HC Deb 29 March 1961 vol 637 cc1327-8
12. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the increasing efficiency of the inflatable type of lifejacket and the increasing use of this type by the Services, he will now permit the use of such apparatus by crews and passengers in ships of the merchant navy.

Mr. Marples

The specification for lifejackets to be carried in merchant ships laid down in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1948, excludes the inflatable type. The revised Convention adopted at last year's conference in London, but not yet in force, includes an alternative specification for an inflatable type for the crews of ships, other than passenger ships and tankers. I am prepared to consider any design which will meet the specification.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a sailing man, if I were a passenger in a liner and thought, as in fact I think, that the ordinary standard reversible lifejacket, if I were unconscious, would permit my head to flop in the water and might also be filled with kapok, which would mean that with oil on the water it might sink within an hour or two, I should think that we ought to adopt the up-to-date specification as laid down internationally? Has not the time come to revise these rather out-of-date provisions?

Mr. Marples

I want to make it clear that this new specification to which my hon. Friend refers is not laid down internationally. At the moment the kapok or similar substance must be enclosed in a P.V.C. envelope, which is impervious to oil. This international standard is not necessarily laid down only for the merchant navy and for people who know how to use this equipment, but also for passengers who are not used to putting on life-belts.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this regulation about the covering of kapok with P.V.C. was issued by the Ministry of Transport two years ago? Secondly, will he tell me how many countries took part in this Convention and whether they all agreed?

Mr. Marples

I think that about 30 or 40 countries took part, and they nearly all agreed. It will come into force when it has been ratified by the Governments of 15 countries. It was quite a big Convention. The P.V.C. envelope has proved quite satisfactory for kapok or similar substances.

Mr. Dodds

In view of the enterprise which the right hon. Gentleman has shown while Minister in seeing things for himself, may I ask whether he is sufficiently interested to see a demonstration which would clearly indicate how those lifejackets which are approved by the Ministry of Transport are antiquated compared with those of the inflatable type now available? Will he look for himself?

Mr. Marples

I am prepared to consider any design which will meet the specification.

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