HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc178-9
3. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he has yet received the Report of the Inquiry into multi-storey domestic dwellings following the Canning Town disaster in May, 1968; having regard to the decision at Warley, Worcestershire, on 4th July, 1968, to change from gas to electricity in multi-storey domestic hereditaments, what advice as to safety, and alternative fuels, he is now giving to local authorities; and whether he will make a statement concerning multi-storey construction.

19. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minisster of Housing and Local Government what advice he intends to offer to local housing authorities as a result of the Report of the Ronan Point tribunal.

Mr. Greenwood

The Report of the Inquiry into the collapse at Ronan Point was published on Wednesday, 6th November. As I indicated in the statement I made to the House on that day, I immediately began discussions with the system builders and with the local authority associations about the further advice to be given to local authorities.

I have already proposed criteria to be used in the strengthening process. Official discussions have now been held on these proposals, and tomorrow I am meeting representatives of the builders, the Greater London Council and the local authority associations to ensure that any necessary work is carried out swiftly.

I am determined that there shall not be a single hour's avoidable delay in restoring confidence and removing anxiety.—[Vol. 772, c. 902–10.]

Sir G. Nabarro

Having regard to the march on County Hall, Westminster, yesterday by 100 tenants of a tower block of flats on the Ocean Estate, Stepney, and the Minister's controversy with television personalities, will he apply himself particularly to the fuel aspects? Is his advice to local authorities to withdraw gas from all these tall buildings and to substitute electricity, as has been done at Warley, Worcestershire, or is that not his advice? Can we have an unequivocal reply on that cardinal point?

Mr. Greenwood

As the hon. Gentleman will know, I accepted the tribunal's recommendations in respect of gas which show that once buildings are strengthened against the possibility of progressive collapse there is no reason why gas should not be used, but in the meantime we shall certainly be recommending to local authorities the points made by the tribunal, and I think that local authorities will be extremely ill-advised to delay cutting off gas from any building which they believe to be susceptible to progressive collapse.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Yes, but is the Minister aware that there is a quite considerable amount of worry in the areas where these buildings are? Although the Minister, rightly, speedily dealt with the gas issue, he does not seem to be getting on with the strengthening of the buildings, which is what people want. Personally, I wish he had accepted the opportunity last week to go on television and tell the people about these things.

Mr. Greenwood

I appreciate the point which my hon. Friend has put. There is certainly no delay, and it is in order to do everything possible to speed up the action which is required that we have already issued the criteria and that I shall be having tomorrow morning the meeting with the organisations I referred to.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Would it not be wise for the Minister to allay public anxiety on this matter by accepting the invitation and facilities offered to him by the television companies?

Mr. Greenwood

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that on publication of the Report I had a Press conference, attended by some 100 representatives of the Press and television, and I later, that evening, appeared on Independent Television. I think, quite honestly, that that kind of interview is much more profitable than an interview conducted by professional entertainers.