I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The object of this Bill is to enable effect to be given to the Report of a Departmental Committee. Artificial humidification in cotton cloth factories is at present governed by regulations made under a Bill passed in 1911, which in its turn was also founded on a Report of a Departmental Committee. This question has been the subject of controversy for a matter of 50 years. In the Report of 1911, the workers' representatives made a reservation to the effect that they considered artificial humidification should be totally abolished, or, if that was not possible, that the matter should be reconsidered in three years' time. Unfortunately, the War supervened, and the question was not reopened until some time after the end of the War, when the trade conferences were resumed. At the last trade conference, held in 1924, it was agreed that the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson), should be asked to appoint another Departmental Committee to go into this question. He did, and I am glad that that Committee, which was fully representative of both sides and also of the technical side, after three years' careful inquiry came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that employment in humidification sheds gave rise to more sickness than employment in non-humidification sheds, but they unanimously agreed on various amendments to the existing Regulations which would do much to reduce the serious discomfort to which the workers in humidification sheds were exposed. I hope that the result of this Committee's recommendations will lead to a final settlement of this vexed question.
Yes, Sir. It is obviously desirable that this Bill should become law at an early date, because of the hot weather which is approaching. Although the Committee reported early last year, it was necessary to consult both sides of the industry on the recommendations of the Committee, and it was not possible to prepare a Bill and bring it in until so late last Session that we could not deal with it then. Therefore, we took advantage of circumstances and introduced the Bill in another place at the beginning of this Session. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 enables the Secretary of State to make Regulations, and to that extent is in conformity with the Bill of 1911. The second Sub-section reproduces a Sub-section of the Act of 1911, which is being repealed for the purposes of convenience, and it strengthens the penalties which were laid down in the Act of 1901. Sub-section (3) of the same Clause deals with the laying of Regulations on the Table of the House. Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the question of making it compulsory for a local authority, before they approve of a building which has been erected for the purpose of a cotton cloth factory, to see that the certificate of the local factory inspector is obtained. This Clause reproduces the recommendations of the Committee. Clause 3 is purely a machinery clause.
The Under-Secretary has stated that these proposals have been unanimously agreed to by the representatives of the two sides of the industry, and, in view of that statement, I have no objection to the Second Reading of the Bill. I am, however, anxious to know what is meant by the substitution of 24 months for 12 months in Sub-section (2) of Clause 1. It increases the penalty.
With regard to Clause 2, I am glad that at last the Government have seen the necessity of the factory inspector having something to say before a building is put up for such a purpose as this, by which the health conditions and ventilation of the building may be secured. There are other questions which I desire to raise, but I will reserve them for the Committee stage. I have not had time to see what provisions of previous Acts are being repealed, and I want to satisfy myself that they are in keeping with the feelings of those I represent. Subject to this proviso, I have no objection to the Second Reading of the Bill.