HC Deb 17 July 1968 vol 768 cc1410-2
18. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the success of Coastal Command in finding a small rubber dinghy in the Atlantic and rescuing its occupant, and on the availability of aircraft for such purposes.

24. Earl of Dalkeith

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost to public funds of mounting search and rescue operations necessitated by the transatlantic solo yacht race; and what contribution has been offered by the sponsors of the race towards this cost.

Mr. Reynolds

Following reports on 18th June that M. de Kat was in difficulties, Shackletons from Ballykelly and Kinloss maintained a search until his dinghy was sighted late on 20th June. Sea rescue apparatus was dropped, the Norwegian ship "Jagona" was directed to the spot and a Shackleton remained on task till M. de Kat was rescued.

Subject to Service requirements and practicability, Shackletons are available to assist any vessel or individual in distress in waters surrounding the United Kingdom.

Although it would be possible to cost the flying statistically, the figure would be misleading since the effort involved was largely in substitution for normal operational training. In accordance with long-standing maritime tradition, no charge is made for assistance given when life may be in danger at sea.

Mr. Campbell

While Coastal Command is to be warmly congratulated on the success of this life-saving operation, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he does not consider it desirable that the organisers of such ocean races should arrange for prior basic vetting of the seaworthiness of vessels taking part? Would he also agree that there should be radar beacons in the life-dinghies?

Mr. Reynolds

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments about the work of Coastal Command. To answer the latter part of his supplementary question, any conditions that might govern ships going to sea—I refer to ships of any kind— would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to whom he may care to address a Question.

Earl of Dalkeith

While applauding the Sunday Observer for its initiative in organising this event, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will look closely into the whole question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) of vetting vessels for seaworthiness, since this would be an important factor and might save a great deal of the taxpayers' money, and later, possibly, the risk to life?

Mr. Reynolds

I agree with the noble Lord about the importance of this and similar matters and assure him that we would be prepared to give advice. However, the responsibility is that of the President of the Board of Trade.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I, too, congratulate Coastal Command on this magnificent piece of seamanship and airmanship. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what part the French Government played in supplying aircraft or ships to rescue one of its own countrymen?

Mr. Reynolds

There was a total of 176 hours 44 minutes of flying time undertaken in this task by Coastal Command, and a total of seven sorties lasting 95 hours 54 minutes by other countries, two of which, totalling over 26 hours, were by the French Air Force.

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