Previous Section Home Page

Column 382

people. Therefore, I want to know the range of hours that will be worked by young people under the age of 18, after the Act has had a chance to bite.

I am anxious to know the number of industrial accidents that have been suffered and those figures should be properly sorted out. When I have tried to get figures on accidents, the common answer is that separate figures are not kept for whatever category I seek information on. I want to ensure that separate figures are kept and that those figures are specifically drawn to the attention of the House so that they can be debated. When we have complained about the number of accidents on YTS, the answer from the Government is that those figures are no worse than those suffered in the employment market generally. All that means is that there are far too many accidents happening to young people in work whether it is full time paid employment--a proper job--or YTS or any other kind of manipulation.

I believe that the new clauses are extremely modest and I shall be disappointed, but not surprised, if they are not accepted.

Mr. Cope : With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

For the most part this debate has been a re-run of the arguments against clause 8 made in Committee. Those who were members of that Committee have run the course before, but the new clauses are specific.

New clause 5 refers to the collection of statistics, but it does not require a great many statistics to be collected. Many are collected already and are made available to the House through the Employment Gazette and publications from the Health and Safety Executive. I do not believe that collecting even more statistics, as suggested in the new clause, would help matters.

A recent analysis by the Health and Safety Executive suggests that young people at work are less at risk than the average employee. The reverse was true in 1984-85--those statistics were quoted in the debate--but in 1986-87 the fatal or major accident rate for 16 to 19-year-old employees was 81.7 per 100,000 employees, compared with 88.7 for all employees. I do not, however, believe that the bald statistics tell the whole story. For that we must rely on the Health and Safety Executive and the Health and Safety Commission. We must also look to the factories inspectorate--the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) paid proper tribute to it, with which I agree.

On 11 April I made an announcement about health and safety on YTS, which included a new and additional study of the statistics on YTS accidents that flowed from the consideration that I promised the House following the judgment in the Cain case, which was also referred to today.

New clause 3 would be more effective if it did not merely repeat existing provisions in our legislation. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent and other hon. Members referred to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the right hon. Gentleman have every right to be proud of the fact that you carried that Act through the House. It forms a good basis for health and safety legislation today. Therefore, I was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that we should introduce an additional new framework. I do not believe that that is required. One of the good things about the 1974 Act is that it enables us to bring orders to the House to increase health and safety in individual areas

Column 383

as industry develops and conditions change. We frequently introduce such orders and the framework directive, referred to earlier, is such an example.

It is also important to point out that the Health and Safety Commission, which supervises that Act and the executive, involves the trade unions. It is not only the commissioners who are involved, but many of the specialist committees. I hope that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent is not suggesting that we should replace that machinery by new machinery. We should build on it by bringing additional orders before the House as we see fit.

Mr. Foot : I am not suggesting we should introduce new machinery. I am suggesting that, after 14 or 15 years of the Health and Safety Commission, instead of the niggling measures damaging safety rights which the Government bring forward in different Acts, it is time to look at the machinery. We should see whether substantially bigger sums should be provided so that the inspectorate could be expanded. I bet that if the Minister were to ask the Health and Safety Commission what it thought of that proposition, it would think that it was a good one.

8 pm

Mr. Cope : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for clarifying what he said. We have granted the Health and Safety Commission the extra funds it has asked for this year, and the number of inspectors is increasing. At least we are moving slightly in the right direction.

Mr. Nellist : Does the Minister accept that we take, not with a pinch but with a ton of salt, his plaudits about the machinery of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974? I share the criticisms of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) about the "as far as is reasonably practicable" point. The Minister's plaudits about the machinery are less than convincing if the operators are not there to put that machinery into operation. Despite the Minister's announcement about the increased numbers of health and safety inspectors, between 1980 and 1988 the numbers fell by 129, which is a 29 per cent. drop.

Mr. Cope : The hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to make his point.

Mr. Nellist : Answer.

Mr. Cope : We have had a re-run of the debate that we had on the basic clauses in the Bill. Several hon. Members have indicated that their real target is clause 8. I did not expect to be able to convince Opposition Members on that matter this evening, but I would like to think that they would now be less convinced of the advantages of these new clauses, which I urge the House to resist.

Mr. Strang : The Minister is right that our main concern is clause 8 and the purpose of the new clauses was to focus attention on what the Government were doing. I rest my case quite simply on the Health and Safety Commission's comment because the Minister has repeatedly referred to the commission and has spoken at length about the valuable work that it carries out. We agree with that.

I remind the Minister that, in response to the Government's own consultative document in which they

Column 384

put forward the proposals for the elimination of the restrictions on the employment of young people, the Health and Safety Commission stated

"that the restrictions may be unnecessarily detailed and elaborate, although not an apparent burden on industry, but that they should not be replaced without some form of control of young persons' hours of work in order to safeguard their welfare and opportunities for education, training and social development".

The Government have not taken that advice. They are sweeping away the controls on young people's hours of work. For that and other reasons advanced by my hon. Friends this evening we shall vote for the new clause.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 181, Noes 244.

Division No. 205] [8.02 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Cartwright, John

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Coleman, Donald

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Eastham, Ken

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Faulds, Andrew

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Foster, Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)

George, Bruce

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Gould, Bryan

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Haynes, Frank

Healey, Rt Hon Denis

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)

Howells, Geraint

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Ingram, Adam

Janner, Greville

Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Kirkwood, Archy

Lamond, James

Leadbitter, Ted

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Litherland, Robert

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Loyden, Eddie

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

McFall, John

McLeish, Henry

McNamara, Kevin

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Next Section

  Home Page