Intelligence Briefing - 19 February 2010

Published: 19/02/2010

EEF's weekly briefing on the issues affecting manufacturers including an update on the new health and safety penalties, as well as our regular round up of how we are representing manufacturers and the latest economic indicators.

Manufacturing Week, 1-5 March 2010

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Regulation watchdog lobbied on manufacturing redtape

EEF this week met with Philip Rycroft, head of the government’s Better Regulation Executive. Amongst issues discussed were potential new health and safety duties on directors and the European Works Council Directive (see below). We also met representatives of the recently-formed Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), an independent body charged with scrutinising the process of developing new regulations. Specifically, the RPC will focus on the quality and robustness of the evidence base supporting policy decisions. EEF stressed the importance of ensuring that alternatives to regulations are considered first and then ensuring that the actual impacts are properly understood when designing new proposals.

For further information contact Stephen Radley, Director of Policy and External Affairs.

Members press Commission on health and safety directives

The senior European Commission official responsible for both the Electro-Magnetic Fields and the Optical Radiation Directives met with members of EEF’s occupational health and safety policy committee this week. This gave the group the chance to discuss specific concerns with these key EU dossiers and the broader policy and better regulation agenda under a new Commission.

For further information contact Jennifer Huckstep, Senior External Affairs Adviser

Government urged to minimise impact of new European legislation

We have this week responded to draft Regulations implementing the recast of the European Works Council (EWC) Directive. This Directive set out rules for information and consultation arrangements for companies with at least 1,000 employees in total, of which at least 150 are located two EU countries. Our response argues that the new UK legislation must ‘protect’ existing EWC Agreements, so that they will continue to be subject to the current legislation, and that the draft Regulations are restructured so that employers with the different types of EWC agreements can more easily understand which parts of this new legislation will apply to them.

For further information contact David Yeandle, Head of Employment Policy

Environment Agency launches Regulatory Business Forum

EEF were invited as a ‘critical friend’ to the Environment Agency’s inaugural Regulatory Business Forum. The forum - a high level strategic meeting, between the regulator, industry and government - was established to inform how the Agency is performing now and in the future against better regulation principles. EEF were supported by other industry bodies in stressing the importance of regulatory strategies providing long-term certainty for business, and that the Agency’s activity should be focussed on outcomes rather than processes.

For more information contact Kevin Considine, Senior Climate & Environment Policy Adviser

Latest pay bulletin published

The average level of pay settlements in manufacturing has risen slightly according to our latest Pay Bulletin figures. However, the overall levels remain at a historic low demonstrating the impact of continued tough trading conditions on companies.

For further information contact David Yeandle, Head of Employment Policy

Weekly Focus

New health and safety penalties

Last week new sentencing guidelines were introduced for both corporate manslaughter and any health and safety offences which result in death.

EEF was instrumental in getting government to rethink their original proposals that would have seen fines of between 5 and 10% of turnover.

The new guideline states that fines for organisations found guilty of corporate manslaughter will seldom be below £500,000 and may be millions of pounds, they would be accompanied by a publicity order requiring that they publicise their guilt. For health and safety offences that cause death, fines should normally not be less than £100,000 and may be measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds or more.

Whilst tough, these are a very significant improvement on the original proposals. EEF’s meetings with the Sentencing Guidelines Council helped persuade them that basing fines solely on turnover was far too crude and would result in disproportionately high fines for many manufacturing companies.

For further information contact Steve Pointer, Head of Health and Safety Policy

In the news

This week our new Environment Survey was featured in the Financial Times and the Times. You can also read more about Manufacturing Week in the Birmingham Post, Liverpool Daily Post and The Manufacturer.

Week in Review

Consumer Price Index

CPI inflation rose to an annual rate of 3.5% in January, up from 2.9% in December. RPI inflation jumped again to 3.7% in January, up from an annual rate of 2.4% in December. RPI inflation excluding mortgage interest payments jumped to an annual rate 4.6%.

Average earnings

The annual rate of earnings growth across the economy was 0.8% in the three months to December, unchanged from November. In manufacturing, annual average earnings growth including bonuses jumped to 2.2% in the three months to December, up from 1.7% in November.

Labour market

The ILO measure of unemployment fell by 3,000 to 2.457 million in the three months to December. The three-month unemployment rate came in unchanged at 7.8%.The claimant count measure of unemployment – which records the number of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance – rose by 23,500 to 1.636 million.

Retail sales

Poor winter weather drove UK retail sales down by 1.8% between December and January, the sharpest drop in 18 months.

MPC minutes

The minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee’s February meeting showed that it voted unanimously to halt its quantitative easing programme of pumping money into the economy by buying government bonds.

The week ahead

Thursday 25th: Business Investment 2009 Q4
Friday 26th: GDP 2009 Q4 (2nd Estimate); GfK Consumer Confidence (Feb)

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