§ 83. Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the loss of the Government fishery protection vessel "Vaila" off the Outer Hebrides early this January with serious loss of life; what protective and life-saving apparatus she carried; and whether she carried and used rubber life-rafts.
§ Mr. Maclay
Yes. In the early hours of Sunday, January 6, the Fishery10W Cruiser "Vaila" while on patrol in the Minch struck Iuvard Island at the mouth of Loch Shell, Lewis, and sank with the loss of five of the twenty men on board. She remained afloat long enough for her commander to send two distress messages and for three boats to be launched and manned. Two of these got away successfully. The third was fouled by the ship as she went down and capsized with the loss of all its occupants but three who were picked up by "Vaila's" motor boat. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my sympathy with the relatives of the five men who lost their lives in this tragic accident.
Prompt assistance was given by Stornoway lifeboat which brought in the 15 survivors and by 8 fishing vessels and a crofter's boat which joined the search for survivors and recovered the five bodies.
The vessel had just completed an annual overhaul during which her lifesaving equipment was examined by a surveyor of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. Fishery cruisers are not registered under the Merchant Shipping Acts and are therefore not subject to the Lifesaving Appliances Rules but the lifesaving equipment carried by "Vaila" was in full accordance with the rules for ships of her size and class. The rules do not prescribe, and she did not carry, inflatable rubber rafts.
Steps have, I understand, been taken by the Crown authorities to initiate a public inquiry under the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act, 1895, which should take place in the near future.