THE father of missing York chef Claudia Lawrence has welcomed plans to provide extra help for families whose loved ones disappear.

Proposals unveiled today by Justice Minister Helen Grant will create a new “guardianship” power for relatives of missing people, allowing them to deal with legal and financial matters after a person vanishes, such as the ability to cancel their direct debits. They will go out to consultation later this year, with a final decision expected next year.

It follows the recent creation of new laws which, once introduced next April, will allow bereaved families to deal with the affairs of a relative who is missing and presumed dead. Peter Lawrence – whose daughter Claudia disappeared in March 2009, aged 35 – has campaigned for more rights for families of missing people.

He said: “I am delighted the Justice Minister has honoured the commitment she gave both to me and MPs to deal with the problem of families having no procedures at all to deal with their missing loved one’s financial and practical affairs.

“I hope the period of consultation will be quickly followed by a Bill. Guardianship is important to people like me because, within only weeks of Claudia’s disappearance, I realised this country surprisingly had no laws in place to allow me to look after and preserve her assets and deal with her bank account for her benefit. It really is a nightmare situation to be in.”

Mr Lawrence’s friend and spokesman Martin Dales said the proposals would help families of missing people who did not want to use Presumption of Death legislation to deal with their affairs, which Mr Lawrence and the Missing People charity had stressed the need for.