Blunkett promises draft of corporate killing legislation

Home
secretary said a timetable for the Bill will be published this autumn

The
Government’s long-awaited legislation on corporate man-slaughter is set to
become a reality, after home secretary David Blunkett said a draft Bill would
be published.

A
timetable for the legislation and a clearer outline of what it will contain
will be published in the autumn.

The
legislation was a 1997 manifesto commitment and health and safety campaigners
have become impatient waiting for it to be introduced.

Blunkett
stressed the legislation would target companies rather than the criminal
liability of individual directors, an idea that had been floated in the past.

“The
law needs to be clear and effective in order to secure public confidence. It
must bite properly on large corporations whose failure to set or maintain
standards causes a death. It is not targeted at conscientious companies that
take their health and safety responsibilities seriously,” he said.

Pressure
had been growing on the Government on this issue since 1997, and in 2000 it
published a consultation paper on reforming the law of corporate manslaughter.

Labour
MP Andrew Dismore also recently tabled an amendment to the Government’s
Criminal Justice Bill, designed to tackle the issue.

Any
new laws will be part of the new Bill, not the Criminal Justice Bill, ministers
stressed.

The
TUC welcomed the move, with general secretary Brendan Barber describing it as
“a welcome boost for health and safety at work”.

The
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) described the Government plan as
“common sense”, arguing that Dismore’s amendments had been too harsh on
business.

Michael
Roberts, CBI director of business environment, said: “It is absolutely right
that negligent firms should be prosecuted for gross misconduct that leads to
death. But responsible firms with good health and safety practices must be
treated fairly. We are particularly pleased the Government has avoided the
temptation to target individual directors.”

Blunkett
stressed unions, companies and business leaders would all be consulted on the
plans.

The
Government had carried out an impact assessment, and preliminary indications
were that the costs of a change in the law would not be large, he added.

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