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Maternity Home Fire, Reading

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the recent accident at the Delwood Maternity Home, Reading.

My right hon. Friend is awaiting the report of a special committee of inquiry appointed by the regional hospital board, and he is not, therefore, in a position to make any detailed statement at the moment. Mean-while, he is sure that the House will wish to express its profound sympathy with the parents who were bereaved by this tragic event.

While thanking my hon. Friend for those expressions of sympathy, in which, I am sure, the whole House will join, may I ask whether, in view of the widespread national concern about this appalling tragedy, we can be assured that everything is being done to expedite the completion of this inquiry?

I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend has no desire whatever to see any delay in the inquiry, but I am sure the House will recognise that it cannot be conducted until we have the fire officer's report, which must go first to the inquest, and before evidence can be obtained from the vital witness, Sister Holland, who has been too ill to be interviewed or even to attend the inquest. Until these possibilities are available, we cannot continue with the inquiry.

What outside authority had the responsibility for the inspection of the kitchen and heating equipment, which, it is understood, was the basis of the trouble? In any event, was it with the hon. Lady's concurrence that the fire officer opinionated that no blame was to be attached to the people who ran this establishment?

In view of the fact that both an inquest and an inquiry are to be held, I do not think that those questions should be answered at this time, even if I had the information available.