Bomb Incidents

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th January 1979.

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Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South 12:00 am, 18th January 1979

With permission, I wish to make a statement. At 10.40 p.m. last night a bomb exploded at a Texaco oil terminal on Canvey Island, producing an 18-in diameter hole in a tank containing aviation fuel. The fuel escaped from the tank into a safety moat and did not catch fire. The Essex police had received no advance warning that a bomb had been planted.

At midnight a caller told the Press Association that the Provisional IRA had planted a bomb on Canvey Island and another bomb in the Blackwall tunnel, both of which were to explode at midnight. This message was passed immediately to the Essex police and the Metropolitan Police, but the explosion at Canvey Island had already taken place. The Metropolitan Police searched the Black-wall tunnel, and while they were doing so, at 12.40 a.m., a bomb exploded at a gasholder near the south exit of the tunnel, causing an explosion and fire. At 1.30 a.m. a second gasholder caught fire. By 3.15 a.m. both fires had been extinguished, and a secondary fire at 4.15 a.m. was quickly dealt with.

There were no injuries as a result of these explosions. In addition to the two bombs that exploded, a further explosive device was discovered yesterday lying partly covered at the side of the M6 in Leicestershire. Army bomb disposal experts were called and safely defused the device. The police are carrying out detailed investigations into all these incidents. The debris from the bomb that exploded and the unexploded device will be carefully examined for any evidence that may help the police to trace those responsible for these and the earlier incidents. It was fortunate that no one was killed or injured by these explosions, but their potential danger cannot be overstated. No estimate has yet been made of the damage caused to property.

I am sure that the House will join me in condemning these attacks and will support the Government in their determination not to be swayed by such methods. The vigilance of the public and co-operation with the police are of the utmost importance as the threat of further attacks remains high.