Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, likened the fire at the Buncefield storage depot to the burning oil fields in Kuwait following Saddam Hussein?s invasion in the early ?90s. Speaking after the Statement in Parliament on the oil depot explosion, Peter Lilley also expressed his gratitude and praise for the emergency services for their exemplary courage, dedication and commitment in dealing with the explosion and fire over the last hours.
Peter Lilley said: “I visited the burning oil fields in Kuwait and never expected to see an equally terrifying inferno so close to a built-up area on the doorstep of my constituency.
“Following the Deputy Prime Minister?s Statement to the House, I informed him that my constituents whose homes have been damaged need to know as soon as possible whether they will be able to claim for those damages from the owners of the depot, or their insurance policies. The Deputy Prime Minister was able to reassure me that the insurance companies have made it clear that any claims for damage to homes will be properly entertained, but that if the government found there were any difficulties, it would play a part in encouraging all parties to come together so that people are property compensated. I was also encouraged by the assurance he gave that the government would do all it could to ensure that that happens.
“I have subsequently been advised that the industrial estate which the Buncefield site also houses a major computer server for the NHS and that since the weekend hospitals in the South East have been able to access computerised patient records, are unable to discover which patients are coming to which clinics, are unable to prepare medical records, and are unable to request or view the results of blood tests, CT scans or MRIs on the hospital network. I shall be raising this issue as a matter of urgency with Health Ministers.?
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Extract from Hansard attached:
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): As my constituency borders the Buncefield storage depot, may I endorse, and associate my constituents and myself with, the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) and the Deputy Prime Minister, in which they expressed gratitude and praise for the emergency services for their exemplary courage, dedication and commitment over the past 30 hours? I visited the burning oil fields in Kuwait and never expected to see an equally terrifying inferno so close to a built-up area on the doorstep of my constituency.
May I raise two points that my constituents have put to me that have not been mentioned so far? There is a fear that the partly burned fuel might generate carcinogenic chemicals, so will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that that is not the case? Constituents whose homes have been damaged need to know as soon as possible whether they will be able to claim for those damages from the owners of the depot, or their insurance policies. I end by expressing my gratitude to the Deputy Prime Minister for the action that he has taken in response to these events.
The Deputy Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for indicating that our emergency forces acted with exemplary courage. They certainly played their part with tremendous dedication in what he rightly called an inferno. The chief fire officer told me yesterday that he had never seen anything on such a scale. We are dealing with a situation on a scale that is quite unique in Europe. Indeed, we are in uncharted waters with the problems that come from the chemicals produced by burning oil and petrol, and it is thus difficult for me to give proper answers to such questions. I am advised that the chemicals are not toxic, but let us wait and see. Discussions are going on at the moment and investigations are under way. When we have further information, we will report to the House as soon as possible.
The insurance companies have made it clear that any claims for damage to homes will be properly entertained. However, if we find that there are any difficulties, which is sometimes the case when such terrible and tragic incidents occur, the Government can play a part in encouraging parties to come together so that people are properly compensated. The right hon. Gentleman can be sure that we will do all that we can to ensure that that happens.
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