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banner Monday, 25 September, 2000, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Monday news in brief
The government has promised the biggest shake-up in health and safety laws in a quarter of a century, pledging a new crackdown on company directors.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said directors whose negligence cost lives should not be allowed to get away "scot-free".

Once Lord Cullen's inquiry into rail safety has been completed, a new law will be introduced aimed at improving travel and health and safety at work, said Mr Prescott.

But a firm of employment lawyers, Thompsons, said it did not believe Mr Prescott was going far enough, arguing that automatic jail sentences should be brought in for company executives who flout health and safety laws.

Countryside campaigners today accused Labour of "stifling" liberty and risking the creation of a society of "Stasi and thought police", after the party banned their press conference in the main hotel in Brighton.

Furious members of the Countryside Alliance, who are leading the battle against the government's proposed anti-hunting Bill, said Brighton council had also blocked a planned poster on the beach.

The latest moves come after a row over the cancellation of a reception that the Leave Country Sports Alone Campaign was to have held in the Grand Hotel inside the main security cordon.

Chairman of the Countryside Alliance John Jackson said: "There was no concern about police security. The Labour Party appears to have been hijacked by dishonourable people prepared to use dishonourable methods to stifle the free expression of opinion and criticism."

The shopworkers' union, Usdaw, has urged the government to introduce legislation to prevent shops being allowed to open on Christmas Day.

Bill Connor said there was growing pressure among retailers to open 365 days a year, which put pressure on workers who felt obliged to work.

Mr Connor told delegates that if Christmas Day opening became widespread it would destroy an important day for many families.

"Christmas Day is the only day left that people can spend time with their families. It is particularly important for children... and we as a family-friendly party should oppose opening on Christmas Day," he said.

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