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Factory Inspectorate

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment why he is re-organising the Factory Inspectorate.

This is a matter for the Health and Safety Commission and executive and I am asking the chairman of the commission to write to my hon. Friend.

Will my hon. Friend convey to the commission the fact that the factory inspectors appear to be deeply unhappy about the proposed changes, which involve not only specialisation—of which they approve—but an excessive degree of centralisation? Is he aware that the number of officers would he reduced from over 100 to 18, and that this would lead to inefficiency, excessive travelling and loss of support staff? Does he agree that what we need is to devote more resources to the service, on which workers' lives depend. and not to make people subservient to a bureaucratic and cheeseparing system?

The House will recall that during the passage of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act I outlined the Government's plans for a substantial expansion of the inspectorate and substantially increased resources for the purpose. I understand that some discontent has been expressed by some inspectors. It is not clear how much this is part of wider and more complex issues of pay, grading and other matters, which are the subject of negotiations which are not yet concluded.

Does my hon. Friend agree that law without punishment is only advice? Will he give an indication when he will be able to recruit the qualified staff to administer his Act?

I have referred to the negotiations which are taking place, a central part of which is about pay and grading. I am confident that the outcome will be much more attractive terms, which will encourage faster recruitment of inspectors.