HC Deb 07 February 1985 vol 72 cc640-1W
Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the explosion at Abbeystead.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

The report by the Health and Safety Executive to the Health and Safety Commission on the explosion at the Abbeystead water transfer station on 23 May 1984 is published today. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library.

The report sets out in detail how the explosion followed an accumulation of methane gas in the water transfer station.

The report draws attention to the fact that methane is soluble in water and that it can be given off by ground water entering workings. It makes recommendations to designers, constructors and operators of tunnelled raw water transfer systems to help improve safety standards. The findings are being widely publicised throughout the civil engineering profession and incorporated in professional training. The number of similar water transfer schemes in this country is extremely small.

A number of the recommendations contained in the report have already been implemented by the Health and Safety Executive. Following the explosion, the executive wrote to water authorities alerting them to the possible dangers of water transfer and comparable systems where methane may create a risk. Interim advice on the risk of gas evolution at water boreholes has been produced for the guidance of users. Further advice on the wider aspects of methane evolution from ground water is also being prepared.

My right hon. Friend has asked the Health and Safety Commission to report to him as soon as possible on the implementation of the outstanding recommendations in the report; and to inform itself and keep him informed of any issues which local people may wish to raise when they have had the opportunity to study the report.

This was a most tragic occurrence, and the deepest sympathy has been extended to those who suffered loss, or injury in this explosion. We are determined to see that every possible lesson is learnt and applied.