HC Deb 13 March 1996 vol 273 cc1080-1 10.12 pm
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

I wish to present to the House three petitions from the residents of three high-rise council blocks in Southampton. They asked me personally to bring them to the House because they feel that they are not being considered by Southampton city council and they were stunned by the council's decision not to remove asbestos from their blocks of flats but to paint over the asbestos. In the three blocks, there must be about 200 children. There are certainly nearly 400 signatures from the various families.

The danger of asbestos is well known to everyone. Therefore I ask the House—that means the Department of the Environment—to look into the matter. Southampton city council has admitted that the safety of its residents is always a prime concern, and has said that it will appoint an independent analyst in the near future. Whether that will happen or not, I do not know, but the whole structure of the housing committee and the debates that have taken place lead me to be concerned about the wishes of the tenants, who will have to remain in their accommodation while people in protective clothing go around trying to neutralise the asbestos. A threat is posed to the life of anyone who is in contact with that terrible fibre, which will obviously be in the air while the work is carried out.

The three blocks concerned are Sturminster house, Albion towers and Shirley towers, all in the city of Southampton. I well remember those blocks, because when I became chairman of the housing committee in Southampton, we decided that the construction of those blocks ought to be stopped. Unfortunately, they had been partly completed, so the work had to be finished.

The humble petition states: That asbestos has been discovered in the structure of the buildings That the City Council is proposing not to remove this asbestos, but only to seal it in its place; That we fear for the health of ourselves and especially our children if this asbestos is not properly removed. Wherefore your Petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take what measures lie in its power to ensure that we, and other residents of council-owned property, are given all possible protection. I have three petitions and with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to put them in the petition bag.

To lie upon the Table.