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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice 8:30 pm, 10th June 2008

It is a great pleasure to follow Mrs. Humble, who made a number of very important points. On this issue, it is also a pleasure and honour to follow both Mr. Dismore and Mr. Grieve, who made devastating cases against part 6, which manages to be simultaneously repugnant, unnecessary, ineffective and premature.

Part 6 is repugnant because it violates the principle of the separation of the powers. It is unnecessary because the means for effecting most of its ends—public interest immunity and the power of the coroner—already exist to allow the public to be excluded on grounds of national security. It is ineffective because, as the hon. Members for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood and for Hendon and the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield have already demonstrated, this system will not bring about closure for the relatives, who will not know the basis on which the decision has been made. From their point of view, the uncertainties will continue. It is premature because it is wrong to decide these issues before we know the full structure of the coronial system that the coroners Bill will set up and before we know the final resolution of the issue over the admissibility of intercept evidence in all forms of procedure.

I accept what the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield said—that the origins of these clauses may not have been badly motivated. There is a case—we do not know the details, but we know the outline—for saying that there have been blockages because of how the present system works, but that does not justify where the Government have ended up, because they have ended up with a system that grants extraordinary powers to the Secretaries of State.

I also accept what the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield said about coroners being different and about the system being one of investigation rather than an adversarial conflict between two sides in court. That means that the state, in the form of the prosecution service, does not have the power to withdraw a case. Nevertheless, the issue of the relationship between the investigatory arm of the state in general and the Government is raised here.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website