Schedule 6

Serious Crime Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 3 July 2007.

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Minor and consequential amendments: Part 2

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 6:45, 3 July 2007

I beg to move amendment No. 146, in schedule 6, page 66, line 41, at end insert—

‘Section 29(6)(i) of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (c. 25) (meaning of “terrorism offence” for purpose of requirement to hold preparatory hearing).’.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendment No. 147.

Government new clause 9—No individual liability in respect of corporate manslaughter.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The speed with which the Committeeis working this afternoon is extremely impressive, Mr. Benton; it must have something to do with your chairmanship.

The amendments and the new clause tidy up two aspects of part 2. Government amendments Nos. 146 and 147 relate to schedule 6. The schedule lists various references in current legislation to the common law offence of incitement, which we are now putting on a statutory footing. Clause 58(1) provides that, following the commencement of part 2, those references should be read as references to the offences in clauses 41, 42 and 43.

The amendments add a couple of references to schedule 6. The result is that they will be read also as references to the new offences of assisting and encouraging in clauses 41 to 43. Government  amendment No. 146 adds the reference to the common law offence of incitement in section 29(6)(i) of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996; it sets out the meaning of “terrorism offence” for the purpose of the requirement to hold a preparatory hearing. Government amendment No. 147 adds the reference to paragraph 12(b) of schedule 1 to the Terrorism Act 2006, which refers to inciting a convention offence. That will now be read as a reference to the offences in part 2. The amendments put the old common law offences on a statutory footing.

Government new clause 9 deals with the relationship between the new offences of encouraging and assisting, and the new offence of corporate manslaughter. As the Committee will know, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill has yet to complete its proceedings in Parliament, and we need to consider the application of part 2 of the Serious Crime Bill in that context.

Many of those who participated in discussions on the corporate manslaughter Bill, which I may yet be dealing with, will be aware that the new offence is aimed at holding organisations to account for gross corporate negligence that kills someone. Because it is targeted at corporate negligence, the offence applies to the organisation and not to individuals. Secondary liability is specifically excluded. That point was considered at length in the context of the corporate manslaughter Bill, and we obviously cannot reopen that debate today. However, there is some overlap between the new “assisting and encouraging” offences and the current rules of secondary liability.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill therefore needs to be updated to reflect those new offences. That will go slightly further that the corporate manslaughter Bill does at present, because liability will also be excluded if the primary offence—that of corporate manslaughter—has not been committed. That is currently covered by the law on incitement, and the Serious Crime Bill does not specifically exclude liability in that respect.

The prospect of prosecutions for inciting the new offence is remote in practice, but that does not mean that things should not be tidied up. There is some doubt as to whether a company can be incited under the criminal law, and there are particular difficulties with the notion of encouragement in that context, other than in circumstances where all the relevant fault lies with an individual. That would be dealt with under the current law of manslaughter, rather than through the corporate manslaughter Bill.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Opposition Whip (Commons)

Obviously, the corporate manslaughter Bill has yet to complete its passage through Parliament. It is extremely controversial, however, and it is possible that agreement will not be reached between our House and the other place.

What happens in such circumstances?

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Ping-pong. However, I need not detain the Committee in that regard, because we believe that it makes more sense to exclude all applications of part 2—the issue that we are dealing with in respect of this Bill—to corporate manslaughter. In that sense, it does not matter how the Bill ends up. We need to ensure that  any important references relate directly across the Bills, and we will remove this addition if the corporate manslaughter Bill is not passed. The key point is that if that Bill falls as a result of ping-pong, we will not need to make the cross-references. I hope that that explains the amendment.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I hear what the Minister says about the detailed and technical nature of most of the amendments. May I put on record the fact that in not seeking to oppose new clause 9 at this stage, we are not in any way rowing back on any of the concerns that we have expressed about the corporate manslaughter Bill? On the basis of the Minister’s assurances that if that  Bill is not passed, new clause 9 will be removed on Report, we are happy to welcome the amendments as being of a technical nature, and will not seek to oppose them.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 147, in schedule 6, page 68, line 12, at end insert—

‘Paragraph 12(b) of Schedule 1 to the Terrorism Act 2006(c. 11) (Convention offences).’.—[Maria Eagle.]

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 59 to 62 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

Adjourned accordingly at seven minutes to Seven o’clock till Thursday 5 July at Nine o’clock.