by David Bean

“A local gamekeeper once told me that there were three main causes of wildfires: men, women and children.”

"More specifically, a large number of fires are caused simply by people not disposing of their barbecue properly, leaving it unattended on the ground where its residual heat, or a stray spark, is enough to start a fire.”

With this stark appraisal of the threat they can pose to rural livelihoods and the environment, on Wednesday 17 November the High Peak MP, Robert Largan, introduced a bill to ban the use of disposable barbecues on open moorlands.

Speaking under the Ten Minute Rule, one of several means for backbench MPs to introduce legislation, Mr Largan recounted the destruction of hectares of farmland and peatland in his constituency by at least two wildfires caused by disposable barbecues in this year alone.

As he set out, the costs of these episodes run far beyond the already significant financial burdens they impose. They encompass the fear of wildfires felt across moorland communities through the warmer months; the hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years it would take for damaged peatland to repair; and the pain of the farmers and shepherds forced to clean up their livestock’s remains in the wake of a wildfire. They also fatally undermine the promising efforts, including grouse moor management by gamekeepers, being made to restore, manage and protect peatland for future generations.

Mr Largan was frank that he had not entered politics to tell people how to live their lives, but he insisted that the harm wreaked by the reckless few cannot be allowed to continue. His bill would therefore prohibit using disposable barbecues on open moorland, and give councils the power to prohibit their sale in local areas.

House of Commons rules mean that Private Members’ Bills introduced under the Ten Minute Rule are, in practice, unlikely to become law. Even so, the attention they allow MPs to draw to an issue can be a spur to government action by other means.

The Countryside Alliance wishes him well, having long campaigned to raise public awareness of the behaviours that can cause wildfires and defend management activities, such as controlled burning, that lower the risk of wildfires by preventing the build-up of fuel loads available to them. We are in full agreement that open moorlands are not places where the use of disposable barbecues is safe or appropriate. As such, we would support a ban along the lines Mr Largan described.

You can view Mr Largan’s speech here on Parliament Live.

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