§ 1. Mr. Douglas
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the general safety provisions at Her Majesty's dockyard, Rosyth.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Keith Speed)
The safety arrangements at Her Majesty's naval base, Rosyth, are subject to regular inspections and I am satisfied that in general they are satisfactory. Shortcomings in the procedures for the control of a radioactive source in the health physics department and some minor weaknesses in other areas have, however, been identified and are being corrected.
§ Mr. Douglas
Does the Minister recognise that he needs to be rather more forthcoming to the House and to those outside on this and other aspects of safety? Will he consider asking the Health and Safety Executive to conduct a review of safety and security at the base?
§ Mr. Speed
The Health and Safety Executive's accident prevention advisory unit has recently completed an independent and wide-ranging review of the dockyards to assess both their health and their safety performance. The inspectors have visited Rosyth and I expect their report very soon. I understand that they have not identified any major weaknesses or shortcomings.
§ Sir Frederick Burden
Is my hon. Friend fully satisfied that the same conditions have been examined at Chatham dockyard, that there is no cause for any alarm, and that the regulations are absolutely perfect?
§ Mr. Speed
I am never satisfied that regulations are absolutely perfect. However, I can confirm that the Health and Safety Executive is carrying out, or has carried out, a similar survey at Chatham dockyard. I shall be studying its report in due course. Again, I understand that there are no major weaknesses. I do not wish to be complacent about Chatham, Rosyth or any other dockyard.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Is there any danger from the radioactive unit that went missing recently? Has it been replaced in the dockyard and is the apparatus operating normally, as it was formerly?
§ Mr. Speed
We believe that there is no danger, but until we really know where the missing unit is, that is difficult to say. We believe that it is still inside the dockyard, in the inner core, but we really do not know. The only danger would be if it were very close to a person outside. We believe that on the whole that is not now a danger. Other sources are being used in the dockyard for test purposes and they are now under strict regulation and control in the light of the findings of the recent review.
§ Mr. George Robertson
Is not the story of the missing isotope a remarkable one—that a radioactive unit can go missing for weeks in a high-security establishment? In view of the obvious and serious public concern, are not the public and the House entitled to more information and more reassurance than has presently been given in what is basically a handful of written answers?
§ Mr. Speed
With respect, I received the report of the board of inquiry, which is about five or six inches thick, only this week. I shall go up to Rosyth later today. I hope to reassure the public as much as I can. So far, the source has not yet been discovered. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that all the lessons which have been learnt from the disappearance are being taken to heart. Remedial action has already been taken by the port admiral and by the general manager.