asked the Secretary of State for Transport what measures his Department is taking to improve safety at sea.
My Department has a wide range of measures in hand to promote safety at sea. As I have announced today in a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie), my Department has today placed a contract with Bristow Helicopters Ltd. for the provision of a new Her Majesty's Coastguard search and rescue helicopter at Stornaway which will enhance search and rescue coverage on the north-west coast of Scotland; Her Majesty's Coastguard is extending its VHF direction finding network and is being provided with other equipment to improve communications with vessels in distress; consultations are proceeding on new safety requirements for fishing vessels following the Safety at Sea Act; new standards for lifesaving appliances for certain types of vessel will shortly be proposed; safety inspections of United Kingdom and foreign vessels in United Kingdom ports are continuing at a high level; and my officials are pursuing a range of initiatives within the International Maritime Organisation, all designed to promote greater safety at sea.In addition, as I informed the House on 9 March, my Department has embarked on a programme of checks on roll-on/roll-of ships, and these checks will be repeated at six-monthly intervals, The formal investigation into the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise opens on Monday.
When it reports, I shall give most urgent and serious consideration to its recommendations. If, as the investigation proceeds, it becomes clear that measures ought to be taken before the inquiry process has been completed, I shall not hesitate to do so.