David Cameron looks to put the interests of his big business friends at the expense of workers’ health and safety.
David Cameron is warming to his slash and burn health and safety regulations theme. His speech to the Policy Exchange was aimed at producing a Pavlovian response by Daily Mail readers.
But as with his plan for a “total opt-out” from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, it is not just unrealistic to talk of a single new law to reduce an “excessive health and safety culture”, but a calculated misunderstanding.
He selectively ignores the origins of and reasons for the laws that have been developed to protect people from preventable harm.
It is tedious to see yet another whipping up of the “compensation culture gone mad brigade” by repeating tired alleged actions by local authorities and schools taken in the name of ’elf and safety.
There is no compensation culture in Britain.
Datamonitor’s Personal Injury 2008 report showed that:
• Employer Liability claims fell to a five-year low of 11.9 per cent – down 11.5 per cent on the previous year;
• Disease claims are down by 32.5 per cent;
• Work-related accident claims are down by 3.2 per cent;
• Public Liability claims are down 0.5 per cent to 10.8 per cent of total claims.
In 2004 the Better Regulation Task Force said in its report “Better Routes to Redress”:
“It is a commonly held perception that the United Kingdom is in the grip of ‘compensation culture’. Newspapers complain that the UK is becoming like the United States with stories of people apparently suing others for large sums of money, and often for what appear to be trivial reasons.
“The compensation culture is a myth.”
Mr Cameron’s announcement that Lord Young will look at how to “save” people from accusations of negligence “when they are taking reasonable actions to help someone” confuses the tort of negligence – a breach of a legal duty of care – with the health and safety regulations that he hates so much; so-called “soft laws” that he has declared the public will be able to vote off the statute book.
The Tories can no more change the law to prevent someone who is in breach of their duty of care from being charged with negligence than they can opt out of European directives on workplace health and safety that protect people from being forced to, say, work unlimited hours or which require employers to assess risk.
Changing the law of negligence requires primary legislation. Reversing laws developed from the 1932 case of Donoghue v Stevenson, which involved a snail in a bottle of ginger beer, is no small undertaking.
Finding the bottle manufacturer at fault was based on the Christian principle of loving thy neighbour. Tory values you would have thought?
The supposedly cuddly and caring Tories appear to think it is ok for the “well-meaning” to make ginger beer with snails in it for the people they profess to care about.
Is this a new world of exempting “selfless” people from any responsibility to protect people’s safety, or just an extension of the financial sector’s principle – profit before people?
The snail in the ginger beer was obscured by the opaque bottle. The purpose of Cameron’s policies are, by contrast, transparent – to look after his friends in business at the expense of people’s safety and lives.
Our guest writer is Tom Jones of Thompson’s SolicitorsLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.