The House will have heard with deep regret that a B.O.A.C. Comet operated by South African Airways is missing on a flight from Rome to Cairo. Twenty-one people, including the crew, were on board. Search operations are going on but nothing has yet been found, though there are reported to be traces of oil south-west of Naples.On hearing the news last night, B.O.A.C. decided—and in this they have my full support—immediately to suspend Comet services until more is known. The Chief Investigating Officer of my Ministry is in Italy and is on his way to Rome to make preliminary inquiries. The House will remember that on 8th March I announced that B.O.A.C. had decided—after exhaustive examination of all their Comets and after incorporation of numerous modifications—to start passenger services again. In this decision, as I told the House at the time, they had my full concurrence. I must express, on behalf of the Government and, I am sure, of the House, our profound sympathy with South African Airways, with B.O.A.C. and with the relatives and friends of all concerned. There will, of course, be a full inquiry.
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I should like to associate myself with the sympathy that the Minister has expressed with those responsible for this service and with the relatives and friends of those on board this aircraft. We thank him for giving this information at such an early stage, and we trust that he will keep the House informed of any development that may occur and of any further knowledge he may receive about this unfortunate occurrence.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I will readily do as he suggests.