The new law is intended to replace the present corporate manslaughter legislation that has proved toothless in prosecuting companies or individuals showing negligence - there have been only three convictions in 30 years. How the law will apply to fleet decision-makers and their drivers remains undefined, and John Gilbert, a Home Office official working on the Bill, admitted there was much that needed clarifying.
He said: 'If a company trains, supervises and does check-ups on its drivers, and then a driver, against the advice given, goes haring down the road and causes an accident, the company can say 'we have done all that is reasonable'. It's a difficult issue and difficult to predict how it develops. If it is going to work, each individual case will need to be looked at.'
The Labour Party made a manifesto commitment in the recent election to introduce the Bill, but has now confirmed that it is unlikely to be enacted in the first parliament of the new Government. The Home Office is unclear about when the corporate killing bill will become law.
Speaking at a British Safety Council conference in London on the subject, Keith Bradley, new Minister of State at the Home Office, said: 'It is unlikely to come in the next Queen's Speech. However, there is a manifesto commitment in this term of office.' He confirmed that the Government still has many issues to resolve with the corporate killing Bill that will encompass the huge area of health and safety across all industries and working practices.
Despite the confusion surrounding the corporate killing proposals, Sir Neville Purvis, the BSC's director-general, said: 'I believe we need a tougher law to target repeat offenders - those who, by neglect, are putting people's health and even lives at risk. But those with good safety records should have nothing to fear.'