HC Deb 20 November 1972 vol 846 cc910-2

Mr. Carmichael (by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the fire at St. George's Cross, Glasgow, on Saturday in which two people lost their lives.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

Just before one o'clock on Saturday, 18th November, the Glasgow Fire Brigade received a fire call to Maryhill Road. On arrival it was found that fire had broken out in an unoccupied furniture shop. In addition to attacking the fire, firemen warned the occupiers in the four-storey tenement block to evacuate their homes. Fire conditions worsened rapidly and some of the occupiers found themselves unable to make their way to safety because of smoke filled stairs. Rescues by ladder were necessary both in Maryhill Road and in Great Western Road to which the fire had spread.

A full report is not yet available, but one woman and one sub-officer who was attempting to rescue her, lost their lives. Twelve persons were taken to hospital, of whom three were detained overnight.

About 50 families, comprising about 150 persons, were made homeless. All except five families, comprising 29 people, found accommodation with relatives; the other families were temporarily accommodated by Glasgow Corporation.

I know that the House will wish to express its sympathy with the relatives of those who lost their lives. I would wish to pay tribute to the prompt and efficient work of the fire service, and to Glasgow social work department and the other services. It is too soon to state the cause of the fire, but a public inquiry will be held.

Mr. Carmichael

In thanking the Secretary of State for that reply may I extend the sympathy of all on my side of the House to the relatives to those who lost their lives and to those who were injured? May I also extend my thanks to the police, welfare services, the Salvation Army and, of course, to the fire service? May I make special mention of Sub-Officer McGill who died in the rescue attempt. I am pleased that there will be a public inquiry. Will the right hon. Gentleman now look at the conclusion of the Holroyd and Cunningham Committees on fire prevention, and particularly at the conclusions of his own Fire Brigades Advisory Council, all of which recomended a greater use of operational firemen in the inspection and prevention of fire as part of their ordinary duties?

Mr. Campbell

I will certainly consider what the hon. Member has suggested. The Glasgow Fire Brigade is tackling the special problems which exist in Glasgow. I understand that the convenor of Glasgow Corporation's Police and Fire Committee has called for special attention to be paid to all disused property, particularly empty shops under occupied tenements.

Mr. Edward Taylor

I associate myself with the sympathy for the vicitims of the disaster. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that thousands of families in Glasgow live in old tenement buildings similar to that in Maryhill Road, and that those buildings inevitably constitute a fire hazard? Will my right hon. Friend press on every occasion for the Corporation to rehouse these families.

Mr. Campbell

I am aware of the problems to which my hon. Friend refers and to which I referred earlier. I take this opportunity of drawing special attention to the particular hazards that this kind of fire can present.

Mr. Ross

Will the Secretary of State accept that there are special hazards in these cases? Will he look into whether the fire service has the power to compel inspection of such premises and to ensure that they are sufficiently safe for the people who live above them?

Mr. Campbell

Under the fatal accidents procedure it is open to the inquiry to look into these matters and to make recommendations.