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Cremation Bill Lords

Volume 92: debated on Monday 1 April 1901

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Order for Second Reading read.

This is a Bill which has already passed through another place. It is purely permissive in its character, and I believe there is no objection on the part of the Home Office to its being passed into law. The measure proposes to give to the burial authority the power to erect a crematorium for the use of the locality. In certain places they have this power under local Acts, and in some cases individuals have obtained the power. This Bill simply gives permission to local authorities when there is a demand for this method of disposing of the dead to erect suitable apparatus for the purpose. It also gives the public the further advan- tage that any such crematorium should be erected only with the sanction of the Local Government Board to the plans, while the general arrangements and regulations have to be approved by the Home Office. Every precaution will, therefore, be taken that the thing is done decently and in order. Certain powers are given as to fees, and certain penalties are imposed as to false declarations or certificates of an improper character. I need hardly say that there is on the part of sanitary authorities a very strong desire that this permissive power should be given to local authorities, especially in large and populous districts, where in many cases this method would be more sanitary than the present old-fashioned style of burial. The Bill carries with it no power to interfere with the customs of any locality, but it gives the locality, if it desires it, the opportunity of adopting a more scientific, and in some respects a more healthy, method of disposing of the dead. On sanitary grounds, as a measure likely to be of benefit to the public health, and also as one which is carefully safeguarded, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

complained that the Bill had come on very unexpectedly, and Members had not had an opportunity of studying its provisions. It had been stated that the Home Office approved generally of the principle. If that was so, the House was entitled to hear the views of the Home Secretary upon the Bill, as to how far it would be effectual in its purpose, and generally as to its desirability. A few years ago such a Bill would have met with a great deal of hostile criticism. Public opinion had no doubt very much changed, but there were still a large number of people who retained a considerable amount of aversion to cremation. A Bill dealing with so important a matter as the disposal of the dead ought to be very carefully considered, and he hoped an assurance would be given that the prejudices of those opposed to cremation were to be properly dealt with.

The House is not now engaged upon the consideration of the details of this Bill, but so far as the principle is concerned the Home Office, gene- rally speaking, raise no objection. Although the Bill has undoubtedly come on unexpectedly, I do not think that is a sufficient reason why, if the general principle of the Bill is one which should be approved, the Second Reading should not be assented to. There is no doubt that at one time, and not very long ago, cremation was looked upon with a considerable amount of suspicion, not only with regard to the process itself, but also as to whether proper precautions were taken against an abuse of what might otherwise be a sound and proper principle. On the general question no doubt public opinion has considerably advanced of late years, and I do not think the Mouse will require me to go beyond the general principle to-night. The provisions of the Bill will have to be very carefully looked into in Committee, in order to see that proper safeguards against abuse are provided. With that reservation, I do not propose to offer any opposition to the Second Reading.

thought that although the object of the Bill was in many ways a good one, it was open to many objections. Many crimes had been discovered by reason of the fact that buried bodies could be exhumed and post-mortem examinations take place. Under the Bill the sanction of the Local Government Board was required, but no mention was made of the precautions against abuse which the Local Government Board would enforce. The House ought to have some idea as to what was in the minds of the promoters of the measure in that respect.

pointed out that the Local Government Board would have control only of the plans; the arrangements as to rules, regulations, and precautions would be under the control of the Home Office.

could not see why two Departments should be concerned, and in Committee he would certainly move that one or the other, he did not mind which, should be omitted. Sub-section 2 of Clause 5 showed that the promoters were really rather afraid of the step they were taking, because it contemplated not only people doing that which they ought not to do in burning privately human remains, but also that they would make false declarations and representations. If the Second Reading of the Bill was assented to it was absolutely necessary that measures should be taken in Committee to provide that the whole framework of the Bill should be thoroughly considered, and that the operation of the measure should come under one office only.

Question put, and agreed to; Bill read a second time.

SIR WALTER FOSTER moved that the Bill should go to the Grand Committee on Law. He had no doubt that by that Committee the points referred to by previous speakers would receive careful attention.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, etc."—( Sir Walter Foster.)

objected to the proposal, and expressed the hope that the Bill would be considered in Committee of the Whole House. The hon. Member now proposed that the Bill should be sent to a Grand Committee, but if it were sent upstairs the result would be that it would have precedence over every other private Member's Bill passed during the session. That would he an unfair advantage. Several other useful measures had passed their Second Reading, and they would have to take their chance in Committee of the Whole House. It was said that the present Bill was non-contentious. If that were so, and the hon. Gentleman put it down for Committee of the Whole House, it would no doubt pass.

said he did not quite agree with his hon. friend, because he was opposed to some of the measures which his hon. friend wished to have precedence. Therefore he would be rather inclined to support the motion of the hon. Gentleman. He was, however, of opinion that the Bill, having come on unexpectedly, ought not to be sent to a Grand Committee. There were many clauses in it which, although apparently non-contentious, required a great deal of investigation, and he thought, therefore, it ought to be dealt with in Committee of the Whole House. Although he was not anxious to give his hon. friend any advantage with regard to the other measures to which he had referred, still, under the circumstances, he considered that the Bill should remain in Committee of the Whole House.

said he had a great sympathy with his hon. friend the Member for Basingstoke in the painful position in which he found himself, but would however, support the motion that the Bill be sent to a Grand Committee, because in his opinion it was impossible to get any private Member's Bill through which had to be discussed in detail in the House itself, He thought it should be the rule, and not the exception, that private Members' Bills should be sent to a Grand Committee as a matter of course. In that way the details of the measures would be carefully considered. At present hon. Members had to choose between two alternatives, one to pass a Bill without proper criticism, and the other to subject it to such minute criticism as to prevent it becoming law. He hoped the present Bill would be carefully considered by a Grand Committee.

said he hoped the Bill would be referred to a Committee of the Whole House. They should endeavour to ascertain whether the Bill was one which, when Grand Committees were set up, it was the intention of Parliament to refer to them. He did not suppose that even the hon. Gentleman opposite would suggest that the Bill should be sent to the Grand Committee on Trade. There was no element in the Bill which would justify that, except that cemeteries were sometimes owned by trading companies. But the Bill was too serious a matter to be dealt with in that way. He was in the House when the Standing Committees were set up, and the idea then was that Bills having reference to the Board of Trade should be sent to the Grand Committee on Trade, and that Bills affecting changes in the law should be sent to the Grand Committee on Law. It was quite evident that the Bill concerned two different Departments. There was no technical question involved, and he thought the House itself ought to lay down the regulations which would govern such an important development. On grounds of principle the Bill should not be sent to a Grand Committee.

said he was perfectly prepared to agree to the principle of the Bill, but he was not prepared to permit it to be passed without full discussion in the House. The measure contained several points of considerable importance, and it manifestly took the House by surprise. As an instance of that he would refer to the attitude of the Home Secretary. He had never seen a right hon. Gentleman who had a fence to jump he was so little acquainted with. The right hon. Gentleman had had no chance of making himself acquainted with the Bill, and he manifestly was not prepared to discuss its details, He would remind the House that this would be the first Bill sent to a Grand Committee during the session, and that it would take precedence therefore of all the other Bills which the House had discussed at considerable length. He would join in an appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to press his accidental Parliamentary advantage, but to allow the Bill to be considered in Committee of the Whole House.

said he would not have intervened in the debate were it not for a remark which fell from his hon. friend the Member for East Somerset. His hon. friend advocated that the Bill should be sent to a Grand Committee. He thought the Bill did not come within the category of Bills which ought to be sent upstairs. As far as he understood the principle on which Bills were sent to a Grand Committee, it was that only Bills were sent which had been fully debated in the House, and regarding which only questions of detail remained to be decided. He thought that a Bill could be sent upstairs with safety after having been fully discussed in the House. The Bill under consideration had, however, not been fully discussed. It came before the House as a surprise, and he, therefore, entirely disagreed with his hon. friend the Member for East Somerset, and hoped the Bill would he referred to a Committee of the Whole House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 137; Noes, 102. (Division List No. 119.)


Allen, Charles P (Glouc., StroudDigby, John K. D. Wingfield-Nannetti, Joseph P.
Ambrose, RobertDoogan, P. C.Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Anstruther, H. T.Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Arnold-Forster, Hush O.Dunn, Sir WilliamO'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir EllisDurning-Lawrence, Sir EdwinO'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ry Mid
Ashton, Thomas GairEmmott, AlfredO'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Asquith, Rt. Hn Herbert HenryFfrench, PeterO'Connor, James (Wicklow W.
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. JohnFielden, Edw. BrocklehurstO'Dowd, John
Baird, John George AlexanderFlavin, Michael JosephO'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)Flynn, James ChristopherO'Mara, James
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (LeedsFuller, J. M. F.Parkes, Ebenezer
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)Gilhooly, JamesPlatt-Higgins, Frederick
Beach, Rt. Hon Sir M H (Bristol)Goddard, Daniel FordPowell, Sir Francis Sharpe
Bell, RichardGordon, Maj Evans- (T'rH'ml'tsPower, Patrick Joseph
Bigwood, JamesGorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John EldonPrice, Robert John
Bill, CharlesGoschen, Hon. George JoachimPurvis, Robert
Boland, JohnGraham, Henry RobertRea, Russell
Bolton, Thomas DollingGriffith, Ellis J.Reddy, M.
Bond, EdwardGuthrie, Walter MurrayRedmond, John E. (Waterford)
Broadhurst, HenryHain, EdwardRedmond, William (Clare)
Brodrick, Rt, Hon. St. JohnHayden, John PatrickRitchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. T.
Bull, William JamesHayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Burke, E. Haviland-Heath, James (Staffords, N.W.Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Buxton, Sydney CharlesHelme, Norval WatsonRoe, Sir Thomas
Caldwell, JamesHobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)Royds, Clement Molyneux
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)Holland, William HenrySassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Causton, Richard KnightHorniman, Frederick JohnShaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Cautley, Henry StrotherJones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)Joyce, MichaelShipman, Dr. John G.
Cawley, FrederickLambton, Hn. Fredk. WilliamSmith, James Parker (Lanarks
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)Leamy, EdmundSoames, Arthur Wellesley
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)Legge, Col. Hon. HeneageSpencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (N'thants
Chamberlain Rt. Hon J. (Birm.Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.Sullivan, Donal
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'rLevy, MauriceThomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.
Clare, Octavius LeighLucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Cogan, Denis J.Lundon, W.Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Shef'd
Collings, Rt. Hon. JesseM'Arthur, William (Cornwall)Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Colomb, Sir John Charles ReadyM'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)Majendie, James A. H.Whit'e, Patrick (Meath, North)
Craig, Robert HunterMalcolm, IanWilson, Fred W. (Norfolk, Mid.
Cranborne, ViscountManners, Lord CecilWodehouse, Hn Armine (Essex
Cremer, William RandalMarkham, Arthur BasilWyndham, Rt. Hn. George
Cullinan, J.Moon, Edward Robt. PacyYoxall, James Henry
Dalrymple, Sir CharlesMooney, John J.
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)Morris Hon Martin Henry F.TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Davies, M. Vaughan- (CardiganMount, William ArthurSir Walter Foster and Mr. Henry Hobhouse.
Delany, WilliamMurray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)


Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William H.Howard, Capt. J. (Faversham)
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn EdwardKimber, Henry
Arehdale, Edward MervynFinlay, Sir Robert BannatyneKnowles, Lees
Arkwright, John StanhopeFisher, William HayesLawrence, William F.
Banbury, Frederick GeorgeFitzroy, Hon. Edward AlgernonLawson, John Grant
Bathurst, Hon. Allen BenjaminFletcher, Sir HenryLee, Arthur H. (Hants, Farch'm
Bignold, ArthurFlower, ErnestLeigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Blundell, Colonel HenryGodson, Sir Augustus FrederickLong, Rt. Hn Walter (Bristol, S)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)Lowe, Francis William
Butcher, John GeorgeGreene, Sir E W (B'ry S Edm'nd)Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth
Chapman, EdwardGrenfell, William HenryMacartney, Rt Hn W. G. Ellison
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.Gretton, JohnMaconochie, A. W.
Compton, Lord AlwyneGreville, Hon. RonaldM'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool
Condon, Thomas JosephGroves, James GrimbleMassey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.
Cook, Sir Frederick LucasHanbury, Rt. Hn. Rbt. Wm.Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th.Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)
Cox, Irwin Edward BainbridgeHay, Hon. Claude GeorgeMore, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire
Dewar, T. R. (T'rH'ml'ts, S. Geo.Henderson, AlexanderMorgan, Dav. J. (Walthamst'w
Dimsdale, Sir Joseph CockfieldHigginbottom, S. W.Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford
Dorington, Sir John EdwardHope, J. F. (Sheffi'ld, BrightsideMurphy, J.
Dully, William J.Houldsworth, Sir Wm. HenryMurray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)

Nicholson, William GrahamRigg, RichardValentia, Viscount
Nicol, Donald NinianRoberts, John H. (Denbighs.)Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E.
O'Malley, WilliamRolleston, Sir John F. L.Wason, John C. (Orkney)
O'Neill, Hon. Robert TorrensSackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Pemberton, John S. G.Seely, Chas. Hilton (LincolnWilliams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Pilkington, RichardSeton-Karr, HenryWillox, Sir John Archibald
Plummer, Walter R.Skewes-Cox, ThomasWilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Pretyman, Ernest GeorgeSmith, H C (North'mb TynesideWilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Randles, John S.Spear, John WardWodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R (Bath)
Ratcliffe, R. F.Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)Young, Commander (Berks, E.
Remnant, James FarquharsonSturt, Hn. Humphry NapierTELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Richards, Henry CharlesThornton, Percy M.Mr. Jeffreys and Col. Kenyon-Slaney.
Ridley, Hon. M. W (StalybridgeTomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray

Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Law, etc.