HC Deb 29 June 1978 vol 952 cc1654-71

7.0 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 4, line 27, at end insert— 'Provided that the cemetery shall be held as open space within the meaning of the Open Spaces Act 1906 and shall be maintained in accordance with section 10 of that Act, and that notwithstanding any powers contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 and the Local Government Act 1972, the proprietors shall not appropriate the cemetery for any other purpose.'. It might be for the convenience of the House if we were to take at the same time Amendment No. 2, in page 4, line 27, at end insert— 'Provided also that the cemetery shall not be used for any organised games or sports'. When I spoke on the Second Reading it was my intention that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee and I was happy at that time for that to be done and that I could accept its recommendations and should not find myself in the position I am in today of putting forward these two amendments.

If I may explain the situation to the House, the Sheffield City Council and in particular the ruling party there, the Socialist Party, have, in the view of a number of my constituents, whether they be environmentalists and living nearby or whether they are amongst those who have petitioned against the Bill—and some were supported by the parliamentary agent, a Mr. Byron Wright, aided by Mr. Fletcher and a Dr. Fletcher who gave evidence to the Select Committee—been inept in their handling of this complex issue, a view privately shared, I believe, by some Socialist councillors.

I see that the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry), is in his scat. On behalf of the objectors, I should like to express my appreciation for the work that he and his Committee did for those who came to object. In this case the objectors were people who could not afford parliamentary agents or parliamentary counsel. Therefore, they put their own case. I commended them for doing so, though I thought perhaps their presentation would have been much more able had they had the benefit of barristers and parliamentary agents, as Sheffield City Council had.

This subject was debated in the city council on Wednesday 7th June, but I found that this Bill was up for further consideration on the very next day, 8th June. That hardly allowed time for me to do anything in this House but oppose further consideration until such time as I had learnt from the City Council what had been decided on and what should happen to the Bill. When I originally objected in the House I had no idea of the view of the council and indeed I have had no official communication from the council since then, but the parliamentary agents have been very courteous and have kept me posted.

Since then I have been in touch with Conservative councillors on the city council and with a number of those who live in the neighbourhood of the cemetary, as well as with the objectors to this Bill. As one would expect, there are different points of emphasis but the Conservatives collating all the opposition considered that they had none of the assurances for which they had hoped from the city council. Therefore, I was requested to do my best to have these two amendments at least inserted in the Bill. I still believe that the objectors will try to object to the Bill in another place.

As I stated on Second Reading, I favoured the approach of the councils in the Manchester area, that of gradualness, and I wanted the Press release submitted by Sheffield City Council and the assurances given to be implemented in the Bill, namely, that at no time should this cemetery be converted into a cricket pitch, football ground, hockey ground or sports stadium. This appears to meet the requirements of those who live in the area. They want this to be a park for passive recreation, similar to the botanical gardens across the valley.

Secondly, the objectors do not want the city council to be able to build on this site without there being a further Act of Parliament for that purpose if they were to wish to do so. This would be following the example of some of the Manchester councils. At present there is no strict Government control or national policy on how to deal with cemeteries, particularly private ones going into disuse, and I am very unhappy that the Sheffield City Council has to resort to private Bill procedure in this case.

Since the Select Committee I have had correspondence with the Secretary of State for the Environment and even with the Home Office and the Prime Minister. Obviously some councils have dealt with these matters with respect and others with not such great care. That is why we are looking at this issue again. The petition presented by the objectors was looked at by the Select Committee, and I very much appreciated the efforts of that Committee, resulting in additional insertions in the Bill. This has been of very great help, but of course, even if the memorials are removed, many graves will remain in the cemetery, either because they will never be claimed or because relatives cannot be traced as a result of poor records having been kept by the private cemetery company—there was no incentive for them to do so, since the 1960s.

Whatever happens therefore, even with these amendments, there will still be some people buried on the site though perhaps not under tombstones if the Bill goes through. That is a good reason for not having a permissive situation whereby local authorities, in this case the Sheffield local authority, could if it wished build further on the site. Time should be allowed to elapse before any development is allowed. Other local authorities, such as Manchester, took time to deal with this issue.

Under Section 30 of the Pastoral Measure 1968 Parliament requires a period of 50 years between burial and development of land and the relatives of those at present buried in the Sheffield General Cemetery need time to become accustomed to the idea that the cemetery may be completely altered, let alone be used for building or as a sports ground. As the Bill stands, I see nothing to prevent the city council clearing part of the cemetery and either building on that land or converting it into a sports ground at any time, although it has claimed this is not its intention.

The amendments I propose will restrict the use of the cemetery land to those purposes set out in the city council's Press release and put to the House by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). If the Act of Parliament needed is passed, then the council intends first, to restore the listed buildings in the general cemetery; secondly, so far as is consistent with public safety leave certain areas of the general cemetery of great ecological interest undisturbed; thirdly, restore the western part of the general cemetery to its original form as an example of a Victorian cemetery; fourthly, landscape the eastern part of the general cemetery as a public park by removing memorials but so far as is possible leaving the actual graves undisturbed.

The hon. Member for Heeley said: The plans of the city council for this 14 acres of strategically situated ground are as follows. The eastern part of the cemetery will be landscaped as a public park. So far as possible, graves will be left undisturbed, although memorials will have to be removed and there will have to be a considerable amount of tidying up and change of layout. My first amendment seeks to restrict the use of the cemetery to that laid down in the Open Spaces Act 1906, Section 10. By virtue of Section 20 of that Act an open space is land on which there are no buildings or of which not more than one-twentieth part is covered with buildings and the whole of the remainder of which is laid out as a garden or is used for the purposes of recreation, or lies wasted or unoccupied. If the city council really intended to leave parts of the cemetery undisturbed for wildlife and landscape the eastern part as a public park, it should have no objection whatsoever to my amendment. If in future it is thought by all concerned that there should be some other use of the land, why not have another private Bill put forward by some other generation in 25 or 50 years? But it should not be now, when there are still people being buried there and the cemetery has not been closed.

At present, many of my constituents and the Conservative members of the city council would like such a safeguard in the Bill to ensure that the council deals with the cemetery as it has publicly stated. I should be interested to know why the council strongly objects to an amendment of this type—although there has been a statement from the parliamentary agents stating that they do not object.

Second, to meet the needs of environmentalists and others, our object is that the cemetary should be a place of passive recreation or a park. That is the purpose of the second amendment.

On 11th April, on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Healey mentioned the period of 25 years between the last burial and any building, and said: One of the problems that have arisen is that some people are nervous or worried that, if the cemetery is taken over, it will be used not for a park or open space and for amenity purposes but as a site on which to put up buildings. To meet this fear, the city council is quite prepared to consider an amendment in Committee to prohibit for at least 25 years any building on this piece of land".—[Official Report, 11 th April 1978; Vol. 947, c. 1256–8.] I have discussed this with Sheffield councillors and the Socialist leader, but such an amendment does not go far enough. The mention of 25 years has upset people who would otherwise accept the Bill. There has been no amendment to the revised Bill as yet to give even this assurance, so I hope that the House will accept my amendments.

Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)

The Bill received an unopposed Second Reading, so one presumes that the House wishes it to be enacted. On Second Reading the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) said: There was a very good Press release issued by the city council setting out its intentions clearly. These were to restore the listed buildings in the cemetery, to leave certain areas of the cemetery undisturbed for ecological reasons, to restore the western end of the cemetery to its original Victorian form and to landscape the eastern part of the cemetery as a public park by removing the memorials but as far as possible to leave the actual graves undisturbed. All Conservatives would go along with this". Therefore, assuming that the hon. Gentleman is still a paid-up member of his party, I am surprised that he still objects to the Bill. He says that some of the objectors would go along with this too, but some would not. My understanding of those words is that there is no fundamental objection to these provisions.

Later in the debate, referring to the work of the Select Committee, the hon. Member said: I hope that it will delete Clause 4(1) dealing with deconsecration. The Committee has done that, so that point is met.

7.15 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman then made a substantial point: But one matter that causes concern is what provision, if any, after the passing of the legislation will be made for those who have close relatives buried in the cemetery and who when they die wish to join those deceased relatives. I do not think that the hon. Member for Heeley understood me. The only way this will be possible is to disinter the existing graves and to let those already buried there join their deceased relatives elsewhere. The cost of doing this would not fall within any of the provisions of the Bill and presumably would have to come from persons concerned or from private sources. That point, too, has been dealt with by the Committee.

An amendment was made to the Bill which provides that if it is intended to remove a memorial from over a grave representatives of the deceased person should have the option of having both the memorial and the grave removed to another cemetery chosen by the city council, the cost being defrayed by the council up to £50, or, if greater, the sum that it would have cost the council to do the work. This has now been incorporated in proper legal language in the Bill. So that point too has also been met.

The hon. Member also said: I hold the view, as the promoters said in their Press release, that this cemetery should be a park and should be changed gradually."—[Official Report, 11th April 1978; Vol. 947. c. 1265–70.] The intention is to make it a park. That is what is now proposed in the Bill as amended.

I find it a little odd that the hon. Member for Hallam is still pressing his objections, when the promoters are in accord with his general aims—he said that all Conservatives would agree with this—and have met two specific points that he wanted dealt with.

Mr. John H. Osborn

I am not objecting to the Bill. All that I am asking is that it should reflect what was put in the Press release and that is not the case.

Mr. Hooley

With respect, I would argue that it is the case.

The question whether there should be any specified time laid down about the future of this piece of land was discussed in the Select Committee. The promoters, the city council, offered to include a clause providing an absolute limit of 25 years against any alteration. However, for reasons which I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry), who was Chairman of the Committee, will explain, it did not consider that that was necessary.

I am willing to defer to the wisdom of the Committee, which spent a considerable time listening to petitioners and examining the Bill. If it did not feel that this offer, which was made in good faith, was necessary, I do not see why anyone should insist on it now.

The trouble with the hon. Member's amendments is that they would mean that this piece of land would be an open space in perpetuity—for eternity.

Mr. John H. Osborn

Quite right.

Mr. Hooky

Even when discussing a cemetery, I am not persuaded that we should try to legislate for eternity. We never know what changes there may be in the social system or the needs of the people of Sheffield. Some time in eternity there might even be a Conservative council in Sheffield which might want to adopt a different policy—perhaps selling the land to a property developer. Certainly a Labour council would never want to do anything like that.

The council therefore felt that it was sufficient to make this offer of a 25-year barrier against any development and to leave the matter open beyond that.

The objection to the hon. Member's amendment is precisely that it is far too sweeping and sets out to provide for something which would carry us well into the twenty-first century, when none of us can forecast the circumstances, the needs or the demands.

Mr. John H. Osborn

The point is that we now cannot determine the feeling in 25 or 50 years. However, if it has been an open space for that time and for planning reasons it is then required that it should be built on, the future generations should pass their own Act and not put a provision in an Act today to hurt sensitive feelings of those who would he affected.

Mr. Hooley

But that is precisely the argument. The Bill as it stands is perfectly satisfactory; it contains exactly the intentions of the city council, and it has been amended to take into account very carefully the precise sensitivities in the matter of the removal of memorials or possible disinterments that the hon. Gentleman has raised. Of course, it is possible for a future city council or a future House of Commons to enact in relation to this or any other cemetery. If, after 20, 30 or 40 years, a city council in Sheffield wants to change what is now provided in the Bill, as far as I can see constitutionally there will be nothing to prevent it.

The Bill carries out what has been clearly stated to be the purpose of the city council in its public submission, with which the hon. Gentleman says he entirely agrees and to which only a very few people have some form of objection, I understand. Indeed, I have received correspondence on the subject from only one person, who has written two letters to me.

If I understand this gentleman correctly, his objection is on some theological doctrinal point which I do not despise but which I do not understand. His case is that there is a religious provision within Christian doctrine that persons must never be disinterred. I am not theologically qualified to quarrel with that statement, but I understand that in the past the bones and remains of saints have been disinterred and removed from one place to another for reburial. If that is so, it surely constitutes sufficient precedent to provide the proper legal conditions in an enactment of this House. I accept entirely the sensitivity of those who have such objections. I understand their feelings. But surely they have been met by a specific amendment to the Bill, and I do not see any case for further amendment.

The hon. Gentleman's Amendment No. 2 reads: Provided also that the cemetery shall not be used for any organised games or sports". That is far too vague a concept to incorporate in the Bill. The city council has no intention of drawing football pitches or cricket pitches, or whatever it may, in the cemetery. Indeed, the nature of the ground, sloping so sharply, is such that it would be totally impossible for it to do so.

How are we supposed to interpret the term "organised games or sports"? Would the amendment prevent, for example, a teacher from taking a group of children there to play ring-a-ring-a-roses or rounders with a tennis ball and a stick? What is an organised game or sport? One cannot possibly incorporate into a Bill of this kind such a vague and generalised provision which could presumably prevent this piece of land from being used for almost every kind of recreation apart from people actually being able to sit there.

The Bill as amended meets the reasonable and fair objections and sensitivities of those who are concerned about the disturbance of memorials and graves. We have provided that, if it is necessary to remove a memorial, and possibly to remove remains, it must be done at the expense of the city council, that people must be told what is happening, and that the cost must be properly defrayed. The hon. Gentleman's amendments go way beyond what is intended in the Bill. They would determine far into the future that this land shall never be used for anything other than the existing plan, and I am not disposed to believe that we should or can legislate in such fashion.

I am sorry that, after all the hon. Gentleman said on Second Reading about the Conservatives being in favour of the objectives of the Bill—which he set out so explicitly in his speech—he is now seeking to obstruct its progress. I hope, therefore, that the House will reject the amendments.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) has just said that the open space is protected for 25 years. I think we all agree that such are the terms of the Bill. I think that we are also agreed that after this there is nothing to prevent anyone from building on that space. The hon. Gentleman suggests that 25 years is a sufficient period. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) that if it was to be built on or used for any other purpose another Bill should then be brought forward. I am confining my remarks to Amendment No. 1.

I have never been to Sheffield. I am talking on a matter of principle. All I know about Sheffield is its tremendous reputation for master cutlers and its historic processes of plating, superseded by electro-plating and, of course, for its quality cutlery. I have no doubt that all those who in 1846 probably clubbed together to bring the cemetery into existence and the Act put on the statute book were also vastly proud of their city. However, I am not talking so much about a local matter as about a matter of principle.

As my hon. Friend said, there is no national policy for cemeteries. I have looked through many Acts of Parliament dealing with cemeteries, but one cannot find a general pattern. This cemetery is bankrupt. The company is unable to meet its commitments, and therefore the local authority has consented to take it over and to run what the orginal company was quite unable to do. Of course, if that company had been given building consent for even a small section of the land it would have been able to continue its operations.

The important point about the Bill is that it lacks a certain provision which means that building can take place after 25 years without further Act of Parliament. Under many other cemetery Acts, tombstones are able to be moved aside and the ground is used, as it should be used, as an open space for people to enjoy. Throughout the country many cemeteries have ceased to be used. But in this case there is a difference because this cemetery is still in use.

I have no objection to the city council, in its wisdom, putting down park benches, if necessary moving tombstones to the side. I can see that that would be an ideal use. I understand that the land is about 14 acres. Whatever pleasurable use it is put to, whether it is only the provision of benches for people to sit on, or whether it is some landscaping, does not much matter. The fact that it is sloping slightly does not mean that the uses to which it could be put are to some extent restricted.

I feel that this is not a local matter but a national matter. In passing in this House an Act which would permit in 25 years, without any further legislation, that cemetery to be dug up, we have to face the fact that many of the bodies there may have no tombstones; perhaps some are not even recorded and are difficult to find. The bulldozers could go through and disrupt many graves.

Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)

I believe that I am the only Member of the House who has actually conducted a funeral in Sheffield General Cemetery. Only a quarter of a mile from it is the churchyard of St. Mary, Bramall Lane, and a very considerable section of that churchyard was taken some years ago for the building of a dual carriageway road, which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) may remember. Immense care was taken in the disinterment of the 2,000 bodies which were in that piece of ground. So the fears that the hon. Member is raising seem to me, certainly in the case of Sheffield, groundless.

7.30 p.m.

Dr. Glyn

The fear is still there. The hon. Gentleman himself has admitted that bodies have had to be removed. I do not see any reason why they should be removed. I dislike the idea that after 25 years—

Mr. John H. Osborn

As far as I can gather, the council could break away from its Press release, because of some other urgent circumstances, and in a year or two start disintering the site and building on it. There is no reference in the Bill to 25 years. It has to be changed by the city council.

7.30 p.m.

Dr. Glyn

Twenty-five years is not an absolute time at all. The building could take place. I am not suggesting that the council would do it tomorrow. I do not think that that is likely at all. My case on the first amendment, putting it absolutely bluntly, is that 1 do not believe that it is right to leave the council with the power to erect a housing estate on the cemetery. If the cemetery is to cease to be used as a cemetery, it ought to be available for the quiet enjoyment of the citizens in the area, without any need to dig up the surface. There are 14 acres which I believe could be used as a memorial to those who lie underneath, and the people of Sheffield would be able to have the quiet enjoyment of that land.

That is something to be recommended, but I do not believe that it is right for us to let the Bill go through without making it quite clear that the site should not be used for any other purpose. Certainly it should not be allowed to be used for the development of housing or offices or any other development.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I am sure that the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) is nobly motivated and compassionate and wants the very best solution, but before enunciating principles he should have gone to Sheffield and had a look at the cemetery so that he would know what he was talking about.

When I spoke briefly on the last occasion, I said that I had looked at the cemetery from the classroom in which I taught for 11 years, and I have a wide knowledge of the area. Undoubtedly the people of Sheffield want something to be done with what has become a wilderness. Every compassionate step has been taken in drawing up the Bill. The area in question is a completely reorganised area, and it is hoped that, by means of the provisions of the Bill, it will be possible to make the site beautiful. It is the wish of the general public that this should be done.

The private company which owned the cemetery wanted matters to be put right, because only between six and 12 funerals a year were taking place and the cemetery was no longer a viable proposition. On Second Reading the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn), whether he knows it or not, conveyed the impression to us in his last few sentences that he would not oppose the Bill. He seems now to have come out with new opposition to it. This is rather different from what he said previously.

In his speech this evening, the hon. Gentleman said that the council had handled this complex issue in a very inept way. There has been a Labour council in Sheffield since 1926, apart from two one-year intervals. Matters were immediately rectified after those intervals. I would not have expected for one moment that the hon. Gentleman would ever say of the Sheffield council that it had handled anything in other than an inept way. One expects that from him.

Mr. John H. Osborn


Mr. Flannery

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. The reality is that the people of Sheffield are looking at this question. I am sure that there are people who are worried about it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is worried about it. But, no matter how compassionate the measures that we take, I do not think that they will ever satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

I have received one letter about this matter. It is from the gentleman who wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). This gentleman is deeply religious and I respect his viewpoint. His interpretation of the scriptures is such that he feels that nobody should ever be moved after burial in a cemetery. However, honourable as this gentleman is, I do not think that he mirrors the viewpoint of the majority of people in Sheffield. We should like to be able to meet him in his wishes, but I do not think we can do it.

Mr. John H. Osborn

I assure the hon. Gentleman that when he reads the Official Report he will find that I did not say that the council was inept but that I had been approached by people who said how ineptly the matter had been handled. I am not here to oppose the Bill. I have two constructive amendments which spell out in detail what should have been put in the Bill.

Mr. Flannery

If the hon. Gentleman does not get his way with the amendments, I presume that none the less he will agree with the Bill and that it will go through unopposed. He allowed it to go through unopposed on Second Reading.

This sort of situation occurs in all cities. There is a cemetery near where I live which has become grossly overgrown. The hon. Gentleman will know Rivelin cemetery quite well, I am sure. I hope that it will be set right in time in a humane and compassionate way. Indeed, members of my own family are interred in that cemetery, and I would want something compassionate to be done about it.

The hon. Gentleman comes from an old Sheffield family. My family have been in Sheffield for 150 years. In the centre of Sheffield there was an old church called St. Paul's, which had a school attached to it. In time it became a warehouse. My wife, as a girl, went to the church, St. Mary's, at which my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) was curate. St. Paul's, in the centre of Sheffield, is now a peace garden. In that garden is the grave of Joseph Mather, a writer of doggerel poetry. His poems, some of them bawdy, were about the working people of Sheffield. I remember, when the church became a peace garden, writing an article in the Sheffield Forward in which I said that Joseph Mather would be very happy if he knew that the peace gardens lay above him.

This sort of thing has been done before, and it has been done compassionately and honourably. Every line of the Bill and all the things that the Committee has accepted in order to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Hallam have been motivated by sheer compassion. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will allow it to go through, precisely for that reason.

Dr. Glyn

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has said, in different words, what I was trying to say earlier. I am sure that many of the people lying underneath would be delighted if the ground were to be used as a peace garden. This is exactly the sort of thing that has been done all over the country. My argument is that the council should not be allowed to divert from that and use the area as a building site. That is the crux of the matter.

Mr. Flannery

No one in Sheffield has said that the area will be used as a building site. We must have faith in the people who come after us. I hope that we shall be able to look at this area in the future knowing that the right course has been taken. We shall see the old portico preserved. We shall see an attractively grassed and beautiful area which will be used for the benefit of the local people. Those who wish to move bodies or headstones and so on will be given grants so that they may do so. There will be Bills introduced and people will be able to object. We shall do everything to help the people concerned by giving them grants and so on.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the second amendment about "organised games or sports". Organised by whom? Organised in what way? The amendment is so woolly. There is no danger what- ever of anything of a massive character taking place.

The hon. Member for Hallam knows that St. Philip's Church is near the cemetery. He knows that people go there to sit down, have lunch and so on. Sheffield was the first clean-air city in Europe. People accept that we are attempting to beautify it. We have had long experience of this. Even if the hon. Gentleman cannot have the amendments, I hope that he will allow the people of Sheffield to have the Bill in order that the area can be beautified in a compassionate and attractive manner.

Mr. John H. Osborn

Each of the hon Gentleman's last arguments is a very good reason why he should have no objection to the two amendments.

Mr. Flannery

On the contrary. I oppose them because I think that they are totally unnecessary. The Bill caters as widely as possible. The hon. Gentleman is in grave danger of conveying to the people of Sheffield that he is being obstructionist for obstruction's sake. That is the way it will be interpreted, because everyone in Sheffield wants the Bill. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the amendments too hard.

Mr. Ernest G. Perry (Battersea, South)

As Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill, I should like to say straight away that my colleagues and myself—two from either side—went into it with great care. We spent nearly two and a half days on it. We listened to the points of view and complaints of the petitioners, and also to the representatives of the Sheffield City Corporation. The Committee came to a unanimous decision in respect of the amendment which it made to the Bill.

The Committee considered at long length the question of an extension of time. It considered an embargo of 25 years or even 30 years on the council against doing anything. After careful consideration it turned down that suggestion. All members of the Committee realised the emotive aspect of the subject. When one is talking about the disposal of the dead or a change in the use of a cemetery, human relationships come into play and people want to know what will happen to the remains of their departed dear and loved ones. Many people who have ancestors buried in the cemetery are very concerned.

Unfortunately, all big cities are faced with the problem of the nineteenth century, when private cemeteries were established but no funds were set aside for the restoration or beautifying of the site. The result is that when the site becomes full, no funds are available to keep it in a respectable state. That is a problem throughout the country. On many occasions I have been confronted with this problem.

For nearly 30 years I have been the chairman and a member of different cemetery and crematorium committees. It is a problem which is experienced throughout the country. For three years I was chaiman of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities and a vice-president of the Institution of Burial and Cremation Administrators. At all times we were faced with the problem of derelict cemeteries, and, sometimes, derelict churchyards. In most cases, those churchyards and cemeteries have been changed in a form which has been satisfactory to all concerned.

After having seen photographs of the Sheffield General Cemetery and having realised the situation, I believe that unless the local authority takes it over it will become worse than it is at present. I understand the feelings of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn)

Question accordingly negatived.

because I know that he is deeply concerned about cemeteries in Sheffield. I thank him for his valuable efforts. I also thank the petitioners for coming along and giving the Committee the information which they did. But the Committee considered the Bill in depth and made an alteration which was a concession to the petitioners. To some extent the Sheffield City Corporation did not want to accept it. However, the whole Committee was unanimous that it would insert that amendment in the Bill.

I can see no real reason why the two amendments should be accepted. The Committee considered the Bill thoroughly I would also point out that local authorities in other towns—big towns, big cities and smaller ones—have had to take this kind of action on many occasions. Other local authorities have had to take over private cemeteries because no funds were available to maintain them in a condition in which we could at least pay our respects to those who had passed on before us.

I appeal to the House to pass the Bill. Let us try to remove this eyesore of the Sheffield General Cemetery. Let us make it decent so that we can remember our dead and also so that the living can enjoy fresh air in their lungs.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 13, Noes 38.

Division No. 240] AYES 7.48 p.m.
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Lester, Jim (Beeston) Wells, John
Body, Richard McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Mather, Carol
Cormack, Patrick Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Finsberg, Geoffrey Stanley, John Mr. John Osborn and
Lawrence, Ivan Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester) Dr. Alan Glyn
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Golding, John Roper, John
Bishop, Rt Hon Edward Graham, Ted Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Grlmond, Rt Hon J. Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Cartwright, John Horam, John Spriggs, Leslie
Clemitson, Ivor Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Stallard, A. W.
Corbett, Robin Hunter, Adam Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Kerr, Russell Urwin, T. W.
Davidson, Arthur Kinnock, Neil Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dewar, Donald Lamond, James Whitehead, Phillip
English, Michael Madden, Max Woof, Robert
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Ovenden, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Palmer, Arthur Mr. Frank Hooley and
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Perry, Ernest Mr. Martin Flannery
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Does the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) desire to press his second amendment?

Mr. Osborn

No, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not press it.

Mr. Ernest G. Perry

Am I to understand, then, that the Select Committee's recommendation to the House has been accepted'?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is correct, since the amendment was not carried.

Bill to be read the Third time.

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