Local and fire authorities are aware of their responsibilities for enforcement and I am confident that they will take the necessary action to meet them. A letter sent to all local authorities has expressed my concern that there should be effective enforcement of the Act and has given general guidance on this subject. The recruitment of factory inspectors is dealt with in my Answer to Question No. 18.
I am very glad to have that assurance from the Minister. There have been some background noises about adequate arrangements not having been made, but I hope that what the Minister has said will be helpful. In view of the importance of this piece of legislation, will he be good enough to keep the matter under constant review for the time being?
asked the Minister of Labour what plans he has to rectify the 10–12 per cent. under-establishment of the factory department; and what steps he has taken and is taking to ensure that there are sufficient factory inspectors available to enforce the requirements of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act.
There is a continuing competition for the recruitment of factory inspectors and steps have been taken to improve both the publicity for it and liaison with the universities and technical colleges from which most of the candidates come. These measures have resulted in a net increase in the actual strength of the Inspectorate of 32 in the last 2½ years. That part of the work of enforcing the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act which falls on the Factory Inspectorate will be spread over the whole body of some four hundred inspectors and forty-two new posts were authorised some months ago to meet the additional load.
I am sure that the Minister is fully aware of the under-establishment of the factory department, and that is the main purpose of the Question, although of course on the more general question I hope that he feels that that is well in hand. May I ask whether, in view of the comprehensive nature of this business and the concern which he has expressed, he will be good enough to look at this from time to time to see that there is an adequate inspectorate?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a need to keep up our Factory Inspectorate. I have discussed this problem of recruitment with the Chief Inspector of Factories on a number of occasions, and I hope that we shall achieve our full establishment in the near future.
Is it not appalling that the Government, having had four years' notice of this additional need for factory inspectors for registering offices, should still find themselves short of factory inspectors? Can he say how many we are short of at the present time? Will he consider whether, in the interim period, during the initial part of the registration of offices and shops, it will be possible to use Ministry of Labour Grade 5 officers as aides to factory inspectors purely for the registration of offices and shops? This does not seem something for which it is necessary to train factory inspectors.
In reply to the hon. Gentleman's first question, the actual shortage over the whole field of the Factory Inspectorate is 48. We recruited 41 new inspectors in 1962, 43 last year, and I hope that we shall have a better picture by the end of this year. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in relation to this Act a large part of the inspection is the responsibility of local authorities and not of my Ministry.