The Prime Minister has pledged to slay the ‘health and safety monster’ that is ‘strangling’ business.
David Cameron yesterday unveiled plans to cut red tape and prevent ambulance-chasing lawyers from cashing in on personal injury claims.
And he launched an attack on the ‘chancers’ who try to ‘leech’ off companies by seeking compensation for minor accidents.Prime Minister today vowed to make 2012 the year when ‘we kill off the health and safety culture for good’.
In future, the maximum amount lawyers can pocket from health and safety cases will be capped, with some getting as little as £400 for a single case.
Ministers want to stamp out the gravy train which allows some legal firms to pocket fees of £50,000 or more for fighting minor personal injury claims that pay claimants just a few hundred pounds.
These cases cost businesses billions each year in legal fees and hugely expensive insurance policies to protect themselves from vexatious claims.
David Cameron will not reverse the current plan of government cutbacks
Many arrange settlements with employees rather than risk the punitive legal fees that losing a case would bring.
Mr Cameron made the announcement in his first public appearance of the year, designed to show that the Government is making economic growth its priority.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to tackle legal fees in ‘no win, no fee’ cases because health and safety legislation has become an ‘albatross around the neck of British businesses’.
‘Building our economy up to strength requires a real pioneering, risk-taking spirit – and today we are smothering it in bubble wrap and red tape,’ he warned.
‘This must stop. So one of the Coalition’s New Year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. Our plans will deter the speculative health and safety chancers and those who leech off good businesses.
‘So what we’re going to be doing is to say that for claims up to £25,000 we’re going to cap the fees that lawyers can earn from those claims.
‘I think that will take a lot of the fear out of the health and safety monster and make sure that businesses feel they can get on and plan and invest and grow without feeling they’ll be strangled by red tape and health and safety regulation, which is very, very important for the future of our economy.’
An existing fixed costs scheme in England and Wales, which limits lawyers’ fees from personal injury claims worth under £10,000 resulting from road traffic accidents, will be extended to cover claims against employers. It will also be expanded to cover cases where the compensation payout is up to £25,000.
The current scheme caps legal costs at a fixed amount dependent on the number of stages needed to settle the case. If a defendant admits liability, the winning claimant’s lawyer can charge no more than £400 to handle the case.
Under the plans, Mr Cameron will also meet the bosses of Britain’s leading insurance companies at a Downing Street summit next month to ensure that businesses are not paying too much for cover that goes far beyond what is required by law.
The Government has already announced 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.
Ministers believe firms are too often held responsible even if they have done everything they can to prevent an accident. Speaking in Maidenhead, Berkshire, the Prime Minister added: ‘The key thing about health and safety is it’s not just the laws and rules and regulations, it’s also the culture of fear that many businesses have about health and safety.’
But Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said: ‘Labelling workplace health and safety as a monster is appalling and unhelpful, as the reason our legislative system exists is to prevent death, injury or illness at work.