Culpable Homicide Bill: MSP’s bid to change workplace deaths law voted down

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An MSP’s attempt to change the law around workplace deaths has been voted down at the Scottish Parliament.

Claire Baker proposed a new offence of causing death by gross negligence, but the Presiding Officer and the Scottish Government said her Bill was unworkable as it fell outside the competence of Holyrood.

On Thursday evening, MSPs voted against the general principles of the Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill by 26 votes to 89.

However Ms Baker was told the issue may be considered again following the Scottish Parliament election in May.

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The Bill intended to allow greater accountability for companies responsible for workplace fatalities.

During the debate, the Scottish Labour MSP said: “I’m very disappointed at the Scottish Government’s response and lack of support for the Bill.”

She disputed the Presiding Officer’s ruling and said the issue “comes down to political will”.

She further argued the SNP had called for tougher laws on workplace deaths while in opposition.

Ms Baker said: “To support the principles of this Bill in opposition and then not take action in Government, once the SNP have power, leaves them open to accusations of being supine.”

SNP, Tory and Lib Dem MSPs have voted down @ClaireBakerMSP’s Culpable Homicide Bill.

The workers of Scotland deserve more from their government. pic.twitter.com/pdOOIVx2CW
— Scottish Labour (@scottishlabour) January 21, 2021

While criminal justice is devolved to Holyrood, some health and safety matters are reserved to Westminster.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Bill was well-intentioned but could lead to prosecutions being challenged in court.

Mr Yousaf said: “Passing bad legislation now could lead to convictions being overturned in future, and that’s not something to be taken lightly.”

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However he said the Bill could be considered again during Holyrood’s next session.

The Justice Secretary said: “I have already spoken to Claire Baker to say that, of course depending on election results, I would be happy to discuss this matter in the next Parliament to see if we can address the concerns she raises in a way that is within the Parliament’s competence.”

Clare Baker’s Culpable Homicide Bill is well intentioned – would be happy to work with her on issue post-election (depending on election results of course) However, a few fundamental flaws:
▪️Bill has been deemed by the Presiding Officer as being out of legislative competence
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) January 21, 2021

Justice Committee convener Adam Tomkins also spoke during the debate, saying his committee had only had time to consider the Bill briefly as it was “awash” with legislation.

He said his group of MSPs has sympathy for the “policy intentions” behind the Bill, but members also had concerns about its legislative competence.

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