§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Bruce Millan)
I beg to move amendment No. 122, in page 107, line 16, at end insert—1A. In section 4 (relaxation of building standards regulations)—(a) for subsection (5) there shall be substituted the following subsections—(5) A direction under subsection (1)(b) above—
- (a) shall, if it so provides, cease to have effect at the end of such period as may be specified in the direction;
- (b) may be varied or revoked by a subsequent direction of the Secretary of State.(5A) If at any time a direction under subsection (1)(b) above ceases to have effect by virtue of subsection (5)(a) above or is varied or revoked under subsection (5)(b) above, that fact shall not affect the continued operation of the direction (with any conditions specified therein) in any case in which before that time an application for a warrant in connection with the construction or change of use of a building, part or all of which is of the class to which the direction relates, was, in accordance with regulations made under section 2 of this Act, lodged with a buildings authority.";(b) in subsections (6) and (7), after the words "subsection (1)(b)" there shall be inserted the words "or (5)(b)";(c) after subsection (7) there shall be inserted the following subsection:—(7A) A person making an application under subsection (1)(b) above shall pay to the Secretary of State such fee as may be prescribed; and regulations made by virtue of this subsection may 402 prescribe different fees for different cases:Provided that the Secretary of State may in any particular case remit the whole or part of any fee payable by virtue of this subsection.".I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we take with this amendment the remaining Government amendments.
§ Mr. Millan
These amendments are all related to Schedule 7, which contains the provisions amending the Building (Scotland) Act 1959. The purpose of the provisions is to ensure that the Scottish building legislation are brought into line with those changes being made in the equivalent English legislation in Part III of the Bill which seem immediately desirable and useful in a Scottish context. It is intended that any wider changes that appear desirable in the Scottish legislation will be considered when the Scottish Building Acts are being reviewed and consolidated in a few years' time.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 123, in page 108, line 13, at end insert—
'Provided that the Secretary of State may in any particular case remit the whole or part of any fee payable by virtue of this subsection'.
§ No. 124, in page 108, line 19, leave out subsection (9).
No. 125, in page 109, line 18, at end insert—
'() in subsection (2), for the words "but only if, they are satisfied that" there shall be substituted the words "so far as they are able to ascertain after taking all reasonable steps in that behalf,".
() in subsection (3), for the words "be satisfied as mentioned in the last foregoing subsection" there shall be substituted the words "grant a certificate of completion".'
§ No. 126, in page 109, line 23, leave out be satisfied as mentioned in subsection (2) above' and insert `grant a certificate of completion'.
No. 127, in page 109, line 45, leave out from 'section' to 'shall' in line 47 and insert—
'a breach to which this section applies'.
No. 128, in page 110, leave out lines 1 to 3 and insert
'in any action brought by virtue of this subsection such defence as may be prescribed shall be available.
(1A) This section applies to the following breaches—
No. 129, in page 110, line 6, leave out 'breach of such a duty' and insert
'a breach to which this section applies'.
§ No. 130, in page 110, line 9, after 'alteration', insert demolition, repair, maintenance,'.
No. 131, in page 110, line 12, leave out from 'which' to 'or' in line 19 and insert
'a breach to which this section applies is actionable in a case to which subsection (1) above does not apply'.
§ No. 132, in page 110, line 20, leave out from 'this' to end of line 21 and insert 'section'.
§ No. 133, in page 110, line 27, leave out ' subsections (2A), (2B) and (2C) below 'and insert' the provisions of this section'.
No. 134, in page 110, line 31, leave out subsections (2A), (2B) and (2C) and insert:
(2A) The building standards regulations shall, except in so far as they otherwise prescribe, apply to a Crown building as they would apply if the building were not a Crown building.
(2B) A Crown building to which the building standards regulations apply shall be constructed in accordance with those regulations.
(2C) Any extension to or alteration of a Crown building to which the building standards regulations apply or would apply on the extension or alteration of the building shall not cause the building as extended or altered, as a direct result of the extension or, as the case may be, the alteration—
(2D) Section 19A of this Act shall apply to a Crown building as it applies to a building other than a Crown building, but as if for subsection (1A) there were substituted the following subsection:—
(1A) A breach to which this section applies is a failure to comply with subsection (2B) or (2C) of section 26 of this Act or a contravention of any provision of the building operations regulations".
(2E) Without prejudice to any case to which proviso (a) to subsection (1) above is applicable, the Secretary of State shall have the like powers of dispensing with or relaxing the provisions of the building standards regulations in relation to a Crown building as he has under section 4(1) of this Act in relation to a building other than a Crown building; and subsections (3). (4), (5), (5A) and (9) of the said section 4 shall apply for the purposes of this section as if—
(2F) Without prejudice to any case to which the said proviso is applicable, in the application of section 4 B of this Act to a Crown building, subsection (11) shall have effect as if for the words from "an application" to the end there were substituted the words "the construction of a building, part or all of which is of the class to which the certificate relates, was begun".—[Mr. Millan.]
§ Order for Third Reading read—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, and Prince of Wales's Consent signified.]
§ Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Madel
I am sure all my right hon. and hon. Friends would like to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Employment on so skilfully piloting the Bill to Third Reading. He has had a long and arduous task today. He has been here eight hours non-stop after spending many hours in Committee. If ever this placed is to be televised or broadcast, this is the sort of Bill that I think the public would like to see, and from which 405 they would gain something. I am sure that they would have been impressed by the skill and patience shown by the Minister.
We have only one real point of disagreement about the Bill, and that is on Clause 2. I am sorry that the Government could not meet us on it. We felt that they had spilled a little doctrinaire ink on an otherwise clean slate. However, we are grateful to them for meeting us on so many other amendments.
On Second Reading, mention was made of perhaps having a Standing Committee on Health and Safety at Work for the first two or three years of the commission's life. I hope that that will be done, or that the Government will at least consider it. We have emphasised time and again the number of accidents and injuries which occur at work, and 18th June 1974 is not a day too soon to give this Bill its Third Reading.
The Opposition have laid special emphasis on the work of the commission, the code of practice, the information services, and the research that it is going to do. Entrusted to the commission is a great power and a great opportunity for it to improve health and safety at work.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) is here, and no doubt, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will say something about mental illness at work. We hope that the commission will have power to issue regulations and codes of practice in regard to conditions of stress which can often lead to mental illness. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will confirm that.
We give a warm welcome to the Bill. We hope that it will lead to the greatly increased co-operation which is needed in places of work throughout the country. There is a glittering opportunity for employers and employees to use the Bill, through safety committees, to increase co-operation, communication and understanding between them. We are glad to have played a part in the passage of the Bill through the House. We wish it well in another place and hope that it will soon be on the statute book.
§ 12.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Latham
I associate myself strongly with the remarks of my 406 hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) about the Under-Secretary of State's conduct on the Bill. The hon. Gentleman was courtesy itself to all back benchers, and we greatly appreciate it.
Part III of the Bill has not been mentioned today, although it was dealt with in detail in Committee. I welcome it nevertheless. The only mention of building regulations was made by the Minister of State, Scottish Office, a few minutes ago in a commendably brief contribution, but the fact that there has been no debate on the building regulations today does not mean to say that Part III is without importance.
Those of us who have a relationship with these matters know that the proposals in the Bill are of immense importance. They are major new proposals, particularly those relating to thermal insulation, and perhaps the proposed increase in new values, and so on. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give a commitment to the fullest possible consultation with all the affected parties because these regulations are of the greatest practical importance to the building industry, in which I used to work.
Another matter which has not been discussed today is the question of the power under Clause 14(4)(c), in certain circumstances to hold a secret inquiry. It says that the regulations may requireany such inquiry to be held otherwise than in public where or to the extent that a Minister of the Crown so directs.I hope that secret inquiries will be extremely rare and will take place only on matters of defence secrecy, and so on. Obviously, secret inquiries into health and safety matters are extremely undesirable and should take place only in the most limited circumstances.
I turn now to the question of the right of inquiry into regulations. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) moved a new clause in Committee on which an interesting debate took place. I am not satisfied with the power available to this House to scrutinise the regulations properly, and I hope that the suggestion that there should be an inquiry into certain regulations, which was suggested by the hon. Gentleman in Committee, will be carefully considered by the Secretary of State.
407 All the way through the Bill, which is an enabling Bill, many matters are left to be dealt with by regulation. There are wide powers for regulation, which means that many parts of the Bill were not able to be discussed fully in Committee. We do not know what the Minister has in mind. Often he has been prepared to say that he will consult industry as a whole.
I again stress the need for the greatest possible consultation with people who have practical experiences of the problems involved. Unlike some hon. Members who have spoken, I judge safety legislation not by the number of prosecutions that take place but by the reduction in accidents.
§ 12.20 a.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
There is a feeling on both sides of the House that the sooner the Bill is passed on its way the better. As I have not attended the heavy labours of the day I feel a particular timidity in making a few remarks now, but I am profoundly disappointed by the Committee proceedings on the Bill. Some hon. Members may recall that on Second Reading I put forward the point that the Bill, though admirable as far as it went, was open to strong criticism, because while it looked at the problem of health and safety in industry from the physical point of view it totally ignored the matter of mental health at work.
I was given an assurance that it was an enabling Bill and that therefore we did not have to talk about mental health, and that that would apply equally with physical health or injury. There are reams and reams of HANSARD reports of the Committee proceedings, spelling out the implications in the Bill for physical injury and physical ill health in industry.
When the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) was speaking about the part the Opposition played in the Bill he said that they drew attention to the problems of accidents and injuries in industry. He retold the rôle the Opposition had played, but there was not a word on anything other than the physical aspects of health and safety in industry.
On Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was good enough to assure me that the Bill re 408 ferred equally to mental health and physical health matters, and that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would reply on this point. We know of the difficulties of fitting all the subjects involved into a concluding speech, but while my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary dealt admirably with building regulations, diseases caused by dust, alkali poisoning, explosives and nuclear installations, there was not one sentence from him about the psychological problems of industry, which it is agreed are of the greatest possible importance.
I charitably thought that at least my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would make amends in Committee and so I looked through the Committee reports. My hon. Friend spoke for column after column, and in seven sittings of the Standing Committee there were seven lines of the record devoted by him to the whole question of mental ill-health in industry.
What is meant by saying that the Bill applies equally to psychological and physical illnesses and injuries? This debate has not referred to this, Ministers' speeches have not referred to this, and the reports of the Standing Committee have not referred to this. The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) referred to it out of courtesy to myself.
The one reference to mental ill-health in the whole proceedings in Committee arose from the speech that I made on Second Reading. The one reference the Secretary of State made to the whole subject was the result of my contribution. My judgment is that if I had not been present during Second Reading there would have been no reference at all to the entire subject throughout the proceedings on the Bill.
I am told that this is an enabling Bill. If that is so, and mention of the duties of the commission with relation to mental ill-health is not necessary, why is it necessary to refer to the duties of the commission with relation to physical ill-health all the time? If it is an enabling Bill, surely it means that the general duties of employers in relation to physical illness need not be spelled out. But they are spelled out. The Bill is full of such things.
Clause 1 speaks ofcontrolling the keeping and use of explosives or highly flammable or otherwise 409 dangerous substances … controlling the emission into the atmosphere of noxious or offensive substances.Clause 2 spells out the duties of employers and speaks ofhandling, storage and transport of articles and substances … the provision and maintenance of means of access to and egress from".All this is spelled out in terms of physical accident and physical injury—physical ill-health. There is not one word about the growing problem of mental ill-health. The Secretary of State on Second Reading spoke of the problems and the 23 million working days lost in industry through injuries at work. That is a terrible figure. But why did my right hon. Friend not mention the 38 million days lost through mental ill-health in industry? Why is he not aware of the modern problems of health and safety in industry? Why is it that the whole House seems to ignore this question?
The House pays lip service to it. In replying the Under-Secretary may again do so. He may say, "When we say ' health ' in the Bill we mean mental health." I recall that the Secretary of State, after a great deal of confabulation on the Front Bench during Second Reading, found a reference to mental conditions in the Bill. He read it out, and I had to confess that I had not noticed it. He said:In Clause 53 on page 50 my hon. Friend will find that the definition of 'personal injury' includes'any disease and any impairment of a person's physical or mental condition.'I repeat that it is our intention that mental condition shall be taken into the Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April 1974; Vol. 871, c. 1310.]But this one reference to "mental"—the one reference in the entire Bill which the Secretary of State found—refers to physical illness and injury. If we read it carefully it is plain that that is so. Clause 53 refers to physical injury leading to a bad mental condition—not at all the subject I am discussing.
I am entitled to say that nowhere in the Bill, which spells out endlessly issues of physical illness, injury and accident, is mental ill-health mentioned. It is a great disappointment. I read the Committee proceedings. I very much wish that I had been able to join the Committee, because it might have been a very 410 much better Committee. Not having been a member, I feel obliged to say that I cannot now join in the general congratulations to Ministers.
The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary have shown an indifference to the problem. They could perfectly well have shown an interest. They could have shown that they were not unaware of the extent of this type of ill-health. They could have spoken of it, described the various kinds of neuroses, the various hardships, the hospitalisations that sometimes arise from a wrong psychological environment in industry. But there was not one mention, from beginning to end. I am afraid that they did not see the modern problem. They saw only the old traditional problems of safety and health in industry.
The Under-Secretary has been magnificent. No one would fault his speeches or handling of the Bill. But there is a deadly deficiency. I call Ministers to account for not understanding it.
§ 12.31 a.m.
§ Mr. Money
Despite the strength and sincerity of the case deployed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), the House will be glad that the Bill has reached this stage. I am immensely grateful to the Under-Secretary for the patience, skill and good humour with which he has piloted it through.
I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman has accepted a new Clause 2—a matter with regard to the Companies Act which I put to him on Second Reading. I regret I was not here, for inevitable reasons, when the clause was moved. I am glad that it has been accepted by the House.
Clauses 33 and 42 and the other clauses dealing with offences will only be as strong as magistrates' courts make them. I know how much disappointment there is, and how pointless the factory inspectors felt themselves to be in the past, when cases of gravity were brought—just as with cases of cruelty to children and animals or statutory offences of that type—and were dealt with by the courts with almost minimum sentences for serious and grave prosecutions. I hope that the courts will take seriously the fact that they have powers under the measure.
411 The Bill is a remarkable achievement. It is something that we have left for too long. When it becomes an Act it will put on paper something which is lived out in industry every day of the week. The accident figures are still far too high. The fatalities are far too many. When it becomes an Act, whatever it can do to prevent accidents, the measure will not in itself be a placebo. It must not allow us to rest on our laurels in any sense. Only on the shop floor, and on day-to-day care, can this problem and the human misery it causes be met.
§ 12.33 a.m.
§ Mr. Tyler
I join in congratulating the Under-Secretary on his formidable rôle in producing this Bill and getting it to this stage. In recent controversies I described him as the architect of the Bill. I hope he will take that not as an insult but as a compliment.
On Part III of the Bill, I have advised the RIBA on various aspects of parliamentary proceedings and continue to give it such advice. On this point I do not speak on behalf of the architects. If I am critical of them I hope it will not result in severing of our ties.
Part I of the Bill was dominated by the Flixborough tragedy. It is a tragic coincidence that this Bill in its Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading, has been dominated not only by Flixborough; Part III, and the way in which Part III will work itself out by regulation, must be dominated by the Summerland disaster in the Isle of Man, and the present controversy over the collapse of school buildings in Britain.
I should like to read two short quotations which will underline the importance of Part III and Schedule 5, and the importance of this as an enabling Bill, giving an opportunity to look afresh at the whole framework of building regulations.
Dealing with Summerland, the leader in the Architects Journal on 29th May said:In fact they died of muddle. The commission wisely says that there are no villians: that the disaster was the result of a series of human errors and inadequacies".It went on to say that:There was a quite unusual degree of bureaucratic bungling by Douglas Corpor 412 ation which was both client and buildings authority and never seemed to be able to disentangle its two rôles properly".This matter should concern us as well as the Isle of Man authorities. It is difficult for an employee to be sure that his interpretation of building regulations or a waiver is right when he knows that his employer may benefit from his actions.
As for the schools which have been declared unsafe recently, there is a need under the Bill to ensure that the framework for building regulations will be able to keep one step ahead of technical and design development. The Times Educational Supplement of 7th June said, thatthe DES and the Department of the Environment say there is now ' greater cause for concern' than was at first thought.Authorities have been asked to inspect all buildings using high alumina cement concrete and either to take them out of use or to make temporary safeguards. There are at least 180 buildings—more than 100 of them educational—but both departments refuse to name them. A comment that lists of suspect buildings supplied by roof beam manufacturers are by no means exhaustive' undoubtedly means that the figure of 180 should be much higher,Part III and Schedule 5 are quite as important as Part I. Flixborough reminded us how important some parts of the Bill will be, but Summerland and the school buildings should remind us that the Bill should be a major step forward in the provision of better and more up-to-date building regulations, so that in future we shall be spared the disasters and potential disasters of recent months.
§ 12.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Adam Butler
We thought that a Third Reading debate was necessary to review the Bill and stress its importance. I add my congratulations to the Minister of State on the way in which he has handled the Bill. If we have clashed occasionally I am sure that no love has been lost between us. Generally, we have proceeded with great reasonableness, sweetness and expedition.
I am glad to be here to help put the Bill to bed. It has had a mixed parentage. There were one or two protoypes even before the previous administration's Bill. The Robens Committee, whose members might be called the Bill's godparents, did the job we asked of it with thoroughness. Unlike some Bills, this one has drawn heavily on the recommendations of a committee, and we owe it a vote of thanks.
413 I spoke in Committee, but not in today's debate, about agriculture, and I must, without any further comment, express reservations about the position of agriculture following today's debate, during which the Government's position was in such contrast to that which we understood them to hold in Committee. If I may say it quietly to the Minister, in Committee the Opposition, apart from one back bencher, were firmly on the side of the Bill, and it is wrong to suggest that we were otherwise placed.
On the question of mental health, the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) may have a point of criticism when he says that nearly all the speeches in Committee failed to make reference to mental health. I am certain that when the Minister replies to the debate he will have something to say about that. As far as I am aware, the commission will have powers to make regulations in respect of mental damage resulting from stress, and so on, at work, in the same way as it will in regard to physical strains, but we shall wait to hear what the Minister says.
Clause 2 has been the matter of contention between us, largely because it is the only clause that has been changed substantially from the corresponding clause in the previous Government's Bill. A lot of heat and feeling has been generated on this issue—really because although the Opposition happen to share the belief of hon. Gentlemen on the Government benches about the importance of the trade union movement and the necessity for trade unions within industry, we do not share their apparent view about the monopoly position of trade unions.
The fact is that in health and safety at work matters the interests of employers, managements, workers and trade unions are common, and therefore one must hope that, regardless of what the legislation says, there will be a close working together and a still further increase in the participation that exists now.
The Bill is of immense importance, and I think that the House can take great pride in doing its part in putting it on to the statute book.
§ 12.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Cryer
Although I have been one of the principal critics of the Bill, the Under-Secretary of State has been cour 414 teous to me in all my approaches to him and in his handling of the arguments that I have advanced.
I do not deny that the Bill has some virtues, but the Division tonight indicated the seriousness of my attitude and that of those who voted with me. We shall ensure that the Bill is under constant scrutiny, and I maintain that questions and comments raised by myself and those who take a like view were not answered.
The Bill pacifies the employer far too much. The codes of practice are of minor importance. The accident rate, which is far too high, will diminish only if existing absolute standards are at least retained, and, hopefully, improved. We want the commission and the executive to ensure that the rate of prosecutions of negligent employers is pursued as relentlessly and as vigorously as the Conservative Government hounded council tenants under the Housing Finance Act, or as they hounded the trade unions under the Industrial Relations Act. It is worth thinking about how detailed and comprehensive were those two items of legislation and how, as I understand it, in Committee on the Housing Finance Bill any loophole was vigorously and quickly stopped up.
It is important that factory inspectors should have all legal skills on call, so that they can pursue prosecutions in court. I should have liked to see much more spelled out in the Bill, so that everything is on paper and can be referred to.
I shall keep a careful scrutiny on the actions of the Secretary of State for Employment and of other Ministers in the Department to see how the Bill is put into effect, and to ensure that it is done vigorously.
It is not people inside this House who are important; it is those outside it. I am convinced that the trade union and Labour movements will also keep a scrutiny on the Bill to ensure that it is put into practice effectively.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. David Watkins
I want to add my warm congratulations to those expressed already to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who, during these very protracted proceedings today, has put in a tremendous performance. As those who served on the Standing Committee know, he put in an equal performance in Committee. He has virtually carried the Bill 415 on his shoulders throughout and, notwithstanding the strains and stresses that must have pressed him, throughout he has been courteous in dealing with the amendments and points of view of hon. Members on both sides—and I speak as one who has played some part in that.
There is a very long history of legislation to reduce the sickening toll of death, disease and injury in industry. I believe that this Bill marks an important milestone on the long road which that history has followed. It is not unfair to say that it is the strongest Bill ever to have been introduced into the House on industrial health and safety, and it consolidates many previous enactments. Most important of all, it contains a new feature, in the shape of the Health and Safety Commission, providing a powerful and dynamic overall control not only to enforce legislation but constantly to examine and review safety in the light of developing trends.
The hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Butler) rightly pointed out that there had been several attempts before we arrived at this Bill. It was as long ago as 1967 that Mr. Ray Gunter, as Minister of Labour, first made the announcement in this House which started us along the road to producing this Bill. It is not unfair to point out that during that period several thousand people have been killed in the course of their employment, and that more than 5 million have suffered injury. Even as we debate the Third Reading, there are about 250,000 people in the country, as there always are at any moment, receiving industrial injuries disablement benefit, and about 30,000 widows who are widows because their husbands have been killed earning their living. That is the urgency of what this House is attempting to come to terms with and to do something about in the Bill.
I wish the Bill rapid progress in the other place, where I hope that something will be done about the matter to which I referred in Amendment No. 20 and about which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave certain firm assurances. I hope that the measure will be the law of the land before this House rises for the Summer Recess.
§ 12.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Walker
I am grateful for both the warmth of my reception and the generous remarks which have been addressed to me. I am sure that all those hon. Members who worked so hard to bring the Bill to this point will not mind if I reciprocate the remarks of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) and congratulate him, on what has been the first occasion on which he has had sustained Front Bench responsibility, on the way that he has handled that responsibility throughout our proceedings.
I understand the strength of feeling that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) expressed and the fears lying behind that feeling.
Clearly, there were many specific matters with which we could not deal. My hon. Friend referred to the dramatic and important statistics about the loss of production time due to mental illness or disorder. Perhaps I may respond by saying that the loss of production time due to bronchitis is much more severe. But we did not discuss bronchitis, as we did not discuss pneumoconiosis and many other industrial diseases. I hope that my hon. Friend recognises that in these proceedings we could not hope to discuss all the various causes of illness at work.
I share my hon. Friend's concern about the impact of mental illness not only on production but on the social life of those who are afflicted. The Bill in its definition of personal injury, refers to mental conditions. The regulation-making provisions of Schedule 3, paragraph 8, requirethe making of arrangements for securing the health of persons at work or other persons, including arrangements for medical examinations and health surveys.The reference to "health" means not only physical but mental health.
A number of other points were made, but I am sure that hon. Members will not expect me to respond to them now. However, I undertake to make a careful study of what has been said in the debate.
I think it fitting that we should have a brief benedictory debate before despatching this historic measure to another place. While this is a moment of some personal satisfaction for me, it would be inappropriate for me to speak in a spirit of self-congratulation.
417 As my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Watkins) said, we are near the fulfilment of the labours of successive Ministers from both sides of the House. It would be wrong not to put on record how much the Bill owes to their efforts and to those whose work rarely receives the acknowledgement that it deserves—the officials of my Department, some of whom have lived with the Bill since the Robens Committee was appointed in 1970.
I think that the Bill of which we are now taking our leave is a healthier and stronger measure than that which the House welcomed on 3rd April. Much of the credit for this must go to the members of the Standing Committee. The Committee was remarkably well informed—better so than any in my experience—and its work was carried out in a spirit of co-operation and good will. If, as has been rightly remarked, political considerations intervened, they did so but briefly and in an atmosphere of good humour. Above all, the Committee always sought to be constructive and I am grateful to its members.
I said earlier that this is an historic measure. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, on Second Reading, said that it was the most important measure of its kind to be introduced into the House. I am sure that he is right and that his view is widely shared.
It is a matter of deep regret to me that the world at large showed little awareness of the existence of the Bill or its significance until disaster shattered the life of a happy and peaceful little Lincolnshire community. The horror of Flixborough has, I believe, seared into everyone an awareness of the dangers with which we live and work. I hope and believe that it has completely scourged any complacency about health and safety at work. It may be grim consolation to the tragically bereaved families, but I believe that there is a determination that such tragedy must never be repeated.
I believe that the Bill will make a major contribution to the realisation of that aim. We must ensure that when Parliament finishes its work those who take up the task of implementing the provisions of the Bill do so in the sense of 418 turning our aims into reality both in fact and in spirit.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.