HC Deb 05 March 1959 vol 601 cc624-5
49. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if, in view of the numbers of people, especially children, who are burned to death in their homes, he will as a matter of urgency consider appointing a Departmental Committee to examine the desirability and feasibility of introducing compulsory fire prevention and fire escape arrangements in respect of every house, flat or other dwelling place throughout the country.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

My right hon. Friend shares the concern of my hon. Friend about the number of burning accidents in the home. He thinks that the existing machinery for considering what measures would contribute towards safety in the home—which includes an Inter-departmental Committee on Accidents in the Home—is adequate, but if my hon. Friend would help him by indicating whether he has any particular dangers or remedies in mind he will gladly consider how they may be explored.

Sir F. Medlicott

Is my hon. Friend aware that this question was prompted by a recent case in which a mother and five sons were burned to death? In looking further into this problem, would the Home Office verify, as seems to be the case, that there are more of these tragedies in the Provinces than in London? Is that perhaps due to the fact that they have not yet copied the admirable fire regulations of the London County Council?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

That is a separate question. I will look into it and let my hon. Friend know.

Mr. Page

Was there not some difficulty about local authorities having power to sot up home safety committees? Has the difficulty been overcome? If so, are local authorities dealing with that subject efficiently now?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

In November last a "Guard That Fire" campaign was launched by the Home Office in which we had the fullest co-operation from local authorities, mainly through committees which they set up. Two and a half million leaflets and 300,000 circular stickers were distributed through those channels and we had considerable support from the Press.

Sir J. Duncan

With a view to encouraging education on the prevention of accidents in the home, will my hon. Friend circulate in England and Wales copies of the Scottish publication "Design for Safety in the Home" which has been so widely circulated to housing committee members and architects and others responsible for the design and the construction of houses in Scotland?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

I think that these matters are covered by the Home Office and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

Mr. Usborne

In view of the fact that a great many accidents are caused by children's pyjamas or nightdresses catching fire, would the hon. Lady consider the possibility of making it much more evident to parents what materials are highly inflammable and which are safe?

Miss Hornsby-Smith

That is one of the matters on which there has been a considerable amount of publicity, but the hon. Member will be aware that under Section 11 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as amended, penalties are imposed if a child is killed or injured through being in a room where there is an unguarded fire.