HC Deb 31 January 1963 vol 670 cc1118-9
10. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Power, in view of the fatal gassing accidents this winter, what progress has been made in producing non-poisonous gas.

Mr. Peyton

I share the concern of the hon. Member and the gas industry over these tragic accidents. The average carbon monoxide content of town gas is falling as new plants making non-poisonous gas are put to work. The rate at which new plant of this type is introduced will increase.

Detoxification of gas produced in older plant presents difficulties, but the industry is experimenting with new techniques which it hopes will enable more rapid progress to be made.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, during the first 18 days of this year, 19 people died and many more were taken to hospital in Lancashire alone and that over 900 deaths a year occur from this cause? Are not both coal and oil now capable of safe conversion and, even if the processes are expensive at present, ought not human life to come before money?

Mr. Peyton

I have already said that I fully share the concern of the hon. Gentleman, and so does the gas industry. There is no denying the seriousness of the matter. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman would do a serious disservice to the industry if he allowed even these serious figures to get out of proportion. I said in my Answer that the gas industry is devoting a good deal of attention to getting this matter right, and it hopes to achieve real progress within the next few years.

Mr. A. Roberts

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that complaints of this kind have been made during the past 10 years? Does he know that I raised the same matter myself about five years ago when there was a fatal accident in my constituency? Does he realise that the Gas Council has not done the necessary research which it ought to have done?

Mr. Peyton

I do not think that I can usefully add to what I have already said, except to say that the Gas Council now hopes, in dealing with this very difficult problem, to make gas virtually safe within the next 10 years.

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