Written Ministerial Statement made by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Family Justice, Caroline Dinenage.
Today the government is publishing its response to the recent consultation on infant cremations, which sought views on proposals for a number of changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008, and for improving other aspects of cremation practice.
Improving infant cremation legislation and practice has been a priority for me since I joined the Ministry of Justice last year. I am therefore very pleased to publish this document which sets out the changes we plan to make.
We consulted between December 2015 and March 2016 following consideration of David Jenkins’ report of June 2015 into infant cremations at Emstrey Crematorium in Shropshire, and Lord Bonomy’s Scottish Infant Cremation Commission report of June 2014. These reports found that ashes were either not recovered following infant cremations, or were recovered but parents were neither consulted over what should happen to their babies’ ashes nor advised of the ashes’ final resting place.
Such practices caused parents already grieving the loss of their baby immense additional distress. Some parents will never know what happened to their babies’ ashes.
I have always made it clear that such practices should never happen again. It is my aim that the changes I am announcing today will ensure that no bereaved parent suffers in future as many have suffered in the past.
Following consideration of the responses to our consultation, we plan to make the following changes:
- Introduce a statutory definition of ashes.
- Amend statutory cremation forms to make sure that applicants’ wishes in relation to recovered ashes are explicit and clearly recorded before a cremation takes place.
- Where parents choose a cremation following a pregnancy loss of a foetus of less than 24 weeks’ gestation, we will bring such cremations into the scope of our regulations, like all other cremations. I must stress that we have no plans to alter parents’ current choices following a pre-24 week pregnancy loss, so parents will continue to be able to choose between cremation, burial and sensitive incineration or they can ask the hospital to make all arrangements on their behalf.
- Establish a national cremation working group of experts to advise us on a number of technical matters related to our proposed reforms, such as the detail of new regulations and forms, codes of practice and training for cremation authority staff, information for bereaved parents, and whether there should be an inspector of crematoria.
Copies of the consultation response document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The response is also available at https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/consultation-on-cremation.