HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1035-6
16. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the inspection of hotels and boarding houses under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 is completed within the near future.

Dr. Summerskill

The enforcement of the Act is a matter for the fire authorities, which, within the limits of their resources, are proceeding as rapidly as they can.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the hon. Lady aware that the inspections and surveys by personnel of the fire departments throughout the country have proved to be far more time-consuming than was supposed when the House passed the Act? Does she agree that we are now a long way behind the schedule which the Home Office wished to follow when it introduced this Act? What steps does she propose to take to speed matters up?

Dr. Summerskill

The rate of progress in any fire authority is dependent upon the size of the fire prevention staff and the number of premises falling within the scope of the Act. I regret that in the light of current restrictions on local authority expenditure there can be no expectation, in the near future, of increasing the level of fire service manpower for the specific purpose of implementing the requirements of the Fire Precautions Act.

Mr. Jim Spicer

I accept that there has been a slowing down of the programme of inspection, but does the hon.

Lady accept that a tremendous amount of hardship is involved for a large number of small hotels and boarding houses throughout the country? Can she hold out any hope to those responsible for running such establishments that longer-term loans—I stress "loans", not grants—will be available to help these people keep open their premises, to help our tourist trade, particularly from overseas?

Dr. Summerskill

I appreciate that there are financial difficulties facing hotels and boarding houses, which are already suffering from inflation and rising costs, but there have been tax reliefs and there is a loan scheme. Unfortunately, in the present economic situation it is difficult to justify further financial assistance.

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