This will be a criminal law, with penalties stretching to life imprisonment. Such a law must be fair and rigorous. Sloppy performance over safety cannot be tolerated. But it must also be clear. When I pointed out some of the issues that could arise, I was criticised in another publication by a TUC senior official for evading responsibility or seeking loopholes. I was doing no such thing. I spent 18 years as a legislator, including service on the committee of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. I have seen too many laws that did not work properly because their specific implications had not been thought through.
The Home Office is now working out the details of the law. Here are some construction issues which need consideration:
Sir John Egan's Strategic Forum is considering a shake-up of construction safety regulations, possibly involving the end of planning supervisors or changes to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. Any corporate killing law will need to take account of such changes. Will the new standards for construction be incorporated within the new law? Will the law be able to take account of new construction industry requirements when the Health and Safety Executive updates them in future years?
Laws, writs, fines, and jail are necessary as a back-up to decent standards and any new law will have my support
Suppose, tragically, that a self-employed man working for a labour agency is killed. There had been a proper site safety induction and responsible supervision, but a terrible accident still occurred. Will the main contractor, the lead subcontractor or the labour agency be criminally liable? Under the criminal law, you cannot prosecute "everyone". You have to establish clear lines of responsibility if a judge is to allow a jury to convict specific individuals. A corporate killing law prosecutes directors or managers, not just corporate entities.