HC Deb 21 November 1939 vol 353 cc1054-6W
Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Home Secretary to how many, and which factories, and in what industries has the power given under Section 59 (1) of the amended Emergency Powers (Defence) Regulations, to dispense with the provisions of the Factory Act, 1937, been applied; how many employés have been affected thereby; in how many, and which, factories and in what industries, with regard to how many employés, has the entire Act been dispensed with; in how many, and which, factories and what industries, with regard to how many employés, have only certain sections of the Act been dispensed with, and which sections; and in how many, and which, of the above cases of dispensation has it been effected after consultation with, and with the consent of, the trade unions concerned?

Sir J. Anderson

It is not possible to give a statistical reply, but the general position is as follows. In no case has the entire Act been dispensed with, nor is there any intention of granting exemptions from most of its provisions. For large numbers of factories in a wide variety of industries I have authorised, for limited periods of time, limited modifications, varying according to circumstances, of the provisions regulating hours of employment. The majority of these authorisations have been given under Section 150 of the Factories Act itself, which empowers the Secretary of State, in case of public emergency, to exempt factories in respect of work on behalf of the Crown, to such extent as he may specify. Defence Regulation 59 (1) enlarges the scope of that Section, but the extent to which action taken under the Regulation goes beyond what would have been permissible under Section 150 would often be difficult to determine.

The number of employes affected is constantly changing, owing particularly to the widespread movement of workers to Government work. The factory inspectors consult local trade union representatives as to particular cases or classes of case. Cases in the same industry and locality often present similar features; and, when the views of union representatives have been obtained as to how a particular class of case should be dealt with, it often becomes unnecessary to consult them about each instance separately, provided general contact with the unions is maintained. The general policy is to maintain close control over hours of work by authorising emergency arrangements for limited periods only, and reviewing the cases at intervals to see how far they can be curtailed in the fight of the amount of available labour and other circumstances.