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Children (Deaths from Burning)

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1964.

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Photo of Mr Victor Yates Mr Victor Yates , Birmingham, Ladywood 12:00 am, 23rd January 1964

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of concern at the considerable increase in the number of deaths from burns among young children in the Birmingham area; and what action he proposes to take to remedy the situation

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I am deeply concerned about the number of avoidable deaths of children from burns, not only in Birmingham but throughout the country. The primary responsibility for preventing these tragedies rests upon parents and those in charge of children, and I am doing all I can to bring that home to them. My Department has sponsored a film to be shown on television about the danger of burns from clothing, and also gives support to the efforts of organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. As I announced last week, I am opening discussions with the trade, and other interested parties, on the possibility of prohibiting by regulation the sale of flammable nightwear.

Photo of Mr Victor Yates Mr Victor Yates , Birmingham, Ladywood

I appreciate that Answer, but is not the Minister aware that the number of deaths from this cause among children in the Birmingham area is quite unprecedented this year and has caused very considerable alarm? Does he not think that it would be good to have a conference on the improvement of propaganda so that we can seriously change the present situation?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I will do everything that it is open to me to do here. I think that the House last week accepted, and fully supported, my decision to open discussions without delay on the possibility of dealing with the matter by regulations. I have indicated that I am doing all I can by publicity, and the Consumer Council is also active in the matter. These are avoidable tragedies, and if the hon. Gentleman cares to point out any other steps he thinks it worth while to take I would most gladly and sympathetically consider them.

Mr. J. T. Price:

Is the Minister aware that the Shirley Institute, Manchester, which I have recently visited, has carried out the most exhaustive researches into the fire proofing of textile materials to minimise or mitigate these risks? Will he bear in mind that the facts of the situation are well known? Types of textiles that do not expose children to fire risks are available on the market, and it is only because of the lack of public conscience—and the lack of conscience on the part of commercial firms who are importing large quantities of these dangerous materials from the Far East, and elsewhere—that this risk to our children remains so grave. Will he not regard it as urgent for his Department to produce legislation to prohibit the sale of the type of flannelette that exposes so many children to this great risk?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I have already said what I am doing with the general support of the House. The matter is not quite as simple as the hon. Member suggests, because the non-flammable materials are at present more expensive than the flammable ones. But I am pressing on as hard as I can, and everything I can do to diminish this terrible toll of children's deaths, I shall do.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

When the right hon. Gentleman consults about the prohibition of textile materials, will he also consider inflammable toys, which I understand are one source of this sort of accident?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

That is a rather different question.