Media Media releases Parliamentary meeting to highlight urgent need for coronial reform 29th March 2011 10.45 – 11.45am Wednesday 30 March 2011 Committee Room 5, Houses of Parliament INQUEST’s parliamentary meeting will highlight the urgent need for coronial reform and discuss coalition government proposals not to implement key aspects of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 including abolition of the office of the Chief Coroner. Chaired by Lord Ramsbotham, the meeting will hear from: Deborah Coles (INQUEST, Co-Director), Chris Simpkins (Director General of The Royal British Legion) and Rob Flello MP (Shadow Junior Minister for Justice). Deborah Coles said: A seven year consultation and parliamentary process that drew on the expertise and experience of all involved with the inquest system, in particular bereaved people and their advisors resulted in the reforms included in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which received cross party endorsement. This legislation promised an inquest system fit for purpose in the 21st Century. Instead this government proposes merely to tweak the current system without injecting any additional resources whatsoever. This is a false and dangerous economy. Without fundamental overhaul the preventative role of the system in upholding public health and safety will be undermined. The House of Lords has overwhelmingly backed fundamental reform and, as the Public Bodies Bill moves to the House of Commons to be scrutinized, we hope MPs will also send a clear message to government. Without the Chief Coroner providing national leadership and judicial oversight, the government’s current proposals will amount to little more than unenforceable aspirations. In the absence of fundamental reform INQUEST will also officially launch The Inquest Handbook – its fully revised guide to the inquest system for bereaved families, friends and their advisors at the event. It is the only comprehensive guide to the system available free to bereaved people. Notes to editors: Bereaved families and specialist organisations such as INQUEST contributed time and effort to the lengthy consultation processes that led up to the enactment of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 including submitting written consultations, meeting with policy-makers and Ministers, organising and speaking at parliamentary meetings/committees. For full details see the policy pages. The Coroners and Justice Act laid out a blueprint for fundamental reform of the coronial system and received cross-party support during its passage through Parliament. Central to the new framework was the post of Chief Coroner: a judicial office-holder who would lead reform, introduce national standards and oversee a new appeals system. In October 2010, the government announced they would not implement key provisions of the Act and attempted to abolish the office of Chief Coroner through the Public Bodies Bill. Clause 1 of the Bill confers a general enabling power on a Minister to, by order, abolish a body or office listed in the schedules to the Bill (which includes the Chief Coroner for England and Wales in schedule 1). In December 2010, the House of Lords passed an amendment, by 277 votes to 165, to remove the Chief Coroner and associated offices from the Bill. Despite this, INQUEST understands that the government intends to press ahead with its plans and re-introduce the provision when the Public Bodies Bill moves to the House of Commons – expected to be in early May 2011. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice with responsibility for coroners issues, Jonathan Djanogly MP, is unable to take part but senior civil servants from the Ministry of Justice will attend. INQUEST’s Briefing and Frequently Asked Questions on coronial reform outlines the need for overhaul of the inquest system and examines the government’s arguments for abolition of the Chief Coroner’s office.