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Fire Safety

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in considering legislation on fire safety. [18334]

In my reply to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) on 23 June 1997, Official Report, column 360. I indicated that the Government strongly support the aims of the Fire Safety Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Heppell) introduced in the last Parliament. Since then. I have received advice from the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council on the main principles incorporated in that Bill and officials have held discussions with a number of key stakeholders.On 28 November, the Government intend to publish a consultation document entitled "Fire Safety Legislation for the Future" and copies will be placed in the Library. The consultation document sets out proposals for a new fire safety regime based on the main principles included in the Fire Safety Bill which in turn picked up many of the recommendations of the June 1994 Inter-Departmental Review of Fire Safety Legislation and Enforcement.The proposed new regime should enable rationalisation and consolidation of existing legislation. It would be based on a new universal duty of fire safety care on the occupiers and owners of almost all premises (except single private dwellings) to provide and maintain fire precautions. There would be additional requirements for high risk premises and enforcement would generally be by fire authorities. To combat the deaths and casualties in people's homes, we are attracted to the possibility of a new statutory duty on fire authorities to undertake community fire safety.The consultation document generally covers fire safety in England and Wales and in Scotland. But where there are differences in the situation or proposals for Scotland these have been stated in a separate chapter.We intend that this consultation document should be a first step towards a legislative regime which will serve to meet the fire safety challenges of the future. The proposals also form one strand of the Home Office Comprehensive Spending Review and are interrelated to other aspects of that review on the funding and structure of the fire service and the potential for more flexible standards of fire cover.The consultation period lasts until the end of February 1998. The proposals at this stage are cast in broad terms. We will consider carefully the responses to them and, if we then seek to proceed with new legislation, there will be further consultation on detailed and costed proposals.