§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been directed to the storage of petroleum in and near the Metropolis; whether he is aware that at the present time there is stored at the seven wharves in the Metropolitan area 335,000 barrels, equal to 13,400,000 gallons, and that at one wharf alone on the Thames over 80,000 barrels, equal to 3,200,000 gallons, are stored, mostly in the open air, 15 to 20 feet above the level of the surrounding property, without any adequate protection to prevent inflammable material flowing into the river and neighbourhood in case of accident; whether such storage is under the control of either the Government, the Metropolitan Board of Works, or the Thames Conservancy; 607 and, if the mode of storing has been sanctioned by the Home Office?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
, in reply, said, this was, no doubt, a matter of great importance, but it was one in which the Secretary of State had absolutely no authority. The storage of petroleum was regulated by the Act of 1871. Under that Act the Secretary of State was not responsible in any way for the storage of petroleum, and had no official cognizance of the extent or condition of the storage in any particular locality, nor had he any authority in regard to the inspection of the stores. The storage was entirely controlled by licences granted by the local authority, which, in the Metropolitan area outside the City, and outside the jurisdiction of the Thames Conservancy, was the Metropolitan Board of Works. The high-test petroleums were not subject to any legislative restriction. It was only the more highly inflammable petroleum which was subject to any legislation whatever. The only authority the Secretary of State had was if a licence was refused to a trader he might appeal to the Secretary of State to enlarge his rights, but not restrict them. He had made inquiries as to the state of affairs, and the Metropolitan Board of Works had informed him that the figures given by the hon. Baronet were not very far from the mark; that the storage took place mainly in the open air; that in the case specially referred to in the Question the petroleum was surrounded by high embankments, which would prevent it flowing on to the adjacent lands or into the river. Control was only provided by the Act over petroleum which flashed at lower than 73 degrees. Samples were occasionally taken to test it in the stores; and it had been ascertained that out of 155 samples taken in the present year, not one flashed below 73 degrees. He confessed that he had long been of opinion that this was an unsatisfactory state of things. Some time ago he prepared a Bill on the subject of petroleum, and it was carefully considered, in conjunction with the scientific authorities of the Metropolitan Board. He need not say that he should be glad to introduce such a Bill; but it would not be possible to pass it through that House, for directly he put the Bill down it would be blocked. What he proposed to do was to introduce the Bill 608 into the House of Lords, and to see what course was taken with regard to it by their Lordships, and afterwards, if possible, to bring it before the House of Commons.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
asked whether, a short time ago, the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not get a Dynamite Bill through both Houses in three hours?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Yes; and if the hon. Member can promise that I shall have the same facilities, I will endeavour to do the same with this Bill.
§ In reply to Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR,
§ MR. CALLAN
asked whether it was a fact that the Home Secretary had been in Office three years, and had taken no measures to remedy the state of things that he had just confessed now existed? ["Order, order!"]
§ [No reply was given.]