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Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill

Volume 693: debated on Monday 9 July 2007

My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

commons amendments

[The page and line references are to Bill 19 as first printed for the Lords.]


2: Page 2, line 29, at end insert—

“(d) a duty owed to anyone held in custody.”

3: Page 3, line 12, at end insert—

““custody” includes being held in prison, secure mental healthcare facilities, secure children’s homes, secure training centres, immigration removal centres, court cells and police cells, and being subject to supervision by court, prisoner and detainee escort services;”

5: Page 3, line 37, leave out “or (b)” and insert “, (b) or (d)”

6: Page 3, line 40, leave out “or (b)” and insert “, (b) or (d)”

10: Page 5, line 8, leave out “or (b)” and insert “, (b) or (d)”

The Commons insist on their disagreement with the Lords in their Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10, do not insist on their Amendments 10C and 10D in lieu but propose Amendments 10F, 10G, 10H and 10I in lieu—

10F: Page 2, line 31, leave out “subsection (1)” and insert “this Act”

10G: Page 3, leave out line 25

10H: Page 13, line 3, at end insert the following new Clause:—

“Power to extend meaning of “relevant duty of care”

(1) The Secretary of State may by order make amendments to this Act to the effect that a duty of care owed by an organisation under the law of negligence to a person who—

(a) is in any specified form of custody or detention, or is otherwise on premises of a specified description or on premises in specified circumstances, and

(b) is by reason of that fact a person for whose safety the organisation is responsible,

is a “relevant duty of care”.

(2) An order under this section—

(a) may amend this Act so as to restrict or disapply exceptions as regards the application of any provision contained in this Act as a result of such an order;

(b) may make any amendment to this Act that is incidental or supplemental to, or consequential on, an amendment made by such an order.

(3) An order under this section is subject to affirmative resolution procedure.”

10I: As an amendment to the Clause inserted into the Bill after Clause 19 by Lords Amendment No. 33—

Line 30, at end insert—

““premises” includes land, buildings and moveable structures;”

My Lords, I beg to move that this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10F to 10I in lieu.

We are again called on to consider the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill. The issue remains the difference in position between this House and the other place on the appropriate way for the Bill to deal with deaths in custody. Your Lordships were due to consider this Bill last Monday. That debate was postponed while further consideration took place. I am extremely grateful for the time that the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Hunt of Wirral, Lord Dholakia and Lord Lee of Trafford, have taken to discuss this issue further with me.

This has also been a period in which new Ministers have taken up their posts. The Government have given extremely serious consideration to your Lordships’ concerns. We have explored the different options available with great care. The Government have offered considerable movement in response to your Lordships’ concerns. We have accepted the principle of the offence extending to custody and provided a means in the Bill to bring that about. That is a great deal of movement when measured against the Government’s very clear view when introducing the Bill that the offence should focus on health and safety duties and not apply to the discharge of specific public responsibilities.

Your Lordships have therefore secured a very considerable compromise by the Government. Since that was adopted in the other place, your Lordships have asked the Government to reconsider the position twice. We have done so, and we have given careful thought in doing so. My discussions with noble Lords will, I hope, have demonstrated how seriously we have taken the issue, and that we have been prepared to look at the range of options. Nevertheless, there comes a point at which, as a responsible Government, we must say that we have gone as far as we can. Following careful reflection, the Government have concluded that the position adopted in the other place is as far as it is right for the Bill to go.

Strong concerns have been raised by your Lordships on the issue of deaths in custody. The Government have taken those concerns seriously and have sought to steer a path between those who wish to see the offence extended and the Government’s view that any such extension must be delayed while the implications of the lifting of Crown immunity in practice are considered. There are considerable uncertainties involved in applying the new offence to Crown bodies. The prosecution of government departments represents uncharted territory and there will inevitably be difficult questions about how exactly that will work in practice, not least what the consequences will be for extending the criminal law to the organisation and activity of very significant public functions.

The Bill steers a careful path and sets out a number of areas where the offence will apply across the board, private and public sector, Crown and non-Crown alike. These cover key responsibilities towards employees and in the occupation of premises, and other important health and safety duties in the provision of services and the use of plant and equipment.

Your Lordships’ House and the other place have both recognised that the exercise of some public functions must stand outside this offence. The Government have recognised the very strongly held concerns of a number of your Lordships on the issue of deaths in custody and have provided a means in the Bill for addressing them. In doing so, we have recognised the principle of extending the offence beyond the traditional ambit of health and safety matters to wider concerns. That is very considerable movement.

The arguments since put by your Lordships have rightly caused the Government to go back and consider their position, but we have reached the conclusion that it is not right to go further. That position is accepted by the other place, and I urge your Lordships to accept the clear insistence of the other place.

Before sitting down, let me bring two matters to your Lordships’ attention. Noble Lords will recall that following the concerns raised on deaths in custody in the context of this Bill, the Government offered to put the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on a statutory footing. I am pleased to inform your Lordships that a criminal justice Bill was introduced in the other place on 26 June and will give effect to that.

I also want to draw your Lordships’ attention to changes made to the amendments in lieu. The first is to address a point raised in the other place by the right honourable gentleman, Douglas Hogg. He was concerned about the inclusion of scope in subsection (2) of the proposed power to specify exceptions to the forms of custody to which the offence would extend. As we wish to address that concern, the scope to specify exceptions has been removed. Moreover, changes have been made to make it clear that the definition of “premises” in subsection (1) of the power is the same definition as already contained in Clause 2. That definition will now appear in the wider interpretation clause inserted by other amendments made in your Lordships’ House and already accepted by the other place.

There is much that is good in this Bill. It will set out a new basis for holding organisations to account for gross corporate negligence. The identification principle will no longer present an obstacle to prosecution in such cases. The Bill will usher in a new type of sentence for organisations—the publicity order. In passing the Bill, Parliament will send out a clear message that the law will bear down hard on those organisations that do not take their health and safety responsibilities seriously.

The Bill has come a long way—not just in discussion in this place and the other place, but in a long journey from a clear need to reform the law being identified to this House standing on the threshold of putting a new offence on a statutory footing. I urge this House to take that final step today.

Moved, That this House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10F to 10I in lieu.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

rose to move, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from “House” to the end and insert “do insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10F to 10I in lieu.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful once again to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for the way in which she has explained her case and pay great tribute to her for the fact that she has been at great pains to consult and keep those of us interested in the amendments in the picture—in the loop, as it were—of what has been going on. I know that it has not been easy for her, not least because, at the time, she has been taking over other responsibilities.

Therefore, we were extremely pleased when she came with the information that the Secretary of State for Justice was minded to include custody in the Bill and asked if we would be happy if there were a delay while he considered. We were immediately happy to give that assurance and did so. I wrote to him saying that I was extremely happy and glad that he was doing that. We were happy to consult with him if he would like that. Because “time” and “if”, as opposed to “when”, were mentioned in the previous letter, I suggested to him a date that might be acceptable to everyone in this House. That was a date sometime ahead, 1 January 2009, which gives a considerable amount of time for all the concerns that the Government have expressed to be considered.

I speculated that I could have conducted four four-month tours of duty in Belfast during that time, and I was always asked to do rather more than merely consider that. Therefore, I was extremely concerned when, on Friday, the noble Baroness came to say that, unfortunately, the Secretary of State for Justice had now withdrawn what he had offered. I can only speculate on what had encouraged him to change his mind. In taking the step that he had of agreeing, as I understood it, that both custody and the private sector should be included in the Bill, there was no point in pressing for a time, because it would include both. Therefore, the Bill, which everyone welcomes and wants on the statute book, could be proceeded with as quickly as possible, in the knowledge that both sets of victims—who are the object of our concern—were included in the Bill.

It would be invidious of me to repeat all the arguments that I and other noble Lords have made many times as to why that should be, because this House has now voted three times showing that it understands those arguments, which are not party-political. As we were invited to consider, this is a matter of doing a good that has long been needed. The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, challenged Ministers, if they declined to include custody in the Bill, to look in the eyes Mrs Edwards, Mrs Campbell, Mrs Day, Mrs Mubarek, Mrs Aziz, Mrs Bailey, Mrs Rickwood and Mrs Myatt, to name but eight whom I have mentioned in this debate, whose sons or daughters died while they were in the hands of the state, and explain why it is that they, as victims of government policy, should not be treated in the same way as victims of a private sector company.

As I said before, we in this House now have a real opportunity to do good. I realise that pressing the Motion for a fourth time may seem like stubbornness and going near the constitutional limits of the rights and privileges of this House. I do not want to go further than would be constitutionally wise, because I respect, as always, the gravity, the wisdom, the humanity and the decency with which this subject has been treated by Members on all sides of the House in our debates on it. To put it at its deepest, we are trying to stand up for the victims of the state against the state, because I cannot for the life of me see why the Government should not recognise that they are responsible for good management on the part of their managers. That is a matter not of public policy or public expenditure but of actual detail. Therefore, I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to Motion A, leave out from “House” to the end and insert “do insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10F to 10I in lieu”.—(Lord Ramsbotham.)

My Lords, here we go again. This is the fourth time that I have supported the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the whole thrust of his approach to the Bill. We all hoped that the new Administration would see sense, because, as the noble Lord said a littler earlier and as we have said on many occasions, this is not a party- political issue but an issue of humanity and common sense. Indeed, almost everyone who has spoken on the Bill in Committee, in the other place, and certainly in your Lordships’ House has argued, and strongly, for deaths in custody to be included in the Bill.

I refer particularly to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, the last time that we debated the Bill and amendments to it, and to the speech made on 28 June in the other place by a senior and very respected Labour Member, David Winnick, who concluded by saying:

“As I have said, I am saddened and disappointed. I believe that the Government should go further, and that the Lords were right. I would not be surprised if they insisted on their amendments and the Bill came back before us once again”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/6/07; col. 499.]

I am very sad to say that the new Administration has fallen at the first hurdle. We on these Benches shall vote tonight to maintain our position, and we urge the Government once again to think again.

My Lords, I declare an interest, which I have previously declared, as a member of the Prison Service and National Offender Management Service boards, as set out in the register. However, my views on the Prison Service are purely my own. The Government have altered their stance on the Bill quite considerably, and I much preferred their original stance. I am not convinced that applying to the Prison Service the terms of the Government’s current wording in the Bill will reduce the number of deaths in custody, but I shall vote with them because their proposition, which still implies that an order will be appropriate at some stage, may not be quite so damaging as the alternative on offer, with its more immediate application to the Prison Service.

The Prison Service operates in a very different climate from that of the organisations and companies to which the Bill was originally intended to apply. It cannot turn away its customers on the basis that they are violent, unstable, have drug or alcohol problems, or present a threat to others. It does not have customers who are happy to be using the service on offer. It cannot control the mix of prisoners or where they come from. Only in the circumstances of being full to bursting has it control over the number of prisoners.

Yet the Prison Service does not determine its own budget and, thus, the money available to meet operational requirements is determined in part by others. It does not have control over levels of investment to ensure, for example, that the prison estate is fit to meet today’s needs. It is in a position where acts of violence, disturbances, challenges to authority and incidents of self-inflicted harm or death are an everyday possibility at best and an everyday occurrence at worst. It does not need a failure by senior management or staff to result in injury or death to a prisoner, whether self-inflicted or otherwise.

Failures by the Prison Service have, however, contributed to deaths; we have heard about them during the discussions on the Bill. There have been inquests, independent inquiries and investigations, some very high profile, into such tragic incidents, as there are into every death, self-inflicted or otherwise. The decisions in these cases, including the Mubarek case, have not laid sole responsibility on the Prison Service. Any inference that, had this Bill been in force at the time, a corporate manslaughter charge under the criteria laid down in the Bill would have been successful or even laid in the tragic incidents referred to during the discussions on the Bill, is thus open to question.

Will the Government’s wording in the Bill reduce or increase the likelihood of such incidents, and will the same apply as far as the amendments that have been moved? Will this Bill change the way in which the Prison Service functions, in particular the approach and practices of its senior management faced with the prospect of potentially being literally in the dock if the service faces corporate manslaughter charges? I believe that the answer is that it could. However, the question that needs some thought is how?.

I would have thought that the application of this Bill to the Prison Service will make the service much more cautious in its approach. Surely there will be an impact of some sort on prison capacity. There will be less willingness to have sharing of cells, since the Prison Service will want to eliminate any potential risk arising from sharing cells, including in relation to prisoners who have arrived only recently and about whom less is known. Some would argue that this is a step in the right direction, but clearly it has potentially serious implications at a time when prison capacity is already at full stretch. If prison capacity is lower than it would otherwise be as a result of the Bill’s impact on the Prison Service, then in the absence of shorter and fewer custodial sentences, presumably further numbers will need to be let out earlier than they would have been.

Most of our prisons were built many years ago and many cells still have ligature points. The investment has not been made to eliminate them and levels of investment are not determined by the Prison Service. Could it be corporate manslaughter to put someone in a cell with ligature points on his or her own if that person then carries out a course of action which results in a self-inflicted death using a ligature point? I am sure that some will campaign vigorously for such a charge to be laid.

The climate already may be beginning to change. Some feel that a more robust approach is being adopted to the questioning of Prison Service staff following a death, including questioning under caution. I would suggest that the result could well be that the Prison Service increasingly adopts an approach designed to minimise the likelihood of its facing corporate manslaughter charges, rather than an approach that seeks to minimise the likelihood of incidence of self-inflicted harm or death. The Prison Service may currently take a view based not on capacity issues but on what it sees as an individual’s behaviour and manner and in the absence of any documentation or information indicating to the contrary that it would be helpful to such an individual not to be alone in a cell but to be sharing with someone.

Why, though, in the future? Let us consider that slight risk of there being an incident in the shared cell when the prospect for the service could be a corporate manslaughter charge. The service cannot, by definition, get any credit for saving a self-inflicted death due to a decision to share a cell, because no one knows whether such a tragic incident would have taken place in the absence of such action. However, if the decision backfires and a death results, the evidence will be all too obvious.

The likelihood of avoiding a corporate manslaughter charge in the event of a self-inflicted death will surely be greater if the service has simply played it safe, put the individual in a cell on his or her own and made checks at the required intervals. It is more likely that the Prison Service will not even face a corporate manslaughter charge being laid let alone found proved in the case of a self-inflicted death than it would be where what was regarded at the time as a well-intentioned judgment based on the absurd behaviour and manner of an individual went wrong and a self-inflicted death or murder in a shared cell was committed.

I do not know what the overall impact on incidence of self-inflicted harm and death will be if the Bill applies to the Prison Service. I am not able to assert that it will lead either to a reduction or an increase in such incidents. I simply make the point that there is a credible possibility that it could result in the Prison Service playing safe and gearing its approach to reducing the prospect of facing corporate manslaughter charges being brought, and in so doing an outcome could be the unintended consequence of an increase in incidence of self-inflicted harm or death.

My own view is that more work needs to be done to ascertain what the Bill’s actual impact on the Prison Service and the incidence of death, self-inflicted or otherwise, is likely to be before making a decision on whether to proceed to apply it to the Prison Service. Is my noble friend able to give an assurance that under the Government’s current position on this Bill, as set out in the amendment, there will be no move to apply the corporate manslaughter provisions to the Prison Service unless an appropriate investigation has been undertaken into the likely impact of the Bill on the way that the Prison Service operates and the number of deaths in prison, with the results being published, including the evidence for any conclusions reached about the impact on the number of deaths, whether it be an increase or a decrease?

My Lords, given that my noble friend has put the emphasis on this issue one way, I think that it is necessary to put the emphasis slightly differently. He seeks an assurance that nothing will be done until there has been a comprehensive inquiry. There is going to be such an inquiry and so a further question arises. After all this toing and froing, can my noble friend on the Front Bench confirm that there is no doubt at all that talks will be held with the prison authorities and the police about the principle in the Bill that is to be introduced at some stage? On the last occasion, I said that that should be done not over 10 or 20 years, but within the lifetime of a Parliament, for example. Such talks must take place or else there will be an inconsistency between what the Government have now accepted in the Bill and what we now expect will ensue.

My Lords, this is my first opportunity to offer my warm congratulations to the noble Baroness on her promotion, which has given great pleasure to her friends and colleagues on all sides of the House. We look forward to her leadership of the House.

On this issue, I thank the noble Baroness for having taken so much time and trouble to try to find a way through. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said, these amendments go to the heart of a profound and serious responsibility, that of the deprivation of an individual’s liberty. The treatment of those individuals is a test of how a society treats its members; it is a test of its fairness and compassion. We might even say that it is a defining characteristic of the British way of life and the British sense of fair play.

I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that although I respect his personal judgment on these matters, the vital principle of our position remains that it cannot be argued that, where a public function as profound as holding an individual in custody is negligently and grossly contravened, that should go unpunished. Those we hold in custody are among the most vulnerable in society, and today we are debating whether or not custodial institutions owe a duty of care to their charges. I submit that unequivocally they do. Custodial institutions ought not only to owe a duty of care to their charges, but to stand accountable if they fail in that duty. What is more, access to justice must be access equal to all; all must be equal in the eyes of the law. Those who lose loved ones as a result of grossly negligent treatment by a corporation—be it a prison, a rail company or whatever—must, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has pointed out to us on so many occasions, be entitled to justice. The new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has promised:

“At no point will our British traditions of supporting and defending civil liberties be put at risk”.

I agree. I remind him and the Government again of the great civil liberty that all are equal in the eyes of the law.

The debate is now quite simple. Let me make it clear to the Government that we on these Benches and my colleagues in the other place will readily agree to any Motion that the Government may bring forward that proposes further time for consideration of the Bill. I recall that the Minister said last time that it was possible for there to be such a Motion. If the Minister tables one, we will agree to it. Therefore the Bill cannot fall through the action of the Opposition. If it falls, it will be as a result of ministerial homicide, because Ministers can provide for further time.

The issue is now simply this: if the Government win the vote, deaths in custody may never come within the scope of the Bill. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, hopes that they will not. There is no obligation on the Government to extend the Bill to deaths in custody.

My Lords, I do not know what the response of my noble friend is going to be, but it may be that there will be a prior investigation, with the results being published, to show what the impact would be on the number of deaths. I have made it clear that I am not asserting that this provision would lead to an increase or a decrease; I have simply painted a scenario where it could go in a way that is not being anticipated by many Members of your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, we are in agreement. I do not know why the noble Lord intervened. I was merely pointing out, as he pointed out, that it is perfectly possible for deaths in custody not to come within the purview of this Bill. There is no obligation on the Government to introduce an order bringing them within the confines of the Bill. So, if the Government win the vote, we may never see deaths in custody coming within the Bill. If the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, wins the vote, then they will come within the purview of the Bill at whatever time the Government decide to bring the provisions of the Bill into effect. That meets the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lea, that it must be for the Government to decide when to bring the provisions of the Bill into effect. That is always the case. Under Clause 21, the Government will designate the day on which the provisions will come into effect. So it is perfectly possible for the Government still to make that decision if the House agrees to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, as I very much hope it will.

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, for his kind remarks on my new role.

As noble Lords have acknowledged, I sought to keep people involved in all the twists and turns and deliberations and discussions that have gone on within the Government; they will know that part of the reason for the postponement last week was that we wanted to ensure that my right honourable friend Jacqui Smith and my right honourable friends who have been involved with the terrorism attacks had the time to consider this properly. I am very grateful to all noble Lords who enabled us to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, is right: it is possible for the Government to move a Motion in another place to delay the fall of this Bill on 19 July—I am told it may be 20 July. However, our understanding of the way in which that would work, and I appreciate that we are in uncharted territory to some degree, is that such a move would have to be in order to achieve something. I have to ask the question of your Lordships’ House: delay in order to do what? That is my difficulty.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Perhaps I may answer her question. As yet, I am not aware of any meeting that has taken place between the proposers of these amendments, the Secretary of State for Justice and the Home Secretary. Surely we should have a pause so that such a meeting can take place to see whether we can find a way through.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for answering my question, but it was entirely rhetorical. I meant it in the context that I agree that there should be meetings, but the Government must be able to discuss with noble Lords what happens next. Any suggestion on my part that by having a meeting the Government’s position will change would be wrong. Noble Lords will know that I am very open to any suggestion that might enable us to make progress in a different way, but I have asked my right honourable friends to consider this issue carefully, and they in turn have talked to those with whom they wished to consult in order to make their decision.

If we were to seek a Motion, we would have to be candid in saying that we were doing so simply to extend ping-pong with no hope that we could do anything further. It has been our desire to get this legislation on the statute book, for all the reasons we have discussed, certainly in the time I have been dealing with the Bill and before that, when my noble friends on this side of the House dealt with it.

I will be honest with your Lordships. If they send the Bill back another time, we run the risk that it will fall. Noble Lords do not want to see that happen, and neither do I, but we have no reason to extend the timetable. We are not going to move any further. Noble Lords were right to ask me to take it back to my new colleagues, and I have done that. Noble Lords were right to seek discussions; I know the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is seeing my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath tomorrow on another issue, so he will be able to have discussions. But sending the Bill back again would not make anything further happen. I am concerned for the future of the Bill.

I did not know my noble friend Lord Rosser was going to speak, but he outlined well the concerns expressed in many quarters. We must look extremely carefully at the impact this legislation could have on operational issues. I will not repeat what he said, because I thought he said clearly and candidly what those issues might be. He also, supported by my noble friend Lord Lea, was keen that the Government should think carefully about having the talks that need to take place with those involved. I assure my noble friends that we wish to do that, within the context that we have conceded the principle of what we are seeking to do by taking the order-making power.

My noble friends have also indicated—and I think this view is held in your Lordships’ House—that it is important to ensure that we have a full and proper debate on this subject. Although I know there are issues about secondary legislation and the ability to manoeuvre around it, that would none the less provide a further opportunity for debate. I am not trying to suggest that the discussions should not begin quickly, nor that we would seek to do other than involve noble Lords who have shown such great interest in these issues. On that basis I believe we will be able to make progress at a good pace while taking into account the points made by my noble friend Lord Rosser.

At the end of the day, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Justice was very clear. He believed that it was right and proper to behave in a responsible manner, and that the way to achieve this was to do what the Government have done: concede the principle, take the order-making power, consider the implications, have the discussions with those who will be directly affected and bring this in at a time when it is right and proper to do so, when we understand more about the implications of what the Bill will do in terms of Crown immunity. He also felt it was important that we talk to those who are concerned about the operational impact the changes might have.

The Government have gone as far as they can. I have done everything I said I would do. I have allowed your Lordships to discuss this with me at all times. To send the Bill back another time would achieve no more than to delay it even further, and I do not think that that is in the best interests of the many people who have waited a long time for this legislation and who are now watching with great interest to see it go on to the statute book. I say that in the spirit of ensuring, as I will, that the dialogues begin and the conversations go on. Contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, fears, there will be no question that we will not do what we said we would.

My Lords, once again I am enormously grateful to the Minister for being so forthright and clear. I am very grateful to all those who have spoken and am sorry that time has not allowed a longer debate. I am also very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for putting his case. I am glad that it has been put like that because it allows me to say that nothing is further from the case and that I have fully considered what the impact might be on the Prison Service.

Virtually all the 237 reports, six thematic reviews and five annual reports that I wrote while Chief Inspector of Prisons homed in on some problem of management which was inhibiting the development of the Prison Service. We are not talking about damaging the Prison Service or about every incident being liable to prosecution. We are talking about the occasional gross breach of management which it does no good to the reputation of the Prison Service or anyone else to leave unexamined.

Cautiousness of course is a risk. One reason why I suggested in my letter to the Secretary of State for Justice and discussed with, among others, the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Lee, having a date as far ahead as 1 January 2009 was to allow precisely the sort of consultation and examination that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, mentioned. I believe it is terribly important that that should happen. This debate is not about all the preventive measures the noble Lord mentioned; it is about management.

My concern remains, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said so clearly, that “may” is not a doing word; it could be a delaying and a holding word. We still have a duty to make that point as firmly as we can, because this issue affects us all. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Motion A, as amended, agreed to.

House adjourned at 6.08 pm.