§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN (Hythe)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to the destructive fire at a petroleum wharf at Millwall last week; whether he is aware that, but for a fortunate change of wind, the overground tanks near the River would have been destroyed, causing the escape of many thousand gallons of burning oil into the River Thames, and probably leading to an unparalleled conflagration; whether he is aware that at another 788 petroleum wharf, in a densely populated part of the East End of London, there is, at the present moment, about three millions of gallons of petroleum, the bulk of which is lying in barrels in the open air, protected from the sun and from fire by wicker hurdles only; and, what steps he proposes to take for the safe storage of petroleum?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. MATTHEWS) (Birmingham, E.)
Yes, Sir; my attention has been drawn to this fire; but I am advised that the proprietor of the wharf had caused the tanks to be surrounded by an efficient containing wall and embankment, so that it would have been impossible for any escape of burning oil to have taken place into the Thames, even if all the tanks referred to in the Question had been destroyed and their contents had been liberated. In reply to the second part of the Question, I have to say that I have caused inquiries to be made, and lam informed that the only wharf to which the Question can apparently apply is one in which it is true the greater part of the storage takes place in barrels in the open. Nevertheless, the whole area over which the storage extends is completely surrounded by a brick and concrete wall and earth embankment, which forms an efficient reservoir of a capacity largely in excess of the aggregate quantity of mineral oil stored there. Lastly, I have to say that the law with regard to mineral oils and inflammable liquids is in an unsatisfactory condition; and I propose to take steps, with a view to legislation on the subject next Session, which will enable the Home Office efficiently to enforce the safe storage of petroleum.