Government pushed on corporate killing

Home Office ministers face criticism today for delays in introducing a law of corporate manslaughter to help prosecute company directors after major disasters such as the Paddington rail crash.

The Labour MP Andrew Dismore, a former personal injuries lawyer, will increase the pressure for action by unveiling his bill to implement a law of corporate homicide.

"It has been hanging around since the report of the Law Commission in 1996," he said. "The Government set up an inter-departmental working party to look at it. It reported in the autumn."

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, is pressing for tougher laws on corporate manslaughter after the Marchioness pleasure boat tragedy. The 1987 Appeal Court ruling in the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster established that a charge of corporate man- slaughter can be brought against named individuals in companies, but the prosecution has to prove they have "controlling" responsibility.

Mr Dismore's bill will try to hold directors responsible for a system failure in safety which led to an accident. Under US corporate manslaughter laws companies and executives can be liable to fines running into millions of dollars in addition to compensation claims.