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Hotels (Fire Precautions)

Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the effect on small hotels and boarding houses of the implementation of the Fire Precautions Act.

We appreciate the problems facing small hotels and boarding houses, and we are always prepared to consider difficulties arising in individual cases, in consultation with the fire authority concerned.

I declare an interest in the industry. Does the Minister accept that hardship and delay in implementation is being occasioned to keepers of small hotels and boarding houses because of the continuing lack of uniformity in the rules relating to the introduction of adequate fire precautions throughout the United Kingdom? Is she aware that in the company with which I am connected 10 out of the 11 hotels have had identical fire instruction notices accepted, but this has been rejected, by one authority, namely the Greater London Council, yet that two out of the three hotels within the GLC area have found this notice acceptable? Will she take it from me that there is a great deal too much "paper pushing" surrounding the implementation of the Fire Precautions Act and too little action, and that quicker implementation undoubtedly would follow the introduction of uniform guidelines laid down by the Home Office?

We seek to obtain general uniformity, but it is up to the local fire authority to assess the needs and possibilities in each case. Each occupier is required to take only such fire precautions as are reasonable in the circumstances of his case.

Will the Minister accept that however well-intentioned are the provisions of the Act—and the legislation received all-party support in this House—its implementation has raised practical and financial problems for hoteliers small and large? Is it not right that the Department should look again at the implementation of the Act, since the contribution made by the tourist industry to this country is a positive one and we should not endanger it?

I agree that difficulties are imposed on the hotel industry, which is already suffering from inflation and rising costs. We have introduced tax reliefs and a loan scheme but, regrettably, the present economic situation does not make it possible to extend the scheme.