the Disillusioned kid: Class Action, Part 2.
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Friday, October 22, 2004

Class Action, Part 2.

A report on the front page of today's Guardian (apparently the source of all today's posts) alleges, "The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is attempting to block a new law that would punish negligent employers with heavy fines or imprisonment in cases of deaths or injury at work." This allegation is based on a letter the paper has obtained which was "sent by Mr Straw 10 days ago to John Prescott, deputy prime minister and chair of the domestic affairs cabinet committee." In this "the foreign secretary casts doubt on the need to create a new crime of corporate manslaughter."

The article is lacking in specifics on Straw's objections to the proposed new law, but suggests that the intervention may have been supported from behind the scenes by treasurer Gordon Brown. One statement, however, is likely to go someway to explaining his motivations:
Probably the biggest stumbling block to effective legislation is whether individuals at a company could be prosecuted, and, if so, how to decide who is personally responsible.
I've written before that it is my opinion this is a class issue. The vast majority of victims in cases likely to lead to litigation under the proposed legislation are workers with their employers as potential defendants. That employers are unlikely to be keen on this, goes without saying. To be sure, it does not follow that their concerns will be reflected in the form the law takes, but it is entirely possible. One does not need to accept a Marxist-esque analysis of society to see that employees typically have a greater ability to influence decision makers than workers by virtue of their greater financial leverage and connections.

As I said, it isn't entirely clear from the article why Straw is opposed to the new law, but until somebody comes up with a more convincing explanation I'm sticking to my guns.
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