Examination of Witnesses (Questions 290
THURSDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2005
Q290 Chairman: Could I welcome you
this morning. As you know, this is one of a series of oral hearings
that we are having on the draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill. We
have also received a large amount of written material, which gets
published and on which we will draw heavily for our final report.
I wonder if you could briefly introduce yourselves and explain
the aims of the organisation.
Mrs Dallaglio: I am Eileen Dallaglio.
I am a founder-member of Disaster Action, a founder-member of
the Marchioness Action Group, and currently with the Marchioness
Contact Group. The aims have always been very clear. At the time
of that disaster, when 51 young people lost their lives, we went
in search of truth and justice as to how such a tragedy could
come about in the middle of London, within a hand's stretch of
this building. Being a former air stewardess, in charge of health
and safety on an aeroplane carrying 130 people, I had a very good
training, and I was very concerned about the manner in which my
daughter died along with 50 other people. We pressed for an explanation
and truth and justice, pushing for an inquiry into river safety.
It started with the Hayes Inquiry, but went on to the coroner's
courtthat was a massive battletruth and justiceand
realising that we were extremely restricted by the laws. It then
went on to Lord Justice Clarke's public inquiry into river safetywhich
threw out a few more factsand then finally on to Lord Justice
Clarke's report that branded Ready Mix Concrete, Tidal Cruisers,
East Coast Aggregates and South Coast Shipping guilty in their
failures to implement a safe system of safe navigation of their
vessels on the River Thames. In fact they appointed themselves,
ie the managing director of East Coast Aggregates, in charge of
health and safety. Our aims have always been the same: that that
should never, ever happen again. People in this buildingand
this is the only place you are ever going to get any justice,
because the courts certainly did not mete it outshould
have ordered an immediate inquiry following that disaster under
section 55 of the Merchant Shipping Act. It was actually held
some 13 years down the line by Lord Justice Clarke. In his words,
"We are today where we should have been 13 years ago."
Mr Perks: Correct.
Mrs Dallaglio: Those are our aims.
They continue now. We want some peace from this disaster and we
want to make sure that this Bill for corporate accountability
and corporate responsibility is pushed through Parliament. We
realise the difficulties you have. We do not have a witch hunt
on the corporate companieslet us make that very, very clear.
There are a few that are rogues and those people have to be brought
into line. It means that they must be made accountable, either
on the criminal side or on the civil sidewhich in 16 years
after the Marchioness none of them have been: furthermore they
have successfully handed us the liability for their negligence.
Mr Perks: My name is John Perks.
I will not go through what Mrs Dallaglio has just said. I am a
part founder-member myself over the last 15 years, so I concur
with everything she has said. To tell you a little bit about myself
gives the background to how strong I feel about the health and
safety issues and what you ladies and gentlemen are up to to get
this Bill through however or whichever way it goes.
Q291 Chairman: To be helpful, I hope
you will be able to cover the specifics about the issue here.
Mr Perks: Yes, from questions
from the Chair, obviously.
Q292 Chairman: Having established
who you are, I will try to move through this, and I will try to
make sure that if there are issues we are not covering that you
have the opportunity to bring those in.
Mr Perks: I will be very brief,
because Eileen has said all of that, and obviously that is the
direction we are going in. For the last 10 years, I have been
involved in the construction industry as a project manager, so
our committee is aware, through my discussions with them, what
is on board here. I have written the CDN documents, the method
assessments, the risk assessments, so basically there is a background
for the whole of our committee to glean information from myself.
Q293 Chairman: Thank you very much
indeed. The aim of this Bill, as the Government have put it to
us, is to ensure that where people are guilty of corporate manslaughter
there can be criminal convictions. In your view, why did the manslaughter
prosecutions under the existing law fail you in the Marchioness
Mrs Dallaglio: I do not think
the proper charges were brought in the first place. I think there
should have been an immediate inquiry under section 55 and that
would have quickly established who was guilty of those deaths.
It was a massive loss of life here in the middle of London. In
Lord Justice Clarke's words: "It cried out for public scrutiny"
yet it got none. I could not believe, as the years went by, starting
from the trial of the Master of the Bowbelle, you were up against
future Lords and Law Lords of this country representing the corporate
companies. There is no legal aid available to anybody to fight
a case for negligence. It was quite clear very early on that some
person or persons had been negligent in those deaths, and yet
we went into a court of law where we were looking at arcs of visions
and strobe lightsfrom day one in Douglas Henderson's two
trialsand nowhere, but nowhere, did they ever address issues
of how, where, why and by what means 51 people lost their lives.
Q294 Chairman: Is it your sense that
it was not necessarily the law itself that stopped there being
a conviction but the way in which the case was handled and pursued?
Or is thereand this is central to our inquirya fundamental
problem with the way the manslaughter law currently exists which
made it impossible to get a conviction, even though elsewhere
in the process there had been a verdict of unlawful killing?
Mrs Dallaglio: That became clear
over the years. That became very, very clear. I attended every
court hearing in the land, or every hearing outside the courts
pertinent to this inquiry and even othersthe rail disasters.
We have people bringing cases against those responsible for those
deaths in the Ladbroke rail disaster, and they damn well know
that under the present structure of the law in this country they
are not going to get a criminal conviction against the directors
of those companies, who have been found causative of failure in
their duty to protect the public at large. That is something that
I feel very strongly about, because it is a total and utter waste
of public money in the present manner, and this building has a
duty to put it right, to ensure that all of the facts are looked
at, and that these people, these individuals who have a malaise
Q295 Chairman: I am really sorry
to cut you off, because I can quite understand why you want to
express your views so forcefully.
Mrs Dallaglio: I am sorry.
Chairman: But I am keen in the limited
time we have that we should cover a number of quite specific questions.
I do not want to cut you off but I am worried that we might lose
the opportunity to gain some insight on some specific points.
Could I turn to Mr Prosser.
Q296 Gwyn Prosser: Good morning.
You have just made the point that there was no redress, there
were no means of pursuing criminal prosecutions at that time or
since. You have been closer than anyone to these matters and you
have rehearsed these issues lots and lots of times, but could
you tell the Committee why it is so important in the case of the
Marchioness, for instance, that criminal prosecutions against
individuals should have taken place rather than what happened:
the public inquiry and inquest.
Mrs Dallaglio: I think there has
to be something set out in law whereby, if these people do not
put in place proper procedures to protect the public, they will
be held accountable. At the momentand I am not a lawyer,
but, by God, I have learned a lot about the law over the yearsthese
people know that they are not going to be held accountable. They
sit there with impunity and laugh at you. Those in this building
have a duty to protect the likes of us. They have a duty to do
that. And that is what I want to see in the future. I never want
to see that sort of thing happen again.
Mr Perks: The view that the Marchioness
Committee holds is that the existing punishments for gross, blatant
breaches of health and safety laws are totally inadequate. They
are not a sufficient deterrent. They do not reflect the public
desire for retribution when people are unlawfully killed as a
result of those breaking the law. That is what is happening in
construction and on our public transport systems, and it has to
Q297 Gwyn Prosser: You have made
the point Mrs Dallaglio that directors can act with impunity and
the law does not touch them. Under the present existing law, if
loss of life can be related directly to the actions or inactions
of an individual (for gross negligence, et cetera) then charges
can be taken against that individual and the penalty can go as
far as life imprisonment. Why do you think this particular piece
of legislation should include direct personal liability for directors
Mrs Dallaglio: We have seen prosecutions.
We have come a long way since 1989. The Selby rail disaster: one
individual. There are several others. But we have not had a successful
prosecution of a director or directors who have continuously allowed
a malaise to exist within their corporation, where they have failed
to set in place the correct health and safety procedures which
are necessary to protect the public and the individuals that work
for them. For God's sake: if they do, they have nothing to fear.
Nobody mixes with corporate people more than I do within the Twickenham
organisation, the RFU, and, quite frankly, we have the highest
standards over there, every time I go to watch a match there and
over 100,000 people go in and out of the turnstiles. They have
nothing to fear if they put into place the correct procedures
to protect people. But, over many, many years, many, many rail
disasters, they have not put those things in place. They have
appointed themselves health and safety directors, in charge of
large vessels the size of a football pitch on the River Thames.
Mr Perks: We do not follow the
mandate that was put down in government, that we find the legal
system or the courts processed that as it should be processed.
We find constantly that you will have companies that just wriggle.
I say "wriggle": they have vast armies of QCs, solicitors,
barristers to call upon, and they seem to deflect those responsibilities
that they are charged with as a director of a company. Many times
they wriggle and wriggle and away they go. This, we say again,
has to stop. The people in this House, you are the people who
can change this for the people of this country . It is our politicians
we are addressing this to now. You are the people who can address
what is wrong within that system.
Q298 Gwyn Prosser: On this specific
issue of the personal liability of directors, some of the other
witnesses from other victim support groups have given us their
opinion that without personal liability being attached to the
Billand it is not there at the momentwe might as
well not bother. What is your view of that?
Mrs Dallaglio: Personal liability.
In every respect in the Marchioness tragedy, from my own experience
and what I have experienced within our committee, these companies
took Francesca's life unlawfully, and she had a right to it under
Article 2.2 of the European Convention. They handed us 15 or 16
years of non quality of life and a horrendous pathsomething
I would not bestow it on my worst enemyand I thank God
that I have survived it. And then, to add to everything else,
they have handed us the financial liability for it as well.
Q299 Chairman: Mrs Dallaglio, perhaps
I could address you on Mr Prosser's point because it is quite
an essential issue for the report that we write at the end of
this process. Obviously we cannot re-run the hearings, but would
you suppose for the sake of argument the law we are now discussing
was in place and it proved possible to convict the companies involved
in the Marchioness disaster for corporate manslaughter under this
Bill. As the Bill stands at the moment, the companies would be
convicted, but there would be no individual convictions for liability
on directors. Is the Bill in that form worth having? You get part
of what you want, a conviction of the companies, but you would
not have liability for directors. It is a hard question, butas
close to a yes or no as you canis it worth pursuing a bill
that does not have individual directors if at least you can convict
Mrs Dallaglio: It is a bit of
a red herring, but it is a step in the right direction.
Mr Perks: It is not the answer,
Chairman. Nowhere is it sufficiently near to becoming the answer.
Responsibility and accountability is not apathy in the boardroom.
Those guys are there to look after the welfare also, but what
they go out to do is find where the profits are and what is payable.
Chairman: That is very helpful. Thank
you very much indeed.