“One in – one out” rule puts workers safety at risk

David Cameron’s “One In-One Out” approach to law making may be populist, but it contains very serious dangers for working people.

David Cameron’s “One In-One Out” approach to law making may be populist, but it contains very serious dangers for working people. It plays to fears and prejudices about red tape and health and safety that are stoked by the media and manipulated by those employers who want fewer workplace safety laws.

Ken Clarke is already declared as the chair of the “Star Chamber” which will pass judgement on proposed new laws and enforce the “One In – One Out” rule. The proposal, contained in the Tory policy paper Regulation in the Post-Bureaucratic Age, is that any new law will only be introduced if “old” laws are removed from the statute book totalling a five per cent cut in the “regulatory burden”. If a minister is unable to find that five per cent, they will have to go begging to their colleagues in other departments, asking them to find the regulatory savings.

The policy paper draws an artificial distinction between something which it fails to properly define but which is called “hard law” – apparently that which originates from Brussels, Westminster and the courts – and “soft law” which appears to be regulations that support or bring into effect the “hard law”.  Soft law is a target for the Tories because, they say, it is not subject to the same level of democratic scrutiny as hard law.

It’s not clear whether the One In – One Out rule will apply to hard or just soft law. But what is clear – since so much of the Regulation in the Post-Bureaucratic Age document is devoted to them – is that it’s sure to apply to health and safety regulations. The fight for a Corporate Manslaughter Act was a long one under Labour and was only accepted by the Tories through very firmly gritted teeth.  It would never have become law under a Tory government insistent on the identification of other laws to scrap to make way for it. This Gladiatorial approach is going to put people in an invidious position when campaigning for new workplace protections.

Also contained in the Regulation paper is a plan to “drastically curb” the powers of Government inspectors (ie the Health and Safety Executive) by allowing firms to arrange their own, externally audited, inspections and, providing they pass, allowing them to refuse entry to official inspectors thereafter.

The Tories’ gimmicky approach to health and safety and to light touch regulation may get the vote of certain sections of the business community and those who swallow health and safety myths. But it will put workers lives at risk. Thompsons for one will cry murder and point the finger at Cameron when workers die because a health and safety law that protected them in their work was repealed by this populist approach to a serious subject.

Our Guest writer is Tom Jones of Thompsons Solicitors. A longer version of this article appears today in Tribune magazine: http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/

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