Burial grounds

High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 25th June 2019.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

With this it will be convenient to consider that schedule 20 be the Twentieth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

The clause provides for the disapplication of laws concerning burial grounds and human remains. It also introduces schedule 20, which outlines the process that the nominated undertaker must follow in relation to the removal and reburial or cremation of human remains, and the removal and replacement of monuments to the deceased.

The clause disapplies ecclesiastical law for the purpose of constructing phase 2a. It also disapplies the law relating to burial grounds if the remains and any monument to the deceased have been dealt with in accordance with schedule 20. Similar provisions were included in the 2008 and 2017 Acts.

Photo of Matt Rodda Matt Rodda Shadow Minister (Transport) (Buses)

This is obviously a very sensitive aspect of the Bill. We urge the Government to take great care in this matter and, in particular, to allow for more time and effort to be taken to contact the families of deceased people. In this modern age, with well-established genealogy and records of church burials and other burials, we hope more effort could be made to contact the families whose loved ones’ remains are being moved, because this is a sensitive issue for families.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. If he has had time to visit Euston, he will have seen the huge amount of work being undertaken to deal with remains, which are all being removed by hand. It is a long process, as it should be. We have not yet identified any known burial grounds that could be affected, but in the course of construction, we could discover previously unknown sites. If that occurs, the clause and its related schedule provide for the appropriate processes to manage the removal and reburial or cremation of human remains, and the removal and replacement of monuments to the deceased.

Where remains are less than 100 years old, schedule 20 requires a notice to be published in the local newspaper and displayed at the burial ground. Relatives have the right to remove and re-inter or cremate the remains at the expense of the nominated undertaker, who must pay reasonable costs. I hope that provides some assurance to the hon. Gentleman that we are taking the issue seriously.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

I propose revising my grouping, and that we debate clauses 23 to 42, and the associated schedules 21 to 31, together.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

Ms Buck, may I take some direction? Are you proposing that I speak just to clause 23?

Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Westminster North

You may speak to any clause between clauses 23 and 42, and we will take the decisions at the end, rather than having a speech on each clause and making a decision on it, as we have been doing. This will allow you to make a speech on all of them together.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

I understand. I will do my best, but do call me out if I get it wrong.