HC Deb 17 February 1958 vol 582 cc847-8
31. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Paymaster-General how many people have been accidently killed through the escape of domestic gas in the United Kingdom in each of the last 10 years.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Sir Ian Horobin)

Figures for Great Britain of fatal accidents in the home due to poisoning by town gas have been separately recorded since 1950 and I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The occasional case in which a fatality results from a fire or explosion caused by an escape of town gas is not recorded separately.

The figures are as follow:

Calendar Year Number of fatal accidents in the home due to town gas poisoning in Great Britain
1950 552
1951 616
1952 637
1953 766
1954 819
1955 934
1956 865

The provisional figure for the twelve months ended 30th September, 1957, is 750.

32. Sir F. Medlicott

asked the Paymaster if, in view of the large number of people who are accidentally killed every year through escaping gas, he will set up an inquiry into the possibility and desirability of gas being given a pungent and, if practicable, an acrid smell which would penetrate to an extent sufficient to awaken persons from sleep.

Sir I. Horobin

At my noble Friend's request the Gas Council has for some time been carrying out experiments to test the effects of adding odorants to town gas. But it is doubtful whether a smell, however pungent, would awaken persons from sleep, and the British Medical Association does not recommend the addition of irritants to the gas in order to achieve this purpose.

Sir F. Medlicott

Is my hon. Friend aware that one can hardly open a newspaper without reading almost daily of some such case, three being reported only yesterday, and in view of the fact that this is becoming one of the most frequent causes of death in this country, will he persist with his efforts, not only in regard to the dangers of death by accident, but also to make gas a little less attractive as a means of suicide?

Sir I. Horobin

Suicide is, perhaps, a special case, but my hon. Friend should not exaggerate. This is not one of the major causes, and I am glad to say the numbers are decreasing.

36. Mr. Hastings

asked the Paymaster-General in how many of the 572 cases of death from gas poisoning in England and Wales during the year ended September, 1957, was the escape of gas on the mains side of the meter recording the consumption of the house or flat.

Sir I. Horobin

According to records maintained by the Gas Council, the provisional figure is 17.

Mr. Hastings

Does not the Minister regard this number as too many, although it is much smaller than the number of deaths from the escape of gas on the house side of the meter? Could not the mains be tested pretty frequently so as to get rid of this small number of 17 deaths?

Sir I. Horobin

The number, of course, is exactly 17 too many, but it is very small. It is also true, and I admit to some extent disturbing, that a very large number of these are due not to old mains but to fractures in new mains by earth movement. I am satisfied, however, that everything that can be done to deal with the matter is being done.

40. Mrs. L. Jeger

asked the Paymaster-General if he will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT some classification of the accidental deaths from gas poisoning for the last annual period showing how many were due to faulty domestic apparatus or to consumers' carelessness, and how many were due to faulty pipes and other causes outside the consumers' control.

Sir I. Horobin

An analysis of records maintained by the Gas Council shows that, of the accidental deaths due to gas poisoning in 1956, approximately 80 per cent. were caused by the mis-use of appliances; 10 per cent. by faulty domestic apparatus; and 7 per cent. were due to causes outside the consumers' control. There are a number of cases which cannot be classified.