HL Deb 12 May 1966 vol 274 cc783-5

3.8 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 when they expect to receive the Report of the Electricity Board's Committee of Inquiry into the collapse of three cooling towers at Ferry Bridge last November.]


My Lords, the Committee of Inquiry have made an interim report, and the Central Electricity Generating Board has told my right honourable friend that it expects to receive the Committee's final report towards the end of the summer. The Committee's preliminary findings were announced by the Board in December. The Committee were unable, on the evidence available at that time, to identify with certainty the cause of the failure and recommended a comprehensive programme of research which is now in progress. They indicated the basis on which they thought it would be reasonable to put in hand the work of rebuilding the fallen towers and reconstructing the standing towers. This work is now being carried out and no delay is expected in the commissioning of the station as a result of the accident. The Committee say that the standards of construction and materials of the towers appear to have been generally satisfactory and consider it unlikely that deficiencies in either materials or workmanship were prime causes of the collapse.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his full reply, and I can only inquire whether he can say that when the report comes out it will be made public?


My Lords, the C.E.G.B. were very prompt in publishing the interim report, and I feel sure that the Board will give the same degree of publicity to the findings and recommendations of the final report as they did to the interim one.


My Lords, as I motor through Ferry Bridge past the cooling towers probably once a week, may I take it that it is safe to continue to do so?


I think that the noble Lord can be fairly well assured of that. The position is that the towers only fell down under the Labour Government. They were put up under the Conservative Government. They are now being reconstructed under a Labour Government, so the noble Lord is quite safe.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what progress is being made in the redesigning of cooling towers to replace the present hyperbolic type


My Lords, this is one of the objects of the detailed and careful research which is being carried out, but so far as the recommendations made by the Committee in their interim report are concerned, they largely concern greatly thickening the concrete all the way up. There has as yet been no decision about any major alteration in the actual design which, as the noble Earl will be fully aware, is merely a prolongation upwards of the same type of tower which has been used very successfully in quite a number of other stations.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that since the accident the C.E.G.B. have asked the Cement and Concrete Association to test the construction at their experimental station at Wexham, near Slough, and are they aware that they have in fact built two or three model towers which, in due course, will be tested to destruction?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that information. It is an example of the careful way in which the matter is being gone into. We hope that this most unfortunate accident will eventually have good results.