Safety crime – a forgotten killer

Respect MP George Galloway has an Early Day Motion on safety crime, and the following appeared in his Morning Star column:

AMID the acres of column inches about violence on Britain’s streets, a greater cause of death and injury takes its toll with scarcely a mention.

You are in fact more likely to be killed by working than you are through some act of interpersonal violence.

I had the author of a shocking new report into the collapse of workplace safety standards on my radio show the other week.

Professor Steve Tombs outlined how there has been a staggering 49 per cent fall in enforcement notices brought by the Health and Safety Executive. The cause is twofold.

First, the HSE is facing year-on-year cuts, which are affecting the number of inspectors that it deploys, as well as other vital staff. Second, there is a doctrinal shift, under the Establishment mania for deregulation, from enforcement to advice.

In other words, voracious corporations are to be advised on how to improve health and safety, but are not to feel the discipline of inspections and enforcement to make sure that that advice has been heeded. It is a staggering retreat for a Labour government.

For it was a Labour government, freshly elected in 1974, which brought in the Health and Safety at Work Act. That was the fruit of the preceding years of labour militancy. Now, it is being whittled away and the body meant to oversee it is being left to wither.

In conjunction with Tombs and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, I’ve tabled an early day motion (number 1855) calling for the recommendations of the Commons select committee which oversees the HSE to be implemented.

They include giving workplace safety reps the legal right to stop the job if a hazard is identified and publicising the sentences for safety breaches imposed on directors. I hope that you’ll encourage your MP to sign it.

Over the years, much of the media has reduced health and safety matters to bogus stories about “banning conkers” in playgrounds – something that was never true, by the way.

In fact, it is about the legitimate expectation of workers that they will clock off in one piece and that they won’t be worked into an early grave.

Next month will bring the fourth anniversary of the deaths of two firefighters in my constituency – Adam Meere and Bill Faust – who were killed while attending a fire at a shop on Bethnal Green Road.

It’s time that the minds of parliamentarians, most of whom wouldn’t plunge into a darkened room for a firefighter’s pay cheque, were concentrated.

Bliar wanted short war in Afghanistan?

Seems the ruling classes of Britain and America were so eager to get into Iraq, they thought there’d be no trouble occupying Afghanistan

(And notice how Ashdown confuses the Taliban with Al Qaeda – accidental or what?)

Tony Blair said privately that he wanted the UK to get out of Afghanistan “very quickly” after the 2001 invasion, ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown claims.

Lord Ashdown said the then prime minister was anxious not to become entangled in a lengthy conflict.

Britain deployed troops to Afghanistan shortly after the 11 September attacks.

Since then 108 British troops have been killed in fierce fighting as part of Nato’s International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).

The government has not officially said how long it believes British troops will have to stay in Afghanistan.

But in confidential government papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Foreign Secretary David Miliband warns cabinet colleagues of a “long hard struggle” against the Taleban and opium trade that could last many years.

[...]

“I just happened to be looking through – actually this morning – the notes of a meeting I had with the prime minister on the 6th December 2001, and what he says to me is, ‘Paddy, we are going to have to go in and do this’. And I said of course he’d have our support.”

Lord Ashdown says Mr Blair went on: “But it’s going to be in and out very quickly. We’re going to go into Kabul, we’ll take Kabul and then we’ll leave straight away.”

The peer, who was recently blocked from being UN envoy to Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai, recalls telling Mr Blair that avoiding becoming entangled in a conflict there was a “good idea”.

He goes on: “There’s no doubt that we started off actually wanting to go in, remove Al-Qaeda and get out quickly, and that plan changed.

“I guess it changed because somebody said, if you get out, Al-Qaeda will take over again. But there’s no doubt that it has become bigger than we thought it was.”

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