§ Mr. Adam Hunter
asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether the report of the inquiry into serious gas explosions is yet ready for publication.
§ Mr. Benn
, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 28th June 1977; Vol. 934, c. 111], supplied the following further information:
The 21 recommendations of the King Report mainly concern matters which are either the responsibility of the British Gas Corporation or such that British Gas is best placed to take suitable action. The chairman has now informed me of the actions that have been and are being taken to implement these recommendations. British Gas is conducting a sustained public relations campaign on gas safety, which is currently concentrating on the importance of reporting gas leaks and which will also cover the need to ensure that gas appliances and fittings are properly installed and maintained. This I particularly welcome, given the extent 316W to which the King Report showed explosions to be caused either by mistakes or ill-considered actions by the public, including deliberate interference with the gas supply. The many other steps which the Corporation is taking are detailed in a separate document which it is releasing today. The statement covers such items as an accelerated programme of replacement of mains and services, a considerably increased annual cost; and the adoption as soon as supplies are available of self-sealing plug-in flexible connectors for new domestic cookers which the Corporation installs. I am arranging for a copy of the document to be placed in the Library of the House. As to the recommendations which involve Government Departments, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport tells me that the statutory undertakers are being reminded of the current arrangements that require them to co-ordinate their work with each other and with local authorities to reduce damage to each other's services.
The Chief Constables' Traffic Committee has taken note of the recommendation that existing restrictions on parking or movement of vehicles on pavements or verges should be enforced more vigorously. As to the suggestion that vehicles heavier than are now permitted should be subject to restrictions, he will examine carefully the consequences for loading on roads of any new vehicle types proposed by the EEC or in any other context.
The Transport and Road Research Laboratory has long been conducting an extensive programme into the effect of loads on underground pipes. It will examine the evidence on which the King Report based its recommendations in this respect.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has been considering the committee's proposals for amendment of Building Regulations to cover the sealing of pipe duct and cable entries. There are certain technical problems which have to be overcome. Alternative means by which greater use of such sealing—already widespread for certain applications—might be encouraged are under discussion.
As regards the committee's recommendation on the collection and publication of more comprehensive statistics of 317W accidents generally, preliminary indications are that it would be difficult and costly to assemble these on a timely and consistent basis, but the Government are continuing to examine the possibilities.
I am glad, therefore, to be able to assure the House that the lessons learnt from the King Report are being conscientiously and promptly applied. There can be no more effective way of maintaining and enhancing the already high standards of gas safety to which the report paid tribute.