A HAMPSHIRE MP has presented parliament with a 9,000-name petition calling for a nationwide ban on the sale of disposable barbecues.

It follows a spate of forest fires in Hampshire and neighbouring Dorset, many of which are thought to have been started by visitors cooking a meal.

Barbecues in the New Forest have been banned because of the current fire risk - but some people are ignoring the rules.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) is urging shops and garages in the district to stop selling disposable barbecues.

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Now New Forest East MP Julian Lewis has presented parliament with a petition calling for their sale to be banned.

It was launched by two Forest residents, Kate Collison and Cllr Janette Duke, following a devastating fire which destroyed 470 acres of heath and woodland at Wareham Forest in May.

Several disposable barbecues were later found in the area.

Dr Lewis told parliament: "Single-use barbecues are designed to be disposable but are causing great risk to the forest environment and local laws and regulations to prohibit and restrict their use have proved extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.”

The MP said fires started by the barbecues could endanger the lives of people and animals as well as causing massive damage to habitats.

He added: "Single-use disposable barbecues comprise a tin foil tray filled with impregnated ‘easy-light’ charcoal, can easily be carried to beauty spots, wildlife reserves, and beaches, and can be purchased for as little as £1.99.

“Chinese lanterns, which can pose a similar threat to wildlife and their habitat, were once seen as acceptable but are now recognised as irresponsible and dangerous.”

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Dr Lewis said the difficulties involved in policing local bylaws meant national legislation was needed.

He and New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne are pressing for a half-hour parliamentary debate on the issue that would be followed by a ministerial response.

As reported in the Daily Echo, at least 18 shops and garages in the Forest are already refusing to sell disposable barbecues.

NPA chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: "The national park is internationally protected because its wildlife and habitats are so rare and fragile, but it could be so easily destroyed by fire."

Forestry England's most senior officer in the area, Deputy Surveyor Bruce Rothnie, has also highlighted the issue.

He said: "Preventing fires from starting in precious outdoor spaces like the New Forest requires everyone to play their part.

"I would like to remind anyone coming to the New Forest that barbecues or fires are not allowed anywhere on the Forest at this time.”