The Bill will, for the first time, remove Crown immunity to prosecution. It is a significant step that raises a number of practical issues that the Bill must deal with, particularly the fact that the offence is one that is committed by organisations and not by individuals, but the vast majority of Crown bodies, such as Departments, do not have their own legal identity distinct from the Crown. A mechanism is therefore needed to identify those organisations that operate on behalf of the Crown and against which proceedings for the new offence could be taken. The purpose of schedule 1 is to identify those bodies and others in a similar position.
There is no need, however, for the list to cover public bodies that are incorporated, because they will be covered automatically by the offence. They include a wide range of bodies in the public sector such as local authorities, NHS hospital trusts and other NHS bodies and a wide range of statutory non-departmental bodies as diverse as the Health and Safety Executive, the Parole Board and the Civil Aviation Authority. Few such organisations have Crown immunity. They are therefore already liable to prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter.
The schedule therefore focuses on ministerial and non-ministerial Departments. We have identified a number of further departments that must be added to the schedule. They are the Assets Recovery Agency,the Central Office of Information, the GeneralRegister Office for Scotland, the Land Registry, the National Archives, the National Archives of Scotland, National Savings and Investments, the Office for National Statistics, Ordnance Survey, Registers of Scotland, the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, the Royal Mint and UK Trade and Investment.
We also propose to add to the schedule three statutory bodies: the Welsh Assembly Government, the National Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Audit Office, which are all statutory organisations that are not incorporated and therefore need to be listed to ensure that the offence applies. On the other hand, the schedule will not list all Departments, because a number are incorporated and will be covered by the offence without being listed in the schedule. They include Northern Ireland Departments, the Office of Fair Trading, the Food Standards Agency, the Office of Rail Regulation and the Postal Services Commission.
The amendments will remove a further two bodies from the list because they are becoming bodies corporate. One is the Charities Commission, which is due to become incorporated as a result of the Charities Bill.
When the Bill becomes law, as I assume it will, if other Government agencies are set up or change their structure and become corporate, will there be a mechanism to bring them into its ambit or to remove them from it?
I hope to explain that further during my speech.
As I said, the Charities Commission is due to be incorporated under the Charities Bill. The Office for Standards in Education will become a body corporate under the Education and Inspections Bill. In addition, the Office of the International Rail Regulator is removed from the list because it has been abolished. The reference to the Public Records Office is removed because it is now part of National Archives, which has been added to the list.
References to the Scotland Office and the Wales Office are also removed under amendments Nos. 26 and 28 because although they are technically Departments, both bodies are administratively a part of the Department for Constitutional Affairs and, for practical purposes, it is that body that should be responsible for the duties of care owed to staff and others. Generally, no further clarification would be needed that the listing of a Department included all its associated bodies. For example, although the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt and the Public Works Loans Board are both non-ministerial Departments, they are both also part of the United Kingdom Debt Management Office, an executive agency of the Treasury, and therefore covered by the listing of that Department. However, as there are separate Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, the better approach is to clarify that the entry for the Department for Constitutional Affairs includes the Scotland Office and the Wales Office. Amendment No. 10 achieves that.
I have mentioned Executive agencies and some hon. Members will have spotted that a number of bodies included in the schedule are Executive agencies. Our approach is to list all Departments, whether or not they are also Executive agencies. In other cases, Executive agencies will be fully a part of their parent Department. There is a degree of managerial independence, but no formal separation. It is not our intention, in applying the offence to the Crown, to alter the relationships between Departments and agencies by introducing any formal separation through the provision of independent criminal liability. That does not mean that fatalities associated with Executive agencies will not be covered by the offence. The listing of a Department covers its associated agencies.
I am conscious that I have spoken at some lengthhopefully with some clarityon this group of amendments and, in doing so, I have had described them in the wider context of how the schedule operates and the policy behind the compilation of this list.
Amendments made: No. 8, in page 14, line 5, at end insert
Central Office of Information.
No. 9, in page 14, leave out line 6.
No. 10, in page 14, line 10, at end insert
(including the Scotland Office and the Wales Office).
No. 11, in page 14, line 21, at end insert
General Register Office for Scotland.
No. 12, in page 14, line 22, at end insert
Her Majestys Land Registry.
No. 13, in page 14, line 26, at end insert
No. 14, in page 14, line 26, at end insert
National Archives of Scotland.
No. 15, in page 14, line 26, at end insert
National Audit Office.
No. 16, in page 14, line 26, at end insert
National Savings and Investments.
No. 17, in page 14, line 26, at end insert
Northern Ireland Audit Office.
No. 18, in page 14, line 29, at end insert
Office for National Statistics.
No. 19, in page 14, leave out line 30.
No. 20, in page 14, leave out line 33.
No. 21, in page 14, line 33, at end insert
No. 22, in page 14, leave out line 36.
No. 23, in page 14, line 36, at end insert
Registers of Scotland Executive Agency.
No. 24, in page 14, line 36, at end insert
Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office.
No. 25, in page 14, line 36, at end insert
No. 26, in page 14, leave out line 37.
No. 27, in page 15, line 1, at end insert
UK Trade and Investment.
No. 28, in page 15, leave out line 2.
No. 29, in page 15, line 2, at end insert
Welsh Assembly Government.[Mr. Sutcliffe.]