asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which an assessor was appointed into the loss of the Hull trawler "Ian Fleming" who had taken part in the internal industrial inquiry into the loss, thus necessitating the adjournment of the inquiry until a fresh assessor was appointed.
Section 467 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 gives the Secretary of State responsibility for the appointment of assessors to assist the wreck commissioner in formal investigations into losses of shipping and crews. A panel of assessors having the relevant skills and experience is appointed for three years at a time. In selecting persons from the panel to act at an investigation, the Home Office tries to ensure that none is included who has any association with the owners of the vessel concerned.On the first day of the investigation into the loss of the "Ian Fleming"—11th February—one assessor informed the wreck commissioner that he had participated in the insurance inquiry into the loss of the vessel. In the circumstances, the wreck commissioner decided to adjourn the formal investigation until another assessor could be obtained. I am glad to say that another member of the panel agreed to serve at very short notice and the formal investigation resumed on 13th February.There was an evident oversight in the arrangements here. We are considering what steps should be taken to prevent an occurrence of a similar nature in future.