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Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): If a decision is to be taken by Parliament in three months’ time, will my right hon. Friend confirm that a recent
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document circulated to us all by Greenpeace, containing figures running into millions of pounds in expenditure on this programme, is complete fiction?

The Prime Minister: What people do is that they take all the existing running costs and project them forward for many years. The best estimates that we have of the actual costs of the design, manufacture, infrastructure and so on are the £15 billion to £20 billion estimates. We are somewhat strengthened in saying that, because the cost of the present Vanguard submarines—in today’s terms, not in the financial terms of the period in which they were built—is about £14 billion. We also have a lot of experience, not least in terms of the French system that is being brought into being.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman relies on his judgment, but does he recognise that it was the very judgment that took us into Iraq, and that his reputation for good judgment is not highly regarded? That being so, if he wants to carry this thing forward, perhaps this House needs some independent advice. Might I commend early-day motion 239, which is in my name? It suggests the appointing of seven Privy Councillors to advise this House on the cost of Trident and the alternatives, and that this House should not vote on the matter until we have received such a report.

The Prime Minister: Obviously, I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman on Iraq. In the end, this is not a judgment that can be subcontracted to other people; the Government have to take a decision. We have said that we will put this decision, after a debate, to the House and the House will vote on it. Rather than endlessly sidetracking ourselves into questions of process, we should just come to a judgment.

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): May I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement? Given the importance that he attaches to an independent nuclear weapons system for the UK, would he advise the 23 non-nuclear NATO states to acquire similar independent nuclear weapons, and if not, why not?

The Prime Minister: No, I would not, and for the very reasons that are at the heart of the non-proliferation treaty. It is clear that those who are the major nuclear powers can remain nuclear powers, fully consistent with the non-proliferation treaty. To be fair, over the years that treaty has worked reasonably well, in that some countries have given up their nuclear weapons ambitions, such as Brazil, South Africa and so on. In fact, some of the predictions that were made back in the 1960s about the number of nuclear states that there would be have fortunately turned out not to be correct. But it is recognised, and it is at the heart of the non-proliferation treaty, that Britain, along with those other countries, should be able to be a nuclear power.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Given that NATO prohibits Germany from having nuclear weapons, and that we are apparently using NATO for missions further and further afield, has the Prime Minister discussed the nuclear deterrent in the context of article 5 of the NATO treaty, the prohibition affecting Germany, the proposal to change the European security and defence policy and the defence requirements, and European integration?

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The Prime Minister: No is the answer to that.

Mr. David S. Borrow (South Ribble) (Lab): Would my right hon. Friend agree that if his recommendation is accepted, it would be possible for a future Parliament in 2014 to decide not to implement a Trident replacement, but it would not be possible for that Parliament to implement a Trident replacement if this Parliament decides not to?

The Prime Minister: There are sufficient experts on parliamentary sovereignty in the Chamber that I think that I am on strong ground in saying that Parliament can always decide what it wishes to do. However, let us be clear that if we were to endorse the Government’s decision next March we would be proceeding with a series of designs and assessments with the industry concerned. It is correct that it is only at a later stage that we will let the contracts, and it is always open to any Parliament to do anything, but it is highly unlikely to alter the decision that, frankly, will effectively be made next March.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who speaks for the Scot nationalists, made an important point that the Prime Minister rather dodged: that in the unlikely eventuality—heaven forfend—of an Scot nats majority in the Scottish Parliament, perhaps through a Liberal Democrat coalition, it is possible that we would face a non-nuclear Scotland. In which case, a submarine-based deterrent would not be possible. Has the Prime Minister thought about what alternative might be necessary under those circumstances?

The Prime Minister: First, I am not prepared to engage in that hypothesis, for obvious reasons. Secondly, my experience is that people in Scotland are every bit as committed to the defence of the United Kingdom as people elsewhere.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): The House has listened to what my right hon. Friend has said about the weapons and the possibility of reducing from four to three submarines. But will he acknowledge my concern that the announcement that the UK will upgrade its nuclear weapons system will weaken our efforts to persuade other states to stay non-nuclear and could undermine the world’s non-nuclear proliferation mechanisms?

The Prime Minister: First, what we are actually doing is maintaining the independent nuclear deterrent. Indeed, we will reduce the number of warheads that we have. Secondly, that is not the evidence. The evidence is that the non-proliferation treaty works best in circumstances in which there is a multilateral mood for disarmament. That is the reason why we believe it is better to pursue such a course under the terms of that treaty. Suppose Britain said that we would no longer maintain our independent deterrent. Would France reverse its decision? No. Would any of the other major nuclear powers say that they would not maintain an independent deterrent? No. Would Iran or North Korea give up pursuing their nuclear weapons ambitions? No. The reality is that my right hon. Friend’s aims—which I fully support—will only be achieved by working together.

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Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): The Prime Minister will accept that for Trident’s replacement to be a credible deterrent it has to be truly independent. Will he therefore explain to what extent Britain will depend on the US for the operational capability and command chain of the new system?

The Prime Minister: The answer to that is very clear. Our present nuclear deterrent is fully operationally independent and will remain so. Only the Prime Minister can authorise its use. The instruction to fire would be transmitted to the submarine using entirely UK codes and equipment and all the command and control procedures are totally independent. It is particularly true that this operational independence is at the heart of our being able to say correctly that we have an independent nuclear deterrent. It can be used and fired only at the instigation of the British Prime Minister—in other words, of Britain. It is correct that we procure elements of our deterrent system, especially the missile, from the United States, but every single factor that leads to its command and control is in our own hands. The hon. Gentleman is right that it is important that we make that completely clear to people because it is the whole basis on which we have our independent deterrent.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware that the logic of his proposal will be to increase nuclear weapons around the world and that as Professor Joseph Rotblat, a Nobel peace prize winner and a nuclear scientist, made plain before he died, if powerful countries feel insecure and therefore need nuclear weapons, who on earth are they to proselytise or argue against weaker countries also obtaining nuclear weapons to protect themselves? Does not the Prime Minister think that the security of the 21st century would be better served by seriously pursuing disarmament rather than rearmament?

The Prime Minister: There are two problems with what my hon. Friend says. The first is that we are maintaining our existing independent capability; indeed, we will be maintaining it with fewer warheads than we have at the moment. Secondly, the non-proliferation treaty is the agreement of the international community on the issue. At the heart of the treaty is the recognition that there will be major nuclear power states, of which Britain is one. There is then an obligation in the course of the treaty to pursue disarmament through negotiations under article VI, as I pointed out. In actual fact, what we are doing is fully consistent both with the treaty and with not increasing, or indeed upgrading, our system, but maintaining the level of deterrence we have at the moment, albeit, possibly, with fewer submarines and certainly with fewer warheads.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): May I commend the Prime Minister’s statement, particularly the part that referred to the need for a debate? Does not such a debate need to go much wider than the question of our nuclear deterrent? Is not the Government’s foreign and defence policy somewhat in disarray following events of the last two or three years, and do not we need to put the decision in the proper context of a reassessed foreign and defence policy, to give the people of this country confidence in what the House is about to decide?

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The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is entitled to make any points he wants in the course of the debate. He can debate the matter in any context he wants and make suggestions as to why the foreign and defence policy of this country is wrong, but I can tell him that the policy we have pursued is based on a strong alliance with the United States of America and a strong partnership within the European Union. That is where I stand, and that is where the Government stand; if he wants to stand somewhere different, that is up to him.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): May I press my right hon. Friend on one aspect of the central judgment that he talks about? He says that it is not fanciful to think that in the future a rogue state might sponsor nuclear terrorists, but surely it is fanciful to suggest that we might use our nuclear weapons in retaliation against such a rogue state.

The Prime Minister: Again, my hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that these are fine matters of judgment in difficult circumstances that we are, of necessity, predicting—they are hypothetical. I can see a situation—let us hope it never happens—in which states with their own nuclear weapons capability are sponsoring terrorism and encouraging the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons capability. We do not ever want to be in the position of using our deterrents, but if states had nuclear weapons capability and were threatening our country, they might be less willing to do so if we had the nuclear deterrent. That is the judgment that we have to make. I repeat that the idea of the deterrent is not to use it but to try to create circumstances in which it is never used, which is why when people debate the morality of having nuclear weapons or not, it is merely another way of having the debate about whether deterrents deter. If they deter, it is sensible to have them; if they do not, obviously it is not. That is why this thing is best decided on the basis not of what we might do in a particular situation but of what might deter others in actions we wish to deter.

Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): In paying tribute to the measured way in which the Prime Minister put forward his argument today, may I underline the point made by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) about the necessity to extend the debate not just to the Chamber but to the country as a whole? In doing so, will the Prime Minister pay tribute to the thousands of people who work at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and make the point that it is not just a centre of excellence for engineering and science in the narrow area of atomic weapons, but that its benefits are felt in the wider economy as a whole?

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The Prime Minister: I certainly pay strong tribute to people who work at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. I know that about 4,000 people—some of the most highly skilled scientists and engineers—are employed there at the moment. Of course the debate will go wider than Parliament—so it should—and people will have an opportunity over the coming months to debate the issue in whatever context they wish to debate it. Some who work at those establishments will also have something to contribute—at least to be able to dispel some of the myths that surround issues to do with timing, the viability and capability of the submarines and so forth. I totally agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) that the broader the debate, the better for the country. In the end, it is a decision of such importance, and we take it in somewhat different times than they were, that people expect the debate to be more open—and it will be.

Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab): May we take the case of Iran? May I invite my right hon. Friend to consider that there is widespread concern in the House that a state such as Iran, given the prospect of the UN not being able to dissuade the country, is more likely to use an independent nuclear deterrent against democratic states within its own region? We know that Iran sponsors the Taliban and Hezbollah. Concern is based more on that than on the potential threat of Iran using the weapons against Britain. May I invite my right hon. Friend to say a word or two more about how, in those circumstances, Britain’s retaining an independent nuclear deterrent will assist the world to dissuade a country such as Iran from threatening or even using its weapons?

The Prime Minister: Again, it is possible to speculate and hypothesise, but my right hon. Friend is essentially correct in saying that those in the immediate neighbourhood of Iran may feel a greater sense of threat. The one thing that is obvious from today’s world is that countries like our own are working alongside others—in Afghanistan, for example—and those others can be impacted by the actions of a nation like Iran. Because of the greater interdependence of the world today and particularly in the context of the global terrorist threat, it is not possible to compartmentalise the problem and draw a line around the middle east or part of Asia as a region. That is simply not possible. Although at the present time, the more immediate threat may well be felt in the neighbourhood, we cannot say that it will not go broader than that in the years to come.

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Orders of the Day

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

[Relevant documents: the First Joint Report from the Home Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees, Session 2005-06, on the Draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill, HC 540-1, and the Government’s response thereto, Cm 6755.]

New Clause 1

Individual officers’ liability

‘(1) An officer of an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter or corporate homicide if—

(a) that organisation is guilty of an offence under section 1; and

(b) that officer’s conduct by way of act or omission contributed to its breach referred to in section 1(1).

(2) In this section, “officer” means the chairman, managing director, chief executive or secretary of the organisation.’.— [Mr. Dismore.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.33 pm

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 2— Individual officers’ liability: penalties—

‘An officer of an organisation who is guilty of corporate manslaughter or corporate homicide under section [Individual officers’ liability] is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment or a fine.’.

New clause 4— Members of senior management liable to disqualification as company directors—

‘Where an offence under section 1 committed by an organisation to which that section applies is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any member of the senior management of the organisation who is a director of a company, section 2(1) of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (c. 46) (disqualification on conviction of indictable offence) shall apply to him as if he had been convicted of an offence falling within that subsection.’.

New clause 6— Offence by senior manager—

‘(1) A senior manager of an organisation is guilty of an offence if by his acts or omissions which amounted to a gross breach of his duty he could have prevented an offence under section 1.

(2) For the purposes of this section a person is a “senior manager” of an organisation if he plays a significant role in the making of decisions about how the activities of the organisation are managed or organised and includes the chairman, managing director, chief executive, secretary or other director of the organisation.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on conviction on indictment to—

(a) imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or

(b) a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum,

or to both.’.

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New clause 7— Aiding and abetting—

‘Any company director or senior manager who is found to have aided, abetted, counselled or procured the commission of an offence of corporate manslaughter or corporate homicide shall be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years.’.

Amendment No. 40, in page 11, line 19, leave out clause 16.

Amendment No. 7, in clause 16, line 20, leave out ‘cannot’ and insert ‘can’.

Amendment No. 8, in line 22 leave out ‘cannot’ and insert ‘can’.

Mr. Dismore: New clause 1 deals with one of the most fundamental points in any reform of corporate manslaughter—the need for individual liability, in respect of which there is a lacuna in the Bill. It is, in my view, one of the essential requirements of a successful reform of the law, as I proposed in my Corporate Homicide Bill. In the summer of 2003, however, the Government ruled out individual director liability in criminal law. I believe that to be a mistake.

The strongest incentive on a director would be the thought that he could stand in the dock to answer for his company’s failings that led to the deaths of employees or members of the public. Organisations can kill people, as identified in the Bill, but it is the actions and omissions of people in organisations that cumulatively cause death. Directors and senior managers should be held to account for their actions. Nothing in the Bill will ensure that directors who make decisions that lead to a death will be held liable.

Although the Bill might therefore make it easier to bring corporations to justice after a fatality, it will not increase the pressure on those who run organisations to take the necessary preventive measures to ensure that such deaths do not occur in the first place. If anything, the Bill should be about prevention, rather than prosecution. It should be intended to encourage people to ensure that there are no deaths, rather than to prosecute those who are responsible afterwards. Unfortunately, the Bill will not achieve that without new clause 1.

We shall achieve such a preventive system only when those who make the decisions that lead to workers or the public being killed are held responsible for their actions or inaction. If company directors can face individual liability for offences under the companies Acts or frauds committed by their companies, it is right that they should face prosecution if those companies kill.

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