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Cremation Certificates

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 10 May 2007

8. Whether he plans to retain the exemption from VAT for fees charged by doctors on certificates required by the funeral industry prior to cremation. (136452)

The answer is yes. I can confirm that where fees charged by doctors for completing cremation forms are within the scope of VAT and are, from 1 May, no longer covered by the medical services exemption, VAT is still not chargeable. This is covered by the exemption in relation to services for burials and cremations. My hon. Friend is chair of the all-party funerals and bereavement group, and I hope that he and the other members of the group will welcome the announcement.

The whole industry will welcome what the Minister has just said. There was grave concern—[Laughter]—Pardon the pun. There was much concern within the industry that VAT would be levied at 17.5 per cent., so I am grateful for the Minister’s response. Will he continue his dialogue with the National Association of Funeral Directors, so that these services, which are very serious for many of us at a time of loss, are continued?

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will indeed continue its discussions with the National Association of Funeral Directors. My hon. Friend will recognise that the United Kingdom’s VAT system has some of the most generous and wide-ranging reliefs and exemptions in Europe, and the Government have fought hard to keep it that way. I am glad that we have been able to avoid imposing additional costs in this area, as this is clearly a matter of concern to many in the industry, and to bereaved families at a time of great concern.

I congratulate the Minister on securing that exemption, but is he committed to securing similar arrangements regarding the requirement for two doctors’ signatures in these circumstances? In cases of untimely and unexpected death, which cause supreme shock and loss to a family, will he confirm that the present arrangement involving two doctors will continue for the foreseeable future?

We wish to operate a system that causes the minimum distress to bereaved families at a difficult time, while ensuring that the right kind of checks are carried out when the registration of a death takes place. I encourage the hon. Lady to join the all-party group on funerals and bereavement if she takes an interest in these affairs. I will look at the question that she has raised, and I will write to her.