HC Deb 13 July 1966 vol 731 cc1462-3

Mr. Burden (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement regarding the fire at Chatham Dockyard on 12th July.

The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu)

As hon. Members will have seen in the Press, a major fire broke out in Chatham Dock-yard yesterday morning. A covered slipway containing stores was completely destroyed.

I am glad to say that there were no deaths or serious injuries, but 41 people received minor injuries in trying to put out the fire.

This slipway was of considerable historic interest. A machine shop and 16 private cars were damaged. A Board of Inquiry is being convened.

Mr. Burden

Is this not the slipway from which H.M.S. "Victory" was launched? Is it not regrettable that this historic link with the past has been broken? Is the Minister aware that the greatest benefit which can accrue to Chatham would be if this slipway were in some way modified or rebuilt to ensure that nuclear submarines are built there in future?

Mr. Mallalieu

The slipway from which the H.M.S. "Victory" was launched was close by, but I do not think that this is the one. This is a very useful site and we shall make the best possible use of it.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Would my hon. Friend convey both to the dockyard fire brigade and to the Kent County Council Fire Brigade our very great appreciation, particularly of hon. Members who are concerned in this constituency, of the very urgent action which they took? Could he give an assurance that the people who have lost motor cars—I believe that there are 16 of them—will be fully compensated?

Mr. Mallalieu

I shall be glad to convey the congratulations of the whole House on the great speed with which the fire brigade arrived, which was within two and a half minutes, and the help which the Kent County Fire Brigade gave.

The question of compensation will have to await the findings of the court of inquiry.

Mr. Powell

Will the Minister now review all buildings of this kind in dockyards and other places under his control which ate used for stores to ensure that as far as possible this kind of risk is avoided?

Mr. Mallalieu

1 think that that is a very good idea. This building happened to be an ancient monument and it was protected in that way.