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Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are alive to concerns about religious discrimination. This issue raises many difficult, sensitive and complex questions which need to be carefully considered before we reach conclusions. Our current priority is the forthcoming legislation on racial harassment, violence and other racially motivated crime. In the meantime, we are happy to receive views on whether legislation in due course would be desirable.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State indicated on 23 June that the Government strongly support the aims of the Fire Safety Bill, which was introduced in the last Parliament in another place. Since then we have received advice from the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council on the main principles incorporated in that Bill and officials have held discussions with a number of key stakeholders.
On Friday 28 November, the Government intend to publish a consultation document entitled Fire Safety Legislation for the Future, and copies will be placed in the Library. The consultation document sets out proposals for a new fire safety regime based on the main principles included in the Fire Safety Bill, which in turn picked up many of the recommendations of the June 1994 Inter-Departmental Review of Fire Safety Legislation and enforcement.
The proposed new regime should enable rationalisation and consolidation of existing legislation. It would be based on a new universal duty of fire safety care on the occupiers and owners of almost all premises (except single private dwellings) to provide and maintain fire precautions. There would be additional requirements for high risk premises and enforcement would generally be by fire authorities. To combat the deaths and casualties in people's homes, we are attracted to the possibility of a new statutory duty on fire authorities to undertake community fire safety.
The consultation document generally covers fire safety in England and Wales and in Scotland. But where there are differences in the situation or proposals for Scotland these have been stated in a separate chapter.
We intend that this consultation document should be a first step towards a legislative regime which will serve to meet the fire safety challenges of the future. The proposals also form one strand of the Home Office Comprehensive Spending Review and are inter-related to other aspects of that review on the funding and structure of the fire service and the potential for more flexible standards of fire cover.
The consultation period lasts until the end of February 1998. The proposals at this stage are cast in broad terms. We will consider carefully the responses to them and if we then seek to proceed with new legislation, there will be further consultation on detailed and costed proposals.
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