The case for change in the laws and practices affecting cemeteries and crematoria, and the funeral industry, had been made, home office minister Paul Boateng told MPs.
Reply to the adjournment debate, he said it was important that there was a wide public debate to address issues such as the lack of burial space, a review of burial law and the lack of direction for the burial industry.
He added: 'Whatever recommendations the sub-committe [of the DETR select committee currently studying the issues] might make, our aims must be to ensure that the public have a realistic and affordable choice; that the services provided by burial and cremation authorities are professional, caring, timely and sensitive to the needs
of the whole diverse range of communities in our country; and that local burial and cremation facilities offer a fitting environment for the bereaved and enhance the life of the community.'
Mr Boateng said because of local management, there will differences in the layout of grounds, maintenance, range of services, opening hours and days for burial or cremation services. Some provision fell below an acceptable standard. the home office had only limited powers when asked to inspect cemeteries or crematoria
after serious allegations of irregularities or proposals to close a site.
Many of the cemetries opened in the past 100 years were coming to the end of their useful life, thus creating its own problem: pressure on land space for the living put pressure on land space for the dead.
Mr Boateng continued: 'The past few years have seen a number of important developments. Certain problems have come to the fore. There is a shortage of land for burial in London and elsewhere. The condition of some cemeteries and churchyards has deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. Some old cemeteries are of doubtful
'There are challenges of principle and practice regarding the removal of human remains to enable the development of old burial grounds. Regulation is inconsistent and there are variable standards of practice and management.'
Hansard 26 Feb: Column 685-692