HC Deb 10 April 1963 vol 675 cc1259-61
18. Mr. Hayman

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he will make a statement on the loss of the "Green Ranger" off the North Devon coast last winter.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

"Green Ranger" left Plymouth in tow in light seas and fair weather on the 15th November but had to seek shelter in a heavy ground swell north of Clovelly during the afternoon of the following day and anchored there that evening. Difficulty in weighing anchor delayed until next morning the attempt to reach Lundy Island for shelter. During this time the wind increased, finally to force 9. Assistance was called during the afternoon but the tow parted and the ship drove hard ashore near Hartland Point in the evening. The runner crew was taken off by breeches buoy at 0300 the following morning, 18th November.

In subsequent gales the ship broke in two and is a total loss—she will be offered for sale as she lies in the near future.

Mr. Hayman

Will the Civil Lord take into account that many people will think that the Admiralty was grossly incompetent in permitting this vessel to be taken in tow round Land's End at a time when she could, as after all she did, meet a gale of either force 9 or force 10? Will he and his right hon. Friend take into account that there is no harbour and no breakwater at Clovelly, and that the men who manned the beach lifeboat risked their lives to succour the men concerned? Will he also take into account that on that very same day there was an accident with another beach lifeboat at Seaham and nine lives were lost? Is it not time we spent some money on safeguarding our seamen instead of wasting hundreds of millions on Polaris missiles which may never be used?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite fair to suggest that this was a naval responsibility. The vessel was under tow by a commercial firm. I have been under considerable pressure to place just this kind of repair work in South Wales shipyards, and one of those shipyards won this tender, which included the towing of the vessel from Plymouth to South Wales. The weather forecast at the time was reasonable, but in this case it was not completely accurate.