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Missing Engineer (Disposal Of Property)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now authorise the payment of wages and transfer of the effects of Mr. T. G. Thorpe, late second engineer of s.s. "Teespool," who has been missing from the vessel since December, 1953.

I have no proof that Mr. Thorpe is dead. Unless I have this, I cannot authorise disposal of his property. In accordance with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, it is for Mrs. Thorpe or her legal representative to produce Probate or Letters of Administration.

What period must elapse in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman before death has been presumed, and -is the right hon. Gentleman aware that evidence has been produced to the effect that Mr. Thorpe was on the vessel when she sailed and presumably, if that is so, he must have disappeared when on the vessel? Will the Minister recognise that Mrs. Thorpe, who is now suffering inconvenience if not hardship, is finding difficulty in meeting the demands on her?

I have every sympathy in this and similar cases, and would gladly help, but the question of how death can be proved, or how quickly it can be assumed after disappearance, is a matter for the courts, and under the Act I cannot interfere. I hope that those concerned will read my answer and will take the necessary steps consequent upon that.