§ Dr. Godman
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will outline the structure and status of the proposed inquiry into the recent loss of the MFV Antares; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
The inquiry into the loss of MFV Antares, which is now well advanced, began on 23 November and was given the status of an inspector's inquiry, under the Merchant Shipping (Accident Investigation) Regulations, on 26 November. The inspectors appointed have extensive powers under the Merchant Shipping Acts, including the power to call witnesses before them, require witnesses to answer their questions and produce documents, and to carry out any examination of ships or equipment they deem necessary.
The inspectors will report to the chief inspector of marine accidents who will in turn report to the Secretary of State. The chief inspector's report will include the inspectors' findings and whatever recommendations he considers will help to avoid a similar accident in the future. The regulations require the report to be published unless the Secretary of State orders a formal investigation or there is good reason not to publish.
In addition, a Royal Navy inquiry is taking place; and there will be a fatal accident inquiry before the sheriff, in preparation for which the Strathclyde police is carrying out an investigation. All three groups of investigators—Royal Navy, police and inspectors—are fully co-operating with each other, but they will each arrive at their conclusions and make their respective reports independently.