Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ghani, and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke). I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) and the Petitions Committee for bringing forward this important debate.

This petition was signed by 606 of my constituents in Southport. I am all too aware of the tragic case of Mark Allen; I send my condolences to his family and friends and join my colleagues in calling for throwlines to be installed to prevent such needless loss of life in the future.

Landowners have a duty of care to those on their land. By speaking in this debate, I want to suggest that that duty should be strengthened, with further legal requirements for landowners to assess and act on the risks posed by open bodies of water. I welcome the fact that, since the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Government have enforced legal requirements to prevent employees and other people from coming to harm during work activities. However, the 1974 Act has well-known limitations; under the legislation it is not possible to enforce simple solutions such as a duty to provide throwlines near all bodies of water, for example.

In a modern, 21st-century country such as the United Kingdom, it is unacceptable that drowning continues to be one of the leading causes of accidental death. It is estimated that a shocking 44% of drowning fatalities happen to people who had no intention of even entering the water. Drowning in the United Kingdom is reported to account for more accidental fatalities annually than fire deaths in the home or cycling deaths on the road. Men are the most at-risk group in every age group, accounting for eight in 10 of all deaths.

Mark Tami Portrait Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab)
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I apologise for coming in late—there was traffic, I am afraid.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that people, particularly very small children, can drown in very shallow water? There are areas—in caravan parks or places like that—that people think are safe, but which are not safe for very small children. There have been terrible occurrences and deaths of children drowning in only a foot or so of water.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore
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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. That is why it is incredibly important for landowners to carry out risk assessments around open bodies of water, particularly where children are concerned, so that protections such as throwlines can be put in place.

In Southport, the sea rarely comes in, but when it does it is rapid and all too often deadly. Our local rescue services go above and beyond in their duty to warn and protect; I welcome the opening, last week, of Southport’s new £1.4 million lifeboat station. The Southport Offshore Rescue Trust, which is independent from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, was founded by Kath Wilson after her son passed away in 1987 while fishing off the Southport coast. Southport Lifeboat is crewed entirely by volunteers and has helped to safely return more than 5,000 people since it was founded. I am sure that we all want to congratulate Kath and her excellent team of volunteers on their amazing work.

I also want to highlight that the RNLI has some excellent videos and explainers about what someone can do if they are in trouble in the water, including dealing with cold water shock, and I encourage all hon. Members to share them with their constituents. If those watching take anything away from this debate, it should be the three extremely important words provided by the RNLI: “Float to Live”.

I am sure that many of my colleagues are aware of the tragic incident involving Ben Smith-Crallan, who fell into a lake in Southport’s Botanic Gardens and sadly died following complications from an infection. Following the “Make a change for Ben” campaign, led by my constituent David Rawsthorne, tens of thousands of pounds have been raised for improvement works to the gardens, including the installation of an aeration fountain at the end of the lake to ensure that water is oxygenised, and potential measures to stop people falling in. I would add throwlines to the list of safety measures that need to be included.

The UK drowning prevention strategy acknowledges the difficulty caused by the fact that responsibility for managing water risks is dispersed among a number of organisations. While many, such as the Southport Offshore Rescue Trust and the RNLI, do excellent work, further efforts should be made to unite their various responsibilities to ensure that resources are effectively used, responsibility is clearly defined and individuals are best protected.

Let us start with the simple solutions. We should heed the calls of this petition to implement throw bags and throwlines around open bodies of water and go further by expanding opportunities to learn how to swim and spreading awareness around water safety. When the UK drowning prevention strategy was published in 2015, it called for accidental drowning fatalities in the United Kingdom to be halved by 2026. The latest data shows that we are halfway there, with a 25% decrease since the strategy was published. We should maintain that progress—even speed it up if we can—and ensure that we all do everything we can to prevent senseless tragedies, such as that of Mark Allen, from ever happening again. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to do everything she can to help prevent those tragedies from occurring in the future.