Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a series of measures to tackle the compensation culture and free small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape.
Speaking to an audience of small businesses and entrepreneurs at Intuit UK in Maidenhead, David Cameron announced that:
* to tackle the compensation culture and address the fear from businesses of being sued for trivial or excessive claims - we will extend the current scheme that caps the amount that lawyers can earn from small value personal injury claims, and reduce overall costs in cases funded by 'no win no fee' deals. This will help bring down the cost of many cases and deter the speculative health and safety claims made against good businesses that would appear not to have done anything wrong.
* the health and safety law on strict liability for civil claims will be changed so that businesses are no longer automatically at fault if something goes wrong.
we will investigate the demands made by insurance companies on businesses to ensure that levels of compliance do not force businesses to go far beyond what is actually required by the the law to secure their insurance cover.
* We will write to the Chief Executives of all major insurance companies, asking them to set out what they will do to deal with this problem - and they will be invited to a meeting at Downing Street next month to set out their plans.
The Prime Minister has also announced that next month we will ask organisations to bid to manage the £1bn of Government funding available through the Business Finance Partnership. This fund will help businesses access the finance they need to grow.
David Cameron added that:
"I am determined that we do everything possible to take the brakes off business: cutting taxes; slashing red tape; putting billions into big infrastructure projects; making it much easier for British firms to get out there and trade with the world.
"And there is something else we are doing: waging war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses.
"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."