HC Deb 03 May 1988 vol 132 cc829-30

Order for Second Reading read.

10.30 pm
The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This Bill consolidates the Coroners Acts 1887 to 1980, together with a small number of related enactments. The consolidation will result in the repeal of eight Acts, two of which are over 100 years old, together with parts of 12 other Acts. In order to produce a satisfactory consolidation, the Law Commission made two recommendations for amendment to the law to remove possible ambiguity. Effect is given to these recommendations in clauses 22 and 29 of the Bill.

The Bill has been passed in another place where, in the usual way, it was referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. That Committee reported that the recommendations by the Law Commission are necessary for the purpose of producing a satisfactory consolidation of the law, and that the amendments that the Bill will make to the existing law give effect to those recommendations. With the exception of those amendments, the Committee reported that the Bill is pure consolidation.

Our thanks are due to the Law Commission and the Joint Committee for their work on this useful contribution to the continuing process of keeping the statute book in easily accessible form.

10.32 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

This is another chance for me to ingratiate myself with my Scots colleagues. I see no reason why the Bill should not go through quickly.

10.33 pm
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

I do not wish to delay the House at this hour. I appreciate that this is a Second Reading of a consolidation Bill, and I do not wish to address the merits of the Bill. However, there are three points in the Bill that should have been considered in its consolidation.

On 26 November, as reported in column 268 of Hansard, I asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for a copy of the coroner's report on the Hungerford massacre. He replied that it was not publicly available, but that at my request he would draw it to the coroner's attention. I have heard nothing further since. I must therefore assume that coroner reports are not available to Members of this House or, indeed, to the public. I find that an extraordinary omission, given that judges' findings and the proceedings of a court of law are a matter of public record.

Secondly, the Bill does nothing for 1992 and the single European market. This might be a humorous point, but anyone who has suffered the tragedy of a death overseas and finds himself having to fight the labyrinth of EEC mismatched regulations in order to bring his loved ones home will appreciate what a serious problem this is.

The Bill, as far as I can ascertain, does not deal with the question that arose in a court case which requires a coroner to inquire into a death that occurs overseas. There is an astounding anomaly in that. The most famous case was that of Helen Smith, whose father has fought continually to prove that his daughter was murdered abroad.

Of course, there is a more far-reaching case, which is that of the loyal men who gave their lives in the service of their country in the Falklands war.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. It is difficult to relate this to the Bill, which is purely a consolidation measure.

Mr. Field

The requirement for the coroner to open an inquest in those cases caused considerable grief to the families. I should have hoped that this consolidation measure would have overturned that court case and put the law back where it was before that case was heard.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.

Order for Third Reading read. [Queen's Consent signified]

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time,put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.