Campaigners are dismayed to learn that the corporate responsibility law has been put back once again
The Government’s long-awaited law on corporate killing has fallen by the
wayside yet again.
Health and safety campaigners had been hoping the law – designed to make it
easier for victims of accidents or their families to bring prosecutions against
organisations that fail in their health and safety duties – would be included
in November’s Queen’s Speech.
But there was no sign of it and no indication from the Government of when
parliamentary time might be found for it, although ministers stress they are
still committed to implementation.
A Home Office spokesman told Occupational Health: "There is a manifesto
commitment to legislate on increasing the liability of corporations to
manslaughter. It was not in the Queen’s Speech, but that does not preclude it
from being included in this or a future session of Parliament." He added:
"We shall still legislate when Parliamentary time allows."
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw promised the law back in 1997, in the wake
of the Southall rail crash.
When time is found for it – which may not be until 2004 – it is expected the
law will mean organisations will have to nominate a director who will be
responsible for health and safety, and who could even face a jail term if
standards fall below an agreed minimum.
Health and safety campaigners fear the delay is the result of lobbying by
employers and have reacted with dismay to yet another delay.
David Bergman, director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability, said:
"It is five years since the Government promised to reform the law of
corporate manslaughter – yet there will still be more delays."
But employers welcomed the delay, with the Engineering Employers’ Federation
saying that as it stood, the legislation would have been unfair, although in
principle the Government was on the right lines.
The CBI called for the Government and industry to continue to work together
to come up with a long-term solution.