Risk experts have given a muted response to the government's draft corporate killing legislation, saying it is "watered down" and that stiffer penalties could increase its impact.

Consultation on the draft has now closed and a timetable for legislation and further details will be published this autumn.

Phil Wright, chief engineer at Allianz Cornhill Engineering, said: "This legislation has been rattling round for years and, while it's welcomed in principle, the TUC will not see it as a great leap forward."

Earlier versions included proposals to prosecute individuals and enforce jail sentences for offenders.

But the new Bill allows only groups of managers to be prosecuted.

Jail sentences are not an option, although unlimited fines can be imposed.

Wright added: "Some avenues have now been closed since [the Bill] will cover private and publicsectors, although with the latter there are some provisos."

Although firms can take out cover against legal costs, they would be excluded from claiming for any fines levied.

John Phillips, training and consultancy manager for Norwich Union Risk Services, said: "Anything that raises the profile of risk management in the boardroom has to be a good thing. But if someone can be sent to prison for fraud or another financial crime, should this not be the case for corporate manslaughter?"

The Health and Safety Executive can ultimately carry out individual prosecutions in the most serious cases and these can result in imprisonment.

However, it too has faced criticisms for not being sufficiently robust.