I've written before about how pub companies treat their licensees with utter contempt, but Enterprise Inns have reached a new low. They have been fined £300,000 plus court costs for the failure to check gas appliances in more than 400 of their pubs, one of which was the Aintree Arms in Bootle. In November 2007 the licensee Paul Lee died of carbon monoxide poisoning when he fell asleep in a room heated by a faulty gas fire that hadn't been checked since 1979; the flue was found to be completely blocked. Enterprise admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; it turns out that they had ignored a written warning from the Health & Safety Executive in 2001. As more than 400 pubs were involved, it can't be dismissed as a one-off failure, but must be seen as systemic risk-taking to cut costs.
Greg Mulholland MP has demanded that Enterprise CEO Ted Tuppen to “accept his moral responsibility and resign”. An Enterprise spokesperson replied: “Mr Tuppen does not think resigning is an appropriate course of action.” This is typical of the blame-free attitude adopted by senior business people in this country, for whom the concept of taking responsibility is utterly alien. It's like the bankers who destroyed the economy, but still felt they deserved their bonuses (and many got them). But here, even when a life has been lost, the "it wasn't me, guv" attitude prevails. The fine is less than a third of Tuppen's annual pay and pension package of £970,000. In contrast, Paul leaves behind three daughters, one of whom remains severely traumatised.
Personally, I feel this should be a case of criminal negligence, but the problem as I understand it is that for a prosecution to succeed, you have to prove the individual was by his personal actions or negligence to blame; general responsibility as a CEO isn't enough in our legal system. Perhaps it ought to be. Over to you, Greg Mulholland, MP.