The regulations governing the safety of United Kingdom-registered ferries have been modified recently so that an increasing standard of survivability will apply. These regulations and others will, of course, be examined urgently if the need arises.
Speaking as a former shipwright, I am not so sure that those seemingly cumbersome rural vessels should be allowed to be put to sea in anything heavier than a force 6 wind. If the Government are so heavily committed to the safety of both crews and passengers, why will the Marine Safety Agency and the coastguard service suffer drastic cuts? Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the safety of crews and passengers will not be sacrificed for economic reasons?
The Government do not believe that ro-ro ferries are inherently unstable, provided that they are properly operated and maintained. The hon. Gentleman knows that no country in the world exercises more vigilant standards of inspection and supervision than the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman sought an assurance on the issue of safety standards and I am happy to give him that assurance and to underline our clear commitment, first, to seeking proper rationalisation and efficiency from all the agencies of Government, which is entirely proper, but, secondly, to do so with a clear commitment to maintaining safety standards.