Infant Cremation – Ministerial Statement & Debate

A review of cremation regulation in England moves a step closer following the ministerial statement. In Scotland, the consultation responses on burial and cremation law have now been published

The campaign for better regulation of the cremation of babies and stillborn infants is gaining momentum, and last week the campaign group Action for Ashes[1] met with the Minister, Caroline Dinenage, and delivered a 61,000 petition to No 10, Downing Street. On 8 July, the Minister issued a statement, below, which was followed in the afternoon by a Westminster Hall debate on infant cremation:

“Written Statement, HC Hansard: 8 July 2015 Vol 598(30) Col 6WS

Cremation Regulation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Family Justice (Caroline Dinenage): On 1 June 2015 David Jenkins published his report into the way infant cremations were carried out at Emstrey crematorium in Shropshire between 1996 and 2012. The report established that during this time the crematorium failed to obtain ashes to return to families after the cremation of a baby or stillborn child.

In addition, in Scotland in 2014 Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission (ICC) reported that parents had in some cases been incorrectly told that there had been, or would be, no ashes from their infants’ cremations.

Scotland has already done much work in response to the ICC’s report. The Emstrey report, however, made several recommendations for Government. It also recommended that Government consider the ICC’s recommendations.

I am clear that bereaved parents should not have to experience the additional grief that those affected by the issues in Emstrey have faced. I am sadly aware of other bereaved families having had similar experiences elsewhere in England.

I am determined that the Government should do what they can to make sure that following a cremation infant ashes are returned to bereaved families.

We are considering the Emstrey and ICC recommendations in depth and will consult on proposals for a number of changes to the relevant legislation, the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008, later this year.

[HCWS88]

Comment

Whilst the promise of a consultation is some way from being “close to securing changes in the law”, as suggested by the Shropshire Star following last week’s meetings, it is nevertheless a significant development in an area that earlier administrations have been slow to progress.

The Westminster Hall debate did not add materially to the Minister’s statement, other than further highlighting the issues and identifying specific concerns of the MPs present, HC Hansard 8 July 2015 : Vol 598(30) Col 151WH. Nevertheless, Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) outlined the requirements of his constituents who make up the group in England that has been most affected, [Col 153WH]. Importantly, he also stated:

“the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs need to co-operate on changing the regulations and conditions on emissions from crematoriums at times when infants are being cremated—that is a technical point. I hope that the Minister has read the part of the report about how emissions and such things are regulated and is aware of that point.”

Referring to the promised consultation, the Minister commented:

“The previous Government planned for the Ministry of Justice to amend its cremation regulations to dovetail with wider death certification reforms planned by the Department of Health. It was planned to make any changes regarding infant cremations at that time. That is not good enough for me. Bereaved families deserve better. I felt that when I first heard of the Emstrey report, and I feel it even more having met the families last week. I have been considering that timetable again in the light of the reports’ recommendations”, [Col 164WH];

“As I announced in my written ministerial statement this morning morning, it is my intention to consult on a number of changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 later this year. In answer to a couple of Members who asked when later this year, it will be as soon as possible, because I have absolutely no reason to delay”, [Col 165WH].

Postscript – Scottish Government Consultation

On the afternoon of 9th July, the Scottish Government announced the publication of “Responses to consultation on a proposed Bill relating to burial and cremation and other matters in Scotland”. The pdf of the Consultation Report is here and the Consultation Responses here.


[1] There are links to Action for Ashes on Facebook and Twitter.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Infant Cremation – Ministerial Statement & Debate" in Law & Religion UK, 9 July 2015, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2015/07/09/infant-cremation-ministerial-statement-debate/

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