MPs and peers on collision course over secret inquests

By staff

The Commons and the Lords are on a collision course on whether to allow some coroners’ cases to be heard in secret.

MPs rejected moves by the Lords last week to stop the secret inquests. They also voted against a Lords amendment allowing intercept evidence to be used in court.

Civil liberties campaigners were relying on the use of intercept evidence to prevent the need to hear cases in private.

But the government insists the information could fall into the wrong hands and prompt a risk to national security.

The coroners and justice bill will now go back to the Lords, with time quickly running out before the end of the parliamentary session on Thursday.

The plans for secret inquests have been a constant thorn in the side of civil liberties groups, appearing in various bills and then being discarded before reappearing again somewhere else.

“It seems like this debate is something of a groundhog day,” Labour MP Andrew Dismore told the Commons yesterday.

Justice secretary Jack Straw said: “What I’m trying to do here is square an extraordinarily difficult circle and have not yet found any way of doing it except by a route similar to this.

“The alternative of jury inquest from which material would be withheld is not a way of reaching at the truth for relatives.”