Health and Hygiene (Washing Facilities)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough 12:00 am, 6th July 1964

asked the Minister of Health if he will prepare legislation to make the provision of free washing facilities compulsory in public conveniences and in toilets in railway stations, work places, restaurants, public houses, places of entertainment, hotels and houses in multiple occupation.

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Doncaster

There are already detailed requirements about washing facilities in most of the places mentioned by the hon. Member. They vary according to the particular type of place, and I do not think that general legislation would be appropriate.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Does the Minister remember that at the time of the typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen, which is an unusually clean town, it was said that one-third of the public conveniences were without washing facilities? Are these facilities not as important for health as factory legislation is for safeguarding against accident? Will the right hon. Gentleman at least consult with his right hon. Friends the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see that in their Departments insistence is placed on washing facilities being provided?

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Doncaster

I expect that the hon. Gentleman will already know that local authorities may provide washing facilities in public conveniences and that they are not obliged to charge for them, although I appreciate that some do. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in replying to a Question asked by the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) on 9th June, undertook to consider issuing a circular to local authorities about the provision of free washing facilities in public conveniences.

Photo of Mr Stephen Swingler Mr Stephen Swingler , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Why does not the Minister of Health consider that general legislation on this subject would be appropriate? Is it not desirable, from a health point of view—and in view of the experience of happenings like the Aberdeen typhoid epidemic—that washing facilities of this type should be provided universally? Is it not advisable, if their provision cannot be obtained by other means, that it should be done by general legislation?

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Doncaster

The reason why I do not think that general legislation would be appropriate is because requirements differ, for example as to the persons for whom the facilities should be provided. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] I refer to workpeople, residents or the general public. That is why there are regulations relating to each of the types of establishment referred to in the Question. It is better to deal with it in this way, although I am not saying that it may not be necessary to improve and extend the regulations; but general legislation would not be the best way of achieving what the hon. Gentleman and I both have in mind.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

Does not the Minister appreciate that the events of recent months have suggested that our standards of food cleanliness are really not as high as they should be? Does he not think that perhaps the time has come for a general review of food hygiene regulations in order to see whether or not they should be rather more stringent and rather more stringently applied than at present?

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Doncaster

The hon. Gentleman knows, because I have announced it in the House, that I am reviewing the regulations concerning hygiene in markets and certain other places. As I understand it, it would in any event have been necessary, as a result of that review—and the regulations are now with the local authorities concerned for comment—to consider amendments to the general regulations. In doing that, of course, I am quite willing to—and, indeed, I have already decided that we should—take into account the events of recent months, and if there is anything we can learn, or any improvements we ought to make, we shall make them.