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Fire Safety

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 5 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received the final report of the Community Fire Safety Task Force. [14547]

I have received the report of the Community Fire Safety Task Force and made arrangements for it to be published on 3 November. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.The task force was asked last November to propose a five year strategy to reduce the number of fires and fire casualties in dwellings. It has highly commended the enthusiasm with which fire safety and prevention work is already undertaken by some brigades. It wants to build on their success by putting community fire safety at the centre of both policy and action. It recommends a more integrated and business like approach to community fire safety, with the establishment of a national centre to co-ordinate activity and an increased role for Her Majesty's Fire Service inspectorate to support brigades in the delivery of imaginative, well targeted messages. It also recommends that community fire safety should be made a statutory duty of the fire service.I am grateful to task force members, who came from both the public and private sectors, for delivering an imaginative report in less than a year. I share their high regard for the enthusiasm and expertise of the fire service. It is a high performing service with an excellent record to which I pay tribute.We must, however, all be concerned by the rising trend in domestic fires, deaths and casualties and the task force therefore makes a strong case for an increased and co-ordinated emphasis on community fire safety. Community safety is not solely about reducing crime. It is about our wider responsibilities to make our communities safe and confident. This report is an important contribution to that overall aim and I note that it strongly endorses the multi-agency approach.Before I take any decisions on the details of the strategy, I want to hear the views of chief officers, fire authorities and unions who have a crucial role to play in translating the strategy into action. We will therefore be consulting interested parties over the next few months before deciding how to respond to the report.