Vince Cable to 'cut back on red tape' in health and safety shake-up

Business Secretary Vince Cable Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections under moves announced by the Government today. Legislation will be introduced which ministers say will protect business from "compensation culture" claims.

In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not 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.

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.

Today's announcement injects fresh impetus into our drive to cut red tape. We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it. We're getting out of the way by bringing common sense back to health and safety. We will now be holding departments' feet to the fire to ensure all unnecessary red tape is cut.

From next April, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from regular inspections.

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.

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.

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. Unions have reacted angrily to the news, saying the legislation will make workplaces more dangerous, and employers less liable.

This all-out attack on safety will have lethal consequences for workers and the public alike as businesses are given the green light to cut corners. Vince Cable's set of plans will drag the clock back and goes hand in hand with massive cuts to the enforcement arm of the health and safety executive. This isn't about cutting red tape, it's about cutting the throat of safety regulations and the trade unions will mobilise a massive campaign of resistance.