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Column 140

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Page, Richard

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Patten, Chris (Bath)

Porter, David (Waveney)

Powell, William (Corby)

Raffan, Keith

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Redwood, John

Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas

Rowe, Andrew

Rumbold, Mrs Angela

Ryder, Richard

Sainsbury, Hon Tim

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Soames, Hon Nicholas

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Sumberg, David

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thorne, Neil

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Tracey, Richard

Trippier, David

Trotter, Neville

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Waller, Gary

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Watts, John

Wells, Bowen

Widdecombe, Ann

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Winterton, Nicholas

Wood, Timothy

Woodcock, Dr. Mike

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory and

Mr. Tom Sackville.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 7

Repeal or modification of provisions requiring different treatment of different categories of employees

Mr. Lee : I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 6, line 23, at end insert--

(4A) In section 17 of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 (fencing of exposed parts of machinery)

(a) subsection (3),

(b) in subsection (4), the words from ", except when any" onwards, and

(c) subsection (5),

shall cease to have effect.'

f divn list Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 8, 10 and 13.

Mr. Lee : These amendments to schedules 3 and 7 and clause 7 deal with a matter that is virtually a technicality, but they have been tabled to ensure that safety standards remain at the present high level. If the amendments are not passed, there is a theoretical possibility that young people and adults may be at risk from dangerous moving parts of certain kinds of machinery.

At the moment dangerous machinery must be fenced and people may not clean or maintain it while it is moving, with one exception, that if examination, lubrication or adjustment are "immediately necessary" while the machinery is in motion, regulations can be made to allow this. If they are made, they must specify that only persons over 18 can carry out this work--section 17(5). But such regulations have never been made. So at present the law is that no one cleans or maintains dangerous machinery while it is moving.

Since the regulations envisaged in the original Act, if they had been made, would have had to specify that the maintenance could have been done only by persons over 18, the provision allowing them was caught by our general principle that unused legislation curbing the work

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activities of under-18-year-olds should be repealed ; and we have taken the advice of the Health and Safety Commission and repealed it.

But the result is that while regulations are no longer allowed to be made to specify that over-18-year-olds may carry out such work if it is immediately necessary, the work can, by virtue of section 17(3) and part of section 17(4), be done if, in the same way, it is immediately necessary, by anyone, without let or hindrance. To ensure that our Bill maintains safety as well as removing this unused legislation, we also need to repeal the section of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 which allows examination, lubrication or adjustment to be carried out on moving machinery if it is immediately necessary. If we did not, employers could ask persons of any age to maintain dangerous machinery while it is moving, with no precautionary regulations needing to be prescribed first. There has never been a call for such regulations to be introduced. In other words, the kind of machinery that we are talking about does not need to be in motion for those maintenance purposes.

The effect of our amendments is that the requirement to fence these machines safely will now be an absolute requirement, thus maintaining if not improving safety standards. I hope that hon. Members will support the amendments.

12.15 am

Mr. Harry Barnes : There has been an amazing transformation in the Government, for they are now concerned with safety. They can claim, for the first time, to be showing some compassion. So far we have had to deal with a host of matters concerning young people, women in the pits and other issues on which the Government have refused to make any concessions. That is why I am suspicious about this series of Government amendments.

Why are they amending clause 7 in this way? After all, clause 8 is concerned with young people, and one would have thought that that, rather than clause 7, should be amended. Or perhaps we need an entirely new clause to deal with the safety aspects to which the amendment refers. Clause 7 is entitled :

"Repeal or modification of provisions requiring different treatment of different categories of employees."

It would be more correct to call it the clause which forces women to work underground in coal mines. That being so, we must ask whether the amendment is appropriate to that clause, subsection (1) of which amends the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 to stop winding and rope haulage and conveyors from being restricted to male usage only. Subsection (2) of the clause amends the same Act to allow women and young persons to do heavy underground work. Subsection (3) provides for women working underground to work significant numbers of hours and to work whole shifts involving overtime. Subsection (4) amends the Factories Act 1961 to allow women and young persons to clean machinery, especially underground machinery, in pits. Subsection (5) allows much of the same underground nightmare for women to be enforced in the schedules to the Bill.

Why are we now offered an amendment to such a clause by way of altering the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963? There are not many offices, shops or railway premises down the pits, although there are man-riders, which presumably in future will be called man and

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woman-riders or perhaps person-riders. There are also coal trucks which are sent along rails to enable the onsetter to send coal up to the surface. But they have more similarity with railways than with railway premises, shops and offices.

Amendment No. 2 is modest, as the Minister said, in that it excludes two and a half sections of section 17 of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, presumably on the ground that they cover superfluous areas in terms of protection that at present exist for those guarding machines. Section 17(1), which will remain, says :

"Every dangerous part of any machinery used as, or forming, part of the equipment of premises to which this Act applies shall be securely fenced unless"--

and then we have the get-out bit--

"it is in such a position or of such construction as to be as safe to every person working in the premises as it would be if securely fenced."

I am sure that employers could drive a horse and cart through both provisions. Why is it necessary to remove the provisions in subsection (3), part of subsection (4) and subsection (5), because employers will be able to carry on doing what they have been doing with the legislation as it stands at the moment? The removal of those subsections makes little difference. On the surface it improves the former Act but there is really little advantage.

Section 17(5) of the 1963 Act, which is to be removed, is a key element for the Government's purpose. It refers to

"such persons who have attained the age of eighteen".

There is no mention of underground coal mines, women in the pit or the primitive working conditions in a mine, including the absence of lavatory facilities, which we discussed at great length in Committee, and the other problems that exist in connection with women working in a pit, unless there is a vast improvement in conditions for everybody working in a pit.

Government amendment No. 2 has more to do with clause 8 of the Bill because that is concerned with the removal of restrictions relating to the employment of young persons. Although young persons are normally in this legislation referred to as persons aged 16 to 18, at least those over 18 are a bit nearer to this clause than they are to the clause that deals with women in the pit. It would be more appropriate with regard to the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963, which covers wider areas than the pit, to include it in a clause such as that.

The paradox is that any future Government scheme to protect women by removing them from the primitive conditions in a pit would have to alter all the subsections of clause 7 except the provision that is in front of us at the moment. That indicates to me that this provision is irrelevant to the clause that we are discussing. Does it not show that the amendment is out of place here? Perhaps the Government should go back to the drawing board. They will find drawing boards in offices, shops and railway premises but not in pits--unless they are used as shovels in the pit as part of the toilet facilities.

Mr. Lee : The hon. Gentleman is being uncharacteristically churlish about an amendment that initially he supported in broad terms. To answer his technical questions, the reason we are altering clause 7 and not clause 8 is that the amendment essentially concerns treating young people and adults the same rather than simply removing a restriction on young

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people. The Government amendment makes doubly sure that young people will not be at risk from maintaining moving machinery. We are supported in our approach by the Health and Safety Commission, which the Opposition in Committee continually quoted at us. The commission agrees that section 17(5) should be repealed. Its advice is that the provision is "obsolete" and that

"if needed regulations can be made under the Health and Safety at Work Act."

The amendments that we are now debating maintain a high safety standard.

Question put, That the amendment be made :

The House divided : Ayes 128, Noes 5.

Division No. 225] [12.24 am


Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Alton, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Ashby, David

Baldry, Tony

Batiste, Spencer

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Bevan, David Gilroy

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Chapman, Sydney

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Durant, Tony

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Gill, Christopher

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Hawkins, Christopher

Heddle, John

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hind, Kenneth

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howells, Geraint

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Kennedy, Charles

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Kirkhope, Timothy

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knowles, Michael

Knox, David

Lee, John (Pendle)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)

Malins, Humfrey

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Maude, Hon Francis

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Morrison, Sir Charles

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neubert, Michael

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Raffan, Keith

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Redwood, John

Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas

Ryder, Richard

Sackville, Hon Tom

Sainsbury, Hon Tim

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shersby, Michael

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Steel, Rt Hon David

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Sumberg, David

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

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