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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.