The Sketch: A peer well qualified on pitfalls at the workplace

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The Independent Online

Tobias Ellwood said something interesting and that's got to be worth a quid. He's that nice, dim-looking Tory, with a bit of an undershot face, looks a bit like a clever Toby Perkins. He said: "Mr Speaker, you are an anecdote to verbal diarrhoea."

There was laughter. The Speaker, chuckling gruesomely, corrected him to "antidote". Ellwood failed to re-correct him with, "monument", as I say he's a couple of cavalry blacks short of a parade. And that's all there is to say on that.

Over in the Lords we had the ill-fated Lord Young, the old bird in a bow-tie who recently got done for telling us we'd never had it so good. Sacked, he was, and surely prosecuted. Whatever facility he'd been sent to had let him out for the day. Here he was to lead the debate on his report about the compensation culture.

I don't want to sound hard to please, but it wasn't much of a debate. Everyone read their speeches, and Lord Brougham couldn't be said to have made a speech at all. He gave us seven minutes of grovelling. I checked to make sure he wasn't suffering from some muttering disease but apparently he's the Deputy Speaker of the Lords and nobody knows what he's saying at the best of times.

Lord Jordan made a speech worthy of his more famous sister, if he's the Lord Jordan I'm thinking of. And Lord Young told us about his report which is going to bring "common sense" to health and safety practices.

Any "return to common sense" is usually doomed, but Lord Young may have a chance with some of his proposals. He mentioned the pancake race in St Albans that was interrupted by a council official on the grounds that it had rained the night before. The race was allowed to proceed only if the contestants walked.

In future, these wretched judgements can be challenged by any citizen demanding the legal authority behind the decision. If the Ombudsman finds none, the council will be liable for compensation. That'll help.

He has other laudable proposals about risk assessment forms for school outings, and a publicly-displayed rating system for restaurant hygiene (20,000 hospital admissions for food poisoning a year, and 500 deaths).

He was silent on those emergency workers forbidden to help the dying in the tube explosion of 7/7. That's part of the same thing, and needs particular energy applied to it. But at least, and at last, they recognise there is a compensation culture.

Lord Jordan gave us his statistics – 152 people were killed in the workplace last year. Terrible for those involved, but surely proving that the workplace is infinitely safer than the home.