Amendment 121

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 9:15, 7 February 2024

My Lords, in many ways, my Amendment 121 continues the discussion about the victims of major incidents; in fact, I think we have a suite of amendments that talk about the issues that surround those who have been involved in major incidents, whether they were quite some time ago, as my noble friend Lord Wills said, or more recently.

I refer to the work of my honourable friend Emma Lewell-Buck, as she raised this issue in the Commons. This is a probing amendment, because it is important that we start this discussion, and I think that everybody is aware that the issues of registering deaths are not uncomplicated. When she raised this in the Commons, the Government said that they

“intend to launch a full public consultation on the role of the bereaved in death registration following an inquest, including those impacted by a major disaster”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/12/23; col. 138.]

In the Commons, the Minister told my honourable friend that it was no longer possible to accept her amendment

“due to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which will digitalise death registration”.

I report that, because my honourable friend said that her amendment would

“give the Secretary of State the power to modify any provisions, which would enable the clause to be shifted to a digital state in future”,—[Official Report, Commons, 4/12/23; col. 122.] and the Minister at the time said that the Government were incredibly sympathetic to the purpose.

I will relate the reason why this is important. My honourable friend has been campaigning for this change for some time on behalf of her former constituents Chloe Ann Rutherford and Liam Thomas Allen-Curry, who were murdered in the 2017 Manchester Arena attack. She explained in her speech, which is on record, that in 2022, after sitting through the public inquiry and listening to every agonising detail of what their children went through, Chloe and Liam’s parents were told that they would be denied that right to register their children’s deaths due to outdated legislation that states that, where deaths require an inquest or an inquiry, death registration is to be done solely by the registrar. All that those devoted parents wanted was to be part of the final official act for their precious children, but they were denied that.

After meeting the Minister, they were given assurances that he would look urgently at whether and how those changes could be made. Emma Lewell-Buck said:

“With each change of Minister”— of course, that has been a feature of some ministries in this Government—

“the promises continued, yet nothing has changed”.—[Official Report, Commons, 4/12/23; col. 122.]

In February 2023, the bereaved families attended yet another meeting with Ministers, at which they felt they were treated with contempt, patronised and insulted, and that it was clear that they been misled by the Government for nearly a year, because despite it being entirely possible to change the law, the Government simply did not seem to want to do so.

In June 2033, Chloe and Liam’s parents watched, after six agonising years following their children’s death, as they were registered by a stranger. I think that is not acceptable, and that is the situation that this amendment seeks to change. I think it is not a very big change, myself, but I think it is something that the Government need to do for those families who want to be involved in the registration of the death of the victims of a major incident. I beg to move.