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Directors'duties Bill fails for lack of MPs

Too few MPs support Bill that would put directors in jail for health and safety offences

UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie has vowed to continue the fight for compulsory directors' duties on health and safety after a private members'Bill failed in the House of Commons last week.

The Health and Safety (Directors'Duties) Bill, introduced by backbencher Jim Sheridan, failed to pass its second reading on Friday because just 28 MPs supported it.

Under the legislation, all company directors would have to take reasonable steps to comply with health and safety law. Large companies would have to appoint health and safety information directors to spread best practice throughout the company.

At least 40 MPs have to support a Bill for the legislation to proceed to committee stage.

Mr Ritchie said: 'We are very disappointed with the outcome in the House.We are now going to use our Ucatt group of MPs to secure an amendment to the Government's corporate killing Bill to include compulsory directors' duties.'

The Government has promised to introduce a draft Bill on corporate killing but its proposals have been heavily delayed by concerns over crown immunity for civil servants.

The Bill will not include directors' duties, which the Government argues is covered by a voluntary code.

Although corporate killing legislation was a Labour manifesto pledge in 1997 and 2001, the draft Bill is unlikely to be published before May's expected general election.

Ucatt and transport union TGWU are pressing for compulsory duties because they view the current system of fines as inadequate and want the threat of prison sentences for directors.

Health and safety minister Jane Kennedy told MPs: 'We accept and recognise that a change in the law as proposed in the Bill may well assist prosecutions of errant directors of large companies.

'But it is far from clear what improvements in health and safety would result from the proposed changes.We must be sure that such a change in the law would have a major impact on reducing injury and ill health in the workplace.

At present, we do not have that confidence.'