By Tim Montgomerie
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Chris Grayling launches a renewed effort to tackle Britain's Health and Safety culture today. In remarks to business leaders he will stress the importance of making Britain more competitive:
"We have a simple and straightforward choice. If we want people to have jobs, we have to recognise just how different and competitive the world has become. And that means we have to change in response. We need lower taxes and less red tape for business, or jobs will go elsewhere. That’s why we are cutting health and safety bureaucracy. We're making good progress and I am determined to cut the number of health and safety regulations in half. Of course we have to protect people against death and serious injury in the workplace, and we won't do anything to risk this, but if we stifle their employers with unneeded rules and regulations those people won’t have a job in the first place."
The Employment Minister will announce new guidance that will "help prevent businesses being duped into carrying out unnecessary electrical safety tests". The savings to UK plc could be £30 million. A Government press release stated other 'elf'n'safety improvements undertaken by the government. They include:
- Exempting a million self-employed people from health and safety rules altogether;
- Cutting the number of health and safety inspections by a third, and exempting low risk premises from routine inspection;
- Establishing a register of qualified health and safety consultants, to stamp out unqualified cowboy advisers who give the wrong guidance to companies;
- Establishing Myth Busting panels for both the public and for businesses to give them an easy way of challenging daft decisions;
- Reducing requirements for businesses to report minor accidents;
- Putting in place tight new rules for personal injury claims, to stop no win no fee lawyers making large amounts of money from relatively small workplace claims;
- Rewriting and simplifying all existing health and safety guidance and cutting the total number of regulations in half.
What is important, however, is that the Government becomes more joined up. I understand that the Government will announce in next week's Queen's Speech that there will be extended rights for paternity leave. This is part of a Government push to emphasise its family-friendly credentials. The most family-friendly policies are, at the moment, job creation policies for homes where no adult is working. In the middle of a recession job-creating businesses need fewer burdens, not more. One part of the Government seems to understand all of this but another half is stuck in the pre-crunch era.