20 November 2007
CCA welcomes changes in Regulators Compliance Code regarding prosecutions - but continues to question the code's tone and relevance
CCA concerns that the draft Regulators Compliance Code could become a "corporate criminal's charter" have been partly allayed by the Government's agreement to insert a new paragraph into the Code making it explicit that regulators like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can prosecute duty holders in a wide set of circumstances.
Previously, the draft seemed to suggest that prosecution could only take place against those who "deliberately or persistently breach the law". The CCA believed that this could have created significant restrictions on HSE's and Local Authority's ability to prosecute as a result of management failure.
The new draft of the Code, being debated in the House of Lords today, now states at para 1.4 that:
"The Code supports regulators' responsibility to deliver desirable regulatory outcomes. This includes having effective policies to deal proportionately with criminal behaviour which would have a damaging effect on legitimate businesses and desirable regulatory outcomes. The Code does not relieve regulated entities of their responsibility to comply with their obligations under the law."
This makes it clear that the Code does not threaten the HSE's current enforcement policy.
In addition, the Better Regulation Executive (BRE) confirmed to the CCA at a meeting in October that the Code would not hamper the HSE deciding to increase its level of investigation into major injury and other incidents if it considered this to be appropriate. The CCA has written to Lord Drayson, Minister responsible for the BRE, asking him/her to make this point clear in parliament in debate.
David Bergman, Executive Director of the CCA stated:
"We are pleased that the Better Regulation Executive has been able to make the change relating to the use of prosecution, and confirmed that the Code will not hamper any properly considered policy decision to increase the levels of investigations. Whilst the new Code is an improvement on the draft, there remains much in this code that we think is entirely unnecessary, and which is cast in an inappropriate tone as regards law and enforcement - the focus on economic progress, the over-emphasis on provision of advice and information, its unproven assumption that only a few businesses persistently break regulations."
The Code is based around the "Hampton Principles" - most of which the CCA does not support as a good basis for health and safety improvement and enforcement.
The Code was laid before parliament on 16 October 2007, and is due to be debated later this month under a procedure (set out in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006) that allows only a positive or negative vote. it cannot be amended.
To download Code laid before parliament, click here
To read CCA's previous concerns and to download the consultation draft, click here
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