St Albans MP challenges government to act on children’s fancy dress flammability

Anne Main, St Albans MP

Anne Main, St Albans MP - Credit: Debbie White/Archant

A high-profile campaign by TV star Claudia Winkleman to prevent children from suffering burns has prompted the initiation of a bill setting out higher safety standards for children’s costumes.

Claudia Winkleman [(C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston]

Claudia Winkleman [(C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston] - Credit: BBC/Ray Burmiston

A bill has today (Tuesday) been brought forward by St Albans MP Anne Main that pushes for children’s costumes and fancy-dress outfits to adopt a higher UK standard for flammability.

This follows the campaign by Claudia whose daughter, Matilda, was severely burned when her witch’s costume suddenly caught fire during Halloween last year, when it brushed against a candle.

The Strictly Come Dancing presenter told BBC One’s Watchdog programme in May that her daughter had undergone several operations, and that her surgeon had called for tougher fire safety laws on fancy dress costumes.

During today’s debate, Mrs Main asked for leave to bring in a bill to make provision for the standards of fire resistance, and relevant labelling requirements.

She said: “The past 20 years have seen a huge evolution in the way children play and dress up, and we need our legislation to catch up.”

Mrs Main said that a multi-billion-pound industry has grown around supplying children’s fancy dress and play costumes, yet, as they are “classed as toys by the EU, our children are less protected than if they were wearing nightwear.”

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She added: “In the United States, a child’s dress-up garment offers a much higher level of protection: it must not catch fire for at least 3.5 seconds after exposure to a flame.

“Currently ‘toy’ dress-up costumes in Europe and in the UK are tested under the toy safety directive EN71-2 which only offers protection at a burning rate of three centimetres per second. That is enormously fast on a small child … that may be the difference between life and death.”

Mrs Main told parliament that the burns which people receive from flames are often full thickness, which means you need to have skin grafting.

She quoted the British Retail Consortium, which warned that the flammability test EN71-2 was no longer fit for purpose.

Mrs Main went on: “We are failing our children with EU toy safety standards … so why does the UK not simply change the EU-wide toy classification?”

She called for the government to beef up legislation by requiring any children’s dress-up costumes for sale in the UK to carry a higher British standard for flammability.

Before presenting the bill, Mrs Main added: “Our gold-plated standard could be adopted in time throughout Europe, but the primary concern of our government must be to protect children in the UK and to do it as quickly as possible.

“We must not wait any longer, because more children will suffer the consequences.”