Victims of negligent employers have been left in the cold by the prime minister, who has held a Downing Street 'summit' with insurance industry top brass and employers' organisations to discuss cutting the compensation bill. The only non-industry invitee at the 14 February meeting was Health and Safety Executive (HSE) chair Judith Hackitt. Business lobby groups CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) were both in attendance, with the other invitees all from the insurance industry. A Downing Street 'statement on outcomes' on the summit, which was led by David Cameron, notes: 'There was a commitment from the prime minister that the government will take action to tackle the compensation culture, reduce legal costs and cut health and safety red tape.' It added the meeting agreed 'to tackle the issue identified by the Red Tape Challenge of health and safety 'myths', insurers will provide short guidance to all clients at the point of purchasing insurance setting out clearly what SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] need to do, and critically what they don't need to do, to comply with health and safety law and get insurance cover, to ensure that businesses are not asked to go beyond what is actually required by law.' Insurers agreed they would 'challenge more vexatious health and safety civil claims in order to tackle the compensation culture,' the statement said. TUC said the sole beneficiary of these measures would be insurers. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson commented: 'This is nothing to do with trying to end a 'compensation culture' or to 'free up businesses from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape', it is a cynical attempt to prevent working people from getting compensation when they are injured by another person's negligence. The only winners here will be the insurance companies.' He asked why no representatives of the victims of poor workplace conditions had been invited to the summit. 'Clearly they seem to have been written out of this process which is all about helping increase the profits of the insurance industry and stop people with legitimate claims from getting the compensation they should be entitled to.'
Issued: 17 February, 2012