Memorandum by The Cremation Society of
Great Britain (CEM 99)
1. During the twentieth century, burial
legislation was given less attention than cremation legislation
and we therefore welcome the Select Committee's decision to examine
cemeteries and the provision for burial.
2. The Cremation Society, a registered charity
founded in 1874, is the pioneer of cremation in Great Britain.
It has been successful in its endeavours to the extent that cremation
is by far the most preferred method of disposing of the dead,
with approximately 70 per cent of all funerals resulting in cremation.
Since the first cremation in 1885, a total of approximately 17.5
million (1999) cremations have been carried out.
3. The Society believes that the re-organisation
of burial arrangements could have detrimental effects on cremation
facilities. Nevertheless, we believe in the availability of choice
for the general public when contemplating funeral arrangements
and therefore believe that the option for burial should remain.
It was on this very foundation of choice that led to the success
of the cremation movement and the acceptance of the practice of
cremation by the vast majority of the public.
4. The Society continues to vigorously promote
cremation. From its inception it has done so on the basis that
the practice offers bereaved families a more practical, convenient,
simpler and less expensive option for the disposal of the dead
than burial. At the same time, there are the additional beneficial
aspects of public health and hygiene together with the undoubted
improvements in the quality of life for those communities benefiting
from open spaces arising out of the land saved by crematoria as
opposed to cemetery developments.
5. Approximately 193 of the 242 crematoria
operating in Great Britain are owned or operated by local authorities.
Over the last hundred years, cremation has provided these with
huge savings in the provision of land and a profitable way of
discharging their obligations under successive Cremation Acts
when compared with the subsidies required for cemeteries. Most
Christian groups have adopted cremation as a fitting and respectful
form of funeral. Cremation also provides those ethnic groups such
as Sikhs and Hindus with the traditional rituals that they require.
6. In 1989 in his paper entitled "Managing
Cemeteries and Crematoria in a competitive environment",
presented at the Cremation Society Conference, Mr P McGuirk, Secretary
of the Audit Commission estimated that perhaps 6,000 acres of
land had been saved through the practice of cremation, which equated
to an area the size of the City of Bath or ten times the City
of London. At that time the total number of cremations carried
out since the first cremation was approximately 12.5 million.
7. Great Britain is not unique in having
to review and rationalise its provision for the disposal of the
dead. The benefits that cremation brings, both to bereaved families,
local authorities and communities, especially in those countries
where the emphasis was previously on burial, are now being recognised.
This has manifested itself in the provision and increase of cremation
facilities in the European Community and various countries throughout
8. Any Inquiry into the provision of cemeteries
must include an analysis of local authority funding for such facilities,
their provision and long-term maintenance. This must also extend
to the costs of closed cemeteries and those churchyards taken
over from parish churches. We understand that "Good Value"
surveys on burials and cemeteries undertaken by an increasing
number of local authorities contain evidence to suggest that,
unlike the past, profits from crematoria are not generally used
to subsidise cemetery undertakings. Furthermore, there is anecdotal
evidence to suggest that local authorities take reducedcost
options when making cemetery decisions without consulting bereaved
families. Consulting funeral directors alone is not sufficient.
9. We note that the Committee will be looking
at funding from National Lottery distributing bodies in the context
of the funding and economic viability of cemeteries. Successive
governments have encouraged cremation authorities to become self-financing
in order to eliminate subsidies. Over the past decade the cremation
movement has successfully addressed this problem, whilst at the
same time having to fund capital expenditure amounting to between
£125-£150 million in order to meet the requirements
of new environmental legislation. There is an on-going obligation
to meet further capital expenditure as and when upgrading is required
as a result of changes in legislation. When they occur these costs
will be borne by cremation authorities and ultimately rate payers,
and are likely to amount to very substantial sums.
10. In the light of the present situation
the likelihood of loss-making cemeteries, representing by far
the minority choice as a mode of disposing of the dead, receiving
funding from National Lottery sources is inequitable. Such an
eventuality would be likely to have serious financial repercussions
for cremation authorities throughout the country bringing into
question their financial viability and future. We therefore hope
the Committee will bear this in mind when looking at this particular
aspect of possible funding.
11. The Inquiry should address such matters
as service times, hours of openings and the possibilities for
the use of cemeteries for funerals on Saturdays and Sundays. Their
closure on these days deny the public both choice and the opportunity
of a good attendance by mourners at a time they are most likely
to be free.
12. The issue of choice for bereaved families,
and indeed for those preparing for their own deaths, is particularly
important in inner-city boroughs particularly London and other
larger cities. Inner London boroughs have few years left for burial
space (see LAPC Report 1997) and did not either invest in crematoria
or encourage the use of existing excess capacity. This inevitably
reduced the public's choice between modes of disposal.
13. This also penalises families in inner
cities especially, because the continuation of differential fees
for burial and cremation means that people who are buried/cremated
outside their boroughs of residence have to pay extra. We believe
this system contains inequalities and should be re-examined.
14. We sympathise with the Select Committee's
concern for the part cemeteries can play in urban regeneration.
In this respect, any opportunity for the re-opening of closed
city churchyards, especially for the disposal and memorialisation
of cremated remains, would help these places re-adopt their original
function in ways that would provide safe and accessible places
for people to remember their dead.
15. From its beginning, the Society has
worked to promote the part cremation can play in the reform and
improvement of funeral arrangements for bereaved people and has
supported a number of initiatives on this including the Dead Citizens
We very much hope that the above comments and
observations are of help to the Committee and we are of course
ready to offer any further assistance should it be required.
R N Arber