HL Deb 06 June 1946 vol 141 cc850-2WA

asked His Majesty's Government whether they will state the number of guards continuously on duty at the ammunition dump areas in West Perthshire, and at Murthly, Perthshire, respectively; whether this number is augmented at week-ends; and whether motor patrols are employed to visit regularly the more remote sites.


No guards are continuously on duty during working hours, either in West Perthshire or at Murthly, but outside working hours they are provided as follows:

West Perthshire—Twelve military and six civilian guards are continuously on duty, augmented at week-ends by 24 military personnel patrolling on motorcycles or in cars. All remote sites are visited by patrols at least once each day. At some remote sites adjacent to the railway the railway staff co-operate. An additional 100 military guards equipped with twelve motor-cycles are due to arrive on June 13. Of this number at least 20 men will be continuously on duty.

Murthly—Seven military guards are continuously on duty after working hours until midnight. This depôt is entirely confined to an estate.


asked His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that the judicial proceedings now pending as the result of the explosion of 24 tons of high explosive at a Perthshire ammunition dump do not in any way affect the responsibility of the Government for compensating in full all who have sustained physical or financial injury as the result of official negligence in failing to maintain a proper guard over these vast stores of dangerous material; and whether they will accordingly refrain from further unworthy quibbling, and admit the obligation, which they can neither legally nor morally repudiate.


His Majesty's Government now understand that criminal proceedings will not be instituted in this case. In these circumstances it is possible to announce the decision regarding payment of compenstation. The War Department has decided, after careful consideration of all the circumstances, that though repudiating negligence, or legal liability on that or any other score, it will accept responsibility to the extent of providing adequate ex-gratia compensation for all meritorious claims arising out of death, injury or damage to property directly caused by the explosion, providing the claimant has not contributed to or caused the damage or injury by his or her wilful act or negligence.


also asked His Majesty's Government whether they are aware that at many of the ammunition dumps in West Perthshire, cases of explosives are lying in the open without any covering; also that the antique tanks and ancient petrol tins placed by the sides of ammunition huts for the optimistic purpose of extinguishing possible outbreaks of fire are usually empty, and often damaged; and whether they will take immediate steps to remedy this situation.


Cases of explosives are not stored in the open without covering. The noble Earl is probably referring to the stacks of empty boxes and containers which are awaiting despatch as salvage. These are not normally provided with covering. No immediate steps are contemplated to replace either the tanks or petrol tins referred to; these are not part of the essential fire-fighting apparatus, although they have proved useful on occasion.

House adjourned at ten minutes past four o'clock.