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Tube Shelter Accident (Inquiry Report)

Volume 388: debated on Thursday 8 April 1943

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18.

asked the Home Secretary whether he has any statement to make regarding the Tube Shelter Inquiry conducted by Mr. Dunne?

When I informed the House on 10th March of the accident which had occurred in the previous week at a London shelter I stated that an Inquiry into its causes was to be held in private, but that, subject to security considerations, the conclusions would be published. Mr. Dunne carried out this Inquiry with thoroughness and expedition and made a lengthy and informative report which, whilst drawing attention to certain matters which might possibly have been contributory causes, shows the accident to have been due to a fortuitous combination of circumstances. It is impossible to make a fair summary of the report or even of the conclusions, without conveying information valuable to the enemy. The omission of some of the conclusions on security grounds disturbs the balance and must have the effect of misleading any reader who has not had access to the full text. In these circumstances the Government have regretfully felt bound to decide not to publish the conclusions. It is difficult to judge how far all the factors that contributed to the accident could have been foreseen and provided against, but after careful consideration I have reached the conclusion that acts of culpable negligence are not properly to be included amongst the causes. Certain suggestions were made by Mr. Dunne for modifications of existing arrangements which might reduce the risk of a further disaster of this kind, and action is already being taken to introduce these modifications, not only at this shelter but at similar shelters elsewhere. Mr. Dunne, I may add, dismisses as without foundation the rumours that the accident was caused by a Jewish panic or induced by Fascists or criminals for nefarious purposes.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not usual for the hon. Member who put the original Question to be called if he wishes to put a Supplementary Question?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise what deep resentment will be felt by the hundreds of relatives of the persons who were victims of this unfortunate disaster? Does he realise the bad effect there will be on the morale of the people if a suspicion arises that he wants to conceal the facts that have been stated to the magistrate who made the inquiry? Therefore, will he reconsider his decision, since we have to consider not only information, if any, which might be of use to the enemy, but also the morale of the people whose relatives were victims of the accident?

As the right hon. Baronet would expect, I have given that aspect very full consideration. I think the House and the people of the district concerned know me sufficiently well to believe that I would not wish to suppress this report in order to protect anybody. I would not do that, but I am in the dilemma that if I seek to make a summary, it will not be a fair summary if I eliminate those points on which there are security objections. If, on the other hand, I take risks about security, I may well be inviting further trouble for the district concerned. I am sure nobody would wish me to do that.

In view of the possibility of very widespread feelings of misgiving and misunderstanding in the absence of a report, will my right hon. Friend use his well-known ingenuity to try to discover some formula which would convey the main facts to the people without conveying facts that would be useful to the enemy?

If there should be widespread misunderstanding, I must take that and put up with it. It would not be fair that there should be misunderstanding. I can assure my hon. Friend that this has been most carefully considered by the Government, with every desire to publish the report, but we feel, with a full sense of responsibility, that we should be acting contrary to the national interest, and particularly the interest of the district concerned, if we were to make publication.

Seeing that a number of completely unfounded rumours have been going round, would it not be possible to produce what might be called a negative report definitely eliminating rumours about certain alleged causes that were found not to be causes? For example, my right hon. Friend himself referred to a rumour that spread like wildfire all over London that the accident was caused by panic among the Jewish inhabitants of the shelter. Cannot he do something to make it widely known that there was no panic?

I do not think I ought to be drawn into further discussion. I think the hon. Lady will agree that I have made a very handsome observation on that point in order to destroy the rumour.

Can the right hon. Gentleman see his way to give a clean bill of health in this unfortunate disaster to the London Passenger Transport Board?

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I can say straight away that the London Passenger Transport Board has no responsibility in the matter.