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Funeral Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:20 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 3:20 pm, 11th September 2018

It is a pleasure to take part in the debate with you in the Chair, Mr Streeter. I congratulate Mrs Lewell-Buck on securing this important debate, and on the way she presented her argument. I pay tribute to her for the work that she has being doing on the issue for a number of years. She mentioned a review of funeral affordability, and what she said is right. I will touch on the Scottish Government’s action with reference to that. She also said that, alarmingly, 81% of people are unable to save for a funeral. That is why I hope we shall soon get to a place where funeral plans become more attractive to consumers. She criticised UK Ministers in relation to social fund funeral payments, and other Members made similar calls to the Minister. Perhaps that will form part of his Budget submission in the negotiations that will no doubt take place between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Treasury in the coming months.

Siobhain McDonagh intervened to raise the issue of council-based costs for funerals—burial and cremation fees—and she was right to do so. Without doubt some local authorities, including the one covering my constituency, North Lanarkshire Council, have used burial and cremation fees as a cash cow, to mask cuts in other areas. It is extremely worrying. The hon. Lady was right to pay tribute to the Fair Funerals Campaign for exposing some of that behaviour and campaigning for greater transparency from funeral directors. I am sorry that that campaign no longer exists.