Guardians and effect of guardianship order

Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 21 February 2017.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

With this it will be convenient to discuss clauses 9 to 25 and the schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

Quite simply, clauses 8 to 25 cover the guardian’s obligations, the role of the Office of the Public Guardian, the relevant courts that would supervise the proceedings, and the code of practice. On that basis, I commend the clauses to the Committee.

Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I thank my hon. Friend for his explanation of clauses 8 to 25. The clauses build on the foundation laid by clauses 1 to 7 and lay out the remainder of the legal framework to which secondary legislation and codes of practice are to be added. The clauses are unified by the theme of the guardianship, but are fairly disparate in their detail.

First, the clauses deal with the obligations of the guardian and the effect of his or her dealings with third parties. In that respect, the guardian is obliged to act in what he or she reasonably believes to be the best interests of the missing person and is to be treated as the agent of the missing person. Third parties dealing with the guardian need to know where they stand, just as they do with any agent.

Clauses 8 and 11 build on the law of agency and the provisions relating to deputies in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Clause 10 allows guardians and others to seek instructions from the court on how to act. Personal representatives and trustees have similar options. Once appointed, a guardian will be entrusted by the court with authority to act on behalf of the missing person, but circumstances may change. Clauses 12 to 15 create a system within which orders can be changed by court order or revoked, whether by court order or automatically, in the light of changing circumstances.

Guardians will be held to account by third parties under clause 11, where the guardian acts outside their authority. They will also be subject to the supervision of the Public Guardian, by virtue of clause 17. Here, too, the Bill draws on the existing legislation relating to deputies, as it does in clause 22, in relation to the issues of codes of practice, to provide guidance to guardians and others.

I welcome the inclusion of the definition of the best interests of the missing person in clause 18, particularly the provision allowing for further definition of that concept through regulations subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. None of the secondary legislation that may be created under the Bill has yet been drafted, but a memorandum on the powers has been sent to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place. I certainly envisage that the draft legislation will be subject to consultation with stakeholders and experts.

I do not think that I need to comment on any other aspects of the Bill, save to say that I hope that all the necessary secondary legislation can be made within a year of Royal Assent, so that if the Bill is enacted, it can be brought into force in 2018. I commend clauses 8 to 25 of the Bill to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 9 to 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill to the House.

Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton

On a point of order, Mr Hanson. I would just like to thank a number of people. I thank our wonderful doorkeepers and Hansard reporters, all colleagues across all parties who have given up their time today and on many other occasions, the Clerks for their essential guidance, the officials from the Ministry of Justice, particularly the excellent Mr Hughes, who has been tremendous, and of course our superb Ministers, who have been so supportive. Of course, I also thank everyone connected to the Missing People organisation, which has campaigned so hard and for so long for the introduction of this legislation.

I am grateful to Members from all parts of the House and to Members of the other place who have pledged their support. I give particular thanks to my hon. Friends the Members for York Outer and for Selby and Ainsty and to the hon. Members for York Central (Rachael Maskell), for Stockport and for City of Chester, who have been so supportive and worked so hard on this issue. I was simply in the right place at the right time and have hopefully carried the baton over the last few yards. I am also very grateful to the Select Committee on Justice and the all-party group on runaway and missing children and adults for their work.

I offer my final and most important thanks to my constituents, Mr and Mrs Lawrence—Peter Lawrence is here today—who have championed the cause of guardianship, even though it can no longer help with their situation. They are, of course, the parents of Claudia Lawrence, a missing person since 18 March 2009, nearly eight years ago, her fate still unknown. As a testimony and tribute to their endeavour, their eternal hope, their endless fight for answers and justice, and their selfless commitment to help others faced with similar tragic circumstances, I very much hope that this legislation, if effected, will always be known as Claudia’s law.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose.