HC Deb 29 March 1960 vol 620 cc1141-2
Mr. Lilley (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the fire at Warroch Street, Glasgow last night in which 18 firemen lost their lives.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. S. Maclay)

I am sure that all Members of the House will have been greatly shocked to learn of the losses which Glasgow Fire Brigade has sustained in a major fire which broke out in a bonded warehouse in the Anderston district of the city last night.

I understand that 14 members of the brigade and five members of the Glasgow Salvage Corps lost their lives, and the deepest sympathy of this House, and, indeed, of the whole country, will go out to their relatives in their bereavement.

This disaster is a reminder of the hazards that the members of our fire brigades and salvage corps constantly face with unfailing courage and devotion to duty and the men who were killed have given their lives in upholding the great traditions of their service.

I understand that the heavy loss of life was due primarily to a violent explosion that blew out one side of the warehouse soon after the fire started. Fire fighting operations are still continuing, but the situation is now under control. The cause and course of the fire will, of course, be investigated in the normal way.

Mr. Lilley

May I thank my right hon. Friend for the statement he has made and associate myself with my constituents in Kelvingrove in the expression of sympathy to the relatives of the men who died? They died to prevent a greater disaster, and I trust that the Government will see to it that their dependants are immediately attended to. I understand since coming to the House today, that 10 families have suffered and that 30 children have been left fatherless. It is my sincere hope that they will be attended to.

I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether he has considered the advisability of bonded warehouses being in residential areas? Would he consider advising planning authorities throughout the country to consider this matter seriously when proposing to give planning authority?

Mr. Maclay

Widows of firemen will be entitled to pensions under the Fire- men's Pensions Scheme and I understand that immediate payments will be made from the Fire Service National Benevo-dent Fund and also by the Fire Brigades' Union in cases of need. The National Assistance Board is, of course, available to provide help if necessary—[HON. MEMBERS:"Oh."] That is subsidiary to what I had already said; the first part of my supplementary answer is the operative part, but the National Assistance Board can also help. I understand that the Lord Provost of Glasgow is launching a disaster fund.

I have noted what my hon. Friend has said about bonded warehouses in built-up areas, but I do not think that he would expect me to deal with that matter in detail today.

Mrs. Cullen

We on this side of the House desire to be associated in sympathy with the folks in Kelvingrove and especially those who have been bereaved. We hope that National Assistance will be kept out of this question and that people will not have to go to the Assistance Board as a result of this terrible tragedy.

Mr. T. Fraser

May I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the message of sympathy to the relatives of the deceased and our sympathy with the many who have suffered very great injury in this tragic event? May I also associate myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends with what the Secretary of State said about the gallantry of these firemen and salvage workers? It is only on occasions such as this that we have brought home to us the great services that these people render to the rest of the community.

I ask the Secretary of State to give most serious consideration to the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Lilley) that he will consider whether it is in the public interest that bonded warehouses should continue to be situated, as they are, in these congested areas of population? I understand, of course, that it would be unrealistic to ask that those which are there now should be moved, but it may be desirable for the right hon. Gentleman to provide that when these places are established in future they will be established in less heavily populated parts of the country.

Mr. Maclay

I have noted very carefully indeed the points made about the siting of bonded warehouses in future.