Sunday, 29 August 2010

Health and safety to be attacked on the basis of deliberate misinformation

In a shock twist, an investigation by a Tory peer and veteran of the Thatcher administration has found exactly what his ideology demanded. Lord Young, has called health and safety regulations a "burden that we have to eliminate."

According to the Telegraph report;
Britain's onerous health and safety laws are stifling enterprise and may have pushed up unemployment, the peer appointed to review the legislation warned last night.

Lord Young said that small firms were spending up to a day every month ensuring they were complying with the regulations. He said that it was a “burden that we have to eliminate”.

The former Cabinet minister, appointed to review health and safety laws by David Cameron, will propose a crackdown on “ambulance-chasing” lawyers next month.

He will recommend new restrictions on adverts by claim management firms and changes to no-win, no-fee legal arrangements.

In an interview, Lord Young said: “What we have got to do with health and safety is to reduce bureaucracy. It is all cumulative and it adds to costs.”

He accused some lawyers and claim-management firms of “inciting” people to bring frivolous claims.

“There firms are inciting people to bring claims,” he said. “They are not bringing cases that will win in court, they are just looking to bring cases that will last two or three letters until the other side pays them off.

“They are factories churning out letters and it is an area of great concern. There is no magic bullet, but it is a matter of bringing these claims management firms under control.”
When Young was first appointed as David Cameron's advisor on this subject, I wrote in some depth about this. I dissected the media propaganda against "elf n safety" and explained how the Bhopal disaster was an inevitable result of exactly this kind of ideological warfare against workers' rights.

An additional point that I would make here is that Young, Cameron, and the report above all play the exact same trick - conflating "ambulance-chasing lawyers" with health and safety law.

The former do actually exist, of course. An industry has indeed emerged on the basis of "where there's blame, there's a claim." Though it hasn't taken off, and Britain hasn't developed a compensation culture, it is not entirely a figment of the right's imagination.

But this has nothing whatsoever to do with health and safety legislation. It is the work of private companies looking to turn a profit from accidents, not of the state or "bureaucracy."

The Health And Safety At Work Act (HASAW) and subsequent legislation, on the other hand, gives employers, landlords, and individuals specific duties in order to minimise risk and address hazards in the workplace. But even now, in many instances, it leaves a lot of workers without protection.

It should come as no surprise that the media and politicians are capable of such intellectual dishonesty. But with a trade union response still lacking, there is a risk that expectation has led to acceptance.