HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc889-90
26. Mrs. Chalker

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will consider introducing the EPIRB—emergency position indicating radio beacon—as a legal requirement for all sea-going ships.

Mr. Clinton Davis

British ships, subject to certain exceptions related to size and area of operations, must carry portable radio equipment for use in emergency. I am at present carefully examining the need for additional devices, such as EPIRBs, particularly for fishing vesels.

Mrs. Chalker

In view of the increasing perils and difficulties facing our rescue services, will the Minister take further steps to ensure that ships are better equipped with distress and survival equipment?

Mr. Davis

This is a matter which is constantly under review, and we play a leading part in the deliberations upon it at IMCO. Only today I have approved the Merchant Shipping (Radio) (Fishing Vessels) Rules to take effect from 1st January next year. This will significantly affect the safety position for fishing vessels.

Mr. McNamara

I welcome my hon. Friend's statement. Does he realise that there are two issues which the article in the Sunday Times confused—namely, long-distance search and rescue and near-water search and rescue? There is considerable feeling among people in the fishing industry that vessels should have these location beacons aboard so that even if the ships are lost adequate steps may be taken to trace the wrecks to discover why they foundered.

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) has a considerable knowledge of this matter and he is right. The article was confused in the respect he mentions. As I said, we are carefully examining how important it is to install these additional devices and I shall be prepared to listen to any representations that my hon. Friend may wish to make.