HC Deb 07 April 1954 vol 526 cc50-2W
97. Captain Ryder

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will widen the inquiry into the cause of the fire on the s.s. "Empire Windrush", to ascertain why the fire spread so rapidly; and whether a greater use should not be made in new construction of incombustible materials in addition to existing fire-detection and fire-fighting appliances.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The court which will inquire into the fire which led to the loss of the "Empire Windrush" will, I am sure, investigate the rate at which the fire spread as well as all other relevant matters.

As for the second part of the Question, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1948, provided for three methods of protecting passenger ships structurally against fire. Briefly, the first requires the use of incombustible materials, the second the fitting of an automatic sprinkler, fire detection and fire alarm system, and the third a modified use of incombustible materials combined with an automatic fire detection and alarm system and a restricted use of combustible materials and furnishings. With all three methods there must be fire-resisting bulkheads spaced at intervals not greater than 131 feet. The British rules permit all three methods except that in the first they also require an automatic fire alarm and detection system.

I am satisfied that it is not necessary to require by regulation any greater use of incombustible materials than is already provided for by the Convention and the rules.

"Empire Windrush" was built before the Convention and the rules came into force.

Mr. Burden

98, 99 and 100. asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation(1) on how many occasions during the past two years defects in the machinery or engines of the troopship "Empire Windrush" have had to be repaired by the crew during a voyage;

(2) on how many occasions during the past two years has the s.s."Empire Wind-rush" failed to maintain her prearranged schedule through engine or machinery defects;

(3) on how many occasions during the last two years the s.s. "Empire Wind-rush" had repairs to her engines and machinery at ports outside the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) on how many occasions in 1953 and 1954 reports were made of engine trouble in the engine room of troopship" Empire Windrush"; the nature of the complaints; and what action was taken;

(2) the last occasion that fire was reported in the engine room of the troopship" Empire Windrush."

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As I announced to the House on Monday of last week, I have ordered a formal investigation, that is, a public inquiry, under the Merchant Snipping Acts into the circumstances attending the loss of the "Empire Windrush." This casualty is, therefore,sub judice and it would not be proper for me to answer questions on even purely factual matters when those are such as must be investigated by the court.

The" Empire Windrush" was, as the House knows, owned by the Government and it is, therefore, specially important that the usual practice which is followed when a formal investigation has been ordered should be observed in this instance.

I propose to do all I can to expedite the holding of the inquiry and I can obviously say nothing that might be held to prejudice the proceedings of the court.

Mrs. Braddock

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what compensation is to be paid to the relatives of the four men killed in the engine room of the troopship" Empire Windrush."

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In addition to the statutory death benefit payable under the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Act to the dependants of the four men, payment of four years' salary will be made in each case under the pension and insurance scheme of the New Zealand Shipping Company, by whom the deceased were employed.

Compensation for loss of effects is being paid in accordance with a National Maritime Board Agreement.