Ministry of Justice updates: Law Commission, Parliamentary business and Medical Examiner System14/11/2023 // No Comments
The Ministry of Justice has provided updates on a number of important areas of work as part of its burial, cremation and funeral sector policy activity. Members may be aware that SAIF works closely with the Ministry not only as the independent funeral directors’ trade association but also through its membership of the Burials and Cremation Advisory Group (BCAG) and the Deceased Management Advisory Group (DMAG).
The latest updates are as follows:
The Law Commission
The Law Commission, as part of its programme of law reform, has commenced work on its “Burial, Cremation, and New Funerary Methods” project. This will seek to create a future-proof legal framework to address what happens to our bodies after death and to make recommendations that will provide modern, certain and consistent regulation across different funerary methods. It also aims to provide a fair and modern framework for decision-making by the deceased person’s family where they have not made an advance choice. The project is starting with a scoping phase in which the Ministry of Justice and the Law Commission will agree the terms of reference for the project. Once the scope of the project has been established, the Law Commission will set out more detailed plans for the work. Further information and progress on the project can be found at: Burial, Cremation, and New Funerary Methods – Law Commission.
There is currently one Bill before Parliament with relevance to the burial sector. This is a Private Bill (Bishop’s Stortford Cemetery Bill [HL] – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament) introduced by East Hertfordshire District Council in 2022 which, in summary, enables Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, subject to specified requirements, to extinguish rights of burial, disturb human remains and remove memorials for the purpose of increasing the space for interments in its two cemeteries. This Bill is now in the Commons where it has had its First Reading. It currently does not have a date for its Second Reading.
Further information on the Bill is available at the link above and will be updated as it progresses through Parliament. SAIF will monitor the Bill and would be interested in any comments that members may have. Please email the Business Centre via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Medical Examiner System
The Ministry of Justice has continued to work with the Department of Health and Social Care and other government departments on the forthcoming implementation of this scheme. The Government has published a written ministerial statement announcing intentions to introduce a statutory Medical Examiner system from April 2024. This also includes intentions to commence the necessary primary legislation and publish draft secondary regulations this autumn.
The changes will put all of the Medical Examiner System’s obligations, duties and responsibilities on a statutory footing. As part of this work, the Ministry of Justice proposes to remove and/or amend a whole suite of cremation and coroner forms.
Medical referees will be retained for a transitional period once the statutory Medical Examiner System has been implemented to ensure continuity and enable any necessary process changes to be identified. The Ministry has committed to providing sufficient time to enable the Medical Examiner System to fully embed before it considers removing medical referees. SAIF and colleagues in DMAG are continuing to ask for a roadmap of reasonable time to implement the Medical Examiner documentation process.