asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ensure that, where dangerous loads are being carried on the roads, the police and fire authorities en route are notified in advance, as is the case with wide loads.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now make a statement on the report made to him about the explosion of a vehicle in West Bromwich.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now take steps to regulate the transport of explosives by road.
I would refer the hon. Members to replies given on 28th February and 15th March to Questions by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale).
Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether this matter is being actively pursued? Is he aware that local authorities are alarmed by the recent tragedy in West Bromwich? Can he promise us that urgent action is being taken to enable them to exercise some control?
The position is that an interim report has been made, but that it is merely a summary of the obvious facts of the accident. Experimental tests of chemicals of the type carried on that occasion are being carried out, and when we have a comprehensive report based on these tests we can decide what action is needed to prevent further accidents from occurring. Meanwhile, J should say that the use of hazardous chemicals has increased enormously, and a very large number of loads of them have to be carried. But despite the numbers involved, the accidents involving personal injury or damage are very rare.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this explosion caused very great damage in my constituency and destroyed a number of houses, and that had it not been for the bravery of the driver the damage might well have been considerably greater? Can the Minister of State say whether the inquiry is being conducted by an independent body or by the people responsible for loading the vehicle?
The manufacturers concerned are conducting an inquiry and they are having the benefit of independent experts to assist them. I fully agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the serious nature of the accident. That is why we are determined to go into the matter very thoroughly.
Is the Minister of State aware that had it not been for the coolness and high personal courage of the driver, Mr. John Walker, of Blackburn, there might have been a very serious loss of life? We clearly must avoid a repetition of this danger. Will he, therefore, tell us whether the report which is being prepared will be published or at least made available to hon. Members?
I would like to join with the hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the courage of the driver. I will consider whether the report could be published.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that it is the whole chapter of accidents and incidents of this sort which must be considered? Will he suggest to the Minister of Transport that suitable provisions should be included in the Road Traffic Bill now before the House?
There is already a good deal of legislation covering this matter, and in any further thoughts on it we would naturally consult the Minister of Transport.