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Factory Inspectors, Midland Area

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 3 March 1949

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asked the Minister of Labour whether, in view of the fact that there are only three factory inspectors available in the Coventry district to inspect 1,800 factories, he will increase this number, and so ensure that the provisions of the Factory Acts are complied with in all cases.

My hon. Friend would seem to have been misinformed. Five inspectors, apart from the specialist staff, are available to carry out inspection work in the Coventry district, and I have no reason to believe that the district is not getting a fair share of the Department's attention.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information contained in the Question was supplied by his own Department; is he also aware that the number of inspectors is totally inadequate to supervise safety precautions in these factories, and will he increase the number of inspectors in order to reduce the number of accidents?

It may be that my hon. Friend was told about the three inspectors who are actually located in this particular town, but the number available to them is five, and there is an additional specialist staff. We are in the process of increasing the staff. Over all, there is not a sufficient number of factory inspectors in the service at the moment, and advertisements have been issued and people are being interviewed. It is not correct to say that inspectors can prevent accidents. They inspect premises as far as possible and do the best they can to see that all the recognised customs and rules are observed.

Is not it a fact that both the management and the precautions against accidents are at a very high level in all the factories in that locality?

I would not care to assent to or dissent from that without an opportunity of looking into the matter.

Will the Minister bear in mind that throughout the Midlands there seems to be a considerable grievance over the lack of inspectors? In the City of Birmingham I understand that there are only 15 for 8,000 factories and quite a considerable number are owner-occupier factories.

I have already stated that we are taking active steps to increase the inspectorate. It is not always possible to base the inspectorate upon the number of factories, because an inspector may see a factory, may pass it, and, with everybodys' consent, think there is no need to go back again. We cannot have inspectors walking into every factory every day.

Is not it a fact that the mere number of inspectors does not necessarily reduce the accidents and that there are a great many other factors concerned?

I have already endeavoured to make the point that they do not reduce accidents, but they are able to advise people in the proper observance of established customs.