LANDMARK legislation to help the families of missing people such as York’s Claudia Lawrence could go through Parliament as early as Easter.

Campaigner Peter Lawrence said rapid progress had been made with the Presumption of Death Bill, intended to cut red tape around the affairs of those who are missing and presumed dead.

Mr Lawrence, who has championed the rights of missing people’s families since his daughter Claudia disappeared in 2009, was speaking yesterday at the launch of the Missing People Northern Carol Service, due to be held in York on December 10.

The service, at St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, will pray for those who are missing and will host the families of missing people.

Mr Lawrence said: “It will mean people are together in the lead-up to Christmas. The readings are geared to the families of missing people.

‘‘It’s not just for Claudia. If they are like me it means something to be with other families.

“The main thing is that all the families of missing people in the north of England, whether they are here or not, will be remembered.”

The Presumption of Death Bill is due to reach the committee stage next week and should have its first reading in the House of Lords before Christmas. It is then hoped it will go through parliament by Easter, Mr Lawrence said.

The presumption of death certificate will be equivalent to a death certificate in its legal power and will help to simplify the processes and problems faced by relatives.

Having the certificate will help families to deal with the affairs of the missing person, such as direct debits or access to bank accounts.

Although Mr Lawrence supports the Bill, he said he was disappointed there was currently no provision for guardianship in the Bill and he said he would continue to press for such legislation.

There is now an international number for the charity Missing People and Mr Lawrence urged the families of those who are missing to get in touch with it for advice on 116000.

The Missing People Northern Carol Service, which will have a choir of children from Headlands Primary School, is open to the public and will be held at 2.30pm on December 10.