When I heard that Richard Baker was leaving the Scottish Parliament early to take up a post with Age Scotland I was pleased for him. He had already decided that after the forthcoming election his career lay out with frontline politics and it is obviously very good news for him and his family that he secured an important role with a major charity as quickly as he did. It is a testament to him, his hard work and his campaigning over the years that he found a new role as quickly as he did.
I had the great pleasure of working closely with Richard over the years on various campaigns as he stood shoulder to shoulder with the Trade Union movement in Scotland on many important issues of law reform.
As much as Richard achieved during his time at Parliament there is some unfinished business. A tireless campaigner, Richard had been working on not one but two member’s bills, both of which are of significant importance to the entire Trade Union movement and for the safety of Scottish Worker’s across the country.
The Bills relate to Corporate Homicide; and the need to ensure that Scottish workers benefit from the same rights and protections under European Health & Safety laws as all of the other workers across the European Union.
We will set out the case for both Bills in more detail in other blogs during this week. The case for both can nevertheless be made succinctly here. Both Bills are about ensuring that Scottish workers have the full protection of the law and have the same level of protection as others. In the case of Corporate Homicide it is about ensuring that the law is capable of properly punishing corporate killers (which historically it simply was not) and ensuring that corporate criminals are treated no differently from other criminals, in the sense that the same legal test will be used to assess whether a company has committed corporate homicide as will be used in relation to an individual, club, partnership or other organisation.
In relation to European safety laws, the government at Westminster put back workers’ rights in terms of health and safety by more than a century at the stroke of a pen in Section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. Section 69 of the Enterprise Act removed from UK workers the benefits and protections under European health and safety law. The European Union has developed a strict and effective code of health and safety laws from which every worker across the entire European Union benefits; except, now, those in the United Kingdom. That right must be returned to Scottish workers in order that they have the same protections as other workers across the European Union.
Neither of Richard’s Bills was given enough parliamentary time during this session of the Scottish Parliament to make it fully through the legislative process. Both Bills will therefore form the legacy programme of the Scottish Parliament after the election in May. That is to say, the significant amount of work put into researching, consulting and preparing the Bills during this parliamentary term by Richard Baker means that the Bills will be ready to advance at speed as soon as the new parliament convenes after the election.
That will require one or two new MSPs to take up the cause. I have no doubt that will happen because the Bills are so important for workers’ rights and for Trade Unions as well as the fact that all of the work that Richard has done during the last four years on the Bills will make the task much lighter for whoever grabs the mantle. Thompsons will certainly provide full support to the Members and the major Trade Unions supporting the Bill will also be there to assist.
Together I am sure we can get both Bills on to the statute book. That will not only make a huge difference in a very practical way for the safety of Scottish workers but it will also be a fitting tribute to Richard Baker’s long and dedicated career as an MSP.