Amendment 121

Part of Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Newlove Baroness Newlove Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 9:30, 7 February 2024

My Lords, I support this amendment. The Manchester Arena terror atrocity in 2017 chilled every parent in the country. When you watch your children head off to a concert or a party, excited and happy, you are never at ease until they are safely home. I have met many victims from this concert, and I have to say that it saddens me every time I hear about it. What happened that night is every parent’s worst nightmare and our hearts go out to them. We can only imagine their grief, which is still there today, and it is a loss from which they will never recover.

All of us in this Committee will want to be sure that these parents have all the support they need—this is what the Bill is all about. It is therefore deeply upsetting to hear that, after these parents sat through what must have been a harrowing public inquiry, they were then told that the registration of their children’s deaths would be done not by them but by a local authority official. This is bureaucracy at its most cold. The treatment of bereaved families by the state will always have a profound impact on their recovery. For those parents, being able to register their children’s death was, for them, an important step in their grieving process and it should be their right, as the parents, to have that facility.

It would appear that under the Home Office’s Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 and the Ministry of Justice’s Coroners and Justice Act 2009, it is standard practice for a registrar to register deaths involving an inquest or inquiry. I understand that, if a person dies in usual circumstances, such as due to a health condition, a close relative can personally register their death. I did that in September for my mother, so I know that it is important. However, I am told that if they die in a major incident, it falls to the registrar. I also acknowledge that not all relatives want to register the death of a loved one, as in most cases, an interim death certificate is given soon after the incident for funeral arrangements —something I know about personally as well—but I want to see families being given a choice.

Having been to see so many Ministers is an insult: not just that they have been told “Yes, yes, yes” and then something else has been done, but every time they speak to a different Minister, it drains them. That they are having to explain, as parents who have lost children in the most horrendous way, beggars belief. What I am asking the Government and the Minister—all that is being asked for in this amendment—is that they be given that choice: that an extra space be found in the toolbar for the certificate, so that when a close family member wishes to be noted on the certificate, this can be achieved, without interfering with the coroner’s findings.

I understand that, sadly, it is too late for the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, but I feel sure it will bring some solace to them that they have achieved something for future victims and can actually say “Goodnight” to the children they have lost.