Coroner bill delay could stymie child death panels

Campaigners have expressed disappointment over the government’s failure to include a bill to reform the coroner’s system in the Queen’s Speech last week.

The proposed bill, which was announced in the prime minister’s pre-legislative programme in July, would have included plans to give coroners more powers to obtain information and establish national standards for the service. It was not included in the Queen’s Speech due to a “lack of parliamentary time”, the Ministry of Justice said.

The NSPCC warned the delay would mean new child death overview panels being set up next year may lack information from coroners, who are currently not compelled to share information unless they see fit. It hoped the bill would address this.

All local safeguarding children’s boards are required to have the panels in place from April 2008, involving professionals from social services, health and the police. NSPCC director of public policy Phillip Noyes said: “We have missed a golden opportunity to recover essential child death information.”

Charity Inquest said the omission was “bitterly disappointing” for bereaved families.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the government “remained committed” to the reforms and promised the bill would be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allowed.

The Queen’s Speech also included a Children and Young Persons Bill, aimed at implementing the pledges of the Care Matters white paper.

Other measures in the Queen’s speech

● Education and Skills Bill

Would place a duty on local authorities to assess education and training needs of young people with special educational needs aged 16-19.

● Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill

Would create offence of inciting hatred against gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled people and pledges to strengthen pre-court and community penalties available for young offenders.

● A Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill

Pledges to use money in dormant bank accounts to fund youth facilities.

● Employment Bill

Would strengthen enforcement of minimum wage.

Further information

Queen’s Speech

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Mithran Samuel


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