HC Deb 15 November 1962 vol 667 cc588-684

Order for Second Reading read.

4.22 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. John Hare)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The object of the Bill is to raise standards of working conditions in shops, offices and certain railway premises so as to promote the health, welfare and safety of the workers in them. I believe that this is an object which will commend itself to all parts of the House.

There is a wide disparity in standards in this field. We all of us know offices and shops where working conditions are excellent, but there are still workers in these places who have to put up with conditions which fall far short of the standards provided in factories. The Bill is designed to help people who have to work in cramped conditions, in badly lit or under-heated rooms, in premises where the plumbing is primitive or in those where there are serious risks should fire break out. We wish to banish these conditions to the past, where they belong.

The Bill takes its place in a long and honourable line of social Measures which extends from the factory legislation of the 1830s to the notable advances of the past ten years, during which the springboard for much of the progress made has been the imaginative report of the Committee presided over by Sir Ernest Gowers. I am glad to pay my tribute to the work of that Committee and to remind the House that three of our number were members of that Committee—my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir W. Duthie) and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon).

The Gowers Committee themselves realised that the serious economic difficulties which beset this country when they reported in 1949 would hinder the direction of our national resources towards social reform. But the passing of fresh protective legislation for over half-a-million workers in mines and quarries in 1954 marked a further step forward. That was followed in 1956 by the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, covering another half-million workers. In 1959, the Factories Acts were strengthened and the statutory safeguards for about 9 million workers improved.

The present Bill will give protection or strengthen existing protection for a further 8 million people. This is a big advance. It will mean that a total of at least 18 million, or 80 per cent. of the working population, will enjoy statutory protection of this kind. I think that this is a record of which we can feel justifiably proud.

The House will remember that, due to the initiative and resource of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), an Offices Act was passed in 1960. This left all the provisions for securing the health, safety and welfare of office workers to be dealt with in subsequent regulations. The Government decided that the importance of this subject merited a more comprehensive Measure, with more substance in it. The Bill now before the House has a much wider scope, covering not only offices but also shops and many railway premises. It also contains many important substantive provisions. It is true that these substantive provisions are backed up by extensive powers for making regulations.

We have to steer a middle course between having a Bill which leaves everything to be dealt with by regulations and having a Bill which is encumbered and overloaded with too many meticulous details, especially on minor matters, which may well need revision from time to time. I think that it is right to include in the Bill the main provisions and the broad framework for close scrutiny and approval by the House, and then to leave the consequential detail to be dealt with in regulations. This, of course, is the general pattern which we have followed in the Factories Acts. We have acted on these lines, and I think that we have got the right sort of balance.

It was our intention to introduce this Bill in the last Session of Parliament, but, as the House remembers, the legislative programme was so heavy that we were forced, with great reluctance, to post- pone its introduction. We could not have introduced it earlier than the last Session as we wanted to consult a very wide variety of interests on the outline of our proposals for this legislation.

The House may be interested to know that we have consulted about 130 organisations—employers' organisations, trade unions, nationalised industries, local authority associations and medical and professional interests, as well as others. We received many constructive comments from these bodies, and I should like to take this opportunity of thanking them for all that they have done to help us. Naturally, we have not been able to meet all the points of view which have been put to us, but we have found that the close critical thought given to this subject by those whom we have consulted has been of great assistance to us in our responsibility for drawing up the Bill.

Under the Bill a great variety of premises will be covered, from a box office to an office block, from the corner shop to a huge departmental store, from a signal box to Waterloo station. It has been suggested that we should extend the scope of the Bill even more widely by adding various other categories of employment, but I think this would be a mistake. A line has to be drawn somewhere. These other employments have their own special problems and, frankly, I am reluctant to complicate further what I must admit is already a very complicated Bill.

It would be a pity to distract effort from the very real advance which we are making by trying to cater for a mixed bunch of special interests. One particular category, in connection with which there has been strong pressure for inclusion in this Bill, has been the theatres. The Gowers Committee was at pains to point out the special difficulties of theatres, where an attempt to enforce standard provisions would be likely to put many existing theatres out of business. To meet this difficulty, a suggestion has been put forward that the law should be enforced only when it did not create the special difficulties which I have mentioned—the likelihood of theatres having to close down.

I do not agree that this is a solution. I do not think it is right for Parliament to pass a law and leave its application to depend on the view taken by the enforcing authority as to the probable effect on the continued operation of the business concerned. I should have thought that this was wrong in principle, and that it would, in any case, mean that the law would not be enforced in cases where, perhaps, the need was greatest.

This is not the only difficulty about theatres. It would be difficult to devise proper standards related to the number of persons employed, because these vary very considerably, I do not say from week to week, but certainly from month to month. Where, if we did contemplate including theatres, do we stop? Do we try also to deal with concert halls, cinemas, bingo, boxing and all other forms of indoor entertainment? I should have thought that the answer to that was a very definite "No". In this Bill we have bitten off quite a lot, and I think that we should be wise to give ourselves a chance to digest what we have got.

I do not propose to go through this Bill Clause by Clause.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point about the theatres, as I understand it he accepts the fact that conditions in the live theatres are very bad—not in all, but in a large number of them. He discounts the possibility of dealing with that problem by legislation. How, then, does he see this problem being dealt with?

Mr. Hare

I think the hon. Gentleman, with his usual energy and resource, is putting words into my mouth which I did not say. What I actually said was, not that conditions were bad there, but that there are probably certain theatres in which conditions might be rather bad, and where, probably, the result would be the closing down of these theatres. No doubt this is a point which can be raised in Committee, and perhaps we could have a full and detailed discussion on it then.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Would the right hon. Gentleman develop this theme of exceptions? I can appreciate the point he is making about theatres, concert halls, bingo and so on, but could he give us a little explanation why he has not included coal depots, which are an integral part of distribution?

Mr. Hare

Again, this is a typical example of where we should go unless we are prepared to draw a line. One of the reasons why it would be wrong to take in theatres is because there would then be very strong pressure to extend the Bill considerably further into the world of entertainment. The hon. Gentleman raises a point about coal depots. Why stop at coal depots? I am sure that many hon. Members could provide overwhelming reasons why special interests I have mentioned should be protected by this Bill.

Mr. Loughlin

They are part of distribution.

Mr. Hare

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, as I think he knows very well—we have had discussions on the subject—there are very convincing reasons which I should be delighted to go into during the Committee stage, or which perhaps my hon. Friend will mention in winding up the debate, for drawing the line where we have done.

I will not weary the House by going through the 77 Clauses of the Bill. It would not be very merciful if I did, but the House will agree that I must draw the attention of hon. Members to some of the salient points in the Bill. The definitions in Clause 1 have been drawn widely in order to confer the benefits of the Bill on as many people as possible who work in the classes of premises that fall within its scope. It will be noted that this will apply only to premises in which employed persons work. In other words, offices and shops run by self-employed persons without employed help will not be covered. This will help to ensure that the Bill will not place a burden on the small family business. In addition, there is provision in Clause 2 that premises shall not be covered if only close relatives of the employer are employed, and these are actually categorised in the Bill. I think that Government interference in family arrangements could give rise to very obvious difficulties.

The main provisions of the Bill will have a familiar appearance to every hon. Member acquainted with the Factories Act. The decision to follow closely the wording of the Factories Act, where it is relevant to the scope of this Bill, was quite deliberate. Many thousands of offices are to be found in factories themselves, and only a doorway may separate the office workers from those actually on the factory floor. On many of the matters dealt with in this Bill, standards have been evolved from years of practical experience in the administration of the Factories Act, and where these are equally relevant to the conditions in offices and shops, again we have adopted them in this Bill.

We ought also to remember that the requirements of the Factories Acts have been further defined by decisions of the courts, and employers generally will know with certainty what is expected of them under these provisions. I do not propose to single out for special mention today any of the general requirements which are dealt with in Clauses 4 to 23. Together, they add up to a very comprehensive code for ensuring decent working conditions. They cover cleanliness, overcrowding, temperature, ventilation, lighting, sanitary conveniencies, washing facilities, drinking water, accommodation for clothing, seats, first aid, fencing exposed parts of machinery, and the training and supervision of young persons working dangerous machinery—a very comprehensive list indeed.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

Having reached that point, one understands that it is a matter for argument how far this Bill measures up to the Factories Act, but there is one very important difference, and that is in the list just mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—the training and supervision of young persons. This is a vital question to many of us. Section 20 of the Factories Act, 1961, which was a consolidation Measure, expressly forbids women and young persons to clean dangerous machinery, and this is a vital distinction which is not covered in Clause 16 of this Bill. I do not wish to weary the House or to be unfair to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am giving him fair notice that this is a vital matter on which I shall require a fuller explanation, either later today or in Standing Committee.

Mr. Hare

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising that point. We shall wish to discuss a number of matters in greater detail in Committee because the Bill covers so much ground. However, my hon. Friend will, no doubt, refer to this matter in his winding up speech and, later, we shall have the opportunity, I am sure, of hearing the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) raising the subject in Committee. The Committee stage will be important, and I am sure that we shall make it a better Bill as a result of a thorough Committee examination of it.

Having said that I do not want to go into the details of Clauses 4 to 23, I would draw particular attention to the important provisions dealing with fire precautions in Clauses 24 to 33. In general, it is true to say that work in the places covered by the Bill is not subject to many of the particular hazards encountered in factories, and on this, I think, we can be in agreement.

For this reason, many of the safety provisions in the Factories Act do not find a place in the Bill because they have no application. But fire strikes with the same menace in shops and offices, as we know from tragic experience. It is for this reason that the Bill applies the full range of fire precautions which has been evolved in factory legislation, including the important new provisions which were added by the 1959 Factories Act.

A feature of particular importance about the premises for which we are now legislating is that many separate offices and shops are only part of a building. Sometimes they will be associated with other offices and shops, all of which are separately subject to the Bill; sometimes they will form only a part of premises which are not subject to the Bill.

Examples of this would be a restaurant, office or shop in a hotel or block of flats. Some offices covered by the Bill will be in factories which are, of course, subject to the Factories Act. We have tried to make sensible provision for these varying circumstances, and I am afraid that in so doing we have undoubtedly complicated the Bill, but for good reason. We have, for example, provided that where there is ready access to amenities required by the Bill, then separate provision is not required. A shop in the hall of a hotel, for instance, will not need its own separate plumbing if there are perfectly good lavatories and washing facilities conveniently available in the hotel. I give this as an example of what has made the Bill rather complicated in some respects, but it is readily seen that it is based on common sense. The rules about first aid in a factory have been framed to take account both of those who work in the office and those who work on the factory floor. It is important to realise that separate premises in one building will be grouped for dealing with fire precautions.

I should like to explain the reasons why I am seeking, in Clauses 36 and 37, limited powers to grant exemptions from certain requirements of the Bill. There has been a certain comment in the Press about this. These requirements are concerned with overcrowding, temperature and the provision of sanitary and washing facilities. The House will observe that all these provisions are similar in that an occupier or owner may have to install new equipment or even extend his premises to comply with them.

Since the definitions in Clause 1 are widely drawn, it is possible that they will bring within scope classes of premises in which, by reason of special circumstances, it would be unreasonable to require compliance with these provisions—at least, for a period of time. To give an example of this; if there is no piped water supply in an area it would be unreasonable to require a supply of running water under Clause 10, and this might be made the subject of an exemption order by the Minister under Clause 36. I am attempting to give the sort of example that comes to mind. Again, a case might be made out for the exemption of certain types of kiosks from some or all of these requirements.

These exemption powers relate to classes of premises. There is also provision, under Clause 37, for individual premises to be exempted by the enforcing authorities from most of these same requirements if compliance with them is not reasonably practicable. In some cases it may be literally impossible, for physical reasons, to extend premises to provide the facilities required by the Bill under these provisions and an exemption under this Clause for a short period may be the only practical alternative to forcing a business to close down. I want to emphasise, however, that this is a period of grace during which the employer should be active in seeking new premises or making alternative arrangements for his staff.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I am rather puzzled about this distinction between Clauses 36 and 37. The Minister tried to explain it and said that Clause 36 enables him to exempt "classes of premises", but Clause 36 states "premises of any class", which could mean individual premises. Does the phrase at present in the Bill cover this?

Mr. Hare

Clause 36 intends to cover classes of premises. Clause 37 gives the enforcing authority power to exempt individual premises. I think that that covers the point about which the hon. Member is puzzled.

Mr. Hynd

I know what the intention is, but I urge the Minister to read the beginning of Clause 36, which contains the words … may … exempt premises of any class …. which could mean individual premises. Is the wording sound?

Mr. Hare

The wording, according to the lawyers, is perfect. It means all classes of premises. However, we can discuss this in Committee. As long as I Lave made the principle absolutely clear, we can discuss the subject at greater length later.

Regarding this period of grace, all exemptions granted to individual premises, other than those relating to the supply of running water, must be reviewed at least every two years, and the exemption can be withdrawn on three months' notice of this intention. Having stressed this point, I hope I have made it abundantly clear that the purpose of these powers of exemption is not to provide an easy method of evading the requirements of the Bill. When they are used, because special circumstances warrant this, they will be subject to frequent review.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way because I would like him to clarify this distinction between Clauses 36 and 37. Is it not a fact that in Clause 36 power is given to the Minister to grant exemptions while, in Clause 37, the question is the power of the enforcing authority to grant an exemption? Is that not the distinction between the two Clauses?

Mr. Hare

There are two distinctions. The hon. Member is right in saying that Clause 36 gives power to the Minister because this applies to whole classes of premises. In Clause 37 the enforcing authority is given the power to make exemptions in certain individual cases. That is the point and I hope I have clarified it.

I should like to say something about administration and enforcement. Here, there are definitely two schools of thought. One is in favour of using central Government inspectors to deal with premises which are covered by the Bill. While there are obviously some advantages in unifying the control of administrative arrangements in this way, the considerable number of premises involved would mean creating a very large central inspectorate. It would lead to a great deal of dual inspection by central inspectors under the Bill and by local authority inspectors under other statutes. The other school of thought advocates enforcement by local authorities throughout the whole of the Bill. This has the obvious disadvantage—I hope that the House will agree with me—that it would not make use of the experience of the Factory Inspectorate in enforcing similar provisions under the Factories Act.

I suppose that by the nature of my office I automatically favour the middle way, which is the more pragmatic approach. It seems obvious to me that much of the inspection required under this Bill will be a natural extension of the existing duties of local authorities under the Public Health Acts, the Shops Act and certain provisions of the Factories Act where local authorities have certain responsibilities. Therefore, local authority inspectors are well fitted for this work, and the Bill provides that they should be responsible for enforcement in most offices and shops. On the other hand—and this is why I favour the middle approach—there is a clear advantage in arranging for central Government inspectors to inspect railway premises and offices in factories because of the experience of my Department in administering the Factories Act in these undertakings.

In addition to these responsibilities, the Bill makes the Factory Inspectorate responsible for inspecting premises occupied by local authorities and fire and police authorities.

Mr. J. T. Price

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point dealing with enforcement and the Factory Inspectorate, of which he had tried to give a balanced account——

Mr. Hare

I have not quite finished.

Mr. Price

I shall not detain the right hon. Gentleman for more than a moment. Surely he must know that his dogmatic statement that he is pleased at the manner in which local authorities are carrying out their duties under the Shops Act is quite wide of the truth. The complaint of most people who gave evidence before the Gowers Committee in 1949 was that in most cases enforcement of legislation was not being carried out because local authorities had not the resources nor the personnel, nor in many cases the will, to carry it out. Very often the sort of person who is called a shops inspector is also a sanitary inspector and a general Pooh-Bah in a small community, and it is impossible for him to carry out his duties. To repeat this procedure in this Measure would be disastrous.

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman referred to evidence given in 1949. We must be careful before we condemn local authority inspectors. There may be examples supporting what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but his accusation is in far too general terms and is not fair.

I was saying that I thought local authority inspectors were fitted to carry out this work and I gave the reasons why. I also think that because of the experience of my own Inspectorate, they will do well the work of inspecting railway premises, offices in factories, and also undertaking the inspection of premises occupied by local authorities as well as fire and police authorities. They will also inspect premises owned or occupied by Government Departments.

Finally on this aspect, over a wide range of premises covered by the Bill the fire authorities will be responsible for administering the fire provisions. This is important. This follows the arrangements introduced by the Factories Act, 1959, which, as many hon. Members will remember, were hammered out alter a great deal of detailed discussion. I think it is agreed that they are working out in practice and that the time spent in 1959 was well spent. This broad division of responsibility makes full use of the existing expertise of the various authorities concerned, and I believe this will prove the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Bill.

I should like to draw attention to the requirement in Clause 49 that all local authorities and fire authorities should send an annual report of their proceedings under the Bill to the Minister. These reports, together with similar particulars which will be supplied to me by my inspectors, will enable me to keep Parliament informed of the way in which the Measure is being administered.

This Bill is part of the Government's wider plans to improve conditions of employment for all workers. It will benefit mainly the growing body of people who work in offices and shops and it will give them protection of the kind which workers in industry already enjoy. The legislation which has been anticipated in the Queen's Speech on terms of employment will provide greater security and an improved status for all workers. I believe that this Bill provides a sensible and fair way of dealing with standards of working conditions by legislation. The millions whom the provisions of the Bill will embrace can look forward to healthier and more comfortable working conditions. Better workng conditions should mean greater efficiency. This Bill will help to modernise Britain and strengthen our position in meeting the challenge of the future.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. Ray Gunter (Southwark)

I shall follow the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in restricting my speech as much as possible because of the amount of time Which has been stolen from this debate by previous events.

I should like to thank the Minister for the courtesy with which he has taken us through a very complicated Bill. I thought I noticed at the beginning of his remarks a note of exultation and pride in introducing it, but we on these benches cannot share that feeling. In other words, there will be no adulation from these benches about the Bill, or about the length of time which has been occupied in preparing and presenting it to the House.

I am reminded of a leading article in The Times on 3rd November, which, I thought, summed up the position very well. It said Parliament may well be disposed to welcome this Bill; but it may also justly complain that it is not told precisely what it is being invited to welcome, since so much depends on the nature of the regulations made under the Bill, on the use which is made of the powers of exemption and on the discretion of the Minister. I fully understand—indeed, there is no Member on this side of the House who does not—that in a Bill of this character, dealing with problems of this nature, there is bound to be a measure of delegation. But I feel bound to say that the amount of power that has been taken by the Minister in this Bill is rather frightening. This Bill can mean much to millions of people—great things can be done under the Bill—or it can mean practically nothing if the Minister does not want it to do so.

If I may say so, one cannot but be sympathetic with some of those who cynically aver that the Bill is the product not of good intention, but of political expediency, in view of the fact that it has been introduced in the last year before a General Election. It may be that Orpington has had an effect upon the large number of workers who live there and has caused the Minister to introduce the Bill.

The record of the Government in legislation affecting the well-being of office and shop workers is thoroughly bad. The treatment of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) was a squalid bit of political expediency. The intentions of the House at that time were clear, but the Government deliberately kept the Act inoperative.

I join the Minister in congratulating those who served on the Gowers Committee and produced its Report in 1949. That Report was first-class. The presentation of the Report was a blissful moment of satisfaction, but the period of gestation has been so long that we have almost forgotten what the Report contained. Now, we are presented with the delivery and it is not quite the lusty thing that we hoped it would be.

Looking back over the last decade in the House, some Ministers have gone up, some have gone down and some have disappeared, but at various stages, almost at six-monthly intervals, they have all avowed their great fidelity to the recommendations of the Gowers Committee. Those recommendations had about just as much meaning or worth as the marriage vows of an American film actress.

I realise that the present Minister does not bear responsibility for this decade of gestation. I believe that he is trying his best to catch up. Without being churlish about the matter this afternoon, however, I should have thought that after this long period of waiting, when some of us have been engaged in thousands of committees and the trade unions have given volumes of evidence and other contributions to various Ministers concerning the recommendations of the Gowers Committee, the Bill might have been a little more comprehensive and precise. While I understand that much will have to await regulations, there is very much more that could have been written into the Bill after this long period of preparation and analysis.

Now that the Bill is being introduced, an imaginative effort could have been made to encompass many more workers who are outside the scope of the Factories Act. I am not sure of the figures, but there must be million's of workers who are still outside any form of protection.

Mr. Hare

When the Bill is in operation, 80 per cent. of the working population will be covered.

Mr. Gunter

That is small satisfaction to the remaining 20 per cent. Inroads could have been made into that 20 per cent. by means of the Bill.

I want to say a word or two about same of the people who are not included. They may not be all that great in number, but their needs are equal to those who are included. Consider, for example, some of the people working for our health services and local authorities. They exist to provide a service and, in consequence, the work done by many of the staff does not bring the places in which they are employed within the definition of a factory under the Factories Act, 1961. The fact that they are there to serve the public interest is no reason why we should not have statutory safeguards to cover workers in that sort of work. Badly ventilated kitchens and boiler houses and antiquated hospitals and schools are nowadays too often the rule and not the exception. There is a large number of sewerage works and highway and refuse collection disposal depots which still lack adequate washing and sanitary facilities.

We are reaching the stage when our legislation in this and similar directions presents a ludicrous situation. The various Measures will apply to the offices and to the laundry of a hospital, but not to the boiler house, workshops, kitchens, laboratories or wards, in all of which staff very often work in bad conditions.

The Minister referred to theatres. The Gowers Committee reflected upon the theatre, but not upon bingo halls or music halls, and had something to say about the conditions backstage. Once again, we find a silly position concerning theatres. I am informed that the proposed legislation could create an administrative absurdity. in one theatre, it might be found that the workshop was inspected by the Factory Inspectorate, the auditorium by the county officers and the manager's office by the borough council, but the place where the work was done backstage would not be inspected by anybody. I fully understand the difficulties outlined by the Minister, but they have been carefully dealt with by Actors' Equity in its consultations with the Minister.

I think it proper to bring to the notice of the House and to put upon record the sum total of Equity's case as stated in a letter to The Times on 5th November, in reply to a leading article which described the Bill as a comprehensive Measure. Equity said: Unhappily, it is not true that the Government's Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill is comprehensive in the sense of carrying out the full recommendations of the Gowers Committee. Theatres, cinemas and music halls are excluded and no convincing reason has been given by the Government for making an exception of places of employment where conditions of work are often among the worst in the country. Equity went on to say: Members of Parliament who have raised the matter with the Minister have been told that Equity should deal with the matter by negotiation. I bring this to the notice of the House only because it is a strange attitude by the Minister in the light of the history of such legislation. It is a strange proposal to say that these matters should be dealt with by negotiation, because the whole history of non-manuel employment, as the Factories Acts show, has been that only legislation can impose and maintain physical conditions of work at a reasonable level.

After discussions with the Minister, Equity said in the letter to The Times: Equity is thus asked to do the impossible because the Minister has been persuaded that if the Gowers Committee recommendations were given effect so far as theatres are concerned the consequence would be to put many out of business. The strange thing is that the Gowers Committee provided against that possibility by recommending flexibility of application. Goodness knows, there is enough flexibility in the Bill in other directions. In view of the power that the Minister is taking to decide in certain cases to what degree the requirements should be enforced, surely he could have taken power to deal with theatres backstage.

Equity goes on to say: In some theatres, particularly in London, backstage conditions are good. In others they are tolerable. In most they could be put in reasonably decent order by the expenditure of quite a small sum of money. What is needed is not so much enforcement as the power to enforce. The hope is expressed that by the time we conclude the Committee stage of the Bill we can persuade the Minister to do something about it.

There is one other point which is almost akin to theatres. The Minister might have had thoughts about the B.B.C., of all people. We are informed that some of the Corporation's rehearsal rooms are not all that they ought to be. I am sure it was a staggering blow to our national pride to read the other day that Maigret, of all people, was chasing criminals and blondes without an adequate lavatory to support him in the pursuit.

This sort of thing ought to be investigated. The Minister will get into trouble if he is not careful. I am informed from a very authoritative source—my wife—that Maigret is catching up with Ena Sharples in popularity. Ena can go to "The Rovers Return" for stout with adequate facilities, but Maigret cannot pursue his criminals with adequate facilities. The Minister ought to look into this sort of thing in Committee.

We understand that the Minister is adamant that workers in coal depots must be excluded from these provisions. This matter has been the subject of discussion between the British Transport Commission, the coal merchants and the unions for years, but no agreement has ever been possible because of inability to decide on apportionment of the cost. Everybody admits that for this type of labour adequate sanitary and washing facilities should be provided at coal depots.

The Gowers Committee said that at most coal depots there might be some very primitive sanitary accommodation, and went on: We cannot help thinking that the provision of minimum standards of welfare is a duty which should be laid upon the owners of the depots or wharves at which the coal merchants are tenants. I give these examples of what has been excluded from the Bill. In view of its flexible terms, I think that second thoughts could have been given to these things and they could have been included.

I turn now to the Minister's power to grant exemption. I am sure that the Minister would agree that this has caused as much concern as anything. The Bill empowers him to exempt premises of any class from all or any of the provisions about minimum space, temperature, sanitary conveniences and washing facilities where, in his opinion, it would, by reason of special circumstances, be unreasonable to require compliance with the requirements. The Bill says that such exemptions may be granted unconditionally or subject to conditions and without limit of time or for a specified period.

The Gowers Report made no specific recommendation in this respect. but stated that many of its recommendations were made in the knowledge that it would be necessary in any consequent legislation to allow a period of grace during which owners or occupiers of shop and office property could adapt their premises to comply with the law. The Opposition's view is the same as that of the Trades Union Congress. We are opposed to indefinite exemption. The T.U.C. was opposed to this two years ago when it met the Minister on this issue. While there may be a need—I would not deny it—for a period of grace for the provision of installation or adaptations in cases where it is justified, it should be at the most two years, and one year in the case of provisions in regard to temperature.

The House should remember that the intention to legislate on these matters was declared in 1952, ten years ago, when the Government made their original proposals for a Bill. The subsequent delay has been entirely the fault of the Government in their failure to carry out their promise. It would be untenable that fourteen years after the Gowers Committee made its recommendations legislation should provide for indefinite exemptions or exemptions which go beyond two years. Employers have had adequate notice through the publicity given over the years about health, welfare and safety needs in shops and offices, and this legislation ought not to allow long or indefinite exemptions for changes which employers ought to have anticipated and for which they ought to be fully prepared after this long period.

I draw the Minister's attention to another aspect which causes the Opposition and, I am sure, the trade unions some concern. We are opposed to the present form of the provision for appeal. If the enforcing authority refuses to exempt some premises, the owners are given right of appeal to a magistrates' court. I cannot believe that a magistrates' court is the most suitable instrument. With the greatest respect to all our magistrates, I do not believe they have the professional or technical knowledge to judge these matters. Yet they are given the power completely to override the enforcing authority and order that exemption be granted or renewed on the ground that compliance is not reasonably practicable—which is an extremely vague term. I am sure that some of our legal friends will have great times trying to convince magistrates and other people what is "reasonably practicable" in certain office and shop accommodation.

But this matter goes a stage further. Right of appeal is given only to the employer. What about those who work in the offices? Surely they ought to have some rights in this matter. I am sure that in Committee the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual affability, will consider how the employees can have their say in appeals to the magistrates' court.

The Bill bristles with legitimately arguable Committee points. The Times states that at a quick glance it has assessed that the Bill will result in 25 sets of regulations. I suppose that "a quick glance" by The Times is equivalent to twelve months' diligent research by others, and so I accept its view. Our trouble is that we cannot assess the real effect of the Bill, how it will influence and help the millions of people involved, until we see the regulations. I hope that the Minister will be forthcoming in clarifying this matter in Committee and will help us about what is in his mind, and, if possible, help us to write into the Bill something more than is at present there.

The Bill will require the most careful and detailed attention in Committee. I hope that the Minister will not imitate some of his colleagues and interpret an honest and sincere endeavour by the Opposition to improve the very detailed parts of the Bill as obstruction and that in a few weeks' time we shall not find the Leader of the House going round the corridors muttering about the Guillotine. I hope that we shall be able to give the Bill the very detailed consideration that it ought to receive.

While we shall riot divide the House tonight, I must inform the Minister that we shall do all we can to improve a Bill which appears to us to be so imprecise and which after ten OT twelve years of investigation ought to have embraced more workers. But we shall do all we can to help him to make it a good Bill, and I hope that he will listen most carefully and diligently to us.

5.19 p.m.

Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)

I wish to welcome the Bill. I was one of those who had the pleasure of taking part in the deliberations of the Gowers Committee, and I am indebted to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—I am sorry that he is not in his place today to hear my thanks—for appointing me to his Committee in the days before I was a Member of this House.

I am doubly in the right hon. Gentleman's debt: first, for the very great interest which the inquiry aroused; and secondly, for the opportunity to make the acquaintance of Sir Ernest Gowers, the Chairman of the Committee. I should say that there has been no man in public life in the last two decades who has been chairman of more Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry OT has mare ably served the public in that way than Sir Ernest. I would claim that our Report has the special distinction not only of containing valuable matter but also of being written in a style that can be read, which is what one would expect from the author of Plain Words.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing this Measure forward. It has had a rather protracted history, having been discussed for many years. As I rather expected, with his customary eloquence, the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) wrung the withers of my right hon. Friend about the decade of gestation, as he so neatly put it, and I agree that it has been a long period. But there are arguments which I would like to advance in that connection. There is no doubt that the Measure will bring benefit progressively to some 8 million workers, and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House welcome it on that account. As I listened to the hon. Member, however, it occurred to me that the Committee stage, whilst it will be very interesting, may also be a little long.

The Bill, of course, follows the broad lines of the Factories Act, 1937, and, indeed, the approach of the Gowers Committee to this subject was to see how the thinking behind that Act could be extended to the broad and rather vaguely defined field we were asked to inquire into. In our terms of reference, we were asked To inquire into and make recommendations as to extending, strengthening or modifying:—

  1. (a) the statutory provisions relating to the health, welfare and safety of employed persons at places of employment other than those regulated under the Factories or Mines and Quarries Acts".
As my right hon. Friend said, when we came to complete the Report in 1949, we stated in our preface that we were considering conditions of employment in shops and offices at a time when the labour and materials necessary to improve them were not sufficiently available. Of course, in the ensuing thirteen years, conditions have changed tremendously and there has been a very great advance in the standards of living of the country. Yet no one would say today that our building resources are more than is required to meet the country's present needs.

My right hon. Friend and his predecessors have been prudent in not hurrying this legislation. The fact is that right hon. and hon. Members must recognise that, whereas with the Factories Act there is a definite element of urgency, because human physical safety is at stake, here, although we are naturally dealing with something very important—the health and welfare of persons employed—the element of urgency is not exactly the same.

Mr. Marsh

The main object of this Bill is to set standards of health, welfare and safety for employees. Why is safety less urgent for non-industrial workers than it is for industrial workers?

Sir R. Nugent

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to strain the point, but the dangerous element in shops and offices is not quite the same as in factories. It is fair to say that, in the main, in this case we are concerned with improving conditions of health and safety in these places of employment. It is also a fair point to make, however, that it would be really of no value to the nation as a whole in implementing these recommendations if it were to be at the expense of diverting large building resources from housing to offices.

I remember a visit to Russia when I inspected a virgin land development in Kazakhstan, where I was shown a magnificent new machinery tractor station. It was a very fine building costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. I asked where were the new houses for the men who were to work in it. I was told, "They will have to wait until afterwards." The housing of the men and women who worked in the factory were most primitive mud huts which we would never tolerate in this country. But this was a matter of priority. We in this country like to advance over a broad front, which is right in a free community, and our priorities are those which deal with human beings and their lives as a whole and not just one aspect, the place of employment.

My right hon. Friend and his colleagues were right to wait until the time came when they could say that the resources are broadly available for this purpose. Of course, it is true to say that over the last few years there has been tremendous building of new offices and, indeed, new shops, and now we see town centres being rebuilt. It is not uncommon for hon. Members opposite to criticise the number of new offices going up. It is a fair point to make that we want to see the whole standard of living of the people advancing particularly in the home.

Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the shortage of building materials has not been the reason advanced by Ministers in recent years for the delay in this legislation? The Government mentioned this Measure in the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the last Session. As one who took part in the Gowers Committee, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is frustrating for eminent and busy people to give a long time to an investigation of this sort, to produce a unanimous report accepted by all parties, only to find it pigeon-holed for thirteen years? Has not the delay in this case been insupportable?

Sir R. Nugent

No. That is why I have just said what I have. Indeed, half of the Report has already been implemented. I would have no complaint personally, in a matter which is so difficult for advance, at seeing the implementation of the Report step by step.

Of course, the Gowers Committee heard a good deal of evidence that no such legislation was needed, that it would be quite sufficient to leave the matter to the general advance in standards of acommodation in the whole community, on the one hand, and to the bargaining powers of the trade unions on the other. I did not accept that view. I think that it is right to establish standards where they can be satisfactorily established, but it is fair to say that there is a balance in this matter, and I think that my right hon. Friend has achieved just about the right one. Whether this Bill was introduced in the last Session or this Session is not a vital question in this context.

I want to say something about theatres, to which the hon. Member for Southwark referred. It is true that we did recommend in the Report that theatres should be brought into this legislation, but we made that recommendation very tentatively. I can remember having a look at some of these theatres and, being very keen on the theatre myself, nothing would please me better than that the people who play in them should have better accommodation. But we must face the fact that it is physically impossible in the older theatres to bring the accommodation up to a reasonable standard, and therefore our recommendation in paragraph 96 on page 35 says: … the specific recommendations which we make below should only be compulsorily applied in full to new buildings … Then we expressed the view as to how exemptions might be applied to older theatres.

Mr. Gunter

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I would not dispute that. Nevertheless, a lot of the confusion and, indeed, the soreness of Equity arises from the fact that, in 1952, when the Home Office came to deal with this, it agreed to bring in some regulations.

Sir R. Nugent

I do not know what happened in 1952, but I do not see how the Home Office could do it. There is no doubt that if the regulation were made firmly applying to all theatres it would close down a large number of them, and, apart from the deprivation to the general public, I do not think that members of Equity would gain very much by that either. Of course, as new theatres are being built, decent accommodation is being provided for players, and I am glad to think that my own town of Guildford is about to build a new theatre which, I hope, will have decent accommodation. I feel bound to say that I think that the present accommodation is very poor indeed and that players do extremely well to manage there at all, but if one applied strict regulations to the theatre it just would not exist. I think that it is a fair point, although my right hon. Friend has not included theatres in the Bill, because as a committee, when we looked at this dispassionately—I was not a Member of this place then; we were a non-party body—we were very much persuaded of the difficulty of dealing with the older theatres.

I was very interested to see that my right hon. Friend, in establishing standards in the Bill and leaving to regulations the establishment of other standards, followed much the same recommendations that we made in our Report. We recommended that he should establish a standard for temperature and overcrowding, but we felt that it was better to leave it to regulations to establish standards for ventilation and lighting because of the enormous difficulty of laying down exact standards in particular circumstances. I still think that is the right way to do it, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will proceed to make regulations covering these aspects as soon as he conveniently can and apply them to specific classes of premises where the conditions can be laid down and defined easily.

I think that my right hon. Friend is right to have both the power of exemption for family businesses and the general powers of exemption in paragraphs 36 and 37. There is such a wide variety of premises in both offices and shops that, unless there are powers of exemption, my right hon. Friend will find himself inevitably closing down perfectly good, efficient businesses where people are working quite happily. I am sure that is right and practical, and I hope that he will seek to put it into effect in Committee.

With regard to enforcement; again I am very glad to see that my right hon. Friend has followed the advice of the Gowers Committee, where we had earnest consideration as to whether we should recommend that there should be a central inspectorate or whether it should be done by the local authorities. We were given much evidence on the subject which was very helpful to us. We finally came to the conclusion that, apart from the factors that my right hon. Friend mentioned, to set up a central inspectorate would involve a large, new bureaucracy which would involve a certain amount of duplication. We were very much persuaded that there was a great advantage in having local authorities carry out the functions of inspection because it brings local interest into this matter of inspection in an entirely different and stronger way. I am sure that is a great advantage.

We recommended—this is something which does not appear in the Bill, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about it tonight—that my right hon. Friend might equip himself with a small national inspectorate which would have the function of moving about the country, to confer with local authorities and help them and advise them in enforcing the regulations and so ensure some sort of uniformity throughout the country. I am sure that that is the right way of dealing with this, because it really would not be right if there were not general uniformity.

Finally on appeals, to which the hon. Member for Southwark referred, I can remember, although this is some years ago, a long and earnest discussion as to who should be the body to whom complaining persons could appeal, and we felt that on the whole the magistrates' court was the right body to hear the appeal. I would agree that all magistrates' courts are not as wise as the wisest, but, on the whole, they carry out their functions very well and with responsibility. We felt that in a matter such as this the magistrates' court would be the right body to hear appeals, and that it would then be a simple process that could be dealt with locally and in the right conditions. I cannot see what alternative we could have unless we were prepared to set up a completely new appellate body.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Bill and wish him well with a measure which will improve the health, welfare and safety of a very large number of workers and remain a standing credit to him.

5.36 p.m.

Mr. Tom Bradley (Leicester, North-East)

I am aware of the indulgence that the House usually extends to new Members on the occasion of their maiden speech, and I am most grateful for it. My only regret is that I shall find it most difficult to be non-controversial in return. In the first place, this Bill hardly lends itself to that kind of approach. I remember that my first piece of Parliamentary advice, which came to me when I was a teen-ager, was from the late Mr. James Maxton, who was, I believe, a very well-loved Member of this House. He told me that if I ever succeeded in being elected to Parliament I should make the most of my maiden speech because it would be the only time that I would be allowed to get away with murder. I am told that the position has not changed substantially since that time.

My constituency is part of the vigorous and progressive city of Leicester, and my constituents mainly are engaged in footwear, textiles, and light and heavy engineering. There is, however, a large minority comprising clerical and sedentary workers in that population, and that is one reason that I have for welcoming the Bill.

The second reason stems from my experience as an executive officer of a white-collared trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which has 87,000 members who will be considerably affected by the Minister's proposals. I think that we are all agreed that non-manual workers are becoming increasingly important in our society. They are certainly experiencing great changes in their working methods. A developing technological and scientific revolution is taking place in offices today no less than on the factory floor, and the mechanisation of office procedure has brought with it conditions which certainly industrial workers would never tolerate.

By and large, industrial workers have gone ahead in improvements in health, welfare and safety, while the non-manual workers have lagged considerably behind. Nowhere, however, will the Bill receive greater welcome than that which will be given to it by the railway clerks. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I spend a moment or two on that situation, because I have worked with them and for them for the last 20 years. They have certainly been very patient. They have seen the Gowers Committee's recommendations, they have listened to promises, they have been in discussions, and they have had to wait 13 years for this Bill to come before the House.

The railway administration abounds with offices and premises which are dirty, confined and frequently damp. What is accepted as elementary in many other spheres, electric light, adequate heating and proper ventilation, is nonexistent in scores of railway offices. They are clerical slums. In the past, we have seen many former colleagues ending up in the sanatorium, or contracting contagious diseases, as a direct result of the appalling conditions in which they have had to work.

I could take hon. Members to offices which would be revealing to them. Near my own constituency there is a railway yard master's office which measures 12½ ft. by 9 ft. by 9 ft. It regularly accommodates three people and often four. There are no staff amenities; the toilet facilities are more than 100 yards away; storage accommodation is 80 yards away. There is a large railway commercial office in Manchester where water regularly leaks through the roof and it being Manchester, I mean regularly. Pools form on the floors in this office and the staff is reduced to using metal waste paper baskets to catch the water. Not far from the House of Commons there is a large railway terminus of the Southern Region, and at this time of year and during the rest of the winter months the inspector in the train announcer's office sits with his feet in a cardboard box stuffed with newspaper in an effort to get extra warmth because the office is so badly heated.

To be fair to the British Transport Commission, it inherited some shocking premises from the former private railway companies. In the last twelve or thirteen years, the Commission has been preoccupied with priorities for modernising traffic movement. Although it has recently been spending larger sums of money on improving and building new offices, about £5 million or £6 million over the last four years, that has been chicken feed compared with what has to be done, and in any case the expenditure of money on patching up and building offices has often been directly due to the representations and pressure brought upon management by the trade unions in the industry.

Now the law will compel the Commission to act. Or will it? I am bound to say that, coming as it did after years of talks and promises and postponements, the Bill could have been a good deal better. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) that it ought to cover more occupations and more places of work. Why have the recommendations of the Gowers Committee in respect of theatres and other places of entertainment and coal depôts and dental mechanic work rooms been left out? Why have they been abandoned? I remind the Minister that these things were included in a memorandum of Government proposals issued in 1952 and widely distributed to all interested parties, including the T.U.C. I remind him further that on 14th July, 1955, the then Home Secretary, then Major Gwilym Lloyd George, told the House in a statement in reply to a series of Questions from my bon. Friends that the legislation which the Government would ultimately bring forward would cater for these people. Why have they been left out?

I must confess that I find some of the Bill's provisions about exemptions frightening in their implications. They could lead to indefinite continuance of slum offices in view of the great delay between the enactment of the Bill and its operation. The specified period of grace of two years ought to be only one year. If employers are to have the right of appeal when an enforcing authority refuses exemptions, is it not fair and just that employees or their trade unions should have the right of appeal against the granting of an exemption by an enforcing authority?

There are one or two notable omissions in the Bill. For instance, there is no mention of any restriction on noise. As I have said, same of the greatest developments in automation are taking place in offices, and noise can be a serious interference with health and convenience. I am sorry that there is no mention of underground offices and accommodation. I bad hoped that future construction of underground offices would have been prohibited and existing underground offices would have been able to continue only if approved by a local authority. However, that is not to be.

Of course, there are many provisions which I greatly welcome, especially in relation to ventilation and temperature, although perhaps I could quarrel a little with the degrees of temperature which are specified. Why are they expressed in Fahrenheit when it is now official policy to encourage the use of centigrade measurements? Perhaps that is something which can be considered in Committee. On the whole, I think that the Bill is a faltering step in the right direction. It is the most comprehensive Measure we have had yet, but it has its weaknesses, and I hope that by the time it returns to the House from Committee it will have been considerably improved.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)

I have been in the House for almost thirteen years, but this is the first time that I have had the honour of following an hon. Member making a maiden speech and so having the opportunity of congratulating him upon it. I can assure the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) that I regard it as an honour and great pleasure in this instance to do so. I hope that he has now been in the House long enough to appreciate that this convention of ours is not just a matter of formal tradition. It is something which we really mean. I hope that he also appreciates that in the natural play of debate it always falls to an hon. Member on the other side of the House to congratulate a maiden speaker, and I hope that he will also feel that this is a symbol of the community of spirit which exists in the House between individuals who respect each other, however great their political arguments or differences on matters of policy.

I am sure that the House will agree that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East is worthy of the traditional praise and congratulation. His speech was quiet yet lively, modest and informal yet well ordered, and extremely well illustrated. If at times he came a little near to the point of controversy, it was out of obvious sincerity and because of personal knowledge. He will find that I shall agree strongly with at least two of his points. He must be pleased to have had the opportunity of making his maiden speech on a subject of which he has so much personal knowledge, not only in the sense that it affects so many of his constituents, but because of his trade union activities and interests. When I have peered into the recesses of railway premises, I have not been able to help but have the greatest sympathy with those who seek by whatever means, legislative and others, to improve the lot of those who work in them.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said, there are some who believe that advances in office and shop employment conditions can be made without legislation. They think that the pressures of full employment and all the new building we see will on their own bring about the needed improvements. While it is true that prosperity and full employment are essential for progress in working conditions and will probably achieve more than legislation, I do not, however, agree with those who feel that legislation is unnecessary.

It is necessary for a number of reasons. First, there is a great variety of conditions. While in our big cities, certainly in London, we may see great new buildings going up and perhaps wish that we were among the lucky ones working in them and enjoying their facilities, we do not have to go far—not even in London and certainly not in other parts of the country—to find totally different conditions. One is therefore impressed by the need for legislative control. But beyond that I hold that there is a fundamental right to protect the conditions of workers, wherever they may work, at a minimum level by legislation, and I do not think that it is a sufficient answer to say merely that things are happening and progressing quite fast without legislation. I believe that the basic standard should be guaranteed by legislation, and therefore I welcome this Bill.

I have less sympathy with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who complain too much about the delay in bringing in this Bill because I do not think that one can look at it in isolation. I think that in any period of Parliamentary history one must look at the amount of legislation of a similar type which has been brought in. If one looks at the record of the last decade, I imagine that it is difficult, and probably impossible, to find any other decade in Parliamentary history when there has been so much legislation concerned with the health, safety, welfare and various other aspects of the life of large sections of workers in our community.

There has been the Mines and Quarries Act, the Agriculture (Safety Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, and the Factories Act. In addition to those Acts immediately related to our subject today, there have been others such as the Miners Welfare Act, the Agricultural (Poisonous Substances) Act, the Night Baking Act, and I think I remember a Pneumoconiosis and Byssinosis Benefit Act. I submit to the House that taking this record of legislation concerned with the health, safety and welfare of workers throughout the country, this last decade has seen more legislation than probably any other decade in Parliamentary history, and it is against this background that the timing of the introduction of this Bill should be judged.

I turn now to some of the details of the Bill, and in my notes I have in capital letters the word "noise". This is the first major point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East. I was dismayed by the omission of noise as a special subject from this Bill. It seemed incredible that such an omission could be made in the year 1962. I should have thought that if on the one hand we had had to wait for this Bill, we could, on the other, have had some advantages from waiting by seeing in it the incorporation of some of the improvements and newer ideas of the last ten to fifteen years.

Noise is one of the curses of modern life, and in offices much of the equipment which is being increasingly used is noisy. Perhaps not as noisy as some of the great presses and other machinery with which those who work in industry have to deal, but it is still noisy, and noise in offices is likely to grow rather than become less. This noise can be controlled, and it ought to be, and this omission must be put right.

It simply will not be good enough to tell the House about all the difficulties of measuring noise and all the rest of it. We all know that there are technical difficulties. Some of the scientific problems of the measurement and control of noise may not yet have been fully solved, and it may therefore not yet be possible to lay regulations about it, but, as we know from experience, we do not have Bills of this kind very frequently, and it is therefore essential to have in this Bill a subject heading of noise which will allow my right hon. Friend, or his successors, in due course to bring in suitable regulations for its control. I should like my hon. Friend, if he can, to say something about this when he winds up this debate, but whatever may be said tonight I appeal to my right hon. Friend to think very carefully about it. It is one of the important factors not only in the immediate happiness and contentment of work, but in the long-term effects on health.

I turn now to fire precautions. I welcome very much the content of Clauses 24 to 32 which deal with fire prevention and proper escape arrangements, and also fire fighting equipment. On first reading these Clauses seem to be satisfactory, but I hope that when my right hon. Friend comes to implement this Bill he will make sure that the teeth which these Clauses appear to have turn out to have a proper bite.

One of the rather inexplicable but alarming facts of this country at the moment is the way in which the number of fires is increasing. The records of insurance companies show that this year, 1962, is, I think, the worst year in our history for fires—fires of all kinds in all sorts of premises. It is not only the enormous damage which occurs to property—and that is pretty important in the context of the national economy—but the human tragedies which are all too frequent. I hope that in framing regulations my right hon. Friend and his advisers will, among other things, consult those in the insurance industry who are studying these matters and are very well placed to have good ideas about what is required both in the prevention and the fighting of fires.

I remember that one of the first—if not the first—occasions on which I spoke at the Dispatch Box as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour was to answer questions about a tragedy which had occurred in a fire in a textile mill in Keighley in Yorkshire. At that time the Factories Acts made no provision for the prevention of fire; they made provision only in relation to alarms, escape arrangements, and so on.

We have now put that right, and I am delighted to see that fire prevention also comes into this Bill, but I ask my right hon. Friend to make sure that these Clauses are vigorously pursued, and also to consider very carefully the resources available to the fire authorities. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot directly control the resources available to fire authorities, or what they do, but some of us feel that the resources of the fire authorities tend to be over-stretched, and they therefore vary in the standards and services they are able to provide. In so far as there is any lack in any area, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consult his appropriate right hon. Friends to make sure that these provisions are fully effective.

Lighting is covered in the Bill, and is, of course, extremely important. I suggest that the Gowers Report standards of lighting are now out of date, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that when he comes to make the necessary regulations they should be based on the 1961 Code of the Illuminating Engineering Society.

Temperature is another point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East. I was surprised that my old Department, which I always feel to be so progressive, should on this occasion have slipped and be so out of date as only to talk in degrees of Fahrenheit. I am sure that this is a little relic of a Bill having been pulled out of a pigeon-hole after some time. Most of the dust has been removed, but this is a little bit of the old 1949 dust that remains.

Mr. Hare

I do not think that my Department ought to be blamed, and I take full responsibility.

Mr. Carr

I accept that, and I apologise for the error that I made.

Mr. Marsh

Might not there be another explanation, namely, that this is a breach of security, heralding a major change of Government policy in other fields?

Mr. Carr

These speculations can lead us a long way. I suspect that if I joined the hon. Member in a debate on that subject I would soon be called to order.

But I think that I am in order in commenting upon the temperature chosen—whether it is referred to in degrees Fahrenheit or centigrade. I will use the Fahrenheit scale, since that is the one used in the Bill. I would have thought that a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit was loo low a minimum for sedentary occupation in offices, and that 65 degrees would be a more appropriate figure. The situation may be different in shops and other premises where the employees are walking about, but any. body with experience of employing office workers knows that he would soon find himself in trouble if he allowed the temperature in his offices regularly to fall to as low as 60 degrees.

I conclude by referring to a few general points. First, there is the question of Government offices and Crown buildings. As I understand it, these will be satisfactorily inspected and will be controlled under the Bill. I understand that the inspectors do not have power to enter Government offices, but that inspection will be arranged by administrative action. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to describe what this administrative action amounts to. Those who work in Government offices have as much right to protection as anybody else. Furthermore, it would be most unfair to private employers and to nationalised industry employers if the Government were able to be mare lax in these matters than were other people.

Secondly, there is the question of uniformity of administration. This question has already been touched upon. I cannot help being concerned about the variety of enforcing authorities referred to in the Bill. I do not like it. On the other hand, I realise that there are great difficulties in setting up one centrally organised inspectorate, which, in theory, would appear to be the best solution. The practical arguments must be allowed to win the day.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of these various enforcing authorities raises the question of uniformity of administration in a very serious form. It is of great importance that my right hon. Friend should do all he can to make sure that only minimal variations exist in the standards applying throughout the country. I hope that some way can be found of enforcing uniformity. Perhaps "enforcing" is the wrong word; at any rate, some means should be found of bringing this about in a positive manner.

I hope that my right hon Friend will give careful consideration to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford that we should establish a small central supervisory inspectorate—a small body of people who can move about the country and whose main job will be to see how standards of enforcement are varying from one local authority to another and bring positive guidance to bear to eliminate those variations. If that is not done the Measure will not operate fairly, and it will not produce the results that we all want to see.

Then there is the question of the date of commencement. I was glad to see that Clause 77 gives my right hon. Friend considerable flexibility in this respect. He is enabled to fix different times for the coming into force of different provisions. I hope that he will use this flexibility. Most of us who look at the subject from a severely practical point of view realise that there are certain types of provision and certain types of premises in respect of which some delay must be allowed. On the other hand, we are all anxious that the need for delay in some cases shall not be allowed to impose delay in all cases. I have in mind particularly the question of new buildings. There may be great difficulties in bringing some old buildings up to date, but I should have thought that from the moment when the Bill becomes law every building that goes up ought compulsorily to be made to conform to the standards laid down.

It is true that in some cases it will be necessary for regulations to be made, but some points are dealt with by the Bill itself. I was rather disturbed when I read Clause 5, which deals with overcrowding. I gather that it will not come into operation for five years. I should like to know why. I appreciate that there may have to be a delay in respect of old buildings, but I cannot see any justification for allowing a brand new building to be overcrowded, and for that overcrowding to be allowed to continue for five years from the date of enactment. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point.

We want the Measure to be effective, bet we do not want it to be unduly burdensome or vexatious to small businesses. There are many small shopkeepers in my constituency, who are providing a much valued service to the community, and we must have some regard to the fact that Bills of this kind are strange to them, and can be burdensome. The exemptions specified in Clauses 1 to 3 seem to cover this point in a reasonable manner, but I should like to have my hon. Friend's comments on the point.

In particular, I want to ask my hon. Friend a question concerning Clause 2 (1), dealing with premises in which the only employees are relatives of the employer. Not only husbands, wives, sons and daughters, but also brothers and sisters of the employer are included, and I was a little surprised to see that nephews and nieces were excluded. There are many genuine family businesses in which brothers and sisters and their respective children all wish to work in the same premises, and I would have thought that nephews and nieces ought to have been included in that table of consanguinity.

My final point concerns the question of the regulations to be made under the Bill. This is largely an enabling Measure, depending for its effect upon the regulations which the Minister will make under it. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be both quick and forward-looking in bringing in these regulations. I am sure that he will be, and if he is he will have the support of the House, and, I believe, both of employers' and workers' representatives outside the House.

As evidence of the willingness of employers to deal with this subject, I draw attention to the work done by the Institute of Directors in relation to office conditions. A few years ago it set up an extremely well-qualified committee to look into this matter and, as a result, two or three years ago produced an excellent publication called "Better Offices". Anybody who reads it will feel that it is a most comprehensive and exceedingly progressive document, which gives a tremendous amount of helpful advice on what is necessary to ensure good office conditions. I admit that in many cases it goes well beyond what can be included in legislation, but it nevertheless contains facts and ideas which should be taken into account when regulations are framed.

I have drawn attention to one or two specific points and some general ones, and I have made some criticisms. In general, however, I want to make it quite clear that I welcome the Bill, congratulate my right hon. Friend upon introducing it, and wish it a speedy enactment.

6.10 p.m.

Mr. George Craddock (Bradford, South)

I listened with care to the speech of the Minister, who said that the Bill would cover the requirements of more than 8 million people and that it was comprehensive in character. I agree with the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) that this is an enabling Bill. We have waited many years for such a comprehensive Measure to deal with the conditions of employment of people who work in offices, shops and warehouses, and this is the first opportunity which hon. Members have had to deal with such legislation as is to be provided.

I feel somewhat critical about the shortcomings in the Bill's provisions, but I welcome it because it will lay down standards which will prove most helpful for those engaged in all kinds of occupations and businesses. Often in debates of this kind we imagine that the subject under discussion and the problems which arise relate only to the workers. But it will be apparent, upon reflection, that precautions to protect health in relation to the distribution of food, and the necessity for cleanliness and other factors, are matters which are of benefit to the community as a whole. Not only is the provision of decent conditions in which to work of benefit to those people who handle, dispatch and serve food, but it contributes also to protecting the welfare of the consumer. We should, therefore, do all we can to ensure that the provisions contained in this Bill become law. I hope, however, that during the Committee stage discussions the Minister will be a little more forthcoming than he has been today.

I noted the comments made about the proposals regarding fire safety and the references of the hon. Member for Mitcham. Having been interested in this matter for many years, I am aware that there has been an increase in the number of serious fires and the consequent loss of life. There is a need for the much better precautions in this connection that are outlined in the Bill.

The matters dealt with by this Measure should have been investigated a long time ago. I hope that as a result of the changes which are proposed, the trade unions may be enabled to provide a better service to their members.

I recall that during the time when there was a Ministry of Fuel I had cause to make investigations in connection with a problem which had been presented to me, and in the course of those investigations I discovered that the inspectors employed in the main cities of this country totalled only thirty-six. As we are to have a central inspectorate, and inspection through the local authorities, I feel that steps must be taken to ensure that a sufficient number of people of the right type and with the necessary training are employed on this work. We do not know how the Minister proposes to deal with that matter. The right hon. Gentleman skipped lightly over that part of the Bill. But I feel that the job of catering for the needs of 8 million people will prove too great for the existing machinery.

I hope that the passage of the Bill through Parliament will be expedited, because its provisions are essential to meet the requirements of all who are involved, and this as well as recent Governments have been dilatory in the provision of such legislation. The safety measures which are proposed are required by workers and by members of the public. Some good employers have already done something to rectify deficiencies which may exist in their premises and a notable part in advocating the need for proper working conditions for those engaged in the provision of a variety of goods and services has been played by writers and members of professional and semi-professional organisations as well as the trade unions. Measures relating to the temperature of premises, overcrowding, ventilation, sanitary arrangements and safety precautions are included in this Bill. The provisions will also enable steps to be taken to provide reasonable standards where previously it has been the experience of many people that the means to provide such standards have not been available.

It appears to me that those who work in coal depots have been overlooked and will not benefit from the provisions in this Bill. I have met many of these workers and I know that the conditions in which they have to work are in some cases terrifying. I am surprised that provision has not been made for them. I hope that an opportunity will arise during the Committee stage discussions to ensure that something may be done to alleviate the appalling conditions in which some people employed in coal depots are obliged to work.

It is the hope of us on this side of the House—the hope, I believe of all hon. Members—that the Bill will receive a quick passage. I trust that the many suggestions which we have in mind for improving the Bill in Committee will be easily resolved.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

I welcome this Bill as a progressive part of social legislation. Any Bill which gives additional benefits to 8 million workers must be considered such.

The debate so far, in the main, has been non-controversial. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Gunter), however, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, made some gibe at the Government to the effect that there had been delay in introducing the Bill and he made reference to the Government being pushed because of the Orpington by-election. Had he been sitting where I have been sitting he would have observed that no hon. Member of the Liberal Party was in the House when he made that statement. Indeed, there has not been one of them present since.

Mr. Marsh

Why comment on that? It is quite normal.

Mr. Costain

I thank the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh). As he has interrupted me, I shall be frank with him and say that I voted against the Second Reading of his Bill. I did so because I was somewhat worried that if we brought in legislation for offices before there was adequate office accommodation available, we should be raising the rents of the best offices. Even now this Bill is soon enough. I think that all new offices will comply with the regulations. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) made some reference to the standards being applied to all new offices, but I do not think it is the practice of anyone building a new office block not to comply with the regulations.

I hope that the Minister will use the Bill as an opportunity for diversifying office buildings. At present there are a number of industrialists with offices in the centres of cities who would like to get into the provinces. This Bill would give an opportunity when new building takes place to persuade them to go to those areas. I suggest that he should have some consultation with the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see if it is possible for provincial cities anxious to have offices in their areas to be given a list of such firms by the Ministry of Labour, or possibly the Board of Trade. If he wants an example, I put in a personal "plug" for my constituency. Folkestone is anxious to have office accommodation in its area. However, I shall not pursue that matter further as no doubt I should be ruled out of order.

There are one or two minor points in the Bill to which I wish to refer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), with his very extensive experience relating to the Gowers Committee's Report, has dealt with a number of points I had in mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham made some reference to Clause 2 and the employment of nephews and nieces. That thought had not occurred to me, but I had thought of stepsons and stepdaughters. I do not see why they should not be included.

Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)

Since this point has now been raised twice, may I ask if the hon. Member is aware that it is a completely new departure in legislation? The Bill deals with safety. Is there any reason why a bacon slicing machine in a shop employing the sons and daughters of the proprietor should not be brought under the safety regulations?

Mr. Costain

I think that a very fair intervention, but although the Bill deals with safety it also deals with office accommodation. I do not pretend to be an expert on bacon slicers, but I should have thought that the ordinary regulations governing safety would be sufficient to cover that point.

There are one or two points relative to the position of landlord and tenant under the Bill. We have to be rather careful that we do not give landlords an opportunity to demand exorbitant rents from tenants. It may happen in some cases that there is scarcity value and we have to see that some tenants with unsatisfactory leases do not overcrowd their offices in order to break their leases.

There is another matter to which I find no reference in the Bill but with which I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to deal when he winds up the debate. That is the question of temporary overcrowding. I have in mind particularly small offices. What would be the position if in a small office one or two extra typists were taken on because there was an urgent export order and some documentation work had to be done at short notice? What would be the position of hon. Members during an election if their offices, like mine, became grossly overcrowded at that time with voluntary workers? Should we be committing an offence?

There was, some reference in The Times to twenty-five regulations. Far be it from me to question The Times, but when I counted I made the number twenty-seven or twenty-eight. I am a little alarmed about what is to happen to the small shopkeeper or office proprietor who has to keep his eye on the London Gazette and keep up to date with twenty-eight different regulations. Will my right hon. Friend undertake at the appropriate time to circularise local authorities, local chambers of trade and chambers of commerce so that those concerned may have a proper appreciation of the difficulties in this matter?

We are getting a whole heap of legislation and rightly so. Could it be coordinated a little more? Could the fire prevention regulations in this Bill bear reference to the fire regulations in the Factories Acts? Could a small booklet be issued making the position quite clear? I do not want to take up more time. As I say, this is a non-controversial Bill. I look forward to its quick passage through Committee and wish it luck in future.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

As the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) said, this Bill is largely non-controversial in terms of its contents. That is because there is so very little in it about which one could be controversial. That is one of the biggest objections one could make to it.

Another thing which I found attractive in the hon. Member's speech was the horror with which he received the idea that the Government's promotion of this Measure at this time could in any way he prompted by such unpleasant or sordid considerations as the result of the Orpington by-election and the swings against the Government. This intrigues hon. Members on this side of the House, The presentation of this Bill makes a complete reversal of Government policy on this subject.

When the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said that he doubted whether there should be legislation, because of building problems and the difficulties involved in obtaining building labour, like a good Conservative he was ten years out of date, because that was the point which the Government made in 1952. The point which Government spokesmen made in 1959 when they were faced with legislation was, not the problem of finding sufficient building workers to implement the changes, but the fact that events since the Gower Committee's Report had made legislation unnecessary. The Government opposition to the Bill dealing with the conditions of office workers, with which a number of us were associated, was on the ground simply that legislation of this type was no longer necessary.

The Government were forced into legislation wholly and solely because, despite the advice of the Minister, the interest of Conservative Members of Parliament in white-collar workers and their conditions of employment on the whole was such that a majority of them were not present. The only reason why the Offices Bill went on to the Statute Book was that there was a majority of Socialist Members here on that Friday afternoon and very few Conservative Members.

Mr. Costain indicated dissent.

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe has only to count up the names in the Division list at the end of the debate.

Mr. Costain

I was present on that day. They may not all have gone into the Division Lobby, but they were here.

Mr. Marsh

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that if a Member of Parliament comes to the House but does not vote he might as well stay in bed. The prime purpose of a Member of Parliament coming here, when one gets to the controversial issues, is so that he can walk either through the "Aye" Lobby or through the "No" Lobby. If he does neither, he might as well stay at home and talk to his wife or dig the garden. However, this is a matter of opinion which could be argued at some length.

The Division took place on the Offices Bill because the Minister representing the Government advised Conservative Members to vote against the Bill, on the ground that conditions since 1949 had changed and legislation was no longer necessary. The Government were defeated and we had a majority. By this process of government by proxy, which the Opposition seem to be adopting more and more nowadays, we were able to force our point of view on Conservative Members.

If the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe still is not convinced, there is even more evidence. I am an avid reader of any documents which I can find which emanate from the Conservative Party, because one learns so much. On 7th June, 1961, the Horniblow Sub-Committee was set up to report on the organisation and propaganda of the Conservative Party. The Committee reported in a document headed "Confidential" in June, 1962. The Report is an interesting one because it contains an interesting reference which I am sure hon. Members opposite will have seen. If they have not, I will keep them in touch with this document and any other documents of this type. There is a section headed—this is most revealing—"Our men in The Trade Unions". This is taking the minority point of view into full account. This was the advice being given by this very high-powered Committee which had dealt, among others, with the Leader of the House and a gentleman listed as "Right Hon. Charles Hill, M.P., Minister of Housing and for Welsh Affairs." He is defunct in that capacity.

The Committee reported in this way: The workers want a more down to earth statement of policy. That is an under-statement. There should be a more plentiful supply of publicity material aimed specifically at the workers…. We want a Conservative policy on industrial relations. Very right and proper, too. Problem No, 1 is redundancy. Therefore, in this Session we get a Bill dealing with redundancy. We have to convince the workers…And we must do something for the white collar workers The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe may not believe me, but this is a confidential report of a Committee of his own organisation.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

How did the hon. Member get it?

Mr. Marsh

This document was protected by the full power of the Conservative security services. I will say no more than that. Immediately after the issue of this report, in the new Session there is a spate of new legislation on redundancy and on health, safety and welfare in non-industrial employment, and we begin to get to the white-collar workers. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe is a decent chap. One can never understand how he became a Conservative. He has not the sort of mind which works in that devious fashion. We on this side of the House immediately begin to wonder what turns hon. Members opposite into rabid social reformers.

Mr. Hare

The hon. Member is enjoying himself very much, but he must remember that I was ready to produce this Bill in the last Session. If in had not been for the heavy weight of legislation, I should have done so. I was profoundly disappointed at not being able to do so. The hon. Member mentioned that a certain document he has is dated in 1962.

Mr. Marsh

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having made that point. It brings me to another issue because it is true that in the last Session he gave us an assurance that in this Session there would be a Bill, but in the Session before that his predecessor gave a similar assurance that there would be a Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. William White-law)

There is a Bill.

Mr. Marsh

We were promised one last year. The fact that a Conservative Minister promises Parliament that there will be a Bill in the fallowing Session does not mean anything other than, for example, that he is making a speech on office conditions.

I want to refer to something that was said during the Committee stage of the Offices Bill. This is germane to the subject. I said this during the debate on one Amendment: I understood his original remarks to mean that the Government intend to produce regulations on these issues unless, and only unless, in the same period they produce a Bill which would cover the whole issue more effectively. The then Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said this in his concluding words on that Amendment: …the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has exactly summed up the intention of the Government. It is the intention of the Government to produce regulations unless this Bill is overtaken by a more comprehensive and substantial Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C. 24th February, 1960; c. 13–14.] There is no equivocation about that. As the Minister knows full well, in the course of our debates in Committee firm undertakings were given by Ministers that legislation would be produced in the last Session. It has now emerged in this Session. We are faced with a Bill, but we have at least the skeleton of it on the Statute Book.

Hon. Members on both sides have spoken about the fight for legislation on this subject since the Gowers Committee's Report. The first Bill dealing with non-industrial employment was introduced in 1911. There was a Bill in 1912. There have been sixteen Bills since 1911. It is a little difficult to understand why in 1962 we have to start giving ourselves time to examine the implications of this legislation.

Mr. Padley

The House may be interested to know that the first Shops Bill was introduced in 1874.

Mr. R. Carr

I wonder whether the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), who was speculating so amusingly a few moments ago on what made Conservative Members of Parliament such rabid reformers, can tell us how many of the sixteen Bills to which he referred were introduced by the Labour Party?

Mr. Marsh

This is merely the good Fabian process of the inevitability of gradualness. It is something against which no Government can stand. Very little of it was initiated, except after considerable pressure.

Mr. Carr

How many of the Bills were produced by the Labour Government?

Mr. Marsh

This would have been very difficult one hundred years before the Labour Party became a party.

Mr. Carr

Were any of the Bills introduced between 1945 and 1951, for example?

Mr. Marsh

In 1946, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who was then the Home Secretary, set up the Gowers Committee, which reported in 1949, and whose findings were accepted by the Labour Government. By the vagaries of fate and the perversities of the British electorate, the Labour Party was never in a position to implement the recommendations of that Report. Nevertheless the Gowers Report was the creature of the Labour Government. However, I do not want to be controversial on this issue.

The main objection to the Bill is that after sixty years of legislation and attempted legislation, we are still in a position in which, although a further 8 million people will be covered by this Measure and about 10 million already come under the Factories Act, in this industrialised country, in 1962, some 5 million people are still left without any legislative protection at all. That is the biggest criticism one can level at the Bill. There has been long argument, the standards are known and accepted, and there is really no reason why millions of people should still be left legislatively unprotected.

The hospital service provides a classic example. About 36,000 clerical staff will be covered for the first time by the provisions of this Bill. Staff working in hospital laundries are covered by the Factories Act, but is there any reason why the stoker in a hospital—and the stokeholds in many hospitals are in a pretty deplorable condition—should still work in such conditions? There is nothing difficult about laying down standards for a hospital stokehold. Why should the porter who shows the visitor to the nice shiny asceptic ward, glistening with chromium plate and glass, later have to eat his supper in filthy conditions in a room at the back? I cannot understand the argument that says that while legislation is right for industrial workers and for a section of those in non-industrial employment, some 5 million people are still not entitled to any legislative protection.

Then there are the local authority workers—really the absurdities of the situation are fantastic. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that if a county roadworker is engaged in the building of a bridge he is covered by the Factories Act, but that if, on the following morning, he is returned to his work of maintaining the public highway he is not covered by any legislation at all. That seems to be quite inexcusable.

Again, a large number of people work in school kitchens, in buildings never designed for the purpose. They work in deplorable conditions but are to have no protection at all. Yet were they to get a similar job in a restaurant they would be covered. The only difference is that they are serving children instead of adults. It is difficult to find the sense of this.

Another point ought to be considered. A number of people are forced as part of the conditions of their employment to live in the premises in which they are employed. That is particularly true of the hospital service. It seems a major anomaly to give legislative protection to people when they are working but not to extend that protection when they are living in the premises of the employer as part of their conditions of employment. I know that this is a small point, and one that can be argued in Committee.

The third of the many categories left out are those in the entertainment industry. I find it difficult to understand the right hon. Gentleman's argument here. He agrees, as anyone must, that the conditions in some theatres are appalling. The estimate I am given is that out of some 200 theatres in the country about two dozen are quite good. Those are owned by people like Prince Littler and, because they are owned by the combines, they tend to have better conditions than some others.

It has been argued that it is up to the organisations representing theatre staffs to negotiate improved working conditions with the employers, but it is almost impossible to sustain that argument. Actors, on the whole, are not employed by the owners of theatres but by producer-managers who have no control over the furnishings and the buildings in which the actors work.

The right hon. Gentleman says that, in some cases, new buildings would be needed, and that that would be difficult. He conjures up a picture of tearing down theatres as the only means of implementing the Bill in its entirety. One would not wish to do that, but many of the things which cause the maximum inconvenience and irritation could be done without structural alterations at all. Improved heating does not involve pulling down the building, nor do decent ventilation, less overcrowding, better lighting, and the like. One would have thought that, at least in part, the Government, in order to show faith to this section, would have been prepared to introduce legislation to cover most of the people even if they could not cover them within the whole scope of the Bill.

We do not know even yet when anything is to happen. I understand that regulations have first to be made. I apologise for being cynical about this, but the right hon. Gentleman will understand me when I say that firm promises that regulations would be made have been given before, but the regulations have not been forthcoming. Here I do not criticise anyone; I only state a fact. The Bill is largely dependent on regulations being made, but there is no indication of when the regulations are likely to be made. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to give us some indication this evening, in broad terms, of the sort of timetable he has in mind.

Why is so much of the Bill still left to regulation? The right hon. Gentleman may argue that in many ways the Bill follows the Factories Act, but the mere fact that that legislation is on the Statute Book, and that almost every industrialised country in the world, except us, has this kind of legislation, provides the perfect reason why the Government do not need to leave so much to regulation. The standards are beyond argument.

Another omission is the date of its application. I may be wrong, but I have looked through the Bill quite carefully and can find no mention of a date of application. One therefore does not know when the Measure will come into operation. This is a rather unusual and extremely serious position. We do not know when the Bill will come into operation, yet we know that overcrowding, for example, can be legitimately continued for five years after the Measure comes into operation, so that we may well have hon. Gentlemen opposite casting bouquets on the Government Front Bench for a Measure that might not deal with overcrowding for six, seven or even eight years. One cannot understand why there should be any need to wait for so long.

There is also the problem of exemptions. Clearly, such a Bill as this must provide for exemptions. That is inevitable, and it is common sense—largely because the deplorable condition in many offices cannot be changed because of things that have been done in the past. Is there really any need for quite so many bodies to exempt people as are contained in the Bill, and are magistrates the best people to determine whether an officer of a local authority, who is trained to examine premises in accordance with the Bill, has made the right judgment or not? I do not know how far privilege goes in a case of this kind.

I have a great respect for lay magistrates, but I would not agree that they are in a good position to make judgments over professional decisions of a local authority public health inspector on an issue of this type. Even if they were, I should like to know whether an appeal could be made to a magistrates' court. The court could then consider that appeal and find against the appellant, and yet, at some later stage, find the self-same appellant before it again in breach of the regulations. The point I am making is that apparently a man may appeal for exemption from the regulations, and may then be prosecuted for breach of the regulations and appear before the same magistrates who had already heard his case in a different context. If that is so, it seems to me to be a most extraordinary situation.

A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House still want to speak, and I do not wish to delay the House any longer. Clearly, everybody is in favour of some new legislation, but I think that the legislation we now have before us, with the greatest respect to the Minister of Labour, is a pretty miserable product, bearing in mind the amount of time taken and the number of inquiries made. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that we had had 130 inquiries on this matter, but I think it was 128 already in the early 'fifties, and the number of people who must have been asked about this every five years for the last twenty years must be enormous. The information on the subject is very considerable and one would have thought that a great deal more could be inserted in a Bill of this kind.

We note that we have now forced upon the Government, after a great deal of effort the principle that legislating for non-industrial employment is necessary. I hope that we shall carry them with us in the next pressure which we put upon them between now and the General Election, because, after that, we ourselves can get on with the job directly and save a great deal of time.

Between now and then, we shall continue to try to convince them that non-industrial workers are entitled to decent working standards and legislative protection and that that protection which we have agreed over the last sixty years as being necessary in varying degrees for factory workers is as much the right of the non-industrial worker as of anyone else. I have never believed that the non-industrial worker is entitled to more than the factory worker, but in many fields he is not even getting the same deal.

My final point is that, precisely because of this, we think that we should have in this Bill some reference to hours and conditions of employment. Here we are dealing with a field in which, by their own fault, and I blame them for it, they often do not have trade union protection available for these people, as it is to people in other spheres. In terms of hours and conditions, there is a need for legislative protection in that field. We cannot hail the Bill with any great transports of glee, but at least we can say that the right hon. Gentleman has done more than any of his predecessors, although he should not go away too content with that.

6.55 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I hope that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) will forgive me if I do not comment on his peroration about Socialism and Conservatism, although I would put one point to him. He counted up the number of Acts which conferred social benefits on people in general in this country, and I am sure he will not deny that more were passed under a Conservative Administration than under a Socialist Administration.

With the greatest respect to the hon. Member, I think he was less than generous to many hon. Members on this side of the House who supported him at every single stage of his own Offices Bill. I am sure that he would be the first to agree that that Bill, though passed on a Friday, was passed with the consent and hard work of Members of Parliament on both sides of the House. It is fair to say that the Government were to some extent influenced by the passage of that Bill. Even though it is many years since the Gowers Committee reported, at the same time the Government were spurred on—and I give the hon. Member full credit for it—by the fact that both sides of this House, working together, agreed to his Offices Bill in 1960.

Mr. Marsh

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early in his speech. Before he completely convinces himself about the efforts made by himself and his hon. Friends to pass that Bill, I am sure he will not mind me pointing out that, in fact, he voted against it.

Dr. Glyn

At what stage? If the hon. Member will look it up—

Mr. Marsh

In HANSARD, there is the record of a Division on 11th December, 1959, and there is an item in the list of the "Noes"— Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham). Whatever were the hon. Gentleman's intentions, his actions were not very helpful.

Dr. Glyn

I entirely agree with the hon. Member. Although we did, as the hon. Member is very well aware, vote against it, there were certain Clauses in the Bill which we decided were not in accordance with what we had tried to establish during the passage of the Bill, and, in view of the Government's assurance that the Bill would be taken over by the Government, we voted against it. The hon. Member would be the first to agree that during the course of that Bill, a great dead of help was given to him from both sides of the House, because the principle was agreed.

Mr. Marsh

Certainly. The hon. Member says that they thought it was a good idea, and I only regretted then, and do now, that they did not vote for it.

Dr. Glyn

We on this side of the House entirely agreed with the idea behind the Bill, but there were many Clauses about which we were not satisfied at the time, and, in view of the assurance which the Government gave, if the hon. Member remembers correctly, before the Bill was passed, we were quite satisfied that a better Bill was coming from the Government and that it would be far more comprehensive than anything which could be carried through by a private Member in private Members' time.

All sides of the House welcome the fact that 8 million people will be covered by this Bill. I do not subscribe to the view that because in this era we have so many new buildings, we should not provide for the old ones. I believe that the fact that we have got this large number of new buildings, as in the City of London and elsewhere, brings home to us the awful comparison which exists between these new modern buildings and the existing ones, where the facilities, in many cases, as all hon. Members know, are deplorable.

I wish to refer to certain matters contained in Clauses 36 and 37. These are the two Clauses about which I am not entirely happy. As many hon. Members have said, and as was agreed during the passage of the Offices Bill in 1960, there are many buildings in London which are quite unsuitable and which are incapable of certain modifications. One has in mind some of the historic buildings in which offices are still established, even the Inns of Court.

I am worried about Clause 36 because it is clear that the Minister, and only the Minister, can give an exemption. I see that there is no right of appeal to the magistrates, to a tribunal or to any other judicial machinery, whereas in Clause 37 there is a resort to the magistrates' court. I think the magistrates' court is probably the most appropriate court. It is the court which is generally geographically nearer to the offices, and in which the conditions are probably known. Magistrates are not completely out of touch with conditions, and I think that, for two reasons, this is the appropriate court first because they are probably very much in touch with conditions and, secondly, because it has the great advantage of speed so that a decision can be arrived at rapidly.

The type of work being done in offices is gradually changing. Machinery whether for duplicating or cutting sheets of paper, is changing, the surroundings of modern offices are tending to become quite different and the necessity for the Bill has increased in the last five years for these reasons. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when winding up the debate, will reinforce what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) about noise. With all this new machinery going into offices it is a pity that we could not have obtained a standard for noise and have included it in this excellent Bill.

Mention was made earlier of underground offices. Few people like working underground, but with modern methods of ventilation these premises can be made even more attractive and pleasant than many older offices. Thus, we should not rule out premises entirely because they are underground but, rather, we should ensure that the ventilation and lighting in them are up to the standards we regard as adequate. To my way of thought, lighting is of particular importance. The development of modern office blocks has meant that they are often close to other large buildings and one has, of necessity, to resort to artificial lighting which, 10 or 15 years ago, was not so necessary. It is important, therefore, that we should adopt a modern standard of lighting to prevent the standard which might have been considered adequate 10 or 15 years ago remaining.

We are all sorry that certain offices and occupations are excluded from the Bill, but I am sure that all hon. Members are delighted to see railway offices included. Anyone who travels by train, whether on suburban or main lines, cannot possibly help noticing some of the appalling conditions in which railway clerks and officials are compelled to work.

I welcome Clause 16 especially since it gives a certain statutory protection to young people working for the first time with machinery in offices. I am also impressed by Clause 18, which gives magistrates power—and this is my reading of the Clause, although I may be wrong, in which case I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me—to stop work immediately in offices or elsewhere covered by the Bill when it is considered that the standards are below a reasonable margin.

Clause 19 lays down, in a similar way to the Factories Act, the first-aid requirements to be laid on. I appeal to employers—while one does not want to minimise the importance of the first-aid kit—that it is of tremendous importance that members of their staffs should be trained in some form of first aid. I hope that, particularly in large organisations, members of the staff will be given time off to learn first aid. A trained person can often do that first important administration which is so essential in the treatment of industrial accidents. Perhaps members of the staff could take courses given by the St. John Ambulance Brigade. The question was raised earlier whether the new standards would apply to new buildings. I should have thought that no sensible person would attempt to build new offices if they did not comply with the regulations in the Bill. No one would wish to take an office if it was known that within two or three years considerable modifications would have to be made to bring it up to standard. I regret—though I am sure that my right hon. Friend could give me excellent reasons for this—that the Minister has not been able to make this a more comprehensive Measure, possibly even amalgamating it with the Factories Act.

I appreciate that there are limits to the amount of staff available for the important function of inspection, and this brings me to my next point. I have been wondering whether it is right that two methods of inspection should exist and whether the two could be coordinated. After all, there will be a large number of people visiting offices and factories to inspect them for different reasons. I should have liked the inspection system to be consolidated so that, with the exception of fire, which is a highly technical matter, it need not have been divided.

Reference has been made to the reports which will be made by local authorities. These could be of great value and I hope that the Ministry will have some method of consolidation so that standards can be compared in different parts of the country. Some areas may be able to gain lessons from, say, Manchester or London. I hope that the Ministry can, from time to time, publish summaries of these reports so that they can benefit employers throughout the country.

I am not entirely clear about Government offices, for it seems that the Bill almost entirely excludes them. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Greenwich about Clause 77, for it was wise of the Minister to include a Clause whereby he could bring the provisions into operation as and when he thought fit. I have great confidence in this matter and I do not believe that this is in any way a delaying tactic. It is, rather, a sensible method of ensuring that the various regulations are not applied until they can be enforced.

I wish to lodge a plea on behalf of the small shopkeeper and businessman. No one wants them to be under-protected in any way, but the methods of working in family businesses are rather different and I am glad to see that a special provision has been made for what I term "family businesses." However, I would go a little further than some of my hon. Friends on the question of relationships in these businesses. As long as it comes within the category of a genuine family business, I do not think that the exact relationship of the people concerned is of tremendous importance.

I welcome the Bill. I wish, further to the remarks of the hon. Member for Greenwich, that I could have supported his Bill, but I have spoken of the assurance which the Government gave when his Measure was going through the House. Although it can be said that, in some respects, his Bill expedited the production of this one, it would have been impossible—although I pay tribute to the hon. Member for what he did through his Measure—for him to have achieved what can be done by a comprehensive Bill such as this. To achieve this in a Private Member's Bill in private Members' time is extremely difficult. I am sure that all hon. Members who served on the Committee which considered his Bill in 1960 welcome this Measure as a great step forward in our social progress. We hope that the Government will continue on this path and will endeavour, before long to encompass all who work in other occupations so that we may have a system of reasonable protection for all categories of workers within our community.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)

There is little in the speech of the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) on which to comment. Most of what he said is pretty general to other speeches which we have heard from the benches opposite.

In the main, I agree with most of the hon. Gentleman's contentions. There is, however, one point in his speech on which I should like to comment. He regretted that the Bill is not so comprehensive as he would have liked. We can correct the situation of which he complains during the Committee stage, and I hope that we shall have the assistance of the hon. Member to that end.

Another hon. Member on the opposite side of the House spoke at length about the fire provisions in the Bill. I wish that I were as sure that the provisions for shops and offices and their enforcement by local authorities will be as effective as the fire provisions in the Bill. The question of enforcement is one of the difficult points in this Bill and I shall have more to say about that later.

This is a memorable day in my life, because I am participating in the Second Reading debate on a Bill which proposes to give legislative life to so many of the things for which I have fought during my association with shop life in Britain. I look on this Bill with great favour. It does not do all that I would wish. It does not contain all that is necessary to meet the needs of the community. I cannot speak for railway premises, but I know something about offices and shops. I do not believe that the Bill will meet all the requirements of offices and shops, because, like so many well-intentioned Bills, it suffers from sins of omission and commission, though I am much more concerned with the sins of omission than of commission in this Bill. Having said that, I do not propose to offer much criticism, but there are some things which will have to be said before this Bill reaches the Statute Book. The reason for my restraint tonight is that the Bill makes a big step forward from the bad old days of my youth, and that is why I welcome the Bill.

Perhaps I may approach this matter from a different point of view from that of other speakers. Tonight I feel in reminiscent mood. I look into the garden of my memories, and I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) that I do not remember sixteen Acts dealing with this subject since 1911, but I remember distinctly the second shop in which I worked. In that shop there existed shocking conditions out of which great reformers are made, and I hope that I am one of them. Such conditions lead to Measures such as we are discussing tonight, even though this Bill is not quite adequate for the purpose.

In that shop, floods regularly washed the fixtures into the middle of the shop. The back of the shop was built into a hillside, and water flowed from the walls on to the flagged floors and on to the duckboards on which we stood to serve our customers. We had no water and no lavatory. That situation continued for six months. We begged water from nearby houses, and until a lavatory was erected we found relief from the monotony of serving customers by getting the manager's permission to walk the one-eighth of a mile to the nearest public convenience.

When I look into this garden of memories I discover what I know to be a fact, that unhealthy, insanitary and inefficiently built shops were a menace not only to the health, welfare and safety of those who worked in them, but to the customers as well. There were numerous occasions when I had to serve customers when my hands were dirty, because there was no water. I was behind a counter marked with indentations that were a paradise for germ warfare.

When dealing with a Bill like this, one is thinking mainly of conditions that affect those who are employed in shops and offices, but we should not forget that the conditions affect also the customers. The question arises, has that state of affairs to which I have referred disappeared? Has time cured the conditions from which I suffered as a boy? It is nearly fifty years since I had those experiences. One would have thought that after fifty years the advance of science, the progress in building and in standards of health and welfare would have entirely eliminated such conditions. But they have not disappeared.

For the past thirty years I have been a trade union official and have associated with trade union officials connected with the distributive trades. Every one of them can give illustrations from their own experience of conditions as bad as those which I have described. I should like to relate, as a trade union organiser, one of my own experiences of conditions in which dental technicians live and work in these post-war years. I have seen elaborate surgeries with dentists and dental surgeons clothed in shining white garments—whiter than television white—and each professional practitioner had an almost perfect chairside manner. But down in the cellar the dental technicians were making prosthetic appliances in conditions which were little short of filthy. That is happening today. One omission from the Bill which I regret is that the Government's proposals of 1952 have not been included.

I know that not all shops or workshops are such as I have described. There are some wonderful shops and offices, workshops and laboratories in which people are proud to work. We do not, however, legislate for those conditions. We legislate for the bad employer and the bad conditions and premises.

In the Bill, we are legislating for the bad premises, shops and workshops. I hope that it may be possible to amend the Bill to include workshops which are at present outside the law, and particularly dental workshops. One of the most pleasing features of the Bill would then be that the old controversies about whether workshops should be governed by the Factories Act, the Shops Act or this new type of legislation would disappear. They would be covered by something.

Even then, however, we would not reach complete satisfaction with the Bill. I have doubts about many of the matters which it covers. There are doubts about some of the items that have been omitted from it. These are Committee points. But even if the Committee stage does not result in all the improvements that I should like to make, even if it does not make the Bill into what I would regard as an ideal Measure, I would still think that the Bill has been worth while.

My final point concerns difficulties and relates to the Clause dealing with enforcement. I am not concerned with the division of power which is provided for in the Bill between local authorities and others. My interest is in shops and offices. I wonder whether there will be a sufficiency of inspectors to make the Bill effective. Let me give an analogy. In almost similar circumstances, this House passed the Clean Air Act into law. That Act contained a division of authoritative responsibility. In addition to their work in the community health services, their work concerning clean air and all the additional factors introduced by legislation since the war, sanitary inspectors will now have the provisions of today's Bill thrust upon their shoulders.

Those inspectors had the problem of administering the Clean Air Act, except for the provisions affecting the highly specialised Alkali Inspectorate concerning the industries that were included in the new Schedule covering the alkali industries. Because we had no central control, because we did not have enough inspectors among the Alkali Inspectorate and because the sanitary inspectors had too much to do for them to carry all the extra work, I suggest that innumerable matters which should be dealt with under the Clean Air Act cannot be dealt with because of the shortage of qualified inspectors. I do not want today's Bill to suffer from the same trouble. I ask the Minister to consider closely the problem of enforcement. I certainly hope that when the Bill becomes law, the power of enforcement will be covered by a sufficiency of inspectors, so that the purposes of the Bill are not defeated.

During the passage of the Bill through its subsequent stages until it becomes part of our Statutes, I wish the Minister a happy time and express the hope that in Committee it will be possible to make improvements in the Bill that will make it worth while both for him and for the country.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

It is a pleasure to speak on a Bill which is so well received by both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winter-bottom) suggested that the Bill was not sufficiently comprehensive, yet I understand that there has been a conflict of view between The Times and my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) about the number of regulations—either 25 or 27—that are likely to be involved under the Bill. Having looked at the Bill, my view was that it was very comprehensive.

The hon. Member for Brightside also said that it might be difficult to enforce the provisions of the Bill. He would probably agree that it is better that the Minister should not seek to impose the regulations too fast or that the Bill should not be too comprehensive, but rather that it should be made to work. This is what we all want.

Mr. Winterbottom

It is equally important that in promoting a progressive Measure of this nature, the Minister should not ride with his head to the horse's back.

Mr. Lewis

I am sure that the hon. Member for Brightside, with his background and with much greater knowledge than I have on this matter, will make a considerable contribution in improving the Bill in Committee.

When I saw the Title of the Bill, I was interested to put a title of my own to it, and I thought we might have called it the "Clore, Gussy and Beeching Bill". I wonder what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will think about putting upon the railways the additional cost of the improvements which the Bill contains. Then, it occurred to me that we might call the Bill "Hare's White Collar Charter", with the "Hare's Workers' Charter" to come a little later in the Session. The Minister will have good record. Whatever the Bill may be called, however, it is a Bill which sets a standard, and this is desirable and necessary. As the hon. Member for Brightside has said, it is the standard set by this Bill which will help to improve conditions where they need improvement in our shops and offices.

The timing of the Bill seems to me to be about right. It would clearly be of little value to start setting standards for offices during a period of shortage of office premises, which for many years has been the case. Perhaps that situation no longer obtains. When I look around London and some of our big cities, I sometimes feel that we have too many offices and that the new ones all seem to look the same. It is, however, about the right time now to consider putting some of our building resources into the improvement of existing offices rather than the erection of new ones. In so far as the Bill helps in that way, it is a good thing.

The fact that when the Bill becomes an Act it will set a standard, plus the mere threat of possible inspection, should secure many improvements even without action having to be taken. In many respects, offices are in a similar category to homes. Some of them are slums and need to be pulled down and rebuilt. These are probably in the minority now. Some of them are new, and in the main—this has been pointed out by several hon. Members, and I think it is true—the new offices probably meet the provisions of the Bill. Nevertheless, I think the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) had a point when he said the Minister might consider bringing in his regulations on new offices as soon as possible after the passing of the Bill.

Other office categories are neither slum nor new but are in between the two—indifferent. Many of them need improvement, and many are capable of it. Probably idle property owners just do not bother to do anything about them. The Bill will give them a jerk, and I believe that as soon as it is on the Statute Book many will take action without having to be told.

It may be that some of our Government offices are in this indifferent category, and, although I understand that there will be no impositions on the Government and the Crown, the Bill indicates that they will be expected to come up to standard. It may even be that the Bill could apply to some of the offices of staffs in and around the Palace of Westminster. I notice that, in this Productivity Year, Her Majesty the Queen intends to have a work study carried out of all the Royal palaces. Some of us may hope that this will include the Palace of Westminster coincident with this Bill.

At the same time, I hope that the Bill will not be wearying in its well-doing. It would be very bad if we tried to go too fast with the regulations and caused upset and concern to, for example, the little man. The Times said that we should not through the Bill seek to harass employers without helping the workers. If we unduly and unreasonably harassed the employer who is a small man, we could put him out of business and make redundant an employee who is quite happy although his office conditions may not quite come up to the required standard.

I remember offices in works when I was starting out in my working life. Many were small, the sanitation facilities were a long way off—which provided a good excuse to go away for a while—and water supplies and washing facilities were not often found on the premises. Some had a gas ring and a billy-can for making a cup of tea, and some people were lucky to have an old coal fire. But there were many happy clerks who did extremely good work in those offices, and although we do not want sub-standard offices to exist indefinitely, I repeat that we should be cautious about trying to get rid of them just for the sake of doing so when not only the employer but the employee may be perfectly happily situated. The Bill sets a standard, and it is important that that standard should be reached gradually and that we should not destroy the comfortable through over-enthusiastic bureaucratic zeal.

I notice that the Bill contains a special dispensation for the man who has his own business, and the industrial squire and his relations are taken account of. That also seems to me to be a very good thing, because many a family business in the past—I think it is still true today—grew into a large concern on the basis of conditions which are perhaps acceptable to a family but are certainly not up to the standard, set in the Bill. From many such a small concern operating in inferior premises a large concern has developed. I believe that if we too enthusiastically try to root out that sort of thing, it will be at the peril of much new development in business and industry.

The Bill is certainly a welcome contribution to the Conservative Government's policy of change. It may be said by the Opposition that it does not go as far as the Gowers Committee proposed. Although I have been in the House only a very short time, I doubt whether any legislation which arises out of any inquiry ever goes as far as the committee concerned would have wished. It is no different in this instance.

Hotels and places of entertainment are excluded. The public sections of these places need a public reaction against them where they are bad. It is the man in the street who should oppose the tawdry and antiquated when he sees it. We ought to realise that we cannot do everything by regulation. We can only help by regulation. Indeed, one of the most disappointing things in politics is that sometimes when one wants to help people, they indicate that they do not want to be helped. Imposition should be gradual.

Staff quarters in hotels and places of entertainment are a different matter. They are rather important, and it may be that later the Minister might consider that staff quarters ought to be looked at. It is important that there should be no difference in this respect between an employee who works in an office and an employee who works on the staff of an entertainment or hotel company.

The fire provisions in the Bill will probably need to be enforced earlier and given closer attention and follow-up. The number of old offices which lack efficient fire equipment, alarm systems and drill is surprising. I am glad that the Minister has included this provision in the Bill. I hope that soon after the Measure is passed close attention will be given to this, because a great deal of money is lost in fires and this could probably be avoided if better equipment was provided.

Before we came to discuss this on the Floor of the House, I made inquiries about the fire regulations in the Palace of Westminster, and I am sure that hon. Members will be glad to know that they are entirely and absolutely up to the standard laid down in the Bill.

I am glad that the Minister suggests keeping the inspectorate in the main at a local level. This is important when one intends that a Bill should gradually make its impact. If there are local inspectors who know the local problems, they are more likely to be sympathetic where applications are made for the imposition of the provisions of the Bill. They will know the special problems of the area, and they will probably also know those involved—both employers and employees. They will also know whether a case for exemption is backed by integrity or otherwise.

The Bill meets the needs of natural changes in our industrial set-up. It recognises a great many advances that have taken place in the last twenty years. When I was a boy factories were very often dirty and dingy and lacked every amenity. Now most factories are well furnished, and the workers have available meals in canteens, good lighting, and heating and other facilities which are important to health. In many of the more highly skilled electronic factories, the employees work in cleaner surroundings than in some offices, and certainly in some of the most modern factories the conditions are better than the conditions were in many offices twenty years ago.

We must recognise, therefore, as I think we do in the Bill, that there are offices which have lagged behind and that the Bill will encourage the employers to bring them up to date. I was a bit concerned at one stage during this debate because I thought that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) was rather against our progressive legislation. He spent a good deal of time indicating that he was not quite sure of the Bill's value. This puzzled me, because we are the first to say to him that we are only improving on his own initiative and that we will be very glad when the Bill becomes an Act, both because it will be a good progressive Conservative measure and because he had something to do with its birth.

I am sure that the Bill can be improved in Committee. For instance, I think that it will be difficult to protect all employers from sanctions covering a temporary situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe pointed out one temporary situation which might arise very soon—in a General Election, when we might find our own campaign offices contravening this Bill. There are other instances which might arise more than just once every four or five years. In my hon. Friend's own business I am sure that building workers going out on project works and taking with them clerks and others very often find themselves in conditions which might contravene the Bill. Again, I am sure that shops involved in "sales" must surely have to contravene many of the Bill's regulations every January and July.

These temporary situations have to be recognised and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this aspect in Committee. The Bill sets a good standard and a new standard. I hope that it will lead to the worst offices being brought up to the level of the best. I congratulate him and hope the Bill will have speedy progress through the House.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)

Most of my colleagues have referred to the Bill as being belated, as indeed it may be. On the other hand, it is none the less welcome. In so far as the Bill refers to shops it is only fair to say that standards for the employees vary widely and, indeed, in some of the bigger places there is probably very little to be done.

Nevertheless, it is astonishing in these days how often, more particularly in some of the smaller shops, and very often in the smart-fronted shops such as dress salons and boutiques with nylon drape curtain and deep pile carpets for customers, the sanitary arrangements for the staff are deplorable. There can be no excuse for this sort of thing in any retail premises, because very high profits have been made during and since the war. It has been made increasingly clear by the way in which these people have acted that many employers will do precisely nothing to improve amenities for their staff without the compulsion of the law.

The Bill has many good features and we hope to make them better in Committee. I am glad that the Minister is here. One of my hon. Friends made reference to the omission of coal depots. I gather from the Minister's remarks that he puts them in the same class as theatres. Although they may be in the category of establishments which have not been considered suitable for inclusion, in fact they are a necessary part of our retail distributive system.

I cannot understand why coal depots are not catered for in the Bill. They have probably the strongest claim of all for protective legislation. The Gowers Committee's Report made it clear that it had found some very primitive sanitary accommodation at these depots. By any standard it is a dirty job and some protection should be given to these people. In the summer there is just sweat and grime and in the winter there is rain-soaked clothing. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to see whether he cannot extend the amenities of this Bill to coal depots, particularly with regard to sanitary accommodation, a room where the employees can have their meals and a drying room for wet clothing.

I do not know whether my information is correct, but I understand that originally it was intended to make provision for coal depots but the proposal fell down on the question of who should bear the costs. The Department has got over bigger obstacles than that before now and I hope that it will not be put off by a fiddling argument of that kind. I hope that the Minister will consider introducing in Committee what we are asking for.

Clause 9 deals with sanitary arrangements. I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) saying that he had worked in a shop where employees had to go outside for lavatory accommodation. I was shocked to see this sort of thing in a shop in Manchester last week. There are still retail establishments with no sanitary accommodation whatsoever because, for many years, there happens to have been a public convenience reasonably near and the staff have been expected to use that.

My own organisation has made a wide inquiry into matters which are the concern of this Bill, I will quote one case. This was a place where there was only one lavatory serving both male and female staff. The result was that the women were using lavatory accommodation in neighbouring houses. This is a disgraceful state of affairs and does not redound to the credit of the employers concerned.

There is also the matter of safety in shops—for instance, the use of bacon machines. The legal department of my organisation has already had to deal, and still deals regularly, with far too many cases of mutilation of both men and women, youngsters as well as adults, caused by bacon machines, and something really must be done.

I do not accept that an inspectorate which emanates from the town hall will be sufficient for the proper inspection of these almost lethal weapons on shop counters. That is not good enough. I know the argument against a central inspectorate but I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that perhaps the inspection of bacon machines could come under the Factories Inspectorate. I see no reason why it should not. These machines have been used by youngsters, although they will not be used by them in future.

I wonder, however, whether the manufacturers are doing all that they can to make these machines safe. A model may have been accepted and it may have been considered safe in its time. The manufacturers—I do not want to do them an injustice—may have tried to keep up to date in this matter, but I suggest to the Minister that if he would allow his factory inspectorate to look at these machines and talk to the manufacturers it might be possible to get some improvement in machines which at present are considered to be safe. If they could do that, I should like them to have regard not merely to the danger in operating these machines but the danger which also arises from the cleaning of them. The figures supplied by the legal department of my organisation indicate that roughly one half of the accidents arise when these machines are being cleaned.

Most of the points have been covered in the debate and I do not want to rcinterate them, but I should like to say a word on enforcement. I understood the Minister to say earlier in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) that the shops inspectorate has been very satisfactorily carried out under the existing arrangements. I do not know who informs the Minister, but whoever informed him that the shops inspectorate is being adequately carried out has misinformed him. I think that one can go to almost any town in Britain and find that three parts of the shops have never been inspected at all. I challenge any one to deny that, because I know it to be an absolute fact. To give an instance, in my home town in which I live, not in my constituency, almost literally under the town clerk's office the Shops Act has been flouted and apparently no one knew anything about it. I had to draw the attention of the shop manager to this matter.

It is necessary that the Minister should see that we get the best enforcement possible, because it does this House no good when we are trying to consider legislation for the protection of, I think he said, 8 million people, and then we find that the people who are supposed to be carrying out the enforcement and who are supposed to be implementing this legislation are flouting us. It does not do any good to this House and neither does it do any good to the people whom we are trying to protect by this legislation. I hope that the Minister will look at this matter of the inspectorate. It probably means employing quite a number of full-time inspectors, and employing them under the old town hall system, but if the Minister is opposed to a centralised inspectorate, I hope that there will be adequate liaison and supervision by highly-skilled officers of his Department.

So far as I know, there has not been a discordant note in this debate and I think that provides evidence that we on this side welcome the Bill. I think that we can give an assurance to the Minister that he will get every co-operation from this side during Committee but that is not without strings, because if we are to give the Minister every co-operation I hope that we shall get the Minister's cooperation in our efforts to amend the Bill, to make it worthy of this House and of the people whom it seeks to protect.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I do not want to be thought obstructive or discordant if I do not echo many of the sentiments that other hon. Members have expressed this evening. It is because I agree with many of them and do not want again to go over that ground.

I want to make a brief intervention to express one or two thoughts to the House that I do not think have been covered today but, which might be considered when the Bill goes to Committee. I am as aware as anyone of the great record of social progress which my own party and others can claim, and this Bill is part of that. But there is, of course, the danger when we have legislation of this sort that although it does much good it causes a certain amount of hardship and inconvenience, and even on occasions may have bad effects.

I want to say something on the question of offices and to repeat and enlarge part of what I said in the debate on the Address at the beginning of the Session. I hope that when this Bill becomes law it will do nothing to perpetuate the use of what was and ought to be residential property for offices. Almost every hon. Member will have examples in his own constituency of a residential area into which, possibly because of wartime conditions, offices and other business premises have crept. Often these premises are unsatisfactory for that purpose and we would like to see these commercial users put into their proper place under a proper development plan. But it could be possible under this Bill for these wrong uses of property to be perpetuated, because if we are to legislate for these temporary offices, as they really are, and if these offices in old residential property are to be brought up to date, then money will be spent and, as a result, not first-class offices will result but merely something approximating to what we would like to see for office workers. The use of these offices will be perpetuated and the residential area will be permanently affected.

I should like to see my right hon. Friend give thought to that kind of problem, because we have cases where there are first-class office blocks going up in the centre of our cities which are not being used. In my own city we have blocks that have stood empty for a long time. Even in London there is this great building which has been put up on the former site of the Carlton Club, which was destroyed during the war. That building has remained empty to my knowledge for a very long time. There may be good commercial reasons for that, but if some of these older buildings were to be discontinued as offices and possibly converted into a number of dwellings, then we might see people taking these new buildings.

I know that one of the snags is that if there is an "office user", to use a planning term, of a building, that building is more expensive to buy and is worth more. The question of compensation is usually given as a reason for not trying to alter the office use, but if a date were set sufficiently far ahead for the termination of the office use of residential property, no great hardship would result, because anybody who knew that his use of the premises was to be terminated some considerable number of years ahead, perhaps even ten years ahead, would be able to plan for it and write it off against any profits which he might be making.

I want now to refer to some of the activities of small businessmen practising ancient crafts and trades. I know that the Minister is to be given fairly wide powers to exempt premises, but I can conceive a case where someone with a small shop and workshop behind it and employing a few people on some ancient craft, cabinet making of a specialised nature, or metal work, or engraving or printing, or even making cricket bats and cricket balls, might be seriously affected if the provisions of the Bills are applied too harshly. I hope that their interests will be safeguarded.

I know that there is a reference to shops which will not be affected if only close relatives of the owner are employed, but that provision might be extended a little, perhaps along the lines of an Act of Parliament that I was lucky enough to get on the Statute Book, the Fatal Accidents Act, 1959, in which dependent relatives were described in somewhat wider terms than in the old legislation. I cannot see any reference to the word "nephew" in the Bill, but some companies are described as "So and so and nephew" and they would be affected. Perhaps nephews ought to be included in the definition of close relatives. I intend when my nephew is older to employ him in some form of business—he is only four now—and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not make it too difficult for me to do so. Perhaps the provisions of the Fatal Accidents Act might be borne in mind in this respect.

I am certain that the subject of the Giles cartoon, which appeared in the Press recently, showing someone who obviously had business premises which would not conform with the standard of the Bill has already been raised in the debate, but I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that there are circumstances such as those where there are people in business in a very small way who might be seriously damaged if we passed the Bill without too much thought. I could not support the Bill at all if I thought that it would do anything to damage the interests of the small shopkeeper, because in this day, when we see the oncome of the supermarkets and things of that sort—they must come and no one is suggesting that there is any way of stopping that sort of thing, nor that it is desirable to stop a certain amount of it—the small trader finds himself up against it in all kinds of ways. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, who is a most humane man, will see in Committee that nothing in the Bill does any damage to the small shopkeeper, who is doing a splendid job which we would like him to continue.

8.2 p.m.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

One or two Members opposite have expressed some concern about the fate of the small shopkeeper under the Bill. They were a little unfair to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, because they ought to have directed their questions to the President of the Board of Trade. The small shopkeeper is not in any danger from the Bill, except that he has to see that his premises are adequate for the people who are employed there. The take-over bid merchants, the Clores, the Frasers and the others, are a far greater menace to these people than the Minister of Labour is ever likely to be under the Bill.

This has been rightly described as a belated Bill. It has been claimed by some hon. Members opposite as being in line with the traditions of progressive social legislation which they have introduced over the years. I was interested to hear the Minister claim that the position was to have been dealt with last year—I do not know if I heard him rightly—but in the debate on the Gracious Speech last year we complained that legislation along the lines of the Gowers Report had been omitted.

Mr. Hare

I said that it was with great regret that we were not able to include the Bill in last year's legislation, but that was because of the very heavy weight of legislation which we had to put through. In fact, some of our legislation, even so, could not be taken through the House.

Mr. Milne

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification, although we could have given him one or two items of legislation which we would have willingly have put aside to make way for the implementation of the Gowers Report.

It is true that this legislation has a long history. Between 1923 and 1936, no fewer than eleven Bills on this subject were brought to the House. Finally, we had the Gowers Committee. There is another issue on which I cross swords with the Minister. He said that the reason for the delay between the acceptance of the Gowers Report and the publication of the Bill was that so many organisations and bodies of public opinion had to be consulted. However, on 1st August, 1952, the then Home Secretary welcomed the Gowers Report in these terms: The Government have considered the Report of the Gowers Committee … and are in sympathy with the general tenor of the Committee's recommendations on this subject.… The Government are, however, anxious to prepare the way for legislation … so that there may be no avoidable delay in Introducing it as soon as the economic outlook justifies it…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st August. 1952; Vol. 504, c. 208.] This is not an economic debate and we cannot argue whether the economic circumstances are bright for the Bill or not, but, as has been said repeatedly, we on this side of the House welcome the Bill, although not because it was the brain child of the right hon. Gentleman. We feel that much of the credit belongs to people who are no longer with us, to those who in the late 19th and early 20th century rebelled against the conditions in which they worked, the people who laid the foundations of shop and office legislation in this country and who wanted to create a new order of society, a body of men and women who builded better than they knew. Even in this day and age we mark the footprints where they trod and will possibly be able to show them to our children. It is they and not the Government who ought to be praised for a Bill of this kind finally finding its way to the Statute Book.

When we debated the Second Reading of the Weights and Measures Bill on Monday, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade referred to the creation of a just society and to the type of Measures which had been included in this year's Gracious Speech. He stressed the history of the part his own party had played in this matter. I wonder where his predecessors stood at the beginning of this century when Bills of this description were being introduced.

We welcome the Bill, but in the last analysis it will be strengthened by the deliberations in Committee. Much of its success when it ultimately reaches the Statute Book will depend, as office legislation in the past has depended, on the vigilance of the people working in the offices and the methods by which they are prepared to ensure that the present state of affairs is greatly improved.

On Monday, we had to make some references to the rather clumsy drafting of the Weights and Measures Bill. On looking through this Bill one comes across the same type of thing. On page 4 we see that one sentence occupies lines 5 to 14 inclusive, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary who is to wind up this debate will take a little time off from his conversations with the Minister and listen to this particularly bright piece of drafting. It says: After the expiration of the period of five years beginning with the day on which the foregoing subsection comes into force as respects premises of any class, the number of persons habitually employed at a time to work in a room comprised in, or constituting, premises of that class shall not be such that the quotient derived by dividing by that number the number which expresses in square feet the area of the surface of the floor of the room is less than forty or the quotient derived by dividing by the first-mentioned number the number which expresses in cubic feet the capacity of the room is less than four hundred. I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary will need a little time off to work out that sentence.

I also want the Minister to look at Clause 9, which deals with the provision of sufficient and suitable sanitary conveniences, because, as other hon. Members have rightly said, this is something which affects not only the health and welfare of the workers in the premises referred to in the Bill, but the general public with whom they come in contact, and the recommendations of the Gowers Committee and the Trades Union Congress should be considered in this connection. The regulations made by the Minister should conform to the minimum proposals of the Trades Union Congress. These proposals were specific that the toilet accommodation should be in the ratio of 1 to 15 persons of each sex employed.

During the debate there has been a tendency to look back about 40 or 50 years and describe the conditions that existed then, and the impression has somehow been created that those conditions have disappeared. My organisation, the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers, carried out research into this matter, and in September. 1961, the findings of that inquiry, which covered a balanced sample of about 150 cities and towns, showed that the provision of sanitary accommodation was still very primitive in character. I do not intend to detail the types of accommodation mentioned in that report, except to say that Clause 9 of the Bill is obviously one which must receive a great deal of attention in Committee.

Clause 12, which deals with accommodation for clothing, represents in many ways a retreat by the Government. The Bill does not go far enough. It ought to be an elementary provision in 1962 that workers in the premises mentioned in the Bill shall have suitable facilities for the changing of clothes and adequate arrangements for drying them if and when necessary.

All the provisions in the Bill ought to be carried out in the light of local scrutiny, and some of the provisions in the Clause referring to reports to the Minister are inadequate. Local authorities should be placed under an obligation to publish annual reports of their enforcement and administration of the Bill in their areas, as well as having to submit reports annually to the Minister. I think that this would lead to a far greater interest locally in the provisions of the Bill, in the manner in which it is carried out, and, in the last analysis, would be the real test of whether the Bill was performing the functions it set out to do.

I turn now to the exemption of shops in which relatives are employed. It has been suggested that in some way because a person works for his parents or relatives conditions must be very good indeed. I think that many people who have had the experience of working with relatives know that very often the conditions under which they work are worse than those under which they would have to work with an outside employer.

I am particularly pleased from a constituency point of view at the inclusion of railway premises in the Bill. During the Recess I had occasion to visit the coal staithes at North Blyth. I saw the men's room, the supposed canteen, and the locker facilities that were available to the staff in the marshalling yards at North Blyth. In my capacity as a trade union official of the allied and distributive trades I have seen same inadequate conditions, but I have never seen anything more closely resembling a dungeon than this place which many of my constituents, who were doing an exceptionally useful job of work, were asked to regard as a rest room. The facilities belonged not to this century, but to the last, and I am glad on their behalf, just as I am on behalf of the people whom I have represented for so long, that this Bill has finally reached the stage of its Second Reading.

We commend it on that basis, and trust that the modifications suggested will be made in Committee, and that on to the Statute Book will go an Act of Parliament which will be a real credit to the people who instituted and thought of the idea of improved conditions for shop and distributive workers in this country.

8.18 p.m.

Major Sir Frank Markham (Buckingham)

It is pleasant to see the way in which this Bill has been generally welcomed by both sides of the House. Any criticisms which have been made of it have been criticisms of detail, and not of principle. I am one of those who are in that category of welcoming the Bill in principle, but wanting rather more information on detail.

As has been said, this is a Bill to set improved standards of health, welfare and safety for employees in offices, shops and railway premises. Lt is when we come to the last two words, "railway premises"—and the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) touched lightly on this point—that I find the Bill rather obscure.

Clause 1 (4) contains this definition: In this Act 'railway premises' means a building occupied by railway undertakers"— I like that phrase "railway undertakers"! Why could not it have said "British Railways" or "London Transport"?— for the purposes of the railway undertaking"— that, of course, is the origin of the word "undertakers"— carried on by them and situate in the immediate vicinity of the permanent way or a part (so occupied) of a building so situate, but does not include office or shop premises, premises used for the provision of living accommodation for persons employed in the undertaking, or hotels. When I read that through I wondered what was left. This Measure is presumably designed to improve the conditions of railway workers; yet, under this provision, the accommodation of practically everybody employed at our stations is excluded. Thus, the stationmaster's house comes out. Also, as I understand it, the ticket office comes out.

Mr. Whitelaw


Sir F. Markham

My hon. Friend shakes his head and says that it does not exclude ticket offices. I draw his attention to the fact that the provision says that "railway premises" means a building occupied by railway undertakers … but does not include office or shop premises…".

Mr. Whitelaw

The answer is that offices and shop premises are covered under the other definitions in the Bill.

Sir F. Markham

That deals with that paint. Would that also cover newsstands and baokstalls?

Mr. Whitelaw


Sir F. Markham

Then I turn to the point raised by the hon. Member for Blyth about canteens and porters' rooms. That is the type of railway accommodation referred to, I presume.

Mr. Whitelaw indicated assent.

Sir F. Markham

I gather that my hon. Friend approves of that as a temporary definition. I am glad to have that knowledge.

I now turn to Clause 6, which deals with temperature. We know that where men are working far any length of time it is most important that reasonable standards of temperature should be maintained; indeed, that is one of the aims of the Bill. But subsection (2) provides that a temperature of less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit shall not be deemed, after the first hour, to be a reasonable temperature.… This provision flies in the face of all the reports which have been put before the House from time to time, and which have advocated temperatures of between 64 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Those are the temperature ranges that are more or less compulsory in our factories now. They are practically compulsory in schools. In this House, where we are a little older than the average railway worker, the temperature runs between 67 and 70 degrees. The figure of 60 degrees is too low.

Presumably, during the first hour the temperature could be much less. Until someone has turned on the taps or the fire, or whatever it is, the temperature could easily be zero. I hope that this provision will be looked at again and that in Committee the Minister will accept an Amendment to raise the minimum temperature above 60 degrees, to something more in keeping with the advice of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Meteorological Office and the Air Ministry, who have gone into the question of comfort while at work.

The points to which I have referred may be regarded as trivial ones, but I make them in earnest. I hope that in Committee we shall be given a closer definition of railway premises, and that the question of temperature and living conditions generally will be defined much more closely in accordance with modern commercial and industrial practice.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. W. E. Padley (Ogmore)

The Bill has been welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but hon. Members opposite, especially the Minister, should not be surprised at the fact that most hon. Members on this side have begun by criticising the Government's record in these matters. I propose to do the same, and I do it not to rake old fires. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) once said that the purpose of recrimination about the past was to force effective action in the present.

The Bill is largely a permissive Measure. By common consent, its value will depend largely upon the vigour with which the Government of the day operate it—the way in which they use the exemption Clauses and the speed with which they introduce the regulations. That is why, in the trade union movement outside as weld as among my colleagues on this side of the House, concern is felt about the Government's shocking record in dealing with the con- ditions of shop, office and other workers which were investigated by the Gowers Committee.

References have been made to the fact that the Gowers Committee was set up in 1946 and reported in 1949. I remind the House that this same Gowers Committee, under its original terms of reference, produced a first Report on the Shops Act. After much agitation the Government of the day—a Conservative Government—introduced a Bill, based on the Report, in another place. That was in 1956. The Bill was dropped in 1957, allegedly on grounds of lack of time. It has never reappeared.

During the thirteen years that I have been a Member of the House we have had scores of debates, Opposition Motions and Private Members' Bills urging the Government to implement the Gowers Committee recommendations in respect of shops, offices and other premises. Throughout that time the Government have used varying excuses for the delay. My personal files concerning the Gowers Committee Reports are now growing yellow and brown. I have here a yellow document which is the famous 1952 proposals, to which reference has been made during the debate. A deputation went to see the then Home Secretary early in 1953, and so it went on.

The first specific pledge that the Conservative Government gave the country followed the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harald Davies), who introduced a Private Member's Bill just before the 1955 General Election. The upshot was that the Conservative Party wrote into its election programme in 1955: Legislation will be passed to promote a steady improvement of conditions for other workers, including those in transport, in farming, in offices and in shops. Since that was written into the Conservative election programme in 1955, most of the explanations for the delay given by hon. Members opposite are clearly false. It was not principally a question of consultation with various organisations it was not principally a question of Parliamentary time, or a question of shortage of material, otherwise the right hon. Members who wrote the Conservative Party manifestoes would not have written in that pledge.

The truth is that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) deserves the thanks of us all for his initiative since he arrived in the House and was lucky enough to come first in his first Ballot for Private Members' Bills. I well remember that debate, three years ago, when the Government were beaten in the Division Lobbies because a handful of Tories voted with us and 20 or 30 others sat ostentatiously in abstention on the benches opposite, because the Government had been thrashed in the debate. That fact, plus the electoral fortunes of the Tory Party, has, in my judgment, been responsible for producing this Bill—which we all welcome. But as one analyses the Bill, inevitably the fears and suspicions based on the record of the Government are aroused.

First, there are the omissions. It may be true that to extend the provisions to include entertainment and other categories of workers referred to in the Gowers Committee Report might be difficult. But the members of Equity, N.A.T.K.E. and the other trade unions of the entertainment industry will have good cause to be angry because 13 long years have passed since the Gowers Committee reported, and had the then Government implemented the promise made at the 1955 election shops and offices would have been dealt with in 1956 or 1957 and now the more difficult problem presented by the entertainment industry could have been tackled.

The hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) read out the definition of railway premises which appears in the Bill. One of the reasons for the weird construction of words is in order to exclude coal depots which are in fact railway premises. In order to do that it was necessary to use the circumlocution against which the hon. and gallant Member complained. In the old days the railway companies were the landlords of the coal depots. Now it is British Railways, and the coal merchants are the tenants. I believe that even under the form of words in the Bill coal depots are included. I know that it is the intention of the Government to exclude them, but a coal depot is without any doubt a railway undertaker for the purpose of the railway undertaking. There are 30 million or 40 million tons of coal supplied to domestic consumers and minor industrial concerns which are unloaded at the depots. Whether or not I am right on the strict legal interpretation of the Clause, I challenge the Minister to tell us why coal depots alone of railway premises are to be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. Here we have a group of workers doing a job which is dirty and arduous under conditions which. as the Gowers Report put it, are really primitive. Apart from a handful of new depots, these premises do not include lavatories or facilities for washing or changing clothes during wet weather.

Why should coal depot workers be left out? The only obstacle which has appeared in the negotiations between the Transport and General Workers Union and my own union and the Transport Commission and the coal merchants has been the question of apportioning the cost. It would seem that the Gowers Committee was right when it reported that the cost should fall on the railways and that the railways should recoup it by a necessary adjustment of rents. Even at this stage I appeal to the Minister to introduce an appropriate Amendment to enable coal depot workers to be included among those who will benefit from the provisions in the Bill.

The workrooms of dental technicians might be included among the premises affected by the provisions in the Bill. Some years ago the question was raised in the British trade union movement of the appropriate union to organise dental technicians. The T.U.C. thought that my union was the appropriate body and so they are organised by U.S.D.A.W. The same reasons which led the T.U.C. to ask the shopworkers' union to organise the dental technicians should prompt the Minister to introduce an appropriate Amendment to include their workrooms among the premises affected by the Bill.

I have mentioned that the Bill is to a large extent a permissive Measure and that there are provisions for exceptions and exemptions. Several hon. Members referred to the exception of premises where only the relatives of a shopkeeper work. I speak entirely for myself—it is not a trade union matter, nor do I think it a part issue—but I am unhappy that this principle, which has found its way into the legislation of Southern Europe for the first time, should have appeared in British social and industrial legislation. There is no exception relating to the family business in the Factories Act, in the Shops Act or the Wages Council Act. I should not mind the family business, narrowly defined as it is in this Bill, being exempted from the provisions of the Bill, but since the Measure deals with the safety of shop workers and since, as some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, many accidents occur from the use of dangerous machinery in shops, I cannot for the life of me see why the family grocer's shop should be exempted from provisions requiring a bacon slicing machine to be protected and that young people should be instructed in the use of such machines. I hope that we shall succeed in getting an Amendment to the Bill to the effect that young persons should be forbidden to clean such machines.

As the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said, it is true that the number of accidents in shops do not compare with the number of accidents in industry. But serious accidents do occur in shops. I have here a list of 70 accidents which were reported to the legal department of my union in the last 18 months. They include an accident to a girl of 20, necessitating the amputation of the whole of her left hand, and an accident to a boy of 17 who lost several fingers. To exempt the family grocer's shop from the safety regulations proposed in this Bill seems to me to be quite wrong.

Likewise, under the existing Shops Act there is a statutory obligation on any shop to provide an appropriate number of seats for female shop assistants. That has been the law of Britain since 1899. The present law dates from 1934. This Bill proposes to remove that. I cannot believe that is social progress. I most sincerely appeal to the Minister to have a look at this again and, so to speak, to divide the sheep from the goats. There may be some provisions in the Bill from which a genuine family shop could be exempted, but other provisions should be obligatory on family shops as well as others.

I am quite sure that the exemptions are far too wide, even leaving aside any suspicion that this Government and many local authorities, because of their composition, would use the exemption clauses very widely. The Minister having this wide power of exemption, local authorities having it and magistrates' courts in effect having wide powers of exemption does not, so far as I know, exist in any other body of British law. The Bill sets up three bodies which can take almost any enterprise outside the scope of the Bill. In my view the exemption Clauses must be restricted. In most cases all that will be required is a short period of delay to give time for the provisions of the Bill and the regulations to be fulfilled rather than the establishment of a case for exemption.

The question of enforcement has been raised by many hon. Members in this debate. Enforcement is crucial. As the Minister knows, the general view of the trade unions in recent years has been that there should be an enlargement of the Factory Inspectorate to enforce this Bill when it becomes an Act. I have always recognised the difficulties involved in that, but my experience of Shops Act administration and inspection does not leave me as sanguine as the Minister about effective enforcement under the provisions of this Bill.

I do not want to be misunderstood. In London and many other towns and cities the standard of enforcement under the Shops Act is good, but local government in Britain is like a patchwork quilt of various shapes and sizes. In many towns and villages there is virtually no inspection at all, and even when breaches of the Shops Act are reported action is not taken by the local authority. This was recognised by the Gowers Committee. In its Report, the Committee accepted the necessity for enforcement to be the duty of local authorities. The Committee, however, also recognised that there must be central Government supervision of local authorities and suggested that there should be a number of central Government inspectors to supervise, co-ordinate and help local authorities in carrying out their duties under the Act.

There is another aspect of the matter which will have to be dealt with in Committee. Many local authorities have a surprising number of shopkeepers and office owners on them. This could become an important barrier of disinterest in enforcement of the Bill's provisions. That is why my union, in its evidence to the Gowers Committee, proposed that the local authority should not have the power to dismiss an inspector without the approval of the Minister. That may sound rather drastic as an amendment to propose, but I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to look at the question of local authorities in Britain and see if it is not distinctly possible—if not probable—that in some parts of the country enforcement would fail because vested interests would be asked to enforce an Act which would affect vested interests.

I pass to one or two major issues in the Bill. In a sense they are Committee points, but so far as they are very big points, they are also second Reading points. First there is the question of overcrowding. The Clauses dealing with overcrowding are almost meaningless. If we exempt fixtures, fittings and furniture from the definition of air space, we abandon all rational criteria on the subject. Contrary to the recommendations of the Gowers Committee, shops and offices to which the public resort are totally excluded from the Bill. This is a very serious departure from the recommendations of the Committee and the proposals made by the Government in 1952. I hope the Minister will give further consideration to the need to include fixtures, fittings and furniture and the need to bring shops into the Bill in this respect.

The Bill proposes to repeal Sections 37 to 39 of the Shops Act, but in some cases the Bill does not contain the provisions which are contained in those Sections. That is true, for example, of the question of seats for shop assistants. It would be wrong for Sections 37 to 39 of the Shops Act to be repealed until the Minister brings forward the regulations which will replace those Sections.

Whilst we welcome the Bill and will do everything possible in Committee to improve it so that it becomes a useful Measure, we must not be complacent. We are almost the most backward nation in Western and Northern Europe in this field. Those of us who represent the trade union movement at international conferences found increasingly in the 1950s that the British Government's record in the House and at the I.L.O. was an embarrassment to us, because not long ago Britain led Europe in this field. I hope that the passage of the Bill and a speedy implementation of the Clauses which provide for the issue of regulations will once more restore Britain to leadership. It is frightfully important that the job is done speedily.

I agree with the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) that at this time when so much of Britain is being rebuilt, when the centres of so many of our great towns and cities are being rebuilt, it is vital that the new buildings at any rate should conform at least to the full standards of Gowers. Regrettably this is not always the case. This Chamber was destroyed during the war. It was rebuilt, and reopened in 1950. I am sure that there are infringements of Gowers' standards in this part of the Palace of Westminster. I can say from personal knowledge of the great shops of Britain, even some of the newest shops, even some of those that look the best, that they fall below Gowers standards in a number of ways. Therefore, this matter is urgent. We shall not vote against the Second Reading, because in a sense we regard this as our Bill rather than as a Tory Bill.

8.43 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. William Whitelaw)

Recently I was reproached with the words, "It is a pity your voice is never heard at Westminster". I am doubtful, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if you would be prepared to accept that statement just as it stands. I know that my late colleagues in the Government Whips' Office would not. Nevertheless, I am only too conscious at this moment of what my critic meant, for I am now faced, not only with my maiden speech from the Dispatch Box, but also in truth with my first speech in this Parliament. Indeed, if it is not actually a maiden speech it certainly feels like one.

I admit that for this reason, as well as for many others, I have very much of a fellow feeling for the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley). I congratulate him on what I am sure we all thought was a very able and excellent maiden speech. We hope to hear him frequently again. I think that he was unkind to himself. I do not think that on this occasion he did try to get away with murder. Perhaps if he tries it in the future he will find it more difficult.

I am also only too well aware that I cannot hope to compete with the eloquence and the knowledge of the subject possessed by the hon. Member far Ogmore (Mr. Padley), who would probably agree that we have had a good and constructive debate. I have heard almost all of it, and I now want to do my best to answer the many important points that have been put. In the main, they have shown how difficult it is to strike a right balance in these matters.

Some hon. Members, anxious as we all are to improve conditions for all those who work in our offices, shops and railway premises, are impatient of delay and feel that the Bill should be even more widely applied. They want to set even higher standards, and they consider the exemption powers are too wide. On the other hand, there are those hon. Members who fear that strict compliance with the various conditions will place too heavy a burden, particularly on the family owner and occupier; and that the improvements required by the Bill may divert an undue proportion of our building resources from their primary task of providing houses. The Bill has been framed with the object of striking the right balance, so it is against that background that I want to consider the various, and sometimes conflicting, views that have been expressed.

The hon. Members for Southwark (Mr. Gunter) and for Ogmore, and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh)—who enjoyed himself, as, I think, one would concede he had every right to do—accused us of unreasonable delay in introducing the Bill. I must say that I thought that they were answered pretty effectively by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), Who speaks with all the authority of a member of the Gowers Committee. Of course, neither the members of the Gowers Committee nor anyone else expected that all their proposals would be implemented at once.

Nor am I prepared to allow hon. Members opposite to forget what has already been done in this sphere by Conservative Governments in the last ten years: the Mines and Quarries Act, 1954; the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act, 1956, and the Factories Act, 1959. This record puts accusations of delay in their proper perspective

It is also fair to point out to the hon. Member for Southwark and other hon. Gentlemen that their demands for immediate improvements in office accommodation are not wholly consistent with the complaints of many of their right hon. and hon. Friends against new office building. After all, it is generally recognised that, to some extent, office building competes with other forms of building, including houses, for scarce resources, and this point was made very plainly by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). It really must be faced that earlier implementation of the Bill—or, indeed, of its overcrowding provisions—might well have led to even more new office building than we have had.

The hon. Members for Greenwich and Southwark, and many others, advocated an extension of the scope of the Bill to certain other classes of premises that have been excluded. In particular, they mentioned theatres—an aspect dealt with by my right hon. Friend. British Transport Commission coal depots were mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) and many other hon. Members, and Health Service employees were referred to by the hon. Members for Southwark and Greenwich, and by other hon. Members. Of course, as the hon. Member for Southwark rightly said, we will argue some of these particular cases in Committee, but tonight I should like to reply generally—

Mr. Gunter

The case now being made by the Parliamentary Secretary is very plausible, but some of us have had the experience over the last ten years of the promises that were made by the party opposite that these aspects would be considered, and legislation introduced. In 1952, for instance, the Tory Party promised that theatres would be brought within the scope of the Bill. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can tell us what has changed the Government's mind. Why are these promises being broken?

Mr. Whitelaw

The hon. Gentleman spoke earlier about the long period of gestation. He must appreciate that I have had a considerable period of gestation with this Bill. It would also be true that I have just been newly born into this field. Nevertheless, in his own words, I trust that I may prove to be a lusty child—

Mr. Marsh

One accepts the hon. Gentleman's point of view, although not necessarily agreeing with it, in terms of difficulties in including hospitals, places of entertainment, and so on, but can he say that, even though the Government may not be able to include them in this Bill, it is their intention to legislate at some time for the rest of non-industrial employment?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think I should confine myself, wisely, to what is in the Bill, and to what we are actually doing in this sphere, which I think is a great deal.

In truth, wherever the line is drawn, and after all we have to draw it somewhere, there will always be a case for, in that well-known phrase, "going just a little bit further; just a small one or just a little bit more." We have heard it today, but I think we should be clear that if we brought into this Bill any substantial new classes of premises, we should have formidable new problems to deal with, and a still more complicated Bill, and I have not heard anybody suggest that this Bill is either small or short or entirely simple to understand.

Furthermore, we must judge various other claims for inclusion against the background of the considerable advance which we are making already. I was very pleased to hear the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winter-bottom), with his long experience of shops, recognising and welcoming this. We are seeking to deal with 1 million premises employing 8 million people, which, apart from anything else, will impose an administrative task of no mean order.

Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) have raised questions about railway premises. I was interested in the point made by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East about this. He expressed his very proper concern over this, in view of his long experience. I can assure him that the Bill will apply to most railway buildings not already covered by the Factories Act. This includes buildings situated in the immediate vicinity of the permanent way, such as stations, marshalling yard buildings and signal boxes, and, as I pointed out in an intervention in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham, certain other premises which qualify as offices or shops, for example, a railway ticket office.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) and my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham asked how the Bill would apply to civilian employees in Government offices, and what would happen. The answer is that the Bill is to apply to civilian employees in Government offices and other premises of the type covered by the Bill, and that it will be binding on the Crown, in so far as these provisions impose duties, where failure to comply might give rise to a liability in tort. That is in Clause 70. In other words, and it might be easier in the other words, civil servants will be able to sue the Crown for damages in respect of matters which arise under the Bill.

Let me give a simple example. It someone were to fall and be injured because a handrail had not been provided, under Clause 14, on a staircase in his place of work, he could bring an action for damages, and the same principle would apply to all those parts of the Bill to which Clause 70 refers. This is in line with the general legal position of the Crown as set out in the Crown Proceedings Act, 1947. The Crown, for good and obvious reasons, cannot be made criminally liable. Nor is there provision for inspectors to have the powers of entry and enforcement which are conferred on them in the case of other premises by Clauses 43 and 44. However, it is intended that conditions in Government premises should conform to the standards required by the Bill and that factory inspectors should inspect these premises by administrative arrangement. Perhaps I should also make it clear that members of the Armed Forces are excluded from the Bill, but that civilian employees of the forces will have the same protection as other Government employees.

Mr. R. Carr

Can my hon. Friend say more about what is meant by "administrative arrangement" in relation to this inspection? Does the initiative in any way lie with the inspector to go where he would like to go?

Mr. Whitelaw

If I may say so, with great respect to my hon. Friend, "administrative arrangement" means, as I understand the phrase "administrative arrangement". There is every determinatior on the part of the Government to see the standards in Government offices conform with the Bill and I think that these arrangements will ensure that the factory inspectors do their job in a proper manner.

My hon. Friends the Members for Clapham, Folkestone and Hythe and Mitcham and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) expressed anxiety lest the Bill placed an unreasonable and unnecessary burden on the small shopkeeper. I can assure them that the Government share their concern. As evidence of this I call their attention to the various provisions which are designed to safeguard the position of the family concern.

Clause 1 states that the Bill applies only to premises where people are employed. Therefore, the shopkeeper who runs his shop by himself is not affected at all. Clause 2 goes further and exempts those shopkeepers who are assisted only by their families. "Family" specifically includes his or her husband or wife, parent, grandparent, son, daughter, grandchild, brother or sister. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe and my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham, rather like hon. Members opposite in another context, wanted to go a little further and include nephews and nieces. On the provisions as they stand we can all think of families who could muster quite a labour force under that umbrella already.

Mr. Milne

The Prime Minister.

Mr. Whitelaw

Clause 3 goes further still and excludes from the scope of the Bill any premises where normally the total number of hours worked, either by one or several employees, is less than twenty-one a week. So those small shop- keepers who employ only—again this famous phrase—"a little part-time help" will also be unaffected by the Bill. Having said that, I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for Ogmore about safety in such premises. I would suggest to him and other hon. Members who have raised this matter that these provisions, taken together, provide a sensible balance.

Other hon. Members have referred to Clause 5, regarding overcrowding. The hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) suggested that the Clause as drafted was somewhat meaningless. I have sympathy with his point of view but it means, simply, in the end, that one has 40 square feet of space per person and that if the ceiling is lower than 10 feet one has 400 cubic feet. I would make it clear, therefore, that Clause 5 consists of two separate requirements. One makes it an offence to employ people in a room which is so overcrowded as to cause risk of injury to health. Some doubt was expressed about this, but it will take effect as soon as my right hon. Friend brings the provision into force. There is no question of a delay of five years. The delay applies only to the second provision, which requires 40 square feet for each employee. We think that it is reasonable that a period of time should be allowed in view of the possibility of some occupiers having to make structural alterations to comply with this standard.

The hon. Member for Ogmore asked why "standard space" included, I think he meant, furniture and equipment. It would have been administratively impracticable to do otherwise. For example, if they were to be excluded, what would be done about the space under the desk or table where one puts one's feet? Their exclusion would have inevitably involved inspectors going around the furniture with a tape measure, and that would have been somewhat too bureaucratic to be sensible. Certainly there is no similar provision in the Factories Act for inspectors to go round measuring equipment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckingham suggested that the minimum temperature of 60 degree's Fahrenheit laid down in Clause 6 is too low. This is a point which is best discussed in Committee. Perhaps I should outline the basic reasons why the Clause is in its present form. First the figure of 60 degrees applies under Section 3 of the Factories Act to workrooms in which a substantial proportion of the work is done sitting and does not involve serious physical effort—in other words, conditions similar to those in most offices. There is, therefore, a sound precedent for the standard that we have produced.

Secondly, we feel that we must take account of the fact that many heating systems are incapable of raising the temperature within a building to much more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit above the temperature of the outside air. In the coldest days of the winter, therefore, it might be difficult in some buildings to achieve even 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I do not make too much of this point, but I am sure the House will be prepared to give due weight to this argument when we are deciding the level in Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East asked why the Bill did not express the minimum temperature in degrees centigrade. I think there is a reason which perhaps they did not appreciate. Many thousands of thermometers would have to be replaced. But despite that, I have very much sympathy with the point that has been made. Perhaps it would be right to express the standard in the Bill in both forms, and we shall certainly look into this.

Now I turn to the question of noise which was raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Mitcham and Clapham and the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East. Most noise, I suppose is likely to come from outside the premises, from traffic and from our British liking for digging up our roads as often and as noisily as possible. I am glad to say that I am effectively silenced on these subjects, first because they are outside the scope of the Bill and secondly because the Wilson Committee is studying them. Then there is the human noise inside a building caused, for example, by people who will conduct their telephone conversations as if the instrument did not exist. I have much sympathy not only with their colleagues but also with them, and if a silencer could be devised, in view of my record in this field, I should be very ready to offer myself as a suitable subject for the experiment.

But, of course, there is also—and do not seek to minimise it—the very serious and important point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham referred about noisy machinery in shops and offices. My right hon. Friend has power under Clause 17 to make regulations to deal with this where there is evidence of a health risk, and I think this meets the point to some extent.

It has been suggested that it would be better to set up a central inspectorate to enforce the Bill in all premises covered by it. This point has been very carefully considered and I admit that the possibility of more uniform administration over the country which it offers is certainly very attractive, but there are two arguments against it. First, there would be the tremendous problem of recruitment. This was recognised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South. But there are at least four times as many premises under this Bill as there are factories, and after allowing for the fact that offices and shops are probably easier to inspect than factories, the problem of recruitment would remain immense even if officers with lower technical qualifications than factory inspectors were employed.

The second main argument against a central inspectorate is that much of the work of inspection is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford pointed out, a natural extension of the present work of local authorities under a number of enactments. These are duties which they would like to do and are well fitted to do. I certainly repeat what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said about how careful we should be not to criticise indiscriminately—I do not think that anyone has done so—the competence of local authorities in this field. What is also most important is that this was a task which the Gowers Committee thought that local authorities should carry out.

I am in no doubt that it will be a more economical method of enforcement than a vast expansion of central machinery and it will avoid duplication of inspection by central and local authorities under different Statutes. I noted the point made by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman) about the Factory Inspectorate examining the safety of bacon slicing machines. We have adopted a flexible approach to this problem and are giving responsibilities to other authorities in cases where there is a clear balance of advantage in doing so. Thus, factory inspectors will inspect offices in factories, because they will be visiting those establishments in any event under the Factories Act. Mines and quarries inspectors will inspect offices and shops in mines and quarries. I am confident that this is a commonsense division of responsibilities and will serve our purpose best, and close co-operation between the various authorities will overcome any difficulties that might otherwise arise from the use of different groups of inspectors.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham made the interesting point that a small central inspectorate should be set up to maintain standards and ensure reasonable uniformity. I know that my right hon. Friend is interested in this suggestion and it may be that such an inspectorate will have a part to play. Perhaps we can consider this further in Committee.

I turn now to the question of exemptions, about which the hon. Member for Southwark expressed great concern. On the other hand, the hon. Member for Greenwich conceded that some such exemptions were necessary. The Bill will cover a wide variety of premises and circumstances and it is important to ensure that a reasonable degree of flexibility in administration is maintained, particularly during the first few years after the Bill comes into force.

For that reason, Clause 36 enables the Minister to exempt a class of premises from certain requirements where compliance would, in his opinion, be unreasonable. The requirements in question are those relating to temperature, overcrowding, sanitary conveniences and washing facilities, which, as my right hon. Friend underlined this afternoon, all involve capital investment.

It is impossible to say exactly how that power would be used until the experience gained in the administration of the Bill has shown what the problems are. I want, however, to assure the hon. Member for Ogmore and the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East that this power will certainly not be used to relieve premises from these requirements where compliance would be reasonable. Under Clause 37, the enforcing authority, usually the local authority, is given discretion to grant exemption to individual premises where compliance with these requirements is not reasonably practicable. The exemption may be given with or without time limits or conditions, but it may be withdrawn if the authorities consider that conditions have changed so as to make compliance reasonable.

We think it desirable to permit this slight degree of flexibility in administration so that occupiers of premises covered by the Bill who are unable by virtue of their special circumstances to comply with one or more of these requirements and would otherwise be faced with the choice of going out of business or flouting the law, can be safeguarded. The criteria for exemption will be strict, and the occupier will be expected to use his period of grace to make other arrangements.

The hon. Members for Southwark and Greenwich complained about the appeal provisions on exemption under Clause 37. They did not like the idea that appeals were to be taken in the magistrates' courts. I would point out that magistrates' courts have the great advantage of being local and have all the experience of administering Factories Act legislation. There seem, therefore, to be sound reasons for making them the appeal courts.

Hon. Members then asked why employees had no right of appeal. I should point out that the Bill places the obligation on occupiers. It is occupiers who must find the money for the improvements, and surely it is, therefore, only right that they should have the right of appeal. It is superficially attractive and logical to say that employees should also have a right of appeal against the enforcing authority in granting an exemption. But it is not really the job of the courts to hear complaints that the enforcing authority is not using responsibly the discretionary powers it is given in the Bill. And workers can always take complaints direct to the enforcing authority and ask for the exemption to be withdrawn.

The hon. Member for Greenwich in particular asked about timing. He wanted to know what time was likely to elapse between the Royal Assent and the bringing into operation of the Bill under Clause 77. I would say at once that the Government intend to make the period as short as possible. But we must be realistic and recognise that some time will be required, firstly, to hold discussions between representatives of the enforcing authorities about the administrative procedures, particularly the details of the registration arrangements; secondly, to print the registration forms and give occupiers a reasonable period in which to obtain copies and send them to the appropriate authority; thirdly, to enable the enforcing authorities to build up their staffs and make arrangements to handle the registration forms; fourthly, to enable the Minister to consult the interested bodies on the contents of any regulations that he may wish to make under the Act at the same time as it is brought into operation; and, fifthly, to give owners and occupiers a period in which to bring their premises into line with the Act before inspection begins.

Experience suggests that these various steps are unlikely to be completed in less than a year. We would intend to issue draft regulations shortly—and I mean very shortly—after the Act comes into operation. In the meantime, I hope that owners and occupiers generally will use the time to bring their premises into compliance with the Act as soon as its details have been decided.

Mr. Marsh

The hon. Gentleman says "about a year". One does not hold him too closely to this, but is he saying "about a year from the date of operation of the Act", or "about a year from now"? Can he give us some indication of the operative date of the Act?

Mr. Whitelaw

I can be a little more specific to the hon. Gentleman than I was to my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham who asked a similar question. It is about a year from the passing of the Act, and "about a year" means "about a year".

Mr. Marsh

Can the lion. Gentleman tell us when the Act is likely to take effect? "About a year" from an unspecified date is not very precise.

Mr. Whitelaw

Some of my hon. Friends have already answered the hon. Gentleman's point. It depends to a large extent on him.

My hon. Friends the Members for Mitcham and Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) expressed anxiety that new buildings put up from now on should conform to the standards laid down in the Bill. I appreciate their point, but I do not think that we need worry too much about it. People will not be eager to put up a new building which would have to be altered within five years. I know that architects are already taking the standards of this Bill into account.

I cannot expect to have answered to their satisfaction all the points raised by hon. Members. However, I hope that I have given at least the reasons why the Bill is framed in its present terms. The Government's aim has been to achieve the right balance, and much thought and consultation has been directed to that end. Now the Bill is to have the great benefit of close scrutiny in Parliament.

I am sure that it will be generally agreed that the process has started with a constructive and helpful debate. As both my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Southwark said, we now look forward to fruitful discussion in Committee in exactly the same spirit. This Bill represents yet another social advance promoted by a Conservative Government, and I confidently commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38. (Committal of Bills).