MPs call for stiff punishment for use of disposable barbecues on moors

OLDHAM East and Saddleworth MP, Debbie Abrahams, is among a group of politicians to sign a letter supporting criminalising the use of disposable barbecues on open moorland.

But Mrs Abrahams was one of only five of Greater Manchester’s 27 MP’s to put her name to the document.

The group has also urged Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to increase funding so fire and rescue services can tackle hill blazes more effectively.

The letter is Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s latest proposal to help prevent further major fires which have devastated vast areas of moorland in recent years.

But other MPs, including Stalybridge and Mossley member, Jonathan Reynolds and former Oldham Council leader, Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, were unable to support the plea due to parliamentary regulations. Others complained of a lack of time to support the move.

The five wrote: “There are a number of factors that lead to moorland fires, all of which need addressing.

“These include anti-social behaviour such as deliberate fire setting, carelessly discarded smoking materials, and the use of disposable barbecues.

“This latter cause can be tackled immediately through new legislation.

“We are calling on Government to make the use of a disposable barbecue on open moorland and peatland a criminal offence, carrying an appropriately severe penalty.

“We are also calling on Government to provide FRSs (fire and rescue services) with the resources they need to control moorland fires.

“As well as the enormous impact these fires have on resources during incidents, there are the costs incurred to ensure our response is as effective as possible.

“GMFRS is increasing the number of stations and firefighters that have wildfire fighting capabilities, requiring new equipment, vehicles and enhanced training.

“The service is also purchasing new personal protective equipment to ensure its firefighters are protected from the prolonged periods exposed to intense heat that tackling wildfires demands.

“Large-scale incidents demand resilience and resilience requires appropriate resourcing. This has never been more apparent than it is during the current pandemic.”

At the height of the region’s moorland fires in 2018, 57 fire engines and 220 firefighters were in operation across Greater Manchester. Thirty-four homes were evacuated and four schools closed.

GMFRS has 50 fire engines available at any one time so the fires required mutual aid support from 15 other FRSs, some 100 soldiers, and the United Utilities helicopter.

The recent fire above Dovestone Reservoir required GMFRS to commit 20 per cent of its firefighter resources to the incident at one time.

Moorland and peatland fires have a hugely negative impact on the environment. The impact on the air quality could be felt as far away as Manchester city centre and there were numerous reports of ash raining down in Chadderton and Mossley.

As well as the increase in air pollution, there are also longer-term environmental impacts of moorland and peatland fires.

The vegetation and the peat on the moorlands absorb significant levels of rainfall, reducing the threat of flooding.

Moorland and peatland fires not only release the carbon that has already been trapped in huge volumes, but also drastically reduce the amount of carbon the peat is able to capture in the future.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor Rt Hon Baroness Beverley Hughes signed the letter along with MPs Debbie Abrahams, Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish), Tony Lloyd (Rochdale), Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) and Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South).

A spokesperson for MP Jim McMahon confirmed: “Jim can’t sign letters like this because as a member of the Shadow Cabinet, there has always been a blanket ban on round-robin type letters being signed by frontbenchers.

“It is not that Jim doesn’t agree with the purpose of the letter.”

One Reply to “MPs call for stiff punishment for use of disposable barbecues on moors”

  1. Get it signed. The devastation caused is terrible, fire.personal will certainly want this, you are there to do what people want, not your personal belief is.

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