It is unlikely the corporate killing law, expected by the end of summer 2001, will be included in the next parliamentary session, Home Office minister Charles Clarke has warned.

However, Markel Syndicate 702 directors and officers (D&O) liability underwriter Francesca Bristo said the delay would not slow the take-up of D&O insurance.

Clarke spoke at a workshop on corporate killing organised by Aon last week, attended by respresentatives of Railtrack, Virgin, BHP, Glaxo Wellcome and other large corporations.

He said the government had received more than 160 responses to the Reforming the Law on Involuntary Manslaughter consultation paper it issued in May.

But, although a corporate killing bill had been expected by the end of the summer, he said it was very unlikely the Home Office could produce legislation in time for the Queen's Speech in December.

The proposed law will be invoked when management failure is one of the causes of death. It will apply to NHS trusts and voluntary groups as well as companies.

Clarke said: "There's great public concern at the inability of the criminal law to convict a company for manslaughter, often for errors where, if an individual had been responsible, they would have been convicted," he said.

Bristo said insurers were watching developments in the law carefully but could not make any moves until the specifics had been revealed.