Causes of Fire

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Wandsworth Tooting 12:00 am, 5th February 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the standards for checking the causes of fires in England and Wales were last reviewed.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

There are no national standards as such, but police and fire brigade procedures are kept under review in the light of experience.

Photo of Mr Tom Cox Mr Tom Cox , Wandsworth Tooting

Although I note that reply, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that a recent press report indicated that a large percentage of fires were the direct result of arson, which not only causes substantial damage to property, but sadly, the tragic deaths of more than 100 people a year? Against that background, will the hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that there is the closest co-operation between the fire service and the police and that the most modern methods of detection are used to discover the real causes of fires, about which we hear so often and so tragically?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Royal Tunbridge Wells

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the gravity of the incidence of arson. In 1979, 81 people died as a result of fires for which arson was the probable cause. The hon. Gentleman is equally right to draw attention to the need for the fullest co-operation between the police authorities and the fire authorities in determining the cause of fires. The Home Office has acted on the report of a working party that draws attention to this matter. In that regard, there are proposals to improve the syllabus for training fire officers at the fire service technical college.