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 Brown was a better chancellor than Osborne is now, poll finds

    Brown was a better chancellor than Osborne is now, poll finds

    As we reported over the weekend, there are rumours circulating that Gordon Brown is going to step down as an MP. In light of this, The Times Red Box, in collaboration with YouGov, have done a poll to find out what the public thinks about the former chancellor – particularly in relation to the current one, George Osborne. When respondents were asked whether they thought Gordon Brown was a better or worse chancellor of the Exchequer than George Osborne is […]

    Read more →
  • Featured “Tory Welfare Waste” – why Reeves’ new attack line will cut through with voters

    “Tory Welfare Waste” – why Reeves’ new attack line will cut through with voters

    Rachel Reeves will make a speech today slamming the Tories’ handling of the welfare system, and will trial what looks like could potentially become a recurring line for Labour in the election run-up. “Tory Welfare Waste” is the takeaway line from today’s speech, and is likely to stick in the craw of the Tories, who have spent years trying to paint Labour as the party of profligate welfare spending. But annoying your opponents is not the only effective attack line. Fortunately, this […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured 8 questions Iain Duncan-Smith must now answer

    8 questions Iain Duncan-Smith must now answer

    In November 2011 Iain Duncan Smith promised – one million people would be on Universal Credit by April 2014. Three years on fewer than 18,000 people are receiving Universal Credit. Despite over £600million being spent on the new benefit the programme is beset by chaos, waste and delays. This afternoon Iain Duncan Smith was forced to appear before the House of Commons to answer questions about this failing programme. But once again he refused to answer the simplest of questions about his […]

    Read more →
  • Comment They left us wanting more – Gordon Brown is only the latest big beast to depart

    They left us wanting more – Gordon Brown is only the latest big beast to depart

    “Always leave them wanting more.” It’s not entirely clear who said it first, but this has become one of the more popular, if rarely achieved, political clichés. Of all the recent political leaders we might have expected to stand aside with a clamour for more ringing in his ears, Gordon Brown would not have featured prominently in discussions. Brown’s Labour leadership culminated in the party’s second worst General Election performance in the post-war era. Although he opted to remain in […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Regional banks: a crucial ingredient to help small business

    Regional banks: a crucial ingredient to help small business

    On 19 November, I was at a meeting at the German Embassy with the head of the German Savings Banks Group, Sparkassen, Georg Fahrenschon. Herr Fahrenschon told us that local savings banks were the biggest single driver of economic resilience through the global financial crisis and in the recovery since. This was because of their support for small businesses, which are the backbone of the German economy. In the US, the economic recovery has been far stronger and more sustained […]

    Read more →