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New health and safety rules look set to become law

16 June 2008

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Tougher penalties for those who breach health and safety rules will be looked at by the House of Lords after wining cross-party support from MPs.

The Health and Safety (Offences) Bill put forward by former Labour minister Keith Hill was cleared by the Commons after being given an unopposed third reading. It now goes to the Lords with a good chance of becoming law.

Under the Bill, the maximum fine in magistrates’ courts will be raised to £20,000 for most offences and imprisonment would be made an option for a wider range of breaches.

Mr Hill said his aim was to “punish the criminally negligent who put life and limb in danger in the workplace, to deter those who are tempted to cut costs by breaking the law”.

Junior work and pensions minister Anne McGuire welcomed the Bill, the penalties must “fully reflected the seriousness of offences” in an attempt to deter irresponsible behaviour.

Ray Hurst, President of Europe’s largest health and safety professional body, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said: “We hope this Bill will become law soon and help provide a safety boost for Britain.

“We’re pleased that it will now apply to Northern Ireland as it would not be right for there to be an uneven playing field on health and safety punishment in the UK.”

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