Government to bring changes

The election of a new Coalition Government could bring significant changes to the way business regulation and health and safety is legislated in this country. David Cameron

Not long after coming into power, the new Government published a document, ‘The Coalition: our programme for government’, which gave a useful insight into its plans for the future and confirmed that it would review employment and workplace laws for both employers and employees. Says Jonathan Exten-Wright, Employment Partner at DLA Piper: “The Government has committed to new developments which will have a substantial impact on employers. Although we must now wait to see how the Government prioritises its plans, there is no doubt that the future employment law landscape is set to change.”

In his first major speech as Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, vowed to tear through the statute book” and take a “wholesale, big bang approach to political reform”.He has since overseen the set up of a dedicated website http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/ designed to allow members of the public to submit their ideas to the Government on cutting business regulation. Suggestions are public and can also be commented on and rated by other users.There have already been hundreds of suggestions made since the website was unveiled, including reviewing the Minimum Wage, abolishing PAT (electrical) Testing Regulations and reducing health and safety laws.

Health and Safety

Before the general election, David Cameron commented that “something has gone seriously wrong with the spirit of health and safety in the past decade” and vowed to cut down on what he sees as the UK’s ‘over-the-top’ health and safety culture.He has followed up on this promise with the appointment of the Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham as Adviser to the Prime Minister on health and safety law and practice. Lord Young is currently undertaking a Whitehall-wide review into the ‘application and perception’ of health and safety laws and ‘the growth of the compensation culture’. Cameron has indicated there will be a “sensible new approach” to health and safety, while Lord Young stated: “Health and safety regulation is essential in many industries but may well have been applied too generally and have become an unnecessary burden on firms, but also community organisations and public services.”He added that he hoped his review would reintroduce an element of common sense and focus the regulation where it is most needed, with a system that is proportionate and not bureaucratic. What this could mean in practice, suggests Rob Castledine, Associate Director at Workplace Law, is that the resourcing of health and safety inspectors could be reviewed, which might result in fewer visits from inspectors and more of an emphasis on self audit in lower risk workplaces.

Where the new administration is likely to introduce more, not less, regulation, however, is regarding the environment. Cameron has promised to deliver “the greenest government ever” and a range of initiatives have already been introduced including:

• Carbon emissions from central government to be cut by 10% in the next 12 months;
• Government department headquarters to publish online in real time their energy use;
• Establishment of a government steering group to ensure the delivery of emissions target – chaired by the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, and including representatives from key departments and the private sector; and
• A full review of the waste policy in England see our Recycling Update article.

Further information – The Coalition: Our Programme for Government http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/files/2010/05/coalition-programme.pdf

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