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ICL Plastics

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 11 May 2004, a tragic factory explosion occurred at the ICL Plastics premises in Glasgow. Nine people were killed and 33 were seriously injured. Proceedings were subsequently taken against ICL Tech Ltd and ICL Plastics Ltd under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and in August 2007 the companies pled guilty to the charges. I should like to express my sympathy to the bereaved families and to the injured survivors.

In October 2007, the Government and the Lord Advocate of Scotland announced a joint investigation into the explosion. Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk, was appointed chair of the joint independent inquiry in December 2007. Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of Lord Gill’s report.

I should like to thank Lord Gill and his team for the way in which they handled the inquiry and for fulfilling the terms of reference so efficiently.

The key message from this report is that this was an avoidable disaster and that its causes are clear. While the inquiry has established that the primary responsibility for safety lay with the site user, it has identified that there were failings across the system.

In the case of the site user, the report sets out serious failings in risk assessment, inspection and maintenance, among others. It refers to both certain inadequacies in the liquid petroleum gas (LPG) safety regime in which it operated in the mid-1970s and late 1980s and the urgency of HSE’s response since the explosion.

The Government welcome the report and we fully accept Lord Gill’s recommendation that a sharper, clearer safety regime is needed for LPG bulk installations.

Lord Gill’s report proposes that this should be achieved through a four-phase action plan:

the replacement of metallic pipework and steel risers on a systematic and prioritised basis; and early inspection of all buildings that have a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supply to identify any hazardous features from the design or layout;

the establishment of a permanent and uniform safety regime to govern the installation, maintenance, monitoring and replacement of all LPG systems, including clear guidance on responsibilities of supplier and user;

the development of a continuing and planned safety regime, particularly in relation to the use of polyethylene pipes; and

the improvement of communications between suppliers, users and HSE and also within HSE.

In responding to Lord Gill’s report, the immediate priority is the replacement of buried LPG pipework.

The HSE has already announced a joint programme of work with UKLPG for the systematic replacement of buried LPG metallic pipework. This will be a prioritised programme starting in October.

The Government also agree that further improvements are needed to the safety regime in this area and we expect to provide a full response to Lord Gill’s report in January next year. I have therefore today asked the chair of HSE and its board to consider the report’s findings and to report back to me on progress by the end of September, addressing both Lord Gill’s criticisms of its actions since the explosion and how the report’s recommendations can be taken forward. I have asked HSE to explore with the LPG suppliers, users and with trade unions how improvements to the LPG safety regime can be made.

I will report back to Parliament in the autumn on the progress that has been made and I will ensure that honourable Members have the opportunity to feed in their views before the Government’s full response to Lord Gill’s report is issued.

Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.