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“It’s Enlightened Despotism Jim, but not as we know it…”


"It's Enlightened Despotism Jim, but not as we know it..."

BBC images

In a ground breaking speech to the CBI today the Prime Minister told the nation that he knows what’s best for us. He said there are a lot of clever people in Whitehall who think like he does on lots of issues and they make and/or repeal laws and regulations according to his strategic vision…

…on the matter of equalities issues.

“We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff. So I can tell you today we are calling time on equality impact assessments. You no longer have to do them if these issues have been properly considered.That way policy-makers are free to use their judgment and do the right thing to meet the equalities duty rather than wasting their own time and taxpayers’ money”.

…on the matter of judicial reviews.

“The government will make it harder for groups and individuals to challenge government decisions using judicial review. The time limit for bringing a case would be reduced, the cost would go up and the opportunities for appeal would be reduced, he said. Full details will be outlined in a Ministry of Justice consultation published soon. Although some judicial review cases were valuable, “so many are completely pointless”, Cameron said.

…on the matter of enlightened despotism.

“Ministers will be allowed to introduce policy without consultation. When the government came to power, all decisions were subject to a three-month consultation, he said. He said the government had already decided to allow ministers to hold shorter consultations, lasting as little as two weeks. “And we are going further, saying: if there is no need for a consultation, then don’t have one,” he said.

We have been ‘softened up’ for two years now as the Government propaganda machine has gone into overdrive to dismantle our health and safety regulations in the name of enterprise and in the face of distinguished dissenting voices whose reports DID NOT produce the expected findings on the existence of a compensation culture.

NOW THE GOVERNMENT HAS DECIDED IT ISN’T EVEN GOING TO BOTHER WITH POLICY CONSULTATION AND REVIEW…

A populist bonfire of so-called red tape and ‘unnecessary regulations’ is being used to restrict access to justice and is creating a smokescreen for the government to drive through a whole raft of worrying legislation the most recent of which being the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill – a benign sounding title for a Trojan Horse of Iniquity.    

It seems that as we are running out of time to do what the PM wants, we are just going to have to let him get on with it.

Don’t worry though…it’ll be all right on the night, won’t it?

Unhappy 125th! Then (1897) and now (2012): Lords, workers and the right to compensation…

  Unhappy 125th! Then (1897) and now (2012): Lords, workers and the right to compensation...

 

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.

 

This week…

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…

Lord Belper. 

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.

This week… 

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?

RoSPA ‘hits the nail on the head’ in ground-breaking analysis of accident statistics

In a ground-breaking review of government statistics, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says the ‘true impact’ of accidents is hidden.

RoSPA hits the nail on the head in ground-breaking analysis of accident statistics

Photo: BBC images

According to the charity, there should be a “fundamental re-appraisal” of government public health priorities with a focus on premature and preventable deaths. On that basis, action to curb accidents should be the number one priority, it says.

Official figures show accidents account for just 2% of deaths in England and Wales – far behind cancer, and heart and respiratory disease, but RoSPA says this conceals the true impact of unintentional injuries in a report drawing on data from the Office for National Statistics to argue for a new approach to public health.

“We are faced with an accident epidemic that’s wiping out people in their prime”

 Tom Mullarkey, Chief Executive, RoSPA

The charity calculated the years of life lost as a result of premature death, based on the average number of years which those who died could have been expected to live.

This moved accidents up the priority list, because many victims die young.

RoSPA then filtered out deaths which could not have been prevented.

 

THE KEY FINDING:

RoSPA found that up to the age of 60, accidents were the leading cause of preventable years of life lost, accounting for 23% of the total.

 

On the back of this extremely important finding we ask the government and the insurance industry two simple questions…

Where’s the ‘compensation culture’ in these figures?

Why are you intent on dismantling health and safety regulations in the UK when people are dying from preventable accidents?  

RoSPA’s chief executive, Tom Mullarkey, says this is one of the most important findings in its 95-year history.

He says there is a “moral obligation” to prevent people dying before their time.

“We all know about diseases and the resources that are pumped into preventing the deaths they cause, but if only a fraction of that resource was used to prevent accidents we would not be faced, as we are today, with an accident epidemic that’s wiping out people in their prime.”

The charity says schemes to prevent accidents achieve quick results and can generate huge savings for the NHS. It wants extra support and information for people at key moments in their lives – including teenagers, parents and carers of young children, and people over 65.

RoSPA states that in England alone £1bn each year should be set aside to achieve this. The charity estimates that currently less than £1m is spent annually on these schemes.

In a statement, the Department of Health insisted that accident prevention was a key part of its approach to public health….aye, right.

In the light of government attacks on worker health and safety and a general downgrading of risk assessment and accident prevention, we can only hope that RoSPA’s voice is heard above the din of the insurance industry wailing about the costs of saving people’s lives…  

This report should be required reading at Cabinet level and hopefully will be an antidote to the relentless dismantling of the nation’s health and safety regualtions.

Black Monday Part 2: ‘Think-tank blames compensation culture for EVERYTHING

Black Monday Part 2: 'Think-tank blames compensation culture for EVERYTHING

Photograph: BBC

Chiming nicely with this Government’s anti-health and safety mantra, a new ‘think tank’ report claims that “an ingrained compensation culture is bleeding health and education services dry,”…

Independent study? Oh really?

Well at last the Government has unearthed somebody who thinks hurt and injured people seeking compensation are the cause of all that’s wrong with the NHS and the education system… 

Glib tabloid sound bite – 1, reasoned debate – 0.

Payouts by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) have trebled in the past decade, standing at £911m in 2010/11, according to the report by the Centre for Policy Studies at Kent University.

Of this, £863m was paid in connection with clinical negligence claims, the report says.

OUR QUESTION: Did those claiming compensation not have to PROVE negligence?

ANSWER:   Yes.

Are we expected to believe that insurance companies just simply pay out on spurious claims? Don’t think so. If that was the case we would be blaming the insurance companies for the myth of the ‘compensation culture…wait a minute…

So what is the real issue here? Is it the cost of compensation claims or falling standards of care and education?

The report adds that as of March last year, the NHSLA estimated its potential liabilities at £16.8bn, though a large proportion of cases do not reach court.

Out of 63,804 medical negligence claims received by the NHSLA, 38% were abandoned by the claimant, 45% were settled out of court 3% had damages approved or set by a court and 14% have yet to settle.

Tim Knox, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “This rise in the compensation culture has huge – if largely hidden – costs. In particular, it has created a climate in which professionals will prioritise litigation avoidance above what is best for their pupils or patients.”

This is an outrageous and unsupported claim. Mr Knox is asserting that NHS clinicians and school teachers are putting patients and pupils a poor second behind financial considerations.

By the way, why is the HSE silent when reports like this are churned out? Isn’t the HSE keen to dispel health and safety myths? There is a section on the HSE website dedicated to this very topic… 

Meanwhile, back in the Twilight Zone, Mr Knox, at a stroke, has just RUBBISHED the ethical standards of hundreds of thousands of highly paid, highly qualified and highly respected professional people throughout the UK.

WELL DONE…

The report goes on to warn that instead of improving safety and accountability, it (the oft-quoted ‘compensation culture’, has resulted in “significant costs to the quality of services and the experiences of those who use them”.

Lest the dead horse has not been flogged enough, it continues: “The combination of an ingrained compensation culture and litigation avoidance is bleeding the health and education services dry, both financially, and in terms of their public sector ethos and professional role.”

Report author Professor Frank Furedi said fear of legal action can hold back progress and creativity. “It erodes professional autonomy, stifles innovation, leads to defensive practices in both hospitals and schools and encourages greater bureaucracy,” he said.

Wow, we say, Professor Frank. That’s quite a lot to lay at the door of the non-existent compensation culture. It’s not us saying it’s non existent; it’s the two recent Government sponsored reports on the subject that rubbished the notion of a compensation culture:

‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ – Lord Young, 2010.

‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for all’ – Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, 2011.

However, according to Frank Furedi, “‘Best practice’ is now defined as having checked all the boxes in a quality assurance form rather than doing what is best for the patient or pupil.”

About all we can say for this study is that it checks the box for finding a study to support the ill-founded notion of a compensation culture and thus the Government can happily push on with its Crusade against the legitmate rights of its citizens to seek justice and fair compensation.

What must Lord Young and Professor Lofstedt think?   

 

Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Business Minister Michael Fallon. Photograph: Neil Hall / Reuters

Bad luck if you work in a school, or a shop, or an office or a pub. Why? It’s quite horrifyingly simple – on Monday 10th September, 2012 this Government sacrificed your health and safety at work on the altar of spurious economics and political dogma.

The ‘theory’ underpinning this black day for worker safety is that the aforementioned workplaces are intrinsically safe, or at least not quite as dangerous as dangerous places, like construction sites. What the government is actually doing to improve health and safety on construction sites can be written on the back of a fag packet in big letters, but that’s a different story…

Perhaps the minister hasn’t heard of asbestos? Maybe he thinks people don’t get injured in schools or shops? Maybe he believes that workplace deaths conform to a strict pattern and afflict only known so-called high risk premises? Do fires and explosions only occur in places thought to be dangerous? This attitude begs the question – who is doing the THINKING? 

Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections under the move and legislation will be introduced which ministers say will protect business from “compensation culture” claims.

More on this topic in Black Monday Part 2, but even a newly appointed government minister, like the freshly minted Mr. Fallon, must be aware that Lord Young’s 2010 Report: ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ , comissioned by David Cameron, dismissed the notion of a compensation culture in the UK as a figment of tabloid journalism.  

More than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled, so that shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face “burdensome” health and safety inspections.Officials described it as a “radical” plan to curb red tape.

NO IT ISN’T.

It’s a reactionary plan to curb legitimate claims for compensation arising from workplace injuries.

Hurt and injured people claiming compensation for their injuries are not the cause of this country’s economic woes. Ye gods – does the Government want to turn the clock back 150 years  

The new rules, which will govern both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities, are intended to be introduced next April.

Firms will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher-risk areas such as construction or if they have an incident or track record of poor performance.

The Government also said it will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Business minister Michael Fallon said the new measures would free businesses from unnecessary red tape and help them focus on creating jobs and growth. He said: “We are all impatient for growth now and we have to do everything we can to lift this economy out of recession it’s been in and back business to create more jobs.”

Responding to union concerns that removing health and safety regulations could put workers at risk, he said: “Let me be very clear, this is only for low risk premises, offices, shops, things like that. This is not where there is risk involved, we are not talking about chemical plants or care homes.”

Predictably, the usual suspects welcomed the moves.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome.Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad.”

However, Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said the Government was wrong to point the finger at health and safety, “which is always seen as an easy target”, when it comes to cutting red tape.

He said there were only 200 health and safety regulations so they were only a tiny percentage of the 3,000 total regulations.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna rubbished the Government’s move as a “gimmick” that would not help the UK out of the double dip recession.

“If you talk to business about what is the main problem they face, it is a lack of demand, it is not regulation.”

Unfortunately this Government only talks to its friends in industry, like when the PM invited the insurance companies to Number 10 in February this year to hear their whingeings and bleatings about the cost of paying compensation to hurt and injured people and their families.