THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed backing from the House of Lords for new legislation making it easier for people to settle the affairs of a relative who is missing, presumed dead.

Peers gave an unopposed third reading to the Presumption of Death Bill, which has already cleared the Commons, as reported in The Press.

Peter Lawrence, whose daughter has not been seen since she disappeared on March 2009, has been campaigning for legal changes to help the relatives of people who have gone missing.

He welcomed the rule change, which brought England and Wales into line with the situation already existing in Scotland.

Mr Lawrence said: “I welcome the speed with which this has gone through Parliament and it will now make the law consistent across all parts of the United Kingdom helping families wind up their missing relative’s estate.

“I shall continue with promoting the need for legislation for Guardianship arrangements to exist for those missing to ensure their affairs are looked after until they return: it will help the thousands of families each year who find themselves in this predicament.”

Martin Dales, Mr Lawrence’s spokesman, said: “We hope this will become law by Easter.

“But this is relatively straightforward and is only part of what he has been campaigning for.”

He said the next change Mr Lawrence was seeking was for people to be able to obtain guardianship arrangements within months of someone going missing.

He said the Government had asked legal experts to examine whether suitable legislation could be drafted.

The new bill will enable someone to apply for a High Court declaration stating the relative is deemed dead after being missing for seven years.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Kramer said said the Bill, which applies to England and Wales, was likely to lead to about 30 to 40 presumption of death certificates being issued a year.