HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1183-4
25. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people have died from paraquat poisoning since this product has been on the commercial market.

Mr. Monro

Between 1st January, 1960, and 30th June, 1972, a total of 11 deaths were registered in Scotland as being due to paraquat poisoning. Five of the deaths were stated to be accidental and three suicidal; in the other three cases there was no evidence to show whether the deaths were accidental or intentional.

Mr. Hughes

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the figures he has given show that there is now an urgent need to discuss with the manufacturers of this product some method of dyeing it so that it is clearly not potable, or a method of adding some noxious substance that would have a pungent odour so that people could not bring themselves to drink it? If the manufacturers will not co-operate, will he not take action to have the substance withdrawn altogether, as I understand that there is no known antidote to it?

Mr. Monro

I have every hope that the manufacturers will co-operate. The very matters that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned are now being actively discussed with the manufacturers. I think that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that accidental deaths from drinking the liquid occurred because it had been decanted into soft drink bottles. That is why we ought to follow the hon. Gentleman's ideas.

Mr. Gourlay

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that, following a tragedy of this nature in my constituency, after representations that I then made to him, he undertook that the manufacturers were actively pursuing some method of trying to prevent this liquid from being taken accidentally? Has he nothing further to report on what he said six months ago?

Mr. Monro

No, except that we are continually trying to find a solution. It is no use thinking that it is easy to discover or that there is any lack of effort on the part of the manufacturers.