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Coastguard Service

Volume 281: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1996

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to publish the findings of the independent investigation into the Coastguard actions in the Lyme bay canoeing tragedy; and if he will make a statement. [38519]

In March 1993, four teenagers were tragically drowned in a sea canoeing accident in the Lyme bay area. Mr. John Reeder QC was appointed to conduct a review, the terms of reference of which were:

"In the light of the COASTGUARD's internal inquiry, the evidence presented to the Lyme Bay trial and the judge's comments in his summing up—
  • (i) to review all of the actions, both internal and external, taken by the COASTGUARD during and subsequent to the tragedy.
  • (ii) to consider how far this action was appropriate and whether any further action was necessary, and
  • (iii) to make recommendations.
  • Consideration under item (ii) should cover the suggestion by Sir James Spicer MP that harbourmasters should be given a more formal role in COASTGUARD'S emergency procedures."
    We have today published Mr. Reeder's findings.Mr. Reeder has produced a thorough and well-researched report of the Coastguard involvement in this tragedy. He reported that no lives had been lost as a result of the Coastguard's actions and that the lessons of the incident had been fully learned. He has endorsed the action taken by the Coastguard agency and other parts of my Department to make sure that all lessons were fully learned. He recommends that no further disciplinary action should be taken.It is right that all concerned should do all that can be done to prevent similar incidents form happening in the future. We have made regulations to seek to improve the safety of activity centres. Thanks to Mr. Reeder's report, we can now be confident that the Coastguard agency has responded fully to the tragedy, and that all necessary steps have been taken to safeguard against similar incidents in the future.Following the incident, the Coastguard agency carried out their own investigation and took appropriate action. Portland Coastguard has since been reorganised and all of the officers involved have been retrained.Mr. Reeder made recommendations on the radio coverage of the area, on the relationship between Coastguard and harbourmasters, and on the Coastguard agency and British Canoe Union's advice on sea canoeing. All his recommendations either have been implemented by the Coastguard agency, or are being urgently addressed.