Fire rules for nightwear may go: Safety code for children's clothing under review in government drive to cut red-tape 'burden' on business

THE GOVERNMENT is considering scrapping regulations governing the fire safety of children's nightclothes.

A leaked letter from the Consumer Safety Unit at the Department of Trade and Industry to retailers, clothing manufacturers and other industry bodies, asks for their reaction to such a move.

The letter, dated 30 June 1993, was sent as part of the Government's initiative to encourage manufacturing industry by removing red tape. Other regulations being reviewed are believed to include package holiday safeguards and furniture standards.

The nightwear letter asks:

Are you satisfied that this regulation has achieved what was intended?

Do you think that this regulation in its present form is still needed? Should any of the provisions of the regulation be amended and, if so, how?

What does compliance with this regulation cost your business? Indicate the nature of the costs, as recurring or non-recurring elements and please quantify these, if possible.

The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations require nightdresses, nightshirts and dressing gowns for children aged from 3 months to 13 years to be made of slower-burning fabrics and to pass a British Standard on flame-proofing. They also require other children's nightwear and baby clothing to carry a label showing flammability specifications. In addition, direct order advertisements must include information about the flame resistance of the clothes on offer.

They were introduced in 1985, following a lengthy campaign by Esther Rantzen's That's Life television programme. Last night, Ms Rantzen was horrified that the Government could even contemplate cutting the regulations. She said: 'It's a tragedy. There are so many deaths in house fires, so many children lose their lives every year. These regulations were a huge step forward in saving lives.

'We demonstrated over and over again the hideous danger of loose-fitting nightdresses and dressing gowns drifting across an open fire or touching electric bars or flames of a gas fire.'

One of the retailers canvassed by the DTI was Littlewoods. A spokeswoman for the store group said she was astonished. 'I am appalled. Children's nightwear is not like tweed or wool, it has to be lighter and is more easily set alight.' Littlewoods, she said, prided itself on being a family company and could not condone removing the regulations.

Frank Dobson, Labour's employment spokesman who is leading the party's health and safety campaign, said as soon as the rules were relaxed, 'unscrupulous manufacturers will start producing clothes with inflammable material'.

A DTI spokeswoman claimed the department was looking at 'all sorts of things that may be a burden to business'. She said the letter was a consultation document and did not mean that the regulations would be repealed.

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