Cameron vows to relieve health and safety headache

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to 'kill off' the UK's health and safety culture.

Speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs at Intuit UK on Thursday, Cameron revealed plans to change the health and safety law on strict liability for civil claims so that businesses are no longer automatically at fault if something goes wrong.

He also announced that the Government will investigate the demands made by insurance companies on businesses to ensure that compliance does not force businesses to go over and above what is required by law just to secure insurance.

He said: "Talk of 'health and safety' can too often sound farcical or marginal. But for British businesses - especially the smaller ones that are so vital to the future of our economy - this is a massively important issue. Every day they battle against a tide of risk assessment forms and face the fear of being sued for massive sums. The financial cost of this culture runs into the billions each year.

"So this coalition has a clear New Year's resolution: to kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or Diamond Jubilee year, but the year we get a lot of this pointless time-wasting out of the British economy and British life once and for all."

Cameron also revealed that the current scheme that caps the amount that lawyers can earn from small value personal injury claims will be extended.

But his claims have been dismissed by the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) that has accused Number 10 of being out of touch with the reality of working life. Commenting, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:

"Workers will be astonished by the claim that there is an 'excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses'. The truth is that there are two million people in the UK who have an illness or injury caused by their work - the vast majority of which could have been prevented had their employer had taken the correct safety precautions.

"It is clear that Downing Street does not have a clue about what life is like for the millions of ordinary people who work in shops, offices, schools, factories, call centres and other workplaces across the UK. Instead it is making policy in response to grumbles from elements of the small business lobby and the risible rantings of right-wing commentators."