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Health and safety bans to risk compensation fines

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Town halls that wrongly ban events on health and safety grounds could face making big compensation payouts, under plans being considered by the government.

Teachers could also be given assurances that they are not liable for everyday mishaps and accidents during school trips and after-hours clubs.

Tory former cabinet minister Lord Young, who has drawn up the proposals at David Cameron’s request, said he wanted to inject “common sense” into the health and safety regime.

But critics accused the peer of focusing on “silly” incidents rather than ensuring people were properly protected at work and in the community.

Lord Young’s review has concluded that:

  • Local authorities that wrongly try to block events on health and safety grounds should be forced to pay compensation;
  • There should be a crackdown on advertising encouraging people to make personal injury claims on a no-win, no-fee basis;
  • Red tape that can prevent children from going on school outings should be scrapped;
  • People performing first aid or Good Samaritan acts should be exempted from being sued.

Speaking to the Daily Mail ahead of a speech to the Tory conference in Birmingham, Lord Young said he had uncovered extraordinary examples, including a restaurant that would not give out toothpicks for fear of injury, a headteacher who told pupils not to walk under a conker tree without helmets and a council that banned a pancake race because it was raining.

“It makes you wonder what sort of world we have come to,” Lord Young said.

“It has gone to such extremes. What I have seen everywhere is a complete lack of common sense. People have been living in an alternative universe.”

Lord Young said he was particularly concerned about council officials who often claimed powers to stop village fetes, sporting events or other events when they have none.

In one example, organisers of the annual Whitsun cheese-rolling down a steep hill in the Cotswolds cancelled it this year after pressure from police and local authorities.

In future those affected by wrong decisions may go to the local government ombudsman who will be able to insist that a council pays compensation.

Asked how much local authorities would be forced to pay, Lord Young said: “Whatever the loss is. I want officials to think twice and make sure they have the authority.

“This sort of nonsense has come from the last government trying to create a nanny state and trying to keep everybody in cotton wool.

“Frankly if I want to do something stupid and break my leg or neck, that’s up to me. I don’t need a council to tell me not to be an idiot. I can be an idiot all by myself.”

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