Round two for the coroners bill

By Ian Dunt

The second day of debate on the coroners bill will take place in parliament this afternoon, following angry scenes in the chamber yesterday.

Opposition MPs accused justice secretary Jack Straw of ‘filibustering’ for making a prolonged statement ahead of the debate. That followed a statement from the prime minister and another by Mr Straw on a British Bill of Rights.

The delay meant debate could not start until after sundown, and several pivotal clauses of the bill passed without debate.

The proposal for secret coroners inquests was passed. Cases concerning national security can now be conducted without a jury, and with the media and the bereaved family excluded from proceedings – pending Lords approval.

But a clause which abolished the defence of sexual jealousy in murder cases did not have time for debate, much to the anger of opponents, who accused the government of denigrating parliament by not allowing enough time for debate.

Other items which passed without debate included: coroners’ duties and powers, inquest juries, medical examiners, governance of coronial system, sedition, seditious and criminal libel, insult and conspiracy, murder and assisting suicide.

The first item up for debate today is a law removing a get-out clause to recent legislation outlawing incitement of hatred on the ground of sexual orientation. That will be given a full hour.

There are concerns later items on today’s agenda, including proposals on the anonymity of witnesses, will drop off the radar due to prolonged debate.