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MP warns of ‘misery’ after Commons reject health and safety amendment

Insurers 'rubbing their hands with glee' over clause 61 of ERR bill

18 April 2013

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The House of Commons has rejected a Lords amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) bill, which would have removed clause 61.

The clause would put the onus on workers making civil claims for personal injury to prove that employers breached their statutory duties under the health and safety legislation.

Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said clause 61, introduced during the Commons report stage of the bill last October, went "much further" than Professor Lofstedt's review of health and safety law.

"Professor Lofstedt referred to ending civil liability, but only in relation to strict liability, whereas these proposals will impact on the vast majority of employer liability cases, where breaches of statutory duty allegations are usually more important than negligence.

"In every case, the injured worker will have to prove that the employer knew, or ought to have known, that a machine was unsafe, equipment was faulty, or there had been previous accidents-something known to the employer but unlikely to be known by the employee."

McDonald, formerly a personal injury solicitor, said over 90 per cent of health and safety regulation enforcement was through the civil courts, with 78,000 compensation claims following accidents at work every year but only 1,000 criminal prosecutions.

"When I left practice, I left behind a case load that ran into hundreds of millions of pounds," McDonald said. "Those are not windfalls for people. This is not about a compensation culture. These people have not won the pools or the lottery.

"Those moneys are there to provide them with lifelong care – with transport, rehabilitation, speech therapy and physiotherapy-but the government's proposal seeks to pull the rug from under all those people."

McDonald said insurers would be "rubbing their hands with glee" at clause 61 and workers would be "denied a basic human right, and at a massive cost to the taxpayer."

He concluded that clause 61 would result in "a lot of misery for people who will have to turn to our statutory services and not receive the care and attention they need."

MPs rejected the Lords amendment to the ERR bill, removing Clause 61, by 316 votes to 241. The bill will return to the Lords next week.

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Health & Safety