Assistance for Training

Part of Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 17th March 1997.

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Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 6:45 pm, 17th March 1997

I am happy to support the new clause. Will the Minister confirm that fishing vessels fall outwith the United Kingdom's merchant fleet? If that is so, I hope that the Minister—if he is sympathetic, as he often is, to our case—will pay serious attention to the need to emphasise the training of our fellow citizens who are employed in marine-related businesses and the fishing industry, as well as those in the merchant fleet.

Safety training is especially important. I need hardly remind the Minister about the two terrible losses that we have just suffered. Allegations were made in Scotland over the weekend that the Arbroath, which foundered a few days ago with the loss of its crew, snagged its gear on a pipeline. Whatever the truth of those allegations, it is essential that those who go to sea, on any vessel, should be given the best safety training. The Minister will not be surprised to hear that such training should include training in donning immersion suits. Men may have only a few minutes to put the suits on. They are not easy to put on, especially in the darkness and if the sea is running and the vessel is going down. That is the sort of training that all our seafarers should be given.

Safety is of the essence, and the Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State have agreed with me on this in the past. I would like the measures dealing with the merchant marine to include also the fishing fleet, where safety is also important. If a vessel is going down, but the men and women on board have time to put on survival gear before going into the water, excellent equipment is important. I told the Under-Secretary in Committee about the French fishermen who had to jump off their ship west of St. Kilda. Those who had time to put on their survival suits survived, but the other men died quickly. Safety is of the essence, as is safety training.