Written Ministerial Statement made by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Victims, Youth and Family Justice, Dr Phillip Lee.
I am today announcing that new regulations regarding cremation in England and Wales have been laid before Parliament. The Cremation (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 will come into effect on 1 October 2016.We are making these changes following our recent response to our consultation on cremation, published on 7 July 2016, in which we committed to make a number of changes to infant cremation regulations and practice.
The regulations laid today introduce a statutory definition of ashes. They also remove the current requirement that cremation authorities must keep original paper records for two years, even though they have also made electronic copies of those records.
These changes will provide clarity for bereaved parents at a difficult time in their lives, and modernise processes for crematoria.In addition I would like to announce that, as also promised in the consultation response, we have now set up a National Cremation Working Group.The group is made up of representatives from the cremation and funeral industries, voluntary organisations who support bereaved parents, medical professionals and other government departments with an interest in cremation.In the coming months it will provide expert input into our work to further improve cremation legislation and practice.
The group’s first priority will be amending statutory application forms regarding options for disposal of ashes, and bringing the cremation of foetuses of less than 24 weeks’ gestation into the remit of the cremation regulations.
The older cremation regulations are here.
Improving infant cremation legislation and practice has been a priority for me since I joined the Ministry of Justice last year. I am therefore very pleased to publish this document which sets out the changes we plan to make following our recent consultation.
We consulted following David Jenkins’ June 2015 report into infant cremations at Emstrey Crematorium in Shropshire, and Lord Bonomy’s Scottish Infant Cremation Commission (ICC) report of June 2014.
These reports found that ashes were either not recovered following infant cremations, or that ashes were recovered but parents were neither consulted over what should happen to the ashes nor advised of the location of their babies’ ashes. Such practices caused parents immense distress in addition to their grief following the loss of their babies.
Talking to some of these parents has shown me only too clearly how not knowing what happened has prevented them from coming to terms with their loss, even decades later. Sadly, some of them will never know what happened to their babies’ ashes. Some of the steps the Government is taking to improve cremation regulation and practice build on the improvements many cremation authorities and funeral directors have already made since the publication of the ICC and Emstrey reports.
In particular we will make the following changes:
- We will provide a statutory definition of ‘ashes’. This will make clear that everything cremated with a baby including personal items and clothing must be recovered.
- We will amend cremation application forms to make explicit the applicant’s wishes in relation to ashes that are recovered. Cremations will take place only after applicants are consulted about their wishes, and there is a record of their decision.
- We will bring the cremation of foetuses of less than 24 weeks’ gestation within the scope of regulation. There will be equivalent safeguards and audit trails for parents who cremate following a pregnancy loss as for parents who cremate after a stillbirth or death of a baby.
- We will establish a national working group of cremation experts to advise us on:
- the detail of application forms;
- the regulation of cremations of foetuses of less than 24 weeks’ gestation;
- codes of practice and training for crematorium staff;
- information for bereaved parents; and
- whether there should be an inspector of crematoria.
It is our aim that these measures will ensure that no bereaved parents suffer in future as many have suffered in the past.
Caroline Dinenage Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Family Justice