Clause 10

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 31st October 2006.

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Power to order breach etc to be remedied

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles 10:30 am, 31st October 2006

I beg to move amendment No. 138, in page 7, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) A court may in making an order under subsection (1) impose on the organisation an order (a “Corporate Probation Order”) requiring it to take one or more of the following steps—

(a) make restitution to a person for any loss or damage that they suffered as a result of the offence;

(b) establish policies, standards and procedures to reduce the likelihood of the organisation committing a subsequent offence;

(c) communicate policies, standards and procedures established under subsection (1A)(b) to its representatives, employees and shareholders;

(d) report to the Court on the implementation of policies, standards and procedures established under subsection (1A)(b);

(e) identify the senior officer who is responsible for compliance with policies, standards and procedures established under subsection (1A)(b);

(f) provide in the manner specified by the court the following information to the public, and require the same to be recorded against the names ofthe directors of the company in the register at Companies House, namely—

(i) the offence of which the organisation was convicted;

(ii) the sentence imposed by the Court; and

(iii) any measures that the organisation is taking—including policies, standards and procedures established under subsection (1A)(b)—to reduce the likelihood of it committing a subsequent offence;

(g) comply with any reasonable conditions that the Court considers necessary to prevent the organisation from committing subsequent offences or to remedy the harm caused by the offences.

(1B) The Court shall, if it considers it appropriate, appoint another person or body to supervise the implementation of a Corporate Probation Order.’.

Good morning, Mr. Gale. I understand the limitations of the Bill, but I intend to prod and poke the Minister to see if he can create some option doorways that we can sensibly go through both before and after the Committee stage.

I have a trade union background. All members of the Committee bring experience of our personal background to our debates. I joined my trade union, the Transport and General Workers Union, at the age  of 15, on my first day of work. I have been a shop steward, a union health and safety rep and a full-time officer for 20 years. It is only right to say that the present Government are the first Government ever to have said that trade unions are a force for good. We should keep that in mind throughout the debateon amendment No. 138. The act of trade unions working in partnership with good employers has a democratising effect that is often hidden in a developed economy such as ours.

However, our backgrounds and formative experiences, important as they are, should inform our role as legislators not control it. Learned members of this Committee from the legal profession bring, among other things, the experience of interpreting law, acting as advocates and seeking remedies. Other members of the Committee have a trade union background and have been practitioners used to advising, representing, training and campaigning with workers to prevent accidents from happening at work. Trade unionsare a source of free legal advice and represent about7 million trade union members in the United Kingdom; in my view, that has always been one of the good reasons for joining a union. Both traditions, and others, have a role to play, but we are in Committee as legislators and our role is to make good law that is reasoned and appropriate—law that will be effective in acting as a deterrent and give the courts the tools to take the appropriate action through a spectrum of sanctions, penalties and remedies. In the wider sense, we must ensure that we make provision so that justice can be done and be seen to have been done.

Through amendment No. 138, we want to establish a duty for directors or other persons that would put the law on corporate manslaughter on a par with other legislation that affects the working environment. We want to give the courts the tools to improve remedial action to right a breach, and to set up a framework by which better corporate responsibility can be assured. Most importantly, we want to examine dispassionately the mechanisms and frameworks by which justice can be done. We must have regard to and ensure that there is public acceptance that we, as law makers, have not by our omissions left the courts with the concept of corporate manslaughter, but without the tools to enforce reasoned and appropriate penalties for the most serious breaches. We must consider fully whether there is any way in which we can identify a corporation that is responsible and a corporate representative duty—that is, identify who is responsible for the company’s acts or omissions. Otherwise, we may all fail in our responsibilities.

Clause 10 refers to remedial orders and the amendment refers to remedial and corporate probation orders for gross breach. Clause 10(1) states:

“A court before which an organisation is convicted of corporate manslaughter or corporate homicide may order it to take specified steps to remedy—

(a) the breach mentioned in section 1(1);

(b) any matter that appears to the court to have resulted from that breach and to have been a cause of the death.”

The amendment is designed to allow the remedy of restitution, to make clear what the court thinks ought to happen and to recognise that the current system of compensation alone is inadequate. The second part of  the amendment refers to a court having the power to impose a corporate probation order, requiring the company to take certain steps.

At this point, let me outline the Government’s current view, make a short statement on my understanding of directors’ duties and perhaps say a wee bit more about some of the proposed principles to be observed by the Macrory commission. My understanding of the current view is that although the UK has a strong health and safety record, there were 212 fatal injuries at work in 2004-05, and the law must provide a proper framework for holding companies and other organisations to account when management failings lie behind such deaths. Under current law, for a company to be prosecuted, the prosecution must first prove that a single person senior enough to embody the company—someone at the top of the organisation—is personally guilty of gross negligence. The Bill will introduce a criminal offence enabling juries to consider the overall picture of how an organisation’s activities were managed or organised, rather than focus on the actions of one individual. Prosecution for the offence will be reserved for the worst cases of mismanagement leading to death. I press the Government to reconsider whether that is enough. I again acknowledge the Bill’s limitations, but, as I said, the Minister might be able to open some doorways for a future stage of the Bill or beyond.

In the Bill, the Government have identified the concept of corporate manslaughter and of taking some sort of remedial action, through compensation and other provisions, that will allow companies to carry on and, hopefully, not to do again what they have done. My own view and that of my hon. Friends is that that is not enough.

Photo of Jim McGovern Jim McGovern Labour, Dundee West

I think that everyone accepts the legitimacy of a fine as a punishment, but perhaps it is not a sufficient deterrent in such situations. Does my hon. Friend agree that a smaller fine but a stronger focus on rectifying the breach might be a more appropriate sanction?

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I can see the rationale behind my hon. Friend’s statement, but I am not sure that I fully accept his point, because I think that the whole spectrum of sanctions should be available to courts, including smaller fines and more remedial action, as he suggests. However, I believe that it should go further to include a specified duty on an identified person and that the court should have the right, as it does under other legislation, to consider custodial sentences—

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman and I know precisely where he is coming from, but he is in grave danger of being out of order. The long title of the Bill, as he well knows, does not embrace individual responsibility. I have tried to give him some leeway, but he might find a little bit more if and when we reach clause 17. For the moment, however, I have to ask him to return to the amendment under discussion.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I accept that, Mr. Gale, but I seek further guidance, which I am sure you will give me in the proper spirit. I could have raised a point of order, because this has been a complex process. We have sought to table amendments to get behind the  Government’s thinking and perhaps even influence it, but we have encountered difficulties with the Public Bills Office—although the Clerks have been helpful. Some of our amendments had been accepted, but then that acceptance was withdrawn. That is not a matter for today, but I give notice that I intend to take that up, at least informally, after proceedings on the Bill have concluded. I beg your indulgence, Mr. Gale, because I have been coming at things from that point of view.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s dilemma, but the long title of the Bill is absolutely clear and its definition does not embrace individual responsibility. The hon. Gentleman will have to use other means and other powers of persuasion outside this room if he wishes to go down that road with Ministers or the Government generally. For the moment I am afraid that I cannot give him the leeway that he wants, much though I might wish to do so. He has to come back to the amendment under discussion.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I shall return to amendment No. 138, Mr. Gale, but I should like to outline some of the background before dealing with its relevant parts.

Although I mentioned earlier that we should consider this matter dispassionately, a few instructive cases will help us understand the clause and the amendment to it. The GMB union has done some good, groundbreaking work on health and safety issues and on violence at work, which is a related subject. Notwithstanding that work, four GMB members were thrown from a gantry moving under a bridge while they were carrying out repair work. There was no end stop on the rail and the gantry came off the rail and threw the men to their deaths. The companies involved were Yarm Road, formerly Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge Ltd, and Costain Ltd. A similar accident had happened some six months earlier, but without loss of life or injury. However, no action was taken to prevent it from happening again and the repeat accident ended in the deaths of four workers. The outcome of that was a verdict of unlawful killing. The companies were fined £500,000 between them for the breaches of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. It is likely that the companies would have been successfully prosecuted under the Bill; however, the courts will not be able to consider anything outside the sanctions in the Bill.

Despite the restrictions you have placed on my line of argument, Mr. Gale, I should just like to mention the case of the Whelan family, from whom I have received a letter that I should like to quote—not to express my personal view, but to show the feeling abroad outside the House and our world. With your permission, I shall quote Mrs. Whelan, who writes:

“I want to tell you how my son Craig died to show you the risks workers face and the injustice families face when someone is killed at work.

My son Craig worked for a company called Churchill’s Ltd. in Nottingham, which won a tender to demolish a chimney at Metal Box in Bolton on the basis of cost and not safety. His company offered to do it for £8,000. But other local companies, who had worked on the chimney in the past, were aware of the contents and the dangers of using hot cutting gear. They would only carry out the work using cold cutting gear and taking the chimney down from the outside. Because of the amount of equipment needed their prices for the job were between £20,000 and £30,000.”

Having explained what happened in the court case, Mrs. Whelan states:

“The company representatives then pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of breaching health and safety legislation...On Wednesday 12th June 2004 the three men...were convicted under the Health and Safety at Work Act on all counts, which they had originally been charged with, for manslaughter.”

Mrs. Whelan goes on to say that two were fined £7,500 each and the other £2,000. She continues:

“Because the manslaughter charges were dropped, no costs were awarded against the three men.

They pleaded guilty to knowing the contents of the chimney were unsafe and failing to pass the information on regarding the e-mail they received to either the company, Craig or Paul and to sending the two men back into the chimney and therefore to their deaths.”

The final part indicates the mind of parents who have gone through this experience. Mrs. Whelan concludes:

“In their last statement they said that they had not had sufficient training in Health and Safety. I ask: what training could these men be given that would have helped them to pass on the information stating, ‘WARNING, the contents of the chimney are flammable and toxic’?

In all cases of death by industrial incident, individual directors should be prosecuted.”

During our exchanges in Committee, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) has consistently argued that he is not in favour of sending people to prison for negligence. What has been going through my mind during our exchanges is that, in relation to the Bill, we are not talking about negligence but about exceptional cases of gross negligence. It is a matter not of whether there was an accident, but of whether it was proven at court that there had been wilful, gross negligence.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 10:45 am, 31st October 2006

At the risk of repeating myself, if there is gross negligence and evidence of individual acts of gross negligence, I am in favour of prosecuting somebody for manslaughter under the existing law. There is a big difference between gross negligence and negligence. I do not object to people being imprisoned if they commit acts of gross negligence but the law is already there to deal with that.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I did hear and I did understand the hon. Gentleman in the previous exchanges, but neither Mrs. Whelan nor I accept his opinion. Within the restrictions and limitations of the Bill, amendmentNo. 138 would establish the checks and balances and enable a signal to be sent to employers who are prepared to commit gross negligence—quite wilfully, Mrs. Whelan’s letter shows. The provision would restrict them from acting like that. It would act as a deterrent to companies in the same way that financial, environmental and food-processing laws do. We seek both equity within the law and the deterrence effect.

Through the proposed corporate probation orders, we want adequate action to be taken to raise awareness through training and so on to ensure that a company becomes safe before accidents happen. We hope that through the ability to require reports to the court

“on the implementation of policies, standards and procedures established under subsection (1A)(b)”, employers found guilty would be expected to comply thereafter and report to the court at regular intervals  during probation. We are hoping that a senior person would be identified as responsible for compliance with those policies, standards and procedures.

One question has eluded us in relation to the concept of corporate manslaughter: we are offering the concept to the courts but not offering them the ability to identify who is responsible. At the start of our consideration of the Bill, the Minister said that we are concerned with the how, not the who, but I say that we are concerned with both the how and the who, and I would welcome an amendment that would move toward something of that nature, because it would strengthen the Bill’s provisions on corporate probation. The other question that arises from identification of senior officers in proposed new paragraph (e) is who takes charge on behalf of the company.

Whenever a company is convicted of a serious breach, it should have a responsibility to report that breach to the shareholders. Opposition Members have sometimes toyed with the idea of naming and shaming, and I agree with them in that it would send a powerful signal to shareholders both that a breach would impinge on profitability and, more significantly, that people’s health and safety are more important than profitability in itself.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying about naming and shaming. Perhaps I am wrong, but I was under the impression that if one is found guilty of corporate manslaughter or corporate homicide under the Bill then, apart from it being reported in the press, one would also have to report it in the annual accounts. When the Minister replies will he make that clear?

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I do not wish to be presumptuous and answer on the Minister’s behalf, but my understanding is that the answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is no. I can see that the Minister is getting good advice from hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and it is all free, but I press him to go further in future and to consider sanctions against companies that have been found guilty, so that they would not be able to apply for any public money. I accept that there is a fine balance to be struck between ensuring that a company is allowed to stay in business if an incident falls short of death, while at the same time finding it guilty and applying a remedy, but further consideration could be given to the implications of being found guilty.

The key to the rest of the amendment is how, within the limitations of the Bill, to stop employers being put in a position where they have to take a chance in order to save money, and have to tip the balance away from their proper responsibilities for the health and well-being of their workers and of the public. In general, the Bill will bring a better situation into being, but it would be better still if the amendment were adopted. So I shall press not you, Mr. Gale, but the Minister—separately from the Committee—on some of the other concepts that I have attempted to raise to the best of my ability and with your indulgence.

To conclude my remarks on amendment No. 138, proposed new paragraph (g) refers to complying with any reasonable conditions that the court considers desirable to prevent an organisation from committing subsequent offences or to

“remedy the harm caused by the offences.”

No one could disagree with such a provision. It is the reasoned and appropriate action for a court to take when deciding to right a situation that is wrong. It would give the judge the flexibility to impose other conditions, such as director training. Training, like health and safety, is sometimes, for bad employers, the bit of their work that disappears in the pursuit of staying afloat. I am all for helping employers to remain viable. Business is the life blood of this country and it is what makes our wealth, but I am not in the business of allowing bad employers who play with people’s lives to stay afloat.

The intention behind the amendment is to allow the judge to take action to make the company safe. If a significant fine is the way to do that, I accept it. I return to the earlier comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. McGovern) about an appropriate mix of sanctions. I will press the Minister on Report about directors’ duties under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, but I shall be pleased if he will assist us in our deliberations between now and Report. I want to improve the Bill, but I give the Minister fair warning that the amendment, in itself, is not enough.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I am sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve. There might be some scope for doing more than just imposing a penalty and remedial orders. Indeed, as I have said, I have some doubt about the efficacy of remedial orders or the necessity of having them. I should prefer that clause 10 were altered to reflect, in part at any rate, some of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made.

The best that I can do is to run through the stepsthat the hon. Gentleman has identified in amendment No. 138 and explain why I think that some might be feasible and why others are probably not. Proposed new paragraph (a) states that a court may require an organisation to

“make restitution to a person for any loss or damage that they suffered as a result of the offence”.

Such a matter is covered under current health and safety at work legislation. Under the ordinary rules of court, it is possible to make a compensation order. However, in reality it is unusual for a compensation order to be made in a health and safety at work case. Judges have said once or twice that they might want to make such an order, but have been told by the parties present, including representatives of the prosecution, that it was probably not a good idea because, witha conviction for corporate manslaughter and a conviction under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act, civil compensation will follow automatically to the victim or the victim’s family.

The difficulty is that compensation needs to be calculated. Sometimes it has been done by the time the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act case came to court. It is usually powerful mitigation for the defence counsel to say, “I wish to tell your Honour that, in this case, compensation has been agreed with the relatives of the deceased person and has already been paid,” and that brings the matter to an end. In truth, criminal courts are not well placed to calculate complex compensation claims and, for that reason, they would probably not welcome the power to make a restitution order. In any event, the power to make a compensation order will already lie under the existing law.

Let us consider the establishment of policy standards and procedures, and how to communicate them. That bring me back to last Thursday’s debate about to what extent the court will be in a good position under clause 10 to provide for remedial orders to be made at all. As I said then, my view is that the Health and Safety Executive, the local authority or possibly one of the other enforcement agencies will have to spell out what is required.

If the judge is to be asked to do it, he will need advice on what needs to be done, which is one of the reasons why I have some anxiety about the remedial orders. However, that applies equally to what the hon. Member for Eccles (Ian Stewart) has set out in his amendment. Similarly, when we say “report to the court”, we must be a bit careful. When a court has completed such proceedings, it breaks up. A court can be reconstituted and the judge brought back, but I am not sure that the courts are well placed to deal with a return. Clearly, if a remedial order is breached, the case will presumably have to go back before a judge, or the judge who presides over the case, but the courts are not a monitoring body. Ultimately, that duty will fall again on the enforcement authority.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles 11:00 am, 31st October 2006

I have approached the matter in the spirit that we all bring expertise from our past histories. If the hon. Gentleman’s experience tells us that the court is not appropriate as it is structured, would he comment on whether it could be restructured, or might other regulatory bodies be more appropriate?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

From our debate on Thursday when we were considering remedial orders—the Minister might be able to help us as we develop the orders—I assume that if he wants remedial orders, the courts will have to have some mechanism by which to direct the appropriate enforcement authority to monitor their implementation. If an order is breached, that will be a criminal offence and will have to be brought back before the court on that charge or another charge.

That is already covered in clause 10. To that extent, I am not sure that the amendment’s proposed new subsections, (1A)(a) to (d), for instance, add very much to what I read to be already in the remedial orders proposed by the Minister. I continue to be anxious about how the measures will be implemented in practice, but he might be able to provide further reassurance today.

Because I do not want to sound too negative, I turn to the more positive aspects of the hon. Gentleman’s proposals. I leave the senior officer out of it for the moment to turn to the next page. To what extent can a naming and shaming procedure exist? I am not 100 per cent. sure that he has it right. I am not sure, for instance, to what extent the register at Companies House can be burdened with extraneous details—the hon. Gentleman knows that the information in the companies register at Companies House is fairly structured—but if that could be altered to include a register of any convictions against companies, I for one see no reason why it should not be done.

The danger, of which I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, is that if we start specifying too many things that might be recorded against companies, particularly  smaller companies, to their disadvantage at Companies House, a company will just be liquidated and a new company put quickly and cheaply in its place in order to avoid the recording of such information. That is a problem, as lifting the corporate veil to identify the continuity company will be problematic.

That said, requiring larger corporations, perhaps the more reputable ones, to include a record in their annual report to shareholders of any convictions that they have received as a result of their activities—including corporate manslaughter or, for that matter, breaches of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974—would be perfectly proper if we could find a way to do so. Some companies already acknowledge prosecutions under the 1974 Act; I have seen it on their annual accounts. Others, I dare say, try to brush it under the carpet. If the Minister feels that something like that could be done, I want to make it quite clear to him that I have no difficulty whatever with that. However, one has to bear in mind the loophole, which smaller companies in particular will exploit, of just shutting down the operation and starting again with a new name. Subject to the Minister’s views, it is difficult to see how we would get round that problem.

The register at Companies House is probably not the place to identify measures that an organisation is taking. The annual report to shareholders may be, though private companies do not have to prepare any such report. That is a difficult area and I should be interested to know whether the Minister can assist.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Conservative, Hornchurch

Obviously, if companies prepare an annual report and accounts, they are required to file them with Companies House. That may be a method of addressing how to put things on the public record for such companies and provide the disclosure that we have been discussing.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I was thinking of the register entries, but if one can get access to filed accounts, they could contain the information that a bare register entry may not.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

I know from a previous life, when I worked with the Minister, that he once had responsibility for such matters. He is aware of the Companies House facility, and he was at pains to impress upon me how well Companies House is developing its service through new technology. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, along with us, put our minds to finding solutions, we could be of great assistance to the Minister.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

Let me make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I am no expert on the operation of the Companies Act—neither the current one, nor the Companies Bill that is currently going through Parliament; it is not my field of law. I have at times asked for company entries from Companies House when prosecuting, and sometimes there have been quite complex issues on who was the employer under the Act in a prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act. Some slippery customers tried to say that they  were the people doing the undertaking, but that they did not employ anybody, and we would have to ferret away on that. The Minister knows more about it than I, but I am sympathetic to the points made by the hon. Member for Eccles.

I see some practical problems with identifying senior officers responsible for compliance, because the officer may change. Indeed, in some cases the senior officer for compliance at the date of the corporate manslaughter conviction may well not be the officer 24 hours later, if he was there at the time when the accident actually occurred. I also have a slight concern about pillorying individuals. The whole point of the corporate manslaughter conviction is that it is a corporate failure—a group failure. There is a risk that it may be unfair if a senior officer is spelt out in a judgment as having an individual responsibility, because it may be his predecessor or other people in the corporate structure who are as much at fault as he is. Subject to that caveat, I reiterate that if there is a way forward on publicly identifying the conviction and recording it, I for one have no objection in principle to that. Publicising the fact that a corporate entity has been convicted may have an effect.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Good morning, Mr. Gale. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Eccles, for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd), and for Dundee, West for proposing the amendment. It continues the debate that we had on Thursday afternoon, and in connection with clause 1, on remedial orders. I do not doubt the sincerity and strength of feeling of my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles in moving the amendment. As you pointed out in your effective chairing of the Committee, he strayed a little into individual liability, which I know is his motivation. However, you were quite correct, Mr. Gale, to remind my hon. Friend that this is about corporate manslaughter, which is what has motivated the Government to advance the Bill.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

The dilemma that I and others face is that a corporation could be described as nothing more than a piece of paper. How can a piece of paper be sent to prison? How does the Minister deal with the issue of who represents the corporation, as in finance and other legal cases?

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend tempts me to discuss something that I am sure we will talk about later in relation to clause 17, but I hope he does not mind if I do not get dragged down that route immediately.

I put on the record my condolences and regrets to Mrs. Whelan and her family. All hon. Members share our motivation in trying to resolve this matter. We are trying to find ways to prevent companies from acting as some do. The Government’s view is that the corporate element—through corporate manslaughter—is the missing part of the process. The way that the Committee has addressed this matter, and the way in which it was dealt with on Second Reading, shows our united approach in trying to resolve the climate and culture that exists in a small minority of companies that do not act in the best interests of their employees.

My hon. Friend said in his opening remarks that he was going to prod, provoke and warn me.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

Oh, I did not say “provoke”—I would never provoke my hon. Friend.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can assure my hon. Friend that he did provoke me.

It is important that we focus on what we can do about companies. Many interesting ideas were advanced. Amendment No. 138 would give the courts the power to issue probation orders to organisations convicted of the new offence. We discussed that during the debate on clause 1, when I referred to the Macrory review of regulatory penalties, which is due to report in the near future. It would be wrong for me to pre-empt the findings of Professor Macrory, which will in any case apply to a wider range of circumstances than corporate manslaughter. I am prepared to consider corporate probation and the lessons of what went on in Canada, where there have been some useful experiences. There are matters that I should like to consider, in the spirit in which my hon. Friend moved the amendment, and corporate probation is one of them.

My hon. Friend was kind enough to say that I had experience of the matter relating to Companies House. I visited Companies House in Cardiff to see how it is changing from paper to new technology and found that there is a great deal of progression in the way that it is operating. That might be something to consider.

The hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) spoke about the reports and accounts, which made me think about what was going on in the Department for Trade and Industry at the time and is now part of current legislation. The corporate social responsibility and financial monitoring reports are elements of the process that could contain aspects relevant to companies convicted under the Bill. I am prepared to consider that and see what we can doabout it.

My hon. Friend admitted that many areas of concern relate not to the Bill, but to the 1974 Act. In the spirit that the hon. Member for Beaconsfield mentioned it, I can report that my hon. Friends and I have had a useful meeting with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to consider what aspects of the 1974 Act could be considered. Although we still favour the corporate manslaughter route, elements of the 1974 Act can be considered. I am happy to pursue those discussions, as I am happy to discuss matters with the Department for Trade and Industry. Matters relating to the new Companies Bill can be looked at.

I hope that the Committee gets the impression that I am trying proactively to consider what can be done about reparation and ensuring that companies know what their position is.

The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) talked about the requirement relating to company accounts. Convicted companies will be reported by the HSE on its website and the conviction will also be on the police national computer. There will be an opportunity for naming and shaming in addition to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles. We are discussing a difficult issue. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield said, it may be contentious and might  not be appropriate in certain circumstances, but I am willing to consider it and, in that spirit, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles 11:15 am, 31st October 2006

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. It has the potential to create opportunity doorways. Before we finish discussing the amendment, I wish to press him further on the limitations of the existing legislation and the sanction of fines. To me, £100,000 sounds like a great deal of money but, as in the Samuel Adams case when a young boy was killed in a major shopping centre, the owners of the centre had billions of pounds. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West said earlier, does my hon. Friend the Minister realise that the scale of the sanction of only fines can pale into insignificance with such serious incidents as death?

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I support what my hon. Friend said. We are willing to look at such matters. The Bill refersto unlimited fines and I consider them to be proportionate to how a company operates, its turnover and its assets. My hon. Friend took us down an interesting route when he talked about the company not being able to apply for public funds. I am not sure that I want to go down that particular road becausethe issues are about changing the culture of an organisation and making sure that the penalty meets the crime. However, under the amendment, the reparatory orders and the issue of probation, I am sure that between us we can come up with a solution that meets those requirements. The Bill is about making sure that companies do the right thing.

Photo of Jim McGovern Jim McGovern Labour, Dundee West

On the subject of identification, does the Minister agree that often it is not so much the organisation that make the changes, but the senior managers? By allowing a judge to identify a specific manager, the clause would reflect more accurately the means by which an organisation could remedy a given situation.

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, but the hon. Member for Beaconsfield made the point that senior managers can change and that the difficulty lies in how that is identified. As for the idea of corporate probation, let us consider what happens in Canada where certain positions are identified as being responsible. I shall consider the matter; it is not something that I am saying no to. I shall come back on Report to see what can be done. With that explanation, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

This debate, like the rest of the Committee’s work, has been interesting. Serious work has been undertaken. It has been not only explorative, but it has tried to identify those opportunity doorways to which I have referred both under the Bill and in other legislation. I am happy that the Minister has given commitments that the matter will be explored further. In the hope that I do not need to come back on Report with advice and amendments to improve the Bill and that we would have concluded matters before then, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 11 and 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.