St Albans MP demands increased safety for children’s fancy dress costumes

Anne Main, St Albans MP

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

The Prime Minister has been urged to support a bill championed by St Albans MP Anne Main, aimed at preventing children’s clothing from catching alight.

A bill was brought forward by Mrs Main that pushes for children’s costumes and fancy-dress outfits to adopt a higher UK standard for flammability.

This follows a high-profile campaign by TV star Claudia Winkleman 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.

Mrs Main recently asked for the Prime Minister to intervene to see whether the Business Secretary could introduce a statutory instrument to improve the flammability of children’s play and dress-up costumes.

Chancellor George Osborne replied: “We all saw the tragedy that befell the family of the Strictly Come Dancing presenter and the campaign that her family have undertaken to change the regulations.

“It is true that we do not have the same flame-retardant regulations for children’s fancy dress costumes. That seems wrong.”

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He said that Business Secretary Sajid Javid was “looking at the matter and will ensure that that changes”.

During the recent debate, Mrs Main said the bill was needed to improve the standards of fire resistance and relevant labelling requirements.

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

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.”

Mrs Main told Parliament that the burns which people received from flames were often full thickness, which meant skin grafting was needed.

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

Mrs Main added: “We are failing our children with EU toy safety standards … We must not wait any longer, because more children will suffer the consequences.”