Last week, in Parliament, I led a debate on proposed changes to the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations, which have been in place since 1988.
Slightly older readers may remember the devastating Manchester Woolworths fire of 1979 that claimed 10 lives, in large part because of the furniture setting on fire quickly and smoking heavily. The fire service, furniture industry and government reacted and British furniture is now the safest in the world.
Pendle hosts many companies working in the sector. Silentnight in Barnoldswick and Buoyant Upholstery, Nelson, both now employ around 800 people each, Furnico in Colne around 400 and Clarkson Textiles, Nelson, represents a quarter of the UK market for fire-retardant coating. These companies are proud of the fire regulations, which save lives and prevent fires. Earlier this year, government consulted on changes due to come in by April. The changes are supposed to cut costs, make British furniture more environmentally-friendly and safer – all good aims.
Unfortunately, the industry doesn’t see how they can work and fear they will just increase costs. Bad regulation would damage our local economy and cost jobs. In the debate, I set this out and some of the problems with the changes and the consultation not listening to the industry.
I am hopeful the changes can be improved or dropped, in the same way as I got regulations that negatively affected the holiday cottage industry torn up back in 2011, after championing concerns raised by Hoseasons, Earby. My feeling is that the message is getting through to Ministers and I will be keeping up the pressure.
The 1988 regulations are simple, effective and save lives. Between 2002 and 2007, it was estimated the current regulations saved 54 lives and led to 1,065 fewer fires each year, saving the taxpayer £140m. each year. That should not be put in jeopardy.