Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill - Committee

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:30 pm on 1st February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector) 1:30 pm, 1st February 2019

My Lords, I intend to be as brief as possible, not least because I wish that the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, will not have to continue to be as amazing in her stamina as she has been so far. I direct the Committee to an issue of considerable concern. Clause 3 deals with registration of pregnancy loss. It asks for there to be a report into whether it should be possible for those who have suffered pregnancy loss before 24 weeks to have that registered. I will not go back into the arguments put so eloquently by my noble friends Lady Benjamin and Lady Brinton.

Similarly, Clause 4(1) asks for a report to be conducted by the Secretary of State into the involvement of coroners in the investigation of stillbirths. We know from Second Reading that this is similarly a very important and sensitive issue. However, the problem is that the rest of Clause 4, in particular subsection (4), confers on the Secretary of State quite wide-ranging powers to bring about regulations in the light of that report.

My contention is simply this: I understand the sensitivity and importance of the issue, but I do not think that Members of this House or of another place have yet been able to understand the very deep and serious issues on both sides of the argument. Obstetricians and gynaecologists have some fears that the involvement of coroners may impact on their professional practice and their ability to talk openly with patients, for whom this is a very sad reality. Equally, on the other side there are those who believe that the current system is wrong and that coroners should be involved. I take no view on that; I simply think that Parliament should be able to consider the case in much more detail.

It is therefore wrong at this stage to go ahead with these wide-ranging Henry VIII powers. Today, all that I ask is that the noble Baroness. Lady Hodgson, might undertake to talk with some of us between now and Third Reading, to see whether we can find a way to deal with something which we all agree is important, so as not to jeopardise her Bill.