Missing People missing from the Queen’s Speech

16th May, 2012 4:06 pm

One of the many surprises caused by its absence from the Queen’s Speech was any mention of the long-sought legislation on addressing the impact a missing loved one can have on families.  Every year around 216,000  people go missing and around 2,000 are still missing after a year; sadly some are never found.

Although families may come to the realisation, often after years of hoping, that their loved one is probably dead, without a body it is very difficult to register that person’s death and obtain a death certificate.  This can lead to years of delay in settling a person’s affairs such as dissolving marriages, dealing with mortgages, and administering estates.  In cases where missing people are found, the intervening period can have devastated their bank accounts, homes can have been repossessed, and bills paid for years for services they never used.

Charities such as Missing People have been working for some time to bring forward legislation and had been hopeful that this year’s Queen’s Speech would be the turning point. Their work has been supported by a June 2011 enquiry by the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children which recommend that the Ministry of Justice provides a framework for consultation.   The House of Commons Justice Select Committee then threw its weight behind the call in its report this February when they called on the Government to introduce a Presumption of Death Act modelled on the legislation in force in Scotland and Northern Ireland.  They even went further and proposed a system of guardianship orders that would allow a person’s property to be administered in their best interests if they have been missing for three months or more.  This is an excellent idea and could particularly help families where a loved one has goes missing but is found after a few months.

The legislation in Scotland has worked well and in the 34 years since it was enacted only one missing person is reported to have come forward, and of course that can’t be considered negative in any way.  If we compare the situation in Scotland or Northern Ireland to England and Wales, however, we soon see just how difficult it is for families whose loved one has gone missing.  Families can wait for seven years and then approach the courts, and I mean courts plural, because an order for one purpose does not cover all.  Oddly one court could rule on a presumption of death whereas another court on the same evidence could deny such an order.  All of this of course on top of the burden that the loss of a loved one brings with it.  Under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules a family could move slightly more swiftly but this is not a presumption of death, it only allows a family to administer the missing person’s affairs and the round of court applications is still needed to deal with marriages etc.

it is more than disappointing that the Ministry of Justice has not brought forward any proposed legislation in this area and it has fallen to Baroness Kramer to bring forward a private Bill in the House of Lords.  This is an unsatisfactory way for a government not exactly groaning under the weight of draft Bills to behave.   The Labour Party will continue to press the current government to resolve this issue at the earliest opportunity.

Rob Flello is a Shadow Justice Minister

  • treborc1

    The same problem you moan about the other lot not doing anything, but you have had thirteen years to sort it out, the question is why the heck did labour not do it when in power.

  • http://www.internationalrewardscentre.com/ Kevin

    internationalrewardscentre.com

    We totally agree with Treborci on this one. Trying to make political mileage from the issue of Missing Persons is one thing, walking the talk is another. The only thing Missing here is your ‘action’. 
    And why draw the Queen into this? Are you not man enough
    Could you please the public and categorically name those Labourite MPs who would support such a bill and give it the rubber stamp!

  • Bill Lockhart

    ” The Labour Party will continue to press the current government to resolve this issue at the earliest opportunity.”

    Except of course when the current government *is* the Labour Party, when it did sod all on the matter.

Latest

  • Featured News Labour leadership candidates answer readers’ questions on education

    Labour leadership candidates answer readers’ questions on education

    LabourList readers can submit weekly questions on a different topic to the Labour leadership candidates. Here are the answers we got back from the first round of questions, on education. Note: Yvette Cooper’s will be added when we receive them. 1) How would you improve the quality and availability of childcare? Corbyn: It is important for all children to socialise together from an early age, and it’s a community good. We need to expand wraparound childcare at schools and free childcare […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Soft on welfare? The challenge of a popular welfare policy that works

    Soft on welfare? The challenge of a popular welfare policy that works

    We are being told that Labour lost votes through being seen as “too soft” on welfare. But we must understand the complexity of public attitudes in this area, and the difficulties of reconciling these attitudes with policy that works, and with the reality of the hardship caused by a “tough” policy. It must be Labour’s role to lead the debate on benefits, as well as follow public opinion. We can challenge the misinformation behind policies like Universal Credit and the […]

    Read more →
  • News Mary Creagh says failure to act in Syria “opened the door to ISIS”

    Mary Creagh says failure to act in Syria “opened the door to ISIS”

    Shadow International Development Secretary Mary Creagh has said that the failure of western governments to act against Bashar al-Assad in 2013 helped give rise to jihadist group ISIS. Writing for Progress Magazine, Creagh describes the vote that stopped the possibility of UK intervention in Syria as a “shock defeat” that “reverberated around the world”. Following the use of chemical weapons in Syria two years ago, the Government put forward a motion to begin military action against Assad’s regime. Creagh outlines the series […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Workers under the hammer: Sotheby’s workers need all the help they can get

    Workers under the hammer: Sotheby’s workers need all the help they can get

    Last week, I had the privilege to speak on a panel a number of women speaking about their experience of being in low paid work in London. Two days later, one of these women, I can’t name her for fairly obvious reasons although it still somehow feels wrong not to, lost her job simply for protesting for better pay. The common thread in the very moving stories – as the women described the long hours, poor conditions and inadequate rates […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Tessa Jowell slams the government for failing to build London Olympic legacy

    Tessa Jowell slams the government for failing to build London Olympic legacy

    Tessa Jowell has slammed the government for failing to build on the London Olympic Games to encourage children to play sport. Jowell is one of five people in the running to be Labour’ candidate for London Mayor. 10 years after London won their bid to host the Games, the mayoral hopeful,who was Minister for the Olympics, told the Guardian: “Instead of a generation of children being transformed by sport a generation of children have been robbed of the chance to discover […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit