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I have been campaigning on the issue of corporate manslaughter for almost 20 years since the King’s Cross fire. In practice during that period, and before, I dealt with many cases of people whose husbands or
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fathers had been killed and where families had been left bereaved. For me the test is: if I apply the Bill to the cases where I thought there was gross negligence, would prosecutions have followed? In some cases they would, but in others they would not.

I hope that as the Bill progresses my hon. Friend the Minister will look not only at the amendments he has agreed to take up, but at some that we did not have sufficient time to debate tonight. Some of them are important and raise significant issues. For example, I was involved in representing the families caught up in the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, and I raised in an intervention the question of jurisdiction. If a similar disaster were to happen today, the chances are that the vessel would bear a foreign flag even if it were run by a UK company and that it would therefore be outwith the terms of the Bill. That must be looked at. Similarly in relation to the King’s Cross fire and the definition of senior management, there would still be a strong chance that the senior management of London Underground Ltd would escape prosecution given what I know of the detail of the circumstances revealed in the 93-day public inquiry into that fire. To deal with that we should, for example, look at the amendment on particular locations that was not moved. If any of the great disasters and tragedies that we have debated were to occur again, it would be a great shame if they would still not be caught by the amendments and other changes that we want to make to the law.

I also wish to raise a question to do with the emergency services, which was not brought up. In my previous life as a solicitor, I represented the Fire Brigades Union and, latterly, the Police Federation. There is a case for not excluding training accidents. The purpose of emergency training should be to enable people to make mistakes in safety, not to be exposed to unnecessary dangers. That needs to be looked at again.

I am still concerned about the question of individual liability. If we are serious about preventing accidents the best way to concentrate the minds of senior management is for them to think that they might appear in the dock alongside their companies. We have not achieved that yet. To remedy that, I hope that we can do some inventive thinking around the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, and in particular around section 37, because the public expect justice. If people see those who have made fortunes from businesses that have resulted in individuals being killed walking away with those fortunes and not paying the price that they should, they will feel that they have had very rough justice indeed.

We have got some significant improvements in the law. As I mentioned, I have campaigned on this matter for 20 years. I have not got everything I want but I have got a lot of what I wanted, and I hope that when the Bill passes to the other place further progress will be made in terms of Government amendments—and I must say that I also hope that some rather more interesting amendments come from their lordships. I hope that we get to look at all of them again in this place, along with some points that we did not succeed in addressing this evening.

9.52 pm

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful for the contributions of all Members from all parts of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Tony
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Lloyd) and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) are right that when we address an issue and have heated exchanges on it that bring clarity to what we are trying to achieve, that shows the House in its true light. I have felt throughout our deliberations that the spirit of what we were all trying to achieve was to make improvements and to meet the sense of injustice that occurs when people suffer the death of a loved one in circumstances such as those we have discussed. In meeting many such families—I know that other Members have also done that—what struck me was the feeling of injustice. What came across was that there was a feeling that nobody cared sufficiently and that nobody was held responsible, particularly where there was negligence.

In addition to strengthening the Bill in the ways that Members have suggested and taking away and considering issues raised, I am serious about us looking at what can be done in practical terms in respect of the views of the Crown Prosecution Service and the police. How should they deal with the families of the victims? The events that we have been discussing should be seen in the same light as any other serious crime. Our debates will send a clear message to organisations and bodies that it is not acceptable for people to be killed at work when the circumstances that caused that can be prevented.

Members have said that we have left many areas untouched due to the time scale that was in place. We might have to look again at how much time we allow for such debates. There were many important issues that we did not reach that would have benefited from contributions from Members in all parts of the House. I hope that Members appreciated what we were trying to achieve and the spirit in which we were trying to achieve it, having listened to the representations that had been made.

I want to finish by thanking the officials who worked hard on the Bill, and all the Members who contributed the debate. I believe that we have taken the Bill forward, and I shall listen with great interest to the discussions in the other place. I look forward to the Bill’s returning to this place, when we can complete the job that needs to be done. The message that we are sending out very clearly is that corporate manslaughter is not acceptable.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Rating and Valuation

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

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Northern Ireland

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Income Tax

Question agreed to.

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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(9) (European Standing Committees),

Consultation on Fisheries Management Proposals

Question agreed to.

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Yorkshire Film Archive

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Huw Irranca-Davies.]

9.56 pm

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to bring to the House’s attention a very real crisis affecting the Yorkshire Film Archive and the seven other regional film archives.

The Yorkshire Film Archive holds one of the most important products of the 20th century: the moving image heritage of the towns, cities, industries, leisure pursuits, people, cultures and traditions that make up Yorkshire today. The material is non-fiction and reflects the changing face of the Yorkshire region. The collections show our heavy, but sadly now disappearing, industries of coal, steel and textiles, as well as farming and fishing. They display cultural, traditional and leisure activities, childhood and schooling and landmark events such as the miners’ strike, as well as the ordinary lives of Yorkshire people.

The material comes from a variety of sources, such as the old dusty box that arrived one Saturday morning at the Yorkshire Film Archive offices at York St. John university college. It contained a collection of films created by two Leeds amateur film-makers, Betty and Cyril Ramsden, back in the 1950s. So superb were their films that the BBC used them for a complete episode of its “Nation on Film” series, giving tens of thousands of viewers an insight into Leeds life some 60 years ago. I was particularly interested in that programme because it included the famous Bryan’s fish and chip shop, in Headingley, where I spent most of my time while at college in Leeds in the early 1960s, partaking of its brilliant fish and chips.

This story is not unique. Across the country, reels of dusty films are being uncovered daily. They are some of the most important products of the 20th century—every bit as important and precious as the artefacts and paintings so carefully restored and retained in our museums, libraries and galleries. Crucially, all these materials are available to the public for a wide range of activities, including meeting the key objectives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s own agenda.

The head of learning at YFA is working with museums to produce e-learning resources for the citizenship curriculum in primary schools, as part of the children and young people initiative to access cultural and educational opportunities. They are wonderful materials to use in the classroom. In North Yorkshire—in fact, in Knaresborough, in my own constituency—the Stroke Association has enjoyed stimulating presentations of local archive material that aid the recovery of stroke victims, who are often able to talk about events that occurred much earlier in their lives.

In the rural dales, people have packed Leyburn’s Elite cinema to see images of their communities over the decades. Both those activities fulfil the Department’s policy objective of

It being Ten o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn .—[Steve McCabe.]

Mr. Willis: The Yorkshire Film Archive meets a third, equally vital departmental objective—

In that regard, the film archive plays an important part in the region’s creative economy. ITV Yorkshire is currently working with the YFA to produce its fifth 10-part series of “The Way We Were”—a programme that regularly reaches 750,000 people. The BBC’s “Nation on Film” series relies heavily on materials provided by the YFA.

Like most regional film archives, the YFA began life as an amateur passion. It commenced in Ripon in 1988 as a small community history project before moving in 2003 to the public access learning centre at York St. John university. However, as a regional film archive, the YFA is unique, in that it is a charitable company, limited by guarantee with a board of trustees, chaired by Colin Philpot, the head of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. It has a small team of seven staff, led by the inspirational Sue Howard, who for the past 17 years has devoted her working life to building a regional archive of national repute.

Now, thanks to the generosity of the Yorkshire and Humber development agency, Yorkshire Forward, and the regional Heritage Lottery Fund—the HLF—and the foresight of the York St. John university, the YFA has a superb new home at the college. Through that investment, it has the technical capability of analysing, preserving, digitising and cataloguing moving images from a variety of formats dating back to the 1890s. But what it does not have is a firm future. Indeed, it is in danger of seeing the superb archives it has developed being mothballed and its ability to serve the Yorkshire community severely limited.

Without the further support of Yorkshire Forward and the HLF it is difficult to see how the archive can survive. But both organisations have made it clear that their support was short term and must not be seen as core funding. I fully accept the logic of their positions and, indeed, so does the YFA. The HLF was created as an investment vehicle, not for core revenue support, and it has already invested heavily in the YFA. Yorkshire Forward has been equally generous and I pay tribute to it for its treatment of the YFA. Yorkshire Forward has invested more than £1 million in the past four years because it believes the archive is a valuable social, historical and educational resource that should be available to a wider audience.

With the growth of the visual media as a valuable teaching and learning resource it would have been unacceptable to have left the YFA languishing in its previous state. But it is not the job of Yorkshire Forward, or any regional development agency, to take on a core funding role—that is the job of the Department. Unfortunately, it has not stepped up to the plate. There appears to be no national strategy for the regional film archives—the Minister may enlighten us this evening—and little recognition of their importance to regional communities. Either the Department is seriously under-estimating the value of the regional film archives or it is simply uninterested. I do not believe that it is the latter. Nor do I believe that
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for what is a relatively modest increase in core funding the Department would wish to see the demise of the YFA or indeed any of our regional archives, including the one in the north-east. I know that the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson), who is in her place, is very interested in that archive, and if she wishes to intervene, I will be happy to give way. With the loss of funding from Yorkshire Forward, probably by March 2007, there is the distinct possibility of the demise of the archive.

At present, core funding, which amounted to £260,000 in 2005-06 for all the film archives, comes direct from the UK Film Council, via regional screen agencies to regional film archives—a tortuous route, as I am sure the Minister agrees. Regional film archives receive on average less than £33,000 each, and the YFA receives the princely sum of £45,000 from Screen Yorkshire to meet current activity levels of £280,000. The YFA raises the rest from a variety of commercial sources and donations—the largest of which comes from Yorkshire Forward.

I am sure that the Minister accepts that both the total resource and the method of distribution are inadequate to sustain the regional film archives. As he knows, for the past three years there have been moves to create a national strategy for the film archives sector, but negotiations, led by the British Film Institute, have stalled. I plead with him to end the talking and set a firm date for the launch of a national strategy. Better still, will he take a leaf out of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s London book and agree to launch an inquiry into the role of regional museums, libraries and archives in the knowledge economy, including film archives?

It is my strong belief that the role of film archives in supplying information and inspiration to creative professionals in film, television and advertising contributes significantly to regional economies, but that thesis needs testing. There must be a strong case for placing moving film archives in the same category as museums, libraries and archives, with core funding to preserve, catalogue, digitise and present material for public use. Only by evaluating the activity that the Government and others expect from film archives can appropriate core funding be agreed and the regional film archives sustained.

Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): I am listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman’s speech. Film archives continue to support the development of social and cultural understanding between the generations, for which their work should be recognised and supported throughout the country. I noted with interest that my excellent local newspaper, the Evening Chronicle, is encouraging readers to upload their footage of north-east history to online video-sharing sites, which is a fantastic opportunity for communities to preserve for ever their shared past. The archives can often be hard to access, however, and young people in particular are unaware of their existence. There is tremendous potential for us to engage people in visual history and we need to consider ways of making the regional film archives that the hon. Gentleman describes more
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widely accessible. Perhaps allowing some of their content to be shared for free, where it does not infringe copyright laws, would be a good opportunity to awaken people’s interest in our shared industrial, municipal and rural heritage.

Mr. Willis: I am delighted that the hon. Lady made that contribution, which I wholly support. However, does she share my genuine concern that it is not simply a matter of uploading content to the internet? One must then be able to use the material—to catalogue and manipulate it and bring it to a wider audience, as archivists do in the north-east and in Yorkshire and Humber. They digitise super-8 or 8 mm film and create a master copy, making the film available in a digital form that can easily be put to a variety of uses, especially as teaching material, in which I am particularly interested. It is extremely important that archivists can to go into schools and community groups, and even businesses, to sell their archives—I do not mean sell commercially. That is what I am arguing for tonight—that we try to maintain that very valuable resource.

A national film archive strategy without significant additional funding would be little more than an empty gesture. To survive, our regional archives require an additional £1.4 million a year—less than the cost of a bolt, without the nut, on the planned new nuclear submarine. If that amount cannot be found within the DCMS total budget, I would be genuinely surprised. The risk to the Yorkshire Film Archive is very serious. Without additional core funding to replace that of Yorkshire Forward and the Heritage Lottery Fund, staffing will be cut from seven to two from March, learning and access strategies would disappear, collections would not be developed, the ability to feed into a regional infrastructure to draw down additional funding would largely disappear and the ability to service broadcasters and other commercial users would decrease—and, with it, income—and the opportunity to contribute towards a national strategy would be limited.

More importantly, the Yorkshire Film Archive would lose the ability to deliver an effective public service to the people of Yorkshire and, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West, the people of the north-east. It would lose the ability to demonstrate the real ongoing potential of the film archive sector to future stakeholders and funders. I welcome the Minister’s reply.

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