HC Deb 01 February 1973 vol 849 cc1600-1
21. Mr. Cordle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up an independent commission on water safety in view of the number of drowning accidents in the United Kingdom each year; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lane

I cannot yet add to the reply which I gave to a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 6th December.—[Vol. 847, c. 440.]

Mr. Cordle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all those who are concerned about the human tragedy of drowning will be disappointed with the reply? Is he further aware that between 600 and 700 people in England and Wales annually die by drowning, that 150 of those are between the ages of 4 and 15, and that 110 drowning accidents occur to children between the ages of 1 and 4? Will he look at this matter again?

Mr. Lane

We are actively considering this matter at the moment. My right hon. Friend will shortly receive a deputation from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to discuss the proposal for a commission. In the meantime there is a great deal more that local authorities can do. Quite apart from any question of a commission, there are problems which require urgent attention—for example, the control of speedboats, which is a matter which we are now discussing with local authorities. Therefore, we are trying to make quick progress.

Sir R. Thompson

Do we need another independent commission to advise us—a commission whose findings no Government will implement? Would it not be wiser to encourage schools to teach children to swim and to provide facilities for them to do so?

Mr. Lane

There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. John Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware that the great bulk of the under-fives shown in the statistics drown in water butts and similar things, that that figure has nothing to do with the main problem, and that, unless we are careful, a great deal of false sentiment can be generated?

Mr. Lane

My hon. Friend is correct. A considerable number of cases of drowning take place in inland waters.