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David Cameron declares war on the "nonsense" of the "over-the-top health and safety culture"

David Cameron waist up David Cameron is making a very welcome speech to Policy Exchange later today in which he will outline how he wants to dismantle the ridiculous elements of "the great knot of rules, regulations, expectations and fears that I would call the over-the-top health and safety culture."

Whilst most health and safety regulations over the last couple of centuries have been noble and welcome, he will say that "something has gone seriously wrong with the spirit of health and safety in the past decade".

Citing some of those stories that you couldn't have made up - like the children who were forced to wear goggles to play conkers - Mr Cameron will expose how two thirds of the 202 statutory instruments enforced by the Health and Safety Executive were passed in the 99 years before Labour came to power, but that one third have been introduced in the last 12 years alone.

He will also attack the "compensation culture" which has "helped to create a legal hypersensitivity to risk, accident and injury" and damaged the economy and society.

The Conservative response will be to reduce the burden and impact of health and safety legislation and bring some common sense back into compensation in a responsible, fair and sober way.

Whilst there is "no such thing as a risk-free environment" and properly informed adults should be expected to act responsibly in their best interests, he will say that some form of health and safety protection is necessary when:

  • there is a lack of information;
  • there is a potential abuse of power; or
  • there is a profit motive that could lead to people cutting corners.

Mr Cameron will also express his intention to change the legal framework so that excessive litigation is tackled - although he rules out automatically abolishing "no win, no fee" arrangements on the grounds that he does to want the right to compensation to become the preserve of the better off.

With all this in mind, he is asking Lord Young to conduct an extensive review of these issues, in particular:

  • how to protect people from accusations of negligence when they are taking reasonable actions to help someone; 
  • how to exempt selfless people trying to do something good from health and safety regulations altogether; 
  • whether a single Civil Liability Act would help reduce the excessive health and safety culture.

As he will conclude in his speech today:

"Excessive rules have given the impression that we have a right to a risk-free life and that impression has been exacerbated by prominent claims and pay-outs. The consequence has been spiralling costs and a slow death of discretion, judgement and social responsibility... For every piece of health and safety legislation, we need to ask whether it fulfils a useful purpose – and if not, it must go. And we must bring some common sense to the laws surrounding compensation."

"I want people to know that with the Conservatives, government will let you get on with your life without unnecessary rules and regulations. I want everyone to know that with the Conservatives, if you do good, get involved and make a contribution, the system will back you."

Jonathan Isaby


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