety.
The whole question of criminal prosecution as it stands at present, as noble Lords well know, does not cope with the situation. Small fines of an average of £40 will do nothing to compel any organisation to follow the right sort of procedures. We are not at present geared towards a positive contribution with the objective of improving safety standards and performance. The Report suggests an enabling Act, a limited number of regulations which can be easily amended, and gives emphasis to statutory codes of practice and standards. The one point I want to make is that criminal sanction is suggested as remaining, and is vitally necessary. It makes it quite clear that where offences are likely to cause serious injury—or could have done so—increased fines must be imposed.
The crux of the whole matter in my opinion is that we must realise that the inspector should have the role of advising and helping employers to comply with minimum standards. One important point is that the whole question of sanction and enforcement will spring from him. One of the difficulties that inspectors have faced in the past is that they have had themselves to deal with the complexity of the law in trying to get matters put right. As I sec it, improvement notices can be a real power and are something which should be used. After all, if an inspector goes into a particular organisation he can start at the correct point. He can look at the overall strategy for safety, the amount of consultation and the way that both management and the shop floor are trying to tackle the problem. He can give advice and, if necessary, by enforcement through these orders, see that the sort of things that he may reasonably require are carried out. I believe also that the idea of a continuing daily fine, as a last resort, if the inspectors orders are not carried out, is more likely to have an effect and to get organisations to comply with his requirements. In certain circumstances prohibition orders will be a real power in stopping practices which should not be allowed to continue, and should be a 535 means of achieving some of the things that are required.
I have thought about how well this might work in practice. In a large organisation there is usually a great deal of willingness on the part of management to involve themselves in thinking through safety policies with people on the shop floor; to help in the formulation of codes of practice; to serve on technical working parties, and indeed to work in very close consultation with factory inspectors if necessary calling them in to seek their advice and help. In the case of the smaller firms the problem is more difficult. The tremendous number involved means that, however large the Factory Inspectorate, it will never be able to cope through the inspectors with the whole matter of controlling safety practice. The Robens Report is right: one must enlist the support and help of industry as a whole.
At the present moment the sheer numbers of these firms, the complexity of the law, the difficulty, if the inspector has to invoke the law, of getting a conviction, and the inadequate sanctions, all tend to defeat what he is trying to achieve. In the future I believe there is a better chance of achieving results by rectification rather than by administering punishment. But inspectors must be involved in the whole question of trying to change attitudes. If they do not do that they will not succeed. I was impressed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, said about apathy. I believe, and it is my experience, both within Government Service and in industry, that apathy can be overcome only by involvement and by obtaining conviction. You do not overcome apathy easily by administering law, particularly in very diverse situations. In all honesty I believe that the statement in the Report thatthere is already sufficient law to improve the situation",is, and can be proved, wrong.
The second aspect is the whole question of consultation. The Report recommends that a general duty should be placed on employers to consult employees or representatives on the measures to promote safety and health at work. Secondly, it recommends a legal obligation on all employers to draw up safety and health 536 policies and to make them available to employees. The idea that these will be simply leaflets which are distributed to employees is something that we ought to move away from. I know—because I have been engaged in drawing up such policies—that it takes much time and patience to think through the type of objectives that we need. In relating some of my own experience on safety, I would stress how much of a task it is to draw up such policies and plans. Not only has this to be done at the centre, and management commitment obtained, but it is then necessary to sell the whole idea to perhaps a number of factories, to the works managers, to get them to share their ideas with plant and works committees, and to get their own contributions and commitment.
Unless particular care is taken, it may be found that safety objectives are liable to concentrate simply on injuries and accidents that have occurred in the past—the idea of closing stable doors after horses have bolted. Policies and plans need to be based on analysis of a great deal of information about all the unplanned incidents that have occurred at work and of the attitudes of people towards safety. In many industries accidents are not caused to any degree by unguarded machinery, explosion and major plant mishaps. It is the unguarded mind and not the unguarded machinery that is the real problem that we ought to be trying to tackle; it is human failing. The difficulty is not to get across in an organisation that safety is a way of life; it is a lack of training in safety. Often it is simply bad housekeeping—and it is amazing how often bad morale in an organisation shows up in bad housekeeping. At times, both management and workpeople concentrate on the wrong things.
As I have said, it is a question of analysing the real cause of injuries, and potential injuries, and of rectifying or trying to rectify the cause before these things happen. There is a common interest here, but consultation is often carried out in the wrong way, or not at all. I will give just one or two examples. In a factory some area targets may be set in order to try to achieve a better standard of safety. If one inquires, one finds that those on the shop floor have a minimal knowledge of what these standards 537 are and have no commitment to them. Again, one may get management telling the shop floor what their plans are. My Lords, this is not consultation; it is simply telling. Consultation is, and should be, sharing management thinking; collecting ideas from the shop floor and supervisory management and union management, considering all the information. It is then for management to put themselves in the position where they take a decision, informing all those concerned and enlisting their help to monitor what is actually going on.
To sum up, I feel that the new proposals should be given very careful thought. It is better, in my opinion, to start by getting the overall approach to safety and health right. It is no good concentrating on the detail. Objectives and plans should be used to assess safety problems involving those on the shop floor so that they themselves have a chance to think out the proposed solutions. It is in this way that apathy can be overcome. The factory inspectors should be general advisers, with power to specify improvements which they deem necessary and to prevent dangerous practices quickly. If this can be done, I believe there is much in the Robens Report which is to be commended.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, I should like to join with noble Lords who have spoken and with two noble Baronesses, my noble friend Lady Summerskill and Lady Seear, in expressing appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in initiating this debate today. Although it is a delayed action, as the Minister said, it is an important topic. It is one that we cannot sweep under the carpet if we are going to express our concern in regard to safety at work.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I thought, gave us a very good digest of what the Report contains. I really enjoyed and appreciated his dissertation. He also told us that the Government at this stage are adopting a listening capacity. They will pay attention to the views that are expressed, and ultimately —and I hope it will not be too long, because this is an important matter—the Government will make up their mind as to what they propose to do. I think we should also express our appreciation to 538 the Robens Committee. I have reservations about some of the recommendations; nevertheless the Committee undertook a very big task. They have worked very hard, they have given many hours of study to their task and they have visited many places. Whatever reservations any of us might have, I think we should appreciate the fact that this Committee has certainly focused attention on safety at work.
As I sat here listening to the very interesting speeches that have been made, I began to reflect. I think the spark of interest was ignited when I was a very young man, when that awful pit disaster in the Welsh mining village of Senghenydd took place. I know it is a long time ago, and that memories may be too short among some people to recall not only the emotion, not only the sorrow engendered, but the impact that that disaster made. In just that one incident 430 men were swept into eternity. I think it was then that I, as a very young man, began, feebly, without knowledge, to engender an interest in the important questions: What can we do? Are these things avoidable? Can human ingenuity devise schemes whereby catastrophes of that magnitude shall be things of the past and only memories? In 1935 there occurred Gresford, in 1951 Cresswell, near my home. Arising out of these matters connected with the mining industry may I say that there is no body of people engaged in economic activity in industry to-day more safety conscious than are the miners of this country.
Perhaps I should say that I have two specific points to make, but I should like to make one or two general observations on this very important topic. I begin by saying that safety and health in the productive, the distributive and the administrative processes of industry are not only important but highly desirable, and should, and I believe do, exercise the minds of many people in this country; and for that I think we should be very grateful indeed. In this sphere of safety and health hazards in industry a big network of economic activity is involved. Moreover, half the population is affected. The number of insurable persons at work now is at least 23 million; that is almost half the population of these Islands. Further, it is an inescapable fact that no one can foretell 539 to whom the next accident will happen, who is to be the next victim of industrial disease or accident.
It is more from the humanitarian angle than the economic one that I approach this question of safety and health hazards at work. With regard to accidents, nobody expects accidents to occur and of course nobody wants them to, but as the Report reveals, the naked fact is that they do. Whatever differences exist on some matters in this field, even as to the best means of prevention, I believe that there is unanimity on doing what we can to prevent accidents which cause death or disablement, or destroy the opportunity to enjoy life. Who could not be interested in safety at work with those naked facts which the Report itself presents to us?
As I said at the beginning, one of my preoccupations in life has had two parts, and which comes first in order of priority I should not like to say. First, there is the provision of adequate benefits for the victims of accidents at work and of industrial disease; and secondly, the adoption of the highest measures of prevention. In the main, that is what I have occupied my life with, particularly in the coal mining industry. Both of these propositions that I have put to your Lordships are very important indeed. In the field of prevention of accidents at places of work, we should not just do something when our emotions are stirred by some major catastrophe like, for instance, the one at Senghennyd; it should be a continuous process, all the time seeking to find and apply the best known solution to the question of making safer the place of work. Let us not forget that one-third of every day is spent at work, and for that reason alone it should be made as safe and as pleasurable as it is possible to be.
Devising and installing the best and most effective measures should be the concern of employers and trade unions. I want to be magnanimous here, because I believe that both are interested in this particular question. I like to think that there is a "safety consciousness" among all who are engaged in industry. That is important not only for economic reasons but for humanitarian reasons as well, and I would regard the latter as more important than the former. Preven- 540 tion is much better than cure, and, to use perhaps a hackneyed metaphor, I believe that a fence at the top of a cliff is much better than having an ambuluance at the bottom.
As the Report reminds us, much thinking and work has been done over the years in the field of research in the laboratories—whether there has been enough is a matter of opinion; personally, I do not think that there has. A great deal has been done by safety committees in industry, and if I had the time to-night, which I have not, I would explain the structure that has been erected since 1947 in the mining industry, which could be a pattern that other industries would be well advised to follow. There has been legislation and there have been mutual non-statutory arrangements over the years; I say "Amen" to that, and may it continue in the attempt to make the place of work a safer place than it is to-day.
The statistical tables of the Robens Report, on pages 161 to 163, show fatalities, serious non-fatal accidents and victims of industrial disease. Looking at the tables as a whole, the picture really is formidable and a little frightening when we begin to think about it seriously. But what do they indicate? They indicate one thing to me; that is, that in spite of all that has been done there is still a long way to go. Much thought is needed, and a lot of work must be done in this field, in order to reach a more satisfactory and pleasurable state in this sphere of safety and health at work.
I cannot help but be a little emotional when I am talking on a subject like this. I am sure that all of us are painfully aware that in some cases a fatality, for instance, means a loss to the home of a husband and a father, and sometimes, with so many women now at work, a mother; in other cases it is a loss to a home of a son or a daughter. I ask what can be done, and how much can be done, to prevent such things happening. I know from experience that some accidents are unexpected; are unpredictable. I cannot help but think, as I stand here, of what we used to call in the coal mines the "miner's nightmare". Your Lordships may ask what that is. I can assure you that it is not the result of having a night on the tiles; it is much more serious than that. The man at the 541 coal face breaking new ground and seeking to wrest (or, if you like, steal) Nature's treasure would think that he had taken every precaution—the roof well supported, tested in the conventional way so that it would ring like a bell —but there was concealed there something which could not be seen, a "pot hole". Without any warning down it would come. If Mr. "A" was unlucky enough to be at that spot at that moment, he either lost his life or was seriously injured.
Let us consider this aspect for one moment. To leave home fit and well and not to return alive but be brought home in a coffin, or deprived of a leg, an arm, or an eye, or to become a paraplegic or a pneumoconiotic, is an emotional experience, and a frustrating one, too. In the interests of preventing the things that I have just mentioned, no stone ought to be left unturned to ensure the maximum safety measures at work.
It is with circumstances of the kind that I have described that the Report which is in front of us to-day is concerned, and it seeks to find an answer to the problems, although some of us may have reservations about the conclusions drawn. But I am satisfied that most people are anxious to explore the ways and means of giving guarantees of safety to men at work. I welcome the Report and to-day's debate on it, if only because it focuses attention on an aspect of industrial life and provides an opportunity for discussing and ventilating the topic. My fervent hope is that it will provide an impetus to continue the search for, and the adoption of, more effective safety measures in industry. As the Report itself shows, the devising and employment of means of greater safety is not only good in economic terms but—and I hope that your Lordships will agree with me—is a worthwhile human enterprise.
I want to raise only two specific points. Chapter 17 deals with compensation and prevention. It is an interesting chapter in which there is much food for thought. After listening to the evidence and stating the case, the Committee give reasons on pages 142 to 150 for changing the existing system; and on page 156, in paragraphs 493 and 494, recommend a detailed study of the industrial injuries scheme. That is all right, but I do not 542 think I agree with what they next recommend. With two ex-Ministers of National Insurance here—the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and, I was going to say, the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, but she has now left the Chamber—I hope that there will be a little support for what I have to say.
When the industrial injuries scheme Was devised and came into operation in 1948, it made a complete departure from the old Workmen's Compensation Act. Many stories could be told about that, but time is not on my side. A flat rate contribution was instituted at that time, and the idea was that provision for disability owing to accident at work should be a social charge on the whole of industry. As I said, I come from the mining industry, which is one of the most dangerous and hazardous industries in the country, and I remember when compensation costs in that industry amounted to not less than 2s. 6d. per ton, which was as much as the basic price that a miner got for getting the coal. It was felt by Beveridge, and accepted by Mr. Attlee's Government, that we should institute a flat rate and that industries with a low incidence of accidents should help contribute to industries with a high incidence. I believe that that system has worked very well, and I do not mind telling your Lordships that I should take some convincing that it was not a sound principle in this field. Furthermore, I would not accept that flat rate contributions under the industrial injuries legislation have impeded the work of prevention of accidents. One could say much more about that but, if I may have the Minister's attention for one moment, because this is an important matter, I should like to ask him one question.
Section 73 of the Industrial Injuries Act provides for the expenditure of money on safety and health in industry. At the end of March, 1971, there was a surplus in the industrial injuries fund of £352 million, and I should like to ask the Minister whether he can tell me what advantage has been taken of Section 73 and what amount of money has been spent on research in industry. I have spoken for 24 minutes and I wanted to say something about common law, but I shall restrict myself to one point. Before 1948 the position was most unsatisfactory. Under the old Workmen's Compensation 543 Act one had to opt either for compensation or for damages at common law and, owing to the existence of the doctrine of common employment, it was a pretty risky business to get damages at common law for an accident at work. I remember how the late Lord Monckton was appointed by the then Minister for National Insurance to go into this question. One of the many good things which Lord Monckton and his Committee did was to abolish the doctrine of common employment. I am pleased to say that I do not think there has been any impediment to safety, and the position has been made much easier. I believe that the fact that men have been able to claim damages at common law more easily than was the case before 1948 has acted as a deterrent to accidents.
I am sorry to have gone on for so long, but this is a big and absorbing subject and I want to draw the Minister's attention to the mining industry. It must by now be common knowledge that the Department of Trade and Industry has had a communication from the National Union of Mineworkers. Although these are early days, they have made an initial examination of the proposals in the Robens Report and have reservations about some of them. On page 3, the Report states:If we look at the annual figures for work fatalities over the decade 1961–1970, no unequivocally clear trend is discernible; and the number of all reported accidents rose steadily during the first half of the decade.That report of accidents in industry is taken from the reports of the Inspector for Factories and Workshops. Conditions in the mining industry are just the opposite. If any noble Lord took the time to read the reports of the Inspectorate under the Mining and Quarries Act 1954, he would find an altogether different picture. I have in my hands a graph indicating that what I am saying is correct. The position in the mining industry is not as stated in the Report on page 3. In 1962, the total number injured through accidents from all causes in the coal mines was just under 2.000. In 1971, it was well under 1,000. The 1962 figure of those seriously injured was a fraction over 1,500. In 1971, it was about 600. Translated into man-shift terms, you have the same story: that there has been a decline in fatal and non- 544 fatal accidents in the mining industry. What the National Union of Mineworkers asks is: Why depart from a winning way? The National Coal Board, the National Union of Mineworkers, have set up their own structure and their own scheme of inspection and safety committees, right from the pit to the national headquarters—and it has paid off. This graph shows a downward tendency in all kinds of accidents.
I hope that the Government, before bringing the mining industry into this overall Authority, will have very serious thoughts. My closing words—I should have liked to say more on this topic—are these. Do not turn a cold shoulder to the expertise. And not only to the expertise but to a common sense and practical approach to conditions in the pits of Britain which is unique to the mining industry. Accumulation of fire damp, carbon monoxide, falls in roofs, falls of sides—with all these risks, it is an industry which stands out on its own. I ask the Government through the Minister to take due notice of the observations that the National Union of Mineworkers are making so far as their reaction to the Robens Report is concerned.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, first I wish to add my appreciation to that which has already been expressed in this House this afternoon to the noble Lord. Lord Avebury, for introducing this debate. Your Lordships have heard in various ways how the public are concerned about safety at work. As a member of a family that was associated very much with the coal industry. I certainly commend the words of the noble Lord. Lord Taylor of Mansfield. What I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention concerns, first, a matter which the Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Robens of Woldingham, seems to have overlooked namely, the safety of both the public and the people employed on the premises of buildings licensed for public entertainment.
In an earlier debate last autumn I pointed out that until recently I was an official of the Building Regulation Division of the Greater London Council. During the period of working with that division, I spent a year inspecting places of entertainment in connection with the 545 continuance of licences already granted, in investigation of any premises for which a licence for public entertainment was being sought and of proposed alterations of any licensed premises. No matter how small an alteration might be, the Council, as the licensing authority of places of public entertainment, have to be informed and to give their consent. My work included the inspection of buildings ranging from one of the largest cinemas in London to small public houses, church and school halls. But, whether a building be large or small, all rules and regulations are concentrated on the vital need to ensure the safety of the building for those who work there, for the performers and for those who come in to see the show. The work is such that to the average layman it is charged with some horrendous red tape. The public may rightly assume, when they enter a building to see a show, that it is safe. If anyone in authority thought otherwise, the public would not be allowed in. But the public may not realise the extent of the work involved in ensuring their safety.
Let us take the simple function of walking over to the box office in a theatre or cinema, of buying a ticket and entering the auditorium Ito take one's seat. There has been plenty of work done to make sure that this can be done without people tripping up. Floors must be kept quite smooth. If there are any mats (often to be found in foyers) they must be flush with the level of the surrounding floor. Then once the public are inside the auditorium and have taken their seats, they must be able to leave the building should any emergency arise that may necessitate their departure in a more hurried manner than usual. This is the factor that governs the maximum number permitted in any auditorium.
There is a formula for the calculation of the number of people of average size who can get through a doorway in one minute. In areas under the jurisdiction of the Greater London Council, the auditorium must have enough exits for it to be possible to clear it in not more than two minutes. Authorities in other parts of the country may have similar rules. Therefore the larger the expected audience, the greater the number of exits that must be provided. They must be 546 clearly recognisable; and signs indicating them must be illuminated. Then, should the main lighting system fail, a second lighting system must be available. Exits must be fully serviceable. The majority of exit doors are operated on the horizontal push-bar system, which requires only a slight pressure on the horizontal bar to open them. But responsibility for the safety of the public in an emergency does not end with getting them outside. Paths or some clear passage way must be available so that people can get well clear of the building to the street or to a convenient open space. There must be no obstacles, such as parked cars, in these pathways.
Many objections are raised by proprietors who say that the regulations for safety interfere with their general security. Naturally, they wish to co-operate with the authorities to ensure that their premises are as safe as possible. But in making it easier for the public to get out, they fear that they will make it easy for persons to break in or for undesirables to gatecrash the entertainment. This is where the licensing authority can prove to be a friend and not just an officious body. Every possible advice can be, and is, given. It is easy for the regulations to be adhered to and for the premises to be made reasonably secure. The licensing authority has to ensure that the regulations are observed. That is their duty. The owners are responsible for security and insurance; but the two interests are not incompatible.
During 1971, there was a horrific example of what can happen when safety is sacrificed for security. Your Lordships may recall the dance hall disaster in France where, on the night of a particular party, measures were taken to discourage gatecrashers because of the popularity of the party with the younger generation. These measures included locking a great many exits. A fire broke out during the evening. Because many of the decorations were of a highly inflammable type, the hall was soon an inferno. Many people were trapped. There can be hardly anyone who, on hearing the news of that disaster, did not pray that such a thing will never happen in this country, and I am happy to say that the so-called red tape of the regulations makes it less likely that it will.
547 When any premises are licensed for public entertainment, they are inspected regularly. Some are inspected once a year and others once every two years. After each inspection the licensee receives an official letter setting out any items that require his attention. In due course the premises are inspected again. If there are any items outstanding from the previous inspection—or "survey" as it is generally referred to—the licensee will receive another letter, in which the wording is a little stronger, stressing that the outstanding matters should have his immediate attention. After another interval, but a shorter one than before, the premises are again inspected. If, in due course, the licensee has not taken any steps to attend to outstanding matters, or cannot show any proof that they will be dealt with in the near future, he is warned that his licence will not be renewed.
I have already mentioned that a licensing authority has to be informed of any alteration to premises, no matter how small. This includes the proposed installation of any new equipment. The licensee must send a letter of application with all the details and plans and inspection is almost certain. But provided that all conditions are met, consent is given. One type of licensee likely to receive a long list of requirements is the cinema owner. The item most likely to appear in the letter is that the seats require attention and maintenance. If a seat does not tip up when it is not in use, it could create an obstacle for people leaving in an emergency. As a matter of fire prevention the seat covers must be in good condition. In spite of the watchfulness of staff, many cinema owners have to spend time and money through being the victims of hooligans who seem to think that a good form of entertainment is to go to the cinema and not only see the film but to see how much damage they can do.
Because of the British habit of smoking in cinemas and in some theatres, a damaged seat is a fire hazard. That we allow smoking in such places has been criticised by visitors from abroad. In some countries it is strictly forbidden. Perhaps our new relationship with the European Continent will influence the dis- 548 couraging of this habit. I must confess that I enjoy a "fag" at the "flicks", though I personally draw the line at pipes and cigars. Some cinema owners have tried to ban smoking but have found themselves faced with the unfortunate dilemma of permitting smoking or going out of business. At the moment, there is a scheme in many London cinemas to reserve part of the cinema for nonsmokers. This encouraging experiment deserves to be commended. In this way the fire hazard is reduced a little as well as safeguarding the health of patrons.
In addition to the consideration for non-smokers, considerable thought has been given to securing as much accommodation as possible for the disabled in nearly every theatre or cinema in London. I need hardly stress that hand in hand with this worthwhile effort there must be consideration for their safety. It is remarkable what can be achieved in this field by co-operation between a forward-looking authority and sympathetic management.
From the rules concerning the entertainment world, let me turn to another matter to which I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships; that is, the prevention of fire at places of work. At present local authorities have to face a cumbersome procedure to cover the certification of means of escape as required by the Factories Act, the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, and the Fire Precaution Act 1971. The fire certificate is an elaborate document. It takes much time to compile and is costly in labour which, so far, is very scarce. One of its advantages is that once it is compiled and completed it is a valuable record, with its information and plans of the premises concerned. If a local authority is forced by law to take on more work of this nature it will place an unbearable burden on the staff by adding to their duties, much of which has been, and still is, done by factory inspectors.
As the law stands now, once the owner of premises that come under the Acts I have mentioned has applied for a fire certificate he can carry on with his trade. When he applies, the premises are surveyed and he is informed of any steps to be taken to maintain the premises at the required standards. The survey must show that there are no dangerous fuels or materials stored in such a way as to 549 cause danger to anyone in the building at any time. The means of escape are carefully examined, and the owner is informed of any alterations that may be necessary. In considering the safety of a building there are two elements to be reckoned with. These might be nicknamed the "hardware" and the "software". The "hardware" element includes such factors as the means of escape; the parts of the building that need special protection, such as certain staircases and passages; doors that must be kept shut and, of course, the firefighting appliances. But no matter how well constructed the building may be, or how well protected it is, how many emergency exits there are or how many fire-fighting appliances are readily available, the building cannot be considered safe without the efficiency of the "software". This, boiled down, is the human element, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Mills. All precautions and protection are rendered useless if the occupants of the building do not know what to do or where to go in an emergency, or if no one knows how to use the appliances.
One clause in the fire certificate for any premises is a very particular instruction to the owner that all the staff are to be trained about what to do in case of fire. Fires in hotels have recently caused the public much concern. The human element may have caused unnecessary loss of life in such events, mainly through ignorance on the part of the hotel guests of what to do. The other day I heard of an hotel on the South coast where a guest was shown to his room and the porter solemnly told him exactly what action he should take in case of fire. Any hotel management that does all it can to ensure that the guests are conversant with the means of escape sets an example that should be followed by every other hotel manager in the country. Simplification of the fire certificate could speed up the work of supervising the safety of places of work. If it is the intention of the Government to follow the recommendations that the full responsibility should be placed on the shoulders of local government then some way of assisting these authorities must be found.
Can I persuade the Government to look once again at the meticulous requirements of the Offices, Shops and Railway 550 Premises Act, and the Fire Precautions Act, with a view to redefining in less detailed form the contents of fire certificates? This would, I am sure, considerably reduce the colossal burden of work with which all the larger local authorities are faced. A simpler certificate need not necessarily detract from its value, but it would enable local authorities to use their resources to much greater effect and at the same time would ensure that applications for fire certificates were dealt with more expeditiously. It is, I think, of the utmost importance that local authorities throughout the country complete the issue of fire certificates within their areas in the shortest possible time.
A final word, my Lords, about those employed in the work about which I have been speaking. Local authorities are trying to encourage new blood into their ranks. They have to encourage potential staff to come and existing staff to stay. They may not be able to offer such attractive salaries as other employment, but there is the satisfaction of being in a service upon which the public can rely. There is an unfortunate misconception that much of local authority work is dull, stuck-in-the-office routine. For those with the vocation of administrative and clerical duties there is much office work but it need not be dull. Those on the staff with professional and technical qualifications may see little of the inside of their offices during the day. These professional staff and technicians are highly skilled and valuable persons. They have a skill that is not acquired overnight. No department of any local government system must be allowed to break down under what may be the last straw on the back of the proverbial camel. My Lords, having made these comments I wish to express my support, in general, for the Report, and my hope that most of the recommendations contained in it will soon be used to improve the existing legislation.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD PLATT
My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for initiating this debate, which has, I think, been of considerable interest. I am sure that at this time noble Lords are looking forward to the summing-up, but I assure your Lordships that I want to speak about only one subject which 551 is dealt with in the Report, and that is the subject of statistics. On that subject, perhaps I may call attention to the fact that the average speaking time so far in this debate is 21.5 minutes, but the noble Lord who has just sat down was considerably under that average.
Before I come on to the question of statistics, I should like to endorse just one or two points which have struck me as being very important. I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, drew attention to the noise hazard and the question of deafness. I agree with him, if I understood him aright, that a code of practice is not going to be enough in that instance. I think there must be legislation on that particular matter. My Lords, I am old enough to remember the state of the Sheffield grinding trade and the terrible disease silicosis, which killed off the grinders in their middle life. Nothing could be done; the owners said that it was not possible to produce Sheffield cutlery without grinding it on sandstone—until legislation was brought in providing for compensation, and then they all switched on to carborundum-wheels. Another thing to which the noble Lord drew attention was the absence of any discussion on the question of mental health. Mental health is a terribly difficult thing for any Committee to tackle, and I have every sympathy with the Robens Committee if they did not deal with it very thoroughly. But, nevertheless, it is a very important thing, and somebody should do a little more about it. I was also very impressed by the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, on the industrial medical services, and their importance.
The things I wanted to call attention to are in the Report—and I am quoting from page 135 in Chapter 15, which deals with statistics. They say:— the usual criterion for notification—absence from work for more than three days —is subject to influences which have nothing to do with safety performance, i.e. it is affected by changes in social attitudes to, and social provisions for, sickness absence. Different individuals react differently to injuries of a similar nature, and our present social organisation is such that the individual has a considerable measure of choice as to whether and how long he will stay away from work following a slight accident.Before the noble Baroness (who I am glad to see is not in her place) accuses me of 552 complacency, apathy and so on, I hasten to add that it is not my intention to say that half the people who claim industrial benefit are scrimshankers and malingerers. That is not the point I wish to make at all. If a man at work is lifting a sack of potatoes and he feels a pain in his back, let us not forget that that is an industrial injury. We are too prone to think of mine disasters and ghastly things that people suffer—paraplegia, and things like that. If a man is lifting a sack of potatoes at work and feels a pain in his back, that is an industrial injury, and it is one of the 225,907 accidents in the factories which the noble Baroness was quoting to us.
My Lords, the only point I really want to make is that as long as the statistics fail to distinguish between people who have a pain in their back when they are walking upstairs on their way to work, and people who are injured by some ghastly machinery and lose hands, legs or one thing and another, these statistics will remain virtually as useless as they are to-day. Nevertheless, when we look into them thoroughly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill,pointed out, we see that the number of accidents notified in factories from 1961 to 1970 shows a fairly steady progression from 161,000 to 255,907. In those same years, the number of fatal accidents in factories was steadily reduced—though not very much—from 368 to 325. Now what interpretation can we possibly put on that except that many more trivial accidents are being notified, perhaps quite properly, and, from the figures I am going to quote, that people are taking more time off work for comparatively trivial accidents than they were before? Because if you look at Table 3 you see that the number of days lost in a year has gradually increased from 19.4 million in 1960–61 to nearly 23 million in 1969–70. I am glad to say that in the last two years there has been a slight drop in the number of days lost. Without quoting any more of these tiresome figures to your Lordships, let me say that wherever you look you find that there is a gradual increase in the number of accidents at work and a gradual decrease in the number of fatal accidents. For that reason, I believe that, whatever we do about industrial accidents or injuries, we must have a better set of statistics on which to base our conclusions.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ LORD RHODES
My Lords, I did not put my name down to speak, but after listening to some of the interesting comments I feel moved to say a word. I hope it will not be laid against me in any shape or form that what I have to say is in any way immodest. I always say that, whether I liked it or not, I was made a capitalist by force of circumstances because I was out of work at the time and I started my business with very modest pretensions—in fact, my wound gratuity of the 1914–18 war, which is a long time ago. But the time came when I thought that I would sell, and I found no lack of ready buyers. The reason I was selling, I explained to my workpeople, was because I did not want to be a prisoner in my old age. I pointed out the moral of the story of the monkey which looked through the bung-hole of a barrel and saw a nut, and put his hand in to clasp the nut, and when the little monkey's hand was clenched he could not get it out again, so he starved to death with plenty in his paw. That was one of the reasons why I sold.
When I walked out of the factory for the last time my workpeople appeared with a round robin. Although I have received many honours in my day, that letter from my workpeople, which I still have. I count among the highest, because it said:We thank you for having created a place that is a pleasure to work in.If anybody else in this House has had a letter from his workpeople thanking him for having created a place which was a pleasure to work in, I would readily sit down and listen with great attention to what he has to say. Why did they say that? I am not a very special sort of person. But what I had throughout the whole of those forty years was a love of the people that I used to work with, the people in the factory. You can pass as many rules, regulations, laws, or what you like, but if there is a reluctance to put them into effect you are always behind events. But if you have a high regard for those people who are sharing with you the labour in that factory, and they know that that care is there and is constant, then you can achieve results.
I concentrated on colour, lighting and noise. I put into effect in my factory a 554 scheme which to me cost a lot of money —I had to go to Sweden for the idea—and I daresay the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, will remember me putting it in. It came as a shock to me about four years ago when two guests at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee were coming up with wonderful ideas about how to reduce noise. I had put those ideas into operation 15 years ago. For goodness sake! let us stop talking about these things and get on with them. Let us make them operative, because thereby workpeople can see that somebody cares and that they are highly regarded. A little episode occurred almost twelve months to the day after I installed this equipment. I used to nip along to the works very early in the morning, at about six o'clock, to see the night shift off and the day shift started. One summer morning I went along, and instead of the night shift being lined up for the buses, they were walking along the road. So that night I went to the factory as they were coming in for the night shift, and I said: "I saw you walking this morning". "Oh, yes", they said. "we've gi'en o'er takin' bus. We're not as tired as we used to be and we're walking home". That is a very important matter. These are matters that are often overlooked and disregarded.
There is another moral here on noise, a matter which arises on many pages of the Report. Nothing is done in schools about educating young people about noise before they go into the factories. If it was, they would not be so keen on attending and listening at the discotheques and clubs to the blazing noise that deafens a quarter of them before they ever go into the factory. The hearing of more young people is being ruined at the present time by neglect of another kind than being exposed to the noise of a weaving shed or in a factory. This is very easy to prove. I appeal to the people in the Ministry who have to interpret this Report; to the factory inspectors, who have done a wonderful job with the limited resources that they have; and to the new race of doctors who have these things under their surveillance, to see whether they cannot bring forward a little understanding of the dangers with which people are faced when they go into the factories. My Lords, I have no more to say.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for having joined in this debate. He has reminded us that what this is all about is human relations; the relationship of a human being for other human beings, and what can be done by individuals if they set their minds to the task of trying to improve human relationships within an industry. I, for one, am certainly grateful to my noble friend for his decision to come into the debate, despite the fact that he had not put his name to the list of speakers.
This has been a short but a very worthwhile debate, and it was started by an excellent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. It was thoughtful, and it set the background for the debate in a wholly admirable manner. I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, inevitably said very little at some length. I am not being rude about this; it is understandable in the circumstances of the case. The fact is of course that the Government at this stage have nothing to say. They are prepared to listen, and that is right; they are prepared to consult industry, and that is right. Eventually they will come along with what they think is the right thing to do, and then we shall be discussing what I believe may then be called a Green Paper, or perhaps even a White Paper, on the legislative proposals that they might put before us.
My Lords, I am bound from this Box to praise the authors of the Report for its comprehensiveness; for their grasp of the problem, and not least for the recognition that compression is part of the art of getting reports read by busy people. Any, one who has ever worked on this type of report knows of the temptation to include too much detail. The Committee have certainly avoided that, and we can thank them for it. What I am sure we can all welcome in the Report is that it has brought within a reasonable compass the factors that have to be considered by us as legislators, by managers of industry and organisations of workers, as well as professional bodies interested in the safety and health service required in industry. Despite criticisms of it that have been made this afternoon, the Report may well be a textbook for us all for a long time to come. The Report is 556 now a matter to be discussed and argued about in preparation for the legislation which will have to follow.
I very much regret the circumstances which have prevented my noble friend Lord Crook from speaking this afternoon. His interest in the matter was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. I gather I might have found myself differing from him, for he tends to support the main conclusion of the Report. He is very knowledgeable on the topic, and so are many others. All I hope is that out of the clash of opinions may emerge a solution to this problem, which is a difficult and vast one—how vast and how tragic for many people and how costly for the nation is set out briefly in the opening paragraph of Chapter 1 of the Report.
I do not propose to range over the whole Report but to touch upon some of the areas of agreement and disagreement —that is, my own disagreement. It seems to me that the major clash of opinion is bound to develop between those who, on the one hand, will support the conclusion in the Report that we could with advantage move away from close statutory protection towards voluntary arrangements, and, on the other hand, those who fear that without firm statutory control and adeqate supervision the improvements we all seek will not be attained. The former seems to be the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury: he supports the Report in this. I must admit that I tend towards the latter point of view, for if the will to make voluntary arrangements, supported by inadequate compulsion and inspection, had worked well in the past, it seems to me it would not have been necessary to appoint a Committee in the first place to consider this matter, for so much of what the Committee recommend as to care, tidiness, et cetera, represents the commonplaces of good factory or undertaking management. That seems to me to have been stressed by many speakers this afternoon, including the noble Earl, Lord Courtown.
Let me say straightaway that all those who have given any thought to this matter will, I am sure, welcome the proposal for a national Authority for Safety and Health as a potentially powerful force for the reform and improvement of the health and safety of workpeople. The idea of a 557 single authority, backed by a unifying Statute with a unified inspectorate, is surely the right way ahead. An overall Statute, bringing all workers under its protection, must be the start, for, as the Report points out, a vast number of workers, estimated at 5 million, are employed at premises not subject to statutory provision for occupational safety and health. The Statute itself and everything associated with it in the form of regulations and codes of practice should be couched as far as possible in language comprehensible to those who will have to operate them. I know that this is easy to say: it is very difficult to achieve, but it ought to be attempted. These regulations, codes of practice, and so on, will have to be operated by people who will be engaged in the joint consultation we are talking about; they will be engaged in trying, as individuals, to put them into operation on the factory floor or in the undertaking in which they are employed. Such a unifying Statute ought to be largely an enabling Act designed to permit considerable flexibility and fairly rapid adjustments, amendments and innovations to cover new risks which are continuously appearing because of technological changes—and how quickly they come is brought home to us from time to time when we hear of changes and new industries. They are coming all the time, and regulations produced twenty years ago will not now cover many of the things which clearly will emerge as a result of these technological and unavoidable changes in industry.
I must say, in connection with the clash of ideas between greater statutory control and voluntary arrangements, that I find the Report and its conclusion a bit mixed. Whilst stressing the advantages of moving towards a voluntary system, it tells us that joint consultation is essential and that the best answer to the problem of ensuring such consultation would be a statutory requirement dealing in general terms with arrangements for participation by employees. Certainly the most urgent need in the matter of safety and health is for the greater acceptance of managerial, trade union and individual responsibility, backed by firm statutory requirements devised by the Legislature. What I would plead for is joint consultation bodies in undertakings that are quite separate from the normal joint consulta- 558 tive set-up dealing with the application of national agreements and local working conditions. I say this because if safety and health became a matter for those bodies the tendency would be, as it often is now, for such an item on the agenda to be the very last one, or indeed to be squeezed out altogether from lengthy and tiring meetings.
I have experienced this myself in the railway industry, where the local departmental council might have on its agenda something to do with the safety of the undertaking or its working, but almost invariably we seem to concentrate first on matters dealing with conditions of work and the things which we believe will improve them; and we tend to leave safety matters until the very end. So I would plead with the Government to ensure that if they make this a statutory obligation upon management to set up joint committees, these committees will be separate from the normal consultative bodies which already exist within industry and which deal with other matters.
Meetings devoted solely to safety and health ought to go a long way towards ending the dangerous condition of apathy which can affect everyone, from management to the men on the shop floor—and apathy is the greatest danger, for the general attitude tends to become (rather like that of the average car driver, who needs constant reminders of danger)—"It won't happen to me." This is so often experienced by us all in industry—this attitude of familarity breeding contempt of the dangers which in fact do exist. They have to be brought home pretty forcibly to people. I have seen, for example, a man's arm crushed because of his failure to use a connecting pole to join up wagons, leaning over them and making a slight slip, and then finding his arm caught between the buffers and becoming a hideous mess, no longer of any use to him. This was caused by familiarity—he had done it so often—but eventually he was caught by this. It happens, of course, in all industries, this familiarity with the dangers breeding contempt. The dangers are there all the time and must be remembered.
It is suggested that there might be codes of practice. They have become a fashionable adjunct to the legislative process, and I have nothing against such 559 voluntary codes of practice providing they do not become a substitute for regulations and statutory provision but rather an extension of them. They might well offer helpful guidelines, changing as required to meet new situations and new dangers as they arise. This was a point well made by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, who recognised that this must happen and that we must change as changes are produced by industry itself. There is also an urgent need for a more professional approach to the job of securing greater safety through joint consultation. Such an approach requires training and research, and I very much regret the fact that the T.U.C.'s recommendation for a national training centre with regional centres was not adopted as one of the recommendations of the Robens Committee. It is true that each industry has its particular problems, but there are general principles that can be applied to all industries, and I should have thought that the vast experience and knowledge of the Trades Union Congress would have led the Committee to adopt its proposals. But it will be for the Government to make up their own minds on this matter, and I hope that they will give further thought to that aspect of training.
In connection with this aspect generally, the Committee tells us in paragraph 393 that,Despite the general acceptance of the importance of training for improving attitudes and performance the statutory provisions dealing with safety training tend on the whole to be patchy and inadequate.That is certainly something to which the Government must pay special attention when framing their legislation. I believe that this necessity for training and research is one which is of very great importance in this connection.
The Report rightly stresses the importance of the design and the manufacture of equipment with safety aspects in mind, and recommends that the unified inspectorate should pay particular attention to liaison with designers and manufacturers of plant, machinery and equipment. In all this and in their general duties, training and close association with research must be an essential part of ensuring such liaison.
560 It seems to me that for that and the many additional requirements of the inspectorate in the future, a considerable expansion in their numbers is an urgent necessity, as is also a raising of their status, and, as a concomitant of that, improving their salary scales. Some of them start very much too low and they do not go high enough at the end. Theirs is a highly responsible job. This might be costly—adding to an inspectorate is always costly. Increasing their salary scales is bound to be costly; but the cost must be set against the national bill for the economic losses to the nation as a result of accidents in work calculated, as mentioned in the Report, at some £200 million annually. This is a big figure, and if we can do something to reduce it we shall certainly do something of value to the nation. The increased inspectorate, and the money spent on training and research, could and should prove to be a good investment for the nation, to say nothing about the lessening of human suffering. We have heard something about human suffering this afternoon from my noble friend Lady Summerskill, and from my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield, who really does know something about the matter, having been involved in the mining industry. I am bound to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Robens, and his Committee that transport involves peculiar difficulties, and I agree that separate legislation must deal with that aspect. But I also agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said about this. I hope that his speech will be read, and not only of course for his references to the transport industry.
There are many matters in the Report upon which it is impossible to touch at all, or at any length in any speech of reasonable length. I agree with the proposed relationship of the Authority with Government and Ministers, as set out in paragraph 121, and with the proposition of local authority participation in inspection, and note the necessity for care in relation to the unevenness which showed itself in the past in the quality of such local authority inspections. That was to some extent due to authorities being too small. I believe that this will disappear with the new local government set-up under the Bill which we dealt with last 561 year. The penalties, as suggested in paragraph 265, must be strengthened; and I agree with the suggested improvement notices procedure, and what was said about it, by the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, whose speech impressed me as one engaged in this matter. He seemed to be so knowledgeable, as did so many noble Lords who have spoken on this subject this afternoon.
Perhaps I am not being quite fair about this, but it seems to me that the weakest part of the Report is that dealing with occupational health. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, my noble friend Lord Taylor, my noble friend Lady Summerskill, and others, have spoken about this. What is quite clear is that the Employment Medical Advisory Service, which deals with the effect of work on health has a mammoth task to perform with hopelessly inadequate resources, described by one expert as, "derisory". But there is the other aspect of this work, described by the International Labour Office and the World Health Organisation, as having as its aim, "the promotion and maintenance of the highest physical, mental and social wellbeing of workers in all occupational environments, adapted to their psychological and physiological equipment". I do not propose to enlarge very much upon this; but would call the attention of the Government to the excellent speech made on this aspect of health by my noble friend Lord Shackleton on March 9 of last year in the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill which brought the E.M.A.S. into being, for that was a speech by an acknowledged expert who had actually dealt with these matters in a big undertaking. The speeches of so many of your Lordships to-day in this connection are worthy of very careful study by the Government. They all suggested that we must not be put off by the fact that Robens made very slight reference to this matter. We simply must not allow that to happen.
I feel that the Labour Party have something to say in this matter. One of their documents on occupational health, talking of this service as a whole, said this:This must include a service for the treatment of accident and disease at work, whether or not the accident or disease has arisen through work. An occupational service must concern itself with the health effects of various types of work, including ascertainment of fit- 562 ness for employment. This is especially the case as age produces physical changes in workers using muscular strength, and stress symptoms of those carrying mental responsibilities. It must cover rehabilitation, sickness absence, mental health or morale, health advice to individuals and health education. In addition, it must counter the effects of industrial pollution not just upon the workers in a particular industry but upon the environment as a whole.And how well it was, and how right it was, that mental health should be stressed in this connection because of its importance.
I happen to live very near to a young woman who works for Marks and Spencer's, and I have been extraordinarily impressed by what I have been told by her of the care that is taken by that undertaking of her health, of the health of their employees. Perhaps it is unfair for me to advertise Marks and Spencer in this way; there are others, of course; others that have been mentioned here this afternoon, but this happened to come within my personal experience.
My Lords, I must revert in my closing sentences to my main criticism of the recommendations of the Report, of which the Guardian, on July 20, 1972, said:The Committee puts too much faith in human nature. If employers were really so ready for self-regulation four workers would not he killed each day.That criticism appears to me to be wholly justified and I hope that the Government in framing their legislation will not move too much towards what the Report terms self-regulation and away from statutory regulations, which have worked well where they were properly applied, as in the case of the mining industry mentioned by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield. Where they have been properly applied, they have worked well. The statistics in the Report itself show what was done in that industry, the mining industry, backed by statutory obligation. We must think for a long time before we depart from what has proved to be a success in that industry, and certainly in some others.
§ 6.22 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, in winding up an impressively informed and expert debate, I should like to begin by echoing a crucial passage in my noble friend's speech from this Box earlier this afternoon. The Government, as my noble 563 friend told the House, warmly welcome the Report of the Robens Committee. In like fashion they welcome the debate to-day and look forward to a careful study of the remarks of all your Lordships who have taken part. In that respect I should be the first to take the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Champion. The Government also recognise that, while the right organisational framework for the most far-reaching of the Committee's proposals is still a matter for discussion—and the debate to-day has notably contributed, if I may say so, to that discussion—what is beyond question is the great practical value of the Robens Report to our present and future conduct of industrial life. It is diligent, humane and clear, and you cannot ask for better characteristics of a survey so important as this one.
If I may be personal for just a moment, I would say that most noble Lords in and out of Government have probably shared with me the slight sinking feeling that overtakes one before sitting down to tackle a closely argued Report on a subject of great consequence. But I have to say that I became completely absorbed in it—in the slow burn of its caringness and in the disinterested advice which it spelt out to all parties. The secret lay, I felt, in the Report's command and understanding of real life situations where safety and health are involved in work and the work place. And I must say that I was fascinated by seeing the Horse Race Betting Levy Board on the list of those who submitted evidence to the Committee—and I long to know more.
In clean English, too, the Report arrowed the principle of democratic as well as of industrial health.We suggested"—and I am quoting the Report—at the outset that apathy is the greatest single contributing factor to accidents at work. This attitude will not be cured so long as people are encouraged to think that safety and health at work can be ensured by an ever-expanding body of legal regulations enforced by an ever-increasing army of inspectors. The primary responsibility for doing something about the present level of occupational accidents and disease lies with those who create the risks and those who work with them.The point is quite crucial. Our present system encourages rather too much reliance on State regulation, and rather too little on personal responsibility and vol- 564 untary self-generating effort. As to the criticism of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, of this passage, I do not think the Report has confined apathy to any one class; I think it was referring to society as a whole. As other noble Lords have said, a war against apathy is necessary to the health of democracy as a whole as well as to its individual parts. Of course, this applies to those in high places, or even to those who sit at the footstools of those in high places, but I shall deal with Lady Summerskill's particular point in a moment.
The noble Baroness may have been a little unkind to the Robens Committee, because even so long ago as 1938 the Royal Commission on Mines drew attention to the great difficulty of maintaining sustained interest in safety matters. This is true in dangerous industries: how much more difficult in industries where accidents are rare. I am sure that Lord Robens meant no more than this. Your Lordships can, I hope, see from what I have said that, even if circumstances have made this debate about the Report a little late, the Government share in the general warmth of your Lordships' reception of Robens this afternoon.
My noble friend has already said that a decision should be taken before very long; that this debate is practically the last step in our preliminary consultations, and that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment will make an announcement shortly. My noble friend made reference, too, to the announcement of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor just before our Christmas Holiday on the setting up of a Royal Commission on compensation—a subject on which Robens recommended thorough review, and the proposals about which Commission were outlined in the other place by the Prime Minister. It is still the Government's intention to introduce legislation early in the 1973–74 Session, and it was never on the cards that it could be earlier than that: so nothing has really been lost by the delay.
We must get the matter into perspective. Ministers are considering proposals for major reform of the law and institutions concerning safety and health, the first ever in this field and probably the last, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, 565 said, for some time to come. It is essential that decisions they reach should be comprehensive, durable and right. The Robens Committee took two years to gather evidence and to distil their advice. It is only fair that Ministers, who after all will shoulder the final responsibility, should be given adequate time to catch up with the Committee's thoughts, and to set their proposals in the context of Government policy as a whole.
As I have said, the Committee's proposals are wide-ranging and affect many interests. They also place a great deal of the onus of an effective system on people outside Government who represent those interests. Obviously, if any new system is to have a chance of working, we must take these people with us all the way. This means consultation, discussion, explanation and reconsideration on all sides. You cannot do that and be sincere about it in a day. And I believe that noble Lords will welcome this. I believe that the general tenor of this debate has been one of a critical and concerned welcome, and the Government are concerned with detailed criticisms at present, as well as sharing in that welcome.
Of course we are not operating in a vacuum. Governments, like nature, abhor a vacuum and will sometimes rush in as fools where more deliberation would have turned them into angels. We already have laws and institutions in this field. Our aim is improvement—and we must ensure that it is improvement. Let me emphasise that it is not only Government who have responsibilities in this field; there is an enormous amount in the Robens Report that industry can go ahead in implementing without any need for Government action or legislation. For example, making arrangements for better consultations between employers and employees, or drawing up company safety policies, can obviously be implemented without legislation. This would be a fitting recognition of the spirit of the Robens Report and a highly effective contribution to improvement in safety and health standards. The Government will do what they can as quickly as is reasonable, but I hope that no one who can act now will feel inhibited from so doing. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, was really very cheering in this regard.
566 As one would expect of a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury—and let me add my thanks to him at this point—few of your Lordships have felt inhibited in your contributions or your criticisms this afternoon and I must now come briefly to deal with them. I felt that the discussion grouped itself into the following broad categories—let me take the particular cases mentioned: first, the kinds of phenomena causing anxiety; second, the whole vexed question of occupational health and what kinds of services can care for it; third, the problems of sanctions and enforcement, leading, naturally enough, to the fourth and fifth categories, the principles of voluntarism and the creation of a more effective co-operation between all involved in industry: the principles, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, of the clash between greater statutory control and more voluntary arrangements; a clash which, if I may say so, the noble Lord did much to calm and to reconcile.
I have to start on these particular points with something of a confession. My knuckles are still somewhat sore as a result of the rapping they received last autumn from the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, on the matter of the Enthoven lead factory. As I tried to explain at that time, I think the problem arose as a result of a distinction I was trying to make between lead poisoning in the clinical sense and a dangerous level of lead in the blood, about which, of course, the Government were and are concerned. But I should probably have known better than to take on that particular issue not only with a very experienced Parliamentarian and Minister but also with a professional physician. We are, as I say, extremely concerned. Recent improvements in detection techniques have enabled us to identify raised lead levels in the blood well before they can be regarded as clinical poisoning. In the case cited it was found that a number of children had a raised lead level in the blood although our advice was that they were not clinically poisoned and they were therefore moved away to allow the lead level to return to a more normal figure. This particular case was a clear example of the fact, and I am glad that the noble Baroness raised it again, that the division of responsibilities between the factory inspectorate, local 567 medical officers of health and the Department of the Environment would all be reduced by the adoption of those recommendations in the Robens Report.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Lord, Lord Platt, dealt with the question of noise. In his recent Press statement the Secretary of State indicated that some form of legislation might be considered in due course when the effects of noise had been evaluated. The Robens Report also recommends that there should be regulations (I stress the word "regulations") covering harmful noise, including a requirement on employers to monitor noise levels in some circumstances. It also recommends that there should be a specialist branch within the proposed unified inspectorate to deal with and advise on noise problems. I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, that a code of practice for machine noise is also under consideration; and I note the reservations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, about guidelines not being used as ends in themselves.
This leads, I think fairly naturally, to the whole vexed question of occupational health. The Government recognise that the Report has come in for some criticism to-day in this regard. It has been said that the Committee pay too little attention to occupational health or that the emphasis falls in the wrong places. It has been suggested that the Report concentrates on physical accidents and safety at the expense of the broader health issues including, for example, mental health. But the general obligations placed upon employers in relation to the provision of safe and healthy working systems apply equally to safety and to health. In keeping with its recommendations for more efficient organisation and avoidance of duplication of valuable resources the Report avoids recommendations that might cut across the legitimate territory of the National Health Service. It has therefore concentrated its recommendations upon hazards to health arising from the workplace and the job rather than upon the general health care of the individual worker. It is for this reason that the question of mental health, which is not exclusively a workplace problem, is not given special treatment, and I do not believe that the importance 568 of industrial doctors and nurses is underplayed in the Report.
It has also been asked whether the Employment Medical Advisory Service is adequate to do what it is asked to do. I would say, echoing again my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, that this is perhaps a premature question. I note the point about resources, but the E.M.A.S. is not yet operational and we shall have to wait until the day after to-morrow until it is. In a notable speech my noble friend Lord Courtown argued against the rejection of an industrial medical service. The Robens Report argues against the duplication of general medical care on grounds of scarcity of medical resources, and against the inclusion of occupational health provision within the N.H.S. on grounds of practicability and the need to link what is essentially preventative provision to the source of what is being prevented, namely, to the workplace. We will look carefully at what my noble friend has said. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who most courteously told me that she could not be here for the winding-up speech, called for a further inquiry into occupational health. I am able to tell her that a new advisory committee has been established to give advice on the operation of the E.M.A.S. There is substantial medical representation on this committee. Its main function will be to look at the work of the new body and its future development, and this would naturally include examination of future arrangements for occupational health.
I come now to sanctions, a subject which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, took up, among other speakers, and the question of whether they will be harder and how enforcement will work. The Robens Report proposes that improvement notices must be complied with, and I think this was welcomed by my noble friend Lord Mills, whose contribution was all the more impressive coming, as it did, from someone with his background. The Authority inspectors will issue the notices. The employer must appeal against the enforcement within seven days. If the notice is not complied with the court will order compliance, subject to stiff penalties, so I think it can be seen that the process is quite speedy. I must also 569 say to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the inspectorate, both generalised and specialised, will have a crucial role to play in this. He certainly made a powerful case for better work and pay conditions for inspectors.
It has been asked whether provisions for enforcement are adequate. It is sometimes argued that more stringent enforcement is needed. The Report recommends that the main enforcement section of these sanctions should be a direct issue by inspectors of improvement notices, and sometimes prohibition notices, as I have said. This places—which is consistent with the philosophy of the Report—the emphasis on securing improvements before accidents happen rather than on prosecution afterwards. Appeals against such notices would be heard by industrial tribunals. The power of prosecution will of course still remain, and I have already mentioned the point about stiffer penalties.
The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was critical on the grounds that this is a kind of superstructural window-dressing. I think her words were that an expensive superstructure is no substitute for practical administration at ground level. I think it would be a rash Tory who disagreed with that sentiment. I would point out to her that an enabling Act, as suggested by the Robens Report, would not immediately replace existing legislation relating to safety and health at work, which would, of course, continue in force until reviewed or replaced or until it was decided that no replacement was necessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and my noble friend Lord Courtown dealt with non-statutory standards and codes of practice—the voluntarism principle. They asked effectively where non-statutory codes should be used rather than regulations. The Report feels that essentially this is a matter of balance. The Report does not propose that statutory control should be removed in areas where it is obviously needed, but it does suggest that there is great scope for also using non-statutory codes to help raise standards. It was, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Champion, who argued for a mixed system of this kind.
My Lords, in sum where this question of voluntarism is concerned we have to consider with the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, why one should not have 570 principally statutory safety committees or representatives. There have been previous attempts to introduce such a legal requirement, and the Robens Committee felt that more flexible provisions were to be preferred. The Government are looking at both cases.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Mansfield, raised the question of research. The Committee felt that the close coordination and direction of occupational safety and health research both by Government and by outside organisations would be greatly facilitated by the establishment of an authority with sole responsibility to promote safety and health at work. As an ex-researcher, though in a very different field, I would say that obviously the first thing one does is to try and correlate the work already done, and that is insufficiently provided for at present. The Committee believes that the authority would provide a much needed focal point in this area, particularly for the dissemination of research results. The noble Lord asked me an extremely difficult question (and I am glad to see in that respect that he nods his head) and I shall try to get an answer from the Department of Health and Social Security on the question of how much from the industrial industries fund gets channelled into research. We did our best but could not come up with the answer in the time available. I privately welcome also his tribute to Walter Monckton, who was a kinsman of mine by marriage through my noble friend Lady Ruthven of Freeland.
Coming now to the contribution made by my noble friend Lord Gainford, I should like to say to him that I for one shall visit the theatre with much more equanimity in the light of what he has said. I remember reading with appalled concern of the dance-hall disaster in France, and I am glad that he is fairly happy about the provisions here. As to the prevention of fire at places of work, about which he was less happy, he gave us a very helpful but detailed point about fire certificates. We shall look at the matter carefully in the light of the Robens' Report and I shall also pass it on to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross.
My Lords, I come back properly to the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and his anxieties 571 and complaints about statistical method. He would recognise that the Committee suggested that there would be some considerable rationalisation by having a single body responsible for industrial safety and health statistics and oversight of research, rather than several departments. Work is already in progress to introduce a common accident report form for Department of Health and Social Security and Department of Employment purposes. But we would agree with him that there is general agreement that present occupational safety and health statistics are defective in various ways.
In sum, I believe that we all agree that the accidents and ill-health which are still occurring are justification enough for a new effort. The figures speak for themselves: about 1,000 people are killed each year and probably as many again die from prescribed industrial diseases; at least half a million reportable accidents—those accidents necessitating three or more days off work; and there are 23 million working days lost each year—the equivalent of an extra national public holiday, which would be a far more pleasant alternative. The economic cost of these accidents is nut at something over £200 million a year and of course the human costs are unquantifiable, but that does not mean that they can be forgotten. Together with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I find these figures rather disturbing, as I am sure anyone does who troubles to think about them. But what is perhaps even more disturbing, as the Robens Report emphasises, is that so few people seem to care about safety of workpeople or take action to improve the position.
We have been talking to-day mainly about the Government's contribution in terms of legislation and organisation, but I am sure that Lord Robens is right to emphasise that whatever the legal and institutional framework, the Government's most effective contribution will be as a catalyst—to help others to help themselves. It is right that in our capacity as Members of this House we should discuss the Government's contribution to-day, but I hope that in our various other capacities those who are able to influence those most directly affected, either in the workplace where the Robens 572 Committee considers prime responsibility lies, or in industry or safety organisations for whom Robens sees an important new role, all will exert their influence unremittingly. I have every confidence that they will. We in this country initiated the Industrial Revolution that has changed and is still changing life for mankind. We reaped its rewards, and suffered, as we are still suffering, its horrors and dangers. Our challenge now surely is to marry the achievements of our industrial past with the new humanity and concern.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said at the beginning of the afternoon that I had pre-empted many of the things that he intended to say, so the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in his concluding remarks has answered so many of the questions that have been put during the course of the debate that there remains very little for me to say except to thank both Ministers for the courteous hearing that they have given to all noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon and for the useful snippets of information that they have given us, particularly on the question of timing. It is good to know that we can expect legislation in the Session 1973–74. It would have been interesting if the noble Earl had been able to tell us whether that was going to be preceded by a White Paper appearing before the Summer Recess so that any final thoughts which may occur to noble Lords—or indeed to the many other people who are interested in this legislation—could have been presented to the Government before 'the legislation appeared.
I agree with the noble Earl that we do not need to wait until that stage before we start doing things. I should like the Government to consider what means are available to them for drawing the attention of industry to suggestions that have been made this afternoon. For example, the noble Earl mentioned one of them himself: I think it was the question of the written policy for safety within companies. That is a very useful, if minor, suggestion which could be carried out at once by any company that felt like it in advance of legislation compelling them to do so. I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, who felt that this would 573 place a burden on the companies concerned, that what the Robens Committee had in mind was only one sheet of quarto paper, and of course the code of practice on consultation and the code of practice for that particular industry would take care of the detailed nuts and bolts. That would only be an expression of overall company policy within which these things would fit.
Another matter which could be implemented straight away is the appointment of employee safety representatives. That is a point which has been neglected throughout the debate—which rather surprised me. Lord Robens, in spite of the fact that he does not recommend joint safety committees as applicable universally throughout industry, does say that the employee safety representative is an essential part of his framework. Companies could get on with the appointment (in consultation with the trade unions) of such employee representatives. They could be empowered, as my noble friend Lady Seear suggested, to conduct safety audits unheralded in their places of work. That would be a very useful experience for many companies in advance of codes of practice being introduced and it may give them some ideas of what ought to go into those codes of practice when they are finally brought up. The argument of codes of practice versus detailed regulations has been so thoroughly rehearsed that it is not necessary for me to add anything to it except to say that many people think these are an "either/or" and that you either have codes of practice or you have regulations. That is simply not true.
The question of noise has been mentioned. Lord Robens says that there ought to be detailed legislation. But even in the case of areas where codes of practice are not backed up by the sort of legislation that Lord Robens has in mind for noise, there would still be the ultimate sanctions—I say this to the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill—that if a company refuses to pay any attention to enforcement notices it ultimately gets taken to court and the fines that will be imposed will be very much larger than are provided under the existing legislation if that particular recommendation is accepted. So I think that people who infringe the codes of practice need not imagine that they can continue to do so 574 with impunity for very long, because the inspector will sooner or later be able to take them to court. As largely as possibly this matter ought to be resolved without bringing the law into it. I believe that that is a very useful part of Lord Robens's philosophy.
May I mention one final point? This occurred to me as a result of the very interesting remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, on the relationship between occupational health services and the N.H.S. It occurred to me that as we are embarking on a large scale programme for the construction of health centres—and I believe that over 1,000 are scheduled in England and Wales alone—perhaps it might be possible to locate some of those centres within the perimeter of factories, so that there would be a much better connection between occupational health centres and the N.H.S. simply because of the geographical proximity of the health centres to places where occupational medicine was being practised.
Those are all the points I wanted to bring up in conclusion, except again to thank the two Ministers who have taken part in this debate and all those noble Lords who have contributed to the discussion that we have had this afternoon. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.