HC Deb 25 January 1961 vol 633 cc143-5
6a. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement on the accident at a Thor base in December; what damage was caused; and why the group captain in command of the base has been posted elsewhere.

Mr. J. Amery

In the course of a periodical fuelling exercise at a Thor site on 7th December, a large quantity of liquid oxygen was released in the launching area. There was no fire or explosion and only very minor damage. A Board of Inquiry concluded that the primary cause was a failure to carry out the correct procedures for controlling the flow of liquid oxygen. This was considered to reflect on the state of efficiency and training at the station, for which the Station Commander is responsible.

Mr. John Hall

On a point of order. May we be informed what Question the Minister is answering?

Mr. Speaker

Yes. I am obliged to the hon. Member. The Minister is answering Question No. 6a. It is possible that same hon. Members have not gat the revised form of the Order Paper. Owing to a mistake among the Officers of the House, the star on the right hon. Gentleman's Question was not noticed. The only way to put it right was to reprint in order to prevent injustice.

Mr. Driberg

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I must, with respect, point out that the un-revised form of the Order Paper was issued at the Vote Office immediately before 2.30 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

I am very sorry about that. We have done the best we can to remedy an injustice.

Mr. Shinwell

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that I am absolved from any mistake.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this was not, in fact, a rather serious accident? If it was as minor as he suggests, why was it necessary to post the group captain in command of the base? Was he not a very efficient airman?

Mr. Amery

I did not categorise the accident as minor. I said that the damage was very minor. The accident could have led to a serious fire. The House and the country are entitled to know that we maintain the highest standard of efficiency in stations of this kind, and when there is any fall-down in efficiency very strict measures have to be taken. Perhaps I should add that there had been minor deficiencies—not of an accident character, but of other sorts—in the station before. In the circumstances, the Air Officer Commanding thought that the right decision was to recommend the posting of the officer, and we have seen no reason to take another view.

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