§ Mr. Rathbone
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has completed his review of regulations concerning the inflammability of furniture and furniture coverings sold in Britain; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Howard
[pursuant to his reply 23 May 1986, c. 363]: I have completed my review of the need for updating the regulations concerning the flammability of upholstered furniture and have concluded that new legislative requirements should include a reference to a code of practice based on the Furniture Industry Research Association's own classification scheme. This will mean that some of the worst upholstery component combinations now on the market will be banned, but it will stop short of requiring all upholstered furniture to meet the match test. The option of meeting the match test directly will be allowed and the cigarette test will of course remain an essential requirement.
In each of the years 1981 to 1984 there were between 3,300 and 3,600 accidental fires which started in upholstered furniture in occupied buildings in the UK. Each year about 150 people died and about 1,000 were injured in those fires. About half the fires were started by cigarettes.
A working group is being set up to devise a code of practice that will serve as a basis for legislation and ensure a worthwhile improvement in the fire resistance of upholstered furniture. My aim is progressive upgrading of the performance in accidental domestic fires of the furniture available on the market. One of the advantages of a code of practice based on the Fl RA classification scheme is its flexibility; as new materials and treatments are developed, the requirements of the code can be made stricter.
The same working group will also consider ways of extending the scope of legislation to include loose cushions 468W and cushion covers, loose replacement covers and upholstery materials sold separately from furniture. It will have 18 months in which to complete its task.
The legislative options are either regulations under the Consumer Safety Act or, when the general safety requirement proposed in our White Paper on the Safety of Goods (Cmnd. 9302) is enacted, approval of the code of practice as a sound modern standard of safety.