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Norman Baker: The Minister is giving a helpful reply for my constituents. Before time runs out, can she say how she can reconcile the fact that in Seaford, 421 stones have been felled, compared with just three in Eastbourne where similar tests were carried out? Why do the new gravestones seem to be failing and the old ones not?
Beverley Hughes: I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman as to why there is that disparity, but the fact that there is that variation suggestsI think that this is the real point of his questionthat there is at the very least a lack of consistency in how burial authorities and local authorities are undertaking these responsibilities. That itself points to the need perhaps for more effective guidance. I will feed that and indeed all the issues that he has raised into the work that the advisory group is doing for us.
Memorialisation of the dead is an important aspect of our society. It demonstrates respect for the people we have lost and provides comfort for the bereaved. We must not allow poor workmanship or poor site management to undermine the historic, cultural and emotional value of our local cemeteries. From what the hon. Member for Lewes and my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire said, I accept that more work is needed to bring appropriate expertise to bear and to promote common standards. I certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall take up all the matters raised and feed them into the process that we have initiated.