Professionals speak out in defence of regulation

Professionals speak out in defence of regulation

Government plans to cut red tape could threaten safety standards for millions of employees and consumers, the union for public service professionals has warned.

On behalf of 104,000 members – of whom 8,000 work in regulatory bodies – Prospect said the Chancellor’s review of regulations must not turn into a ‘cowboy’s charter’. The union supports moves towards an evidence, risk-based approach but warns that without adequate inspection there will be no way for authorities to know which organisations are observing the law and which are not.

"If the threat of inspection is removed, what incentive have companies got to maintain best practice," asked Dai Hudd, Prospect assistant general secretary. "And without inspection, how will government know that a company is failing to meet standards? It is our members’ experience that only inspection and real enforcement can protect citizens, whether as employees, consumers, patients, environmentalists, motorists, travellers, home-owners or farmers."

Hudd questioned whether the merger of 31 national regulatory bodies would create huge upheaval that could only distract bodies like the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive from their mission. "Above all, this must not be used as an excuse to cut staff as part of the government’s Gershon ‘efficiency’ agenda," Hudd warned.

"It is the staff who inspect businesses who know where the risk really lies and their advice should be taken on board, not ignored."

Along with the TUC, Prospect is especially concerned that the Chancellor’s anti-regulation drive will endanger the health and safety at work of millions of employees. "Injuries and deaths at work increased last year and we fear this trend will accelerate that process," said Hudd. "The government must respect the experience and expertise of staff in the front line and not follow a slavish employer-driven agenda."

Effective regulation is not just about being nice to business, it is about maintaining standards, Hudd said. "That means monitoring, testing and research, and keeping up with international advances in science and best practice. Sadly, none of this seems to figure in the Chancellor’s thinking."