Funeral Director Services Regulation Debate

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Department: Home Office

Funeral Director Services Regulation

Damien Moore Excerpts
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Jake Berry Portrait Jake Berry
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I thank my right hon. Friend for an excellent intervention. Picking up on both interventions, this is a very complicated space—the Department of Health and Social Care, of course, will have some input as well. In this sort of complicated space, things often get missed, so I hope that the Minister, who I know is not a believer in Government silos, will look to work across Government to ensure that we can bring some regulation to this area.

When I spoke to my constituents about this, both those affected and others, they were shocked and surprised to find out that this sector, which people access at such a vulnerable moment, is largely unregulated. We should seek to close the gap that allows people to opt out of all regulation for financial reasons—and they may have very valid business reasons for doing so—leaving people with limited redress. In all fairness, the two best known regulating bodies, the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, are seeking to address the issue. They have been proactive, which is good. It is not just those two bodies that are calling for regulation, of course. The Competition and Markets Authority recently looked at funeral services, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) will know from his work with the all-party parliamentary group for funerals and bereavement. We should seek more regulation in this space.

I am aware of the work being undertaken by David Heath, the former Member for Somerton and Frome, who is the chair of the Independent Funeral Standards Organisation. I understand from David, who is doing excellent work with that organisation, that it will be up and running from January, trying to regulate and work with the sector to seek further regulation. Of course, there is no compulsion on any funeral director to take part in that organisation, and there is no compulsion on funeral directors and other bereavement services to join the existing trade bodies.

I hope that the Minister will take up the excellent suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings: to seek to work across Government to ensure that we find a solution to the doubt in this area in relation to regulation. What would be exceptionally helpful for the industry—and if he cannot do it today, it may be something for another day or something on which he could write to me—is to set out a direction of travel on regulation for all of those competing organisations. They should be given a period of time to get their own house in order, but they should understand that that is a limited period of time. Different regulators have competing interests, and they need some Government direction to work together, come together and be forced to talk to one another. If they fail to find an industry-led solution, which would be my preferred route, there should at least be an understanding that the Government will keep this under review and may, at some point in the future, intervene.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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Would my right hon. Friend agree that we should celebrate best practice among funeral directors and the work that they do to serve their communities in very difficult times for families?

Jake Berry Portrait Jake Berry
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Everyone who has spoken today understands the brilliant work that the funeral and bereavement sector does on behalf of families, and it has been through a very difficult time. On the point about best practice, a form of industry-led regulation that people are compelled to join would naturally lead to the sharing of best practice. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider what has been said today. I know he will join me in passing on condolences to a family that I have not named because of the graphic and distressing nature of the case in Darwen. They are having a very difficult time because a dearly loved and valued member of our community died, and that was compounded by an appalling graveside incident.