Lord Young’s review
Lord Young – former cabinet minister under Margaret Thatcher – has been appointed by David Cameron to advise him on health and safety law and practice, with a clear agenda to tackle the so-called ‘compensation culture’. In an article in The Daily Telegraph last Wednesday, and in advance of his review of this area, Young bemoans the perceived rise in litigation for people who have been injured, and the “new idiocy” of health and safety consultants who stop people having fun. The stories of school games of conkers being outlawed and pancake tossing events being banned are of course ridiculous and the product in my view of an over developed sense of culpability fostered by the companies that insure these schools and village fetes. Risk assessment is not rocket science, but it should weigh up the dangers of an activity taking place, with the benefit of the activity going ahead. This goes for attending school trips as it does to stripping a building of asbestos panels – anything should be possible as long as proper precautions such as training, making the right equipment available etc. are in place.
In the firing line for Lord Young too are claims management companies with their annoying TV ads which find potential claimants and then auction their cases to the solicitor who will pay most to acquire them. Now whilst the public should be educated as to their ability to claim compensation as a result of an injury which wasn’t their fault, I share Lord Young’s view that ambulance chasing ‘middle men’ – who are not lawyers – do the profession of which I am a part a disservice. But they are an inevitable consequence of previous Governments’ policies of abolishing legal aid for personal injury claims, introducing ‘no win no fee’ schemes to plug the gap, and lifting the ban on advertising. And the attack by Lord Young is perhaps all the more surprising given the revelation in the Daily Mirror (30th June 2010) that he is a 4.4% shareholder of Accident Exchange Ltd, which makes its money from organising the repair of damaged cars, hiring replacement vehicles and putting injured people in touch with lawyers to pursue compensation claims. Hmmm I think Lord Young might have some explaining of his own to do there.