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- British politician (born 1956)
Helmets should be made mandatory for all children taking part in snow sports, an MP has said after the death of a boy from his constituency at an indoor ski slope.
Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) said the death of 12-year-old Louis Watkiss was “not only a tragedy, it was wholly avoidable”.
Louis died in September after being injured while tobogganing at the Tamworth SnowDome.
The former minister called for the Commons to back calls from Louis’ parents to mandate the wearing of helmets for children while they took part in snow sports.
Mr Mitchell said: “There is little doubt that a helmet would have saved Louis’ life.
“His death is not only a tragedy, it was wholly avoidable.
“I believe the House should consider whether or not we now take a significant step of changing the law to insist that in these or in similar circumstances children’s heads should be protected by a protective helmet.”
Citing a coroner’s report into Louis’ death, Mr Mitchell added that his “traumatic” injuries could have been prevented by “the use of a helmet”.
“They have been shown to reduce the risk of head, neck or face injuries in skiers, particularly those under the age of 13 as well as the severity of the injury,” he said.
“There is clearly a case here to mandate the use of helmets for snow sports activities in the United Kingdom.”
The MP added that a similar law already existed in New Jersey in the USA, and there was an “active” debate about introducing similar laws in Europe.
However, he said he believed this was the first time the issue had been raised in the House of Commons.
Mr Mitchell said if there was not an opportunity to change the law, then “it may be possible to secure rather more rapidly a code of practice entered into by all indoor snow sport operators and similar activities” to make sure children wear helmets.
The Sutton Coldfield MP said he was “deeply conscious of this tragedy” as Christmas approached.
He added: “The suffering of a lovely family, and a wider school and music community of Louis’ friends and relatives who will be remembering his life and mourning his loss at this terrible time.
“They have every right to expect that this House can be relied upon to look seriously and speedily at a safety measure which the family so bravely and so compellingly want to secure and which will stop other families from facing the grief and misery that they are suffering at this awful time.”
Louis’ parents Chris and Natalie Watkiss have led a campaign to make helmets mandatory for children taking part in snow sports.
In October, the family released a tribute to the 12-year-old boy, describing him as “our pride, our joy, our love”, telling how they “miss him so much it hurts”.
A statement from the SnowDome’s operators said staff and management were “deeply shocked by what happened, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this terrible time”.
Responding to Mr Mitchell, deputy chief whip Stuart Andrew said: “I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for his parents.”
He said: “I do hope that out of the tragedy we can see some good. And clearly the campaigning that they are doing with my right honourable friend is important, and I will talk to the relevant department to see whether an amendment in law is practical or indeed whether the code of practice can be changed.”