Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to speak in today’s debate. I thank the hon. Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for introducing it on behalf of the petitioners and for making some good suggestions about how to improve the situation. I also thank Leeanne Bartley for being present, and for her tireless work campaigning to improve water safety. I spoke to Leeanne ahead of the debate, and I know that she made a promise to her son, Mark, after he died, to change things for the better. Today’s debate is a testament to her hard work in keeping the promise that she made to her beloved son.

Mark was well known and well liked in Gorton, where he lived with his dad. He had taken his GCSEs at Wright Robinson College in my constituency, and was studying drama at Shena Simon College. He had big dreams of becoming a professional actor. When we spoke, Leeanne shared stories of the joy and laughter that Mark brought to a family holiday in Paris, his love of watching wrestling, and his generosity to those less fortunate than himself. In June 2018, Mark was enjoying the hot weather with his friends on the edge of Gorton lower reservoir. Wanting to cool off, and unaware of the incredible dangers of open water, Mark jumped in. The freezing water took his breath away. His friends were unable to save him, and he tragically died.

If a throwline had been available on the shore of the reservoir that day, Mark may have survived. Throwlines are basic equipment. They are essentially a bag containing a rope that can be thrown to a swimmer in distress, allowing the rescuer to pull them safely to shore. Since Mark’s death, thanks to campaigning by Leeanne, and Mark’s family and friends, with the support of the local community in Gorton, I am pleased that Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and the reservoir’s owner, United Utilities, have installed three throwline stations at Gorton reservoirs. They are dedicated to Mark’s memory.

There is no reason why throwlines cannot be installed wherever there is a risk of drowning. They are not expensive and they save lives—they should be as common as defibrillators. The petition is absolutely right to call for Mark’s law. I hope that the Minister will update us on progress in making open water safer.