This is NOT the official weblog of Mark Thomas; this is a place to post his articles and news to bring them to a wider audience. This blog is in no way endorsed by the activist/comedian Mark Thomas. Most of the posts appeared on - hopefully they won't object to them being republished here.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I want to see the Queen in court

Knee problems aside Elizabeth Windsor doesn't really have to worry much about industrial accidents in her job. OK there is the possibility of Repetitive Strain Injury what with the constant waving and it certainly looks like protective goggles would be needed if dining in the immediate vicinity of Prince Philip. Other than that Mrs Windsor has nothing to moan about expect maybe the fact that one or two of the previous job holders have suffered the social stigma of beheading.

Generally, the aristocracy can only really count gout, syphilis and falling off polo ponies as health and safety issues and they are more occupational hazards. Industrial accidents are what happens to the servants, who along with the normal safety issues have to contend with blunderbusts, falling dead pheasants and slipping on discarded royal lubricants.

Fortunately for Mrs Windsor there is a legal nicety called "Crown Immunity." Basically it means the Crown can't prosecute the Crown, so Crown bodies, like prisons, government departments or the police avoid prosecution for things like corporate manslaughter.

Not for long though according to a legal opinion by Matrix Churchill done for the Centre for Corporate Accountability. Which says any reform of the law of manslaughter must apply to all employing organisations, including Crown bodies or the government could face prosecution under the Human Rights convention. In short Crown Immunity should be abolished.

However, all of this depends on one thing. Tony Blair and David Blunkett have to decide that they actually want to change the law of corporate manslaughter and create law that would actually benefit working people. Which is about as likely as the Queen appearing on Stars in Their Eyes ... cue squeaky posh voice uttering the words "Tonight Matthew I'm going to be Eminem"

Far from quaking in her boots Windsor only has to cast her mind back to the speech she made in Parliament which ominously failed to mention a change in the law.

Approximately 250 people are killed at work each year. However, the current law makes prosecuting corporate killers extremely difficult. Blunkett himself noted the "law's lack of success in convicting companies of manslaughter where a death has occurred due to gross negligence by the organisation as a whole." Indeed he went on to say that any law change should "bite properly on large corporations whose failure to set or maintain standards causes a death."

Yet despite this, and a previous Labour pledge, it is unlikely that the new law will introduce "directors duties", where company directors could be held individually responsible for workers safety and replace fat cat "golden handcuffs" with proper police ones. Labour's proposed reforms will only put companies in the dock with the prospect of a fine if found guilty. A step forward but large companies are hardly going to notice a fine. Corporate safety will not change until company directors face jail.

So just at the point when we need Blunkett to be in full "lock 'em up" mode he wimps out and turns all Lord Longford on us.

After the Queens Speech the Home Office issued a press statement saying they would have "detailed proposals" on the new law of corporate killing by the end of the year. Naively I phoned and asked when those proposals were going to be published " We haven't got a date yet." Aren't you running out of time? "Yes... I see what you mean, well we haven't got a date yet."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the anonymous post, have forgot my password.

Anyway, I see where you're coming from, but the Queen isn't in charge, she's the symbol of the State. An hereditary president in effect.

So putting the Queen in court is never going to happen , because it would be like the government putting itself in court and prosecuting itself.

As if Tony B.Liar is going to let that happen!

And who works for Churchill Matrix? Isn't his missus one of the partners?

3:16 am


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