On 26 April, Lord Moylan asked HM Government what plans they have to put in place a multi-professional strategy for the emergency services concerning the attendance of ministers of religion at the scene of situations involving serious injury. Responding to the Oral Question, Baroness Williams of Trafford (Minister of State, Home Office) highlighted the recently revised guidelines from the College of Policing. Given these changes, she stated that there are no plans to introduce such a strategy.
Lord Moylan welcomed the new guidance and the reference to the Convention rights of the dying and their families. However, he expressed concern that granting access will remain entirely an operational decision. He asked what mechanisms would be put in place to ensure the guidance leads to changes in practice. The Minister explained that the guidance has been distributed to all forces.
Baroness Masham asked if a list of priests could be made available for those who require the last rites. This questions was not answered directly, but the Minister said the guidance would mean officers would be more aware.
Note: While this was not mentioned in the reply, Police Chaplaincy UK does hold a list of registered Police Chaplains and has contact information for the Lead Chaplain for each Force.
Baroness Harris praised the work of the 500+ volunteer Police Chaplains. She asked if the Government would ensure Police Chaplaincy UK would be enshrined into Police Covenant. The Minister noted the vital service chaplains provide at critical times. She was unable to confirm if Police Chaplaincy UK will be enshrined into the Covenant but expressed the Government’s full support for the chaplaincy.
The Bishop of St Albans noted the sacramental nature of the last rites and asked if the guidelines will be taught during training. He also asked if the availability of such training could be monitored. The Minister said that this will be monitored and acknowledged that further learning is needed.
Lord Cormack proposed a system similar to a donor card for people to carry to indicate their need for a minister in the case of an emergency. He noted that Sir David would have expected the sacraments. The Minister said she would be taking this suggestion back with her.
Lord Ponsonby asked if the guidance would be continually reviewed, particularly around issues such as the contamination of crime scenes. The Minister said that she did not want any unintended consequences from the guidance. Like all things it will be reviewed and it will come back to the House.