Lord Alfred Robens

18 December 1910 – 27 June 1999

Alfred Robens was born on 18 December 1910 in Manchester, son of George and Edith. He became a Labour Member of Parliament and was a director of the Co-Operative Society. In Attlee’s government he was Minister for Labour and National Service and shadow Foreign Secretary. In 1960 he was appointed chairman of the National Coal Board and served on many other boards including that of the Bank of England and Guy’s Hospital. In 1961 he was created a Baron. His wife was Eva Powell and they had an adopted son. He died on 27th June 1999 and a memorial service was held for him at the Abbey on 7th October.

The Robens Report

In 1969, Robens was selected by Barbara Castle to chair a committee on workplace health and safety. The Committee on Health and Safety at Work was appointed in May 1970 by Barbara Castle, Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. It was required to review and make recommendations in relation to the safety and health of persons at work and that of the public in connection with activities on industrial, commercial or construction sites. The committee was chaired by Lord Alfred Robens, Chairman of the National Coal Board and comprised six other members.

He spent a decade as chair of the National Coal Board before heading up the Committee on Health and Safety at Work.

The Committee reported in June 1972, the recommendations of the committee were substantially enacted in the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, which received Royal Assent on 31 July 1972. The following January, the Health and Safety Commission was set up and consequently the Health and Safety Executive.

A generous donor to the Westminster Abbey restoration appeal Lord Robens of Woldingham, politician and industrialist, has a small stained glass window in the south west apsidal chapel of Henry VII’s chapel in the Abbey. This was installed in 1997 and is by Alfred Fisher and Peter Archer of Chapel Studios. It depicts a rose and portcullis and the winding gear of a coal mine. He was also a Trustee, appointed by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, of the Westminster Abbey Trust which raised over 25 million pounds for the preservation of the Abbey fabric between 1973 and 1995. In the west window of the chapel, unveiled in 1995, his coat of arms can also be seen, with those of other donors, trustees and Abbey officials.

Further reading

A. Robens, “Managing Great Britain Limited”, 1977, London, Cassell. ISBN 0-304-93874-2

A. Robens, “Ten year stint”, London, Cassell, 1972. ISBN 0304938742