I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
First of all, I should like to say how very happy I am to have the opportunity of presenting a Private Bill. It gives an hon. Member an opportunity to put something of great interest before the House, and, bearing that fact in mind, I thought over many subjects and came to the conclusion that the one that affects most people is the question of safety in industry. I hope that before the day is out I can convince the House that my Bill is worthy of a Second Reading and further consideration, though it may be that some hon. Members will not always agree with my methods.
Among the greatest problems that this country has had to face year by year are those of accidents and health. The two combined are responsible for a great loss to the community in terms of £ s. d., manpower and human suffering. This Bill deals with only a part of this great problem of safety and health in employment. We have a clearer picture of what the accident rate means than the one of health, but we are gradually becoming aware of the effect of various industries upon health. I will mention only two, chest diseases and cancer of the lung. In 1950, 16 million working days were lost through bronchitis, though not all of it was due to industrial causes; but they were a vital factor in the main. As to cancer of the lung, we find that in various occupations the incidence is very high. Today, however, I am more particularly concerned with accidents and to a less extent with disease.
We, as a nation, have been apt to accept accidents in industry in a very casual manner. Now workers particularly are thinking much more seriously of this problem. They realise that accidents occur at a much heavier rate than is generally appreciated, hence the growing determination to do something about it. At many trade union meetings I have attended during my working years workers have frequently expressed their concern on this particular question. Until 1948–49 the country never had anything resembling a true picture of this problem. Estimates were produced, but with very little certainty. Statistics had been available with any degree of accuracy only for mines, quarries and factories covering about 9million workers before this time.
Since 1949 reports of the Ministry of National Insurance have provided a more accurate overall picture. Factory workers comprise about one quarter of the total industrial population. Mine and quarry men form a further substantial proportion. These three categories make up a little less than half of the total industrial population of approximately 20 to 21 million. They also comprise the only sections of workers covered by statutory minimum safety standards and for whom official accident figures were available before 1949.
It follows that there are about 10 or 11 million workers in respect of whom there are no statutory regulations. They have to rely upon the responsibility of the employer apart from statute, a position which court decisions show to be notoriously uncertain. These sections of the industrial population include agricultural workers, transport employees, road workers, domestic workers, office workers, together with painters, electricians and many others working in undertakings not covered by the Factories Acts or other legislation.
Ministerial statistics show that employment accidents causing at least three days' incapacity occur at the rate of 700,000 per annum. Of this figure about 230,000 apply to mines and quarries and about 180,000 apply to factories. This means that employment outside mines, quarries and factories, which covers about 11 million employees, is responsible for about 290,000 accidents per annum. These figures have never before been generally appreciated.
It would be useful to make a few comparisons between employment accidents and other accidents. To appreciate the size of this problem, it is helpful to compare the position with road accidents. There are considerably more accidents in mines and factories than on the roads— almost double the number. Road accidents occur at the rate of 208,000 per annum as against 410,000 accidents per annum in factories and mines. Yet the population at risk in road accidents is very much greater than the number of workers at risk in mines and factories.
I quote International Labour Office figures for war casualties. It is very surprising to note that, during the war, the number of British Armed Forces' casualties between 1939–45 was less than the casualties hi British factories during the same period. In the Armed Forces the rate of casualties, including deaths, was 10,667 per month. In the factories the rate was 22,109 per month. Obviously, casualties in the Armed Forces would include many more deaths, but the fact remains that casualties in the factories were twice those of the Armed Forces. These comparisons will almost certainly be a shock to most people. It is time we considered very seriously what they involve.
Let us consider the question of industrial accidents in terms of human suffering. The Ministry of National Insurance says that the average period of total incapacity is about four weeks in industrial accidents. Thus, the annual dislocation of 700,000 workers is very serious in itself from the point of view of human suffering, for many of the casualties involve serious injury—maiming for life and, for many, death. In fatal accidents it is not only the workers who suffer but their families. The number in 1951 was 2,128.
Then there is the question of lost skill to industry. At the end of 1951 about 32,000 disablement pensioners were receiving a special hardship allowance payable where they cannot do their pre—accident work. Another 7,000 such allowances were in payment following lump sum gratuities, making 39,000 in all prevented from doing the work they were trained for because of injury. Taking these figures only, the amount of skill lost to industry and the country is a terrible toll.
Another factor is that of production loss and the cost to the community. In lost production through accidents the country is paying a big price particularly at this time when the country needs to speed up production in order to meet its economic requirements. An insurance expert has estimated that the total loss to the country following factory accidents is at least £100 million. It is well accepted that the incidental costs of accidents are at least four times the compensation paid.
What are the existing methods of accident prevention? At present accidents are prevented, first, by making the employer legally liable for safe plant and a safe system of work; secondly, by statutory minimum standards to be followed in mines, quarries and factories enforced by an inspectorate; and, thirdly, by voluntary efforts.
The factories and mines inspectors do the best job they can, but there are not enough of them. They are not sufficiently well paid to attract adequate recruits. The voluntary safety movement has done excellent work led by such organisations as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; but there are fewer than 4,000 voluntary safety committees in 240,000 establishments covered by the Factories Acts. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. These methods have not produced any substantial reduction in accident figures over the past years.
In 1925, there were 159,693 accidents in factories. In 1951 there were 183,444. It is true that there is a bigger industrial population but since 1925 we have had a new Factories Act, in 1937, and we know a lot more about accident prevention techniques.
The Chief Inspector of Factories stated, in 1927:
In view of the fact that so little was accomplished on voluntary lines and that the number of accidents to the Factory Department shows no signs of any substantial reduction, it was felt that the time had arrived when action must 'be taken … to require by order special provisions to be made to secure the safety of persons employed.
The Draft Safety Order, 1927, was issued. It provided for the establishment of safety organisation at certain works. It was never brought into effect, since the employers gave an undertaking to take steps voluntarily to set up similar organisations. A study of voluntary organisations since that time shows no successful general organisation in factories or elsewhere. There are some good committees but nothing like enough. The Chief Inspector of Factories has constantly expressed dissatisfaction. If the need for a new
approach was felt in 1927, there is all the more need for it in 1954, since the position has very little improved.
What is the employee's position as to accident prevention? The existing methods give him no right whatever to assist in the enforcement of safety standards except to a limited extent under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, and the Potteries Regulations, 1950, under the Factories Act. His only real right is to leave the job if he dislikes the conditions. This is no right at all in these times. He runs the risk of accidents and suffers most from them. He is entitled to rights with regard to enforcing safety standards, calling attention to risks and making suggestions for improvement. That he should be given such rights is no new idea. The precedent has been established in Britain under the Mines Act and the Potteries Regulations.
The International Labour Office, in 1949, published recommended regulations for factories which provided for elected workers' safety delegates and representative safety committees. These recommendations were approved by the British Government. Similar legislation operates in Cweden and Belgium, apart from other countries. We can profit by these precedents and recommendations and by the views of the Chief Inspector of Factories expressed in 1927.
So the question to ask ourselves is: Shall we allow the annual toll to continue? I have already outlined what accidents' mean in terms of suffering and financial loss. Injured workers lose about £14,000,000 per annum through them. A reduction of accidents by one in 10 could save the Industrial Injuries Fund at least £1,500,000 per annum, apart from a great saving in hospital and medical charges.
With regard to the position of the State, there is no doubt that Government Departments pay a good deal of attention to research and accident prevention problems, but the results are slow in being translated into action. The Foundry Workers Regulations, 1953, were based on the Garrett Report of 1947. If my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) had not been fortunate in the Private Members' Ballot and introduced her Foundries Bill, which was subsequently withdrawn on the Government's undertaking to introduce regulations, we should still be without this advance. As it was, the regulations were on the Statute Book within 12 months as a result of my hon. Friend's fortune in the Ballot.
So there must be a new approach. The worker must no longer be denied his right to assist in the maintenance of safe working conditions. Following existing British precedents, I.L.O. recommendations and legislation in other countries, we must be given statutory rights of inspection and complaint, with the right to joint consultation on elected safety committees. Voluntary efforts have not produced adequate results. This method cannot produce worse results and it has every prospect of doing better.
Can the hon. Gentleman quote any instances where an employer has declined a request from workers to have a voluntary safety committee set up in the factory where they work?
There have been resolutions galore about this matter from meetings in almost every industry in the country for very many years. The trade union organisations have been greatly interested in it since long before the war.
The Chief Inspector of Factories has no doubt about the importance of safety committees. He said this about them in 1932:
I envisage the possibility of the Factory Department co-operating in the work of these committees … maximum results are Obtained only when more direct responsibility is placed upon the workers.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has stated:
There can be no question about the desirability of appointing a joint safety committee of management and workers. The formation of a joint committee is of real practical value.
I want to see a national network of such committees, with uniform and defined statutory powers. When the workers know that something can be done, they will use them to the full, and accidents can be reduced. The Chief Inspector of Factories has frequently pointed out the weaknesses of existing voluntary committees which are purely advisory. These weaknesses lead to lack
of confidence as far as the workers are concerned.
The limitation of the employee to a purely advisory role in a matter which affects him so closely has produced an attitude of suspicion to purely voluntary committees and to managerial safety officials which has not been eliminated by the results of their work. Furthermore, the suspicion that too much activity in safety matters will prejudice his employment has not encouraged the worker. For these reasons the position should be defined by statute.
We would all agree that accidents cannot be prevented by Acts and regulations, nor by inspectors who visit periodically. Education, propaganda, co-operation and safety consciousness on the part of employers and employees at the place of work are required in addition.
The proposals in my Bill are advanced because of the facts that I have mentioned and because of the need for a new approach. It is proposed that all employers and employees where more than five are employed must co—operate to set up accident prevention machinery. Safety delegates, protected from victimisation, are to be elected. They have power of inspection and complaint as to bad conditions of work. They can refer matters to the appropriate inspectorate. Where more than 50 are employed, a safety committee must be elected from both sides, and the committee has defined powers as outlined in the Bill. This network of organisation at the place of work could be supplemented by a national occupational health and safety committee with power to recommend new legislation and research.
I am informed that the experts do not agree with these proposals. It would be interesting to know on what grounds they disagree with them. As an illustration of the interest which is taken in the proposals, I have here letters from the principal unions in the country supporting the Bill. These include the National Union of Mineworkers, the Transport and General Workers' Union, the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Employees, and the National Union of Railway men. All of them state that backing can be obtained from the trade union movement for improvements in the field of safety in employment.
The first letter that I have here is one from the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Employees. It says:
The attention of my committee has been drawn to the above—named Bill which you are sponsoring and which, to the best of our knowledge, is down for its Second Reading on Friday next, 26th instant. I am required by my committee to convey to you best wishes for success in your efforts to carry this Bill to the Statute Book.
It was written some time last week.
Therefore, the trade unions support the Bill. One union has written suggesting that the Bill does not go far enough. My answer to that is that the Long Title embodies anything relating to safety in industry. Another union wrote suggesting that certain gas workers might be adversely affected by the Bill. That is not so. The Bill gives the Minister powers of exemption from the conditions under the Bill where existing arrangements are as good as or better than those provided under the Bill. We give the Minister quite wide powers in this Bill. Since the worker is the one who runs the risks of industry and suffers the most from accidents, he is entitled to obtain consideration of his views and a method of ensuring the adoption of the best methods for the preservation of safety and health.
I beg to second the Motion.
Those of us who have had the privilege of listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) must have been impressed by his sincerity and the information he gave, as well as by the compre- hensive way in which he has dealt with the subject. His speech will go a long way towards removing some of the doubts which hon. Members may have had in their minds about this Bill.
Those who have been employed in the mining industry, or have been closely associated with it, are all too familiar with its human tragedies, involving loss of life and limb, pain and suffering, distress of families, and the cost to the nation. When I learned that my hon. Friend had been successful in the Ballot, I guessed immediately that he would bring forward a Bill of this nature, and I congratulate him upon his success.
There is a Bill upstairs at the moment dealing with the mining industry, the Mines and Quarries Bill, but this problem also concerns our factories. We are very much concerned about the present high rate of accidents in our factories and industries. The figures are so high that in 1927 the Chief Inspector of Factories drew attention to this position and recommended a draft Order, mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill, whereby compulsory powers would be placed upon certain industries with a view to introducing measures for improving safety in industry.
That Order was left in abeyance because it was felt that the employers could effect voluntary organisation with the workers, which would go a long way towards remedying the evil. Although a number of safety organisations have been established in industry, and although some of them have done good work, some have not, and this Bill has been introduced because of the failure of voluntary organisation.
I do not want to depreciate the good work done by some of the safety organisations or by the employers. There have been good employers who, by instituting safety committees, have improved the position. A vivid illustration of the present position was given in a lecture by Mr. Bruce, who is a production engineer with Messrs. Thomas Hedley and Company Ltd. He said:
When my company commenced this concerted effort of safety training in 1951, our accident frequency was 3·37 for the previous year, 1950. In 1951, the frequency went down to 1·96, a reduction of 50 per cent. in the number of lost time accidents or a 100 per cent. improvement over the previous year. In 1952, the frequency was even further reduced to 0·59, a 300 per cent. improvement over
the previous year's good figure. Today, our frequency is running at 0·1, a further improvement of 500 per cent. In simple terms, for every lost time accident we sustain today, we were suffering 35 lost time accidents in 1950. The same reduction on a national scale, if it could be achieved, would mean that the 192,000 accidents which were reported to the Factory Department in 1950 would 'be reduced to 5,000 each year. It would probably put the Industrial Rehabilitation Units out of business, but think of the effect it would have on our national productivity.
There is an illustration of where management has gone out of its way to establish safety in industry, and it could be done in every factory in this country. Because it is not being done, my hon. Friend has introduced this Bill.
For a few minutes I want to deal with a serious aspect of this problem, namely, eye injuries. The same rate of accident has obtained for many years. The reported accidents have varied between 9,000 and 10,000 year in and year out. The first time there was any appreciable reduction was in 1951, but even then they stood at 8,000 in factories alone. And remember, those were reported accidents. In the case of the total number of accidents, the figures vary between 4 and5 per cent. and 4 and 8 per cent., year in and year out, in spite of the regulations that have been introduced in some of the industries. The appalling thing is that it is estimated that there are 200,000 eye injuries in industry every year. It is true that these are minor injuries and that the disability does not last for more than three days—
Yes, doctors and lawyers know that, and of course sometimes the unreported accident, where the man has lost only two days, results in complications setting in after five, six or seven months and the man loses his sight.
That is the problem with which this House is faced. I agree that with 241,000 registered factories in the country it might be said that the accident rate is equivalent to one in every factory, but it does not work out like that because 90 per cent. of these eye injuries are sustained in the engineering industry, in the drilling, chiselling, turning and chipping of material and in electric welding.
The same position obtains in the foundry industry where the workers are subject to the greatest risk. Of 10,764 accidents in 1950, 945 were eye injuries and, as my hon. Friend has stated, the factories represent a quarter of the industrial population of this country. If we add to that mining and quarrying, the three Industries together represent just less than half the industrial population of this country. That leaves us with 10 million or 11 million unaccounted for, with no statutory regulations and no adequate records of injuries, except that I have been able to find out that in agriculture, forestry and fishing in 1951 there were 29,000 accidents, equivalent to 4 per cent. of those employed.
In transport and communications there were 49,000 accidents representing 5 per cent. of those employed. What safety regulations obtain in the agricultural industry? Few, if any. What of the railways? Few, if any. And throughout the years there has been reluctance on the part of Governments to interfere in this matter, in spite of the Royal Commission of 1912. There were Departmental Committees set up in 1916, 1917 and 1922, but invariably they said, "Leave it to the employers and the workers. We realise the gravity of the problem, we are aware of the high incidence of accident, but we recommend the employers and workers to do something about it."
We have had years of experience and there is a wealth of knowledge on this subject to workers' safety committees, showing what good employers have done. Governments have been lethargic in dealing with this problem, having regard to the information which has been at their disposal. Take the quarry industry. The Royal Commission in 1912 recommended that there should be eye-guards and other safety precautions, but no safeguards were introduced into any industry for eye accidents until 1922.
This is now becoming a gramophone record about what the Labour Government should have done.
They were in power for only six years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They could not have introduced all the social changes necessary in six years. I am referring to the years before they came into office.
The Royal Commission of 1912 recommended goggles for quarrymen, but the first time any precautions were taken was after the recommendations of 1922. Regulations were introduced in 1938 for certain sections of the engineering industry but the amazing thing was that the quarry industry was then left out entirely. Men employed in factories cutting or breaking stone are now obliged to use goggles or eyeguards, while in the quarry industry there is no safeguard at all.
That is true, but that is a recent development. It was in 1912 that a Royal Commission's recommendations were first made. I do not depreciate the work that has been done by voluntary organisations. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has done a great job. The draft Order of 1927 went a good deal further and set up some safety committees, and in many cases they proved very efficient. The Association of British Chemical Manufacturers, one of the most important sections of employers in this country, has stated:
The idea of joint committees in factories is now so familiar "—
I should like the Minister or the Chief Inspector of Factories to take note of this—
that it is probably unnecessary to say anything more than 'that they can be of great mutual help, which is essential. The formation of a joint committee is of real practical value.
All we say in the Bill is that the desire is to give these committees statutory powers and to set them up in the industry of this country in a spirit of mutual co-operation. Here I would quote from the Report of the International Labour Organisation on Human
Relations in Metal Working Plants. The Report states:
Prevention of accidents in industry has, to a large extent, been considered by management as one of its special responsibilities, the role of the worker being primarily to co-operate through attention to safety rules and practices. A newer approach which may be described as 'worker centred' assumes, on the contrary, that the safety programme should grow out of the work group and should be one which the workers formulate and in which they participate under the leadership of management.
There is nothing revolutionary about that now. Let me quote another statement by the Chief Inspector of Factories in 1929, when he said:
It will be observed that in the great majority of cases safety committees or other organisations have been appointed"—
he is referring to certain sections of the engineering industry—
and there can be no doubt that there has been a big step forward in the Safety First movement. At the same time the reports of inspectors show that there is a great variation as to the efficiency of the organisations and there are far too many instances quoted where lack of interest, lethargy and laxity have been observed.
That is the foundation of the Bill. There is lethargy and indifference also on the part of certain employers.
There is much evidence from other European countries of what can be done. In 1949, the Swedish Workers' Production Group provided for safety committees in industry. There was a Belgian Safety and Hygiene Order, which was passed in December, 1946, making provision for the safety and hygiene committees of workers, in co-operation with managements, with statutory power. In the Model Code of Safety Regulations for industry, drawn up by the International Labour Office, there are many recommendations for the formation of these safety organisations. There is an unanswerable case on all this.
Let me sum it all up. In the first place, there is ample evidence of the seriousness of the problem. In the second place, there is, unfortunately, reluctance on the part of many employers to encourage safety committees because they cling to old customs or fear interference with management. There are various other reasons why they do not encourage the introduction of safety committees. Thirdly, there are the employees—and I readily admit there is a minority of men of this kind— who are loath to accept new ideas. They think it is always the other fellow who will get the accident or will be injured and not themselves. To remedy this they need education, and that means a great deal of work. It is a big job and I am not unmindful of the problem that faces us. It is not easy of solution, but I am confident that it can be done.
In the present stage of development of industry there is much talk about consultative committees and production committees; here we are asking for safety committees with statutory power to pinpoint accidents where they occur. Let me give an example of an accident. Only the other day, within five miles of this House a girl of 17 was employed in a factory. She was operating an unguarded machine when her fingers were caught. She lost two of her fingers. That was a serious accident to her. If the inspector had been there the accident might never have happened and if there had been a safety committee the accident might very well have been prevented.
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury in paying a compliment to what the inspectors of factories have done, but their opportunities are limited. There were only 340 inspectors to deal with 238,759 factories in 1951. They could never have visited all of them. The inspectorate are hopelessly understaffed. I hope that all hon. Members will join with us today and give a Second Reading to this Bill for the establishment of safety committees in industry.
After the great and historic debate which we have had in this House during the last two days, it is fitting, I think, that we should turn today to discuss a matter which affects the people of this country. It is a very personal matter, not one of wide international affairs, but one for which we must all have some responsibility.
Safety in employment is something which must interest every hon. Member in this House and everybody engaged in an occupation, both on the employer and the operative side. Therefore, I have no quarrel whatever with the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) for raising this question this morning. In fact, I congratulate him on doing so. We are grateful to him for the moderation with which he moved the Second Reading of his Bill and for the wealth of statistical detail which he laid before the House.
We are also indebted to the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), who spoke from a great experience, but I am not sure that he was not a little partisan in what he said against the employers in one or two of his remarks, and I will come to that in a moment. It is just as much in the interests of management—possibly more so—that accidents should be reduced to the lowest possible level as it is to anybody else.
I wish, first, to comment on the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill, because I think it is a little misleading. It states:
The purpose of this Bill is to introduce accident prevention machinery based upon cooperation between employers, employees and official inspectors to reduce the rate of occupational accidents and minimise the hazards of employment.
If it were that, I think we should be in full accord with the hon. Member for Dewsbury, but, unfortunately, it is not. I think that the terms of the Bill are likely to make more difficult and partly to wreck the co-operation which at present exists in industry in the matter of accident prevention. The Explanatory Memorandum goes on to state that the average rate of factory accidents runs at about 180,000 per annum.
There has been a striking reduction in the number of accidents per thousand of employees in this country both since 1927 and since 1937-38. We can congratulate ourselves and the Labour Government can also congratulate themselves that during their six years of office the accident rate fell sharply. But that fact does not seem to be borne out in the Explanatory Memorandum.
If we take the number of employees concerned, I think that the actual reduction in the accident rate since 1927 is something like 25 per cent. The Explanatory Memorandum goes on to quote the proposals embodied under the Draft Safety Order, 1927. I was interested to see what the Inspector of Factories had to say in his most recent Report, that for 1951. He said:
In 1927, a Draft Order requiring safety organizations in the more dangerous classes of
works was published, but voluntary compliance was in the end judged to be a more successful method of progress.
I would emphasise those words in the Report of the Chief Inspector about voluntary compliance being a more successful method of progress, because I think they are most important.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the threat of compulsion in 1927 appears to have created a tremendous impetus in the voluntary principle? We hope that this Bill will have the same effect.
I am not arguing that, but I would point out that the 1927 legislation only referred to certain dangerous occupations in the engineering industry and did not involve the wide scope of this Bill. This Bill covers the whole field. Indeed, the hon. Member for Dewsbury made that point himself. We must remember that today we are discussing matters covering employment not only in factories and workshops, but in shops, offices, farms, commercial premises, mines, docks, ships, building operations, and all sorts of occupations.
I am not criticising the Bill on that score, but I think that is a point we should bear in mind. At the moment I am discussing the Explanatory Memorandum, which goes on to state:
This Bill is based upon recommendations made by the International Labour Office
That is partly true because the Labour Office did make certain recommendations, but it also made others of a more startling nature which the hon. Member has been wise enough to discard in this Bill, such, for instance, as that dealing with workpeople who suffer accidents through carelessness, and who, it was suggested, should be prosecuted in the courts, and things of that sort.
Then, I think rather unwisely, the Explanatory Memorandum quotes Sweden as an example. As a matter of fact, the fatal accident rate in Sweden as compared with that in this country—as far as one can compare them—is very much higher and shows a much smaller reduction since 1937 than that in this country. We have a very much finer statistical record in accident prevention than has Sweden, in spite of the compulsion that exists in Sweden.
I am sure they would, but I know that Mr. Speaker has a long list of hon. Members who wish to speak in this debate, so I think I had better get on with my speech.
Great play has been made about what the Chief Inspector of Factories said in 1927. True, 1927 is not a very long time ago, but it is over a quarter of a century ago, and I prefer to deal with more up to date matters. There has been an enormous change for the better in industry in general in the last 25 years. The whole spirit has changed in many ways in factory and welfare organisations as a result of the legislation introduced in 1937. I am not trying to make any party issue out of this, nor do I think are hon. Members opposite. We can all take credit for such improvement as has been made and can contrive to get further improvement.
The criticism that I would make about the hon. Member for Dewsbury and the hon. Member for Bedwellty is that in their Bill they go back so far, and never seem to come up to date. I do not like making quotations, but I think it is important that I should quote from a speech made at a conference on industrial accident prevention which was held on 30th September, 1953, and was organised by that most admirable body, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The Chief Inspector of Factories used these words, which I think highly relevant to the issue of whether we have compulsory or voluntary accident prevention in industry.
We realise that it is not possible to deal with many of these problems, and certainly not with the human factor, by means of legislation There are certain Orders in Council in this country, and ordinances in other countries, which lay down as a statutory requirement the
formation of welfare, health and safety committees, but I always maintain that that is not the right way to deal with the problem. It is easy to lay down a regulation that a committee must be appointed by the management, and find that the management, having appointed a committee, which is probably absolutely useless, consider that they have fulfilled their legal responsibilities. The spirit, however, must be there, and you will find that spirit only by working on the voluntary system. I am sure that what success we have had in this country has been helped and built up very largely by the efforts of industry itself, supported by such bodies as the Industrial Welfare Society and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
That is the point I wish to drive home this morning. The crux of the matter is whether we should continue, by voluntary co-operative methods to reduce the volume of accidents, or whether we should jettison all that and rely upon the obligations laid down by Act of Parliament. I have been in favour for many years of voluntary co-operation between the two sides of industry, and the Government intervening and the like.
There are very interesting tables in the Report of the Factories Inspector proving that the rate of accidents has gone down. If we take 1937 to 1951—which is the scope of the graphs in his admirable Report—we find that between those years the rate of accidents for men has gone down from 40 to 30 per 1,000; boys, 50 to 30, and girls from 15 to 10. Women remained more or less stationary at 10 per 1,000. In the case of men and girls those are big reductions—and more especially with regard to boys.
Of course, every accident is one too many, and we must do all that we can to reduce the rate still further. But I do claim that, as the Chief Inspector says the present method is working. Let us intensify our efforts to get joint negotiation, but let us not throw over the method which has given such results as those which I have quoted.
The right hon. Gentleman puts great stress on what the Chief Inspector of Factories says. He reiterates that the Chief Inspector says that the present system is working, but does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that even the Chief Inspector does not say that the present system has successfully eliminated accidents, or brought them down to a minimum?
No one could claim that accidents have been successfully eliminated, and I do not think that that is a very relevant interruption, although I was glad to give way.
I hope that the House—and particularly those hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate—will have studied the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. It contains a wealth of information and I wish that it got more publicity. I believe that I will have everyone with me in asking whether the Government could consider giving it a very much wider distribution. It is rather bulky and one is perhaps a little frightened at its two or three hundred pages, but if a shortened version could be made available in large quantities to industry, on both employers and trade union sides—right in the factories and not only in headquarters—I think it would be valuable. I hope that that suggestion may go forward.
May I say how much I agree with the right hon. Gentleman and how much I hope we can deal with this question of more widely publishing this kind of information, even at some cost to public funds?
I am quite sure that any expenditure on the prevention of accidents would not be challenged by the House.
On page 50 of the Report, Table 3 shows the number of accidents in the different industries over the last four years. If I may introduce a personal note, I am proud—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), who was such a distinguished Minister of Labour during the greater part of the Socialist Administration, would be proud, also—to claim that the printing industry with which both he and I are associated has the lowest rate. Our accident rate is now down to 0·62 per 1,000, as against 0·73 in 1948. In the grand total for all industries in this list it was 2·24 in 1948 and had been reduced to 1·7—which is more than 25 per cent.—by 1951.
I think I have said enough on those lines to show that there has been a distinct and continuing improvement. In 1937, there was not quite that pressure on industry that exists today. There has been a considerable speeding up; behind each operative there is a great deal more mechanical power and we are endeavouring to build that up further each day. As more machinery is provided there is more risk of accident, but in spite of that we can claim that the accident rate is coming down steadily and quite steeply. I therefore say that this is not the time to pull up the plant to see how the roots are growing.
I hope that the House will forgive me when I say that in my own industry I have always had—and I believe that this is general practice in industry; it certainly should be—a report on my desk whenever there has been an accident anywhere in our works. It does one good, and also does the managements in the different factories good, to know that such an accident report is furnished.
Although it is not relevant, perhaps I may be allowed to comment on the accident rate among old people. My right hon. and learned Friend and his Committee have done great work in getting more of the older people to remain actively and happily at work. It is interesting to note that the Chief Inspector of Factories finds no significantly higher rate of accidents among older people compared with those in the prime of life. People over 65 years of age are not more prone to accidents. Of course, if they do have an accident—especially falls— they take longer to get over it, but the rate of accident is no higher. Let no one in industry, therefore, refuse to employ old people, thinking that they will have more accidents. The figures show that they will not.
I want to emphasise how important it is for management that accidents should be reduced. What are the factors involved if there is an accident in a factory or works? First of all, there is the suffering and the loss to the person concerned, but there is also the loss of output in the department, especially if the victim happens to be an important key operative. Thirdly—and this is important —there is the disturbance and distress caused in the factory by observing an accident, resulting in a considerable loss of output during that day. In addition, there are the compensation costs. Therefore, every accident has a fourfold bad impact on higher production and efficiency in the factory, and anything that any factory management can do to reduce accidents should be done.
Everybody has a part to play—the operatives; the trade union representatives, who are very important in this matter; management, both on the floor and in the office; the factory inspector and, last but not least, the machinery maker. There should be the utmost cooperation with the machinery maker to see that proper guards are provided from the start. So often guards are only provided when an accident has taken place.
The law places responsibility on the management. All the Factories Acts and legislation of a similar nature have imposed upon the employer the statutory duty to provide for the safety and welfare of his employees, and I am sure that that is right. I believe that the proposal in the Bill, which appears to involve some sort of independent organisation alongside the employer—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is how I read the Bill; I am sure it would do much to break down the present system, and I believe it would be dangerous.
May I say a few words on health, because although we lose a great number of hours through accidents, we lose far more through sickness. An admirable report, the Dale Report, was published recently, and I think we were all pleased to learn from my right hon. and learned Friend that it was receiving the active consideration of the Government.
I urge the Ministry to push on as fast as possible with its study of the question whether some greater co-ordination should be undertaken, and whether an industrial health organisation should be set up with wide powers, which might well improve the industrial health of the nation and give us an enormous advantage. I believe that the T.U.C. is very keen on this idea, and I know that certain employers' organisations are, too. I hope we shall not press the Minister to reply now, but I believe that this is a matter which should be studied, and I hope he will get advice from his National Joint Advisory Council of employers and trade unions.
I apologise for the length of time that I have spoken, but I have been trying to show that while no one can claim perfection, gains have been and are continuing to be made under the Factories Acts with the voluntary and friendly cooperation of all concerned. I believe that this Bill would damage seriously, and possibly fatally, that co-operation. Therefore, I am afraid that, for one, I could not support it.
I am not sure, either, that Private Bill legislation in this House on a Friday after a heavy week in Parliament is really a suitable vehicle for endeavouring to change the whole system of the great mass of the community. I may be wrong. I do not wish to be pontifical about this matter, but I believe that Private Bill legislation—as against Motions and the like—should deal with specific individual subjects which might otherwise be lost in the spate of national legislation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] That is my view; I am not seeking to impose it upon hon. Members.
I should like to see this whole matter reconsidered by the trade union organisations, the employers' organisations and the factory organisations in the same way as the I.L.O. functions. The I.L.O. is a pattern for this matter in that it represents trade unions, employers and Governments—the tripartite system which Mr. Bevin and Sir John Forbes Watson did so much to build up. If after consideration by those bodies—the Factories Inspectorate, the employers and the trade union organisations—this House was asked for statutory alteration in the safety relations, then I am certain that the House would give it. But do not let us make vitally important changes in the whole basis of our factory legislation without that wholesale support from the factory inspectorate, the employers and the trade unions. If we got that support well and good, but without it I ask my hon. Friends not to push on with this Bill.
As I have been called early in the debate, I intend to be brief and to the point. I am by no means an authority on the working of factories. My own experience has been to attempt to tour the factories in my constituency, which number over 60— quite a colossal task—but as there are so many of them I think it is important that I should make a contribution to this debate.
All those factories would be affected by this Bill. Their products range from glass, rubber, paper, tin, textiles and small nails. I have been a local workmen's safety inspector in the mining industry, and I do profess to be an authority on that aspect of the matter. Oddly enough, the miners have enjoyed since 1911 the rights which this Bill seeks for factory workers. I think the time is now due for a similar system to be introduced into the factories.
The miners have enjoyed the right of choosing their own safety inspectors. They have the right to inspect, with a member of the management, the whole of any pit at least once a month. They also have the right to make statutory reports at the conclusion of their inspection and to summon Her Majesty's Inspector of Mines to any pit. If a similar system, particularly the one embodied in this Bill, could be introduced into the factories, the accident rate would be drastically reduced.
The inspectorate system includes a chief, plus his juniors; then lower down the scale we have the regional safety board inspectorate, generally speaking composed of ex-miners with qualifications, who are paid by the National Union of Mineworkers, and they control a zone of pits and examine them daily. I am sure that in such a hazardous and dangerous industry all this is most necessary. The pits are now becoming highly mechanised and there is a tendency for the accident rate to increase. We are, therefore, very pleased indeed that there exists on the Statute Book the right for our own workmen's inspectors to inspect the pits every month. In the factories, however, I notice that there are 180,000 per year, in a working population of approximately 10 million, who are not covered by any local statutory inspection system, and this indeed is a shocking and serious figure. It could be drastically reduced if this Bill became law.
I want to make a comparison—a fair one, I believe—between the accident rate on the roads, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), and that in the factories. He mentioned a figure of 208,000 accidents per year. That figure seems to include fatal accidents, because the number of non-fatal accidents is approximately 203,500 per year out of a population of approximately 49 million. At present, the accident rate in factories is running at 180,000 per year out of a working population of 10 million.
I am only pointing out that we have 180,000 accidents per year in the factories covered by the Acts out of a total working population of 10 million, compared with 203,000 accidents on the roads, out of a population of 49 million, which shows that there is a far higher accident rate in the factories than on the roads.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member that this is a very serious matter, but in the interests of accuracy he should make it plain that the whole population is never on the roads at the same moment, or anything like it. The figure of 203,000 accidents must therefore be related to a far smaller figure—probably half the figure of accidents in factories.
If I reduce the figure from 49 million to approximately 30 million on the roads, there is still a far higher accident rate in the factories. We are not facing the issue by trying to hide behind the fact that the whole population is not upon the roads all the time.
Why should we not conduct a drive to reduce accidents in factories? Why should we not have a national campaign, similar to that which is conducted on road safety, which could receive a good send—off with the passing of this Bill?
Our system of factory inspection by the workers lags behind that of many other countries. In France there are works committees, elected by the workers and presided over by the employer, which play a predominant part in the administration of industrial welfare. This is enforced throughout France by law. There are also hygiene and safety committees made up of workers and management. In Sweden, under a law passed in 1951, any industrial undertaking employing more than five workers must employ a safety delegate, chosen from the workers. In any undertaking employing more than 50 persons there must be a safety committee, made up of representatives of workmen and management, similar to that proposed in this Bill. In Belgium, by a law of 1948—which is not yet universally applied—all industrial undertakings employing more than 50 men must have a works council, which is empowered to make suggestions on conditions of work, welfare and safety. We are lagging far behind these three countries in the matter of safety and the inspection of factories.
The hon. Member could carry that story a little further. Can he tell us whether, as a result of these schemes, those countries are succeeding in reducing the accident rate as fast as we are?
I have not the figures of accidents abroad, but, even if they are higher than ours, these countries are taking some statutory measures to see that they are drastically reduced, and we should not be complacent and apathetic. Just because our accident rate of 180,000 a year may be less than that of other countries, we should not leave it to the good-will of management. From my experience the good-will of the management does not always benefit the men.
The Bill is very short. It contains only five Clauses, including the interpretation Clause. It would not be very difficult to put it into effect. It provides for a national safety and health committee, consisting of representatives from employers, workers and the interested voluntary safety societies, and also from the Ministry. It provides for the setting up of safety committees, at a local level, in factories employing 50 or more men, and for safety delegates where more than five and less than 50 men are employed, and provides that the employer shall take the necessary steps to institute these safety and health committees.
That is all we are asking the Minister to consider. The principle of the Bill is an excellent one, and in practice it is capable of preventing many unfortunate accidents which now occur. The employers stand to gain just as much as the workers. The involuntary absentee rate would be cut, production bettered, and output per man—shift would tend to increase. The House must be aware of what happens to workers who are competing with the speed of the lathe, the machine or the production belt. Hon. Members on this side of the House are probably more fully aware than hon. Members opposite of the frustration and neurosis which arise from this repetitive and speedy work. This is a consistent danger, and risks may be taken which a safety delegate would fully understand and would know what remedial steps to take. My experience backs me up in this.
In view of what could be gained if this Bill became law—lower factory accident rate; greater participation by workers in the industry, which is one of the things which hon. Members opposite fear; a reduction in voluntary absenteeism and, hence, a higher output—this Bill receives my whole-hearted support.
The hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) sought to obtain support for his Bill on the grounds that it would reduce the number of accidents which take place, and he was at pains to draw attention to the fact that this type of legislation is applied in Sweden, but when he was asked to produce evidence to show that that legislation had been effective in that country he said he had no evidence.
That means that he had no evidence. We are much more concerned with the results to be expected from this legislation than with the fact that other countries have adopted it, because it is results that we look for. I shall supply the evidence which the hon. Member was unable to give. In the case of fatal accidents, whereas in Britain, in 1937, the rate was ·12 per thousand, and was reduced, according to the last available figure, to ·07, in the corresponding period in Sweden the accident rate began at ·26 and has remained at almost the same figure. It is now ·23.
It is not fair to quote such figures, in view of the fact that the makeup of industry in the two countries is so different. This law was passed in Sweden only in 1951, and there has not been much time for the committees and safety delegates to be appointed.
I am not comparing the two countries. I am saying that the reduction of the accident rate in this country, to roughly one-half, between 1937 and 1949, compares more than favourably with virtually no reduction in the same period in Sweden.
I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) in welcoming the opportunity to discuss this matter, but I noticed that three quarters of the speeches of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch), in moving and supporting the Second Reading related to the importance of the subject, its relation to production, the human effect of accidents, and so forth, and only one quarter related to the proposals in the Bill. In so far as their speeches drew attention to the importance of the subject and will persuade industry in general to take even more effective action voluntarily to reduce the rate of accidents, clearly this debate will have been of the utmost value; but in so far as they suggested a great departure from the methods now employed, which are improving matters speedily, then I think they are much to be regretted.
I was glad that my right hon. Friend gave the figures to show that an improvement has taken place. I do not propose to repeat them. No hon. Member will deny that the human factor is of the utmost possible importance, but I do not believe that by legislation we can create that enthusiasm and spirit of co-operation without which arrangements made under statutes will not fulfil the purpose for which they were designed. For that reason I support my right hon. Friend in saying that the element of compulsion here is a misplaced idea, however excellent the motive behind it may be.
Moreover, there is no doubt that if this Bill were made law it would take from management that very proper responsibility for safety and health that now rests firmly upon its shoulders, and we should have the quite absurd situation arising that responsibility for safety would rest in one quarter and the financial means for providing the remedies would rest in another. If safety measures are to be effective it is essential that those who have the financial means to provide them, to provide the practical remedies, guards and the like, shall be the selfsame people who have the responsibility for keeping the accident rate and sickness rate down.
Will not the hon. Gentleman admit that the worker has a stake in this matter? Does he not contribute each and every week throughout the whole of his working life so that if he should be crippled or otherwise injured he may have a few shillings a week?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have thought fit to suggest that we here are unmindful of the effect on the individual of an accident. What I am saying is that the law places on management, in my view quite rightly, the responsibility for seeing that safety and health measures are properly carried out.
—but hon. Gentlemen opposite who interrupt. What I am saying is that the responsibility rests firmly and squarely on the management, and ought so to remain, and that it is wrong to seek to place it elsewhere, on people who have not the financial authority to provide the remedies that may be required.
I shall be very happy to give my reason for thinking that the Bill will have that effect. The delegates that it is suggested should be elected are to have power to report the management for failing to provide the remedies. The management can quite properly say, "The law has set you, the delegates, up to decide what measures are proper for safety in this factory, and we shall leave to you the decision on what should be done." Many employers may feel "If that is the way the State wishes safety to be managed in industry, let it be done, and let those delegates have that responsibility." It would be very mistaken to do that, for reasons which I shall adduce in a moment.
There is no doubt, either, that the Bill would tend to minimise the effectiveness of the factory inspectorate, and I can well imagine that that is why the factory inspector has commented unfavourably on Measures of this kind. There was such a comment quoted by my right hon. Friend. I said earlier that in this field co-operation was indispensable to success. The opportunity provided by this Bill for mischief makers to create mischief would greatly detract from the cooperation we all want to see.
The scope for reporting the factory management and so forth, the right to see correspondence between the management and the factory inspector, the right of delegates to inspect the health records of individual employees—all these things are calculated to detract from that spirit of good will and co-operation essential if this subject is to be dealt with properly.
Moreover, it seems to me that the Bill over-organises where risks are few and over-simplifies the situation where the risks are many. That a delegate in an office shall go round once a month to make certain that the arrangements in the office are as satisfactory as they can be from the point of view of health and safety, that a representative of half a dozen farm workers shall be given half a day or a whole day off to go round from one part of a farm to another to see the arrangements are satisfactory, means gross over-organisation. It means exaggerated organisation in a sector of industry or of farming where the risks are relatively small. Where the risks are substantial, it seems to me, there is a great deal of over-simplifying the problem.
I do not know why the sponsors of the Bill are so sure of the judgments of the individual delegate, or that he is technically qualified to do the work assigned to him by the Bill. He will, for instance, have to consider the layout of factories; he will have to consider the design of machines; he will have to consider whether there is anything in the raw materials used that may be prejudicial to health. Technical qualifications are required in anyone concerned with the supervision of safety and health if wise judgments are to be made, and however fair and democratic the election of delegates may be I do not think that that is a criterion of competence in matters of safety or health, or a guarantee that competence will be forthcoming.
I wonder whether the sponsors of the Bill have reflected upon what would happen if the provisions of the Bill were ignored. I know of no way in which the Bill could be enforced. If the committee is set up, no doubt the employer is complying with the law, but suppose the committee does not meet sufficiently often. It may find it has not enough on its agenda to justify assembling. Suppose that the delegate does not make his routine inspection or report. What, then, is to be the position?
It is not the right approach to try to build up an effective safety system by compelling people, whether they want to do it or not, to take certain action. That is not the way to produce the best results. I should be the last to say that safety committees are not useful. Indeed, they are very useful instruments for maintaining safety and health. I have quite sufficient experience of the matter to know that the committees are effective instruments provided that they are composed of people with an interest in and an enthusiasm for the job and provided that management puts on these committees representatives of sufficiently high standing to enable the members of the committees to know that their recommendations will be taken to the highest quarters.
Hon. Members on all sides of the House are agreed that safety committees have done a good job and that there is great scope for them in the future, but that is not to say that to multiply the number of existing committees by law and expect that automatically to produce the desired result is a wise step. In my opinion, such action would be completely misplaced.
I could say more about the individual aspects of the Bill to show how apparently ill-thought-out many of the suggestions are, but, as many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, I will content myself with alluding to some of the problems which the Bill itself creates and which, being quite complicated problems, will divert attention from the real need, which is to deal with the problem of safety, to the problem of carrying out a Bill which it is almost impossible effectively to implement.
We are told that on the safety committees there shall be representatives of trade unions where they represent "a substantial proportion" of the workers. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House are familiar with difficulties which have arisen in the Post Office. What do hon. Members mean by "a substantial proportion" of the workers? Is it to be a majority? If so, that would be very interesting; but I can see considerable confusion arising through lack of precision in laying down how the election of representatives should take place.
The Bill also says that management shall put on to the safety committees those with executive authority. Executive authority to do what? Spend as much money as the committee recommends? These problems do not arise if the committees are voluntary bodies set up with good will on both sides. They arise only if an attempt is made to put into legal form that precise definition of intention which is indispensable to the making of law.
In many other ways which I could quote the Bill will create problems and divert attention, in my view unnecessarily, from the important subject. I hope hon. Members opposite will not attribute to any speakers from this side of the House who take exception to the Bill any lack of desire to see measures for reducing accidents built up as speedily and effectively as possible. I imagine that we are all agreed on the goal. We deplore the accidents which take place. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom said, every accident is one too many. We all agree with him.
But we disagree with the methods set out in the Bill. Experience of the present methods and the reduction which has taken place in the number of accidents warrant the belief that these methods should be extended and stimulated wherever possible, but not by this House doing so compulsorily, because, if it does, the spirit of co-operation will not be present and we shall not produce the results which we all want to produce.
I am very glad indeed to have been called to speak after the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers).
First of all, it gives me very great satisfaction to support the Bill. We have heard two speeches by hon. Members opposite—one by the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) and one by the hon. Member for Aylesbury; and I listened very carefully to both speeches. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to base his objection to the Bill on the fact that the number of accidents (has been reduced, particularly since 1937. The hon. Member for Aylesbury seemed to base his objection on two points. First, he seemed to regard the employees as workers who would be quite irresponsible, men and women who would not have a very high rate of intelligence.
That is a misrepresentation. I never said anything about lack of intelligence or anything of the kind. What I said was that a competent judge in this field of safety requires technical competence which I did not believe would be possessed by a large number of the delegates who might be elected.
Of course, the hon. Member did not exactly say that these people would 'be irresponsible and not very intelligent, but the whole tenor of his speech showed quite clearly that that was in his mind. I want to demonstrate that from his second objection, which links with his first. He objected to the employees examining their factories or places of work and deciding that something should be done which would involve financial expenditure by the employer.
No. I must ask the hon. Lady whether she listened carefully to my speech. I deplored the division between those with the financial means to carry out the remedies and those with power to demand remedies. The Bill gives authority to spend money to people who do not possess it. I never said that I would deprive the workers of the right to inspect their factories. Such a night might easily come out of a voluntary safety committee and, in so far as it did. I would welcome it.
It seems to me that what the hon. Gentleman has said fully supports what I have taken out of his speech. If the safety committee examined the machinery and decided that money must be spent to bring about greater safety, then, from what he just said, the hon. Gentleman feels, if the committee has been set up compulsorily by statute, that the decision ought not to belong to it but to the owner because he has to spend the money. I am quite certain that when he reads his speech tomorrow, as I will read it—and I listened very carefully to it—he will find that the two objections which I have described will appear to anyone who reads the speech to be his real objections to the Bill.
At one time I saw the Parliamentary Secretary agree with the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister to give serious consideration to the points which have been made by my hon. Friends. I have toad some experience of presenting a Private Member's Bill. May I take this opportunity—the first I have had—to thank both the Minister of Labour and the Parliamentary Secretary for the great help and co-operation they gave me with my Bill and also for the great speed at which they produced the regulations. I am quite certain that not only those in the House, but also those workers in foundries who will benefit from the Bill, are deeply indebted to the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary and his officials, for the way in which they carried out the great task which was set them.
It is because of my experience in these matters that I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary to give great consideration to the points which have been made and to realise that although there are difficulties, and although Committee points have been raised by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, the Bill presents great opportunities to the Minister and his Department. The need for the provisions of the Bill is obvious. As I see it, its effect will be to lessen human suffering. It will also strengthen to a great extent the economy of the country. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will grasp the opportunities that are now offered to him and, like his right hon. and learned Friend the Minister, will get rid of the difficulties as quickly as possible.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for what she said, but I cannot help reminding her that when she so kindly withdrew her Bill we made progress by voluntary agreement on both sides.
The point is that we did have the Second Reading. Had the regulations not been put before us, we would certainly not have withdrawn the Bill and it would have gone into Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), who introduced this Bill, said that fatal accidents not only bring hardship and suffering to 'the individual, but have serious repercussions on the family. That happens not only with fatal accidents. If a serious accident happens to anyone in a family, it very often brings suffering to the whole home. I represent a constituency in which there is heavy industry. I have visited homes whose breadwinner has suffered a serious accident. I have seen the suffering and distress of the man, but I have also seen the mental and physical suffering of his wife, who has to look after him, not only for a week or a month, but year after year. It is because of my experience in this field that I should be willing to back any Measure that had even the slightest possibility of reducing this human suffering in the homes.
Certainly not. I am trying to show that we, on this side, are convinced that the Bill will have the effect which I have described.
The right hon. Member for Epsom made great play about the reduced number of accidents. We are all glad of that. The accident rate, however, is still too high. Although we welcome any lowering in the rate, we all should be ready to do anything we can to bring down the rate still further. Although he gave those figures, the right hon. Gentleman adduced no reasons whatever against the Bill. He pointed out that managements would appoint the safety committees. When he said that, I wondered whether he had read the Bill. Under the provisions of the Bill, the management does not appoint the committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that if a statutory duty was placed upon the management it might appoint the committee, and that after doing so it would not care very much whether the committee worked.
He was quoting the factory inspector to the extent that factory inspectors seem to think that voluntary committees are better than those which are set up compulsorily. He was not quoting the factory inspector but referring to the provisions of the Bill when he said that the management would appoint the committee. What I am pointing out is that under the Bill the management does not appoint the committee.
I am sorry, no. Many hon. Friends of mine wish to speak, and perhaps the hon. Member will be able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
The Bill places serious responsibilities, not only on employers, but on employees. I have always found that nothing ensures co-operation and support more than a sense of responsibility. If a person is regarded as being intelligent, one gets the very best out of him. I have not worked in a factory, but I have been a teacher, and I have taught boys of from 12 to 17 years of age. Even the 12-year-olds were bigger than me, and the 17-year-olds towered above me.
I realised that if I wanted the best work and the greatest co-operation from the boys, I could not get it by physical force, in spite of having boxing champions in my family. I had to get it another way. As a responsible teacher I had to do the best by the pupil that I could. I got good work and good results by placing responsibilities on the pupils whom I was teaching. [Interruption.] I am quite certain that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) has not read the Bill which is before the House today, because in many factories the employees are not given the responsibility. I am making the point that responsibility is a good thing and will bring the best out of the employees.
I, too, wish to speak about the accident rate in 1951. In 1951, 68,000 women were injured at work, of whom 10,880 —I am dealing only with the most serious cases—were absent from work as a result of their accidents for periods of from eight to 26 weeks. This means that the accidents were serious. In the same period, accidents to men totalled 648,000, 71,280 of which entailed absence from work of from eight to 26 weeks. That is why I say that although the accident rate is going down, the figures of serious accidents are such that none of us dare be complacent if we want to make things better for the workers. It has been said also that 10 million workers are not covered by statute or regulations.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury made a case for us in his speech. He spoke about the good results of voluntary organisations. In other words, he seems to think that these voluntary organisations and those committees working for them should have the finance to bring about what was needed. But I am concerned with the places where managements have not accepted the voluntary organisations at all. They have had from 1927 to do so, and as a Member of Parliament I feel that it is my responsibility to bring about the greatest protection I can for those people who are not covered by voluntary organisations.
I find, from the Chief Inspector's Report, that in 1951 there were 340 factory inspectors to cover about 240,000 establishments. To visit each of them only once per annum would mean visiting three factories per day in a five-day week. That is an impossible task to place on the inspectorate.
We have been asked whether the T.U.C. are in favour of this Bill. My hon. friend the Member for Dewsbury was able to show that he had support not alone from branches, but from the head offices of the biggest unions in the country. In the report of the 85th annual conference of the Trades Union Congress there are these words, in reference to the factory department:
The General Council were concerned at the inadequacy of its resources and were convinced that a really vigorous programme of expansion was urgently needed. This should be given the highest priority.
In other words, the T.U.C. are convinced that the establishment of the factory department ought to be increased. I believe that too, and this is my final word. Even if the establishment of the factory department were increased, there is still a great necessity for the provisions of this Bill. The factory inspector does excellent work, and I think all of us would give the greatest praise to him, but accidents do happen. The factory inspector usually appears on the spot after the accident. This Bill provides for men and women to be on the spot day after day to prevent accidents, not to help inquiries when accidents have taken place.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and the House will let this Bill have a Second Reading and will agree to its going upstairs to a Standing Committee, where I am sure that my hon. Friend and those of us who are supporters of the Bill will be most ready to meet any point that may be raised. We do not think that this is a perfect Bill by any means; indeed, we realise that it can be greatly improved.
We are in complete agreement that the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) has done good service in bringing this subject of safety in factories before this House today. There is no subject which could be better or more fruitfully discussed at present. What we are not agreed upon is whether this Bill as drafted is the way to achieve it, or whether it will not do some harm to the wonderful voluntary organisations which are going ahead so successfully in so many industries, as I hope to show in a few moments.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) told us of some of the results sine had obtained from pupils in her school when she placed responsibility upon certain of them. Surely that responsibility was voluntarily undertaken by those pupils. They did the work well and she had good results for the very reason that there was no compulsion, and indeed there were no sanctions that she could impose upon them toad she wanted to. I feel that it was not a very good simile to use about this particular Bill.
There was one point where I agreed with her. I think that this debate so far has 'brought out the need for more inspectors. We need more factory inspectors, and I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will keep that very much in mind when he comes to examine the results of this debate.
There certainly can be no complacency about the very high figures of accidents which have already been quoted more than once. Of course, we must remember when comparing the figures for 1951, which is the last year for which figures are available, with those for 1925, that machinery in industry has increased immensely in the intervening years. I think, therefore, the period is hardly comparable with a time so long ago, but that does not mean there is any less cause for anxiety.
But there has been progress in recent years with the voluntary efforts which have been made, and I think it is quite right to draw attention to some of them, because sometimes they are not recognised sufficiently. It is unusual now to find any large works without a welfare officer or personnel manager, as he is usually called. There is joint consultation in nearly every factory of any size. There are rest-room facilities and clinics for treatment by fully qualified nurses at most mills, for instance, in the cotton industry. It is a well-known fact that employers take pride in showing visitors the special building or that part of the establishment which has been set aside for the treatment of men or women who may have been injured while at their work. There is no doubt that that has been one of the greatest developments during the last few years.
For ordinary accidents there is every facility almost as good as is found in a fully qualified hospital, and one of the most satisfying features for any Member for an industrial constituency is to go and see these facilities. The older people recognise the difference. People who have been working in cotton mills for long years can tell about these great changes, and particularly the change in welfare relationships.
This is one of the finest things that has emerged in recent years along with the elimination of cardroom dust and the general improvement in conditions in the mills—subjects which were frequently raised in this House during the 1930s.
A standard machine is built now with a view to safety and efficiency. That is a considerable help. We are even making efforts to get foreign machinery makers to construct their machines as safely fenced as we make our own, and are in this way endeavouring to get abroad an equivalent standard to that of our own best manufacturers. Our inspectors keep in touch with inspectors overseas on that problem.
In the textile industry there is a technical committee which is trying to get better standards of fencing on new machines—looms, carding machines, and so on. Progress is being made. As a result of proceedings taken against a firm of cotton loom manufacturers about the guard on certain gears, a loom fencing committee, as it has been called, has been set up, to get advice from makers, manufacturers, representatives of the trade unions, and so on, on the question of the standard of fencing for looms and effective guards for the gears. That is no easy problem.
By agreement sub-committees of these committees are visiting makers to see how the guards can be fitted and how they work. This is the best way to get agreement on definite standards. Once a definite standard can be obtained it can be adhered to by the makers of future machines. Manufacturers are cooperating in trying to improve fencing methods for carding machines. In fact Yorkshire and Lancashire—the cotton and the wool trades—are co-operating and co-ordinating in this excellent work.
In some cases there is a regional approach, which is a good thing. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour knows, the wider the approach and the more people interested in a problem, the better the result is likely to be. In the cotton and woollen industries there has been such progress that there has been a 30 per cent. reduction in accidents during the last few years.
Propaganda has been mentioned, and this is a most important subject. Notices about the importance of safety measures are put up throughout factories. The display of safety instructions has been developed to a large extent. Also, the results of accidents caused by carelessness, with details of some of the tragedies, are published. All that is good because it aims at convincing workers that care is needed, and that the dominant factor is the question of the safety and security of life and limb. If we can only inculcate into the men and women who work in the factories that belief, we shall have gone a long way toward solving the problem.
Good progress is made year by year on a voluntary basis. Great strides have been made, greater than some hon. Members of the Opposition have given credit for, and machinery makers, employers and employed have cooperated. All those concerned are earnestly watching over factory safety. We could not get a more satisfactory or more friendly atmosphere than is engendered under the voluntary system.
We might spoil it all. There is a danger that by the Bill, which has behind it the best possible intention, we might destroy, or go a good way toward destroying, this great voluntary work which is going ahead so well and making good progress. Therefore I say that we should encourage this good work in every way. I am fortified in that conclusion by what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) in his quotation from the last report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, who said that voluntary effort is a more successful method of progress. With that we on this side of the House fully agree.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), first, on his luck in the Ballot and, second, upon his choice of subject. Without any previous information I could have been fairly certain that he would have chosen to bring forward a Measure of this nature. He is a man of great experience in industry, and he brings the practical point of view to bear on his Parliamentary duties. We always welcome his interventions in our debates, and today we welcome the principle of the Bill he has introduced.
It is becoming increasingly obvious as the debate progresses that the Bill is receiving a somewhat sticky reception from hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have almost got to the point now of dreading to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite say how much they like the Bill. That is generally the prelude to telling us why it is impossible to adopt it. I can well imagine that the arguments against bringing into being a compulsory system are the same as those put by employers when the draft Safety Order of 1927 was suggested.
In those days I think the Home Secretary, with his issue of the unsigned Order, sent a communication to each employer asking whether he would be prepared to do upon a voluntary scale what was suggested in the Order. My hon. Friend has gone one better than the Home Secretary in 1927. His Bill has provoked the answers from the employers before the Bill has become an Act. I have seen one or two publications by various chambers of trade which may well have helped to condition the thinking of hon. Members opposite as reflected in the reception which they are according the Measure.
In his very fine opening speech, my hon. Friend did well to bring to our attention the casualty rates in industry and to contrast them with casualty rates in other spheres. As my hon. Friend said, the casualty rate in the United Kingdom Forces during the war was 10,600 per month and in the factories 22,100 per month. That shows the importance of the subject that we are discussing, and it is against the background of those figures that we should examine the principle of the Bill.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have argued that much in the Bill is not acceptable, and the Parliamentary Secretary will probably also use that argument. The Parliamentary Secretary will probably tell us that when we are dealing with a whole range of industry, as in this case, we cannot have stereotyped committees and that the numbers constituting the committees in different industries must vary, because, for instance, agriculture would not require the same proportions as the engineering and mining industries.
We realise that there is something in that argument, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not do anything to prevent the Bill from having a Committee stage. Any hon. Member can go through a Bill Clause by Clause picking out Committee points and then show by reference to statistics, that it would be difficult to have certain provisions in the Bill and turn it down on that account. On the other hand, if I felt that the issue was of sufficient importance to the country, I would suggest, having analysed the Clauses and shown that certain provisions were impracticable, that it might be an occasion when Parliament should become a Council of State. If I were speaking for the Government, I should be prepared to give the Bill a Second Reading on the understanding that its sponsors would be willing to accept a number of Amendments in Committee to bring it more into line with what the Government felt to be practicable.
In view of the massive problem which faces us, I am certain that my hon. Friend would do his utmost to accept any Amendments to make the Bill a practical proposition rather than have it rejected and have the whole issue again left in abeyance. I urge the Government to look at the matter from that point of view.
The hon. Gentleman has based much of his argument on a comparison between casualty rates in the Armed Forces and in industry. We cannot be happy about either, and, obviously, at the moment we are unhappy about the latter. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, if he wishes to put an absolutely fair and objective picture before the House—we all desire to do that; this is not a party issue but a matter of grave concern to the country— will admit that he has no direct data relating to the return of Service casualties to their units, whereas he has a great deal of statistics about the length of time industrial casualties are kept from their employment.
I agree. I could talk until 4 p.m. about the figures which I have here, but a number of hon. Members have already given us figures and referred to inspectors' reports and I want to avoid figures now as much as possible. I agree that the figures for Service casualties contain a far bigger proportion of fatalities than those for industry, and the periods during which casualties are incapacitated vary. I accept all that, but what I was saying was that none of us can be happy in rejecting a Bill purely on Committee points, thus leaving the issue in abeyance, when our accident rate in industry is as high as it is today.
I am sure I speak for the Opposition when I say that I accept the principle of the Bill while not tying myself to the wording of certain Clauses. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be prepared to consider any Amendments designed to bring the Bill into line with scientific opinion in the factory inspectorate or anywhere else.
As one who had some experience at the Ministry of Labour, I enjoyed listening to my hon. Friend's references to the factory department. I know a number of the distinguished gentlemen in the department. I have the very greatest admiration for them, and I am sure that the nation owes them a great deal for the work they have done. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary is worried, as I am, that we have not managed to bring the inspectorate up to strength. I agree with those who have suggested that its establishment ought to be raised, but I know how difficult that would be at present.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) argued for the voluntary system. I thought he overstated his case. He talked about the necessity of preserving a voluntary system under all conditions and keeping responsibilities with the employers. I thought his argument was an effective one for demolishing the factory department as a whole. He appeared to think that the factory inspectorate was not a very healthy element in industry. He very much overdid the value of the voluntary system.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the accident rate among older workers. It is, of course, accepted that older workers are far more experienced workers. Their experience enables them to avoid many of the accidents suffered by younger men and women. My hon. Friend is asking that this experience shall be placed at the disposal of the inexperienced people.
I speak from long experience as a member of a safety committee in one of the biggest and most difficult factories to run, in that it is a cross-section of every type of engineering product. When we speak of committees in this context we are not thinking of a few people who sit down in an office once a month away from the atmosphere of a factory in order to discuss the statistics of the previous month's accidents. That is not the way factory committees function. For instance, we had a system by which a delegate from one part of the factory, plus the chairman, the secretary and the maintenance engineer, were always available to meet at a given point in the factory whenever the need arose, without waiting for a notification of a meeting or for minutes to be read while people were experiencing accidents. We were proud of our record because we were able to reduce the accident rate in that vast factory to low proportions.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not faced the fact that we are not concerned with that kind of factory in discussing this Bill. One of the Amendments I would move to Clause 1 (4) would be to delete the word "statutory" in the first line. This would have the effect of saying that where a voluntary committee is doing a first-class job in the way I have described, no attempt would be made to enforce compulsion. In other words, our job should be to raise the level of the worst to the level of the best, because there are many big factories in Britain where the standard of safety is as good as could be obtained under a compulsory system. I am sure my hon. Friend would accept that kind of Amendment.
Much has been made of the accident rate in countries where there is a compulsory system as compared with our accident rate. Those who have argued against compulsion have said that the accident rate here is dropping more swiftly than in countries where there is compulsion. But we should be looking at the accident rate in factories in Britain where there are no safety committees and comparing that with the level of accident rates in Sweden, Belgium and other countries where there is a compulsory system. It is unfair to compare the rate in Britain with the rate in Sweden, because most of our large factories had efficient committees functioning for years before the war. Therefore, they are as well equipped as many of the factories under the compulsory system.
I hope the Government will appreciate that it is not enough to say that compulsion would not be a success or for Iron. Gentlemen opposite to say that if this was such a vital issue the Labour Government ought to have done something about it. Let us cast our minds back to the six years that we were in power. I do not know how many times we heard propaganda from the party opposite about the welter of legislation which the Labour Government were introducing. 1 have heard the present Prime Minister telling the country that Parliament was bogged down in a welter of legislation which it could not possibly digest and that this was a reason for getting rid of the Labour Government. Now, apparently, we are to be whipped because we did not introduce legislation on every subject under the sun.
I should not think that any hon. Member could complain about an excess of legislation during the last six months; indeed, when I have looked at the business for the week I have often wondered what we were to talk about. So now we have a Government in power which is apparently incapable of introducing legislation to enable the House to discuss important matters during our ordinary sittings, and therefore we are asking them to allow this Bill to reach its Committee stage in order that we may amend some of its Clauses.
I want to show how important it is that these committees should be appointed. In engineering, and I believe in mining, the system which operates when an accident occurs is that the man concerned goes along to someone in charge of a Red Cross box in his department. He has his wound wrapped up and then goes to the ambulance room. On one occasion our committee was worried at the high percentage of septic wounds. After a thorough investigation we found that in the majority of cases after a man had, say, hurt his finger, it was wrapped up at the ambulance box but he then decided that this was sufficient and refused to go to the ambulance room to have his wound properly dressed. We also found that in these cases sepsis was setting in. So we decided on a revolutionary change, which was to dispense altogether with the Red Cross boxes, and there was immediately a drop in the number of septic cases. That is the kind of important issue which an experienced safety committee can decide so well. The factory inspector cannot do it, the representatives of the employers cannot do it; only someone with experience of those who work on the lathes and in the mines can decide these things.
Since, therefore, despite the 1927 draft Order, and despite all the propaganda which has been brought to bear on them, some employers have refused callously, cold-bloodedly and deliberately to make the slightest provision for their employees, we feel that the time has arrived when the State should say to them, "You are not to be trusted in this matter."
Reference has been made to the diminution in the number of accidents in the last few years, although one of my hon. Friends produced statistics to show that there is very little difference in the ratio between now and 1927. It would be unfair for the Government to point to the falling off in accidents since the war, when there was the greatest upheaval in the distribution of the working population that Britain had ever known. Hundreds of thousands of dilutees came into the engineering industry. Women came in to do jobs previously done by men, and no matter how well the instructors tried to teach them they could not put experience into inexperienced heads. The accident rate for that period jumped phenomenally. I shudder when I recall the methods of some of those people who had learned the technical side but not the know-how to prevent them from running into trouble. It would not be fair for the Government to produce figures showing that accidents have gone down steeply since the time of dilution.
One of my hon. Friends mentioned eye accidents, and that is a field that needs a committee of investigation. On hundreds of occasions I have poked into people's eyes with a sharpened matchstick, and have had it done to mine. I have lain down on a bench because I had a piece of metal in my eye and allowed a man to probe into my eye with a magnetised penknife to draw the metal out.
Yes, with a penknife, or a matchstick, or a thing of that type.
The Bill is not asking for the introduction of any new principle. In support of that statement, let me read Section 38 of the Factories Act, 1938, which, under the heading
Power of Secretary of State to require special safety arrangements for the prevention of accidents,
Where it appears to the Secretary of State that, in view of the number and nature of accidents occurring in any factory or class or description of factory, special provision ought to be made at that factory or at factories of that class or description to secure the safety of persons employed therein, he may make special regulations requiring the occupier to make such reasonable provision by arrangements for special supervision in regard to safety, investigation of the circumstances and causes of accidents, and otherwise as may be specified in the regulations.
It is not the fact to say that my hon. Friend is making a new departure by the Bill.
There have been special discussions on this subject in the International Labour Office for a very long time. In 1928, the employers and employees of Britain undertook to carry out recommendations arising out of a discussion that year, and in 1949 the I.L.O., in their Model Code of Safety Regulations for Industrial Establishments, recommended, in Article 6, that
Where 25 or more are employed there should be a safety committee, with elected representatives of workers, and including a high executive, a safety official, a foreman and a representative of the medical services.
The next Article says:
The safety committee will meet once a month. The duties of the safety committee are … to consider the circumstances and the causes of all accidents occurring in that establishment"—
in other words, paraphrasing the language of the Bill.
We all know of the tremendous losses to industry caused by absence from work on account of accident. The Government want as many people as possible to remain in industry, but if one went only to the foundries and the heavy workshops one would find men in their fifties and early sixties who had accidents years ago which were never properly treated and are causing them now to retire prematurely. My own father, who worked in an iron foundry all his life, almost lost his sight at 62 and had to finish. He was by no means an exception, and that instance can be multiplied thousands of times. They arise from the absence of a properly constituted committee with representation from the workers to operate in every factory, where possible, in British industry.
We are entering an age where the machine becomes more and more dominant and, despite the intentions of the best type of employer, becomes the master and the workman its slave. That sort of industrial development should be accompanied by a highly developed system of accident prevention and maintenance of health, and those are the objects of the Bill. The Government should not turn the Bill down on committee points on which we would be willing to meet them. I ask the Government to enter into the spirit shown by the mover and seconder of the Motion. Let us all get together and look at the Bill, and by a process of compromise we may be able to make a big difference to the accident figures. The Government will find us only too willing to listen to them, because of the benefits which such a Bill could confer.
It may be convenient if I intervene at this stage, not to bring the debate to a conclusion, but because it is important that the Government should place some of the facts on record.
The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) was kind enough, in his opening remarks, to suggest what I would say in my own speech. I am afraid that he has drawn the wrong deductions. I know how long the hon. Gentleman was at the Ministry of Labour, and I know his wide and expert knowledge of the factory department and of the technical and difficult matters which we have to handle in that section of the Ministry. Therefore, I think he knows that the Bill as it stands —or, probably, as it could be amended— is not really a very practical proposition. However, I do not intend to take sides in this matter. I do not think it is the Government's duty to take sides on Private Members' Bills. I want to place facts in front of the House, and they are sufficiently conclusive without any argument on my part.
Before entering on these more detailed considerations, however, I should like to add my congratulations to those of, I think, every hon. Member who has spoken to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), who brought this Bill forward. If I may venture to say so, I think he has done exactly what he should do, tried to prod the Government to look more carefully at and to make more progress in this most important matter.
Somebody said today that one accident is one too many. I could not agree more, and whatever the outcome of the Bill may be, the hon. Member for Dewsbury is doing his duty very ably in trying to prod the Government. Ministers come and go in the Ministry, but the Ministry goes on for ever, so it is our duty to try to make any Government advance further on this front of safety.
Let us look at the facts which affect 23½ million of our population. Naturally, the Department examined the hon. Member's Bill very carefully to see whether we could use it to make a practical contribution to greater safety and health, because that is what we all want to do. But it is the considered view of all our quite impartial experts that this Measure cannot, for the practical reasons which I propose to outline, make such a contribution.
I wish to thank the hon. Member for Newton for his tribute to the fact that the factory Department does a great deal of work unseen. I am glad to say that its inspectorate has gone up from 340 to, possibly, 380, which is very nearly its top strength. Its work certainly deserves the tributes which are paid to it in this House from time to time. But those hon. Members who talk about our Chief Inspector and his Department had better realise that I am buttressed by his advice in the statement I make today, so that if they value his advice they must assume that it has been very carefully considered by my right hon. and learned Friend and by myself.
I take the view that we live in the present and the future, and while I am very fascinated with what happened in 1912, or thereabouts, I do not think it has any particular relevance to the way that I shall earn my living during the rest of my life. Therefore, I am quoting the Chief Inspector's advice as it is today and not as it was in 1912. and with regard to the future conditions that have to be faced in British industry.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Newton, who tried to tempt me and some other hon. Members into the realm of party politics. I want to deal with the hard facts of the case, so I must start by correcting certain misstatements which appear in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill and which have been repeated by various hon. Members today. I must start by putting these facts right.
On accidents statistics, the third paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum ends by saying:
Since that time these statistics for factory accidents have not shown any reduction.
If that were true, it would be a most terrible indictment of the factory department, but it just is not true at all. Let me give the accurate figures. I think that the best comparison of the trend of accidents can be made by comparing the rate of accidents per 1,000 workers in 1927 and per 1,000 workers in 1952. In 1927, there were 30 accidents per 1,000 and in 1952 only 22·5 accidents per 1,000. That is a drop of 25 per cent.
I am not saying that 25·5 per 1,000 is an acceptable rate of accidents. Of course, it is not, and we must go on working to get it down. But I must make it plain that it is not true to say in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill that the statistics for factory accidents have in general not been reduced. As I have shown, they have been reduced by 25 per cent., and all credit to the factory department and the successive Governments that have been responsible for that notable drop.
I agree. It is on the employers that the final responsibility rests, and, therefore, it is not much use denigrating employers in this matter. I have yet to find any large body of employers who are not very sensible of their responsibilities and who do not try to carry them out.
The next point in the Explanatory Memorandum to which I must refer is the statement about the 1927 Draft Order. It implies that because that Draft Order was never used and was never made mandatory, there has been no reduction in the accident rate. I have already shown that there has been a 25 per cent. reduction in the rate of factory accidents, but I must also show that this Bill differs fundamentally from the 1927 Draft Order. This is the important point.
The 1927 Draft Order fully preserved the responsibility of the employers by proposing to place on them the duty of preparing schemes for safety supervision. That is not what happens under this Bill. I quite accept the view that the ultimate responsibility falls on the employer, but this Bill, to some extent, takes that responsibility from him.
Let us see what has happened to the firms—and this, again, is purely factual information—that would have been covered by the 1927 Draft Order had it been brought into effect. As long ago as 1935, the Chief Inspector of Factories was able to record that nearly 90 per cent. of the works covered by the Draft Order had safety committees or other forms of safety organisations. There we see the voluntary principle at work, possibly spurred on, and quite rightly so, by the threat of having that Order brought forward. As I have already said, I hope that the bringing forward of this Bill will have an equally satisfactory effect.
What I want to make plain is that it is no use saying, in this Bill, that the 1927 Draft Order never produced any results or should have been implemented because, by voluntary agreement, we have got the setting up of safety committees over the whole field which that Order would have covered.
In 1937, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) moved that a new Clause be inserted in the then Factories Bill. This Clause provided that
In every factory where not less than one hundred persons are employed, and in every other factory where the Secretary of State deems it expedient, it shall be the duty of the
Occupier … to provide for the appointment of a safety first committee …
Objection was taken to that Clause, and the Parliamentary Secretary of that day said:
We feel that progress in the safety first movement is proceeding, on the whole, on a satisfactory basis, and we do not wish to disturb it by laying down these rigid statutory requirements which we feel may even have a bad effect. …" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1937; Vol. 325, c. 275.]
The arguments which secured the rejection of that Clause in 1937 are even more cogent today and apply equally strongly to this Bill.
The hon. Gentleman quoted my colleague the hon. Member from Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith), but he will appreciate that his mind would be influenced by the Pottery Regulations existing from 1913—and renewed in 1950—which imposed a statutory obligation. By and large, we have not lost by that.
I thank the hon. Member. I will come to the Pottery Regulations later, because they are a very important feature of my argument.
I want to lay the clear facts of this very important matter before the House and again to draw the distinction between this Bill and what has gone before. This Bill, as it stands, rigidly lays down that in every place of employment where more than five persons are employed safety delegates with wide powers of inspection should be appointed. I do not want to draw absurd comparisons but every shop having more than five assistants, or 10 men digging a hole, would then have to have safety delegates. I see that some hon. Members do not quite agree, but it is my duty to try to expound to the House the provisions of this Bill, as it stands. If the right hon. Member wishes to interrupt I will give way.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary any figures on that point? To put it no higher, I have the impression that, speaking relatively, the worst incidence of accidents is in the small workshops, because there is not the corporate feeling among the men, and no great supervision.
I have not the figures here, but if I can get them I will let the right hon. Gentleman have them before I sit down.
The view has been taken by some Members that there should be no compulsion at all, but already in the Ministry of Labour we enjoy considerable powers of compulsion and I want to make it quite plain that we have, and will use them wherever we think they can fulfil a useful function. The hon. Member has already given the House an example of how that principle has been employed in the potteries under the previous Administration. It has been similarly employed in the iron foundries—as the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has pointed out. The Pottery Regulations, which I have already mentioned, the Luminising (1947) Regulations; the Shipbuilding (1931) Regulations, and the Building (1948) Regulations all impose very strict mandatory limitations on the industries concerned.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North rightly took a great deal of credit for chivvying us in regard to iron foundries by bringing forward her Bill, but my point is, what did she get when she was kind enough—and if I might venture to say so, wise enough— to withdraw that Measure? By voluntary agreement she got the regulations extended not only to iron, but to steel founding. She got a double cover, so to speak, and got it with the agreement of both trade unions and employers.
That is exactly the way in which we want to make progress. I give the House a quite definite and firm pledge, on behalf of this Administration that if any industry can show the Ministry of Labour a case where, by bringing forward regulations we can improve the health, safety and welfare of that particular work we will get on with the job. We must, however, first be quite clear that the regulations are workable.
We have recently been having discussions about the guarding of certain types of machines. I will not go into further detail but the hon. Member for Newton knows the problem. It will take a long time to find a solution because the immense practical difficulties—which have been discussed with the trade unions and the Chief Inspector of Factories—are such that at present we do not see how we can formulate an instrument which can work. It would be improper, of course to devolve upon the inspectors the duty of doing the impossible by trying to enforce legislation which cannot be worked.
The next point is very pertinent and was very well made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury, in moving this Bill, and by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch). There is at present a wide field of employment not covered by any specific safety and health legislation. I am in a slight difficulty here, because it is not my job to announce the Government's legislation—
Not I—and not on this occasion.
To some extent it might meet the point if I say that we are considering very closely proposals for legislation to give effect to the Gowers Committee recommendations on safety, health and welfare, in such places as shops, offices, catering establishments, indoor entertainment, railways, agriculture and forestry. We are also considering the very important Dale Committee Report which came before my right hon. and learned Friend's National Joint Advisory Council some time ago and which is strongly supported by both the trade union and employing members of the Committee.
The Minister undertook to study that Report very carefully, and I said a little while ago, in answer to a question, that we are now considering the whole industrial health service, which must include welfare and safety. Therefore, in the field not covered the Government is not being quite so lazy in its prospects of legislation as perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newton thought. We like to make sure that these things work in a practical sense before bringing them before the House—but I do not want to be drawn into party political considerations.
I do not disagree with various Members' reading of the very valuable I.L.O. Report, to which Her Majesty's Government acceded under the previous Administration. But I must make it plain that there was nothing said that these powers "had to be enacted by Act of Parliament. The I.L.O. made it plain that it wanted voluntary agreement. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government, the Ministry of Labour and the I.L.O. are certainly all at one on that front.
I will not go into statistics, because they can be very misleading, but the Swedish statistics are not quite so favourable as they look. Though Belgium has legislated to set up safety committees where there are more than 50 workers, there is an enormous difference between those regulations and the provisions of this Bill. There, the functions of the committees are advisory and not mandatory, and that is one of the difficulties.
I am sure that I shall carry the whole House with me when I say that one of the things so personally pleasant to me to see in my Ministry is the great tradition of voluntary co-operation that goes on in British industry. The National Joint Advisory Council lives by cooperation. There is no sanction in it— indeed there is very little sanction in the whole of our conciliation machinery. It all depends on the good will and willingness of the parties to work it. I think safety in factories and in works is just as important a matter as industrial negotiation and general industrial conciliation and consultation, and I think that it should continue to rest on the same voluntary principle.
In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), I regret that we have not got here the figures for which he asked. I am informed that the accident rate per thousand is definitely lower in the very small factories than in the large. However, if we can get the figures we will certainly let him have them.
I should be very glad to have them. Since 1948 we have had a whole field of injuries covered by Government Departments and have had an opportunity, which we have not had before, of learning from statistics. I hope that the Ministry is collaborating to make use of them.
That is true, and I shall certainly look into this point, but I am advised—and I am assured that this general conclusion is right—that the accident rate is lower per thousand in the small factories than in the large ones. I think that meets the point the right hon. Gentleman made.
I now want to make one or two comments on the details of the Bill. I have noticed how many Members have spoken of their experience in the coal mining industry. Let me make it plain that I understand the position. The safety committees which can be set up in mines are an essential part of safety in mining, but I think he would be a bold man who would say that conditions of working in a shop or a light industry are as taxing and dangerous as conditions in the mines. There are special circumstances in the mining industry which those special conditions meet, and, I believe, meet very well. It is, therefore, a little unwise to draw that special case into a broad issue covering the 23½ million people in our working population.
I think we shall have some difficulties, if we try to make this Bill a workable Measure, in relating the statutory system of elected safety delegates, which is enshrined in the Bill, with the normal trade union organisations in factories. In the mines it is simple because there is one union and 100 per cent. membership of the union, whereas in factories where there are several unions there would be great difficulty in bringing this proposal into a workable relationship.
Let me give another fact to show how this Bill would work. We calculate that there would be 80,000 safety delegates in factories under this Bill. Each delegate would be in a position to exercise statutory powers in his own individual right. That will present the Ministry of Labour and its factory department with a somewhat massive problem, if there are 80,000 safety delegates each one of whom can exercise statutory powers as of right.
At present, any worker in any factory can approach our factory inspectorate. In fact, there is a legal obligation that his address should be posted up in every factory so that any workers who have a complaint can get in touch with the district inspector and make their complaint, which, I assure the House, is very rapidly and fully examined. But 80,000 delegates, all with statutory powers, seems to present a formidable task.
Let us see how far we have got on the voluntary basis. There are at present no fewer than 3,225 voluntary committees in factories representative of management and workers, whose functions include the promotion of safety and health among the workers. In the past five years there has been an increase of 650 committees, so we are not standing still.
There are 3,225 committees, and, presumably, there are 3,225 factories. What is the total number of factories? If we knew, we might have an idea of the extent to which the voluntary principle has been used.
I cannot quote it from memory. I will try to ascertain the figure and pass it on to the hon. and learned Gentleman. There is a not inconsiderable number of committees; they have grown by 650 in five years, and they are still growing rapidly at what we think is a satisfactory rate.
I must make it plain that this Bill removes entirely the voluntary principle, and the voluntary principle would have no more part in this vast field of safety and the prevention of accidents. I do not know what we would do with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. I suppose it would have a field in road safety, and so on. I do hope that nothing that any hon. Member has said was meant to imply that that Society and other voluntary bodies are not doing useful work. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am grateful for that reassurance, because I should not like it to go out from this House that we feel that the voluntary system is not doing very useful work.
In dealing with the Bill, I have felt bound to criticise these specific proposals. There is only one Clause where we are entirely in sympathy with its purpose and where we could perhaps use it as a spur, and that is Clause 4, which sets up these joint committees on a wider basis. We are entirely in sympathy with that recommendation, and much has been done through the Chief Inspector of Factories and through other organisations to encourage these area industrial committees and conferences.
I will undertake to pursue that recommendation through the National Joint Advisory Council or in any other way that I can. But there are 38 area industrial accident prevention groups sponsored by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and there is an annual national conference; so, there again, there is much of the substance of the Bill working by voluntary agreement. We should like to see the continuation of that system. Whatever happens to this Bill, we agree to try to speed up that work in the light of what is contained in Clause 4.
If I may sum up on the main objects of the Bill, I must congratulate the hon. Member for Dewsbury on the objectives which have inspired him. I say this with great sincerity. Those objectives have inspired us all, and I am trying to devote my argument to the practical difficulties and not to the question whether this Bill is a good or a bad thing.
I must say—and this is the advice of all my experts—that the methods proposed in the Bill are wrong in principle, as they substitute the compulsory system for the voluntary system. Hon. Members must make up their own minds on that point, but I am completely convinced that that advice is right. Co-operation in these matters is everything. There must be co-operation from the employers as well as from the employees and, as one of my hon. Friends said, this Bill puts the employer in a position where he can say "The State is doing this; I have no further responsibility." Team work is not produced on that basis. In addition, it would completely undermine all the responsibility that the employer held if he wished to take that view.
There is another thing which I must tell the House—and again, this is the advice of my advisers. I think the House and the promoters of the Bill would be sorry if an employer, in his own defence in a court of law, called safety delegates or members of a safety committee to testify that they had never called the employer's attention to a matter which turned out to be the cause of an accident or an illness. I am being careful with my words here. This would inevitably happen frequently both in common law actions for damages and in prosecutions for breaches of statutory requirements. I have stated that carefully because that is a great danger which would arise from this Measure.
In our zeal in bringing Measures before this House we do not always think of the consequences, and many hon. Members do not have the specialised knowledge which I have behind me in the Department. I am not criticising; I am merely pointing out all the snags. I want to make it plain that the Govern- ment are not resting solely on persuasion and propaganda. I have given some examples of where we have brought in force, and I have given an assurance that we shall continue to do so. If any hon. Member brings to my attention a case of an industry where he thinks that sort of action would be useful, I undertake to examine it as sympathetically as I can.
Again, the Factories Acts contain adequate powers to apply compulsion where it is needed. For example, the hon. Member for Newton said that there could be factories in existence today with no medical equipment at all. It is a legal obligation in every factory to provide first-aid equipment, and in every factory employing more than 50 workers there must be a man or woman fully trained in first-aid and available to deal with casualties.
I am sorry. I misunderstood the hon. Member's argument. That is another legal obligation upon an employer—to provide a certain minimum of equipment.
The total number of factories is 243,000, but of that figure 82 per cent.—or more than three-quarters—employ fewer than 26 people. That shows the enormous number of small factories which exist, and it is relevant to recall the statement that there are fewer accidents in small factories than in large ones. Under this Bill, roughly 13,000 factories would have to set up safety committees, but out of that 13,000, voluntary committees have already been set up in the case of 3,250. In other words, one quarter of what this Bill seeks has already been achieved by voluntary means, and that figure is rapidly increasing.
We have to draw the line somewhere. We are becoming confused with our statistics.
The total number of factories is 243,000, and 82 per cent. employ fewer than 26 people. But the dividing line between a large and a small factory in the case of first-aid equipment is 50 people. It is fair to say that at least three-quarters of the factories are small ones, and in those factories there are fewer accidents than in the bigger ones. This Bill would certainly apply to 13,000 factories, and probably more. That is a minimum figure. Out of that 13,000 one-quarter have already done what the Bill asks by voluntary methods.
The apprehensions felt by the experts in my Ministry precludes me, in all honesty, from offering any facilities for this Bill's progress. In the light of what I have said, I hope that hon. Members on both sides will appreciate that the reasons for this apprehension are sincere and fundamental. Whatever happens to this Measure, we shall do everything we can to press on with greater safety in employment. I certainly undertake to look at this Bill and, when the National Joint Advisory Council is discussing the Dale Report—as it must do again before long —to discuss with it any provisions in this Bill which we think are workable and practicable. That certainly applies to Clause 4.
I cannot go further than that. The hon. Member for Newton asked that the Bill should be allowed to go upstairs and be amended in Committee. I am not trying to influence the House, but if that course is adopted, and we amend it in the way in which we think it should be amended, it will not be a Bill at all. In view of what I have said, and the statistics which I have given to the House, I hope that the sponsors will not press the Second Reading of this Bill to a Division.
The Parliamentary Secretary has very fairly stated the case as he sees it, and hon. Members opposite have produced straightforward arguments to show that the voluntary system is a good one, that it works, and that it can and will be extended, and that there is, therefore, no need for this Bill. The figures given by the Parliamentary Secretary, however, show that the definition of a good, sensitive and progressive employer applies to only one out of four, for it is only one factory out of four which is now providing safety committees by the voluntary technique, although they have all had many years in which to consider the matter.
I must make the position plain. My figures referred to those factories which had set up official safety committees. It is within our knowledge that in a great many other factories there are unofficial and quite satisfactory safety arrangements. I can only give the figures which are known to us.
I want to deal with the other types of arrangement which exist in many parts of the country, especially in that part which I represent. The argument used by hon. Members opposite receives a somewhat severe blow when one recollects that they have always had in mind the work done and the attitude adopted by the good employer. From what was said by the right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) and the hon. Member who followed him, it was apparent that they assumed that because they represented good employers that was the situation throughout the country.
We know very well, having had it from the lips of the Parliamentary Secretary —and because of the history of this work, certainly since the beginning of the century—that the Government cannot accept that the voluntary principle alone is sufficient. I agree that the voluntary principle is most valuable. We always use it first. It does our research for us, and it is suitable for use in those places where no Government can tread. It is more elastic, and it does some work in a better way. We have used the voluntary principle to show us how the thing should be done, but if we have found it satisfactory and capable of being extended and becoming universal, we have had recourse to statutory obligations.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about the special welfare arrangements in the pottery industry. Those go back to 1913. But what was so very dangerous and special about the pottery industry? It was probably only the fact that there was a risk of lead poisoning or the inhalation of silica dust. In the pottery industry we do not have the accidents which occur in coal mining, shipbuilding, steel erecting or foundries. The worst type of accident found there in these days —and it happened much more frequently in the past—is the amputation of the tips of fingers of young girls making tiles, where the machinery is still not entirely perfect. Although the new automatic machines are providing better safeguards, I can visualise, from the hands that I have examined, a whole basketful of finger-tips of young and adolescent girls, who would never have been crippled if they had been better trained, or if the machines had been better guarded.
The Pottery Regulations, 1950, provided for the appointment by the management of competent persons to carry out systematic inspections with regard to the working of the regulations in their departments. They had duties which fell into three categories. First, they had to keep books recording breaches of the regulations or failure of the equipment. Secondly, they had to state what steps were taken to remedy the failure or to prevent a recurrence, and post up that information within 24 hours. Thirdly, extracts from their records, signed by the employer—this is interesting—had to be displayed in a prominent place a week later. They had to be placed in a position where the workers could easily see them, in the mess rooms and in the workshops.
The thing we find attractive about these regulations is that there is tripartite agreement about them. The State, the employers and the workers are all working together for a common cause, and it is the cause for which my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) is pleading today. If we are asked how the system has worked, I would say that it has depended to a large extent on the employer, and that the regulations could have been better. The reason why it has depended on the individual employer is that the employer has appointed the internal inspector. The obligation is upon the employer to appoint him. He is not chosen by his fellow workers, as the Bill proposes he should be. None the less, we have so far as risks are concerned, whether of poisoning or of accident, a very different industry today from what it was in 1913. The Parlia- mentary Secretary agrees with me that it was Government policy to continue the 1913 Regulations, for they were again imposed in 1950.
In 1913 we probably had about 150 lead poisoning cases a year. We do not get one even in a number of years now— not a single one. That is a remarkable change. I do not say that these regulations are entirely responsible for such a remarkable improvement, but the protection in the Potteries against lead poisoning is far better than any in the world. It is far better than it is in Australia or in the United States of America. There is just not any lead poisoning. We can hardly find a case wherever we look, and that is a very significant fact. I am not at all sure that the appointment of inspectors has not had something to do with it. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke not only about the Potteries but shipbuilding and building and the regulations for those industries. He spoke of the Celluloid Manufacture Regulations of 1921. None of those was as radical as those applying to the Potteries.
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the time has come in the Potteries when we want a further experiment, if not for the whole of the industry, for a section of the industry. Let us see what happens if these internal inspectors are appointed by their own fellow workers. I want to quote an opinion by the general secretary of the union. It was originally in answer to a letter of mine, but I am quoting it from a most interesting but unpublished work by Mr. J. L. Williams, LL.B., dealing with accidents generally and which, I hope, will be published. On this point the general secretary last year said:
Our experience of inspectors has been varied. The system works satisfactorily where the inspector is sufficiently independent to be able to report accurately without fear of the sack.
That is an important point to make.
I know of but few worker inspectors. The Regulations require that the person or persons appointed should be so appointed by the management and the inspector is usually a junior manager or often the lodge man. The introduction of personnel officers to the industry during and since the war has again altered the position, for they usually take over the duties of internal inspectors. Where the inspector is strong enough to be able to defy
his employer or where the employer is a good type"—
it is what we have been discussing today—
that is, one who is not annoyed when he is pilloried for not keeping up to scratch, then the system works. The weakness of the system is that breaches of the Regulations noted by the works inspectors have to be displayed in the department or messroom in a conspicuous place, and records kept for at least six months.
That means, of course, that the Ministry's inspector sees them.
The general secretary said to me that one of two things was essential. One was a really remarkable increase in the number of inspectors, of whom we have not only in North Staffordshire but everywhere in the country the very highest opinion. The other was the appointment of internal inspectors by their own colleagues. We should call them Grade 2 inspectors. Their links with the inspectorate would be such that we should feel that we were making an advance out of this sad, distressing situation.
The House has said it, and it can be repeated again and again, that every accident is an accident too many, and we want to do everything in the world we can to prevent them all. It is not only for sentimental reasons or because we find it abhorrent to see people crippled or diseased. Industry requires that its valuable machinery should be adequately safeguarded. The most valuable of our machinery is the trained personnel in the factories.
I know there are others who want to speak, and I must stop, but I cannot help but remind the House and the Minister that, although we have made great advances in social progress, we have been outstripped by some other countries in this respect. In America, for example, and perhaps for historical reasons, there is a greater awareness of the fact that the human element is very precious. The historical reasons are obvious. America is a vast country, and there were very few people in it 100 years ago, and so machinery had to be invented to help human progress. It is notable that with the development there of machinery went the careful protection of the human element. Even at the level of the President himself there is an advisory council which considers this subject each year. One of the most cogent fragments of advice by this council in 1952 was that there must be more participation by the workers themselves in this field. If the United States, whose technique we all envy and admire in these matters, can be so sensitive about preventing accidents, surely we should be equally so. We may consider the work done in cities like Detroit by the Ford Company in preventing accidents—
I am not concerned about whether it is voluntary or involuntary so long as it is done. We are the people who have piloted the voluntary system through the world, and can use it best, perhaps, in our own country, although we like to extend it to make it universal. Nevertheless, the Bill is not out of place at all. Sooner or later we shall have to do something like what is proposed, and better sooner than later.
While I have the fullest sympathy with any Measure which has for its purpose the reduction of industrial accidents, nevertheless I fear that the methods which are proposed in the Bill are unlikely to achieve that purpose, and I want to speak for a few minutes in support of those hon. Members who are in favour of the extension, if possible, of the voluntary system.
As hon. Members know, industry is already subject to the Factories Acts, and under those Acts the responsibility for the safety of employees is placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the employers. In addition, there are trained factory inspectors to see that the provisions of those Acts are implemented. I agree with some of the remarks which have been made, particularly by hon. Members opposite, that there are not enough factory inspectors to carry out the work as efficiently as it should be carried out, and I should like to see an increase in the numbers of factory inspectors. That would be infinitely more valuable than an attempt to step up the work by an auxiliary force in the workshops, composed of people who might possibly be unqualified to carry out that work.
Most employers today recognise that accidents are bad, not only for the employees but also for the employers themselves. Both employers and employees are far more accident-conscious than they used to be. Because of that greater consciousness, it is the custom in many industries today to have joint central standing committees composed of representatives of the factory inspectorate, trade unions and employers. These committees meet quite regularly and from time to time review accident rates and risks. They have often been praised by the Chief Inspector of Factories, in his annual report, for the work they have done.
I have some knowledge of the cotton industry, and in that industry committees of this kind have been in operation for many years. The percentage is not one in four, as has been suggested, for, in the cotton spinning section of the industry, this system applies to approximately 75 to 80 per cent, of the mills. The employers in those mills have encouraged and fostered the establishment of special safety committees or of similar schemes within their own mills. There is not the slightest doubt that these voluntary efforts at co-operation between managers and workers have proved very effective.
Under the Bill, the formation of safety organisations in the factories will be enforceable by law. What worries me is whether they will be as effective. It is perhaps unfortunate that those who drafted the Bill referred in the Explanatory Memorandum to the safety organisation in Sweden. Figures have been mentioned in the House of the fatal accident rate in Sweden, which is much higher than the rate in this country. To show how much higher it is, I analysed the figures and I saw that whereas in 1937 the fatal accident rate in Sweden was twice as high as it was in this country, in 1949 the fatal accident rate in Sweden had increased to three times that of this country. Such figures do not seem to be a very good recommendation for adopting legislation similar to that which is to be found in Sweden.
In my view, committees which owe their inception to compulsion are invariably much less successful than those which operate on a purely voluntary basis, and this is particularly the case in accident prevention. I do not wish to repeat the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), who quoted the summing-up speech of Sir George Barnett, who is the Chief Inspector of Factories in this country, but Sir George said the voluntary system was by far the best, and I think the House must take heed of the remarks of a man who is probably more qualified to speak on this subject than anybody else in the country.
Judging from the way in which the Bill has been drafted, its sponsors seem to be unaware of the considerable work which has been done and is still being done in industry by the voluntary cooperation of management and workers. In my view, the substitution of statutory enforcement for voluntary co-operation would lead to an increased burden on the employers, in that the workers who performed 'the functions of safety delegates would be diverted from their productive employment to direct or indirect forms of supervision, thus causing loss of production and correspondingly higher production costs.
I submit that if the Bill became law it would undermine managerial authority and possibly the position of the factory inspector himself. We must not overlook the fact that there is a danger that many of the safety delegates, however willing they might be, would lack the technical knowledge and qualifications necessary for them adequately to discharge the functions which would be placed upon them by the Bill. As a consequence, the Bill would give this responsibility to people who were probably wholly unqualified to carry it. It would almost certainly cause friction between management and workers and possibly among the workers themselves.
What I fear most is that if the Bill were passed it would mean more committees, more forms, more reports, more litigation and more expense but, in my honest opinion, not very much more safety.
While recognising the sincerity of hon. Members opposite in expressing their anxiety about this subject, one is tempted to say that it is a little significant that every piece of opposition to the Bill has come from the other side of the House. That is very regrettable. I suppose that when any Measure of this kind is put forward there is always somebody ready to come forward and to say—
No doubt hon. Members reading the speeches will form their own view about that.
It is extraordinary how, whenever we have a piece of legislation of this kind, somebody talks about the glories of the voluntary system. No doubt when the provisions of the Factory and Workshops Act of 1901 were about to be enacted, and when the Factories Act of 1937 was about to be introduced, some one talked about the dangers of putting these provisions into an Act because we had a voluntary system.
I was not limiting my remarks to Members of Parliament. I was saying that no doubt somebody could always come along and talk about the glories of the voluntary system. But the voluntary system has failed. It is no good hon. Members talking about the wonderful improvement that has been made. We have the statistics and the figures which have been produced today. What are we to say about a system in which there is an average of 700,000 accidents a year?
When we analyse that figure, we find that there are 250,000 accidents in factories each year and that 200,000 are attributable to accidents outside factories, accidents among domestic servants, railwaymen, and people of that kind. How can anyone talk about the voluntary system being successful in dealing with these accidents?
Are hon. Members opposite leaving the matter there? Are we merely to be content with a promise by the Minister that, "The mover of the Bill is a very fine fellow. He has got up a Bill and we congratulate him upon it. It is very nice of him. He is prodding the Government on, and we will look into it"? Why were not the Government prodded sooner into doing something? Must we wait for a Private Member's Bill in order to prod them into doing it? The fact remains, and it cannot be disputed, that the voluntary system has failed.
The public are not too well aware of what is happening with regard to accidents arising in the course of employment. Has it been brought sufficiently to the notice of the public that there are all these accidents in factories and that disease—50,000 cases of dermatitis in 10 years, for instance—arises from employment? Again and again we have had campaigns—we have had discussions and Questions in the House—about the terrible toll of death on the roads, and yet when a comparison is made we see how dreadful are the figures of accidents and disease during work. Yet look how complacent we are about it.
The Bill makes an effort to do something. Hon. Members are entitled to criticise it if they like and to say that its provisions should be altered during the Committee stage, or that they will do their best to alter it. Instead, look at the attitude adopted by hon. Members opposite and by the Parliamentary Secretary on behalf of the Government. We are told, "Our experts say that the Bill should not be supported because we believe in the voluntary system and not in the compulsory system. We believe that the compulsory system would do harm to the voluntary system."
What an indictment of that attitude is contained in the figures given by the Minister when he says that only one-quarter of the factories which he mentioned have voluntary committees. What about the other three-quarters? Can he say that the voluntary system has succeeded? Are we content to sit back and do nothing now and merely say that we will try to improve it?
I must repeat what I said before, that I thought it was only fair to give, not my estimate of the factories in which there were safety arrangements, but my Department's statistics of how many official safety committees there were; that is what I gave. I also said we were satisfied that in most of the rest of the factories there were adequate safety arrangements.
That is a very nice general statement by the Government that they are satisfied that there are adequate safety arrangements in the rest of the factories. But how can the Minister say that when there is this appalling figure of an average of 700,000 accidents a year, when 250,000 of them are in factories and another 200,000 occur in places of business, workshops, or places outside the definition of factories? How can it possibly be said that such a position is satisfactory? Is it not obvious that something must be done to tackle this problem?
The criticism which is put forward from the benches opposite is that the experts believe in the voluntary system. If they believe in that, they believe in something that has failed. Whatever the improvement may be, even if there is a 25 per cent, improvement over a number of years, the figures are too dreadful to be allowed to continue. Something must be done, and if the voluntary system has failed we must put something in its place.
What are we to put in its place? My hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) has brought forward the Bill. It suggests certain measures which certainly ought to be put into force. The argument against the Bill, however, is that if we adopted a compulsory system we would prevent employers from carrying on with the voluntary system. Do hon. Members opposite think so little of employers as to say that (because we make compulsory arrangements for safety committees and safety delegates, the employers would not co-operate and would abandon the voluntary arrangements which they have made?
That is a ridiculous argument. If employers are content to make voluntary arrangements, surely they would co-operate in making compulsory arrangements. When it is remembered that the object which everybody has at heart is to cut down accidents to a minimum, is it wrong to ask employers to try a system whereby something can be done to help to remedy this terrible state of affairs? I am amazed at that suggestion and the arguments that hon. Members opposite have put forward to support it. I suggest that if they weigh up the words they have used and consider the view they have put forward, they will come to the conclusion that there is nothing in that criticism.
Obviously, from the figures I have given, this subject is of vital importance, but it cannot be stressed too strongly how vital it is to every interested party. Obviously, it is vital to the employers. No doubt many employers, by their costing systems, can make up to some extent for the loss of time by people who suffer accidents. But consider the loss in production. It is vital to the State that something should be done. The estimate has been given that £100 million a year is lost from the accidents that workers suffer. What does this mean to hon. Members opposite in the way of the additional taxation which they have to pay? Think of the terrible loss in production, and how vital it is from the point of view of the State that something should be done.
Thirdly, and more important than anything else, it is a vital matter to every worker who suffers from accident or disease. The workman's accident may be trivial; he may lose his eyesight, or he may be maimed for life. He and his family suffer. Are we simply to sit back and say that the Bill is not practical and we must continue with the voluntary system? Will hon. Members opposite not be prodded into supporting the Bill. so that we can examine and, if necessary, improve its provisions? But for Heaven's sake let us get something done.
The Bill, criticised as it has been for its provisions, follows the code drawn up by the I.L.O. It follows also the Bill that was enacted in Sweden in 1949. The hon. and gallant Member for Rochdale (Lieut.-Colonel Schofield) said something about the rate of accidents in Sweden in 1949; but we are not dealing with the accident rate of 1949. We want the figures—and we hope we can get them sometime—of what happened after the introduction of the 1949 legislation in Sweden, which was the same as the provisions of the Bill.
This Bill is an effort to deal with a dreadful problem. As I say, it follows the provisions of a Bill enacted in Sweden, and it follows the code drawn up by I.L.O. It is something seriously put forward as worthy of the most careful consideration. I beg this House, in thinking of this terrible problem, not to adopt the complacent attitude shown by some hon. Members on the other side. I ask them not to be content with a mere expression of how much concerned they are about this problem and how anxious they are to deal with it.
I ask hon. Members opposite to support all hon. Members on this side of the House so that this Bill can have a Second Reading and be examined in Committee, when something can be achieved. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury on bringing this Bill forward, and I hope the House will give it a Second Reading as one step towards doing something to deal with the appalling accident rate in employment.
I was not greatly impressed by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), because some of the figures he quoted were inaccurate, and he seemed to think that because the Bill had a good title it was bound to have good results. The only good thing about the Bill is its title. I do not know whether he wants the legal profession to compel all to go to law, but that would be an interesting development. Up to now I have kept out of litigation except where I have travelled at zero speed for too long.
Some of the speeches I have listened to this afternoon have not been very sensible. They sounded like some of the speeches written by Karl Marx in the Reading Room of the British Museum in 1848, or hon. Members opposite seemed to be quoting statistics from "Das Kapital" as well as some of the exceedingly dull parts.
I have studied accidents since I was a student of engineering at Liverpool University. During the long vacation I used to go out to work, as do most engineering students, and one of the first jobs I had was to chip metal, a job which has still to be done despite all the advances in engineering. Instead of chipping the metal I chipped the top of my thumb. That was my first industrial accident, and it was my fault.
On another occasion I went to work in a cold store in Liverpool. They not only kept stuff in the refrigerator, but they supplied ice from it. When they lifted the tins, which were full of ice, they put them into a thawing off tank. On one occasion when I was watching them I stepped back a little to see what was going on, and I fell into the thawing off tank. That was my second industrial accident and I was to blame.
Then the next time I went to sea. I was going on duty in the engine room and there was a gauge glass which was wrongly placed, and just two seconds after I passed it, it burst. Since then the law has been somewhat improved. Under the Factories Act, 1937, which, incidentally, was not brought in by the party opposite, because they have done nothing on this subject—any legislation brought in has been Conservative Party legislation—
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale) to the co-operation of all parties in getting that Act upon the Statute Book?
May I remind the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) that the T.U.C., through its medical adviser, submitted a document to the Government of the day, which they immediately incorporated in the legislation?
I do not mind what pronunciation the hon. Member favours, the complaint is just as unpleasant because it causes the lungs to bleed, germs get in and very unpleasant things happen. I do not know why I am being interrupted so much.
To continue, subsection (1, a, iv) of Section 29 of the 1937 Act says:
… at least one water gauge of transparent material or other type approved by the chief inspector to show the water level in the boiler, and, if the gauge is of the glass tubular type and the working pressure in the boiler normally exceeds forty pounds per square inch, the gauge shall be provided with an efficient
guard but not so as to obstruct the reading of the gauge.…
That is precisely the kind of case where, by good fortune, I just missed an accident which might have killed me or deprived me of my sight.
For years some of us have been trying to do these things not by making irrelevant speeches in the House of Commons. In 1912, I was secretary of an organisation called the Machine Tool Trades Association which, every four years, used to promote an exhibition at Olympia. We did not have it more frequently. We thought that it would be a mistake to have an exhibition unless we had new stuff to show.
On my suggestion, which was approved by the gentleman at the head of the show, Mr. Alfred Herbert—now Sir Alfred Herbert—we asked the Chief Inspector of Factories to send a team of inspectors to Olympia to inspect every machine on view. There were probably 2,000 or 3,000 machines of new design. He furnished me with a detailed report on every machine where he thought that the guarding was inadequate. The right time to guard a machine is when it is made. There is a very good reason for that. If it is an integral part of a machine the workman cannot take off the guard.
Why did I describe three accidents in which I was concerned? In two cases I was to blame. In the other case somebody else was. Everybody who is honest will tell his constituents that in a very large proportion of the numerous accidents in factories the worker is entirely to blame. Let it be said; it is the truth. I say it here and I am willing to say it at any meeting, in my constituency or anywhere else. Let people get it in their minds that they have a personal responsibility for their own safety and that they must not look to somebody else all the time for protection. I say that with great emphasis.
I have made reference to my old friend Sir Alfred Herbert. He is still functioning at 86 years of age. He is head of the largest machine tool business in the world. During the war he asked me to help him make sure that supplies of steel were available to boot manufacturers to make what are called safety boots. The number of accidents to people's feet in
engineering factories, with which I am more familiar than other types of factory, is very great. From the last Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories it is distressing to find how many accidents happened to men who were not wearing safety boots. The Report says:
The reports from nearly all the Divisions lay stress on this single point.…
It says that where there has been an increase in the use of safety boots:
The workers concerned … are new to the industry, and in the separate heavy foundry, unfortunately, where the older types of skilled worker predominate, there is not the same enthusiasm for these precautions. Safety boots are readily available; many employers have made efforts to encourage their use by displaying them and by allowing them to be paid for by instalments. In general, however, the response of the workers is frankly disappointing; even where a special campaign was held only 25 per cent, took advantage of the offer.
Some hon. Members opposite who pretend to represent the workers and who say that they come here on behalf of trade unions should do a bit of propaganda among their own constituents to emphasise the vital importance of everyone playing a part in this matter.
I am trying to indicate some directions in which the hon. and learned Member might help with new ideas.
Under the Bill we shall appoint a lot of amateur inspectors, persons without proper qualifications. If a man is the type who wants to walk round the factory without working, he will probably seek appointment as a factory inspector, because the inspectors will get full pay while they make their monthly inspection. I can imagine the type of persons who will be appointed. In the main, they will be a quite useless lot, probably the worst people in the factory.
I have had far more experience of factories than the hon. and medical Gentleman has ever had.
Sometimes the causes of industrial ill-health are averted by chance. At one time the grinding of tools was done on a grindstone, which contained silica. When one uses an ordinary grindstone, especially if one is using it dry and not wet, particles of silica get down one's throat, and the consequences are very unfortunate. Clever people invented an artificial abrasive, of which carborundum is an example, and I understand that, in general, that abrasive is not harmful. The invention wiped out the terrible disease known as grinders' rot—that was what it was called in South Staffordshire—a terrible form of pulmonary tuberculosis. The invention was a fortunate "accident."
The fact that an hon. Member has good intentions does not mean that his Bill is a good one. There is a very old proverb about good intentions. The Bill is full of good intentions, but it is useless in itself. It is also calculated to do great harm to the cause which it purports to support. Some of my hon. Friends and I who have done our best in our own little way to reduce accidents regard the Bill as a most reactionary Measure. After all, the party to which I belong has done more than all the other political parties put together—five times as much—in promoting good conditions in factories, and, therefore, we are entitled to express a view on an occasion like this. I hope that the Bill will not receive a Second Reading.
Strangely enough, I agree with some of the things which the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has said. I certainly agree that many of the accidents in industry arise from the carelessness of the individual. I also agree with the hon. Member and other hon. Gentlemen who have suggested that no method has yet been devised which will completely eliminate risk of injury in any occupation.
But I disagree profoundly with the hon. Member when he suggests that trade unions have played little part in the great task of improving conditions in work places. Those who have been engaged, as I have, in a part of the great trade union movement know something of the struggle which has taken place, with the full weight of the trade union organisation being used, to break down the opposition of employers to advances which were absolutely essential in the interests of workers.
In the industry with which I used to be concerned, death and suffering were caused because men were called upon to work such long hours that they were unable to give the whole of their faculties to their job. Will the hon. Gentleman suggest that the decrease from 12 hours a day to eight hours a day or less, which enables a man to be better fitted to do his job, came about as a nice little gift from the employers? Of course not. All those with experience of the railways know of the terrific struggle the A.S.R.S. and, afterwards, the National Union of Railwaymen had to cut down the excessive hours of labour worked by railway employees. I had hoped that I should be able to talk on this matter without becoming emotional, but when the hon. Member for Croydon, East spoke as he did, inevitably it stirred memories of our bitter struggles and past experience.
I listened to hon. Gentlemen opposite speak of the necessity for a voluntary principle in this matter and I was bound to agree with them. If we could get all industry covered by the voluntary principle, it would not be necessary for us to take action in this House, but I fear that it will not come about as a result of voluntary action. When the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the extension of the voluntary principle, he mentioned the 3,300 voluntary schemes and told us that there has been an increase of 650 in five years. As far as I can tell, that works out at about 130 a year. If we could cover all industry by schemes which I would regard as satisfactory, it would take 75 years to achieve that at the rate of 130 a year, and this would not be satisfactory.
I was employed, until comparatively recently, in the railway industry and the Gowers Report shows quite clearly that 500,000 of its 600,000 employees are not covered by the Factories Acts. This ought to be put right at the earliest possible moment. Therefore, I welcome that part of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary in which he said that active consideration was being given to this matter and that it was hoped to introduce legislation, but I am not sure when. The hon. Gentleman said it was not his job to announce the programme of legislation. I understand that, but I beg the hon. Gentleman to stimulate his Department by impressing upon the Minister of Labour the urgency of this matter in relation to our great railway industry.
It may be said that this is not necessary because the railway industry has been nationalised. I do not agree with that view, and in this I am supported by the Gowers Committee, who said in their Report:
It would certainly have been our duty, if the railways had not been nationalised, to recommend a statutory code of welfare and safety for them, and we cannot accept the argument that this has become unnecessary because they are now nationalised and special machinery has been provided for consultation between management and workers on these matters.
I agree with the Gowers Committee that we need legislative provisions to bring to the railways the safeguards that are possible under the Factories Acts. The figures for 1952 show that over 200 men were killed in the industry, the majority of whom were engaged in occupations not covered by the Factories Acts. In the same year 17,267 men were injured, practically all of whom were also engaged in a section of the industry not covered by the Factories Acts. I hope that we shall see legislation to bring the railways into line with the Factories Acts.
We have been told that the officials of the Ministry of Labour are against the principles of the Bill. I have tremendous respect for the capacity of those officials. I had the opportunity of working with some of them when I was a Minister for a very short time. They almost invariably tend to say, "This is impracticable," or "The time is not opportune for its introduction." Against that I would put the opinion of the trade unions which has been read out by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling), who made it clear that the vast majority of trade unions agree in principle with the Bill. I would put their experience against that of the Ministry and of all the factory inspectors who have looked into the matter.
It would be right to give the Bill a Second Reading and enable it to be looked at in Committee and amended, and made a better Bill when some of the rough points which are undoubtedly contained in it have been ironed out. My trade union, the National Union of Railwaymen, of which I am proud to be a member, is urging -the House to pass legislation giving us the benefits of the Factories Acts, as recommended by the Gowers Committee, regarding welfare and safety. We should also have the benefit of the Bill, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
We have all been interested in what the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) has been saying, and I hope to refer to it later. I thank the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. William Paling) for introducing this subject, which is of such vast national importance that it is right and proper that it should be debated. I doubt whether a Private Member's Bill on Friday is a big enough occasion for such a vast problem, but I would not criticise him in that respect, because it is a matter for individual choice.
I would make it clear that we shall find no hon. Member in the House who is complacent about the accident rate in industry. It has been thrown across the Floor of the House that those who do not see eye to eye with the promoters of the Bill are complacent, but that is a complete non sequitur. We look at the Bill with some suspicion, believing that it will act rather as a deterrent to the action we want to take to deal with this very serious problem. Anything I shall say is not based on complacency, but on a feeling that we must send out a message to every group in industry telling them that they must find a solution to this problem.
What, very shortly, is the problem? We are all aware of it, but frankly I do not think it has been quite fairly faced up to today, and neither do I think it is a problem which arouses any party feeling. It is that we still think that far too many people are being killed and injured in industry today. What, therefore, is the best way to reduce that casualty rate? Are there any means better than the general means of persuasion, voluntary co-operation, and so on, which could be devised by this House to assist in the solution of that problem?
I think that is a fair statement of the position with which nobody would disagree. How does the problem sub-divide itself? It is interesting to note that every hon. Member who has participated in this debate today has dealt with the problem of the highly mechanised industries, with the problem of the high-speed machine tool and with the dangerous occupations of mining and quarrying.
I remember the experiences which I, in company with some other hon. Members, shared as a member of an Estimates Committee when we travelled round most of the ordnance factories in this country. Those factories were making use of the most dangerous high explosives which can be used, and it was extremely instructive to look at their accident charts. On those visits, we adopted all the protective measures available, special clothes, hats, gloves, and goodness knows what. We thought, when we looked at those charts, that we should see evidence of people having been blown to pieces, burnt or injured through working with these highly dangerous, and, in some cases, almost unstable explosives. To our astonishment, we found that the dangerous explosives played only a negligible part in the casualty rate.
Where did the main weight of casualties lie? It lay in exactly the same direction in which we find it in ordinary industry. If we look at the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, we see that the bulk of casualties lie not in the field where high-speed machinery is used, but in what one might call the ordinary risk of occupation or even in the risk to the housewife.
One of the biggest elements in the casualty rate in industry today is that of people falling down. Another big element is that of things falling on people. Employers and managements can guard against things falling on people, but they cannot prevent people from falling on things. It is interesting to note that in the last few years there has been a great reduction in the number of accidents caused through things falling on people.
In the case of people falling on things there is hardly any reduction at all. That, of itself, teaches a lesson, and we cannot look at this question of compulsory or voluntary duties unless we know exactly the nature of the problem. I do not want to give a lot of figures, but everything I have said is supported and confirmed by the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories.
On the other side, we have high-speed machinery calling for the rapid flow of raw material into and out of the machine. In the handling of such machinery as high-speed milling machinery — and milling machinery as a whole—we find a 25 per cent, reduction in the accident rate. That teaches a lesson the other way. The manufacturer and management, by being fully alive to the dangers, and very largely controlling how the machinery is set, guarded, planted and designed, have done a very great deal to ensure greater safety and security for the operator.
I also entirely agree with the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East that it would be grossly unfair to say that the unions have not played their part in securing greater safety. But we have to remember that the mind of the individual is not quite keeping pace with productive processes, any more than it is able to improve the activity of the human body in avoiding the natural obstacles encountered when running in and out of a workshop. The careful designer, advised, guided—and controlled to a very great degree—by factory legislation, will put on the market a machine which, as a machine, will give the greatest possible security, but he cannot guarantee that the operator cannot, if he so desires, make a mess of that machine.
Those of us who are intimately concerned with factories know only too well some of the tragic experiences which occurred during the last war. The accident figures then rose alarmingly, purely and simply because there had to be introduced into industry all classes and elements of society. They had no factory experience at all, they did not know the risks, and, what is more, they had never subjected themselves to any kind of discipline before. Where women had to wear caps for safety, how many wore them? How many young women were terribly injured because they would not wear the very caps supplied under rule, order or regulation—or voluntarily?
In exactly the same way, how many people will lift the guard of a press and be nipped in the process? That is what the Report calls "nipping casualties." Anyone knowing factories will know that the very great reduction shown in the Report has been brought about by an immense amount of hard work on the part of designers and managers; first, by the designer designing an almost foolproof machine and, secondly, by managers trying to instil proper shop and factory discipline and seeing that the safeguards on the machines are used. Every time we come back to factory discipline.
How far do the proposals within this Bill really start to deal with the human factor in the problem? If we are to increase safety measures in factories, we must have much more education than has yet been given through the unions, the management, and so on. I would support any hon. Member on either side of the House who brought forward practical methods for enforcing education. What I would never do, and what this Bill tends to do—though I do not believe it is meant to do—would be to take a step, by legislation, towards weakening factory and shop discipline, because by doing so we should be running the human being into danger.
Let us remember that, by and large, the men in charge of shops and factories—the foremen, the charge hands—have more experience than those who work under them. Anything which tends to weaken their power of discipline and guidance will make it less likely that anybody in the first few weeks of his employment in the factory will get the best attention and supervision from them that he should have. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dewsbury did not mean to do anything of the sort, but I would ask him to consider the problem from that point of view.
People may laugh and say, "You cannot object to this Bill because agriculture would come within the scope of education, and, of course, that is absurd." It is not absurd. A great deal of education is necessary in agriculture, because rapid mechanisation has brought an entirely new element into agricultural practice, and we shall never be able to promote on a farm unit the sort of shop and factory discipline which is a tremendous safeguard for the worker against accidents. That must be done by education.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury thought that the smaller units of employment could possibly set up the sort of structure which is set out in this Bill. For the reasons that I have stated, I would ask him and his hon. Friends to believe, first of all, that we are not complacent about the accident rate. Secondly, we would, as a House of Commons, feel ourselves pledged to do everything possible to reduce that accident rate. Thirdly, we do not want to do anything which will upset the flow and impact of education in safety matters in industry, but rather we want to do the exact reverse. We want to accelerate that impact by educating people to these dangers.
I ask hon. Members not to press this Bill to a Division, but to agree that the best thing is to get all sides of industry, under the chairmanship of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour, to come together and see what can be done to drive home to employers, management, unions and workers in every branch of industry the need for education on this matter, to ram into their minds not only the dangers that they themselves run but the tremendous cost in which they are involving this country at a time when this country can least afford it. Then we should do our best to see that Parliament takes active steps to reduce this tragic accident rate. I beg hon. Members to agree to that course, for it is my belief that that step would be for the good of the country.
It is my privilege to wind up this debate, and it is a particular satisfaction to do so in view of the high quality of the speeches which have been made and the high importance of the subject we are discussing. I hope that one immediate effect of the debate will be the creation of a greater consciousness of the need for better safety precautions in every factory and place of work. Hon. Members on both sides have emphasised the importance of that.
Three main questions have emerged from the debate. First, what is the nature of the mischief against which this Bill is directed? Second, are the present arrangements for dealing with that mischief satisfactory? Third, if they are not, can this Bill contribute something to improve the position? The nature of the problem has been stated. It appears that employment accidents causing at least three days' incapacity now occur at the rate of about 700,000 a year—180,000 in factories, 230,000 in mines and 290,000 elsewhere.
Breaking the figures down and not being too dramatic, that means that in this very day when the House of Commons is discussing this matter about 2,000 men and women will be injured in their places of work. Of those, one or two or more will be killed, and a number will be maimed for life, and possibly blinded. Hon. Members in my profession meet the incidence of it day in and day out. Anyone brought up in a working-class home is conscious of the daily threat and terror of industrial accidents.
The Parliamentary Secretary called the sponsors of this Bill to task for what he considered to be their defeatist attitude towards the history of the accident rate. But is the declaration in the Explanatory Memorandum so far removed from accuracy? There is no room for complacency in this matter, as was indicated by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir I. Orr-Ewing).
The accident rate for 1933 was 22·2 per thousand, and we have not yet returned to that low figure. In 1935 the figure had crept up and it continued to rise until 1937, reaching a high climax during the war. Since then it has gradually been getting lower, but we are still only back to the standards of the early 1930s. The progress is not sufficient for us to say, honestly, as responsible Members of the House of Commons, that present arrangements are satisfactory. We rejoice in the reduction of the accident rate, but it is not enough.
Most of the accidents which happen today are avoidable accidents. That is made plain in almost every accident case in the courts. We feel that the calling in aid and active co-operation of those who suffer most from accidents, namely, the workers themselves, is a vital principle, which has not been sufficiently used. We feel that those upon whom the risk of accident falls most severely, and who invest all their capital, namely, their ability to work and the strength of their right arm, in industry, should be brought in. They have a valuable contribution to play in this matter. I am sorry the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir. H. Williams) is not in the House at the moment, because I must say that his observations were uncalled for, and were offensive—
—to the shop stewards and others elected by their colleagues who have fought for better safety conditions. It is intolerable that the hon. Gentleman should abuse and insult the elected representatives of the workmen in the way that he has.
The nature of the problem indicates that the rate of accidents is still far too high and that the present agencies for dealing with it, valuable as their work is, are inadequate. The first agency is the employer himself, and his duty must remain paramount. The Bill does not abrogate from that responsibility of the employer. There is a power in the safety delegates and in the safety committee to advise him. It is true that there is a further power; that in the event of the employer not taking any action to deal with what are deemed to be dangerous conditions, the safety committee has the power of reporting that fact to the factory inspector.
That power exists today in exactly the same way. It is open to the shop steward or leader, and, indeed, it is his duty, to report to the factory inspector where he finds any danger.
I think the hon. Gentleman is quite right to this extent. Theoretically and in law that power exists, but those whom I have consulted about this matter tell me that there is great reluctance on the part of the men to use that power— very considerable reluctance. "The mischief maker in the factory," as he is liable to be called if he is too much of a nuisance about safety conditions, has a way of losing his job sometimes. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the acclamations around me of those who have worked in factories indicate that there is a foundation in fact for what I say. If what I allege is true, the hon. Gentleman will, I think, agree with me that there is therefore a case for a safety committee authorised to exist and operate. If what I say is untrue, nevertheless the safety committee statutorily authorised can still perform a valuable service and can supplement existing arrangements.
I do not know where hon. Gentlemen opposite stand on this question of safety committees. Most of them have given safety committees lip service. They have said, somewhat grudgingly some of them, that they are pretty useful but that it is really the employer alone who does the job. It is the opinion of responsible organisations like the Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and indeed of some employers' organisations also that these safety committees do perform a valuable role in the prevention of accidents. They have a vital part to play for many reasons that are obvious. They supplement the work of the factory inspectors. They do things that the factory inspectors at the moment are not numerous enough to cope with.
When an accident occurs to a man the interest of the factory inspector is mainly to see whether the accident was caused by some breach of statutory duty. I do not say this in criticism of the factory inspectorate, but the tendency is not to examine the surrounding circumstances with any great care if there is no indication of a breach of statutory duty. They cannot possibly cope with more. One of the things that has emerged from this debate is the need for doubling the strength of the factory inspectorate and the need for asserting the importance of maintaining the high standards of the factory inspectorate. There is some indication that in recent years the standards have been allowed to decline. We must very seriously consider whether we ought not to make the inducements more attractive to men qualified to enter the factory inspectorate so as to encourage them to enter it.
The safety committee is and can be a valuable supplement to the work of the factory inspectors. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare mentioned the large part played by falls in factory accidents. He pointed out that a large number of accidents occur through people falling. The figure is as high as 14 per cent. This kind of accident—caused by people falling or another large class caused by handling goods—is not normally investigated by the factory inspectorate, and yet one feels that a safety committee, considering that type of accident fully, might well press, for instance, for the introduction of mechanical means of lifting and handling goods. There has been a great technical advance in that field of machinery in recent years.
There could, too, be emphasis on structural alterations, on clearing gangways and removing obstructions, on the cleaning of floors and preventing oil from gathering on the floor surface. After all, the main concern of the management of a factory is with factory production and, unless there is an organisation available, sometimes one finds a tendency to overlook the safety aspect. We say that the existence in each place of work of a safety committee or safety delegates would keep the factor of accident avoidance constantly in mind.
There is one point which worries me here. Is there not a danger of shifting the onus for negligence from the employer to the safety delegate or safety committee if the Bill is passed?
I have considered that point with some anxiety, and I think in Committee we should have to devise a form of safeguard in the Bill to protect the workman in that respect. Like many other points which have been made in the debate, that is a point of substance which requires very careful consideration in Committee.
But let me be brief, because the clock turns rapidly. If it is correct that safety committees are useful and important and can play a part in reducing accidents, can we conceivably say that the present situation is satisfactory when, on the figures given by the Parliamentary Secretary, only one-quarter of the factories have no such safety organisations? We say that that failure of the voluntary principle to bring into being—
He said safety committees. That is a fact: only one-quarter of the factories have these organisations in existence and in three-quarters of the factories they are not provided.
Why is this? Why is it that these organisations, which admittedly can help to reduce the incidence of accidents, have not been more widely introduced? One reason, I submit, is that they have not been given a definite status and position in industry. Their role and duties have never been defined. Another reason is that in some cases—I admit that there are very many honourable exceptions—there has been a certain lack of managerial enthusiasm for them. I will not say there is active managerial discouragement, but there has been a lack of managerial enthusiasm in some cases, as some of the reports of the factory inspectors have indicated. The fact is that, whereas for the purposes of safety there should be representative organisations in each factory, they exist at present in only one-quarter of them. Therefore, we say in the Bill that where the voluntary principle has so much lagged behind, compulsion by the State has now become necessary for us to contemplate and introduce.
The Parliamentary Secretary in his speech gave us on this side a great deal of encouragement in many matters. He has shown the forward-looking attitude which personifies both the Minister of Labour and himself in many of these problems affecting the Ministry. But all that he has conceded by way of future intentions of the Government does not really touch the problem. The hon. Gentleman has declared his willingness, for instance, to introduce Regulations in respect of industries which make submissions to the Minister—that is fine; but there are some industries, such as agriculture, for which, so far as I know, he has no power to make Regulations. It is one thing, as the hon. Gentleman will agree, to introduce Regulations—
I am glad to hear that. But if the power exists, one wonders why it has not been used in agriculture, where, because of the greater use of mechanisation, the number of accidents that occur daily is a grave problem. The courts are being occupied more and more with agricultural cases.
The Minister has held up certain carrots to us but he has, on the whole, been singularly discouraging. I should have thought that this debate would have been a useful occasion for the Ministry of Labour to give out a clarion call to all industry and at least to formulate a decision to form a national organisation of the kind indicated in Clause 4 of the Bill. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir I. Orr-Ewing) specified his desire for a national conference on the matter. In the Parliamentary Secretary's speech I detected a certain reliance on a decimal improvement in the position, which bore little relation to the gravity of the problem. Statutory regulations are not enough. It seems to us on this side that the most valuable contribution to be made at this stage is to introduce a greater participation by workers in dealing with this problem, and it is for this reason that I hope the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill.
|Division No. 43.]||AYES||[3.57 p.m.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hastings, S.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Healy, Cahir (Fermanagh)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Beswick, F.||Herbison, Miss M.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Holman, P.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Prootor, W. T.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reeves, J.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Ross, William|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Royle, C.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Crostond, C. A. R.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Kenyon, C.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Deer, G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stross, Or. Barnett|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lindgren, G. S.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacColl, J. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Warbey, W. N|
|Finch, H. J.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mason, Roy||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Follick, M.||Mellish, R. J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Foot, M. M.||Mitchison, G. R.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Morgan, Or. H. B. W|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mulley, F. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||O'Brien, T.||Dr. Broughton and Mr. Gooch.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Glover, D.||Osborne, C.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Godber, J. B.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Gough, C. F. H.||Redmayne, M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hay, John||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Heath, Edward||Russell, R. S.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Channon, H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Spearman, A C. M.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Kaberry, D.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kerr, H. W.||Summers, G. S.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Longden, Gilbert||Teeling, W.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Wellwood, W|
|Finlay, Graeme||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Moore, Sir Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Mr. Beresford Craddock and|
|Fort, R.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Sir Herbert Williams.|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)|