§ 2.47 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have anything to add to their replies to the Questions put by Lord Faringdon on the 13th July, 1964, and the 21st January, 1965, concerning the regulations covering the transport of inflammable substances.]
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, following the consultations to which I referred in my reply to my noble friend's Question on January 21, 1965, a Standing Advisory Committee on Dangerous Substances was established for the purpose, among others, of advising the Secretary of State for the Home Department on matters concerned with the carriage by road of dangerous substances. At its first meeting, the Committee decided to give priority to the problem of dangerous inflammable liquids, and a technical sub-committee subsequently identified over 200 of these substances and prepared proposals for the labelling of the packages and containers, and for the marking of the vehicles in which they are carried by road. The Committee approved these proposals at its meeting last month. Statutory instruments giving effect to the proposals are now being drafted and will be submitted for 1682 the consideration of the Committee and of other interested bodies as soon as possible. The substances concerned are inflammable liquids with a flash-point below 73 degrees Fahrenheit.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. It is perhaps rather more encouraging than the last one. Can my noble friend give any estimate as to when the necessary orders will be ready for presentation to your Lordships' House? This Standing Advisory Committee seems to be a Committee which has slept on its feet, because it is more than two years since I first raised this subject and was then encouraged to believe that steps would shortly be taken. Can I ask my noble friend whether the steps can now be expected within a short time, because many people are extremely anxious about this matter?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I can answer only for Her Majesty's Government, and we certainly have not slept on our feet for two years, because I have been responsible for this for only some 20 months, and immediately after my noble friend asked his Question and I investigated the matter, I set up the new Committee to which I have referred. In the intervening period, they have examined some 200 substances, and have come to their conclusions; and my noble friend may be interested to know that what we are now going to do will not be dependent on ratification of the international and European agreements. With regard to when the regulations will be in operation, I cannot give an exact date because of the consultations which have to take place; but I hope that it will be before the end of the present year.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Is he aware that a number of the companies which are interested in these matters have begun to evolve systems of precautions and markings for themselves, and that at least one company has submitted such proposed markings to the appropriate fire authority? Would he not agree that, while there has been this commendable liveliness on the part of the companies in connection with their responsibilities, none the less it has disadvantages in that if all the companies were to make different schemes it would lead to considerable confusion? Is this 1683 not an additional reason calling for immediate action in this matter?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, there is no dispute with regard to the urgency of this matter. No one is more anxious than I to see these regulations in operation. I am aware of the concern shown by private firms and their activities in this matter. They are indeed commendable, particularly the Shell company scheme, but such schemes have only been introduced pending the introduction of statutory measures. All the firms concerned will be consulted in these matters so that we can get agreed measures in regard to these 200 substances, and this will go a long way towards protecting the public from accidents of the kind, which we all fear.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I should also like to thank him for his assurance that we are not going to have to wait upon any foreign ratification.