Socialist Worker

Criminals Labour lets off the hook

Issue No. 1821

TONY BLAIR and home secretary David Blunkett made great play at last week's Labour Party conference of cracking down on all kinds of crime. Strangely there was one crime they didn't talk about - corporate killing. That is because David Blunkett has now ruled that individual bosses will not be threatened with jail or disqualification after a fatal accident at work.

This U-turn is a betrayal of those who had family members killed in accidents like the 1997 Southall rail crash. After the Southall crash Jack Straw, then home secretary, raised the prospect of holding bosses responsible for their companies' actions. He said the law on involuntary manslaughter would be 'reformed' to include a new offence of corporate manslaughter. But now Blunkett has decided this idea is 'unworkable'.

His new law on corporate killing, which could be included in this autumn's Queen's Speech, will put the blame on the companies but not on individual bosses. Blunkett has dropped the proposal to disqualify automatically any individual who had 'some influence on, or responsibility for' the management failure that caused the accident.

Blunkett kindly sent a letter to companies in industries with high fatalities - transport, mining and construction - informing them of the good news.

Blair's Garvaghy gimmick

AT A time when Loyalist bigots in Northern Ireland were terrorising Catholic residents on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Tony Blair came up with a ludicrous 'solution'. He sent his chief of staff Jonathan Powell to see the residents in 1999 with the idea that Tony Blair would lead the Orange Order march down the Garvaghy Road and Cherie Blair would lead a parallel march of Catholics.

Tony Benn reveals this plan in the latest edition of his diaries. He said to the Catholic residents, 'I can't believe that suggestion was seriously put forward.' They replied, 'Oh yes, indeed, and it's in writing.'

Benn concludes, 'It gave an insight into the idea that Blair has only got to descend from the clouds and all historical problems will disappear.'

For a review of Benn's diaries click here.

RAIL company South West Trains, run by multimillionaire Brian Souter, was eager to promote its new electronic information screen at Totton station, Hampshire. The screen lets passengers know what time their train is scheduled for and the real time it is likely to show up.

The company got Tory MP Julian Lewis to have his picture taken by the screen. But the board showed the 12.38 to Waterloo was not expected until 12.52. This delay did not appear in the photo in South West Trains' magazine, In Focus. The 'expected time' was cut out.

Proud to be English

THE DAILY Mail boasts that it is proud of its English nationalist stance in the paper. Its columnist Simon Heffer took up this cry recently after a survey about racism in Scotland.

Heffer ranted that the real problem was that Scots were racist towards English people. He moaned about the 'almost pathological hatred of the English'. He described Scotland as a nation rife with 'corruption, a sense of inadequacy and, above all, a chippy jealousy of its bigger, richer, more outgoing neighbour'.

But the Daily Mail's 'pride' did not extend to its Scottish edition. The Mail simply scrapped Heffer's column and replaced it with an article on why the Scots are not racist by former Scotsman editor Tim Luckhurst.

Fat cats fail test

STUDENTS TAKING exams in future may not be reassured that all is now well inside New Labour's quango the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Sir William Stubbs was forced to resign from the authority after the grade fixing was exposed. Some 350,000 exam papers are now being reassessed. But who is left on the board?

Its members include two top businessmen appointed by David Blunkett when he was education secretary. Ian McAllister is the former managing director of Ford UK and Terry Morgan is the former managing director of BAe Systems. McAllister is now chairman of Network Rail, the company that is taking over from the failed private firm Railtrack.

And Morgan is now chief executive of Tube Lines, one of the private consortia set to take over London Underground. And as for Stubbs himself, he was at the head of the Further Education Funding Council when college lecturers' employment contracts were ripped up and their pay decimated.

Some 22,000 out of 77,000 full time lecturers lost their jobs in the space of five years.

All I want for Xmas...?

IS THIS the toy you'd like your children to play with this Christmas? Toys 'R' Us is selling a toy building styled on a Barbie doll's house with four rooms including lifelike furniture. But the game is to use a soldier with toy weapons and a US flag to storm the house.

There are machine-guns, a hand grenade and a bazooka. Forward Command Post, price £30, is a game for children aged five years and upwards. It is advertised on a website as a 'fully outfitted battle zone'.

There are holes in the side of the doll's house where gunfire is supposed to have ripped through. You can buy it alongside a World Peacekeepers Battle Station for £18.

Things they say

'I DON'T really know him.'
Tony Blair on his transport minister John Spellar after AEEU leader Derek Simpson asked why Spellar interfered with his union's leadership election

'IN THE end, as a parent, I have to put him first.'
Tony Blair's aide Baroness Morgan takes 'post-comprehensive' education literally by sending her son to a £9,000 a year public school

'I WORKED 18 hours a day on a cruise ship and it never did me any harm.'
John Prescott haranguing War On Want members campaigning for a better deal for cruise ship workers

'THE IDEA that the government could not have afforded new schools and hospitals without PFI is economically illiterate.'
Institute for Public Policy Research chief economist Peter Robinson

'I DON'T care how precise your weapons are. When you set them off, innocent people die.'
Former US president Bill Clinton. Pity he didn't think about that when he launched US weapons at Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Serbia

'I AM very sorry that Andrew Hunter is quitting the Conservative Party. He will always be a friend of the party.'
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith on Hunter joining Ian Paisley's bigoted Democratic Unionist Party

'MY OLD pupil's comments were most unfortunate. Words like 'swamping' do not help when you are trying to integrate these children into a caring society.'
Government adviser Sir Bernard Crick on David Blunkett's attacks on asylum seekers

'THE Americans are not doing well. If this carries on they will begin to seem like the Russians.'
Mohammad Khan Gulbaz, senior official of the Afghan government, on US troops in Afghanistan

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 12 Oct 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1821
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