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Coroners: Armed Forces

Volume 458: debated on Monday 26 March 2007

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what plans she has to transfer funds from HM Coroner for Oxfordshire to HM Coroner for Wiltshire following the decision to transfer cases of multiple military deaths overseas from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Lyneham; and if she will make a statement. (129138)

The exceptional funds provided to the Oxfordshire coroner were to clear a backlog of inquests which had developed. I will continue to regularly review progress regarding these inquests.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what new arrangements she plans to make to fund HM Coroners following her decision to transfer responsibility for coroners inquests from Oxfordshire to the home counties of individual deceased military personnel; and if she will make a statement. (129139)

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the additional costs falling on HM Coroner for Wiltshire arising from the transfer of cases of multiple military deaths overseas from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire. (129140)

We have no costings for the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner handling potential multiple inquests of fatalities repatriated to RAF Lyneham.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many military inquests were conducted in (a) Oxfordshire and (b) Wiltshire in each of the last five years. (129631)

We are seeking the relevant information from the Oxfordshire coroner. The Wiltshire coroner's office has advised that five military inquests were held in 2002, eight were held in 2003 (of which one remains outstanding), none in 2004, six in 2005 and two in 2006.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what extra funding and staffing has been given to the Oxfordshire Coroner to assist with the cost of military inquests incurred due to the use of RAF Brize Norton for the repatriation of bodies; and what additional resources will be given to the Wiltshire Coroner when those duties are transferred to RAF Lyneham on 1 April. (129632)

To clear the backlog of military inquests the Oxfordshire coroner has been provided with the funding authority to employ three additional assistant deputy coroners, three additional coroner's officers, one additional administrative officer and recording equipment to enable two courts to run simultaneously. To date, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has received invoices totalling £115,000 for this additional resource. It is not planned to provide additional resources to the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner who we understand intends to transfer as many of the military inquests as he can to the coroners nearest to the bereaved family. I will continue to regularly review the progress of military inquests.