Agriculture (Tractor Cabs)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1974.

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10.15 p.m.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I beg to move, That the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations 1974, a draft of which was laid before this House on 5th November, be approved. These regulations are being introduced under the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956. Their main objective is to postpone the date from which all new tractors will have to be fitted with safety cabs which satisfy the noise requirements. The new date is 1st June 1976. The regulations also revoke and consolidate the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations 1967 and the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) (Amendment) Regulations 1973.

The development of the safety cab has not been without its problems. The cab concentrates the noise of the tractor inside it, and the noise may reach a level where the driver's hearing may be in danger. Regulations were therefore made in 1973 requiring all new tractors sold to the farmer from 1st September 1975 to be fitted with a safety cab in which the noise level at the driver's ear did not exceed 90 dBA. The date of 1st September 1975 was adopted as being the earliest date that manufacturers could meet the demand for 90 dBA tractor/cab combinations.

At the end of 1973 representations were made to the Ministry that manufacturers would be unable to meet this date. Their case was based on difficulties in obtaining basic materials such as steel and plastics as well as the shortage of machine tools for building the new quiet safety cabs. These difficulties were increased in January 1974 as a result of the fall in energy supplies and the three-day working week. The representations were carefully considered and all interested organisations were consulted about the proposal to defer implementation of the "quiet cab" regulations by nine months. I emphasise that all the organisations which replied to our letter of consultation accepted the case for deferment, although there were two organisations—the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers —which much regretted that this was necessary.

I should like to pay tribute to the tractor manufacturers who have made every effort to design suitable safety cabs for the great variety of tractors in use in this country. When they were faced with the further problem of noise they redesigned their products to reduce the noise levels without detracting from the general safety factor. This has involved a major re-engineering job. Changes involved could not be introduced overnight.

In 1973 the date of September 1975 was accepted as being the earliest possible date by which manufacturers would be able to reduce the noise level in their cabs. But I now reluctantly accept that because of supply and technical difficulties beyond the control of tractor manufacturers it is necessary to postpone by nine months the operative date of this measure. I am assured that, provided that there is no major interruption to manufacturing, the new quiet cabs will be available for all new tractors sold to farmers by the new date.

The regulations therefore provide that from 1st June 1976 all new tractors will have to be fitted with safety cabs which satisfy the noise requirements—that is, not more than 90 dBA at the operator's ear—and that from 1st September 1977 all new safety cabs will have to meet these requirements. Perhaps I should make clear that there is no restriction on fitting cabs which do not meet the noise requirements to tractors supplied before June 1976 and any such approved cabs fitted will not have to be replaced by cabs which meet those requirements.

The opportunity is also being taken to revoke the 1967 regulations and the 1973 (amendment) regulations and to consolidate their provisions in this new order. A consolidation of this kind follows an inquiry by the Joint Statutory Instruments Committee when it considered the 1973 regulations in draft.

These consolidated regulations therefore require that wheeled tractors weighing 11 cwt. or more must be fitted with approved and suitably marked safety cabs when first sold into agriculture. This has applied since September 1970. They also require that such tractors be fitted with safety cabs when driven by agricultural workers, and it is made an offence for a worker to drive such a tractor without an approved safety cab, or for anyone to cause or permit him to do so. These provisions will apply to all other tractors in agricultural use as from September 1977.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I point out before we enter into the debate that, as the Minister realised, this much be a restricted debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is because it is a consolidation measure. It is not my choice.

10.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the guidance you have given to the House. On several occasions during the past 10 years when matters of this type have been debated I have found myself in trouble with the occupant of the Chair. I shall do my utmost to keep my remarks within the regulations now before us. I have beside me a copy of "Erskine May", open at page 569, and no doubt you have a copy in front of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that both of us have in mind the same rules of order and that it will be possible to abide by them. I shall do my utmost to achieve that end.

We are grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for explaining the purpose of the change in the law regarding tractor safety cabs. Apart from the details of the regulations now before us, it is a good thing that we should be debating agricultural safety at this time because I think I am right in saying it is still National Farm Safety Year. It is to be welcomed that we should be debating a topic which will give added publicity to the drive being carried out to promote greater safety on farms.

The Minister of State made a speech a few months ago in relation to a special week devoted to a campaign for the safety of children on farms. Judging from what the Minister of State said on that occasion, I am sure that he and the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that there are still far too many unnecessary accidents on farms and—I am sure that this is out of order—far too many of these accidents concern children. I appreciate that that last point is not covered in the regulations we are now considering.

The regulations are very welcome. At this stage I should say that I may have been discourteous to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am not sure whether this is the first occasion that he has addressed the House in his present post. [Interruption.] I understand that that is not so, and I beg his pardon.

I recognise that there have been technical and supply problems, as was stated in a handout issued from the Ministry on 5th November, and it has been almost impossible for tractor manufacturers to provide cabs which are soundproofed in the way prescribed originally in regulations in 1973. We recognise that problems have arisen. There are many technological difficulties which the trade has had to face in trying to establish methods of soundproofing cabs in order to comply with the change in the law that is now proposed.

I am told that there has been much trial and error by design engineers in trying to find ways of getting over these problems. Therefore, the Opposition are perfectly happy to accept the extra nine-month period before provision of soundproofed tractor cabs becomes essential on new tractors. However, a number of questions arise.

Will the Minister tell us what is the supply position for tractor cabs? I am told that there is a shortage of cabs. I heard recently of a Scottish dealer who has been unable to obtain delivery of cabs either from tractor manufacturers or from private cab manufacturers. I also heard about a dealer in Scotland who took delivery of several new tractors without cabs direct from the factory, as the law provides, but those tractors could not be delivered by the dealer to a farmer until they were provided with cabs. Because of the shortage of cabs those tractors could not be moved on.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is a reasonable degree of co-ordination between the manufacturers of tractors and the manufacturers of cabs? I am sure that he is the last person to wish to see tractors delivered by manufacturers to farmers being unable to go out to the farms because they are not provided with cabs.

If certain types of cab are in short supply, will the Minister explain how Regulation 8, which deals with certificates of exemption, applies? Who grants the exemptions which are provided for in Regulation 8? What is the chain of command? How local can be the decision to allow an exemption? I ask those questions because I have recently had a letter from an old friend of mine, Mr. Tony Stodart, who will be well remembered as a previous Minister for State. He interested himself particularly in this problem. He has recently run into a difficulty which I have his permission to quote to the House. His letter reads as follows: I ran into annoying trouble when I needed a new tractor this harvest. It had been ordered for a long time and came forward all right to the agents, but it stood in their shop for over three weeks because there was a shortage of cabs. What magnified the irritation was that all I needed it for at that time was to stand hitched to a trailer, into which grain should have fallen, and move 20 yards to tip the load into a pit for final storage. But, of course, no tractor is allowed to be sold without a safety cab. There is a shortage of cabs. Farmers who wish to use a tractor for a purpose like that, which is entirely safe, are not allowed to do so under the existing law or under the regulations we are considering. Is it possible for a temporary exemption to be allowed in a case like that on a written undertaking from the farmer that the tractor would not go out on the land but remain in the farmyard? Could not an exemption be allowed in those circumstances for a short period until the appropriate cab is delivered?

Before leaving the case which our old friend Tony Stodart has brought to my attention, perhaps I might ask the Minister to answer a further question about it. He may know that when Tony Stodart was Minister of State he carried on a battle within the Ministry to safeguard the position of the private tractor cab manufacturers. Can the Minister confirm that it is perfectly legal for a dealer to take delivery from a manufacturer of a tractor which is not equipped with a cab? As I understand it, the law suggested by Regulation 4 is that it is an offence only for a person to sell such a new tractor to a person for use by him in agriculture. It is not an offence for a tractor manufacturer to sell a tractor without a cab to a dealer.

Only today I spoke to a tractor dealer who will be known to my old friend the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) and who was under the impression that he was not allowed, as a dealer, to buy a tractor without a cab from a manufacturer. I understand that to be wrong, and I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that it is perfectly legal for a tractor dealer to buy a tractor without a cab from a manufacturer.

I turn now to a minor matter about which I should like to ask the Minister a question. Regulation 6(c) says that every worker employed in agriculture is obliged by the regulations to report to his employer any defect in the windscreen wiper if one is fitted. However, in Regulation 2(3)(b) we are told that a tractor is properly fitted with a safety cab for the purpose of the regulations if the safety cab is equipped with an efficient automatic wiper for any windscreen it may have. It seems strange if a man driving a tractor has to report to his employer any defect in the windscreen wiper "if" one is fitted, whereas in an earlier regulation we are told that it is necessary that one should be fitted. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can explain that slight anomaly to us.

Another matter is of importance, and it concerns soundproofed cabs—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling), but I should like to try to help him and the House. If he will link whatever arguments he has to the nine-months' postponement, which is the one amendment made by the regulations, his remarks will be more in order. Any discussion of the details of the regulations is not within our power tonight.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I apologise if I have said anything to offend you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I might put it in this way. I am somewhat disturbed about the postponement of these regulations and the coming in of the operative date because of the importance of various parts of the regulations. Regulation 3 (8) says: An approved safety cab shall cease to be approved if it is materially changed as a result of damage, alteration, neglect or any other cause. The operative words are "materially changed", and, in view of the proposed change of date, I hope that we shall have an explanation. Surely that phrase does not relate to a cab being twisted slightly by being backed into by a lorry or thrust against a building. In absurd terms, some official could interpret these words as requiring that an infinitesimal change to a cab's structure meant that it would have to be scrapped. What would happen if a hole were drilled in the cab for a radio aerial? An official might think that it had been "materially changed". Is there any procedure for re-approving a tractor after an accident? I certainly would not condone the further use of a cab which had been rendered patently unsafe, but bumps happen in farming and it is important to clarify this.

If a new tractor, bought this month and fitted with a safety cab, were involved in an accident, with what would it have to be replaced? I should not have thought that it was necessary to replace it with a tractor fitted with a much more sophisticated cab, such as would have to be fitted after 1st June 1976. The extra cost of these cabs is very great. The difference in cost between cabs which have to be fitted now and those which have to be fitted after 1st June 1976 is about £250. Therefore, it seems to me that if a perfectly normal safety cab were to be broken on a relatively old tractor after 1st June 1976, it surely would not be necessary for it to have to be replaced by a far more sophisticated soundproofed cab, which would cost a great deal of money to fit to an older tractor.

I conclude on a somewhat whimsical matter. I have been reading the debate which took place on 21st June 1967, when the regulations were introduced. I noticed that Sir Clive Bossom spoke in that debate. Many of us knew him for many years. Again I seem to be quoting one of our old friends. In 1967 he said: If a new safety cab costs between £70 and £100, will this price our tractors out of foreign markets? I was amused to see that our old friend Mr. Hoy, now Lord Hoy, in replying to the debate, said: Reference was made to the present price of cabs. We expect the price to fall considerably when full-scale production begins."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June 1967; Vol. 748, c. 1662–3, 1671.] Nothing of the sort has happened. Now a new tractor cab of the sort that Lord Hoy was talking about costs about £250 fitted. We are talking about a good deal of money. Not for a moment do I think that that money is ill spent. I hope that no one would suggest that that is my view. It is a small price to pay for the extra safety which the regulations will provide for those who work tractors on our land. I am sure that no sensible farmers would be opposed to spending, that sort of money. However, it is important that the Minister should concern himself with certain matters involved in the regulations. I hope that he will deal with them.

We welcome the regulations. We hope that they will help as soon as possible to give added safety to those who work on our farms and do so much to ensure our continued supplies of food.

10.42 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Maynard Miss Joan Maynard , Sheffield, Brightside

This matter is of considerable importance to members of my union—namely, farmworkers. It is of growing importance because of the mechanisation of the agricultural industry. Delay in any of these safety regulations affects farm-workers directly. It seems that there has always been delay, as there is on this occasion.

The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) referred to unnecessary accidents. I suggest that these are due to unnecessary delay. In 1973 there were 20 fatal accidents due to overturning tractors. Four of those fatalities were children. All those tractors were without cabs.

It may be that farmers have to pay £250, or whatever the figure is, for a new noise-free cab. But accidents do not happen just to farmworkers. They also happen to farmers. Since the safety cab regulations came into force, there have been six fatalities involving tractors to which cabs were fitted. The people were not killed because the cabs were inefficient. They were killed because they were either thrown out or were attempting to get out while the tractor was overturning.

Following the safety cab regulations, we now have the new hazard of noise. Some of us used to think that we would rather be deaf than dead, but perhaps we need to be neither.

For new machines the original date for the new requirements was September 1975. The new date is now June 1976—a further delay—and for all tractors, including existing tractors, the date is September 1977. That is three years away. The delay costs lives. If it is a question of lives or money, lives should be more important. I deplore, as does my union, this continuing delay in relation to farm safety.

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

As the House knows, my constituency has a very large horticultural element—a large number of hop gardens and orchards. I am glad that the order makes special provision for that category of horticultural production. There is a practical exemption for tractors used in hop gardens and orchards. These are narrow tractors, and the House will appreciate the great practical difficulties of fitting cabs to them. This is fine as far as it goes.

However, anxieties have been expressed to me by local interests. These anxieties must arise from the new regulations and the setting of a new date for their becoming effective. I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on this worry. There is an apparent conflict in logic between Regulations 4 and 5. Regulation 5(4) provides an exemption for hop gardens and orchards.

"Nothing in this regulation shall apply to a tractor— (a) while it is being used for the purpose of carrying out an agricultural operation in a hop-garden, hop-yard or orchard …". Regulation 4 says:

"No person shall— (a) sell a new tractor, or let it on hire …". There seems to be a conflict. It seems to suggest that a dealer is not allowed in any circumstances to sell a tractor unless it has a cab fitted, whereas it is lawful for a horticulturist to operate a tractor without such a cab being fitted. Clearly, it is a little piece of nonsense if a dealer is forced by law to sell a tractor with a cab fitted only for that cab to be removed lawfully and left permanently unused. It would be a grotesque waste of money and resources.

This is not a small point, because some horticulturists operate with a large number of tractors and replace them fairly regularly. I am sure that there will be a logical explanation for this. I hope that the Minister will explain that it is not necessary for a dealer to fit a cab to a tractor which, because of the use to which it is to be put, does not have to have the cab fitted subsequently. It may be that the Minister plans to issue a certificate of regulations under Regulation 8.

10.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

We are all very concerned about the delay in bringing these regulations into operation. I ask the Minister to take the opportunity of the delay to look at a number of aspects of the regulations. The regulations are authorised under the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956. Nowhere in the regulations, though I think it should be in the explanatory note, is there an outline of how the regulations are to be enforced.

To obtain that information it is necessary to turn to Section 14 of the parent Act. Under Section 14 the maximum fine for a breach of the Act is £50 in a court of summary jurisdiction and, although it is not specified, probably more on indictment. If these provisions are to be enforced—we are talking now about loss of life and injury to limb—there must be a much stronger sanction than £50, which today is a paltry sum. For example, the comparatively trivial offence—which we are to debate tomorrow—of not wearing seat belts when their wearing is made compulsory will carry a penalty of £50, though any resultant injury would be self-inflicted. I understand that the rate of prosecution in this case is very low.

I ask the Minister to consider also the question of Section 16, which relates to prosecutions under these regulations and others. There the defence is given that an employer used "all due diligence". In fact, this provision, which was included in Section 41 of the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, was deleted because by common consent on both sides of the Committee, of which I was a member, the phrase "all due diligence" was held to be a lawyers' paradise and there were a large number of loopholes. Therefore, it might be expeditious if during the delaying period the Minister examines this section to see whether it can be tightened up.

I leave the Minister with the final thought that in order to secure the proper and effective application of these regulations it might be useful for him to consider incorporating the application of agricultural regulations under the general umbrella of the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act. I recall that, although this House approved that idea at one stage, the House of Lords, which has nearly 200 Members with rather larger agricultural interests than a large back garden and an allotment, knocked the agricultural provision out of the Bill, and when it came back to this House the Opposition, Tories and Liberals, flocked into the Lobby and voted the agricultural provision out.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I am being as tolerant as I can be, and that is very tolerant, but the hon. Gentleman is getting a little too far beyond the question of the date, which is the main question before the House.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

I am grateful for your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This date is crucial. Although we regret the delay, it may be that this delay will work to our advantage. All the points which I have raised about the lack of powers to ensure that these regulations are in force can be minutely examined by the Minister and he can come back to this House fresh with these points in his mind. The delay will not be regrettable but will be of value because it will enable us to make sure that people who disregard these regulations are prosecuted, that the regulations have real force and urgency and that penalties are attached to them.

10.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geraint Howells Mr Geraint Howells , Cardigan

I shall accept your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and be brief and to the point.

I am pleased to welcome the draft regulations. I am sure that all farmers, especially hill farmers, will welcome any measure which will improve the safety standards for farm workers. If the regulations save only one life it will be a worthwhile exercise. Far too many lives have already been lost. I have been personally involved in such a fatality, when a neighbour of mine, a 19-year-old shepherd, was killed when his tractor was overturned 13 years ago. If we had had the regulations then, I am sure that my neighbour would be farming the hills of Pumlumon today. It is a great pity that regulations such as these were not devised and imposed many years ago.

I should like to pay a tribute to the Agricultural Training Board, to its chairman, the regional chairmen, the staff and the field officers. During the last few years the board has had tractor training courses in Wales, which have been very successful, and farmers and farm workers have taken advantage of them. As you will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, many hundreds of acres of hill land have been reclaimed in Mid-Wales. With these regulations and the tractor courses of the Agricultural Training Board, I am convinced that many more lives will be saved in the future, and that we shall increase production of the bill land in Mid-Wales.

10.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Corrie Mr John Corrie , Ayrshire North and Bute

It is most disappointing to see that there are no Scottish Members on the Labour back benches. With the terrain encountered in Scotland we are more likely to have—

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Edinburgh Central

I am pleased to say that I have an agricultural interest in my constituency. The area includes Arthur's Seat, and the shepherd who works there is a strong Labour supporter.

Photo of Mr John Corrie Mr John Corrie , Ayrshire North and Bute

I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has come in.

I am disturbed at the delay in the implementation of the regulations. I have a personal interest in the matter because I have lost a tractor driver on my own farm. He was killed, yet there was a cab on the tractor. Unfortunately, he tried to jump out as the tractor rolled over. That only shows that, although we can legislate for tractor cabs, we cannot legislate for human reaction. Perhaps a warning should be carried within the cab to say that in the case of accident the driver should stay put and not try to get out as the tractor rolls over.

I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) say how much good work the training board does in this matter. If the regulations are to be delayed, however, more should be done to advise drivers of the dangers, about the hitches which should be used, about the risks on different types of terrain, and about the points of gravity at which a tractor might roll over.

I can vouch for safety cabs because following the accident on my farm—and I am probably the only Member who can say this—I rolled a tractor with a safety cab fitted. That shows that when they are properly used they save lives. I am living proof of that fact.

Do I understand that tractors licensed before 1970 do not come under the regulations until 1st September 1977? If that is so it means that the tractor will be at least seven years old and perhaps much older. The safety cab will probably cost between £250 and £500, while the value of the tractor will be as low as £50. Many of the pre-1970 tractors had no fitting points for safety cabs so that many of the cabs available will not be completely suitable. The weak point on any tractor of that age would be the point of fitting.

My second fear is the enormous cost of the safety cabs in two years' time. At present the ordinary cab without soundproofing is £207. To attain the regulation standards on soundproofing could bring the cost up to £500 or £600. That is a small price to pay to save a life, but to any small farmer it is a large amount to lay out in addition to the £2,000 to £3,000 that the tractor costs in the first place.

Is there no way in which a grant could be offered for these cabs? The question of noise is important to a driver who has to sit there hour after hour with the noise and vibration building up. Perhaps the regulations could also provide that all cabs should be equipped with ear muffs which would be attached to the roof so that they could not be removed.

Tractors can be delivered to dealers without cabs on. Cabs of another make can be put on those tractors. Can the Minister say with absolute assurance that the engineers who fit them will be qualified? I hope that it will not be possible for just any old person to stick the cabs on the tractors, because the weak point is where the cab is fitted.

11.0 p.m.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) referred to the overall cab supply position. He was not referring only to the quiet cabs. We appreciate that in some local circumstances there is a shortage, but we have no reason to believe that it is serious. The manufacturers have assured us that they will be able to provide the cabs in the numbers we require.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of exemptions. It is only in exceptional circumstances that the exemptions will be granted. We are thinking, for example, of a situation in which the tractor is required for experimental purposes, and where it will be awkward to have a cab. We do not envisage that Mr. Stodart, the hon. Gentleman's former right hon. Friend, would be able to obtain an exemption for the reasons he gave. I have no doubt that the former right hon. Member for Edinburgh, West would not, having obtained an exemption to enable a tractor to do a small job such as the hon. Gentleman described, use it for any other purpose while it did not have a cab, but we cannot assume that all farmers would be as responsible. Therefore, the Government would be ill-advised to allow exemptions for such reasons, because we cannot be sure what use the tractor will be put to.

I confirm that it is in order under the regulations for a tractor manufacturer to sell a tractor without a cab to a dealer. This refers to new tractors or tractors being brought into agriculture for the first time.

I acknowledge the deep interest taken in these matters by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard). Before she became a Member we used to meet her from time to time in her role as a leading light in the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers. I understand my hon. Friend's disappointment at the delay in making it mandatory that all cabs fitted to new tractors shall comply with the noise requirements. I also understand my hon. Friend's disappointment that it will not be mandatory for any tractor driven by an agricultural worker to have a cab until 1st September 1977. But that date is not affected by the regulations, which relate solely to the cab designed to reduce the noise experienced by the driver.

The answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) is that the regulation exempting horticulture does not supersede these regulations. Regulation 4 applies to the sale of tractors, and the exemptions refer to use under certain circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to use the tractor with the cab fitted.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I follow the point about selling tractors without a cab. Ono cannot be sure that they will not subsequently be used for other purposes. Would the Minister not agree that it is illogical to enforce the sale of vehicles with cabs when it is clear that they are to be used purely for horticultural purposes, in circumstances when the cabs will never be used? This could happen on a large scale. Will he look at this problem?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I appreciate the point. The problem is that tractors may be used for purposes other than those for which the exemption is granted. The hon. Member will appreciate that in horticulture we are often talking of the smaller tractor which is not affected by these regulations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) referred to penalties, and I agree that they are inadequate. They are not affected by the regulations. As he recognised, they are governed by the 1956 Act, and there is nothing that we can do tonight to change that. My hon. Friend correctly described the position under the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act. We in the Labour Party were unsuccessful in rejecting an amendment moved in another place.

I point out that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, in answering a Written Question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside said: as foreshadowed by the Consultative Document, the Employment Protection Bill will amend the Act to give the Health and Safety Commission responsibilities for health and safety matters relating exclusively to agriculture. As already announced, the Bill will be introduced during the present Session of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November 1974; Vol. 880, c. 93.] It is obvious that the Employment Protection Bill will do what we failed to do earlier.

The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) took up the point about people with an old tractor being required to fit a cab to it by 1st September 1977. There has to be a date when it becomes illegal for anyone to drive a tractor without a cab. The first of September 1977 is a considerable time ahead. It would be in quite exceptional circumstances that people would be buying new cabs for old tractors. They can always buy secondhand cabs.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

There are three points which I raised and to which the Minister has, no doubt inadvertently, not replied. The first question had to do with this strange anomaly over windscreen wipers. The second related to what is meant by Regulation 3(8) and the phrase "materially changed". This is of great importance. Third, what is the position of a tractor now fitted with a safety cab which has a serious accident after the operative date in 1976? Can the cab be replaced with the same type of cab as had been fitted, which was not soundproofed, or does it, as I hope, have to be replaced by a much more sophisticated cab than it had before the accident?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The provision about 1st June 1976 relates to new tractors. Provided it was before 1st September 1977 a person could buy a cab which did not meet the noise requirements. The answer is that prior to 1st September 1977 he could replace the non-quiet cab with the quiet cab.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is right. That would not apply to the tractor that was bought new before 1970. I am talking about a tractor bought new after that time having to be fitted with a safety cab. I think there is a difference between a tractor bought before 1970 and a tractor bought after that date. I am concerned about new tractors bought between 1970 and the operative date in 1976. If an accident happens after that time, am I right in assuming that it would be possible to replace the broken cab with one that fulfilled the current regulations, but not necessarily the regulations relating to soundproofing?

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

Yes. I think that is what I said. Until 1st June 1976 the regulation applies to new tractors bought into the agriculture industry. It is later that it applies to cabs.

The hon. Gentleman referred to "material change". It is assumed that "material change" will be a change which renders the frame or the cab such as no longer provides protection to the driver. If, which seems extremely unlikely, an accident took place and there was a dispute whether the cab was defective, that could be tested only in the courts. I think the hon. Gentleman would accept that it is a fact of life with any law that there will be a grey area and that at the end of the day that can be tested in the courts. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the intention is that the cab should do the job that it is meant to do.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the windscreen wiper. The cab includes the frame, and often the frame does not have a windscreen fitted to it. Regulation 2 (3) requires an efficient automatic wiper for any windscreen it may have. There are occasions when a windscreen wiper will become defective. Even the most efficient wiper will occasionally break down. Therefore, it is sensible that an agricultural worker should be required to report that breakdown to his employer so that it can be put right as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

That was not exactly my point. Regulation 6(c) uses the phrase "if one is fitted." That does not necessarily mean one that has broken down. It implies that certain cabs may not be fitted with windscreen wipers. My question was directed to Regulation 2(3)(b), which states that any cab must have "an efficient automatic wiper". There seems to be a basic anomaly here. That was the point I intended to make.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. That should teach the whole House how wrong it is for the Chair to allow latitude. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for that encouragement. I will try not to make that mistake again. The Minister knows as well as anyone that, whilst I am allowing him the same latitude in replying to the various points that have been made, he should try to link them to the nine-months' postponement.

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

I take your point entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was ranging as widely as hon. Members, but this point has nothing to do with the date. I will comply with your wishes. No doubt we can write to the hon. Gentleman about that matter.

I hope that, on the basis of these answers, the House will approve the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations 1974, a draft of which was laid before this House on 5th November, be approved.