A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Friday, 23 April 2010

What are Tories really hiding?

You will find, if you can bear to read the Tory manifesto, a whole rash of statements about their good intentions, their great love of Britons large and small and the utter benevolence they will show if elected. What you won't find is the statement that, when the profits of their mates in big business are affected, those same benevolent and cuddly Tories don't give a damn about the lives of the people employed by their mates. And that's not because they do care, it's because the real Tory policies don't win votes and are therefore carefully concealed behind a barrage of sugar-candy verbiage. There's loads about getting people back to work in the Tory manifesto. There's loads about health and there's loads about prisons and offenders. But there's no mention of the fact that their big business mates are profiting from the deaths of scores of people at work or that it's the Tories' declared objective to restrict the access of health and safety officers to sites by allowing firms to bar them. And there's no mention of the fact that it's nearly impossible to make directors pay for negligence that costs the lives of workers with a prison sentence. These things don't find their way into the Tory manifesto at all because, if they did, there isn't a working person in this country who would vote for them.

But they are most certainly Tory policy. Way back in their 2009 conference, the Conservatives announced that, if elected, they would allow companies to undertake independent safety audits. Once these were completed, companies would be able to bar Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors entering their sites unless there was an emergency. They confirmed this policy last month. We've written about this iniquitous policy before, when we warned that a one-off inspection was no way to guarantee safety on ever-changing building sites. In fact, it's just a way designed by the Tories to allow big firms to buy their way out of supervision by the HSE. It ties in nicely with Tory boss David Cameron's election policy, too. Just on Wednesday he was fulminating about taking away MPs' power and damning the "quango culture."

Well, now you can see what he means. For quango, read HSE, and, for taking away MPs' power, read stopping government intervening to save workers' lives. It's quite plain why the Tories are doing it. It's a favour for their mates, such as steel giant Corus, whose managing director lent his name to their attack on the National Insurance increase. Quite apart from its recent "mothballing " of thousands of jobs at Redcar, Corus's inglorious record also includes 16 entries in the HSE prosecutions database relating to death and injury and 24 entries in the notices database, including many stop work notices, since 2001. These incidents include the Port Talbot furnace explosion where Stephen Galsworthy, Andrew Hutin and Len Radford were killed in 2001 for which it was fined £1.3 million, plus £1.7 million costs. And then there's Biffa Waste Services. Biffa's abysmal health and safety record has earned five entries in the HSE prosecutions database and 16 separate entries in the HSE notices database, including many stop work notices, over the same period. These incidents include the death of Charlie Smith, run over by a mechanical loader in 2006, for which it was fined £190,000, and the death of Ronald Trow, crushed by the tailgate of a lorry at a landfill in 2001, for which it was fined £30,000. Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson appointed Biffa veteran manager Peter Jones to be his waste management guru in August 2008. That says it all. Construction workers will protest outside Conservative headquarters on April 27 against the Tory plans to kill off safety inspections. I wish them well. One can only hope they register another protest on May 6 and use their votes to keep the Tories out of office and the HSE inspectors on dangerous sites.

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