Election 2015 – What next for Health and Safety?
In their 2010 manifesto, the Conservatives specifically pledged to “amend the health and safety laws that stand in the way of common sense,” which, following the formation of the coalition government, opened the way for the reforms scoped out by Lord Young’s 2010 report entitled report Common Sense, Common Safety as well as those of the 2011 Löfstedt Review.
In contrast, their 2015 election manifesto referred to health and safety obliquely, stating they would remove “unnecessary business regulations” and ultimately promise to “cut a further £10 billion of red tape over the next Parliament through our Red Tape Challenge and our One-In-, Two-Out rule.”
Despite some controversy, the passage of the Deregulation Act 2015 provides the new Government with the means to exempt from health and safety law some 1.8 million self-employed jobs in what are considered to be low risk occupations.
Following the Löfstedt Review the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) withdrew or re-drafted certain Approved Codes of Practice while introducing web-based guidance to accompany legal requirements in an effort to simplify compliance. It is expected that this will continue under the new Government, along with HSE’s Fee for Intervention cost recovery scheme which, despite being described by some business leaders as a money-generating exercise raising the burden of H&S on small businesses, was considered to be effective in shifting the cost of addressing H&S breaches from the public purse to the offending employer.
New Fire Minister
Mark Francois, Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, has been announced as the new Fire Minister as part of his broader role as Minister of State for Communities and Local Government. Before becoming an MP, he worked in banking and as a self-employed consultant, as well as a lobbyist.
His new role will include responsibilities for fire and resilience as well as coastal communities, deregulation, devolution and the Portsmouth and surrounding areas.
Commenting on the appointment, the Fire Industry Association (FIA), a trade body, said, “We will, of course, be seeking an early meeting with the new Minister to develop the fire safety and fire and rescue issues on which we continue to lobby government on behalf of our members.”
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said, “Firefighters everywhere will hope that with a new Fire Minister in place we can start a genuine and open dialogue about how we protect our essential service for the future … We will also be looking to discuss the pension arrangements for firefighters. “
More Red Tape Cuts
The Queen’s speech to parliament in May included an Enterprise Bill aimed at cutting red tape by at least £10 billion and, for the first time, including measures affecting “heavy-handed” regulators.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said that the Bill will also include a new Small Business Conciliation Service to help settle disputes over payment. Business Minister Anna Soubry explained that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will be asking businesses for evidence in the coming weeks and months.
“We want them to be our partners in identifying and scrapping needless burdens at home and in Europe,” she said. “It’s important government gets behind small businesses — enabling them to get finance, get paid on time and get rid of red tape.”
The proposals were immediately welcomed by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Director General John Longworth who said that it was great to see the Government start the Parliament with a real drive to support businesses.
However, he then warned: “Businesses have been let down by successive governments promising to make inroads, so we will be watching carefully to make sure these proposals are delivered.”
 Fee for Intervention (FFI) – The First Eighteen Month’s Experience, Report by the Independent FFI Review Panel June 2014