Loss of SS. " Empress of Ireland."
43. Mr. DOUGLAS HALL asked the President of the Board
of Trade whether his attention has been called to the
fact that many of the bodies of persons drowned by the
sinking of the ill-fated " Empress of Ireland " were
subsequently found floating with the head beneath the
water due to the nature and construction of the lifebelts
carried by the vessel; and whether, with a view to
preventing loss of life in future, he will see that
the lifebelts carried on all British ships are of such
a design and manufacture that they will keep persons
who wear them afloat and with their
heads above water?
Mr. BURNS :The whole of the circumstances of the
terrible disaster to the " Empress of Ireland " will
be investigated by an exceptionally strong Court of
Inquiry in Canada, and I would therefore prefer to
say nothing with regard to this particular case.
As regards the last part of the question I may say
that the present instructions of the Board of Trade,
of which I am sending the hon. Member a copy, require
that all types of life-jackets now submitted for
approval shall, when properly fitted, keep the wearer's
head well out of water.
Mr. DOUGLAS HALL :Is it not very difficult to fit the
existing jackets properly?
Mr. BURNS: Of course it is very very difficult to get
any type of lifebelt or life-jacket or life-buoy that
would suit every age and every size and type of passenger,
but the greatest trouble is taken to see that ships are
fitted out both with adult lifebelts and life-buoys and
children's life-jackets, so that in the event
of emergency arising there would be at the command of
the passengers every available means of life saving.
Mr. JOYCE: May I ask whether the report of the inquiry
that is to be held in Canada will be available to Members
of this House?
Mr. BURNS: Certainly.
Mr. HAMAR GREENWOOD :May I ask if these particular lifebelts
were not passed and inspected by the Board of Trade on the
"Empress of Ireland " herself?
Mr. BURNS :That does not altogether arise out of this
question, but the " Empress of Ireland " had her annual
survey on 20th February, and on 15th May she had her
annual inspection, and on that inspection lifebelts,
lifejackets, and lifebuoys were a thousand in excess of
the number of passengers that she had when
this unfortunate catastrophe occurred.
Mr.DOUGLAS HALL :Is it not a fact that the lifebelts
served out on the " Empress of Ireland " could be more
easily fitted upside down than the right way up,
especially in the case of hysterical women; and whether
it would not be perfectly possible to have a
lifebelt which could not be fitted the wrong way up?
Mr.BURNS :I think this is neither the time nor the
occasion to discuss the rival claims and advantages of
the various forms of lifebelts.