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Health And Social Services Premises (Fire Precautions)

Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 23 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has completed his consultations regarding the designation under the Fire Prevention Act 1971 of premises in the health and social services sector; and if he will make a statement.

The Central Fire Brigades Advisory Councils for England and Wales and for Scotland have recommended two classes of use of premises for future designation under the Fire Precautions Act 1971: hospitals catering predominantly for the mentally ill or mentally handicapped and homes for the elderly.I have considered these recommendations in the light of the factors concerning such designation to which the councils have themselves drawn attention, such as the life saving potential of improvements in fire precautions in the occupancies concerned and the additional burden of work which this extension of certification will impose, and also having regard to the financial implications for both the public and private sectors. I have decided, in consultation with my right hon. Friend, that it would be right as a next step to issue draft guides setting out basic standards for means of escape and related fire precautions in hospitals of all kinds and personal social services residential premises in England and Wales. These guides are at an advanced stage of preparation. In addition, a supplementary memorandum of guidance on fire precautions in hospitals will be prepared by the Home Office and DHSS for use by health authorities and those fire brigades which they might call in to advise them. This will highlight the most urgent features of the draft hospital guide and will cover other important aspects such as staffing, staff training and furnishings, which are not appropriate to the draft guide.These documents will enable health authorities, local authorities and other bodies to plan future fire precautions in premises on an informed basis in advance of any designation which may ultimately be made under the 1971 Act. The prospects for designation will be kept under review in the light of experience of the implementation of the guides and the classes of occupancy concerned will remain subject to the requirements of any other relevant legislation concerning the provision of reasonable standards of fire safety.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is considering what action on similar lines might be taken in Scotland.