THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed a new law which will help families of missing people.

The Government announced proposed changes to the current guardianship law to make it easier for families to deal with their absent family members' property and financial affairs, and will allow them to suspend direct debits for mobile phone and utility bills, or to make mortgage payments.

Peter Lawrence, who has campaigned for the changes with the charity Missing People for several years, said he was pleased to see life would be made simpler for families with missing relatives - who could be appointed as a guardian for the missing person by a court for four years at a time.

Mr Lawrence said: "I am pleased that the government supports the role of guardian and will now start to prepare legislation to introduce it.

"I trust that the next Parliament will prioritise this new legislation so that families who have been waiting for so long for this new law will be able to look after their missing loved one’s financial and practical affairs."

Last year, Parliament passed The Presumption of Death Act, which addresses the situation where missing persons are presumed to be dead, and has the same power as a death certificates, again making it easier for families with missing members to deal with their personal finances and responsibilities.

The changes to the guardianship laws - which were developed by the Ministry of Justice, Missing People and their lawyers Clifford Chance LLP - are not yet in place, but Susannah Drury, director of policy and advocacy for Missing People, said she hoped they would be brought forward by the new Parliament.

She said: "Today’s announcement is a huge step forward for missing people and their families left behind. Until now these families have been powerless to stop the lives that they hope their missing loved ones will return to from falling apart.

"On behalf of everyone whose lives will be improved by this new law, we would like to thank the team at the Ministry of Justice, Clifford Chance and the many families who have campaigned tirelessly to get to this point."