UK Politics

Emergency workers 'excluded from health and safety law'

Police and paramedics should be excluded from health and safety laws which could prevent them taking risks to save lives, the Tory peer reviewing the legislation has said.

Lord Young said there were "children dying because of health and safety".

He told the Times that the emergency services were "paid for doing a job that involves risk" and legislation should not be "an excuse for inaction".

The review is also designed to tackle the "growth of compensation culture".

Earlier this week, Lord Young told the BBC he wanted advertisements for personal injury claims firms to be banned.

'Get sense back'

Lord Young told the Times there had been "three instances of police officers standing by watching children drown and not doing anything because of health and safety concerns".

"Well, I'm sorry, that is just wrong and we are going to change it," he said.

He said that under current laws "the firemen could say they wouldn't go to a fire because it was too dangerous".

"We've just got to get sense back into the system," he added.

Lord Young told the BBC a "compensation culture" had been allowed to grow up over the past decade, which the previous Labour government had allowed in an effort to "save the legal aid budget".

The peer, who served as a cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher, said the NHS had paid out £8bn in five years - only a third of which went to claimants, the rest to lawyers and claims companies.

"Now that is really something that should be stopped," he said. "Money in the health service should be spent on health, not on these things."

But unions have warned against attacks on rules that protect staff and lawyers say "compensation culture" is a "myth".

'Saturated' with laws

Muiris Lyons, president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, told the BBC: "Our organisation is all about trying to reduce the incidents of injuries and I'm sure there is common ground there [with the review].

"But where people are needlessly injured, through others' fault, they should be able to obtain access to justice."

Last December, Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK had become "saturated" by health and safety laws.

In recent years children had been told to wear goggles to play conkers and trainee hairdressers had been banned from using scissors, he added.

But Labour said the comments were a "caricature" based on "myth and exaggeration".

Lord Young's review is expected to report back some time during the summer.

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