Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 18th July 2007.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 4:00 pm, 18th July 2007

Having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, I have to admit that there is a certain irony to this debate. I wonder what would have happened if the Government had originally included deaths in custody as part of the body of the Bill—that is the form in which it now appears—and if the provisions on death in custody had come in with all the other orders. The usual assumption made in Parliament is that if the Government are legislating, they wish to implement something. My experience, from my five or six years' involvement with criminal justice legislation, has led to the realisation that much of the legislation that the Government pass never gets implemented; indeed, at times in the past five years, I have participated in the repeal of legislation that, having been put on the statute book two or three years earlier, was never brought into force by order.

In a sense, the Government are hoist with their own petard. They displayed massive intransigence about the whole concept of deaths in custody, particularly in the persona of the previous Home Secretary, who came to the House on Report and expressed himself in vituperative terms on the mere suggestion that deaths in custody should be included in the body of the legislation. The Government now find themselves facing a serious crisis of confidence over their willingness ever to implement, or at least within a reasonable time frame, what many Members on both sides of the House regard as a very important part of the legislation.

So we find ourselves arguing over a single issue: how long it will take to implement what is now pretty much in proper form for deaths in custody. Although we have never laid a benchmark for the implementation of other parts of the Bill because we are confident that the Government will move swiftly to observe the terms of the Warwick agreement, quite apart from the consensus across the House that it is a beneficial piece of legislation, we are arguing over the fact that the Government have been dragged reluctantly into including deaths in custody and now wish to postpone the evil day for as long as possible. I am not surprised that the other place has become increasingly insistent that 18 months ought to be sufficient.

That raises a difficult issue for the right hon. Gentleman. Throughout the passage of the Bill, the last thing that I have wanted to do is to make party political capital, but a period of five to seven years is a long time.