Employee safety jeopardised by cuts

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The Independent Online
Employee safety in some of the most dangerous and high- profile privatised industries is being endangered by public spending cuts, the Health and Safety Commission chairman has privately warned the Government.

A letter leaked to the Labour Party from the HSC chairman, John Davies, to John Gummer, the Environment Secretary, warns that unless the latest round of cuts are reversed, the HSC "will conclude that we cannot meet all the expectations and requirements that Government, parliament and the courts are placing on us with the resources now available."

The commission oversees the work of the Health and Safety Executive, which is responsible for enforcing safety rules across British industry. Trade unions have warned for years that staff cuts threaten safety in areas such as the nuclear industry and railways.

The HSE's funding is to be cut sharply over the next three years as part of the Treasury drive to cut public sector administrative costs. But Mr Davies in his letter says that extra funds are needed "to maintain effective regulatory regimes for the newly privatised industries of rail and coal, where there is, as you know, considerable pressure . . . for assurances about safety standards".

John Major assured the Commons yesterday that privatisation would not affect safety standards in the nuclear industry.