HC Deb 20 June 1974 vol 875 cc654-5
4. Dr. Winstanley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he intends to take with regard to the report of his Department's Committee on Death Certification and Coroners which was published in 1971; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summerskill)

We are considering the report, and my right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make a statement soon.

Dr. Winstanley

Are there not at least two urgent matters arising from the report which require action? First, is it not time that we had some clarification of the law relating to death certification in cases involving human tissue transplants? Secondly, is it not high time that we curbed the activities of certain of Her Majesty's coroners, who appear frequently to ignore the coroners' rules, often causing unnecessary distress to bereaved persons?

Dr. Summerskill

I agree that these are only two of the very important aspects of the report which are being considered. There were 114 recommendations in all, and different Government Departments are involved. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are in the final stages of consultation.

Mr. Waddington

May I remind the hon. Lady of the reply she gave to a Question from me on 2nd April? Will she remember that great distress can be caused to people as a result of the non-issue of death certificates? May I also remind her of a case of a constituent of mine whose wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver? The constituent could not be furnished with a death certificate and for years and years was unable to get benefits from the insurance companies. This is a very urgent matter.

Dr. Summerskill

I appreciate the urgency, but many of these recommendations are controversial. There is by no means unanimous agreement on them. It is important that we get some agreement between Departments.