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23 Jun 2009 : Column 1569

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: In moving Amendment 128A, I will speak also to Amendments 132A and 206A. These are not technical amendments. They go back to Second Reading and my concern for the families of military personnel who have lost their lives in the service of the country. I accept, however, that amending the Bill will affect all families. My concern is that the Bill is intended to make the system more accessible, understanding and compassionate to families. It is particularly relevant for military families who lose their loved ones many hundreds or thousands of miles away and, as we are all aware, often have to wait a long time for an inquest. When multiple fatalities are involved, many of those families have to travel a long way to go to the inquest. It is very important that they are not faced with feeling—as many of them do, to judge from a consultation that I was fortunate enough to be part of last summer—shut out of the system, and that it is not accessible to them. They come away from the inquest all too often feeling that they have not got to the root of what happened. They really do not understand fully; do not feel that they have been treated fairly; and have not been part of what could have been part of the process of healing and moving on from a very traumatic period in their lives.

My first amendment would mean that the Lord Chancellor would be required to consult those he thinks appropriate, arising from any proposed amendment to subsection (2) on page 18. There are some quite profound statements here. I give as examples a decision to resume an investigation; a decision whether there should be a jury at an inquest; and a decision not to request a post-mortem examination. Those are all profound points that go to the core of the issue. My amendment makes a simple but important request: to seek consultation with those families before changes are made. Amendment 132, to which I am speaking, would also require consultation before regulations are drawn up.

Amendment 206A on page 107 provides a new clause that requires the officials specified in the amendment to be consulted. They are three straightforward amendments. I will not trouble the Committee at this late hour going into a detailed case in support of it, because they are straightforward. With that, I beg to move.

10 pm

Lord Kingsland: I rise simply to say that we support the amendments.

Lord Tunnicliffe: I entirely agree with the sentiments behind the amendments; namely, that before the Lord Chancellor, the Chief Coroner, relevant Secretary of State, or Welsh Minister make regulations, orders and rules they should consult with appropriate persons.

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However, I do not consider it necessary to go as far to state it in the Bill. I hope that it should be taken as read that when making secondary legislation the relevant Minister or Chief Coroner, as the case may be, would consult relevant interested parties, including coroners, local authorities, coroners’ offices and third-party organisations. With regards to Amendment 128, I remind the Committee that an order made under that clause to alter the grounds on which an appeal can be made to the Chief Coroner will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. As such, the drafting of such an order would need to be debated and approved by both Houses.

In addition, for regulations made under Clause 36 the Lord Chancellor must also have the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice or his nominee. It is envisaged that the Chief Coroner will also be involved with the process along with the new statutory coronial advisory council, which will comprise all those with a strong interest in the coroners service. It is our intention when the Bill receives Royal Assent that we will as soon as possible begin an extensive process of consultation that will continue for 12 to 24 months to inform the secondary legislation and associated guidance for which the Bill provides. The secondary legislation and guidance covering a wide public interest will be subject to written consultation during which the public and all other stakeholders will have the standard 12 weeks in which to respond. However, there will inevitably be some secondary legislation that is technical or of limited general interest, which will be subject to more targeted consultation. I hope that the comments give adequate reassurance to the noble Baroness that there will be consultation on secondary legislation for which the Bill provides, and that she will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: I thank the Minister for the detail of that response. I did not hear every word of it, so I look forward to reading it in Hansard tomorrow. I accept the undertaking of consultation. The problem we have had is that good intentions do not always follow through with good actions. It is often not in the Minister’s hands. The consultation is essential. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 128A withdrawn.

House resumed.

Broads Authority Bill

Returned from the Commons

The Bill was returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.

House adjourned at 10.04 pm.

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