Health and Safety

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1990.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish 12:00 am, 13th March 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when he last met the director-general of the Health and Safety Executive; and what was discussed.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

My right hon. and learned Friend met the director-general of the Health and Safety Executive, together with the chairman of the commission, on 31 January for a discussion on the work of the commission and the executive.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Does the Minister accept that there are still far too many accidents at work, and that, tragically, far too many people are still killed at work? What steps will the Health and Safety Commission take to protect in particular the increasing number of part-time workers who have great difficulty in making representations to their employers about their working conditions, if they are dangerous?

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question was entirely right. I am sure that that is accepted on both sides of the House. As for the Government's contribution to the funds that are needed, during the past three years we have met the HSE bill in full. The HSE's consultative document relating to those who work on multi-contractor sites goes a considerable way towards addressing the hon. Gentleman's concerns.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington

Is my hon. Friend aware that during the past 20 years there have been significant improvements in health and safety at work in this country and that we compare favourably with all other countries, particularly the advanced ones? Is he further aware that if we become too draconian, that can eventually be counterproductive? Will he please tell that to the director-general?

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

My hon. Friend is right to remind us that standards are a great deal better than they used to be. However, they could be a great deal better in certain industries. I have in mind the construction industry and the self-employed. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with me that a great deal more needs to be done.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

Why have the promises that were made to the docks industry——

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I called the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd). I shall have to give the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) another chance.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

It was a small piece of ventriloquism, M r. Speaker.

When the Secretary of State met the director-general of the Health and Safety Executive, did he discuss the lack of new personnel to monitor the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, the lack of specialist health and safety inspectors and the lack of a proper framework within which to do the health and safety work that the Minister says he wants to be done? That is not happening.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

My right hon. and learned Friend has had wide-ranging discussions with both bodies. If the hon. Gentleman was trying to say, yet again, that a mere increase in the number of inspectors will automatically lead to an automatic decrease in the number of accidents, he would be disguising the fact that the responsibility for dealing with health and safety is ultimately the responsibility of those involved—both employees and employers.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed , Bristol East

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Health and Safety Executive has been granted all the resources that it asked for, for this year and for the next two years? Does not that give the lie to the Labour party's propaganda?

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

I repeat to my hon. Friend what I said a moment ago in relation to the public expenditure survey over the past three years. Under this Government, spending in real terms is at least as good as it was under the previous Government. Opposition Members sometimes make the mistake of believing that all those problems could be solved by the mere expenditure of money. It is a beguiling notion. It would be good if it were true, but it Js not.