HL Deb 11 May 1949 vol 162 cc500-1

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on the disastrous fire in Glasgow on May 4, in which thirteen young girls lost their lives and many more were hurt.]


My Lords, may I, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, express the deepest sympathy with all who have suffered injury or bereavement through this disastrous fire? The fire originated on the ground floor near the lift. The flames spread up the open lift shaft with great speed, and entered all floors as they passed to the top of the building. The circumstances are being carefully investigated. I am very glad to have this opportunity of paying tribute to the courage and resourcefulness of the firemen, the police and those employed at the premises, and to the able co-operation of the other public services.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for the answer, and associating myself in his expression of sympathy for the relatives of the deceased, does he not agree with me that it is an extraordinary and very distressing occurrence that so many lives were lost through people being trapped within a few feet of safety? Will the noble Lord ensure that a full inquiry is made to ascertain whether the safety precautions were adequate, and also satisfy himself that the fire brigades had full and adequate appliances for reaching high roofs?


My Lords, with regard to the last point, I have to-day read a full account of all the circumstances that are known of this disastrous fire, and I am satisfied that the fire brigades in Glasgow that were summoned to this fire are in possession of appliances which are probably as up-to-date as those of any fire brigade in this country. There was considerable difficulty about getting their ladders into operation, because of the overhead electric cables, which might have caused an even greater disaster had they made contact with the firemen's ladders. I can assure the noble Lord that the fullest investigation will be made into all the circumstances, and I can only repeat that after a perusal of all the facts of this case I am greatly impressed with both the courage and efficiency of the firemen, the police and, indeed, all the public services concerned.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord who is to make this careful investigation into the disastrous fire which occurred—whether it is to be a court of inquiry set up by his Department, and whether he will be in a position to report back again to the House when this inquiry has been completed?


My Lords, I shall be pleased to report back again to the House, but I am not at the moment able to say exactly what form the inquiry will take. At the present time, the Scottish Government Department are making a full investigation into all the circumstances. Under Section 33 of the Fire Services Act, 1947, it would be possible for the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry, if there were any suggestion that the Glasgow Fire Service had not properly carried out its duties under that Act. As there is no question but that the fire brigade acted in the most meritorious manner, there is no point in holding an inquiry under that section. The investigation is being held to inquire into all the facts of this disaster, and after the inquiry I shall be pleased to inform the noble Lord of the decision reached.


May we take it that there will be a further report? Shall I put down a question for that purpose, or will the noble Lord get in touch with me?


Perhaps the noble Lord will contact me when I am in a position to make a further statement.