I am today announcing that new regulations regarding cremation in England and Wales have been laid before Parliament. The Cremation (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 will come into effect on 6 April 2018.
We are making these changes following our response to our consultation on cremation, published on 7 July 2016, in which we committed to make a number of changes to infant cremation regulations and practice.
The regulations laid today introduce new forms for use in applying for a cremation. They include a section for the applicant to confirm their wishes regarding the return of ashes following the cremation. The applicant will be able to amend their wishes in writing at any time after they apply for the cremation, including specifying what should happen to the ashes if they did not originally do so when they applied for the cremation. The forms also provide a new section to make applicants aware that in some rare circumstances, such as in the cremation of a stillborn or very small baby, no ashes may be recovered. These changes will provide clarity for bereaved parents at a difficult and stressful time.
There have been very rare occasions when the applicant for a cremation has later been implicated in the death of the person cremated, or has been convicted of a violent offence against the bereaved, such as the parent of a deceased child, and from their prison cell has refused the return of the ashes to the family of the deceased. To address this, the regulations provide a discretion for the cremation authority in exceptional circumstances to release cremation ashes to someone other than the applicant. We will provide guidance to cremation authorities on the exercise of this power.
These regulations allow for the first time for cremation forms to be issued in Welsh, supporting our commitment made in the 2015 St David’s Day agreement to ensure that forms relating to important life events and civic duties can be completed in Welsh. They also provide for the electronic signing of cremation forms, enabling the submission of cremation forms by electronic means. Finally, these regulations correct a cross reference to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
I would like to thank the National Cremation Working Group who have been working with the Ministry of Justice as we have progressed this work.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords