Labour Peers blast proposed repeal of 114-year-old employment right

Submitted by sglenister on Fri, 16/11/2012 - 17:20

16 November 2012

As the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill has its Second Reading in the Lords, we continue to keep you up to date with the progress of an amendment that could see the repeal of a 114-year-old employment right.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill had its Second Reading in the Lords on Wednesday (14 November 2012) and the part of the legislation that attempts to reverse employers' 114-year-old strict liability for employees' health and safety at work was widely criticised by Labour Peers.

Among those speaking out against the clause, which would reverse Section 47 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, was Lord Clinton-Davis, Baroness Dean of Thornton Le-Fyle, Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, Lord McKenzie of Luton, Lord Monks, Lord Young of Norwood Green and Baroness Turner of Camden.

Business, Innovation and Skills Spokesman Lord Marland, who spoke on behalf of the government, did not directly address their concerns but stated that the Coalition is "taking on board" the recommendations of Lord Young of Graffham and Professor Löfstedt, both of which have produced reports on health and safety legislation for the government.

However, Professor Löfstedt's recommendation from his review Reclaiming Health and Safety for All was in fact to not make drastic cuts to health and safety regulations, as the IER has highlighted previously. This was picked up on by Lord McKenzie, who noted that Löfstedt actually argued "there is a view across the board that the existing regulatory requirements are broadly right".

Meanwhile, Baroness Dean criticised the way the amendment to (s)47 had not been introduced to the Bill until its report stage, meaning it had not been debated in parliament or opened to consultation with the public. If the government had hoped to slip the amendment into law, it appears they will face strong opposition from the Labour peers, with Lord Mackenzie arguing "this bit of the Bill is particularly ugly...[and] deserves to be removed long before we ever get to Committee". Baroness Dean added that the clause is "a retrograde step, not only for the Government - who may feel that they have not taken the right decision - but for the whole of the country".

When it comes to the real-life implications of the amendment for workers, it was noted by Lord McKenzie that "this clause will mean fewer injured employees being able to claim for their injuries, claims will be more costly to pursue, greater costs will fall on the state and safety standards for employees will fall ... litigation will become more costly, time-consuming and protracted for everyone".

Lord Marland promised that "we will debate these issues more aggressively in the coming months".

The Institute of Employment Rights has been providing up-to-date analysis on the proposed removal of (s)47 since the clause was added to the Bill. To receive updates from us, please sign up to our mailing list at the top left of this article.

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