SOUTH Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck today sought to “set the issue straight” over a statement she made in Parliament saying some grieving relatives were being forced to bury loved ones’ in their gardens.
The MP found herself buried beneath a barrage of criticism after making the suggestion when proposing her Funeral Services Bill last month.
Some critics claimed there was no evidence to back the assertion – and even funeral directors in her own constituency dismissed it,
But Mrs Lewell-Buck says the comment was taken out of context from the bill as a whole.
And she said her central aim, to highlight escalating funeral costs, had been lost amid the debate.
The Labour MP, who is to stand at the General Election in May, said there was also no suggestion in her speech that people in South Shields had buried relatives in their gardens.
She said: “I really wanted to just set the issue straight because I feel I was misrepresented as the result of one small sentence.
“That one comment was picked up on and was the only issue focused on in the national and local press and in comments on the Internet.
“That’s why I felt the need to speak out, because one sentence has been hijacked.”
In her letter, published in full on the Gazette’s letters page today, the MP writes: “My Bill calls for a Government review of funeral affordability in the UK.
“It also proposes changes to improve the Funeral Payments system, and the creation of a ‘simple funeral’ where funeral directors would be required to provide information about the cost of a standard service to help people make a better-informed decision about the service they choose.
“A lot of the reports on the Bill focused on the issue of garden burials, and while that was only a very small part of my speech and such burials are not commonplace, it has created a national conversation about this emotive and taboo subject.
“I would also like to clarify that this Bill is national and at no stage in my speech did I say people in South Shields or even the North East have buried relatives in their gardens.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck said she was particularly eager to dismiss any inference that she had misled Parliament in any way.
She said: “I am very proud to be a member of Parliament and would never do that. I was just eager to ensure that people did not get the wrong end of the stick and to make my position crystal clear.”