HC Deb 30 June 1954 vol 529 cc1345-6
35. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a statement on the result of his discussions with the British Transport Commission on the danger to children arising from the Midland canals.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

Consultation with the Chairman of the British Transport Commission has confirmed my previous conclusion that, since at many points the public have free access to canal banks by means of a towpath or right of way, the practical safeguards against danger to children lie in proper parental control, reinforced wherever possible by locally concerted action in which the Commission will always be ready to cooperate.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister not aware that 21 children, from the ages of two to nine, have died in canals in the last two months in the Midlands? Will he not send someone to see these danger spots? Will he think again about this matter and attempt to do something?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am concerned about this matter, but I also recognise that generations of children in Britain have been successfully and safely brought up in villages alongside river banks, and we must keep a sense of proportion in these matters. I am certain that the real responsibility lies with the parents, whose duties in this matter are by no means lessened by public responsibility. I also recognise that in this case at Birmingham the British Transport Commission, my own divisional engineer and the local authorities have recently had a conference to see what action could be taken.

Mr. Shurmer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the question of danger spots on the canals in the Midland areas has caused great public concern and conferences have been held in the Black Country? As he stated, I attended a conference last Friday in Birmingham—

Sir H. Williams

Did you fall into the canal?

Mr. Shurmer

Mind your own business.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must remember that he is addressing the Chair.

Mr. Shurmer

I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker. A conference was called by the Lord Mayor in Birmingham and the officials of the right hon. Gentleman attended. I must say that they are trying to co-operate, but I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will help them all he can. It is not a question of conferferences, it is a question of danger spots which are there and which have been admitted, even by the chief constable, the Lord Mayor and officials in that area.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I will certainly help in every local case I can through the British Transport Commission, but it would be a great mistake to underrate the importance of the obligation imposed on parents in this matter.