3.42The Act’s provisions focus chiefly on providing a legal framework within which local authorities and others who are in control of cemeteries or burial grounds must work in order to protect key public interests, including:
3.45Alongside these rights and responsibilities the Act also places certain constraints on how local authorities exercise their powers, most notably with respect to the management of cemetery finances and any activities that involve clearing, closing and disposing of land that has been set aside for the burial of the dead. Most significantly, section 21 of the Act forbids local authorities from selling or making use of any land comprised in a cemetery for any other purpose.
3.47Section 31 of the Act allows privately owned land to be set aside for the exclusive burial of members of a religious denomination. As well as satisfying public health requirements and any applicable planning consent, applicants must provide evidence that not less than 25 of the adult adherents of the religious denomination support the establishment of the burial ground. Section 31 also allows managers of denominational burial grounds to permit the burial of any other person that they see fit.
3.48The Act also establishes a range of activities that require Ministerial authority before they can be undertaken by either local authorities or other entities with the control and management of cemeteries and burial grounds. The powers of authorisation have been delegated to ministerial officials. These activities include:
3.49The Act sets out a parallel set of rights and responsibilities for cemeteries under the control of trustees. Many of the provisions mirror those that apply to local authorities, such as setting out how trustees are to conduct their business, including their finances. It also creates strict controls over the appointment and removal of trustees and establishes mechanisms whereby the management of trustee-managed cemeteries can be transferred to local authorities.
3.50Part 5 of the Act deals with the establishment of crematoria and outlines the powers and responsibilities of crematorium authorities, which may be a local authority or a private individual, with respect to the operation of crematoria.
3.51Finally, the Act describes the legal obligations on those responsible for arranging the burial, cremation, or disinterment of a deceased person, including:
3.52Two sets of regulations have been made under the Act: the Cremation Regulations 1973 and the Burial and Cremation (Removal of Monuments and Tablets) Regulations 1967.
3.53The first of these, the Cremation Regulations, describes the obligations on those operating crematoria, including the certification and approval regime that must be complied with before cremation can take place. These regulations also cover the disposal of human ashes.
3.54The objective of the regulations regarding the removal of monuments is to ensure authorities follow a suitably open process and, in particular, that appropriate efforts are made to notify interested parties, including the relatives of anyone whose grave may be affected by removal work.
3.55Over and above these two sets of regulations a significant number of other statutes either interface with the Act, or, in some cases, duplicate provisions contained in the Act. The most significant of these are:
3.56An important issue highlighted in our terms of reference was to consider the extent to which the provisions of the Act are either in conflict with, are duplicated in, or have been eclipsed by provisions in these statues and regulations, many of which have been enacted since the Act was passed in 1964.
3.57Allied to this, we must also consider whether the Ministry of Health remains the most appropriate ministry to administer the Act given the very significant number of non-health related provisions in the Act. These provisions include very many relating to land use and the cultural and historic interests in the preservation of sites used for burial.
3.58We return to these issues in subsequent chapters, but we now turn to describing how the sector is currently operating, beginning with an overview of the main providers and then turning to some of the emerging issues. As mentioned earlier, although local authorities dominate the sector, a range of providers continues to be involved, including trusts that run cemeteries and some residual church involvement in the provision of places for burial.