Report on civil partnership

Part of Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:17 am on 26th October 2018.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 11:17 am, 26th October 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Lady because she pre-empts my clause 4 moment. The fourth, and very important, component of this Bill, which is addressed in clause 4, is coroners’ investigations. She participated in earlier debates and worked very helpfully with me and others to move this important issue up the agenda. I am grateful for her contribution.

Clause 4 of the Bill will allow part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to be amended. That is not easy, and the matter is slightly complicated by the fact that it falls under the jurisdiction of both the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for coroners, and the Department of Health and Social Care, which is responsible for healthcare in relation to baby loss. I must pay tribute to some very helpful and proactive support for this measure by MOJ officials. I had a very helpful meeting with the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend Edward Argar, who I am glad to see is present on the Front Bench. He was a great champion of many of the Bill’s provisions when he was just a commoner on the Back Benches and added his name to many of the measures I have been trying to get through today.

The Minister has confirmed that an immense amount of work has gone on at the Ministry of Justice. There are issues still to be resolved, such as whether coroners should have the power to investigate all stillbirth loss or should concentrate, which I think is practically the better approach, on full-term baby loss, when there are the fewest excuses or reasons for stillbirths to happen. Also, should this be mandatory or effectively subject to parental veto? There are serious problems with that, as there are some cases in which a stillbirth may have been connected to domestic violence and some sort of cover-up may be wanted, so I think we are coming to the view that the scheme should be mandatory. Should there be specialist coroners or should all coroners have the ability to investigate? Of course, there are also capacity constraints. The fact that a lot of work has been going on in the Department in the last few months shows that this can be done.