§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Norman Tebbit)
The fishing vessel "Carinthia" sailed from Buckie at about midnight on 24–25 June bound for the fishing grounds off Noup Head, north-west of Orkney, with a crew of six on board.
At 1900 hours on Wednesday 27 June a lifebuoy marked "Carinthia" was found on the west side of Rousay, Orkney. This caused inquiries to be made by the coastguard to try to establish the ship's whereabouts.
It was established that the vessel's last known contact had been at 0900 hours on Tuesday 26 June, when "Carinthia" radioed the fishing vessel "Crimmond" that she was making for the Minches. Her position at this time was about 27 miles north-west of the mainland of the Orkneys. There was a north-westerly wind of force 8 at this time. The fishing vessel "Crimmond" was unable to regain radio contact with "Carinthia" an hour or two later.
Following the finding of the lifebuoy, coastguard and coastal radio stations in Scotland immediately broadcast an alert, and ships in the area started searching. The Kirkwall and Stromness life-boats 778 were launched, and an RAF Nimrod commenced searching at first light on Thursday 28 June in the Wick-Orkney-Shetlands area. The search area covered approximately 2,500 square miles, and it was hampered by low cloud in the initial stages.
I regret to have to inform the House that, following a thorough search of the area, the search and rescue operation has been abandoned and the "Carinthia" must be presumed lost. My Department has commenced a preliminary inquiry into this casualty.
I am sure that hon. Members would wish to join me in expressing deepest sympathy for the families and relatives of the crew of the "Carinthia" and, indeed, for the whole fishing community of Buckie.
§ Mr. Myles
In thanking my hon. Friend for that statement and for expressing sympathy, I take it that when I call on the relatives of those who were on board—Eddie Lawson, skipper, of 12 St. Peter's Road, Buckie, Charles Cargill, of 7 East Carlton Terrace, Buckie, James Lobban, senior, and James Lobban, junior, of 97 Seatown, Buckie, David Flett, of 14 Cliff Street, Findochty, and Richard Mair, of 56 Netherha Road, Buckie—I carry the heartfelt sympathy of everyone in this House.
§ Mr. John Smith
On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to say that we associate ourselves with the expressions of regret from the Minister and the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) at the loss of life on this occasion. May I ask the Minister whether the inquiry will be carried out with the usual diligence that the Department of Trade applies to these matters?
§ Mr. Tebbit
Yes, indeed, Mr. Speaker. I think that we are all conscious of the dangers of fishing and the way in which fishermen bear those dangers, and sometimes pay the cost. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall seek to ensure that the Department carries on those high standards of diligence that it upheld when he was Secretary of State.