The Public Advocate Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Wills (Labour). A date for the bill’s second reading has not yet been announced.

The bill would establish a public advocate who would act either at the request of the Lord Chancellor, or after an event that had caused a large-scale loss of life if requested to do so by a majority of representatives of the deceased and injured survivors. The proposals for the role of the public advocate are based on the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which was set up in 2009 to re-examine the events of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The advocate would be required to report to representatives of the deceased on the progress of investigations into the major incident. At the request of a majority of the representatives of the deceased, the advocate would be required to set up a panel to review and report on all documentation relating to the event. Relevant public authorities and other bodies would be required to provide documents to the panel, unless covered by a specific exemption such as national security grounds or prejudicing a police investigation. A decision by a public authority to withhold information under one of the exemptions would be subject to review by the information commissioner. The information commissioner’s decision could be appealed to a tribunal.

The advocate would be required to report annually on their work, and to report at the conclusion of their work relating to a particular event. The provisions would apply to England and Wales and would apply only to events that took place once the bill had come into force.

The Conservative manifesto of 2017 and the subsequent Queen’s Speech contained a commitment to introduce an independent public advocate to act for bereaved families after a public disaster and support them at public inquests. The government ran a consultation on this in 2018 but has not introduced legislation. Since 2016, there have been several attempts through private member’s bills and amendments that have been tabled to establish a public advocate, but none has been successful. The government has said that it is in favour of supporting bereaved families after major incidents, but it also wants to ensure that any new arrangements do not duplicate existing processes for investigations, inquests and inquiries.

Related posts

  • Commission on Young Lives: National plan for vulnerable young people

    The Commission on Young Lives was an independent group formed to design a new national system to prevent crisis in vulnerable young people and to boost their life chances and educational prospects. The commission published a report in November 2022 which made recommendations to government, local authorities, police and others to tackle the “deep-rooted” problems facing vulnerable youths. The commission’s “centrepiece recommendation” was for a “sure start plus for teenagers” network of intervention and support.

    Commission on Young Lives: National plan for vulnerable young people
  • Arrival of the Empire Windrush: Celebrating the 75th anniversary

    National Windrush Day on 22 June 2023 will mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the passengers of the Empire Windrush to the UK. The day celebrates the contribution and achievements of the Windrush generation and their descendants. This briefing provides background information for a debate in the House of Lords on the government’s plans to mark this celebration.

    Arrival of the Empire Windrush: Celebrating the 75th anniversary