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Industrial Accidents

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1962

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17.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he will give the number of fatal and non-fatal industrial accidents for January to September, 1961, and January to September, 1960, respectively.

The provisional total of accidents reported under the Factories Acts during the first three-quarters of 1961 was 141,714, of which 493 were fatal. During the same period of 1960 the figures were 140,486 and 504, respectively.

Whilst welcoming the fact that there appears to be an improvement in the number of fatal accidents, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would agree that it is apparently true that there is a worsening in the number of non-fatal accidents? Does not this highlight what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) pointed out on an earlier Question, that we need more safety committees and more safety officers as well as more factory inspectors? Will not the Minister realise that there is no problem as to the number of safety officers and safety committees if he will make them a statutory obligation upon all firms?

I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Member as to the last part of his supplementary question. I do not believe that by compulsion we shall get the results we want. Far more than that is required. Both sides of industry increasingly realise that we must get every industry to strengthen its accident prevention machinery. This has the support of the T.U.C. and the employers' federations, and it is what I am trying to do.

18.

asked the Minister of Labour whether he is aware that the percentage of accidents reported from small factories is lower than the percentage from larger factories; and what is the cause of this variation.

Yes, Sir. The reasons are not clear cut but, in general, the more hazardous processes are organised in large units. In larger works also there is usually much greater movement of people and equipment, which tends to increase the risk of accidents.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is another factor, namely, that in these small units and small factories accidents are not reported? Is not this proved by the fact that the total number of workers who claim benefit under the Industrial Injuries Act is about 50,000 or 60,000 a year greater than the number of accidents reported? Will not the Minister do something about it so that we get the actual numbers reported?

I do not think that there is any evidence for what the hon. Member says The more likely reason is the one which I have given, that in the larger factories more dangerous processes take place, far more people are employed and there is more movement.

Do not the Factories Acts provide very serious penalties for breaches of certain conditions laid down by Parliament? Is it not known to the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers that there is known to be great reluctance on the part of his inspectors to initiate prosecutions where the evidence suggests such a course because, unless the factory inspector is absolutely certain that he will secure a conviction, he is reluctant to take the necessary action to enforce the law in many cases?

I do not think that that is a fair criticism of the Factories Inspectorate. I have not had any evidence of that sort. I should be very pleased if the hon. Member would care to give me any evidence he has.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies to these Questions, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.