House of Commons - Explanatory Note
House of Commons
Session 1999-2000
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Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Fire Prevention Bill


These notes refer to the Fire Prevention Bill
as introduced in the House of Commons on 15th December 1999 [Bill 28]

Fire Prevention Bill




1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Fire Prevention Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 15 December 1999. They have been prepared by the Home Office with the consent of Mr Peter L. Pike, the Member in charge of the Bill, in order to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     The UK suffers more than 550 fatalities and 13,000 injuries in over 64,000 dwelling fires each year. This equates to more than 6,000 fatalities and 100,000 casualties in house fires over the past decade. Fire carries with it a great financial cost for both the fire service and the health service, with recent research estimating that the cost of dwelling fires had now risen to over £1 billion a year.

4.     The majority of domestic fires are preventable. They are mostly as a result of a lack of care or inappropriate behaviour. To prevent them requires only fairly simple steps to be taken by householders and evidence suggests that attitudes and behaviour can be changed by properly planned and resourced campaigns at the national level and locally by brigades. Such proactive prevention and education efforts have become termed Community Fire Safety.

5.     In 1995, the Audit Commission report on the fire service "In the Line of Fire" argued that Community Fire Safety should be made a statutory duty of all fire authorities. This was endorsed by a subsequent report to Government by a Community Fire Safety Task Force. Ministers accepted this recommendation on 7th April 1998 (Hansard Commons Written Answer - column 177 refers).

6.     The Bill's main purpose is to make communities safer from fire by extending the duties on fire authorities in Great Britain in respect of fire prevention.


Clause 1: Extension of duties of fire authorities

7.     This clause amends section 1 of the Fire Services Act 1947, which sets out the framework for the provision of fire services in Great Britain. Section 1 of that Act imposes duties upon every fire authority in Great Britain in respect of the provision of firefighting services; such as the duty to secure the efficient training of members of the fire brigade; the duty to make efficient arrangements for responding to calls for assistance; and the duty to obtain relevant information about the buildings and other property in their area. The new duty will oblige fire authorities to make arrangements by way of education, information and publicity to encourage fire prevention and the prevention of death or injury as a result of fire.


8.     All brigades already provide some fire safety publicity and education. From a survey of brigades in England and Wales in 1997 the Community Fire Safety Task Force estimated, "that around £8.6 million of brigade resources (including manpower) is dedicated to Community Fire Safety work". In their 1995 report 'In the Line of Fire', the Audit Commission estimated that the fire service needed to devote a total of £20m annually to Community Fire Safety. The total Standard Spending in England and Wales was accordingly increased by £12.7 million in the 1998-99 local government settlement in recognition of the demands of Community Fire Safety. Fire authorities should therefore be capable of complying with the new statutory duty from within existing budgets.


9.     The Bill will not require any increase in the number of permanent staff in the fire service.


10.     The Bill does not impose any compliance cost on business.


11.     This Bill will come into effect on a date specified by statutory instrument. This will be done for England by order made by the Secretary of State and for Wales by order made by the Welsh Assembly. This is expected to be two months after Royal Assent.

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Prepared: 8 February 2000