§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Report of Amendments received.
§ Clause 1 [Preliminary]:
EARL FERRERS moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 9, after ("regulations") insert ("and agricultural health and safety regulations").
§ The noble Earl said: The first Amendment is down, as are many others on the Order Paper, in the names of my noble friend Lord Middleton and myself. 753 At the outset, I should apologise to your Lordships for apparently festooning the Order Paper at this stage with Amendments. In fact, there is only one point at issue with all the Amendments tabled in the names of my noble friend and myself; that is, how the health and safety aspects of the Bill will refer to and apply to agriculture, because agriculture has always had the knowledge, responsibilities, the expertise and the ability to look after the safety interests of that industry.
§ I think it is only right to explain how it has come about that so many Amendments have been tabled. When a Health and Safety at Work Bill was first considered by the previous Administration, it was subsequently produced with a substantial number of clauses which gave the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the right, the responsibility and the duty to make safety regulations and to ensure that they were executed. That procedure was written into the Bill. Of course, there was a General Election; the new Administration came in and they too produced a Health and Safety at Work Bill. The same requirements for the Ministry of Agriculture were retained at the Committee stage. It was only at the end of the Report stage in another place that the Government removed all the clauses relating to the Ministry of Agriculture and made the aspects of the Bill concerning health and safety at work applicable to the Safety Commission.
§ When the Bill came to this House my noble friend and I moved some Amendments to try to clarify the point because it gave rise to a great deal of concern to people involved with agriculture that the peculiar aspects of agriculture would be dealt with elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was kind enough to answer those points at the Committee stage, but, as both my noble friend and I said at the time, we were not satisfied with the reply, although we realised that the noble Lord had done his best to meet the points that we had made.
§ Since the Committee stage, I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, could not have been more helpful to me and my noble friend; he has spoken to me, telephoned me and written to me to try to clarify the various points. However, it is only at this last stage that we are in a position to see what the Govern- 754 ment really have in mind and we are able to reach the conclusion that the right thing to do is to restore to the Bill those parts which were originally included and which referred to agriculture. There are no Party politics in this matter at all. It is an entirely administrative and organisational problem. We want safety in agriculture just as much as the Government. Just as much as the Government, we want the provisions of the Bill to apply to agriculture. We wish safety standards to be as high as they are to-day and, if necessary, higher. Therefore, there is nothing between us over the safety aspects as they apply to agriculture.
§ At the Committee stage I commended the Government for their ability to listen—I mean that seriously—to the arguments put forward. I also commended them on their ability to change their mind; I did that genuinely because there are times when Governments must change their minds, which is not easy to do and I recognise that. But the Government did so. The only point on which I would take issue is that, although it was done with the best intentions, I believe the result is not as good as it would have been had they left the Bill as it stood.
I do not wish to go into any details on why agriculture is different from other industries, other than to quote what the Under-Secretary of State for Employment said at the Committee stage in another place. He said:
As Robens recognised there is a genuine problem that the previous Government and the present Government have had to face in approaching this problem in this context, and the problem is safety at work and the context is agriculture. It arises from the structure of the industry rather than from the health and safety difficulties that the industry presents. That is why".
I think that we have rightly provided in the Bill instead for the Minister of Agriculture to take responsibility for health and safety on farms so that he can be responsible for the enforcement of health and safety requirements by his field officers and co-ordinate that aspect of their work with their other duties. I should emphasise that these special organisational arrangements do not mean that agriculture is excluded from the Bill. The general duty under the Bill—those provided in Clauses 2 to 8, for example—apply to persons involved in agriculture just as much as anywhere else.
§ That is what the Under-Secretary of State for Employment said in justifying keeping the Bill as it was before it was altered.755
Therefore, as your Lordships will see, it is solely on organisational grounds that we wish to make this change. When the Government altered this at the Report stage in another place it caused much anxiety because we wanted to know what would be the safety position for agriculture. We wondered how the safety officers would do their duty, how the field officers would do their duty, whether the safety experts in the Ministry of Agriculture would be transferred to the Commission, and how the enforcement procedures would be enacted. My Lords, when the Under-Secretary of State for Employment was asked about this at Report stage in another place, he said:
I think that the detailed arrangements will have to be worked out in consultation with the Commission. It is too early for me to give a positive and clear-cut answer to the honourable gentleman".
§ When I asked the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, this same question at the Committee stage here, he was unable to answer it. I do not blame him for not answering it—I think the reason was that the details were not properly worked out. But he has subsequently had the courtesy to write to me and has explained how it is anticipated that this will work. But the fact is that when this alteration was made at Report stage on June 18, the appropriate Minister was asked and he did not know how it would work; in your Lordships' Committee on July 4 the appropriate Minister was asked and he did not know how it would work; and it was only on July 9, when the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, was kind enough to explain to me, which he followed up with a letter on July 10, that we really got down to what will happen. I suggest to your Lordships that that is a pretty hasty way of deciding what you are going to do, and how you are going to alter a whole industry. I am glad that it has been worked out, and that the noble Lord has explained to me how the field officers will still be directly responsible to the—
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (LORD HUGHES)
My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl would allow me to interrupt him, because it will be very difficult at the end of the debate to remember the point. But as regards my letter he said that it was rather difficult to tell at this early stage, 756 "how you are going to alter a whole industry". I rather thought that the purport of our discussions and the content of my letter made it perfectly clear to the noble Earl that we were not, in fact, going to alter the procedure so far as the industry was concerned, but were maintaining it.
My Lords, I completely take the noble Lord's point, but that was not made clear either in another place or last week here, and I suggest to the noble Lord that that was because the Government had decided to make this alteration but had not at that time decided exactly how it should be made; and it was only when I heard from the noble Lord that I realised what was in the Government's mind.
My Lords, with regard to the enforcement of the safety regulations, the noble Lord was kind enough to write to me another letter in which he explained how it was envisaged that these safety regulations should be enforced. It is perfectly clear that everything depends upon the content of the agency agreement, because it is the Commission or the Executive that will make an agency agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture in order to carry out their functions—and, my Lords, I stress the word "functions", because the Bill does not give power to the Commission to delegate responsibility: it only gives power to the Commission to delegate its functions. And in this case it does not give the Ministry of Agriculture the power to make regulations: it will only give the Ministry of Agriculture the power to carry out those regulations and to enforce them.
In the noble Lord's letter—and I should like, if I may, to quote part of it, because I think it is important—he said:Clause 13(l)(a) is an enabling provision which empowers the Commission to make agreements with any Government Department for that Department to perform on behalf of the Commission or of the Executive any of their respective functions. In any particular case the Commission cannot of course insist that such an agreement should be made, nor that it should be made on its own terms. The two parties to the agreement will have equal standing, and nothing can be included in the agency contract which is not agreed".The noble Lord went on to say:We have examined the Bill most carefully and have made suitable clarificatory amendments in order to ensure that all the functions, both of the Commission and, where 757 different, of its Executive, can be performed by agents, and that all the powers of the Executive and other enforcing authorities, and of their inspectors, can be made available to those agents and their inspectors as necessary to enable them to carry out effectively the functions which it is agreed that they should perform under the agency contract".My Lords, all this is enabling. It depends, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, explained by letter, what is in the agency agreement. There are two points that come out of this. The first is what is put in the agreement—and, of course, you cannot say in advance what an agreement between two individual people will be. But I understand that the agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Commission would be at a very high level. If the Commission say that they require certain agreements which the Ministry of Agriculture does not wish to see put in the contract, who does it then go to? Eventually the decision will have to be taken, if not by the Permanent Secretary then by the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Employment. My one worry about this is that in this day and age, when eventually it may come up for a Cabinet decision, the chances are that the Minister of Agriculture will not have very much sway; that eventually the decision will be between the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Employment, and I would suggest that the likelihood is that it will be the Secretary of State for Employment who will carry the day. If that is so, then of course eventually an agency agreement will be made which will contain in it certain things which the Minister of Agriculture may not wish to see in it.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, if I may interrupt again very briefly, the noble Earl is correct so far as he goes, but in fact there will be four members of the Cabinet directly involved, including three Agriculture Ministers—the Minister of Agriculture, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales.
My Lords, if there are four members of the Cabinet involved and the remainder of the Cabinet consists of 15 other people who do not hove agricultural interests, it does not seem to me a great exercise in mathematics to think which way this argument is likely to go. The only point that I would make is 758 that it may well go in favour of the Minister of Agriculture's point of view. But the trouble is that it very well may not, and it is in order to cover that point that I would wish to see some of these things put into the Bill.
The second point on that, my Lords, is that I accept entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said in his very kind letter, in which he has made it perfectly clear what the Government's intentions are. He has said in the same letter:We cannot of course require the Commission in statute to seek to make agreements with the agricultural Departments. However, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Mr. Harold Walker, stated quite firmly during the Report stage in another place that the Government proposed the Commission and the agricultural Departments should enter into agency agreements. That is the Government's intention".My Lords, I accept wholeheartedly and unreservedly from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and from his honourable friend, that that is what they intend to do, but the trouble is: what happens in two, three or four years' time? Any Government in the future will not necessarily be bound by the noble Lord's undertakings at this stage.
What happens when a Secretary of State for Employment asks, "What is the law of the land?". He will see what the law of the land is, and he will be told: "Look at Clause 13(1), where it says:'The Commission shall have power…to make agreements...'.".But there is no obligation on the Commission to make agreements. There is no obligation that the Commission should make an agreement with the Minister of Agriculture to carry out the enforcing powers contained in this Bill; and he may well not wish to avail himself of that power, in which case the Commission will undertake all the responsibilities which it was intended should be carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and which it is intended by the noble Lord should be carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture.
My Lords, people say that there may be an Election in the autumn. What happens if other people are in the places which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and his honourable friend now occupy? I have no doubt that they will carry out 759 the undertakings which they have given. What happens if there is a Coalition? We may find a Liberal Minister or a Liberal Secretary of State for Employment. It is worth while thinking about it. Will they be bound by this obligation which the noble Lord has undertaken? I do not think that they will be. The only reason why I seek to move these Amendments—and I hope that the noble Lord will understand that the words are those which the Government had in their own Bill and that they should not be defective in their drafting as they are the original words—is be cause we believe that the Government had it right the first time before they altered the Bill, and that it will work better under the original plan than it will at the moment.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that it is not our intention to have any controversy over any political aspect, nor over the fact that agriculture should have just as much obligation for health and safety as any other industry. We believe, however, that the right people to carry out the obligations are the Ministry of Agriculture. The noble Lord has accepted 'that almost in entirety in his letter, but we just do not believe that without a provision in the Bill there will be the obligation in the future that this should happen. That is the reason for this rather frighteningly large number of Amendments and I hope that the noble Lord will feel on reflection—as I am sure he will—'that the Government were right in the first place, and will be able to say that the Government have considered the matter again and will accept the Amendments. My Lords I beg to move.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD COLLISON
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that I was not present on Second Reading but I was on the Continent attending an international conference and was unable to be here. However, I noted the Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I studied it and consulted my friends. Here I must declare my interest, though I think that it is already well-known. I am the External Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers. I am a member of the General Council of 760 the T.U.C. and Chairman of its Social Insurance and Industrial Welfare Committee, and these bodies are both inter ested and concerned.
I should like to make it clear that I have no doubt about the good will of the two noble Lords who sponsored the Amendment. Their services to agriculture are well-known and greatly appreciated. Nor do I doubt the integrity be hind the way in which the Amendment was moved: I listened to what was said with understanding. Nevertheless, there is another side to the coin. When the Second Reading debate took place, the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, suggested that the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers should reconsider its position on this matter. I can tell the noble Lord and the House that the union has reconsidered the position and that it has declared that it desires the Bill to stand in its present form. I have already mentioned that the T.U.C. General Council is concerned about this, and in particular its Social Insurance and Industrial Welfare Comittee is concerned. I can tell the noble Lord that yesterday that Committee met and re-affirmed that it wants the Bill to stand as it is. It also indicated that it was gravely concerned about the Amendment.
The safety, health and welfare position in agriculture has given concern to us all. I accept that this concern is on the farmers' side and on the side of the Opposition as well as on our side. We have been concerned for years, but the position with regard to accidents has become very much worse as a result of increased mechanisation, the development of all these new and sometimes rather terrifying machines and the introduction of high-risk chemicals and so on in the industry. Indeed, if the decline in the labour force is taken into account, the accident rate per thousand workers is increasing. The Ministry of Agriculture issued a Press Notice on March 27 informing us that 91 people had been killed on farms in England and Wales during 1973, as compared with 95 in 1972, though in the latter year the school-leaving age had been raised and there were fewer young people on the land. Of these fatalities, 25 were children. This, I think, is a very horrible fact to which we have to admit. There has been very little change in the situation since 1971. In 1971 23 children were killed; in 1972, 761 19, and in 1973, 25, and the total of deaths respectively, were 118, 95 and 90.
The situation does not improve, and I want therefore to draw attention to the fact that the Robens Committee itself, having discussed the proposition that agriculture should not be included, turned down that suggestion. If your Lordships will forgive me, I will mention two paragraphs from the Committee's Report. Paragraph 101 says:In the case of farming it was said that farming operations are exposed to natural elements which cannot be controlled, are highly dispersed in very small units, and are characterised by independent working with minimal supervision. Consequently, there was a need for special provisions and for specialist in spection personnel with an intimate know ledge of the industry. We have considered these points carefully.In paragraph 225, the Committee offers its conclusion and its solution to this problem. It says:Special arrangements would be needed in agriculture. As we have seen, inspection of provisions for the safety and health of workers in agriculture presents problems of organisation arising from the fact that farming units are small, numerous and very widely scattered. We think that the new Authority should be resnonsible for administering farm safety legislation"—that is the Commission, the new authority which the Committee is proposing—and that all full-time agricultural safety personnel should be brought within the unified inspectorate. The general run of safety supervision visits to farms should continue to be undertaken by the field officers of the Agriculture Department, acting for this part of their work as agents of the Authority.I think that is really a complete answer to all the points that have been made. Nothing I have said about the tremendous number of accidents in farming is intended to denigrate the services performed by the agricultural inspectors attached to the Ministry of Agriculture. On the contrary, I greatly appreciate them and honour them for what they do. Nevertheless, I am convinced that if there is an argument between the Minister of Agriculture and the Commission there is more likely to be pressure brought in the right way from the Commission. I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture would agree because we all want to see improvement in the techniques of prevention of accidents and in the creation of good health on the farm.
I am saying this because the people who are concerned—that is the N.U.A.W. 762 and the T.U.C. and its specialist committee—want this to take place. These are the people who are concerned with the workers' interests and who ought to know. I believe that the fear that the inspection work will not be done so well ought to be overcome by the fact that the Minister and his inspectors will work as the agents of the Commission. Agricultural workers remember that when unemployment benefit was brought in they were left out and had to organise a campaign to get into the general scheme. They succeeded in the end. The farm workers were not covered by the Factories Act, and as a second best thing they campaigned to have their own Act, the Health, Safety and Welfare Act, which my very good friend Lord Davie s of Leek helped us to obtain in the other place. He was successful in the lottery for a Private Member's Bill and introduced one. It did not go through because Parliament was dissolved. But as a result of that, the Government themselves, your Government, introduced a Bill. So they were left out of that, too.
I know what the farm workers feel because I have been with them for so many years; they feel that they have been treated as second-class citizens, and this ought not to be. The agricultural workers of this country serve their industry, their employers and the nation well. We all know that and we all say that we admire that in them. They are restrained in their actions, are they not? All noble Lords know the history of industrial relations in agriculture. Some people think that they are too restrained. I am not going into other matters about which they are very concerned—and noble Lords will know what I mean—but surely I am entitled to ask your Lordships' House and the noble Lords on the other side, the two co-sponsors of the Amendment, not to press it because if it is carried then the agricultural workers will. I am sure, see this as another affront to their dignity in the great complex of industry which we have in this country.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD MIDDLETON
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Collison, is aware that I share to the full his concern about the welfare of everyone who works in agriculture and, as I said on Second Reading, it distresses me very much indeed that, in the matter of the 763 mechanics of how their safety is best to be looked after, we are not entirely agreed. I am sure that this is a nicely balanced argument. Despite what the noble Lord said, I am quite convinced that our way of doing it will have the effect of producing better safety for the self-employed, the employers and the employees alike. I am sure that they will not look on this as an affront to them. This is a matter of administrative judgment.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Ferrers, has explained how the agricultural clauses—if I may call them that—were withdrawn from the Bill at the Report stage in another place, and that this was a retrograde step. My noble friend has argued fully, both on Second Reading and in Committee, and I shall not go over all that ground again. These arguments were not accepted by the Government and they resisted any attempt to restore to the agricultural Ministers those powers and duties which most people, who are familiar with the industry, consider essential for good administration and for the welfare of the workers, both employed and self-employed.
Nevertheless, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, explained in Committee that an agency agreement would be made where by the Ministry of Agriculture Inspectorate—and as the noble Lord explained, these are the present field officers and safety officers under the Ministry—would be required to continue the job they now do. He undertook to clarify later the chain of command and to explain where the Health Commission came in and where to leave responsibility to the Ministry of Agriculture officers. I believe that his explanation on this point will largely satisfy those who feared a division of responsibility for supervision. On the matter of enforcement, his explanation was not so reassuring. He said:There is absolutely no justification, in health and safety terms, for saying that anyone other than the Health and Safety Commission and its Executive, which we are creating to deal with such risks, should have the responsibility for controlling these risks in agriculture."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4/7/74.]When I withdrew my Amendments in Committee I said that I was not convinced that he had made a case for keeping the Bill as it now is before us. I asked him whether he would bring in 764 Government Amendments at the Report stage which would restore to the appropriate agricultural Ministers the duty of making farm safety regulations, the unshared duty of supervision over the Inspectorate and the undivided responbility for enforcement. In reply the noble Lord offered little hope that he would do this and, of course, he has not done so. As my noble friend has explained, it has been necessary, therefore, to bring in this rather formidable list of 44 Amendments which seek to replace in the Bill the provisions for farm safety that were, up to a late stage as he has said, accepted by the Government.
As I have said, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has been at great pains to clarify the way in which, if the Bill remained as it is now, it is proposed that an agency agreement between the Health Commission and the Agricultural Ministers will work to provide for the satisfactory supervision and enforcement of farm safety regulations. He assured the Committee last week that he would give chapter and verse on the chain of command and on the chain of enforcement, and that I am sure he will do when he comes to reply. I join my noble friend in saying how grateful we are to him for the great trouble he has taken to help us. But all he can do is to explain—and it was high time that it was explained—how the agency agreements are supposed to work. At the end of the day, and this is where we take issue with the Government, there will be absolutely nothing in the Bill to ensure that these arrangements will continue, nor even that an agency agreement will continue. It can be torn up by succeeding Ministers and all that will be left will be the bare Act which merely gives to the Health Commission power to make an agency agreement should it wish to do so. It does not lay upon it any duty to do so whatever. As my noble friend has said, Clause 13(1) is only an enabling provision.
I join my noble friend in saying that I attach great importance to the statements made by Mr. Harold Walker in another place and to those of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, here. We know that the noble Lord is just as concerned as we are about the proper functioning of the arrangements, and I fully appreciate that if they say that this is the way things will be done, in the short term, 765 at any rate, that is how they will be done. However, as my noble friend has said, that is not sufficient guarantee to farmers and farm workers that this matter, which is so vital to their welfare, will necessarily be attended to by the Health Commission in a satisfactory and efficient manner in the future. That can only be done by having it clearly on the Statute Book, and that is where it must be.
My noble friend and I have covered most of the arguments on previous occasions except perhaps for this one: I am not impressed by the Government's view that once you make agriculture a special case in the Bill it opens the door for any other industry to try to obtain special treatment. Agriculture is, as has been repeatedly stated by the Government, a special case and that is why an agency agreement would be necessary under their Bill. Not only is agriculture special by its nature, but it is special in having its own Ministers and its own Department; it is they to whom, by means of the Amendments which we are now moving, must be restored full responsibility for farm safety, a responsibility clearly stated and firmly written into the Bill. Then, agriculture will still reap great benefit from the growing knowledge, research and expertise of the new Health Commission. That is how, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, the industry will get the best of both worlds.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he disagrees with the recommendations of the Robens Committee Report?
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
The recommendation of the Robens Commit tee Report was that agriculture should be dealt with in the same way as other industries.
§ LORD MIDDLETON
My Lords, in view of the fact that agriculture has its own Minister, I am certain that this is the most efficient way to do it.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I should like to add a word or two as a practical and practising farmer. I have listened with great respect to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Collison—and no one has more experience, and no figure in agriculture has been more respected over the years, than the noble Lord. However, I have also been in agriculture for a long time now—I have been a farmer for forty years—and I would say that the Ministry of Agriculture is the one Department that really does fight both for the agricultural industry as such and for the workers in that industry. But it is only one Department, and it can be very easily swamped by all the other Departments who may be involved.
My experience is that if you give this new Commission responsibility for safety in agriculture, you are going to make the workers simply a small proportion of the millions of other workers who have absolutely no interest in agriculture so that they will be swamped, as they very often are, in the general administration of this country. If you were the Minister of Agriculture you would know how often it is difficult, because you are voted down all the time since there are perhaps only 1.million to 2 million workers in agriculture to-day. The figure used to be 3 million, but it is going down rapidly. In order that these people may really be looked after and cared for, the Department's officials are the best people to do so because they have the best interests of the industry at heart.
§ LORD COLLISON
My Lords, if the noble Baroness will give way just for a moment, I should like to make it clear that nothing I said was intended to denigrate what the Ministry of Agriculture or its inspectors did. I admire what they did, but the object of my speech was to indicate that the farm workers themselves, as the Robens Committee recommended, wanted to be taken into the general context of accident prevention and health maintenance machinery.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I respect the views of the noble Lord. Of course, I am not a member of the agricultural workers' union: I am, of course, a member of the National Farmers' Union and I have heard the 767 opposite point of view expressed. It seems to me that the Ministry's safety officers are doing an extremely good job and they are doing it under the auspices of the Department. The noble Lord quoted the figures for fatalities and accidents: I have those same figures here. They are going down quite considerably. In 1973, as he says, there were 91 fatalities, whereas in 1969 there were 115. I agree that we do not want any fatalities, but the number is in fact going down and obviously the work which is going on at the present time is going in the right direction.
I have great fear, when somebody wants to change something, that they will change it for the worse. I may be wrong—I simply do not know—but when you have something working well and you have the figures for accidents and fatali ties getting better every year, when you have a perfectly happy set-up, if I may say so, between farmers, farm workers and the Department, what is the point of changing it simply because there is to be a reorganisation of people in other industries?—that is to say, in all the other enormous industries of this country which between them make up about 97. per cent. of the workers. I should like to keep the ½ per cent., or whatever it is, of agricultural workers where they are now, because the present system works.
It may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Robens, suggested a different system. I have the greatest respect for him in every possible way, but on this point I disagree with him. The present scheme works very well and the fatalities are going down all the time. Here we have a group of people, together with a Minister, who are particularly concerned about agriculture—and agriculture is, as we know, the Cinderella of industry. Why take them out of the present system and put them into the general run of things, with no one in particular looking after them? Why change over to a new system when you are going to use the same field officers of the Department, who know the machinery of the Department, the farmers and the farm workers? At the moment, this is a happy and well-organised combination, so why change it?
I do not believe that change is necessarily always for the better. I am not 768 against change, but if you have something which is working very well why not leave it to continue going very well? The proposals is to take the same people and give them another boss in the shape of the Commission. The Department may or may not be represented on the Com mission, so why not leave the direct line between the agricultural workers, the farmers, and the field officers running straight up to the Department and to the people they know and work with? I think it is a mistake to change that and I would hope that we might be able to persuade the Government, either by argument or by vote, to accept our arguments.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I am very reluctant to oppose the noble Baroness, as she will know, because on so many other occasions we have agreed on social problems; but here I am completely opposed to her point of view. She really illustrates the point I should like to make when she says that here we have the Minister and the farmers in direct contact. I spoke on this point on Second Reading, but I should like to emphasise it.
I cannot agree with the noble Baroness that the figures indicate that the incidence of accidents and disease on the farm is now smaller than it was some years ago. Indeed, we have to think not only of lethal accidents to the farm worker, but of accidents to children. We have to bear in mind the dust disease, which is peculiar to farming, and also the nervous condition from which tractor drivers suffer because of the nature of their work. Would the noble Baroness suggest for one moment that the Ministry of Agriculture could be as objective as the Commission? The Commission will be looking at all accidents and diseases in the country which are related to certain forms of work. Surely the Minister of Agriculture must feel that some of these things may even be a reflection upon his own administration.
My argument is simply related to this one point: that I believe the Commission could be more objective and there is so much to be done for the worker—for although it may be said that the farmer feels himself near to the Minister I do not think many of the agricultural workers do. The agricultural worker would like to feel that there is some organisation such as the Commission, 769 entirely divorced from agriculture, looking at the risks to which the worker is exposed as something they must tackle.
§ LORD GLENKINGLAS
My Lords, I should like to intervene for a second or two on the point just made by the noble Baroness. I think she is entirely wrong, having spent most of my life in agriculture and only a short time of it as a Minister. In that industry more than in any other, the farm worker is very close to the farm owner, as can be seen from the number of agricultural disputes which have taken place in the past: the noble Baroness would not even use the five fingers of her hand to count them over the last 50 years. The farm workers are very close indeed to the farm owners with whom they work every day, and they are not in any way likely to be in disagreement with them or indeed with the Minister. I accept the objectivity of the Commission, but I doubt whether it would work to the benefit of the farm workers.
§ LORD MONK BRETTON
My Lords, if I may intervene briefly, may I declare an interest in farming and also apologise for not having been here during Second Reading or Committee stage. Of course we all want improvement in this matter and we are all very worried about it. I still remain surprised that the N.U.A.W. have readily been sold by the Government the cure at present suggested. I do not think that the farmers are so happy. I am told that about 50 per cent, of the accidents involve the farmers themselves. That has to be borne in mind and the importance of their views should therefore be mentioned. It is the inspectors in the field who count in the long run; it is they who will help most on the ground in spotting where these accidents might occur. I am not so certain that altering the administration at the top is likely to have anything like such an effect. The Government have opted for taking arms against a sea of trouble. Of course, this is a grammatical vagary, but I feel we are in the midst of a certain adminitrative one. I hope we are not totally in disagreement, or appear to be in disagreement, with the Robens Report. It was felt at the outset when this Bill was introduced in another piace that, in any case, the power of the Ministry of Agriculture was as strong in the matter as that of the Commission 770 would be and that therefore there was no difference at all, in the powers availabie. I ask your Lordships' indulgence in put ting this forward and emphasising it once more.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, as noble Lords are aware, and as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made plain at the beginning of his statement, there has already been considerable discussion in Second Reading and Committee about the way in which the Bill deals with health and safety in agriculture. The noble Earl has now retabled his Amendments, despite a discussion that I had with him and his noble friend Lord Middleton on Tuesday afternoon. That meeting lasted about one-and-a-half hours, and at the end of it I thought I had persuaded them both. In fact, I was convinced that if we had been in the House at that moment I should have had no difficulty. But they made it clear they were to have other consultations after that.
I agreed that it would be proper that the House should have the benefit of the discussions that had taken place and of the letters which I promised to write, and it was important that questions which had been put by noble Lords at Committee stage about the enforcement procedure and the chain of command should be on the Record. I shall come back to that later. However, I did not anticipate, when I gave them that encouragement to table this enormous batch of Amendments, that there was much prospect that they would have been persuaded into what I think is the wrong path of seeking to press these Amendments to a Division. I hope that they may yet be persuaded that this is not in the best interests of health and safety in industry generally, nor in the field of agriculture in particular.
I think that I gave a fairly full explanation to the Committee as to why the Government decided to delete from the Bill the provisions which the noble Earl and the noble Lord would now have us restore. I also explained why we are convinced that the Bill as at present drafted will lead to improvements in health and safety in agriculture as much as in all other industry. I asked the noble Earl to justify treating agriculture differently from all other industry in this legislation, contrary, as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Collison 771 and, obliquely at least, if not directly, by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, to what was recommended by the Robens Committee.
Although the prospect of further delays in the completion of this Bill is one which none of us will welcome, the House will want to make its decision on these Amendments on the merits of the case advanced. I was very glad the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, explained and went out of his way to emphasise, that this is not a Party political issue. I hope therefore that if there is a Division the House will vote on the basis of the merits of the case. If it is not clear already, I must make it absolutely clear now that the Government cannot accept these Amendments.
In order that noble Lords may realise that there is a fair prospect of getting away at the time which the usual channels have arranged, although we are speaking to Amendment No. 1, I should explain that if the Amendment should go to a Division which results in its being rejected I would expect the noble Earl to intimate that he will not be moving Amendments No. 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 52, 53 and 54. I do not expect noble Lords to note all those, but I just wanted to give an idea of how many there are. If, as a result of the Division—if it should take place—Amendment No. 1 is made to the Bill, the Government will accept on a formal Motion all the others going into the Bill without further discussion. There are certain Amendments which are down in the names of two noble Lords which fall into a different category, and these will be spoken to when we reach Amendment No. 7. There is a group where there will be common action taken.
The Government cannot accept the Amendments because they are destructive of one of the fundamental objectives of the Bill; that is, the integration of responsibility for health and safety problems in all industry under a new organisation solely devoted to health and safety. Let me stress this. It is not just a matter of administrative tidiness. It is a question of giving health and safety problems the status and priority they deserve, as a distinct entity not subordinated to other industry interests, and not treating them 772 as a Cinderella in the scale of priorities. These Amendments which we are now discussing, whatever the high motives of noble Lords—and that I do not dispute—seek to preserve the fragmentation, the sectional departmental interests, which the Robens Report criticised and which the Bill is designed to change. It is for those who have welcomed this Bill and Supported it to decide what should be done about these Amendments which are hostile to the central purpose and rationale of the Bill.
Noble Lords will not want me to weary the House by traversing all of the ground again. It is up to the noble Lords who have tabled these Amendments to justify their case. It is for them to explain why the Bill should not apply to agriculture in the same way as it applies to all the other different industries, each of which have their own unique features. It is for them to explain why it is only in relation to agriculture that the responsibilities of the Health and Safety Commission and its Executive should be restricted. I say it is for them to explain and justify these things, because such case as there ever was for making special provisions for agriculture did not, and never has, rested upon any intrinsic differences in the nature of the industry's safety problems. The case at first accepted by the Government rested upon the organisational difficulties of enforcing safety requirements in a very widely dispersed industry.
Three things have undermined that original case: first, the Government have accepted the validity of the criticisms levelled against the special provisions for agriculture which the noble Earl would now restore; namely, that they did not deal solely with the organisational problem but went far beyond it in creating a special preserve for the Ministry of Agriculture which is not an organisation solely concerned with health and safety. Secondly, the Government have decided that in a matter as important as this the subject of the matter, improvements in health and safety, should not be subordinated to organisational and administrative difficulties. It is that kind of argument which has kept health and safety in a lowly position far too long. It was because of that that the Robens Committee was set up. Why set up a Committee and then go back to square 1?—because that is what we are being asked to do in agriculture. And thirdly, 773 the Government have proposed a solution to the organisational problem which does not leave safety and health in agriculture where it is now while the rest of industry advances. I think that the points made by my noble friends Lord Collison and Lady Summerskill have emphasised the fact that we cannot be content with the position which has been reached in safety in agriculture at the present time.
The solution is that the Agriculture Department should carry out enforcement functions on behalf of the Commission and its Executive and to its specifications on an agency basis. In our earlier discussions I sought to give explanations and reassurances on specific points concerning this agency agreement arrangement which were raised by the noble Lords who have tabled these Amendments. I explained that the Bill enables the Commission and the Agriculture Departments to make an agreed agency arrangement whereby the expertise of the field officers of the Agriculture Departments will continue to be utilised on safety enforcement duties. Some noble Lords have objected that this would mean that field officers of the Agriculture Departments would have to work to two masters. That is not the case.
If I may remind your Lordships, at Committee stage the objections of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, rested on two points: what was to be the chain of command, to whom were the field officers to be responsible, who would be carrying out these duties? The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, asked my permission to read from the letters which I had sent to him. I said I would be delighted. I should be even more delighted if he read them all. Unfortunately, he did not read in their entirety those parts of the letters in which I answered the questions on which he based his arguments at Committee stage. Does the noble Earl wish to intervene?
My Lords, if I might interrupt the noble Lord, I hope he will excuse me from trying to pluck out those parts of his letters which were most suitable to my case. It was merely that I thought the noble Lord would probably wish to recite his own letters and I did not want to spoil his speech for him.
§ LORD HUGHES
No, my Lords; I am certainly not accusing the noble Earl of having plucked out parts, because I thought I wrote the letters in such a way that there was nothing to pluck out that would be of any help to him. Rather, I was trying to persuade him to accept the point of view of the Government. This is why I was perfectly willing for him to read out the whole of the letters—long as they were; and there were two in number to each of the noble Earl's, identical except for the addresses.
However, I think I ought to point out first of all on the question of the chain of command that I told the noble Lords that the position was that the field officers would be doing exactly the same job in relation to safety as they are doing at the present time; they would be responsible as they are at the present time to their divisional officers; the divisional officers would be responsible as they are at the present time to the regional officers, and it would go right up the chain to the Permanent Under-Secretary in the Department of Agricul ture; and the same of course would apply in the Scottish and Welsh Offices. It is significant that the noble Lords have not returned to the point that this is unsatisfactory.
On the question of safety I have pointed out that the safety officers in the Agriculture Departments will continue to exercise their functions in exactly the same way as they are doing at the pre sent time. I think therefore I can say without fear of criticism or contradiction that I have answered completely and to their satisfaction—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, said in his remarks—their points on the chain of command.
Then we came to the question of enforcement: who was to be responsible for enforcement? I was able to assure them, both verbally and in the letters, that the method of enforcement would be exactly the same as at the present time. If the field officer wanted, as a result of the warnings which he issued and if there was failure to do what he wanted to do m safety fields, to go ahead with a prosecution, he would do so. I assured the noble Lords that their fears that this was something which was being transferred to 775 local authorities were completely without foundation; that the functions of the local authorities, like the functions of the agricultural officers, remained exactly as they are at the present time. If in fact I had written the same letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, and to the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, they could not have expressed fears about the removal of duties from the field officers, because they are expressing fears which do not and will not exist. So both the grounds on which the Amendments were sought to be moved at Committee stage have been abandoned, and we now find completely new arguments being put forward. They may be perfectly valid arguments but they are new ones, and it is to these that I will now direct my attention.
There was the question that the good faith of present Ministers was not in doubt, that we were giving undertakings which we would in fact honour. I think I am correct in saying that both noble Lords accept that if these undertakings are carried out there will be no complaint inside the agricultural industry, and no room for complaint. We therefore come to the situation where it is said: "Aye, but we must look ahead. What about successive Ministers? It ought to be in the Bill." I suggest to your Lordships that if a future Minister is prepared to tear up an agency agreement which is completely satisfactory it would be no safeguard in these circumstances to have the suggested provision in the Bill, because a Minister who was prepared to tear up an agency agreement which was satisfactory would have no compunction about coming to Parliament to seek a change in the legislation. No Parliament can bind its successor. No Government can bind their successor. But what I do know is that, even with changes of Government, we do not go from common sense to complete idiocy. And it would be complete idiocy on the part of any Minister to tear up an agency agreement which was obviously effective. Both noble Lords have made it perfectly clear that they believe an agency agreement can be made perfectly effective. So I do not think we ought to be worried at all about the hypothetical argument that we are going to have either an idiot as Secretary of State for Employment in the future or a collection of idiots at the Agriculture 776 Departments in Wales and Scotland. Admittedly, at times we say hard things about each other in political terms, but we have never based our legislation on assumptions as wild as that.
May I now turn to the duller parts of my statement, the brief which is before me. The noble Earl wants the Agriculture Departments to be made responsible in their own right for enforcement. I explained to him that we cannot do that in an agency agreement. It would mean restricting the powers and responsibilities of the Health and Safety Commission and its Executive. Although we cannot agree to that, we made it perfectly clear that we can make the situation work through the agency agreement in a completely satisfactory way.
Another of the points which the noble Earl then brought forward was that Agriculture Ministers would not have powers to make regulations. But the Bill makes such a provision, so the advice which he has been given to pursue this new line on the Amendments is certainly not sound advice. If we look at Clause 15(9) we see that it reads:The power to make health and safety regulations shall be exercisable by the Secretary of State, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Secretary of State and that Minister acting jointly.If the noble Earl has the big print, it is on page 14. Therefore the power to make regulations is given to the Minister of Agriculture, acting either on his own or jointly. The noble Earl then said that his main worry was that there might be difficulty about Ministers making agency agreements, but nothing in the Amendment' bears any relationship to this aspect.
Finally, the noble Earl said that he was worried about the status of Ministers of Agriculture. They are in good company because the Energy Secretary, the Environment Secretary, the Secretary of State for Wales, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for the Home Department are giving up their safety and health responsibilities to the Commission. Why, therefore, should the Minister of Agriculture be particularly worried that this is an affront to his dignity? I think I can say that if the House votes upon this on its merits we shall not be troubled with any of these 40 or so Amendments in future.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I find that I am unable to support the noble Lords who have spoken from this side of the House upon this Amendment. Many of the remarks which have been made about agriculture could equally have been made about the mines. There is a separate Minister; it is an industry which is entirely separate from anything else. Therefore many of these arguments could equally have been made on that account. The Robens Committee went into this matter extremely carefully and decided in favour of the argument that the Commission should deal with the whole of industry, whether it is agriculture, mines, factories, or anything else. I should have thought that an agency agreement, by which the Minister of Agriculture carried out these jobs on behalf of the Commission, would be quite satisfactory.
May I add that this is by no means an unusual situation. There are many situations in industry where people act as agents for somebody else. In fact, the whole of industry is full of examples where people are working operationally for one line of management and functionally for another, because that is the way in which their work is carried out. People may argue that agriculture is not an industry, but I believe that it is. It is becoming more and more industrialised, whether we like it or not, and I feel that I must support the Government upon this Amendment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that he would come to the "duller parts of his speech". If I may say so, the noble Lord is always persuasive and the most persuasive part of his speech was when he spoke about what he felt, as opposed to when he was speaking from his brief. I will grant the noble Lord that what he said was extremely persuasive. I am glad that the noble Lord re-emphasised the fact that there is nothing of a Party nature about this. It is a geninue desire on the part of people on all sides to make this Bill work. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Collison, made his remarks, because he has had a tremendous amount of experience with the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers and the Trades Union Congress and it was quite right that he should put forward those views. The 778 only thing which I am slightly sorry about is that he said he felt that if these Amendments were passed the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers would consider that it was against their interests. My Lords, nothing that I have said, and nothing in these Amendments which we have put down, would act against the interests of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers.
§ LORD COLLISON
My Lords, I did not say that it was against their interests, although, as a matter of fact, I think it would be against their interests. What I said was that I thought that agricultural workers would be affronted, because they and their union have always believed that agricultural workers have been treated as the Cinderellas of industry. They were left out of th Act dealing with unemployment benefits. They were also left out of the Factories Act. This Amendment will mean that they are left out of this Bill. That is what I meant. They would certainly be affronted.
My Lords, I appreciate that, but fatal accidents in agriculture have gone down over the years and the proportion of those accidents which are incurred by farmworkers is less than 50 per cent. In 1971, there were 116 fatal accidents, of which 43 were accidents fatal to farmworkers. The figures for the next two years were 95, of which 46 were accidents fatal to farmworkers, and 91, of which 31 were accidents fatal to farmworkers. The other accidents were incurred by farmers' contractors, their families, children and so forth. None of that is a cause for complacency. All we want to do is to see that these accidents are reduced as much as possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that our Amendments are hostile to the rationale of the Bill. With the greatest respect, I do not think that they are hostile to it because the rationale of the Bill is to improve safety and health. We believe that the right way to improve safety and health is the way that the Government originally considered correct. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that it is up to those of us who think that the Bill should be different to justify it. It was the noble Lord himself who said at Committee stageBefore going further, may I say that obviously everyone accepts that the agriculture 779 industry is totally different from any other industry in the country. There is no doubt about that.I agree with the noble Lord.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I went on to say that everyone will agree that the mining industry is different from any other industry.
My Lords, the noble Lord then said that it is up to us to say why it is different. In fact, it is the only industry which has its own sponsoring Ministry. That is an historical fact. It is because of this that over the years various arrangements—the inspectorates, the regulations, the consultative procedures and everything else—have been built up. The Department responsible for agriculture has been given the responsibility for safety in this industry. If these Amendments were accepted, we should add to that the fact that they would ensure that the agricultural expertise was added to the safety expertise, which is what the Commission would have. While I accept that the noble Lord's desire is to introduce uniformity into the process, may I respectifully suggest to him that we should not be cutting out the Commission but should be adding to it, because then the safety expertise
§ The noble Lord has said, and has explained in his letters, what they intend to do. All I would say to the noble Lord is that that is not in the Bill, and there is nothing to say that in future any Secretary of State would have the obligation to make the Minister of Agriculture an enforcing authority. There is the power to do so. It may well not be used. It is because we believe that the right way to do it is to give that power and to put it into the Bill, that I hope your Lordships will support this Amendment. I can only say that there is nothing between us in wanting to make the Bill work, but that we believe that what is written into the Bill is inadequate to ensure that in future—not what the noble Lord wishes to do now—one will be able to carry this out.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 73; Not-Contents, 52.781
|Aberdare, L.||Essex, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Ferrers, E.||Northchurch, B.|
|Beaumont, L.||Gainford, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Glasgow, E.||Oakshott. L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Glenkinglas, L.||Onslow. E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Gowrie, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Grenfell, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone.||St. Just, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Hawke, L.||Salisbury, M.|
|Caccia, L.||Henley, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Chelwood, L.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Sharples, B.|
|Colwyn, L.||Hunt of Fawley, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Inglewood, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal,|
|Crathorne, L.||Kemsley, V.||L.|
|Daventry, V.||Kilmarnock, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Long, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Deramore, L.||Lyell, L.||Vivian, L,|
|Derwent, L.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Digby, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Windlesham, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Merrivale, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Middleton, L.||Young, B.|
|Elton, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Birk, B. [Teller.]||Champion, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Brockway, L.||Chorley, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Buckinghamshire, E.||Clwyd, L.|
|Collison, L.||Jacques, L.||Seear, B.|
|Courtown, E.||Janner, L.||Segal, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Leatherland, L.||Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]||Shinwell, L.|
|Douglas of Barloen, L.||Simon, V.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||McLeavy, L.||Somers, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Mais, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Maybray-King, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Melchett, L.||Thurso, V.|
|Gardiner, L.||Norwich, V.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Garnsworth, L.||Pannell, L.||White, B.|
|Hall, V.||Phillips, B.||Williamson, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Popplewell, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Robbins, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 2 [General duties of employers to their employees]:
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR moved Amendment No. 2:
§ Page 3, line 34, after ("(4)") insert ("and (5)").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment will not detain the House for more than a minute. Since the Amendment which was passed at the Committee stage, which inserted at sub section (5) after subsection (4) on page 3 of the Bill, it is necessary to add "and (5)" after the numeral (4) in the old subsection (6), which is the new subsection (7), in line 34. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I am prepared to accept this Amendment as a logical consequence of the new subsection (5) inserted at Committee stage. I do not of course accept the merit of that subsection.
§ Clause 11 [General functions of the Commission and the Executive]:
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 3 which, with a number of other Amendments, is consequential.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 8, line 29, at end insert ("except as regards matters relating exclusively to agricultural operations".)—(Earl Ferrers.)782
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 8, line 30, at end insert ("except as aforesaid").—(Earl Ferrers)
§ Clause 14 [Power of the Commission to direct investigations and inquiries]:
§ Amendment moved—
Page 11, line 30, at end insert—
("but shall not do so in any particular case that appears to the Commission to involve only matters relating exclusively to agricultural operations.")—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ Clause 15 [Health and safety regulations]:
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 12, line 33, leave out from ("46") to end of line 36 and insert ("the Secretary of State shall have power to make regulations under this Section (in this part referred to as Health and Safety regulations) for any of the general purposes of this part except as regards matters relating exclusively to agricultural operations.")—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 6 p.m.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 12, line 42, leave out from ("of") to the end of line 43, and insert ("the relevant statutory provisions other than a provision contained in this Part.")—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, there are a number of Amendments, Nos. 7, 8, 9, 12, 23, 27, 33 and 49 which have been included in the batch of Amendments tabled by the noble Earl. Lord Ferrers, 783 and the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, in order to restoring the Bill to its original state. I wish to invite the noble Earl to withdraw this Amendment and not to move the others because they are not necessary to achieve the purpose which he intended. These Amendments would in fact delete parts of the Bill which are necessary because of other changes which took place during the procedure. I assure him that if in fact he does not move these Amendments he will have achieved at least temporarily—and I hope only temporarily—the purpose which he sought to achieve, with a remarkable degree of support, for his non-Party point
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for having gone through these Amendments with such clarity and case and made sure that some of the ones which we had put down in order, as he rightly said, to restore the Bill to what it was, are apparently unnecessary because of the way in which the Bill has been altered in some of its stages. The matter has been made more complicated by the fact that we have no printed Bills or printed Hansard. However, I am grateful to the noble Lord for assuring the House that if these Amendments are not moved they will not affect the purpose of the original batch of Amendments. Consequently I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment moved—
§ On Question, Amendment agreedto.
§ Page 14, line 9, leave out subsection (9).— (Earl Ferrers.)
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL moved Amendment No.11:
§ page 14, line 17, leave out ("or offshore installations outside Great Britain").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I explain the purpose of my Amendment, may I offer an assurance that I have no financial interest in the subject nor indeed any trade union interest. The matter—a very important one—has been brought to my attention. There have been some articles in the Press recently, in particular a long and 784 informed article on the subject in the Sunday Times. It refers to the hazardous risks undertaken by divers associated with the operation of North Sea oil.
§ The Bill itself provides for the protection and safeguard of the men engaged in this occupation when they are working on shore and indeed when they are operating on the oil rigs—not from any statutory regulations, but because those who employ them are expected to provide adequate safeguards. Between off shore operations and the operations on the oil rigs there is a pipeline, which is sometimes very extensive. At times it is possible that part of that pipeline, depending on the nature of the operation, is outside British territorial waters. The clause of the Bill to which my Amendment refers provides no safeguards whatever for the men engaged on the pipelines who are supposed to be outside British territorial waters. The operations of these men are sometimes very hazardous. They have to go under water in decompression chambers and are provided with oxygen in substantial quantities. When they dive further into the deep, sometimes a matter of 600 ft., the oxygen itself is not adequate and they have to be provided with helium, and that itself exposes them to very great dangers.
§ I do not suggest that I am an expert on this subject, and perhaps I ought not to have addressed myself to it—one should only talk about a subject which one knows something about. At any rate, I know from the information furnished to me that men who undertake these tasks are very highly paid; the rates of pay are consistent with the nature of the occupation and the risks to which they are exposed. However, it seems to me that the safeguards which are provided on shore, and, as a result of contracts with the employers, to some extent provided when the operator is working on the oil rig, should also be available when the men are engaged on the pipeline.
§ It may be said that these men, who are sometimes operating outside British territorial waters, are in a similar position to those who go to sea—members of the Mercantile Marine and the Merchant Navy. But the men who go to sea are protected under the Merchant Shipping Acts and are in a special category. My contention is that these divers, because of 785 the nature of their occupation and the risks entailed, should also be a special category. The question is how are we to get over the difficulty of workers operating outside British territorial waters? It could be done by enforcing a contract, over which there ought to be some form of statutory control and some enforcement from the Government to ensure that they provide all the safeguards, in so far as it is possible to provide adequate safeguards in work of this character. That is one method of dealing with the subject. The other is for the Government to agree to the exclusion of those words "outside British territorial waters".
§ The matter is regarded as of such importance that I believe it was discussed in another place. It has been discussed in circles associated with men engaged in this occupation. I believe many of them are members of the Transport and General Workers Union, although that union has not addressed me on the subject. It is regarded as of such importance that I have been advised that, if there is no adequate response from the Government, save with the utmost good will, I may be compelled to ask those of my colleagues who may be interested in the subject, and who would agree with me that the nature of the work in which these men are engaged requires some consideration, to ask for a Division. The last thing I want to do is to divide the House. I observe that that does not seem to trouble other people. I hope this is not regarded as irrelevant, but I observed in the previous discussion on agriculture that there was a great deal of talk about nobody being concerned about raising a political issue. My noble friend Lord Collison, whom we are always glad to hear (he does not come here as often as I do; I do not blame him for that; he is probably wiser than I am) made a remarkable speech and his arguments were unchallengeable. He seemed to indicate that he was not raising a political issue. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for whom I have the highest regard, made an excellent speech to the notion that there was nothing political about it. Then came a Division and masses of noble Lords came into the Chamber, people who knew nothing about the subject and who could not care less, but who nevertheless voted, not on merits, but politically.786
§ I do not raise a political issue. I merely ask for compassionate consideration and good will on the part of noble Lords who will agree that the men engaged in this occupation, which is more dangerous than any other, even mining at the coalface or going to sea, and who work in the most inclement weather in the Pacific or anywhere else, deserve some consideration. I should like my noble friend Lord Hughes to give the matter consideration, and to have regard to the feelings expressed about this, even in the reputable newspapers. Can the noble Lord furnish me with some assurances either that these matters of adequate safeguards will be available and enforced through the medium of arrangements with the contractors, or by some special arrangement, or by excluding the words in the clause, namely. "outside British territorial waters"? If the noble Lord cannot give me those assurances, much as I regret it I may be asked to force a Division. I beg to move.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
I do not think there is the slightest doubt that in moving this Amendment and speaking as he has done, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has given voice to a great deal of concern about health and safety standards in offshore installations. It is natural that people should want the Bill and the regulations under it to apply to such places without any impediment. I accept that com pletely. But first, in case I am not successful (as I hope I will be) in persuading the noble Lord that his Amendment is not necessary. I should like to take up a rather awkward drafting point.
The Amendment, to accomplish the purpose which my noble friend wants, should only take out the words "or offshore installations". In taking out the words "outside Great Britain", he, in fact, does something different from what he is seeking to do. The reason I say this is that the words "outside Great Britain "apply only to aircraft in flight, and to vessels and hovercraft which are also mentioned in the subsection, although I do not blame my noble friend for not realising that on a reading of the Bill, because if my attention had not been drawn to it in this way, I would have arrived at exactly the same conclusion as he has done. If the whole of the Amendment were accepted, the effect 787 would be that health and safety regulations would not apply to vessels, hovercraft and so on, wherever they were found, in dock, or harbour as well as at sea, unless regulations specifically stated the contrary. I am certain that that is not what my noble friend wants.
What I think he and the House would wish me to do, would be to discuss the question on the basis to which he had addressed himself. I hope that I can satisfy my noble friend by giving an explanation of what lies behind this peculiar-looking subsection. The Bill and all the regulations under it apply to everything and everyone in Great Britain; that is, I understand, within the low water mark on our coastline, unless, of course, any regulations make it clear that they do not apply to particular matters. The Bill does not apply to anything or anyone outside Great Britain, but Orders in Council can be made under Clause 80 which can apply the Bill and regulations made under it to a particular place, activity, person, or whatever, on an entirely flexible basis. This gets round the complex problem of what are territorial waters, how far the Continental Shelf extends, and so on. In addition, this subsection provides that while the powers and general duties in the Bill itself will apply to any place or person brought within scope by an Order in Council, the provisions of the regulations will not automatically apply to air craft in flight, vessels, hovercraft, off shore installations, or persons at work on pipelines and cables when outside Great Britain, unless the regulations state specifically that they do apply. The reason for this is that these matters are specifically covered by other legislation. For instance, my noble friend referred to the seamen being covered by the Merchant Shipping Acts. Matters are also affected by the Civil Aviation Acts and the Mineral Works (Off-Shore Installations) Act.
We want to be sure that when regulations are made under the Bill, they do not inadvertently apply to these matters and thus overlap with existing requirements. By saying that the application of each regulation to ships, off-shore in stallations, and so on must be specifically stated, we ensure that the question of 788 overlap is always considered. We know that at present there are one or two gaps in existing legislation. One of these is the point to which my noble friend directed our attention; that is, that pipelines in certain places cannot be covered. The Bill and the regulations under it can be applied when the other legislation cannot. That is the important point. If satisfactory regulations cannot be made, covering safety on off-shore installations under the Mineral Works (Off-Shore Installations) Acts, then they can, and (what is more important for the point of view of my noble friend) they will be made under the Bill. Nothing in Clause 15(10) in any way prevents that.
Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will accept that it is the intention of the Government to do exactly what he wants in relation to these pipelines or any other off-shore installations, and that this can be accomplished through the provisions of those parts of the Bill to which I have referred. I am grateful to my noble friend for having put down this Amendment because it may afford the matter some publicity. The fact that he has moved the Amendment rather than my having replied to it is, in the circumstances, perhaps a better guarantee of publicity. He seems to have the knack of selecting those things in which people are genuinely interested, and I think this is no exception. If in fact publicity is given outside this House to what he has said as to the effects of the Bill, then I think it will help to allay fears which, as he said, are very widely and genuinely held and yet are mistakenly held.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, in view of those very kind words, I am completely subjugated. Moreover, I think that my noble friend has furnished information which ought to satisfy those who are concerned about this matter. I am very grateful to him for that and for his interest in the matter and the assurance he has given. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I would suggest that is worthy of a quote in the Observer, that I have done what no one has ever before succeeded in doing, sub jugating the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.789
§ Clause 16 [Approval of codes of practice by the Commission]:
§ Amendment moved—
page 14, line 27, at end insert—
("and except as regards matters relating exclusively to agricultural operations")—Earl Ferrers.)
§ 6.23 p.m
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN moved Amendment No. 14:
§ Page 14 leave out lines 34 to 36 and insert ("( ) The Commission shall, before it approves a code of practice under subsection (1) above, consult")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 14 and to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. The object of these Amendments is to remove the need for the Secretary of State to approve all codes of practice before they are issued by the Commission. In Clause 11 it is made the duty of the Commission to submit its proposals to the Secretary of State from time to time, to ensure that its activities are in accordance with proposals approved by the Secretary of State and to give effect to any directions given to it by the Secretary of State. So it is not reducing the influence of the Secretary of State in matters of policy if these codes of practice are issued direct by the Commision. There will be a great many of these codes of practice. They all have to be approved by the Secretary of State. There will undoubtedly be delays, and an excuse will be provided for the future building up in the Department of Employment of staff duplicating that of the Commission.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has kindly written to me to say that he is having to resist this Amendment on constitutional grounds. I am not capable of judging effectively this legal point. No doubt he will spell out the difficulties with his usual clarity. However, when this Amendment was moved in another place, the Government spokesman said he would give further consideration to this matter with a view to introducing some compromise solution in this House. I should like to hear what success the Government has had with this compromise solution.790
§ Apart from the arguments I have already put, there seems to me a real danger that if codes of practice have to be approved by the Secretary of State before issue, the Department of Employment will tend to become the real battleground of argument and not the Commission. Under subsection (2)(a) the Commission has to consult any Government Department or other body that appears to the Commission to be appropriate. If a particular Government Department's view is not accepted by the Commission, or that of some other important body, the tendency will surely be to transfer the argument to the Department of Employment and thus to the Secretary of State. There will need to be only one or two cases where the Secretary of State overrules the Commission to lead to a lowering of the Commission's prestige; future submissions to the Commission will tend to be skirmishes and the real battleground reserved for the Secretary of State. It is one of the most important recommendations of the Robcns Report that there shall be a strong, independent Commission. That is clearly the intention of other parts of the Bill. Here I should like to emphasise again that I am only speaking about codes of practice and not about regulations, which in any case have to be made by the Secretary of State or a Minister under this Bill. I hope the Government may be able either to accept this Amendment or suggest some alternative. I beg to move.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, from these Benches I should like, very quickly so as not to delay the House, to support my noble friend in his Amendments. As he said, assurances were given in another place, not simply to Members who think in the same way as my noble friend but also to the Opposition Front Bench, that the Minister would use the interval between Third Reading there and Report stage here to look at this point again. I appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has written to my noble friend, but we should very much like to hear what he has to say.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, for again putting down these Amendments, which he was unfortunately pre vented from moving in Committee, is to some extent tinged with regret that, as he has stated, I cannot advise the House to 791 accept them. I am grateful to the noble Earl because I think the points he has raised are very important; they deserve the full answer and an explanation as to why, with the best will in the world, we have been unable to find the compromise which my honourable friend in another place said he would try to find. Similar Amendments to this were put down in another place on Report, and it was then that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment gave this undertaking. I wish to assure the House that a great deal of time has been spent in trying to improve the position, and as I said to the noble Earl, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor himself has been very much engaged in looking at the constitutional aspects of Clauses 16 and 17 and the effect which would be created if any further amendment were made.
The effect of these Amendments would be to remove the duty which Clause 16 at present places on the Commission to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before approving a code of practice. Approved codes will be many in number, as the noble Earl said, and will often be highly technical. We should not do anything which would delay the process of producing them. The Commission should assume full responsibility for what will be a fundamental means by which it may seek to improve health and safety standards. Control over the content of approved codes will be safeguarded by the consultations which the Commission are obliged to undertake before approving a code, and by the Commission's general accountability to Ministers and Parliament for what it does. These are all very fair points which, taking Clause 16 by itself would, I think, be irresistible. However, Clause 16 simply provides for the procedure by which codes are made and approved. It is Clause 17 which contains the meat of the matter; that is, the force which approved codes are to have in law, and therefore their force as an instrument for improving health and safety.
What is provided in Clause 17 raises important constitutional considerations which, in effect, means that our hands are tied on Clause 16. Clause 17 provides that approved codes of practice are to have a special legal significance which is virtually as great as that of a Statutory 792 Instrument. Although they are not Statutory Instruments, they may be used in legal proceedings to establish that there has been a contravention of a statutory requirement to which they relate. Unless a person can prove that he complied with a relevant approved code, or did something which was as good as or better than what the code recommended in order to comply with the law, he will be held to have broken the law.
This is a quite unprecedented form of provision. The reason is that codes of practice are intended to give practical guidance rather than to set out specific requirements, breach of which would command a penalty. Codes of practice should have evidential value, like the Highway Code, rather than binding force, but the present situation is quite exceptional. The Government have proposed what is probably the most far-reaching reform in this century of safety measures to protect our working population. One of the greatest problems in this field is that the pace of technological change frequently proceeds at a faster rate than the provision of the safety measures for which it calls. In particular, the passage of legislation and the making of regulations is not a speedy process. To this problem the expeditious issue of codes of practice is the most hopeful answer, but if those codes are to enjoy the confidence of both sides of industry, which is essential for their proper functioning, they must be given the unprecedented degree of force now proposed which, in other less exceptional circumstances, would not be acceptable.
I am sorry, therefore, that I cannot meet the noble Earl on this point. I hope that in the light of what I have said he will agree with me that it is better to stick with what, in some ways, might seem a slightly less than ideal procedure, rather than alter the substance of the matter contained in Clause 17. I hope also that he will accept my assurance that we are as anxious as he is that what is provided in Clause 16(2) should not, in practice, delay the Commission in carrying out its all-important business of preparing and approving codes. I can assure him that Ministers are well aware of this point. I am quite sure that the Commission will not be supine in the matter. I have explained the constitutional position, but there is certainly no 793 reason for anyone to interpret these provisions as undermining the new Commission's primary responsibility for this work. I hope that, with these assurances made publicly and eventually written into the record, the noble Earl will find it possible to withdraw this Amendment, and not to move the succeeding two.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the courteous way in which he has dealt with my Amendment. As I indicated previously, I am not capable of giving effective comment on the constitutional points that he has put, but of course I accept that they are correct. I thank the noble Lord, too, for the other remarks he made about the intention of the Secretary of State and the Department of Employment to use the Commission in the way it is intended to be used. If he will give me an assurance that the present Secretary of State and the Department of Employment intend to insist that other Ministries, other Departments, and important bodies which are due to be consulted by the Commission will put their arguments properly to the Commission, and abide by the Commission's decision—unless it is a very important matter involving major principles—then I am quite prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I certainly have no difficulty in giving the assurance for which the noble Earl asks. If it had been possible, without breaching the constitutional position, to do what he wanted, we should have preferred to do it in that way. But, as I have said, it is a most exceptional practice which is being suggested here, and I think that we probably spent more time on this point than on even the agricultural points, because we genuinely wanted to arrive at what the noble Earl has asked for. I can certainly assure him that having had to do it in the way in which the Bill is framed will not stop us doing exactly as he suggests, because our views are at one on this matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.794
§ Clause 18 [Authorities responsible for enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions]:
§ 6.35 p.m.
My Lords, if it is to the convenience of your Lordships, I suggest that I move Amendments Nos. 17 to 22 en bloc.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 17, line 12, after ("regulations") insert ("or agricultural health and safety regulations",)
§ Page 17, line 24, after ("than") insert "the appropriate Agriculture Minister").
§ After Clause 28 insert the following new clause
§ General functions of Ministers responsible for agriculture in relation to the relevant agricul tura! purposes.
§ ".—(1) It shall be the duty of the appropriate Agriculture Minister—
- (a) to do such things and make such arrangements as he considers appropriate for trie relevant agricultural purposes; and
- (b) to make such arrangements as he considers appropriate for securing that employers, employees, organisations representing employers and employees respectively, and other persons concerned with matters relevant to any of those purposes are kept informed of, and adequately advised on, such matters.
§ (2) The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food shall make an annual report to Parliament of his proceedings under the relevant statutory provisions, and may include that report in the annual report made to Parliament in pursuance of section 13 of the Agricultural Wages Act 1948.
§ (3) The Secretary of State concerned with agriculture in Scotland shall make an annual report to Parliament of his proceedings under the relevant statutory provisions."
§ After Clause 28 insert the following new clause
§ Agricultural health and safety regulations
§ ".—(1) Regulations under this section (in this part referred to as "agricultural health and safety regulations") may be made for any of the relevant agricultural purposes.
§ (2) Agricultural health and safety regulations may be either regulations applying to Great Britain and made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or regulations applying to England and' Wales only and made by the said Minister, or regulations applying to Scotland only and made by the Secretary of State.
§ (3) Where health and safety regulations make provision for any purpose with respect to a matter that relates to (but not exclusively to) agricultural operations—
- (a) provision for that purpose shall not be made with respect to that matter by agricultural health and safety regulations so as to
795 have effect while the first-mentioned provision is in force except for the purpose of imposing requirements additional to those imposed by health and safety regulations, being additional requirements which in the opinion of the authority making the agricultural health and safety regulations are necessary or expedient in the special circumstances of agricultural operations; and
- (b) in the event of any inconsistency between the first-mentioned provision and any provision made with respect to that matter by agricultural health and safety regulations, the first-mentioned provision shall prevail.
§ (4) The provisions of section 15(2) to (10) and Schedule 3 shall have effect in relation to agricultural health and safety regulations as they have effect in relation to health and safety regulations subject to the following modifications, that is to say
- (a) references to the relevant statutory provisions shall be read as references to such of the relevant statutory provisions as relate to agriculture;
- (b) in section 15(4) the references to the Commission shall be read as references to the appropriate Agriculture Minister;
- (c) in section 15(6) and paragraph 23 of Schedule 3, the reference to health and safety regulations shall be read as a reference to agricultural health and safety regulations.
§ (5) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, agricultural health and safety regulations may, as regards agricultural licences under any of the relevant statutory provisions, make provision for requiring the authority having power to issue, renew, vary, transfer or revoke such licences to notify—
- (a) any applicant for the issue, renewal, variation or transfer of such a licence of any proposed decision of the authority to refuse the application; or
- (b) the holder of such a licence of any pro posed decision of the authority to revoke the licence or to vary any term, condition or restriction on or subject to which the licence is held;
§ (6) In relation to any agricultural health and safety regulations made in pursuance of paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 as applied by this section, subsection (2) above shall have effect as if after the words "Great Britain" there were inserted the words "or the United Kingdom"."
§ After Clause 28 insert the following new clause
§ Enforcement of the relevant statutory provisions in connection with agriculture
§ (". Subject to any provision made by regulations under section 15, 18 or (Agricultural health and safety résiliations), it shall be the duty of the appropriate Agriculture Minister to make adequate arrangements for the enforcement of the relevant statutory pro- 796 visions in their application to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes.")
§ After Clause 28 insert the following new clause
§ Application of provisions of this Part in connection with agriculture
§ (".—(1) The following provisions of this section shall have effect with a view to the application of certain provisions of this Part in relation to the Agriculture Ministers or matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes.
§ (2) Subject to the following subsection—
- (a) sections 13, 14, 17(3), 27 and 28 shall apply in relation to the appropriate Agriculture Minister as they apply in relation to the Commission;
- (b) section 16 shall apply in relation to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes as it applies in relation to other matters.
§ (3) In their application as provided by the preceding subsection, the provisions of this Part which are specified in the first column of Schedule (Modifications of Part I in connection with agriculture) shall have effect subject to the modifications provided for in the second column of that Schedule.")—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ Clause 29 [Offences]:
§ Amendment moved—
§ Clause 29 Page, 29 line 11, after ("regulations") insert ("or agricultural health and safety regulations").—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARDmoved Amendment No. 25:
§ Clause 29 Page 29, line 37, leave out from ("false") to ("or") in line 38.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should like to take these two Amendments, Nos. 25 and 26, together. My only object has been to try to remove what I consider to be difficulties in the present wording. Might I just read paragraph (k) in Clause 29, which says here as printed:
to make a statement which he knows to be false in a material particular or recklessly to make a statement which is so false where the statement is made—
What is, in fact, material in any context? My Amendments, if accepted, would make the paragraph read:
to make a statement which he knows to be false or recklessly to make a statement which is false where the statement is made"—
§ That is leaving out the word, "so", which is the effect of the second Amendment, No. 26.
§ What is "material" in this context? I should imagine that all the facts asked for by the inspectors or by the Commission would be material. It would appear to be making this paragraph unnecessarily complicated, and making pointless difficulties, if you leave in the words as now printed, "material particular". I agree that there must be knowledge, or recklessness, as to the falsity. I have looked up precedents for leaving out the word "material" for we have vested in many Acts, such as the Factories Act 1961—
§ BARONESS BIRK
My Lords, would the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, give way? I have great pleasure to inform him that I will accept his Amendment. This will be the first Amendment which I have accepted on behalf of the Government. I should not want to stop the flow of his oratory and if he wants to come to the end of his sentence I will then explain why the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness very much. I have just thought that although it is not in the Amendment as drafted—this is an idea which I can give the noble Baroness—it would be simpler if it read, "knowingly or recklessly making a false statement." That would make it shorter, but as it is not in the Amendment I will not pursue it. I thank the noble Baroness very much. I beg to move Amendment No. 25.
§ BARONESS BIRK
My Lords, for the Record, may I say that there are ample precedents for the form of words contained in the Bill. I want to make it clear that it was not a mistake. This also applies to the form of words which the noble Viscount's Amendments will pro-produce. Probably it is fair that where information required to be supplied to some authority is of a fairly non specific kind, the provision which makes the supply of wrong information an offence should in those circumstances give the man the benefit of the doubt. In this case I have no doubt that the information 798 required will be of a fairly specific nature. Therefore I agree with the noble Viscount that the reference to "any material particular" is over-fussy. Therefore I am happy to accept the Amendment and also Amendment No. 26, which is consequential.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 29, line 9, leave out ("so").—(Viscount Massereene and Ferrard)
My Lords, I suggest that Amendments Nos. 28 to 32 be taken en bloc, if that is convenient to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Clause 29 Page 30, line 39, after ("Executive") insert ("or the appropriate Agriculture Minister")
§ Clause 39, page 35, line 16, at end insert ("the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food".)
§ Clause 39, page 35,line 31, leave out from ("exercisable") to the end of line 33, and insert:
- ("(a) as regards functions with respect of matters not relating exclusively to agricultural operations by the Secretary of State;
- (b) as regards functions with respect to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes by the appropriate agriculture authority.
§ (6A) Regulations under this section as regards functions falling within subsection (6Xb) above may be either regulations applying to Great Britain and made by the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or regulations applying to England and Wales only and made by the said Minister, or regulations applying to Scotland only and made by the Secretary of State; and in subsection (6)(b) above "the appropriate agricultural authority "shall be construed accordingly.")
§ Clause 40, page 36, line 3, after ("than") insert ("agricultural licences and".)
§ Clause 40,Page 37, line 3, leave out ("a") and insert "an agricultural licence or".).—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ Clause 43, [Civil liability].
§ Amendments moved—
§ Clause 43,Page 4, line 4, after ("regulations") insert ("or agricultural health and safety regulations ")799
§ Clause 43,Page 4, Line 11, after ("regulations") insert ("or as the case may be agricultural health and safety regulations ".)
§ Clause 43,Page 4, Line 21, after ("regulations") insert ("or as the case may be agricultural health and safety regulations ".)
§ Clause 45, page 42, line 7, leave out line 7 and insert ("(1) The appropriate Minister may by regulations amend".).
§ Clause 45, page 42,Line 20, leave out ("authority making the regulations") and insert ("appropriate Minister".).
§ Clause 45,Page 42A, line 10, leave out ("authority who has power to make the regulations") and insert ("appropriate Minister").
§ Clause 45, page 42A,Line 28, leave out subsection (4) and insert—("(4) In this section the appropriate Minister means—
- (a) in relation to any provisions not relating exclusively to agriculture operations the Secretary of State;
- (b) in relation to any provisions not relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes that applies to Great Britain or the United Kingdom the Agriculture Ministers;
- (c) in relation to any provisions so relating that applies to England and Wales only, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food;
- (d) in relation to any provisions so relating that applies to Scotland only, the Secretary of State.").
Clause 46, line 32, leave out from beginning to ("so") on page 43, line 1 and insert—
("(1) Subject to subsection (5) below any power to make regulations conferred on the Secretary of State by any of the relevant statutory provisions may be exercised by him either so as to give effect (with or without modifications) to proposals for the making of regulations by him under that power submitted to him by the Commission or independently of any such proposals, but before making any regulations under any of those provisions independently of any such proposals the Secretary of State shall consult the Commission and such other bodies as appear to him to be appropriate.
(2) Where the Secretary of State proposes to exercise any such power as is mentioned in the preceding subsection ").
§ Clause 46 Page 43, line 4, leave out ("under section 11(2Xé0") and insert ("to the Secretary of State ").
Line 20 (Clause 46), at end insert—
("(4) Where the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State or either of them propose or proposes to make any regulations under any of the relevant statutory provisions, they or he shall before making the regulations consult the Commission and such other bodies as appeared to them or him to be appropriate.
(5) Subsections (1) to (3) above shall not apply to any power of the Secretary of State to make regulations which is capable of being exercised by him for Great Britain jointly with
the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.").
lause 48, line 42, leave out from ("exercisable") to the end of line 44 and insert ("(a) in relation to activities not relating exclusively to agricultural operations, by the Secretary of State; (b) in relation to activities relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes, by the appropriate agriculture authority. (4) Regulations under subsection (2) above in relation to activities falling within subsection (3)(b) above may be either regulations applying to Great Britain and made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or regulations applying to England and Wales only and made by the said Minister, or regulations applying to Scotland only and made by the Secretary of State; and in subsection (3)(b) above ' the appropriate agriculture authority ' shall be construed accordingly.").
Clause 49, page 44, line 1, at end insert—
(" "Agriculture", subject to subsection (3) below, includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, livestock breeding and keeping (including the management of likestock up to the point of slaughter or export from Great Britain), forestry, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the preparation of land for agricultural use, and "agricultural" shall be construed accordingly;
the Agriculture Ministers "means the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State and, in the case of anything falling to be done by the Agriculture Ministers, means those Ministers acting jointly;
agricultural health and safety regulations "has the meaning assigned by section (Agricultural health and safety regulations) (1);
agricultural licence" means a licence of the Agriculture Ministers or either of them under any of the relevant statutory provisions;
agricultural operation" does not include an agricultural operation performed otherwise than in the course of a trade, business or other undertaking (whether carried on for profit or not) but, subject to subsection (2) below, includes any operation incidental to agriculture which is performed in the course of such a trade, business or undertaking;
the appropriate Agriculture Minister" means, for the purpose of the application of any of the relevant statutory provisions to England and Wales, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and, for the purposes of the application of any of those provisions to Scotland, the Secretary of State; ")
§ Line 45, at end insert (" "forestry" includes—
- (a) the felling of trees and the extraction and primary conversion of trees within the wood or forest in which they were grown, and
- (b) the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the use of land for other agricultural purposes; ")
Page 45, line 12, at end insert—
(""livestock" includes any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the carrying on of any agricultural activity;")
Line 41, at end insert—
(""the relevant agricultural purposes" means the following purposes, that is to say—
§ Amendment moved—
Page 46, line 14, at end insert—
("(2) In determining in any particular case whether an operation is incidental to agriculture within the meaning of the definition of" agricultural operation "in the preceding subsection, regard shall be had to the magnitude of the operation and to the scale on which it is performed as well as to all other relevant circumstances.
(3) Provision may be made by order for directing that for the purposes of this Part any activity or operation specified in the order which would or would not otherwise be agriculture within the meaning of this Part shall be treated as not being or, as the case may be, being agriculture for those purposes.
(4) An order under subsection (3) above may be either an order applying to Great Britain and made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or an order applying to England and Wales only and made by the said Minister, or an order applying to Scotland only and made by the Secretary of State.
(5) An order under subsection (3) above may be varied or revoked by a subsequent order there under made by the authority who made the original order.
(6) The power to make orders under sub section (3) above shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament")—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ Clause 57 [Amendments of enactments relating to building regulations."];
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD moved Amendment No. 51:
§ Page 52, line 24, after ("power") insert ("and for securing the use so far as practice- 802 able of solid fuels by the provision of flues so as to allow the maximum freedom of choice of all fuels to occupiers of buildings ")
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I tabled this Amendment but thought it would be perilous because some people might think it ought to come in the Report stage of the Housing Bill. However, it can come here. From my point of view, it is better to have it at an earlier stage of the evening than later. I have tabled it here although I had a Question down which had a bearing on this subject a few days ago. Clause 61(b) is concerned with the conservation of fuel and power.
Your Lordships have my Amendment before you and I do not want to read it out. But if it was accepted, the paragraph would read:
Furthering the conservation of fuel and power and for securing the use as far as possible of solid fuels by the provision of flues so as to allow the maximum freedom of choice of all fuels to occupiers of buildings").
§ As I said in my Question, what I am frightened of, and have of course seen it happen, is that supplies of gas and electricity could be cut off through industrial action. This causes great inconvenience and in some cases great hardship to individuals who are the occupiers of public housing, like council housing. It may one day result in the death of some old people. It is extraordinary, because we appear to be planning to spend many millions on the coal industry and on experiments to have solid fuel in smokeless form and various other forms and I cannot understand why local authorities build more and more houses which are unable to burn this fuel. It appears to me to be nonsensical.
§ Of course this situation does not apply to the private sector where any individual can request as many flues as he can afford or as many fireplaces as he wants if he is building a house. But this freedom does not exist in the public sector. It is an undesirable development because it puts the occupier entirely at the whim of Government to increase the price of electricity or gas. We had such an illustration recently over increased electricity charges for night storage heaters, which would have carried a severe increase, but I think another place put paid to that and the proposal was withdrawn.803
§ We are seeing in this country a lack of freedom of choice for the individual being restricted to public housing. I could mention many other instances. If we call ourselves a civilised society, one of the great rules of civilised society is for the indiivdual to have such freedom of choice as is compatible with law and order. I appreciate that that argument will not sway the Government. But surely the argument of burning solid fuel in whatever form must sway them. I ask the Government seriously to consider this Amendment, and in future, not necessarily to force local authorities, but perhaps to put pressure on them, or suggest to them, that they build council houses that have flues or fireplaces. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the noble Viscount will have gathered, as I did not get up to interrupt him, that I am not going to be so helpful as my noble friend. If we do not have anything else in the Government, we still have courtesy: when a Minister can accept an Amendment, we give it to the lady Minister; when we cannot accept it, it is mine. However, we do not disagree with the object to which the noble Vis count has spoken so well. As I understand it, his aim is to enable the building regulations to require the provision in new construction of flues suitable for the burning of solid fuel, thus ensuring that it would be open to the occupiers to use solid fuel rather than, say, gas or electricity if they thought fit. I suggest, however, that in order to achieve this object it is not necessary to add to the purposes set out in the Bill. These include, in subsection (2)(a)of the substituted Section 61,securing the convenience of persons in … buildings.Freedom of choice by the occupiers in the use of fuel can reasonably be regarded as falling within this purpose.
I think it could, in fact, be contrary to freedom of choice if we attempted to legislate that in every building that went up there should be a flue, because nowadays many people purchasing a house or having a house built do not wish to go to the expense of having a flue constructed. As noble Lords know, I was until recently engaged in building houses 804 for sale, and my personal experience latterly is that people have chosen, because they were perhaps putting in a form of central heating, not to have a flue; but, of course, they then have to have other means of ventilating their house. The omission of a flue and a fireplace, in Scottish terms at any rate, provides them with the first £100 to go towards the central heating system, and they would not regard it as a kindness to be compelled to pay for a flue which they did not intend to use. But I think the point in relation to houses being built for letting is a reasonable one; and, again, my own past experience of local government in new towns is that the general practice is to build houses with differences—some will be built with gas heating, some will be provided with electric heating and some will be provided with flues for a coal fire. So there is an element of choice, and somebody who wants to live in a house of a particular form is then given a tenancy in that way.
So I think that in practice, both by the way in which local authorities will operate in rented accommodation and by the way in which owner-occupiers choose to have built for them or to buy the type of house which has the kind of heating which they prefer, the maximum degree of freedom of choice will be given; and, in so far as it is desirable to have something in the Bill, the words which I have read meet the noble Viscount's point. Nevertheless, having said that, and having regard to the responsibilities of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, I will ensure that his attention is drawn to what the noble Viscount has said. I therefore invite the noble Viscount to withdrawn the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for this reply. I raised the subject because I came across this problem once when there was an industrial strike—the power strike. I know one or two old people who suffered very greatly owing to the fact that they had no other means of heating their houses. But having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.805
§ Clause 76 [General power to repeal or modify Acts and instruments]:
§ EARL FERRERS moved Amendments Nos. 52 to 54:
§ Page 79, line 39, leave out from ("exercisable") to the end of line 45, and insert
- ("(a) in relation to provisions not relating exclusively to agricultural operations, by the Secretary of State;
- (b) in relation to provisions relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes, by the appropriate agriculture authority;
|MODIFICATION OF PART I IN CONNECTION WITH AGRICULTURE|
|1. Section 13(1) (various powers).||(a) Paragraph (1) shall be omitted;|
|(b) references to the Commission or the Secretary of State shall be read as references to the appropriate Agricultural Minister, so however that references to the Commission's functions shall be read as references to the functions of that Minister under the relevant statutory provisions in relation to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes.|
|2. Section 14 (power to direct investigations and inquiries).||(a) References to the Commission shall be read as references to the appropriate Agriculture Minister;|
|(b) in subsection (1), the reference to the general purposes of Part I shall be read as a reference to the relevant agricultural purposes;|
|(c) in subsection (2), for the words from "direct" to "other" in paragraph (a) there shall be substituted the words "authorise any", the words "with the consent of the Secretary of State "shall be omitted, and for the words from" only matters "to the end of the subsection there shall be substituted the words" matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes";|
|(d) in subsection (6), references to the Secretary of State shall be read as references to the appropriate Agriculture Minister.|
|3. Section 16 (approval of codes of practice).||(a) In subsection (1), the words from "and except" to "agricultural operations" shall be omitted, but so that the section shall confer power to approve or issue codes of practice for any provision mentioned in section 16(1) only for the purposes of the application of that provision to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes;|
|(b) a code of practice may either be approved for Great Britain and be so approved by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or be approved for England and Wales only and be so approved by that Minister or be approved for Scotland only and be so approved by the Secretary of State, and the references to the Commission shall accordingly be read as references to the Agriculture Ministers or the said Minister or the Secretary of State as the case may require;|
|(c) for subsection (2) there shall be substituted—|
|"(2) Before approving a code of practice under subsection (1) above the Minister or Ministers proposing to do so shall consult the Commission and any other body that appears to him or them to be appropriate.";|
|(d) for subsection (5) there shall be substituted—|
|"(5) The authority by whom a code of practice has been approved under this section may at any time withdraw approval from that code, but before doing so shall consult the same bodies as the authority would be required to consult under subsection (2) above if the authority were proposing to approve the code.".|
|4. Section 17(3) (use of approved codes in criminal proceedings).||The reference to the Commission shall be read as a reference to the Agriculture Ministers or either of them.|
§ (5) Regulations under subsection (1) above in relation to provisions falling within sub-section (4)(b) above may be either regulations applying to Great Britain and made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly, or regulations applying to England and Wales only and made by the said Minister, or regulations applying to Scotland only and made by the Secretary of State; and in subsection (4)(b) above "the appropriate agriculture authority" shall be construed accordingly.
§ (6) In this section "the relevant statutory provisions," "the relevant agricultural purposes "and" agricultural operation" have the same meaning as in Part I.").
§ Clause 80, page 81, line 3, after ("15") insert ("or (Agricultural health and safety regulations)").
§ After Schedule 3 insert the following new Schedule—807
|5. Section 27 (obtaining of information).||(a) References to the Commission or the Executive shall be read as references to the appropriate Agriculture Minister, so however that references to the Commission's functions shall be read as references to the functions of that Minister under the relevant statutory provisions in relation to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes;|
|(b) references to an enforcing authority's functions shall be read as references to an enforcing authority's functions under the relevant statutory provisions in relation to matters relating exclusively to the relevant agricultural purposes;|
|(c) in subsection (1), the words "with the consent of the Secretary of State" shall be omitted;|
|(d) in subsection (2)(b), the reference to the Secretary of State shall be read as a reference to the appropriate Agriculture Minister, and the words "and the recipient of the information "shall be omitted."|
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I suggest that Amendments Nos. 52 to 54 be taken en bloc. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales that they, having been informed of the purport of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Bill have consented to place their prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended, pursuant to Resolution:
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I now beg to move that this Bill be read a third time. We have nearly completed our contribution to this Bill, and I believe that noble Lords will agree that this House can take pride in the part it has played in the enactment of a major piece of social legislation, blurred only by certain defects which I hope will be looked at in another place. Earlier this year a letter in the Financial Times described this Bill as being,one of the most progressive pieces of legislation that has been produced by any Government since the Industrial Revolution".And an article in The Times last Friday said that,even seasoned accident experts agree that it is the best thing to happen to industrial safety since the Act of 1802".Measures which win that kind of accolade do not come about without a great deal of hard work, and without contributions from many minds. We start, of course, with the major contribu- 808 tions made by the Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Robens, whose Report was published two years ago. The subsequent process of consultations and drafting has taken two years, but has in volved an enormous number of persons and organisations. The Parliamentary stages are a culmination of this process of discussion and revision. The Bill was thoroughly discussed in another place, and Amendments were made there on a variety of important points; and now this House has been able to make its own contribution. The next task is to get on quickly with the establishment of the new health and safety organisation. Parliament has entrusted it with heavy responsibilities; and the Government intend to ensure that it will be given every possible help in its vital work of improving health and safety standards in this country. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Hughes.)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said that this is a progressive Bill, which indeed it is. We who have had some opportunity to take part in its progress (and I realise that I have had only a very small one) will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Bixk, for all the parts that they have taken and for the great courtesy which they have shown to us on this side on every question, even on the problems with which I know they would have pre ferred not to become involved. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has been par ticularly helpful in all ways to me, and I am grateful; and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has been extremely helpful to other people on other matters in connection with this Bill. We hope 809 that it will get on the Statute Book, and will be a contribution to safety at work at all stages and in all industries.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a with the Amendments and passed, and returned to the Commons.