HC Deb 27 February 1940 vol 357 cc1872-3
23. Miss Rathbone

asked the Minister of Shipping what proportion of British mercantile vessels, including fishing craft, working in areas under risk from enemy attack or mines are fitted with rafts, kapoc waistcoats and steel helmets; whether this is done at the expense of the Government or of the employers; and whether, in view of the recent heavy casualties, these forms of provision will be made compulsory?

Sir J. Gilmour

I recognise that lifeboats alone are not sufficient under present conditions and I have been in communication with shipowners with a view to securing the provision of rafts of a suitable type and buoyant waistcoats or belts as rapidly as possible. Shipowners responded immediately and inquiries show that with few exceptions rafts are now provided, and that good progress has been made in the manufacture and supply of waistcoats and belts. I have decided to make compulsory the provision of rafts on all ships operating in dangerous waters. I have advised the shipowners' organisations that steel helmets also should be provided for ships' personnel, and the Admiralty have taken power, in the Protection of Exposed Personnel (Merchant Shipping) Order, 1940, to require protective equipment to be provided for personnel exposed to machine-gun attack by enemy aircraft.

Miss Rathbone

Are we to understand that from now on the provision of rafts is compulsory; also, I am not quite sure whether the provision of the other items is compulsory?

Sir J. Gilmour

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Thorne

Is the Minister aware that if a man or woman wears a life-saving jacket it is impossible to sink.