Fleet News

New driver safety laws on the cards

FLEETS are being warned to prepare for new legislation banning the use of hand-held mobile telephones in cars and on corporate manslaughter, despite the two issues being left out of the Queen's speech.

The Home Office has swiftly dismissed accusations that it had ditched laws on corporate manslaughter because it was absent from the Queen's statement made last week.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: 'We are committed to legislation on corporate manslaughter. It doesn't mean it has been dropped just because there was no mention of it in the Queen's speech.

'This is a very busy parliamentary session, and if time can be found for a Bill on corporate manslaughter, it will be included.'

However, experts predict that because Parliament is so busy trying to introduce other legislation, it could take more than a year for any Bill to be introduced that would make employers liable if they failed in their duty of care to company car and van drivers on the road.

David Faithful, partner at solicitor Amery-Parkes, believes next year's parliamentary schedule will be too busy to fit in the new corporate manslaughter laws that would put executives in the dock if employees caused a road fatality as a direct result of company policy, such as forcing staff to speed between appointments to keep to schedules.

He said: 'Consultation on the shape of any law could take until 2003, so legislation might not appear until 2004, unless Parliamentary time can be found for it towards the end of the session.

'We know the Health and Safety Executive does not have the money to enforce such a law at the moment, and 2004 would be about the same time as funds were available for it.'

But he agreed that just because the legislation was not mentioned in the Queen's speech did not mean it had been dropped.

For example, there was no mention of a ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, but this is widely expected to be in force before the end of 2003, once consultation on the proposals finishes on Monday.

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