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Paul Elvin

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Attorney-General what representations he has received concerning calls for a prosecution against British Rail arising from the death of Paul Elvin.

I have received representations from the hon. Gentleman and from his constituent, Mrs. Elvin. I replied to the hon. Member last week.

I am grateful to the Attorney-General for his reply. In the light of the decision of Mr. Justice Turner in the P and O case that it has a case to answer on corporate manslaughter, will there be a review of the liability of public and corporate bodies such as British Rail? I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciates the great concern felt at the many deaths and accidents on British Rail sites, all of which happen without criminal prosecution against British Rail. Should not that liability be reviewed so that the regular deaths which occur, which many believe to be the fault of British Rail, can be laid at the door of those who have responsibility for such sites?

The judicial decision to which the hon. Gentleman refers did not come as a surprise to me. With many other people, I have long believed that a corporation is capable of committing the offence of manslaughter. With great respect, however, that is not the point here. The Health and Safety Executive looked closely into the tragic death of Mrs. Elvin's son and concluded, supported by the opinion of counsel, that there is insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution for manslaughter.

I have looked closely at the papers and, recognising the natural strength of feeling of the hon. Gentleman's constituent, I shall ask the DPP to examine the papers himself. That is, of course, without the slightest intimation that I disagree with the view of the Health and Safety Executive, which I personally believe to be correct. However, in the circumstances of this tragic case, that would be the proper course to follow and I shall do so.