A sprinkling of history

Collections - Posted 28-04-2020

Achieving Royal Assent to the Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011 was an historic event. The National Assembly for Wales gained the power to legislate in certain areas and in certain circumstances under the Government of Wales Act 2006, and a number of government measures had been passed on issues such as education, health, and waste. The Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011 was the first law introduced by a backbench Assembly Member (AM) to be passed by the Assembly. Ann Jones, AM for the Vale of Clwyd, was the AM responsible for the law and as a former fire officer, she had expertise and a long-term interest in the field.

Ann Jones presented the archive of papers tracing the passing of the law to the National Library of Wales through the Women’s Archive Wales as part of their Setting the Record Straight project. The project works with current and former women Assembly Members to record their oral histories and arrange for their papers to go to an appropriate archive. This was the first archival collection to come to an archive office as part of the project and I went with Rhian James, Head of Archives and Manuscripts, to collect it from the Senedd in Cardiff in November 2019.

The story of the Measure becoming law is an interesting one, and the papers follow each stage of the process through research, obtaining a Legislative Competence Order, debates in the Assembly, passing the measure, and implementing the regulations. Among the papers are drafts of speeches in which Ann makes the case for the law passionately and effectively; drafts of the legislation; and correspondence with Welsh Government ministers, MPs and Lords, and chief fire service officers. There are copies of research into similar measures in Toronto and Scottsdale Arizona, papers of fire safety conferences, and a collection of interesting correspondence between Ann Jones and UK Government ministers, including David Jones, who were critical of a law they felt placed an unreasonable burden on the construction industry. Ann Jones’ answers demonstrate her mastery of the arguments and her expertise in the field as well as her willingness to enter discussions to achieve the goal of reducing the number of people who die in domestic fires.

The ‘Sprinkler law’ is one of the National Assembly for Wales’ most well-known accomplishments so it is only right that the documents that tell the story and record the role of the politician behind it are available as part of the Welsh Political Archive and Women’s Archive of Wales at the National Library. The archive can be browsed on our online catalog.

Rob Phillips
Welsh Political Archive

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