HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc435-6W
Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements have been made by the chemical industry to provide round-the-clock advice and assistance to the emergency services in incidents involving hazardous chemicals ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lane

A scheme, prepared by the Chemical Industries Association Ltd, will come into operation on 1st January 1974, under which companies despatching dangerous chemicals by road will maintain, either independently or on a joint basis, an emergency telephone, the number of which will be marked on all vehicles and containers used for this purpose. That number will be manned round-the-clock by a trained person who will locate the employee with the relevant expertise to advise on the containment or disposal of any chemical involved in an accident.

To meet cases where a vehicle is involved in an accident at some distance from its point of despatch, a "pooling" scheme is being developed under which companies will share information about one another's products, so that, if an expert is required at the scene of an incident, a nearby depot will be able to provide one.

There will be cases where remedial action lies outside the immediate resources of the emergency services. A register has accordingly been prepared of stocks of neutralising agents and other equipment held by chemical companies and other bodies throughout the country, so as to enable the emergency services to call on the nearest specialised personnel and the stocks of equipment held locally by the participating companies.

To supplement these arrangements a national advice centre will be established at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell. The centre will be able to send its own crew and equipment to incidents occurring within a reasonable distance of Harwell and will build up data in computerised form of all chemicals known to be used and transported in the United Kingdom.

The Government welcome these proposals, which have been prepared in consultation with representatives of the emergency services, and greatly appreciate the work of the Chemical Industries Association Ltd, in preparing this scheme.