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Shipping (Direction-Finding Service)

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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40 and 41.

asked the Postmaster General (1) how many ships at sea have requested radio direction-finding bearings from Post Office coastal radio stations in the four months ended 31st January, 1962; and what action has been taken on such requests;

(2) what was the cost of providing radio-telegraphy direction-finding bearings to ships at sea in the year ended 30th September, 1961, or nearest convenient year.

The answer to the first Question is 17. The ships were informed that the direction-finding service at British Coast Stations ceased from 1st September, 1961, and that bearings could not be given. In three of the cases the ship requested the transmission of a signal enabling it to take a bearing on the Coast Station by means of its own direction-finding apparatus, and such signal was provided. The cost of providing bearings to ships at sea during the year ended 31st March, 1961, was £5,176.

Is my hon. Friend aware that £5,000 is a very small sum compared with the loss which might be sustained by one ship going aground? Is she further aware that when the "Princess Victoria" was lost in the Irish Sea her radar equipment was out of action, there were no other ships in the area, it was impossible for aircraft to fly, and that if these shore wireless stations had not been operating we should probably have lost the entire complement of the ship? Will she not look into this matter again?

As my hon. Friend probably knows, the cost of this service is borne by the Ministry of Transport, and responsibility for the safety of lives at sea is a question for the Minister of Transport.

Does the hon. Lady realise that this system of direction finding is a most valuable scientific invention which may do much to save life at sea and shipping? Will she do everything possible to encourage its use?