HC Deb 19 December 1991 vol 201 cc236-7W
Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he plans any further inquiry following the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch on the Bowbelle and Marchioness disaster.

Mr. Rifkind

The marine accident investigation branch carried out a thorough inspector's inquiry into this accident; the report included 27 safety recommendations. Action on 20 of them is complete and the remainder are being implemented. In addition, the MAIB report included criticism of some aspects of my Department's and the maritime industry's approach to river safety in earlier years. Although the MAIB considered that there have been recent improvements in this respect, I have concluded that it would be desirable to set up an independent investigation into these matters.

I am pleased to be able to announce that Mr. John Hayes, Secretary General of the Law Society has agreed to carry out an investigation with the following terms of reference: In the light of the BOWBELLE/MARCHIONESS disaster, to examine the handling since 1980 by the Department of Transport of its responsibility for the safety of vessels on rivers and inland waters and to report on the effectiveness of the present approach. The investigation should take account of developments in the field of marine safety at the international level.

Mr. Hayes will be assisted by an expert adviser. He will start work as soon as possible in the new year. Mr. Hayes will be inviting all those who may wish to do so to put their views to him. His report will be published.