Moves that will simplify the process that allows someone to choose people they trust to manage their own affairs if they become unable to do so have cleared the Commons.
MPs gave an unopposed third reading to the Powers of Attorney Bill, which would modernise and simplify the creation and registration of lasting powers of attorney.
The proposals would enable both processes to be completed digitally, although a paper service would be retained for those unable to access the digital service following a Government commitment to do so.
The Bill also introduces requirements to verify identity for those being given the power of attorney in order to prevent fraud or abuse.
Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe, the Bill’s sponsor, sought to reassure the Commons that moves to digitalise the process would not remove access to lasting power of attorney by a “paper route”.
The South Basildon and East Thurrock MP insisted that the “new system facilitated by my Bill will provide for a paper route to create a lasting power of attorney”, adding: “It will be updated with the safeguards that are mirrored in the digital version that this Bill creates.”
He went on: “In fact my Bill goes further than this and introduces a fluid system. One where donors, attorneys and others involved can use the channel, digital or paper, that best suits their skills, confidence and access.”
Mr Metcalfe also told the Commons: “I believe that a lasting power of attorney is an incredibly powerful and useful document. It lets someone choose people they trust to support them and make decisions for them if they lose the mental capacity to make their own decisions in the future.
“I make no apology for repeating the point I have made at previous stages of this Bill. Modernisation is no longer an option, but a necessity.”
Conservative MP Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) told MPs about the importance of the lasting power of attorney after her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Ms Aiken told the Commons: “At the point of when he still had the capacity, we organised lasting power of attorneys on health and on the financial side. I think it is really important to make the point that lasting power of attorneys are so important on both areas.”
She added: “When it came to the end of my father’s life and there had to be major decisions made on whether to continue his treatment, the fact that I had the final say I think ensured that the family knew that we were making the decision for my father in his best interest.”
The Tory MP also urged people across the UK to break the stigma of speaking about granting powers of attorney, telling MPs: “I would say to people in this House but across the country: have the conversations now.
“Having looked at this Bill and having written the speech… I am going to have the conversation with my husband, because we never know what is around the corner.”
Justice minister Mike Freer confirmed the Government “wholeheartedly” supports the Bill and responding to Ms Aiken’s comments, he said: “So often in this place we deal with dry and technical issues. But our job isn’t just to vote things through.
“Our job is to ensure that the legislation we are voting for is actually rooted in changing people’s lives and the personal testament she (Ms Aiken) brought into this debate reiterates why we are here.
“It makes for better law if we have personal experience or testimony from those that we know, from our constituents that actually will bring our legislation to life.”
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