In the second half of 1971 there were six explosions causing damage over £100 in which an external escape of gas was involved. It is as yet too soon to say in which of these cases the gas industry will pay compensation.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he recall a particularly serious accident at Westoning in my constituency in November last which might well have proved fatal? Is he aware that people are becoming increasingly alarmed by the incidence of natural gas leakage, which is difficult to detect and which has proved a serious problem in other countries? Will he now consider instituting an inquiry into the extent of this risk and the methods which should be adopted to meet it? Finally, will he ensure that the Gas Council is suitably generous when it comes to compensation?
Professor Morton has recently done an investigation into the safety of natural gas, and his figures show a reduction in explosions from the time when town gas was in common use. I understand that the gas board concerned does not admit negligence in the incident in my hon. Friend's constituency and, of course, it would not be called upon to pay co
Is my hon. Friend aware that many old people living on limited means are becoming increasingly reluctant to call in the gas board if they believe that there is a gas leak in their homes, for the simple reason that they are expected to pay a fixed charge for inspection? What plans has my hon. Friend for gas boards to make it clear that such people may claim back that cost through the social services?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for publicising that. It is a matter for the gas industry to fix its own scale of charges, but what my hon. Friend has said will help to make the position widely known among old people.
Is my hon. Friend aware that extreme and prolonged inconvenience, often over a period of days, has resulted in a disturbing number of cases following gas conversion and that over 16,000 complaints were received by the Gas Council in the past few years? Will he kindly institute an inquiry into the adequacy of the training of the gas engineers who do these conversions?
That is a matter which concerns not safety, but the convenience of customers. The performance of gas boards has improved greatly since the start of conversion and my hon. Friend may rest assured that the present converters are thoroughly trained and doing a good job.