Professor Iain McLean briefs Lord Wood of Anfield on the merits of creating a 'Public Advocate' for victims of national disasters
On 29 January, a bill proposed by Lord Michael Mills was debated in the House of Lords. The bill proposed that a 'public Advocate' be established to "provide advice to, and act as data controller for, representatives of the deceased after major incidents". Stewart Wood spoke in favour of this proposition and, having been briefed extensively by Iain McLean and his former research officer Martin Johnes (now at Swansea University), cited the example of the Aberfan tragedy of 1966 and the "stunning combination of insensitivity and professional self-protection" from the inquiry that followed it.
Stewart offered one particularly brutal example: "At one point, the Charity Commission, in 1967, gave advice to the Aberfan Disaster Fund on financial compensation for the families who had lost children. It said that before any payment was made, each case should be reviewed to ascertain whether the parents had been close to their children and were likely to be suffering mentally."
The debate is available to read in full here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/index/160129.html
Lord (Stewart) Wood of Anfield is Visiting Fellow of Politics at Nuffield College, Oxford.