§ Mr. Terry Fields
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will take steps to investigate the safety of products described as escape smoke masks or respirators, with a view to issuing advice to owners of hotels and other large buildings;
(2) what consultations his Department has had with the British Safety Council about the development of a standard for the manufacture of smoke masks or respirators;
(3) whether any tests have been carried out by his Department as to the efficacy of smoke masks or respirators;
(4) if he will seek advice from the fire research station on the safety and efficacy of smoke masks and respirators;
(5) what analyses have been carried out as to the respective efficacy and safety of smoke masks and other forms of respirators.
§ Mr. Mellor
In February 1982, following the appearance on the United Kingdom market of various 319W types of smoke masks which suppliers were recommending for use by occupants of buildings as an aid to escape from fire, the Home Office convened a meeting of Government agencies, including the fire research station, to consider what should be the Government's attitude towards these products. The meeting concluded that, while there appeared to be no case for a general ban on smoke masks, their limitations were such that a performance standard should be drawn up for them, together with broad guidelines as to the situations and conditions in which they could and could not be safely used.
A small working group of Government experts was established for this purpose, and in November 1982 its conclusions were presented to the British Standards Institution with a request that urgent action be taken to produce a new British standard and guidelines on use. The BSI subsequently agreed to begin work on the production of a new British standard on smoke masks and establshed a technical committee, including representatives of the Home Office, the fire research station and the British Safety Counncil, for this purpose. I understand that the BSI expects to be able to issue shortly a draft standard for public comment.
I share the hon. Member's concern about possible use of such masks by members of the public in hotels and other similar premises. In September 1982 Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Fire Services wrote to all chief fire officers expressing concern about this possibility and asking for reports of any instances which came to their attention. No reports have been received. We have also indicated our concern on this point to the British Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers Association.
§ Mr. Terry Fields
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will seek advice from fire authorities on the safety and efficacy of smoke masks and respirators;
(2) what representations he has received from the Fire Brigades Union, the Fire Protection Association, the British Safety Council and chief fire officers about the safety of products described as escape smoke masks;
(3) if he will seek advice from the Fire Brigades Union on the safety and efficacy of smoke masks and respirators.
§ Mr. Mellor
My right hon. and learned Friend has received representations from the Fire Brigades Union, the British Safety Council and the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association expressing concern about the safety of these products and calling for a general ban on them. No representations have been received from the Fire Protection Association.
The Fire Brigades Union, the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association and fire authorities are represented on the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Councils for England and Wales and for Scotland, which exist to advise the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland on matters relating to the fire service. The subject of smoke masks for self-rescue purposes has been discussed on three occasions in the council for England and Wales and on three occasions in a subcommittee of the two councils concerned with fire prevention matters. In considering possible Government action to control the availability and use of these masks, we have taken full account of the views expressed.