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Health And Safety

Volume 169: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on the Health and Safety Commission and Executive's annual report for 1988–89.

The report of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive was published on 26 February. Latest provisional statistics for 1988–89, published in the report, show an apparent levelling off of major injuries, which we very much welcome. But the number of fatalities, which include those from the Piper Alpha disaster, and high or increasing injury rates in particular industries demonstrate that there is not room for any relaxation of effort by industry to improve standards.

In view of what the Minister said earlier, does he accept that no Opposition Member is suggesting that there is a direct, hard and fast relationship between the number of factory inspectors and the number of accidents? However, the report shows an unjustifiably high number of fatal accidents—something which was commented on at the press conference last month. Does the Minister accept that factory inspectors do very important preventive work, which improves the situation? Surely the Government must look at that again and take an initiative to increase the number of factory inspectors.

I can agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman says. If he looks at the changes over the past two and a half years, he will accept that there has been a relatively late but welcome conversion to the proposition that mere inspector numbers do not automatically produce a decrease in accidents. Yes, inspectors have their place and, yes, that is why the HSE has been funded, but they are not the whole story.

As a result of the HSE report, has my hon. Friend found out whether the displaying of notices in all workplaces, giving the address and telephone number of the HSE, has ensured that employees and employers alert the HSE to many more cases of concern? Has my hon. Friend's Department looked in offices in the Palace of Westminster and seen how few seem to display those notices, which appears to be against the law?

I accept my hon. Friend's point about getting over to people the idea that there should be greater awareness of health and safety legislation. My hon. Friend asks me to pass judgment on a legal matter relating to the Palace of Westminster. I am tempted, but I shall decline.