House of Lords members oppose deregulation of health and safety rules

lordsNew rules that could see certain self-employed workers exempt from health and safety law have faced opposition during a debate in the House of Lords.

The first clause of the Government’s Deregulation Bill, which has been criticised for its potential to lead to increased levels of injury, underwent severe scrutiny during its Report stage discussion in the Lords on February 3.

During the discussion, Opposition spokesman Lord McKenzie of Luton, who put forward amendments to introduce an independent review of the plans, said:

“A raft of professional organisations concerned with occupational health and safety, including IOSH, RoSPA, IIRSM, Safety Groups UK, the Royal Society for Public Health and others, have all criticised the approach, saying that it will cause dangerous confusion, increasing the risk of work-related injury, illness and death.

“Faced with the scale of the concerns reflected in those consultation responses, it would be foolhardy for the Government to proceed as planned.”

Another opponent to the clause, Baroness Donaghy, described it as being a

“charter for cowboys”, while Lord Jordan said:

“The Government proposals, in their present form, will carry a cost: not in money, but in lives.”

Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire said ministers were still considering the issue as following a public consultation they had not

“reached an entire consensus”, despite the consultation having closed five months ago.

Commenting on the debate, Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said:

“We urge the Government to heed the serious concerns raised by Peers, business, professional bodies and trade unions and to drop these misguided proposals.

“Industry has heavily criticised them as not fit for purpose and creating a substantial burden. Peers have labelled them a ?step backwards’ and said leaving the law as it is would be the far better option.

“The Government now has the opportunity to listen and take the socially responsible and sustainable enterprise path that IOSH and others have advocated – better education and more support for business.”

In light of the announcement that the Government is still considering the findings of the public consultation, Lord McKenzie gave notice that the issue could be tabled again if the Government’s position on Clause 1 remains unchanged, when the Deregulation Bill has its Third Reading in the House of Lords in coming weeks.

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