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Aircraft Accidents

Volume 409: debated on Wednesday 11 April 1945

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28.

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is now in a position to make a full statement as to the cause of the loss of the aircraft on passage from this country to Malta on 31st January to 1st February, conveying officials of the War Office and Foreign Office to the preliminary conference held on 2nd February.

I am awaiting the comments of the two Commanders-in-Chief concerned on the report of the court of inquiry, which only became available a few days ago. I will let my hon. Friend know when I am able to make a statement.

In view of the length of time which has elapsed since the accident, I propose to put a Question down this day week.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that there would be great advantage, in view of the criticisms which have been made in the House, if he were to publish this report?

No, Sir, I am sure there would be great disadvantage. I am sure that anyone who has had to do with inquiries in any of the three Services would know that it is of the utmost importance that officers should be able to speak freely, and even criticise their superior officers, and that any divulgence of the report or findings would make it more difficult to ascertain the truth.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Air the details of the accident which happened to a Transport Command Liberator at the Azores about three weeks ago when 16 or 18 people were killed.

On 14th March a Liberator aircraft crashed shortly after take-off at the Azores, causing the deaths of the six members of the crew and the 12 passengers. The accident has been fully investigated, but the proceedings of the court of inquiry are not yet available in this country.

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to have the report? If he will tell me that, I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and put down another Question later.

May I also ask whether in this case the evidence of the inquiry will be made available, and, if not, whether the right hon. Gentleman does not consider that in these cases where Transport Command is concerned mainly with the transport of civilian passengers, there ought not to be a public inquiry, exactly as there would be in the case of a railway accident?

That is a question which I have answered already. I am sure that the object of the House is, as it is mine, to get at the truth and to encourage people to give their evidence without fear or favour. All that is greatly fostered by non-publication of the report.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he really wants to get at the truth a public inquiry will take him there more quickly than a private inquiry?