HL Deb 25 October 1960 vol 225 cc994-5

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government the numbers of those who were drowned this year through not being able to swim, and who, in attempting to rescue those drowning, were drowned themselves.]


My Lords, there is no material on which accurate figures can be provided of the numbers of people drowned through being unable to swim, or in attempting rescue. The most recent figures of deaths from accidental drowning in England and Wales are for the six months up to the end of June, 1960. In this period 407 people died from this cause, compared with 373 in the same period last year.


My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend whether anything is being done to try to reduce the terrible casualties to which he has referred. I hope he will ask the Minister concerned to see that something is done to lower these casualties.


My Lords, I am not quite certain what means my noble friend has in mind towards lowering these casualties. One means would be to teach children to swim; and although the curriculum in schools is not controlled by the Government, but by local education authorities, they are well aware of the importance of teaching children to swim. Increased provision for teachers of physical education has been made at training colleges, and local education authorities are certain to make the fullest possible use of the additional teachers. The provision of swimming pools, both in new schools being built, and in those planned, and the addition of swimming pools to existing schools is also being taken into consideration.


My Lords, would the Minister consider giving encouragement to local voluntary authorities to provide life-saving equipment and to promote life-saving exercises in the main seaside resorts?


My Lords, there are cases where swimming pools are provided by voluntary effort, and certainly great gratitude is owed to groups of parents, teachers and private citizens who have made this possible. Naturally the Government always give encouragement to any tendency of this kind, and are grateful for it.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that there is a strongly held belief in many parts of the coast that many people lose their lives by drowning because they know how to swim? Have the Government any figures which would confirm or discredit that view? Further, will the noble Lord look back over past years and see what the normal rate of death by drowning is in this country, and whether the figure he gave is not just a normal one?


My Lords, in answer to the first part of my noble friend's question, I am aware of this belief, because my noble friend himself told me of it five minutes before we came into the Chamber. As to the figures which he requests, I will certainly seek them out for him and give them to him privately. I regret that I am not able to give them to him at this moment.

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