Burial Space

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 5th September 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald 7:52 pm, 5th September 2012

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman and will give serious thought to his important comments and observations on that type of burial.

There is currently no legislative power or duty to regulate the new processes that I described in England and Wales. They fall outside the Cremation Act 1902 because the processes concerned are not seen as constituting the burning of human remains.

I want to make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West that burials will, of course, continue to be an option in England and Wales. In the case of burial grounds situated in London, there is the specific legislation to which he referred—section 74 of the London Local Authorities Act 2007, which permits the reuse of graves subject to certain conditions, particularly that the last burial must have taken place more than 75 years previously. Where reuse is possible, a practice known as “lift and deepen” takes place, as he mentioned. Existing remains are lifted to deepen the grave, and the new remains are buried on top.

Indeed, the City of London corporation applied for and was granted a “faculty”, which is a special authorisation by the church authorities, to reuse old graves in consecrated areas of the City of London cemetery in the London borough of Newham, where the last burial had taken place more than 75 years previously. Signs were placed in the area for several years explaining the intention to clear and develop it and asking people to declare an interest in the graves of their loved ones.

In 2005, the previous Government conducted a survey of burial grounds. It indicated that existing burial grounds could remain in operation for approximately 30 years on the basis of current levels of demand. Of course, it is fundamental that people should be laid to rest with dignity and respect. I am aware of the difficulties that some burial authorities are experiencing both with a shortage of burial space and in finding practical and affordable alternatives, particularly in some urban areas. However, we have not yet reached the stage where the position is critical or requires Government intervention.

Indeed, after careful consideration of all those factors, I do not consider that introducing a policy of reusing graves is critical at the moment. Nevertheless, my officials have offered help and advice to burial authorities, and guidance has been issued for burial ground managers so that they can make the best use of their cemeteries. I will, of course, continue to keep the matter under constant and careful review.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.