HC Deb 10 February 1958 vol 582 cc24-5
36. Mrs. Jeger

asked the Paymaster-General how many people died in 1957 as a result of gas poisoning, other than suicide cases; and what steps are being taken to reduce these fatalities.

Sir I. Horobin

Figures for the whole of 1957 are not yet available but for England and Wales for the year ended 30th September, 1957, 572 deaths were provisionally assigned to accidental town's gas poisoning in homes and residential institutions. Much is being done by the gas boards assisted by voluntary organisations to educate consumers in the safe use of gas and to inspect installations and appliances used by elderly people, particularly those living alone. Research and development to make appliances more foolproof and gas less dangerous is being pressed forward under the guidance of the Minister's Standing Committee on Gas Poisoning Accidents.

Mrs. Jeger

Is not that an appalling figure? Is the Minister aware that, given the best will in the world, consumers cannot possibly be aware of faults in installations? Is it not often the case that the installations are very old and that in many houses like those in my constituency, where the gas piping was installed at the beginning of this century, houses have been turned into bed-sitting rooms, each room with a gas fire and a gas ring, which causes too heavy a load on the installation? Can he not look into the possibility of some routine inspection in order to safeguard consumers?

Sir I. Horobin

One can never be satisfied that everything is perfect. We are all doing our best about this matter. The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the number which I have given is substantially down on that of the previous year and also that I am advised that the accidents are rarely found to be due to faulty appliances. I repeat, every effort must be made and is being made to reduce the number as far as possible.

Mr. Hastings

How many of these 572 deaths were due to an escape of gas from the mains before it entered the pipe supplying the house?

Sir I. Horobin

I am afraid I cannot give that answer without notice. Perhaps the hon. Member will put down a Question.