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Burial Ground Memorials

Volume 489: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2009

10. What assessment he has made of levels of implementation of his Department’s guidance on managing the safety of burial ground memorials. (263755)

I understand that those involved—undertakers, local authorities, crematorium managers and the like—have disseminated the recent guidance to burial ground managers. It is a little too early to make a detailed assessment of the implementation, but practitioner representatives have agreed to provide regular feedback and we will be undertaking a sampling survey of burial grounds within the next 12 months.

The new guidelines are a long overdue improvement in health and safety in graveyards, but the January newsletter of the local authority Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management describes them as creating a “dilemma” for local authorities and having “no logical basis”. The Minister has issued excellent guidance to sort out this scandal of health and safety zealousness in graveyards, but the local authorities are snubbing her and the Health and Safety Executive. What is going to be done to pull them into order and get rid of the nonsense of staking graves and laying down graves all across Britain?

It is important that the House recognises the zealousness with which my hon. Friend has pursued this issue, and it is very much down to his campaigning that the guidance has been introduced—I congratulate him on that. My officials have discussed this with the crematorium managers organisations, and they have assured us that they welcome the guidance in principle and that they will participate in arrangements to monitor its implementation. I take this opportunity to say again that where there is no need for a memorial to have been staked or laid down, we would expect the cemetery operator responsible to consider restoring it. The guidance recommends that neither mechanical pressure testing nor stakes should be used routinely, and although there may be the occasional case where careful and sensitive use of such equipment might be appropriate, it is clear that it is not appropriate in the vast majority of cases. We will continue to pursue that policy and encourage local authorities to do so too.