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Clause 65

Part of Counter-Terrorism Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 13th May 2008.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Liberal Democrat, Somerton and Frome 6:30 pm, 13th May 2008

I am not going to be dissuaded from making the case, Mr. O’Hara, during the Committee stage of a Bill. The Minister’s response is what I anticipated. I do not believe that he can be wedded to the idea, which is so corrosive to the principle of an independent judiciary, that the Secretary of State should decide who should be the coroner. First, if it were possible for the Lord Chief Justice to take that responsibility, that would put it into the judicial sphere rather than the political sphere. Secondly, it should be possible for any coroner on the coroners’ list—I agree that we do not have a national coroner system at the moment—to be able to apply to be included on the list, subject to the vetting procedure. Many will not want to go through that procedure because it is onerous, and they may be happy not to be on that list and not to hear such inquests, but they should have the opportunity to do so and to be on the list. Once we have a list, the Lord Chief Justice should be able to select the coroner who is most appropriate to hear the case, having regard to the geographical situation and any other circumstances that might apply. I think that we can trust the Lord Chief Justice to do that in a dispassionate way and to take an appropriate decision, and that is what I intend by my group of amendments.