HC Deb 17 March 1959 vol 602 cc205-6
45. Sir A. Hurd

asked the Prime Minister if he has received the report of the board of inquiry into the fatal accident at Aldermaston on 26th February; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Yes, Sir. I have received an interim report from the Board of Inquiry.

The Board reports that the explosion occurred during the course of conveyance by truck of high explosives; that the explosion was confined to the vicinity of one building; and that there was no outbreak of fire.

Two men were killed instantly, one was injured, and eleven other workers were treated for shock.

The Board has directed that certain tests shall be carried out, and it will make a full report when it has the results. This may not be for some weeks.

The Board has not been able to find any eye-witness of the actual event which led to the explosion. The injured man was interviewed in hospital, but his memory was confused about the circumstances and he could remember very little about the occurrence. I am glad to say that he is making a good recovery from his injuries.

The Board reported that it instituted an independent radiological survey of the site of the accident, from which it is clear that radioactive materials were not involved.

The Board concluded that the explosion must be regarded as an accident and did not arise as a result of negligence.

Sir A. Hurd

I thank my right hon. Friend for that Answer, but do I understand that this report is in the nature of an interim report and that a fuller report, though not necessarily a highly technical one, will be published later on? I ask that particularly in view of the fact that any unhappy accident at an atomic station always makes news headlines and causes alarm. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is desirable that there should be the fullest possible statement to show that there was nothing particularly sinister about this unhappy accident?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I have tried to give a fairly full summary of the interim report, and I propose to do the same with the final Report. This is the usual practice in regard to accidents at Royal Ordnance factories. I should like to emphasise what my hon. Friend has said, that only high explosives were involved and no radioactive material was concerned; neither was there any release of radiation.

Mr. Gaitskell

We are all glad to hear the confirmation in the Prime Minister's statement of the earlier statement of the Atomic Energy Authority that no radiological action was involved. Does the Prime Minister propose to publish this interim report? Further, can he say whether—presumably it was—the trade union side was brought into consulation before the report was made?

The Prime Minister

I will consider the question of publication. It has not been the practice in these accidents to publish the reports, but to give a fairly full summary, as I have done on the interim report and certainly will do on the final report. This is not, for instance, like the Windscale accident which did involve radioactive material. As regards the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, Mr. L. J. S. Orchard, a staff side representative of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, and Mr. A. M. M. Douglas, trade union representative of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, were both members of the Board of Inquiry.