Examination of witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 9 JANUARY 2001
HUSSEIN and DR
40. And for 100 years?
(Dr Hussein) It is double that. Those fees are considered
very high in this country yet, to be honest with you, financially
they are not realistic. We are taking on responsibility for maintaining
that grave and the cemetery in which it is located for 50 years,
it is not sustainable. If we were to charge the realistic fee
for 50 years people would not be able to afford to be buried.
41. What would be a realistic fee?
(Dr Hussein) I have not actually calculated that.
What we are starting to do is to try to generate sufficient income
from our burial and cremation fees and to put any surplus we generate
into a reserve fund to offset future expenditure so that we do
not have this continual pressure to either keep putting up the
fees, because that is what is going to happen, or to rely on local
42. There are new regulations governing emissions
from crematoria, what do you think the impact of those regulations
(Dr Hussein) I personally welcome any greater controls
over emissions from crematoria. I think that we should work towards
new emissions as far as that is feasible. I think it is right
that we should look at greater control over emissions but before
taking action we should determine exactly what we are emitting
from the actual cremation process and then address the problem.
43. Do you mean that we do not know at the moment
what emissions there are coming out of crematoria chimneys?
(Dr Hussein) Correct.
44. Nobody has made the slightest attempt to
(Dr Hussein) Attempts are being made. Research is
now being commissioned to establish the extent particularly in
terms of heavy metals, the scale of the problem.
45. How many bodies contain heavy metals?
(Dr Hussein) We are talking primarily about mercury
which is in amalgams in your teeth. I am talking about general
pollution and we should aim to eliminate, as far as we can, any
damage we cause to the environment from the cremation process.
46. They must have a lot of filled teeth, must
they not, to be a problem?
(Dr Hussein) Sorry?
47. How much mercury would you expect per corpse?
(Dr Hussein) I would not want to get into that but
I know that there is concern about emissions from crematoria and
that needs to be researched. In terms of the implications for
the viability of existing crematoria, the equipment that would
need to be installed, it is said, would result in a number of
crematoria being closed, but I think it needs more detailed research
than has been carried out at the moment.
48. Who do you think should pay for those improved
(Dr Hussein) I think that the user should pay. The
cremation fees in this country could sustain increases to finance
such improvements. If you compare our cremation fee costs and
costs of burial, for example, they are very low.
49. What are they?
(Dr Hussein) Cremation fees on average are about £200.
It will vary from as low as £150 up to £300. In London,
£220 would be an average fee. When you compare it to the
overall cost of the funeral, it is quite a small percentage.
50. Do you think that an effect of the new regulations
could be fewer crematoria?
(Dr Hussein) No. It is very difficult to run a crematoria
without making a surplus and I think that cremation can sustain
either the extension of existing crematoria or the building of
new ones, I honestly believe that.
51. Who should take responsibility for providing
(Dr Hussein) I think the current arrangements are
quite good in that it can either be left to the local authority
to provide it or the private sector. I can assure you that where
local authorities maintain that their crematorium is not sustainable
and will close, I have no doubt in my mind that private companies
will build new crematoria because they are sustainable.
52. You are saying that it is cheaper to be
cremated but you are not sure what is coming out of the chimneys
anyway and it may be that the whole system would have to be rebuilt
but it is still going to be cheaper than burial?
(Dr Hussein) Financially it is more viable, yes, far
53. So you do not actually believe what local
authorities are saying?
(Dr Hussein) What are they saying?
54. You have given us the impression that local
authorities are going to have to move on from crematoria, have
to rebuild them.
(Dr Hussein) There is a suggestion from some research
that has been carried out that around 25 per cent of crematoria
are saying they would have to close if abatement equipment had
to be installed in their crematoria. I am saying that needs more
research and I am saying that where crematoria did have to close
I think either a new crematorium could be built or the private
sector will ensure that one is provided because it is financially
55. So as an association you think it might
be a good idea if you ran a whole campaign to encourage everybody
to be cremated?
(Dr Hussein) I believe that people should have the
basic right to choose between burial and cremation and both should
be affordable. That is fine as far as cremation is concerned but
until we get the reuse of graves we are not going to have financially
sustainable cemeteries. Cremation has been promoted on the basis
of save the land for the living and the only reason that argument
56. Also some people do not like the idea of
being a nuisance to everybody for some considerable generations.
(Dr Hussein) Absolutely. That is why it should be
a personal choice. We have promoted cremation on the basis of
save the land for the living and that argument would fall flat
on its face if we had the reuse of graves.
57. There is a tendency towards formal burial
of cremated remains, what impact does that have on the land use?
(Dr Hussein) At the cemetery and crematorium where
I work we are finding that about ten per cent of cremations will
result in a burial of the cremated remains in a formal plot. It
is going to have an impact on the amount of space that we have.
Every cemetery has a limited amount of space. We try to draw a
balance between the needs and expectations of the bereaved and
the actual physical requirements of cemetery space. I think we
have done that by trying to reduce the size of graves as best
we can. This is the interesting thing, that in terms of a cremated
remains grave, because we are talking about a much smaller amount
of remains that can be buried, we can reuse graves because they
have far more space in them. Cremated remains are treated exactly
the same as a body, we cannot disturb them once they are buried,
so even those plots are going to run out eventually.
58. What are the alternatives to burying ashes,
they are happily spread up and down the Thames?
(Dr Hussein) Around 40 per cent now are actually taken
away from crematoria.
59. So you do not know where they are?
(Dr Hussein) There has been no real research as to
exactly what is happening to them. What is happening is they are
being transferred around the country. We receive remains from
other crematoria. No-one has actually carried out any research
to see what is happening to those remains that are removed, to
what extent are they scattered on rivers, we do not know.