Conservatives Meet In Scotland: Forsyth condemned for his criticisms over health and safety laws

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Indy Politics
MICHAEL FORSYTH, the Minister of State for Employment, was accused by trade unionists yesterday of 'trivialising' Britain's health and safety at work regulations and of taking a 'macho line' in the Government's proposed streamlining of the laws.

Mr Forsyth used the Conservatives' Scottish conference to signal that there were 'too many regulations, too many that can be simplified, and it's about time we did something about it'.

On Monday, John Monks, deputy general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, and senior union advisers on health and safety met Mr Forsyth at his invitation in Whitehall, in an attempt to allay fears that an onslaught on the regulations was in progress. A TUC spokesman said: 'At the end of the meeting we felt we had received some assurances. After Mr Forsyth's comments we feel, yes, there needs to be simplification, but absolutely no weakening of those regulations.'

Mr Forsyth unfolded a huge computer list of health and safety regulations in front of his audience, saying: 'This has gone on for long enough.' Environmental officers classifying Tippex (correction fluid) and washing-up liquid as dangerous substances, and the distance between coat pegs in textile factories coming under criminal law, were restrictions 'we can do without'. The 'mind-numbing details of how Whitehall and Brussels thinks it should be done' had to change.

The Health and Safety Commission - which involves politicians, trade unionists and company representatives - is reviewing all work regulations. Mr Forsyth's claim that he would tell the commission what it was going to do was described as an 'unnecessary macho line' by Paul Gallagher of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, who is on the commission. He said: 'Mr Forsyth is in danger of trivialising things . . . Industry in Britain is still a dangerous place to work. Jokes about Tippex do nothing to explain the complexity of working down a mine, in engineering or in agriculture.'

Mr Forsyth also angered representatives of the German multi-national Daimler-Benz, by claiming the EC Social Chapter legislation had meant they and other companies could no longer afford to do business at home. He said: 'Made in Germany' is being replaced with 'Made by Daimler-Benz'. That is the price of the Social Chapter and we want nothing of it.' A spokesman for Daimler-Benz said the minister was 'clearly ill-informed'.