HC Deb 06 November 1979 vol 973 cc208-10
7. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the working of the Baking Industry (Hours of Work) Act 1955.

Mr. Mayhew

The working of the Act is anomalous and highly unsatisfactory. I have asked the Health and Safety Commission to give urgent consideration to whether night work in baking needs regulation any longer on health and safety grounds, and if so how it should in future be done, and to advise me. It is consulting on the matter.

Mr. Atkinson

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his encouraging reply, but does he agree that, given the unique nature of the industry, particularly the hours of work and the greatly improved working conditions that have been achieved over recent decades, the Act is no longer necessary? It is proving to be restrictive to employers and employees and should immediately be repealed.

Mr. Mayhew

Those issues are among the matters on which I am hoping for advice from the Commission. However, it is plain that an Act which is ostensibly a workers' welfare Act should not be capable of being used for purposes of union recruitment.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) has said, can the Minister not see the justice of the bakers unions' bitter opposition to employing women and young people at night? Has he considered the unfairness of women having to leave their husbands and children at home in order to start work at three o'clock in the morning? It is also unfair for men to have to leave for work at three o'clock in the afternoon, and in consequence not see their children until the weekend.

Mr. Mayhew

These are matters for advice from the Commission. The question is whether this industry, virtually alone amongst others in this country, requires special statutory protection for night work.

Mr. Moate

Whatever the original purposes of the Act, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it has been blatantly used to try to secure a closed shop, even against the interests and wishes of the work force? When will there be a review, and if that review recommends a repeal of the Act will time be given by the Government for its early repeal?

Mr. Mayhew

The exemption order to the provisions of the Act was varied in July of this year to require prior acceptance of a post-entry closed shop if master bakers were to be included in the provisions of the exemption order. That kind of consideration should not depend on union recruitment, the closed shop or any other matter of that kind. I have asked the Commission urgently to consider the matter and to report. I hope to receive its advice soon.

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