HC Deb 08 July 1954 vol 529 cc2336-8
42. Mr. F. M. Bennett

asked the Minister of Health whether he is yet in a position to publish the result of his inquiry into the recent Dellwood Maternity Home fire, in Reading.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I have given most careful consideration to the report of the Regional Hospital Board Committee of Inquiry into the fire and I am satisfied that it has covered very thoroughly all aspects of this most tragic and unfortunate disaster. The report is now available to hon. Members in the Library and copies will be supplied to parties directly interested on request to my Department.

Looking back on tragic events of this nature it is always possible to have second thoughts, but I consider that the action taken by the hospital authorities both in the provision of the accommodation and in the matter of medical and nursing supervision was reasonable, and that there was no negligence or breach of duty on their part. The steps taken for the rescue and subsequent treatment of the babies were, in my view, in accord with the highest traditions of the hospital service.

My Department is preparing advice to hospital authorities on fire precautions generally and I will see that this takes account of the lessons to be learned. I also understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is considering possible strengthening of the relevant building byelaws.

Mr. Bennett

While agreeing that no monetary grant can possibly compensate parents in their tragic loss, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend can say that irrespective of the question of strict legal liability he is prepared sympathetically to consider ex gratia grants to those concerned?

Mr. Macleod

On the question of compensation, as I have said, in my view death was not caused by neglect or breach of duty, but was due to misadventure, and that was the verdict of the coroner. Nevertheless, I am sure that if there are cases where particular circumstances are involved the hospital management committee will be very glad to look at them as sympathetically as they can.

Mr. Bennett

May I thank my right hon. Friend for that generally sympathetic answer and ask him whether he can say that, in effect, his words mean that each case will be judged individually and sympathetically?

Mr. Macleod indicated assent.

Dr. Summerskill

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how often this hospital has been inspected?

Mr. Macleod

It is inspected regularly. In fact, it has one of the very finest records in the whole of the country in regard to the number of deaths, both maternal and infant, that have taken place.