7 FEBRUARY 1964, Page 33

Consuming Interest

The Burning Question

By LESLIE ADRIAN Of course, there are difficulties. There always are. It was legal, technical and vested-interest difficulties that slowed down legislation on radiant drip-feed oil heaters. But we got there in the end, when the Consumer Protection Act Was passed in 1961. It was the Fireguards Act of 1952 that cut down the number of domestic accidents caused by electric and gas fires. But the lethal combination of open fire and cotton or rayon nightie or party dress continues to take it toll. To break it up there is an instrument ready to hand in the 1961 Act, and the Consumer ,ouncil is readying itself to make remedial recommendations at this very moment.

Already the Chairman of the Council, Baroness Elliot, has canvassed 160 • provincial stores, urging them not to stock inflammable (the new usage is 'flammable') materials for making up into children's nightwear, and to stock flame- resistant cloths instead. But the honours list of abnps and stores pledging co-operation is shock- ingly short. Only eleven recipients of her letter have replied with an assurance that they will no longer stock lethal nightdresses for children. Out- standing among these is Mr. Leslie Cohen, of Lewis's, Limited, who has circulated a three-line Whip to his stores, which includes Selfridge's and Ban March& banning the 'Sale of inflammable nightwear for children and old people and ordering that any combustible material sold by the yard and not flameproofed must be labelled 'highly inflammable.'

The chief culprit seems to be winceyette, not a brand name, but a textile-trade diminutive for Wincey, a wool and cotton mixture, Winceyette

is a cotton cloth, and therefore easy to set alight, that has been treated to give it a smooth nap that will feel soft and comfortable. Treated with the only flame-resistant finish available, Proban (made by a subsidiary of Albright and Wilson and Bradford Dyers), it used to feel hard and gritty. Now Proban have developed their chemi- cal treatment to the point where the 'handle' is almost indistinguishable from that of the un- treated cloth. But it adds about 2s. a yard to the cost. As a proportion of the cost of a child's nightie this may seem rather high. As the price of avoiding anxiety and a. painful death it seems dirt-Cheap to me.

The present state of affairs in the shops is frightening. A snap survey of London stores dis- closed an alarming combination of ignorance and apathy among assistants retailing children's night- wear. After the Daily Mail's persistent campaign against the unrestricted sale of inflammable materials one would have hoped for more active concern. One buyer in a large store actually ad- mitted that it would be contrary to policy to 'run down one fabric in favour of another.' The general finding was that, on the whole, shop assistants did not offer advice about safety on the assumption that 'mothers are not willing to pay the extra money.'

Incidentally, a point that seems to have escaped public comment hitherto, drip-dry fabrics are even more inclined to flame than untreated cloths, because their fibres have been impreg- nated with resin;

In addition to the Proban protection that can be applied to cottons, acetate rayons can now be made flame-resistant by a process patented by James Nelson, Limited, of Nelson, Lanes, and there is also a non-flam synthetic made by Courtaulds called Teklan. Note that no claim is made that such fabrics are flameproof, for which thercis an unequivocal British Standard enforceable by law. The most that can be ex- pected of these processes is that they can produce a cloth that will not flare from hem to hair in nine seconds.

Washing-machine manufacturers who, even in their Bloom-haunted nightmares, gain strength from the hope that one day every British home

may have a washing machine will be heartened by a story brought back from the Middle East by Mrs. Inge Faulkner, Hoover's energetic export washing consultant. It seems that the local bigwigs out there like to buy a machine for each wife.

Another boost to the manufacturers' morale is the discovery that washing machines are multi- purpose. In Scandinavia they have been used to make butter and in another part of the world to mix cocktails for big parties. Some of them are, of course, also uniquely effective for flood- ing kitchens.

The sale of two five-guinea seats for the Callas Tasca at Covent Garden recently for £160 made me wonder why the Government does not take steps to ensure that the subsidised tickets for such performances are not transferable. AS I have remarked here before, millions of people who pay taxes that help to keep the Royal Opera House in being, and the price of its seats down, never get the chance to go. I was chastised for saying this. But who will now defend the enrich- ing of ticket touts because authority is too idle to think up a method of making sure that the buyer uses the tickets he has bought? Either that, or let the prices of the resaleable seats rise to an economic level-say twenty or thirty guineas? That would cool off the speculators.

Anticipating the corning of BBC 2 in the spring I have got rid of my old television set which, like many others, could not be adapted to receive the new channel, and I've rented a new one. Around ten shillings a week is the usual starting rent these days.(it-decreases slightly annually) and I would have thought this was a reasonable amount to pay, knowing that if anything goes wrong with the set I won't have to pay for repairs or adjust- ments. • • There is an extra cost with new sets, however, no matter whether you rent or buy: if you want to be able to see BBC 2 programmes as well as the existing BBC 1 and ITV programmes you will have to have an extra aerial installed. on your roof. The cost can be anything from £5 to about £20 depending on, among other things, your geographical position relative to the transmitter. I have decided not to install a new aerial just yet. Regular test transmissions on BBC 2 began recently but I don't believe that they have been going long enough for the dealers to have gained

enough experience from them. I have the feeling that the dealers, not you and 1, should be the go nea pigs for a while.

Moreover, there is a distinct possibility that there has been a real break-through in the design of aerials for hJme television receivers. The BBC 2 aerial now being installed is ugly, cumbersome and expensive, so it's good to hear that a gadget measuring 3 in. by 2 in. working on a 9-volt bat- tery has been developed by an electronics en- gineer in Devon. Both BBC and ITV engineers are believed to regard it as most promising, it is expected to make outside azrials unnecessary and to improve reception in bad areas and, if negotiations now in progress are successful, it will be mass produced and sold at £3 15s. 6d.