Victory in ‘Do it for Libby’ campaign

Libby-Jayne Hornsby, who has tragically died following a house fire in Conisbrough.
Libby-Jayne Hornsby, who has tragically died following a house fire in Conisbrough.

A new lifesaving ‘smoke alarm law’ in the name of a little girl who died in a Dearne house fire is finally set to be introduced.

The Government announced it will introduce new legislation following pressure from the South Yorkshire Times’ ‘Do it for Libby’ campaign, which we launched after the death of Libby-Jayne Hornsby, aged two, in a house fire in October 2013.

Floral tributes left for Libby-Jayne Hornsby, who died in a house fire. Picture: Andrew Roe

Floral tributes left for Libby-Jayne Hornsby, who died in a house fire. Picture: Andrew Roe

The tragic tot died in a blaze at her family’s private-rented home in Conisbrough and investigators found no working smoke alarms had been fitted.

But the new law will require landlords to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in private rented properties - something which they were not previously required to do.

The move is expected to save more than 200 lives nationally over the next decade and has been welcomed by Libby’s family this week.

Relatives did not want to be interviewed, but a South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman acting on their behalf said: “The family liaison officer advises that they are in support of the new laws.”

Libby’s mum Kelly Hambrey has previously said: “I think that the passing of the new smoke alarm law is brilliant news.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service pledged to support our campaign after an inquest heard Libby-Jayne died in a blaze which had been sparked accidentally by another child playing with a lighter at the house in Don Street.

The fire safety drive gathered pace and 245 MPs backed a Private Members Bill in support of the issue in the House of Commons last year. The bill called om the government to enact a clause within the Energy Act to introduce the new smoke alarm law.

Ministers had held off and waited for a government impact assessment to be completed. This assessment was recently finished and suggested more than 200 lives could be saved nationally over the next 10 years by the introduction of the legislation.

Fire Minister Penny Morduant has now agreed to introduce the measure. Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Gateshead last Wednesday, she said: “Fire and rescue authorities will be very pleased that tenants in the private sector are to be given the protection from fire that they need.

“We will be working with them, and with the Chief Fire Officers Association, to make the transition for landlords as smooth as possible.”

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis added the move could also help to prevent 1,375 injuries a year.

He said: “The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’m changing the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.”

Phil Shillito, area manager for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: “The lack of legislation requiring smoke alarms to be fitted in privately rented properties was highlighted at Libby’s inquest.

“Although we will never know for sure if smoke alarms would have made a difference at that incident, fire services nationally have been campaigning on this critical issue for some time, so it’s excellent that all that hard work has paid off.”

Under the new laws landlords must install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy. They would also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed.

Those who fail to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms would face sanctions and could face up to a £5,000 civil penalty. This brings private rented properties into line with existing building regulations.

The new regulations will be laid in Parliament and are expected to come into force on October 10 this year.

The allocation of funding to fire and rescue authorities to offer free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to local landlords will be announced shortly.