The Ministry of Justice has released the below updates in order to keep the industry updated and to re-establish dialogue:
In December 2022, the Law Commission commenced it’s “Modern Framework for Disposing of the Dead” project. This will review the laws governing how we dispose of the bodies of the deceased and will seek to create a future-proof legal framework that brings the existing law into line with modern practices and enables safe and dignified new processes to be made available in England and Wales. The project is starting with a scoping phase in which the Department and the Law Commission will agree the terms of reference for the project. Once the scope of the project has been established, the Law Commission will set out more detailed plans for the work. Further updates will be provided at: A Modern Framework for Disposing of the Dead – Law Commission”
We wanted to let you know of two Bills currently before Parliament with relevance for the burial sector. The first is the Private Burial Grounds and Cemeteries Bill, a Private Members’ Bill introduced by Baroness Hussein-Ece which, in summary, provides for the regulation of private burial ground management. The Bill does not yet have a confirmed date for Second Reading.
Secondly, East Hertfordshire District Council has introduced a Private Bill (the Bishop’s Stortford Cemetery Bill) which, in summary, enables Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, subject to specified requirements, to extinguish rights of burial, disturb human remains and remove memorials for the purpose of increasing the space for interments in its two cemeteries.
Further information on the Bills is available at the links above and will be updated as they progress through Parliament. We will also keep you informed and would, of course, be interested in any comments that members may have.
Medical Examiner System
You will be aware of the Government’s written Ministerial statement on the implementation of the statutory Medical Examiner (ME) system made in June 2022 which notes that the intention is to work towards commencing implementation plans for the Statutory (ME) system from April 2023. For reference, the link to the statement can be found at https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2022-06-09/hcws85 . We are working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care, the General Register Office and other relevant departments and organisations to prepare for implementation, and we will provide you with further updates as soon as they become available.
We understand that there is still some uncertainty in the sector regarding the role of medical referee following implementation of the statutory ME system. We can confirm the Government’s intention to keep the current medical referee role for a transitionary period following statutory implementation. We will provide further updates on the transitionary arrangements as soon as we can.
In the meantime, we have issued an open invitation to cremation sector colleagues to join a series of engagement forums. We intend to use these forums to discuss issues around the role of the medical referee following implementation of the statutory ME system and other proposed changes to the cremation regulations. We will start these engagement sessions shortly. If you have not received and/or responded to the invitation and would like to contribute to this engagement, please feel free to contact us.
We will be expanding our engagement to include discussion on wider issues emerging from statutory ME implementation, and will be in touch about that in due course. However, please do contact us with any suggestions or comments in the meantime.
The Children’s Funeral Fund for England (CFF)
As many of you will be aware, we are reviewing the effectiveness of the CFF scheme which has now been in operation for nearly four years. We are grateful for your contributions to the review and will let you know its outcome as soon as practicable. Meanwhile, we continue to see an increase in the number of claims year on year. Since the scheme was launched, the fund has paid out more than £7 million.
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