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Funeral Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:40 pm on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:40 pm, 11th September 2018

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. That is ongoing work, but we felt that we needed additional evidence. I understand the importance of getting these things done, although I am relatively new to this role. However, we needed the information from the CMA to give us the ability to make informed asks, in respect of what we expect of the industry and what more we can do to empower the industry to deliver more affordable options. Perhaps then we can see areas where the Government can consider the public health aspect of funerals, as was raised in the debate, and also what local government can do. I understand the frustration, I absolutely do, and my commitment, as I am trying to demonstrate, is that we will do a lot more.

We have extended the claim period from three to six months. That is a welcome measure. We have exempted contributions from relations, friends and charities, which is also welcome. On the key bit about people not understanding, we have already made a start by introducing a helpline, about which we have had fantastic feedback. It is really important to try to give people more information and there is a lot more to be done in that area. People do not receive the ultimate decision until they have either signed a contract saying, “This is what I want to do”—but it is people’s nature to often change what they want—or until the funeral has taken place, so I understand the important point that more needs to be done on that issue. I will continue to meet and work with the industry, utilising its expertise and that of any colleagues here who wish to be engaged following both the interim and final CMA reports. I would welcome such contributions.