Call for Views - Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee has today, 20 October 2015, launched a call for written evidence from all interested parties as part of its Stage 1 consideration of the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill. This Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2015.

Purpose of the Bill
Many of the Bill’s provisions have their basis in recommendations made by various review groups, particularly the Infant Cremation Commission and the Burial and Cremation Review Group.  In brief, the Bill seeks to provide a modern, comprehensive legislative framework for burial and cremation in Scotland. A copy of the Bill, and its accompanying documents, are available online: www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/92664.aspx

Legislative scrutiny overview

The substantive parts of this legislation will be scrutinised by the Health and Sport Committee and the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee and the Finance Committee will also scrutinise the Bill will respect to their particular remits.

The Health and Sport Committee will focus its scrutiny on the Bill’s general principles and those parts relating to pregnancy loss, still-birth and infant loss (principally provisions 50-55). The Local Government and Regeneration Committee will be scrutinising all other parts of the Bill. See here for details: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/29857.aspx

Organisations and individuals are invited to submit written evidence to the Health and Sport Committee, or the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, as appropriate, setting out their views on the provisions of the Bill. Those submitting evidence should feel free to address any, or all, of the policy issues contained in the Bill. Please note written evidence received by either Committee will be shared with the other Committee where relevant.

Health and Sport Committee’s call for views
The Health and Sport Committee invites all interested parties to submit written evidence on the Bill.  The Committee’s focus will be on the Bill’s general principles, as well as the provisions relating to pregnancy loss, still-birth and infant loss. The Committee welcomes your views on whether or not you agree with the proposals in the Bill and whether you would recommend any changes. In particular, the Committee encourages responses on the following:

(1)  General principles – the policy objective is to put in place new legislation to provide a modern and comprehensive legal framework for burial and cremation in Scotland. The Bill should provide a robust and long-lasting legislative framework to meet the needs of twenty-first century Scotland.

(2)  Applications for burial (Section 8) – the Bill seeks to make it a requirement to apply for a burial in a burial ground and to standardise the application forms. It prescribes that a person may not bury human remains in a burial ground unless that person has submitted an application to the burial authority and the application has been granted. The contents of the application form will be set out in regulations.

(3)  Meaning of cremation/ashes (Section 36) – the Bill seeks to define what is meant by ashes to avoid misunderstandings. It defines cremation as “the reduction to ashes of human remains and the application to the burnt human remains of grinding or other processes”. The Bill specifies that ashes do not include metal and where human remains are clothed, in a coffin or with any other thing, the remains include the clothing, coffin or other thing.

(4)  Applications for cremation (Section 38) – the Bill seeks to create a single application form to cover all cremations. It requires a person who wishes a cremation to be carried out in a crematorium to submit an application. The contents of the application form will be set out in regulations. The policy memorandum to the Bill states that the new form will specify that in certain circumstances, particularly in the case of pregnancy loss, still-births or infants, it may not be possible to recover ashes. However, it is now expected that ashes will be recovered in the vast majority of cremations. Where this does not occur, the Inspector of Crematoriums will investigate.

(5)  Duty to maintain cremation register (Section 41) – the Bill seeks to create a single register for all cremations, including pregnancy losses. It puts a duty on each cremation authority to prepare and maintain for each crematorium owned by it a register containing prescribed information about cremations carried out in the crematorium.

(6)  Relatives’ decision on disposal of remains (Section 47) – in practice, it is normally the nearest relative who arranges for the disposal of remains but currently this is not set out in legislation. The Bill seeks to make clear which relatives should be allowed to arrange for the disposal of remains in the event of a child’s death or still-birth. It creates a list of the nearest relatives who may do so and specifies that each nearest relative ranks equally if more than one nearest relative exists.

(7)  Disposing of remains from pregnancy loss at or before twenty-fourth week (Sections 50-53) – the Bill specifies that in the first instance the right to make the decision about pregnancy loss lies with the woman who has experienced the loss. She may also give permission for an individual over 16 years, or the appropriate health authority, to make this decision. The Bill provides a procedure for a woman to make a change to the arrangements for disposing of remains in certain circumstances. Where an authorised individual over 16 years has been designated to deal with the remains, the Bill also enables that person to authorise the appropriate health authority to arrange for disposal of remains. Where a health authority has been appointed to dispose of remains, it must do so after the expiry of the initial 7 day period.

(8)  Disposal of remains by Health Authorities (Section 54) – the Bill seeks to address what happens if no arrangements are made for the disposal of remains of pregnancy loss at or before the twenty-fourth week within the relevant period contained in sections 51 and 52. It provides a duty on the appropriate health authority to dispose of the remains.

(9)  Register of disposal of remains (Section 55) – the Bill provides a duty on each health authority to maintain a register recording the disposal of remains when pregnancy loss occurs at or before the twenty-fourth week. In the policy memorandum to the Bill, it states that the way in which information is recorded on the cremation register will not identify a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss. Instead a unique identifying number will be used.

Please feel free to comment on any other provision in the Bill, or a provision which you consider should be contained within the Bill.

How to submit your evidence
Submissions should be limited to no more than 4 pages of A4.  Responses should be sent, wherever possible, electronically and in MS Word format to healthandsport@scottish.parliament.uk.

The closing date for receipt of submissions is 4pm on Friday 4 December 2015

Before submitting your evidence please read the Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence by subject and mandatory committees.
Responses can also be sent by post to:
Clerk to the Health and Sport Committee
Committee Office
Room T3.60