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We believe that the approach in the Bill is a better and more proportionate way forward. There will be a new national framework with leadership and guidance from the Chief Coroner, and we will retain local delivery with coroners and local authorities working together at a local level to ensure a high-quality service to bereaved families. The Chief Coroner will set national standards for all coroners and their staff in England and Wales, and will monitor compliance with those standards, oversee the services for families set out in the charter for the bereaved, and issue guidance on particular issues. We believe that the appointment of a Chief Coroner will make a significant difference over time. At the moment there are 110 coroners and, frankly, 110 different ways of doing things-some very good, others not so good. We want more of the

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former and less of the latter. Local authorities will continue to fund the coroner system and provide accommodation, staff and other resources, and police authorities will continue to provide coroners' officers in the majority of jurisdictions to ensure that services are tailored to any particular local needs.

To confirm what my noble friend Lord Davies said in Committee on 9 June, if it seems that any particular coroner area is underfunded or that any coroner is using resources inefficiently, the Chief Coroner will step in to liaise between coroner and authority to improve the situation. Provision and use of resources will be looked at additionally by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration. We hope this will help to facilitate a consistency of service delivery across coroner areas while ensuring that coroners continue to be able to make independent decisions about individual cases.

Having said all that, we naturally wish to keep the impact of our reforms of this system under review. They will need time to bed down and we must not rush to judgment. I do not rule out taking a fresh look in a few years' time at how we best organise the service. The Chief Coroner will undoubtedly have a view on this, as will the Justice Select Committee of another place, which will want to examine the impact of our reforms as part of the now normal process of post-legislative scrutiny. In future, there may be a stronger case for integrating coroners into the Courts Service, but given the long gestation period for the provisions in the Bill, that is a question for another day.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Can the Minister clarify where the extra £20 million will come from? Is it going to cost the taxpayer £20 million more, or the Ministry of Justice £20 million more and local government £20 million less? Is it just the shifting of money across budgets or is it more money out of taxpayers' pockets? If so, how on earth can that be?

Lord Bach: As I understand it, it will not come out of taxpayers' pockets. It is just the extra cost of setting up a central structure. I will try and get more details and if I cannot, I will write to the noble Lord.

I was going to end by saying that the cost of the creation of a completely centralised service is disproportionate to the benefits and that not all nationalised organisations have always been successful.

In the Queen's Speech debate, the right honourable Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who is a close colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and the honourable Member for North West Norfolk, who is a close colleague of the noble Lord, Lord Henley, agreed that a system of central management with local delivery would be the correct course. That is what we believe, too. In spite of the two opposition Front Benches here agreeing on this issue, I think that we are right and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

10 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his hatchet and I am grateful to those who have taken part in the debate. I did not expect to get more than I did from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, at this stage. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, I am concerned over the costings, which I

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think were put into the impact statement in a way to justify the selected case rather than to put the facts. I still hope that the Minister will engage in discussion on this before Third Reading and that we can get more clarity over these costings. Impact statements and assessments on Bills should be very useful to the House, but they are almost inevitably very poorly done. That is a great pity, as it hampers our ability to have an informed debate. With the proviso that we have that discussion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment 36A withdrawn.

Amendments 36B to 36D not moved.

Schedule 3 : Appointment etc of senior coroners, area coroners and assistant coroners

Amendments 36E to 36Y not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.02 pm.

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