Letter: Improvements to safety laws

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The Independent Online
Sir: In a leading article on 15 November, you refer to proposals by the Government to replace large areas of safety regulation by a general duty of care that would undermine the basis of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Such an outcome would obviously be a matter of acute concern both to workers and to the public who are protected by it.

So far as I am aware, there are no such proposals, though ministers have made clear their wish for the removal of regulations that do not earn their keep in terms of the protection they confer; and I have been asked to report to the Health and Safety Commission with recommendations about that in March next. As leaked reports in the Independent on Sunday have disclosed, Lord Sainsbury is also making proposals to the same effect, which I expect soon to be discussing with the commission.

The Health and Safety at Work Act is itself largely a recapitulation of the civil duty of care in terms of criminal law. I know of no move to decriminalise health and safety law; the Government's intention, as I follow it, is to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of subsidiary legislation (and guidance) and therefore the effectiveness of its enforcement. Had it been otherwise, I doubt that the Health and Safety Commission would have made the proposals it did to carry out an examination itself of what it may be possible to do without reducing standards.

Yours faithfully,

J. D. RIMINGTON

Director General

Health and Safety Executive

London, W2

19 November

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