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MINISTER ATTACKS 'SCAREMONGERING' OVER FIRE SAFETY REGULATIONS

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Scaremongering and ill informed reporting about the future of fire safety regulations has led to unnecessary public...
Scaremongering and ill informed reporting about the future of fire safety regulations has led to unnecessary public concern, Corporate Affairs Minister Neil Hamilton said today.

Speaking at a House of Commons seminar on fire safety, Mr Hamilton, said: 'Let me state for the record, there is no hidden agenda for the current Government review of fire safety legislation and enforcement.

'Nor are there any preconceived conclusions. The Government is committed to maintaining safety standards. The Government's Deregulation Initiative is not about doing away with necessary regulation. It is about framing regulations in such a way that necessary protection is provided for the consumer, the employee - and that includes firemen - and also the general public in the way which imposes the minimum necessary burdens on business.

'Our view of what constitutes necessary legislation naturally evolves over time, for instance we no longer apply the 1774 Fire Prevention Act which required sash window and door frames to be recessed at least four inches.

'Fire safety is an emotive subject and the current review of fire safety legislation and enforcement has generated more heat than light from some quarters. The review team is approaching the subject in a calm and rational way to avert any risk of combustion.

'This involves widespread consultation with all those with an interest, including all the relevant fire service representative bodies. The review team is also being assisted by a contact group of experts which includes a chief fire officer.

'I am aware that there have been some concerns about the wording in an early draft of a report by the Construction Industry Deregulation Task Force which implied that the Government's position was already settled. This was a mistaken claim by the authors and I have already set the record straight in an answer about this in the House of Commons on 24 March.

'People are under a misapprehension that the department is bound to accept the Task Force recommendations. This is not true. In fact we have already rejected several of their recommendations in a number of areas including planning.

'The review team's terms of reference include looking at the possibility of a single Government Department taking responsibility for fire safety but this did not mean that the review team will necessarily recommend this.

'The Fire Brigade itself acknowledges that too many agencies are involved in the maintenance of fire precautions leading to the sort of unfortunate incident which occurred in London in February where a fire at an unlicensed sex cinema led to eight fatalities.

'I am sure that any recommendations that the team makes will be founded on convincing and sound evidence. I am looking forward to seeing the review team's work which is due for completion by the end of May.'

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