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Funeral Industry

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 19 November 1997

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade on how many occasions mergers and acquisitions of (a) funeral directors, (b) crematoria and (c) funeral directors and crematoria have been referred to and investigated by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission; in how many cases the Monopolies and Mergers Commission has recommended divestment; and if she will list the firms concerned.[16703]

Two mergers involving funeral directors have been referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC).The acquisition by The Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd. (CWS) of the Scottish funerals business of House of Fraser PLC was referred to the MMC on 4 June 1987. The MMC recommended divestment of four funeral undertaking businesses (in Aberdeen, Falkirk, Crieff and Perth) or divestment of all the businesses acquired from House of Fraser.The acquisition by Service Corporation International (SCI) of Planstbrook Group plc. was referred to the MMC on 20 December 1994. The MMC's report was published on 25 May 1995. The MMC recommended divestment of individual funeral directors' businesses in ten specified areas.No acquisitions of crematoria, or of funeral directors and crematoria, have been referred to the MMC.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what contacts she has had with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission regarding the marketing and selling of pre-purchase funeral plans.[16706]

My right hon. Friend has had no contact with the Monopolies and Mergers Commission regarding pre-paid funeral plans, nor a request from the MMC to discuss this.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultations she has had with the Director General of Fair Trading regarding the marketing and selling of pre-purchase funeral plans.[16707]

I have had a number of meetings with the Director General of Fair Trading regarding pre-paid funerals and have sought his views on a number of possible options for consumer protection. I share the Director General's concern to protect consumers who purchase their funerals in advance. I am discussing with my colleagues in the Treasury what speedy action might be taken to further protect consumers.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations she has received regarding the maintenance of fair trade practices in the marketing and selling of pre-purchase funeral plans.[16708]

I have had a number of representations on fair trade practices in the marketing and selling of pre-paid funeral plans. I am considering these, and working on proposals with my Treasury colleagues to protect those consumers who purchase their funerals in advance.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations she has received on the potential for trading links (a) between insurance companies and providers of funeral services and (b) between providers of funeral services and trading companies that are subsidiaries of registered charities to operate against the public interest and to the detriment of consumers.[16705]

A number of representations have been received about the links between providers of funeral services and trading companies that are subsidiaries of registered charities. These have been passed to the Charity Commission. No representations have been received on links between insurance companies and providers of funeral services.