Clause 65 — Certificate requiring inquest to be held without a jury: England and Wales

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 10th June 2008.

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Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood 8:30 pm, 10th June 2008

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. On Second Reading, I argued for the withdrawal of the relevant provisions. However, I have read what was said in Committee and I hear what the Minister said about a special case that needs to be addressed in a special way.

I will accept what the Minister said, but if the Government are not going to withdraw clause 65, they need to consider what will happen when the coroners Bill finally comes before the House. We could be here debating the issue again in a year's time. The Government will be looking into the wider parameters of the coroners Bill, because there are many problems with the coroners system and huge delays. Indeed, I know of a peacetime death in barracks in this country that happened five years ago next month that has still not been the subject of a coroner's report. Things therefore have to move on.

Can the Minister give me any assurances that when the coroners Bill comes before the House, we will have an opportunity to engage with the issue again? What we are debating today will have consequences for the coroners Bill. If the Government do not withdraw clause 65, there will be an opportunity over the next few months to learn the lessons of this special case and see how it could be better addressed in a wider review and restructuring of the coroners system.

Finally, paradoxically, many families involved in Army deaths want special coroners, but they do not want them in the circumstances that we are discussing. I have spoken to individuals in the Royal British Legion and to the families involved in the Deepcut and Beyond campaign. They admire the work done on Army deaths by the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire coroners, who have built up a huge amount of expertise. If we are going to have special coroners, they should bring expertise and particular skills to a situation, not secrecy.

I therefore welcome the Government's amendments to introduce a role for the Lord Chief Justice, but there are still too many questions unanswered. I read what my right hon. Friend the Minister said in Committee, but he needs to give a lot of reassurances about the breadth of the provisions that we are debating, particularly to the bereaved families who want answers, and about how we can take the matter forward when we debate the coroners Bill.

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