I beg to move,
That this House
has considered funeral poverty.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Sir David. Whenever I come to this Chamber, you seem to be in the Chair, so it is nice to see the tradition maintained. It is also a pleasure to speak on this issue, which perhaps does not always get the attention that it deserves. Everyone will die at some point, unfortunately. It is an issue that we do not discuss often as a community or even within families, so it is worth bringing it to the Chamber today.
I am grateful to the many industry bodies, charities and campaign groups that have helped in drawing together the information for the debate. It has become clear in recent weeks that this is an issue of growing public interest and it is worth dwelling on why that might be. Mrs Lewell-Buck had her ten-minute rule Bill just before the election. We have seen the National Association of Funeral Directors campaigning on this issue and Quaker Social Action innovating in how it is seeking to drive down the cost of funerals. I have discussed the issue with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on numerous occasions over the past five years and with Steve Webb, my hon. Friend the Minister’s predecessor in the Department. We have also seen Royal London and SunLife—two of the major insurers—issuing regular reports over the past decade indicating the extent to which funeral costs have gone up over the years.
I never thought that I would find myself saying this, but the Scottish National party may have shown us the way forward: just last Friday it published the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, which looks at many of these issues. Most interestingly of all, it includes a commitment to review funeral poverty in Scotland. I welcome that and would welcome a commitment from the Minister to look carefully at that Bill—the funeral poverty issues in particular—to see whether anything can be learned. Some of the issues would be a Ministry of Justice responsibility here in England.
When I do one of these debates, I meet all the relevant bodies, read all the relevant reports and gather far more information than I can possibly deploy in the hour at my disposal—not that I have the full hour at my disposal. I will do my best to enable everyone to speak. I recognise that the hour at the end of the day is a new format for this Chamber and I hope that we can accommodate everyone.
It is worth being quite specific. There is a full debate to be had about the rising cost of funerals, but that is not the topic of my debate today. I want to focus specifically on that group of people for whom the cost of a funeral is over and above what they can afford. Many of the trends, I agree, do overlap. Scarcity of burial space drives up costs, for example, but I want to focus in particular on those in financial need.