Missing People missing from the Queen’s Speech

May 16, 2012 4:06 pm

Author:

Share this Article

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

  • News Chris Leslie rules out raising National Insurance to pay for social care

    Chris Leslie rules out raising National Insurance to pay for social care

    The possibility of Labour pledging a specific tax to raise money for NHS spending resurfaced this weekend, with Ed Miliband apparently believing that the NHS is going to be a major issue in 2015. The supposed likely tax rise would be in National Insurance, and this has raised some debate on LabourList this summer, with MP Frank Field supporting the idea, while Andrew Harrop and Adebusuyi Adeyemi have both warned against it. In a revealing interview with Progress magazine, Shadow Chief […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Free School Meals: let’s avoid the sour grapes

    Free School Meals: let’s avoid the sour grapes

    This time last year, the government announced that it would introduce free school meals for all infant school children before the next election. The policy had been endorsed by the School Food Plan commissioned by Gove. It was being championed by the Lib Dems and brought forward so it could be implemented before the 2015 election in what appeared to be a pre-conference deal between the coalition partners. This week 1.5million children in infant schools in England, including my six year […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Weekly survey: Crime commissioners, Douglas Carswell and Labour defections

    Weekly survey: Crime commissioners, Douglas Carswell and Labour defections

    The role of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) has been in the news lately, with the low turnout at the recent West Midlands by-election and the Rotherham abuse scandal becoming focussed on the refusal to quit by the South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright. LabourList reported this weekend that Labour are planning to abolish PCCs after the election next year. Should the role be discontinued? Or is there just a better way of making them work? The defection of Douglas Carswell […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    I love the Labour party. I enjoy canvassing, I pay my subs, go to the various fundraising dinners and vote in National Executive Committee (NEC) elections. I, like many, hate the constant barrage of ‘please donate’ emails and fear the dreaded fundraising call. And if I feel like that, imagine the dread felt by a candidate when they receive such a call. Don’t believe that happens? Hard to believe as it is, on more than one occasion now I have […]

    Read more →
  • News Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy is resuming his soapbox street meetings tour of Scotland tomorrow, after suspending it last week in the face of increasing co-ordinated abuse by supporters of independence. These protests at Murphy’s open-air meetings came to the attention of the media (and the police) when the Shadow Defence Secretary was hit with eggs last week. In a blog for the Spectator this weekend, Murphy explains how the organised groups go beyond the “normal cut and thrust” of politics that the meetings […]

    Read more →