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Reform of the Coroners' System and Death Certification (Constitutional Affairs Select Committee Report)

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

I am publishing today the Government's response to the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee report, of 1 August, on “Reform of the Coroners’ System and Death Certification”. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. It will also be made available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website.

The draft Coroners Bill was published on 12 June. In the Bill we aim to do three things. First we will improve the way that the system serves the public interest and meet bereaved families’ concerns. The Bill will give families involved in the inquest process a clear legal standing in the system. We will also give families new rights through a new complaints and appeals system, enabling them to challenge a coroners’ decision, and the introduction of a Charter for Bereaved People which lays out the level of service families can expect. Secondly we will strengthen coroners’ work. The Bill will establish a proper appointments system for coroners, who will have to be legally qualified and will have to work full time as coroners, instead of having another job and working part time as coroners. Thirdly, we will create a national structure for coroners’ work. For the first time there will be a chief coroner who will provide national leadership for coroners, as the Lord Chief Justice does for judges. This will be supported by national standards, a coronial advisory council, a proper inspection system and national training for coroners and their officers.

I would like to thank the Committee for its thorough inquiry into our proposals to reform the coroners system, as set out in the draft Coroners Bill and for the additional consideration it gave to death certification. The Government regard pre-legislative scrutiny as a vital step in the consultation process.

Our public consultation exercise on the Bill has almost concluded. We are considering very carefully the views put forward about our proposals before finalising the Bill for parliamentary introduction as soon as time allows.