Examination of witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 9 JANUARY 2001
HUSSEIN and DR
60. Would you say that there are adequate support
and advice services to give advice to the bereaved when they are
in such a vulnerable situation?
(Dr Hussein) Yes, I think most crematoria have good
practices in place to actually write to the bereaved to give them
their options about the disposal of cremated remains.
61. Can I just ask you, the remains are all
the remains and what volume does that represent?
(Dr Hussein) You have got it about right.
62. About that?
(Dr Hussein) If you imagine about eight to ten pounds
in weight, that would be your typical amount of calcined remains,
cremated remains. Yes, they do get all of the cremated remains.
63. The disposal would be between eight and
ten pounds of ashes?
(Dr Hussein) That is right, yes.
64. Spreading the ashes on football grounds
and things like that does cause some people some problems, does
(Dr Hussein) It does, yes, including if they scatter
them in their garden, for example, not thinking ahead when they
might move. We do not know what is happening with them, there
is no research into that.
65. Is cremation becoming less popular because
the service is so often just banged through every half an hour
at a crematorium?
(Dr Hussein) It has stabilised at around 72-74 per
cent. In East London it is 78 per cent cremation. It will vary
according to location of crematoria and proximity. If people have
to travel a long distance then you will tend to find that burial
might be higher. It will also depend on charging strategies. In
some areas it is actually cheaper to be buried than to be cremated
because the parish council charges less than the crematorium,
so there are many factors. I think it has stabilised.
(Dr Walter) A couple of Members have suggested that
maybe everybody should be cremated. I think in our current multicultural
society that is just not an option. As I said, there are two reasons
why people choose burial. One is personal preference and very
often if it is a particularly tragic death they want a grave to
visit, but the other is religious and cultural reasons, particularly
catholics, muslims and a number of jews.
66. Cremation is no longer a bar to catholics,
as I understand it.
(Dr Walter) It is not barred but nevertheless the
burial rate is high amongst catholics and the vast majority of
muslims want to bury. If one is going to have a plural society,
I think one cannot suggest that burial is going to cease to be
67. There are two issues that worry me. One
is that you are really saying it should be more expensive either
for cremation or for burial but a lot of my constituents find
the existing fee for a funeral, the whole service and everything,
causes them quite considerable difficulties. What can you do about
(Dr Walter) If there were a really well worked out
system of reuse that was acceptable to the public then, as Dr
Hussein said, that is the one thing which will completely change
the economics of burial and should bring costs down.
(Dr Hussein) Absolutely. I maintain that burial should
be affordable but if we carry on the way we are it is going to
be far from affordable, it is going to continually rise. If we
had reuse we could introduce lower periods of rights of burial.
We need to change the culture so that people get into either having
a burial where they pay small amounts on a regular basis or
68. The final question is, Dr Walter, you particularly
said that the Government is unwilling to deal with the real issues
around cemeteries. Why do you think governments have been unwilling
to deal with the real issues around cemeteries?
(Dr Walter) I am honestly not sure. I am fascinated
and puzzled by this. It may be, going back to an earlier question,
that Members of Parliament have felt this is a taboo topic, that
it is going to be a vote loser, it is a very difficult area.
69. You think it would not be the ideal centre
for a manifesto?
(Dr Walter) I do not think it is the sort of thing
that is going to be at the very top of a manifesto obviously,
but as I said earlier the
70. A good use of the Dome, which is the first
paragraph of Labour's manifesto.
(Dr Walter) There is much more open discussion of
death, dying and bereavement now than there was 20 or 30 years
ago. It seems to me that the time now is here when one can have
a sensible debate about policy. It seems to me also that all the
elements requiring an enabling change are there. There is the
need for change, the process, the techniques of reburial that
Dr Hussein described are there, the British public is probably
ready for it, and I think it is up to Members of Parliament to
grasp this nettle.
71. The Home Office has got a consultation document
out on the whole question
(Dr Hussein) Sorry?
72. I think the Home Office is to issue a consultation
document. How important is it that a decision is made quickly
and if it is yes or no, on the basis that if it is going to be
no then quite a lot of places have got to look for more land for
cemeteries? From the Government's point of view it is nice to
be able to put the decision off, is it not?
(Dr Hussein) We have been discussing this issue in
great detail since 1993 and there has been no action. We need
to stop messing around and get on with it.
73. But your only solution is this one, you
have not looked for other solutions and you have not suggested
other ways of encouraging the disposal of human bodies.
(Dr Walter) What other ways have you in mind?
74. You have virtually said that cremation has
got to be ruled out, therefore surely as an association you must
have considered what the alternatives are or are you assuming
that we can go on forever?
(Dr Walter) Cremation has been actively promoted in
Britain for over 100 years and that active promotion has been
continuing throughout that 100 years. If you look at the graph
it was going up throughout the middle of the century and then
it has tapered off. I am not quite sure what extra propaganda
in favour of cremation one could produce.
Chairman: Perhaps on that note we had better
finish this session. Can I thank you both very much indeed.