Government U-Turn Over Chief Coroner Post After Campaign By Royal British Legion

Ken Clarke

First Posted: 23/11/11 10:44 Updated: 23/11/11 10:44   PA

The coalition Government has been forced into a climbdown over controversial reforms to the inquest system.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke confirmed he was abandoning plans to abolish the post of chief coroner amid heavy opposition from the Royal British Legion.

The move heads off the prospect of a rebellion when the changes in the Public Bodies Bill come before the House of Lords.

Mr Clarke said in a statement: "Over recent months I have listened to and reflected on the concerns raised across Parliament, by families and by other groups, including the Royal British Legion, that a single figure needs to be responsible for the coroner system.

"I am prepared to have one last try to meet those arguments and so have taken the decision to implement the office of the chief coroner.

"The existing mechanisms for challenging a coroner's decision will remain in place and will avoid the need for expensive new appeal rights. The new post will be focused on working to deliver the reform to coroners' services that we all want to see and which I previously argued should be delivered by the Lord Chief Justice and myself.

"Everyone is agreed that the priority is raising the standards of coroners' inquiries and inquests to ensure that bereaved families are satisfied with the whole process.

"I am therefore giving the chief coroner the full range of powers to drive up standards, including coroner training, as well as setting minimum standards of service through the new Charter."

Downing Street fuelled speculation of a U-turn by saying David Cameron was "sympathetic" to service families' concerns.

The Royal British Legion has conducted a year-long campaign to save the post, introduced by the former Labour government to streamline inquests and make it easier and quicker for families of troops killed in action to find out how they died.

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Filed by Dina Rickman  |