HC Deb 05 February 1976 vol 904 cc1437-9

4.21 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide safety regulations covering the use of privately owned swimming pools made available for public use. I wish to do this quite simply by extending the powers of local authorities under Section 233(1) of the Public Health Act 1936 so as to require the proprietors of swimming pools used by the public in what I describe as an ancillary capacity, but for which no separate charge is made, to abide by the model byelaws now applying to public swimming baths.

The typical example that I wish to cover is a pool at an hotel or holiday camp. I have no doubt that the vast majority of pools at these establishments are well managed and properly supervised but, regrettably, there are exceptions, and too many fatal accidents have occurred in the past few years for the present situation to he allowed to continue.

Unfortunately, the exact number of deaths is not officially recorded, as I found when I tabled a Question in the autumn of 1973, but the total for all types of pools is no fewer than 59. Of this figure, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has calculated that seven occurred in school, hotel or purely private pools, and as many as 29 in pools not classified as open to the general public. This is, therefore, a serious matter. and one that ought to be tackled.

I should like to quote from a pamphlet issued by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Referring to hotel and holiday camp pools, it says: Generally speaking hotel and holiday camp management seems to take scant regard of the need for trained pool supervisors and rules to be laid down. This especially applies to open air pools in hotels, where guests may be few in number at any one time … It is the view of RoSPA's Water Safety Organiser that legislation which would enable local authorities to make byelaws in respect of this type of pool should be considered. In the case of one such recent drowning accident the manager admitted that there had been no organised supervision in operation. The pamphlet goes on to say that the Medical Officer of Health of Great Yarmouth reported: The particular tragic accident of which you write occurred in cloudy water. The pool has had problems recently with algae and it would seem as though this was the cause of the turbidity. The matter is, at the moment, being energetically discussed with the Public Analyst, as there is some controversy about the chlorine levels that we require in pools, including pools in the town with no problems, and this particular pool", which was in a holiday camp.

This paragraph of the pamphlet concludes: My personal view is that many pools are left in the care of people who, however willing, do not realise that a certain amount of expertise is required in their management. I am aware that since as long ago as July 1974 the Home Office has had a working party considering the whole aspect of water safety, including swimming pools, but in view of the increasing number of tragedies, and as no solution has been reached, and because I suspect that it may be some time before any decision is made, I wish to introduce the Bill. I also understand that the Department of the Environment accepts that new legislation is required to extend the byelaw control to cover the kind of semi-private pool that I have described.

I have been prompted into action by one local authority in my constituency which attracts a large holiday trade in the summer months. This is the South Wight Borough Council which reacted promptly and rightly following a tragic death in my constituency at a holiday camp last summer.

Here I would like to pay tribute to Mr. T. E. Payne of Erith in Kent, the father of the unfortunate boy who drowned, who particularly requested that measures be taken to bring about greater control of the management of such pools. He has personally drawn up a list of 17 matters which he considers should be the minimum standards required by law of the proprietors of these pools, and I hope that in due course every one of these provisions will be included in the regulations.

In the hope, however, that the Government will give favourable consideration to my Bill today, I seek as an interim measure purely to extend the model byelaws relating to safety under Section 233 of the Public Health Act 1936 so that they cover the pools that I have described and thus go a long way to meet the points made by Mr. Payne, including proper supervision, regular cleaning, provision of handrails, and life-saving apparatus.

I also seek to provide that the responsibility for seeing that these byelaws are honoured falls directly on the environmental health officers of district and borough councils throughout the country.

Finally, let me make it abundantly clear that my Bill does not affect the purely private pool within the curtelage of a private residence.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Stephen Ross, Mr. A. J. Beith, Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Mr. Patrick Cormack, Mr. David Penhaligon, Mr. Cyril Smith, Mr. John Tomlinson and Mr. James Wellbeloved.

Back to