We have come to expect the coalition government to be hell bent on a crusade to reduce worker safety, fuelled by a spurious political dogma that a reduction in the regulatory burden will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of British industry, thus solving all our economic woes at a stroke – and the Queen’s Speech on 8th May didn’t disappoint…
‘Occult futurists’, Prime Minister David Cameron (Dave) and Business Secretary Vince Cable (Vince), have together developed a secret plan ‘The Dave-Vince Code’ which is designed to dismantle health and safety legislation in the UK on the spurious grounds that less regulation will free up business to create jobs and grow the economy.
We believe that this Code is an invidious and systematic assault on the right of workers and the general public to expect the highest possible standards of protection from hazards and threats to health and the right to fair compensation if accidents occur.
We shall lay bare some of the key tenets of the Code as illustrated by the pronoucements of Dave and Vince and demonstrate the flawed thinking and (sometimes) blatant subterfuge employed to bolster party political dogma and the vested interest of the insurance companies.
Dave – 1st Dec 2009, interview in The Telegraph:
“I want to exempt entire categories of workers and organisations from the fear of litigation or prosecution because of ‘over-the-top’ health and safety rules.”
“A Conservative government would amend the Compensation Act to abolish negligence claims for activities where it should be obvious there is a risk-for example, sport and adventure training.”
It is only some organisation’s fear of litigation that keeps many workers safeand we know how often THAT works.
Thus the early clues to the Code were embedded back in 2009. What the then future PM was saying loud and clear was that he would abolish negligence claims for dangerous activities.So, the activities known to be dangerous will remain dangerous,and if you participate in any of them and get injured – tough luck. Tell that to Sarah (see video testimonial: http://www.bonnarandco.com )
Dave – 10th July 2010, commenting on Lord Young’s report, ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’:
“It is is clear from Lord Young’s work that there was ‘too much intrusion’ into everyday life from health and safety bureaucracy.”
“He has done a brilliant job helped by members of the public who have been sending in examples, including a schoolteacher who sent in a ten-page form that has to be filled out when you do any sort of school trip.”
The only thing that is clear is that the PM has swallowed the potion concocted by the insurance industry and tabloid press that has made him immune to rational thinking on health and safety matters and oblivious to the concerns of the public.
Dave – 5th Jan 2012 in repsonse to the Lofstedt report, ‘Reclaiming Health & safety For All’:
“Health and safety can too often sound farcial or marginal..so there is something else we are doing: waging war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses.”
“So one of the Coalition’s New Year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or Diamond Jubilee year, but the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all.”
‘Farcical and marginal’ – ironic or what? Now it’s all out war on the nation’s health and safety infrastructure. An invidious mantra indeed for a nation’s leader…made more invidious by his hi-jacking of Professor Lofstedt’s report and crass manipulation of it’s findings – see below.
Dave – 14th Feb 2012 insurance industry summit, 10 Downing Street:
“I am determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums. I want to stop trivial claims, free up businesses from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape and look at ways we can bring costs down.”
“The insurance industry plays such an important part in all our lives – it is there to help when we are at our most vulnerable and at greatest need. But I want to ensure that we all do what we can to help people through this difficult time.”
The PM’s psychophantic eulogising of the insurance industry illustrated his total conversion to the ‘dark side’ of the health and safety debate and his refusal to meet with the Unions or APIL, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, confirmed his intention to ignore the legitimate concerns of millions of ordinary people.
Note to PM and ABI – injured people and their families are voters too and they pay insurance premiums.
Vince – Federation of Small Business Conference, 23 March 2012:
“…But there is another issue that blights your working lives and stands in your way as you strive to grow your business – and that’s the burden of red tape and regulation. So I would like to say a little about that before I close.”
The one true blight of working lives in this country right now is not the ‘red tape’ restricting growth but the coalition’s determination to roll back 175 years of progress and take working conditions back to Victorian Britain.
Even the entrepreneurial Americans don’t buy the argument that health and safety regulations damage jobs ( http://news.bonnarandco.com/us-health-and-safety-laws-are-good-for-busine). So just what book of alchemist spells are Dave and Vince reading?
Vince – 10th September 2012, announcing ‘bonfire’ of health & safety regulations in parliament:
“Businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than “being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”
“From April 2013, only companies operating in high risk areas such as construction or with a track record of poor performance will face regular visits from safety inspectors.
By ensuring regulation becomes a last resort, we will create an environment that frees business from the burden of red tape,helping to create the right conditions for recovery and growth in the UK economy
Despite the evidence of decades and a litany of public and private tragedies – Aberfan, Flixborough, Piper Alpha – plus countless unpublicised avoidable accidents, are we to simply believe that cutting back on health and safety regulation will make our economy stronger and our living and working environments safer?
We’d sooner believe that Dave and Vince can create gold from base metal.
FOOTNOTE TO THE SNEAKY AND THE SCURRILOUS:
How this government is blatantly ignoring its own commissioned research and is actively engaged on a process of regulatory vandalism which WILL result in loss of life, serious injury and long-term health problems for this nation’s workforce.
If anyone is unfortunate enough to get injured at work or to contract an occupational illness they can look forward to a very difficult AND GROSSLY ONE-SIDED fight for justice and fair compensation.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE AND A SCANDAL, PERPRETATED BY A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS TOTALLY BOUGHT INTO THE DECEITFUL AND VINDICTIVE APPROACH OF THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IN ITS EFFORTS TO CUT ITS COSTS AND BOOST ITS PROFITS.
IS IT REALLY TOO MUCH TO EXPECT BETTER FROM A GOVERNMENT?
HERE’S THE TRUTH …
In October 2012 the government announced an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The new Business minister, Matthew Hancock, told MPs this was based on Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations and would remove the concept of “strict liability” – whereby companies are liable for injuries regardless of negligence if certain health and safety rules are breached.
“The fear of being sued drives businesses to exceed what is required by the criminal law, diverting them from focusing on sensible preventive health and safety management and resulting in unnecessary costs and burdens,” he said.
However, the Löfstedt review did not call for the blanket removal of strict liability. Instead it called for a review of where strict liability was necessary. “These proposals were sneaked into the Bill at the last possible moment after the legislation had been through committee.”
What Professor Ragnar Lofstedt really thinks about the removal of strict liability.
‘Reclaiming health & safety for all: a review of progress one year on.’
Page 11, paragraph 30:
An amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012-13 is being used by the Government to deliver the recommendation on strict liability. The amendment has proved to be highly controversial and has provoked much debate, including amongst the members of my Advisory Panel.
I have also been lobbied by many interested stakeholders including personal injury law firms and trades unions.
My understanding is that the proposed amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act reverses the current position on civil liability. This means that, unless exceptions apply, claims for compensation in relation to breaches of health and safety legislation will need to prove that the employer has been negligent.
The approach being taken is more far-reaching than I anticipated in my recommendation and, if this amendment becomes law I hope that the Government will carefully monitor the impact to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about the EU and health & safety legislation in his original report.
Page 4, paragraph 9
Many of the requirements that originate from the EU would probably exist anyway, and many are contributing to improved health and safety outcomes. There is evidence, however, that a minority impose unnecessary costs on business without obvious benefits.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about health and safety regulations in his original report:
Page 7, para graph 2:
The general sweep of requirements set out in health and safety regulation are broadly fit for purpose.
..and in repsonse to government spin:
“I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to suggest that there is a case for radically altering or stripping back current health and safety regulation.” In general the regulations are “fit for purpose.”
What Professor Lofstedt really said about Health & Safety Executive inspections in his original report:
Page 79, paragraph 2.
The evidence suggests that businesses can benefit from and value inspections, with SMEs welcoming the constructive, reasonable advice and guidance that it can provide to help them improve health and safety in the workplace 200. Nearly nine out of ten employers who have had contact with HSE see it as a ‘helpful’ organisation.
What Lord Young really said about the ‘compensation culture in ‘Common Sense – Common Safety.’
Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ is fuelled by media stories about individuals receiving large compensation payouts for personal injury claims and by constant adverts in the media offering people non-refundable inducements and the promise of a handsome settlement if they claim.
It places an unnecessary strain on businesses of all sizes, who fear litigation and are subjected to increasingly expensive insurance premiums.
The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality.
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager, Bonnar Accident Law.
Monday’s Dispatches investigation on Channel 4, presented by Harry Wallop certainly packed a punch and was a welcome riposte to the insurance lobby’s PR deluge of misinformation, miscreancy and mendacity.
We hope it is the first of many broadsides in the fight to redress the balance in favour of the British public’s entirely reasonable expectation to be treated fairly by some of the world’s largest corporations.
Not much to ask you would think but these guys have had it their own way for so long now and have so successfully weasled their way into government circles that they are setting the insurance agenda for all of us. A concerted effort by the concerned is required NOW to identify the real villains of the piece and the true insurance scammers operating in this dysfunctional market.
In our opinion this documentary was a good first step because it exploded the myth that insurance companies are primarily concerned about us, their customers.
The film absolutely nailed the point that the insurance companies and accident management firms are only concerned about maximising their profit margins as they pressurise motorists to deal with their ‘approved’ body shops and pressurise the garages to carry out work at minimal cost., often using non-standard parts.
Now this would not in itself be such a problem if savings were shared between insurance companies and policy holders and work was carried out to a high standard but this does not happen…and our premiums go up and up.
Evidence from experienced people in the trade confirmed that the pressure insurance companies put on body shops to cut costs compromises the integrity of the damaged vehicle and the safety of the driver and their family.
The story gets worse.
If a driver is involved in a no-fault accident his/her insurance company will seek to max out the ‘value’ of the claim by shamelessly inflating the cost of the repairs and hitting the other side for all they are worth….and who pays for this?
Correct. We do every day.
Whilst the insurance companies are busy portraying themselves as ‘holier than thou’ and the nation’s protectors of the vulnerable, they are busily scamming the market for every penny they can extract from supplier rebates and other kickbacks and exploiting their customers without any regard to the principles of good business practice, far less business ethics.
The insurance companies then have the bare-faced audacity to stuff their own pockets with all this extra ‘bunce’ and then claim that innocent accident victims who have the temerity to claim compensation are responsible for the hike in premiums which the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) states are inflated to the tune of at least £250m per annum by the industry’s own malpractices.
Their underhand tactics have thankfully not gone completely unnoticed. The OFT has announced that it will be investigating the insurance market, despite the best efforts of a toadying government to foster the myth of a compensation culture and agree to virtually everything the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has demanded in recent years.
In typical weasel word fashion, as befits its modus operandi, the ABI claims that it welcomes an investigation. Aye right, we’ll see…as we live in hope.
If a claim is known to be fraudulent why does the industry not take action to prosecute the fradusters? The conclusion must be that the insurance companies are spending a hefty chunk of our car insurance premiums on fraudulent claims. Perhaps the ABI’s Nick Starling can explain why this SCANDAL is allowed to go on unchecked.
Could it be that there are far fewer fraudulent claims than suits the ABI position and that the creation of the ‘bogeyman’ of an insurance fraudster is a very useful whipping boy when it comes to peddling lies about whiplash claims and the impact on premiums?
We will be asking the OFT to look at this matter very closely…and checking with Harry Wallop to see if he is planning to look at the government’s and the insurance industry’s perverse approach to dealing with personal injury claims.
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager, Bonnar Accident Law.
125 years ago the House of Lords debated the Workmen’s Compensation Bill.
This week the Lords debated the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.
If you are concerned about the erosion of UK health and safety regulations and this Government’s attack on the rights of injured people to claim compensation, you will find the following extracts from Hansard interesting…we certainly do.
We have interspersed the statements made by the noble Lords for dramatic effect. The wording is unchanged from the original…
Those Victorians certainly knew a thing or two about enterprise AND worker’s rights…but judge for yourself as you guess the era when dogma deputised for debate.
Lord Marland, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
Overly burdensome and obsolete rules stifle business. That is why we need to get rid of them wherever that is sensible. For example, it is currently the case that, where health and safety regulations impose a strict duty on employers, they can be liable to pay compensation, despite having done all that was reasonable to protect their employees.
To address this potential unfairness, the Bill will remove the right of individuals to make civil claims for breach of most statutory health and safety duties, unless it can be proved the employer has been negligent.
125 years ago…
Anybody who made a statement of that sort could not be aware of the practical effect of the present law.
There were numerous cases of accidents that occurred in dangerous employment where no negligence on the part of the employer could be proved, where the workman had not contributed in any way to the cause of the accident – cases which no human foresight had been able to get rid of, and which might be said to be necessarily inseparable from the dangerous employments in which they occurred.
He would venture to ask any noble Lord who had experience with regard to these dangerous employments whether there was not a strong moral obligation on the part of the employer to provide some compensation in many of these cases, and whether, on the other hand, there was not an equitable claim on the part of the workman to receive something to make good the injuries he had sustained in the employment in which he had taken part?
What might happen in the case of a workman, under the Bill proposed by Mr. Asquith, if he wished to recover compensation for the negligence of some fellow workman which had caused a serious explosion? It was not an unreasonable case, for statistics of causes leading to accidents showed that negligence, such as using open lights, or firing shots in mines where such was not allowed, made up a considerable percentage of the causes which had led to serious catastrophes. What would be the case in the event of serious accident?
It was possible that somebody might survive to give information of what occurred, but the more serious the accident the more complete the wreck and ruin effected, the more fatal the results, the less chance there would be of the workman being able to get any evidence to prove that he was entitled to compensation, either in regard to negligence on the part of workmen or equally so with regard to the negligence of the manager or employer.
Within the last two hours he had been looking through the returns of accidents in mines in 1894, and he found that one of the most serious accidents that had ever taken place occurred in that year.
Although statistics showed that in an enormous proportion of cases convictions were obtained where either the manager, or employer, or a workman were prosecuted for negligence, yet in this case, where the loss of life was appalling, a note in the Blue-book gave as the result of prosecution that, although the inspector thought it necessary to prosecute, yet the summons for illegal shot-firing was dismissed, because he was unable to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that shots were fired, the persons who could have given evidence having lost their lives in the explosion, so he could bring forward only circumstantial evidence.
He mentioned this to show that such a case was far from being impossible; therefore from the workman’s point of view, though he was entitled to compensation in all cases where negligence occurred, it was very likely that in a considerable number of cases he would be deprived of it owing to circumstances not within his own control and which ought not to affect his claim to compensation.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara.
The Government’s proposal to end civil liability in health and safety is a major change in the existing law and was added to the Bill on Report in another place. It needs to bescrutinised very carefully.
Is it really the Government’s intention that a worker injured due to an employer’s breach of a statutory duty within the health and safety at work regulations-such as failing to guard a machine-will be required to prove that the employer knew, or ought to have known, of such a failure in order to gain redress for the injury sustained?
The requirement to prove foreseeability is a very high bar of proof for an individual injured or killed through no fault of their own. Do the Government really think that by proposing this change they are sending the right message to employers about the importance of health and safety?
There has been no public consultation on this proposal and what is being proposed goes further than the recommendations made in this area by Professor Lofstedt, in his recent report.
125 years ago…
The Prime Minister, The Marquess of Salisbury.
We are now, by a wise and general revision of the principle in which the law rests, applying it for the purpose for which it was originally destined, and for which it has been commonly and most profitably employed,
the purpose of forcing all who by the process of their industry or the accident of their position have the lives of their fellow men in their power – forcing them to spare neither labour nor ingenuity nor money in making our industries as safe as possible to those by whom they are carried on. (Cheers.)
After 1897 injured employees had only to show they had been injured on the job…what can they look forward to after 2012, Mr Cameron?
The most outrageous claims pertaining to the debate on whiplash injuries are those being made by the insurance industry and government ministers seemingly hell-bent on creating a benign regulatory environment for businesses coupled with a full-frontal assault on the mythical compensation culture.
We say mythical because the two major studies carried out by this administration to examine the so-called compensation culture have both concluded that that the very notion of a compensation culture in the UK was misguided, erroneous and intrinsically flawed.
Lord Young of Graffam’s ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ and Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s aptly named ‘Reclaiming health and safety’, independently concluded that the problem was more a figment of the media’s imagination and there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. Professor Lofstedt went so far as to publicly declare he was very uneasy and dismayed that his report was being misused to prop up government policy on health and safety in the UK.
However, rather than let the independently researched facts get in the way of a good populist crusade, Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to take on the ‘compensation culture.’
Echoing the PM’s call to arms against accident victims seeking justice, none have risen to the challenge more enthusiastically than the nation’s insurance companies who have been invited to Number 10 twice already this year (most recently on 2nd May) to discuss how the government can help them reduce their costs and increase their profits. Incidentally, the government refused a request from The Law Society to be represented at these meetings and we can only wonder why…
Take a bow gentlemen and ladies of the insurance lobby for verily your occupation of the moral high ground on the matter of car insurance premiums is truly mind-boggling.
For example, Head of Motor and Liability at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) James Dalton commented recently that:
‘If whiplash were an olympic sport, the UK would be gold medallists. The fact that whiplash is virtually impossible to disprove means that for too many it has become the fraud of choice, often aided and abetted by ambulance-chasing lawyers and claims management firms.’
Nick Starling,ABI Director General welcomed the PM’s intervention and claimed that:
‘Insurers are being swamped with exaggerated or even fraudulent claims. There is no medical diagnosis for whiplash and if an insurance company wants to challenge a whiplash claim it has to effectively say someone is lying to them.’
Well my goodness me. Imagine a world where an insurance company pays out on an insurance claim because it doesn’t want to upset the claimant. It might happen someday…you think?
Is Nick Starling actually saying that the insurance companies are simply paying up on whiplash claims? If so what does this tell us about:
a) the current profit margins in the insurance industry if it can afford to cough up on the simple ‘say so’ of the claimant.
b) the level of sheer unadulterated laziness and lack of attention to proper procedure in the insurance industry if it allows fraudulent claims to go unchallenged.
IF NICK STARLING KNOWS THE CLAIMS ARE FRAUDULENT WHY ON EARTH ARE THE INSURANCE COMPANIES PAYING OUT?
It’s our money THEY are wasting!
Not to be outdone in the ‘heaping opprobium on the heads of accident victims and their families stakes’, government ministers have been lining up to place a well-aimed boot in the soft tissue of Access to Justice in the UK.
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has stated that :
‘It is scandalous that we have a system where it is cheaper for insurers to settle a spurious whiplash claim out of court than defend it, creating rocketing insurance premiums for honest drivers.’
Ask the ABI why it settles spurious claims.While you’re at it, why not ask how the insurance companies know which claims are spurious.
Last year, it was disclosed that Justice Minister Johnathan Djanogly’s two children each held shares in the claims management companies Going Legal and Legal Link Introductory Services, which solicit people who might have a compensation claim and then sell their details to lawyers.
Mr Djanogly had admitted that his brother-in-law, Ben Silk, owned the companies, but had not disclosed his children’s shareholdings.
Why are you still driving changes that will disadvantage the British public whilst benefitting your family?
Last week Mr. Djanogly admitted the government would promote ‘Before The Event’ (BTE) insurance as a way of funding legal expenses and predicted the cost of such cover would come down.
Labour says annual premiums could be £150, amounting to a tax on justice that would reap big profits for the insurance industry. An internal industry analysis shows insurers stand to gain £1 in profits for every £2 of premium payments.
We now have a situation in this country that the government of the day refuses to pay heed to the findings of its own reports on health and safety and chooses to listen exclusively to the jaundiced views of the vested interest that is the insurance industry.
Genuine accident victims are being actively discouraged from making compensation claims by concerted and ill-founded media coverage coupled with government action on Legal Aid and access to justice.
Hurt and injured people are being bullied by well-funded and powerful insurance companies to accept low offers before they have had a chance to seek independent legal and medical advice in the erroneous belief that they will be out of pocket if they lose their case.
The public are being spoon fed a diet of misinformation about the impact of the so-called ‘compensation culture’ by the government and the insurance lobby.
The government is determined to reduce the ‘legislative burden’ on industry by reducing the scope of existing health and safety regulations.
The government wants us to buy MORE INSURANCE to fund potential claims.
The insurance industry wants to kill off ‘no win no fee’ legal firms because they help claimants fight for justice and fair compensation.
Insurance companies would prefer to see no claims – EVER, but given that some claims must get through their net, they would like to decide on the level of compensation themselves and pay whatever sum they see fit.
So, don’t get injured.
If you do get injured get independent legal advice – while you can.
…and remember insurance companies , like bookies, never lose.