Government targets reform of health and safety laws

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Indy Politics

David Cameron has ordered a review of health and safety laws to tackle the "compensation culture" that has mushroomed in Britain in the past 10 years.

Lord Young of Graffham, who was a Cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, has been appointed Mr Cameron's adviser on health and safety and will undertake a government-wide review. In Opposition, the Tories pledged to crack down on "ambulance-chasing lawyers" who encourage people to make personal injury claims and attacked "over the top" safety rules which saw parents sued after one boy collided with another in a bouncy castle at a children's party.

Mr Cameron said last night: "The rise of the compensation culture over the last 10 years is a real concern, as is the way health and safety rules are sometimes applied. We need a sensible approach that makes clear these laws are intended to protect people, not overwhelm businesses with red tape."

Lord Young will report to the Prime Minister this summer, work with Whitehall departments and brief Mr Cameron regularly on progress.

He said: "Health and safety regulation is essential in many industries but may have been applied too generally and become an unnecessary burden on firms, but also community organisations and public services. I hope my review will reintroduce an element of common sense and focus the regulation where it is most needed."

The former Trade and Industry Secretary was an architect of the Thatcher government's privatisation programme. She once said of him: "Others bring me problems. David [Young] brings me solutions."

Chris Grayling, the Work and Pensions Minister, said: "It is important we review health and safety regulation so that while people are protected at work, there isn't a burden on business and people can use common sense without fearing they are breaking the law."

The review may worry trade unions on the grounds that it could lead to the dismantling of vital rules to protect people's safety in the workplace.

Last night Unison, the public service union, warned that a business association representing companies bidding for local government contracts had sent an email to members telling them that pension protection for public sector workers transferred to private firms would be abolished. At present, when a contract is transferred from the public to the private sector, staff retain the right to continue paying into a comparable pension scheme.

Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "It's disgraceful and unconstitutional that multi-national companies should be given details of what is in the emergency Budget. This is a clear indication that we are not all in this together."

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