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Safety Officers

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1977

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6.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he proposes to implement the regulations in the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974 providing for the appointment of union-nominated safety officers; and if he will make a statement.

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment told the House on 1st February, the regulations will come into operation on 1st October 1978, and, as I told my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) yesterday, they are now being printed and should be laid before Parliament by the end of March.

I appreciate that reply. Why have the Government adopted such a leisurely approach to such an urgent problem? Surely a delay of three months is excessive.

I do not think that we have adopted a leisurely approach. We would like to see the regulations brought in earlier. The Government have given this matter the closest possible scrutiny, but we must have regard to the current expenditure restraints. The position does not preclude the making of voluntary arrangements, and the Government would welcome that because we believe that there should be a lead-in period. Discussions with shop stewards in the regions show that there is a need for further preparations and clarification before the regulations become effective.

What discussions has the Minister had with shop floor supervisors and junior management? Their morale is very low at present. What representations has he received from industrial groups to delay these regulations and stop the irritant to industrial relations at supervisory level?

Before the hon. Gentleman distorts the facts, he should at least get them right. I have received no representations against the regulations from industry or industrialists. The CBI and the TUC together as members of the Health and Safety Commission have expressed a desire for the implementation of the regulations. There has been a very long period of consultation on the document issued by the Health and Safety Commission, so there is no foundation at all in the hon. Member's remarks.

How many men and women have lost their lives or received serious injury in industrial accidents in the past 12 months? What representations has the Minister received from the trade unions on the setting up of safety committees?

I will write to my hon. Friend about the first point and give him the exact figures. Of course, we received many representations prior to the period in which my hon. Friend made his announcement of the regulations being laid. There was considerable disappointment that we were not going ahead with them immediately. But the TUC has accepted the date that we announced, and so has the Commission. In fact, we have had very few representations about the date.