HC Deb 09 July 1896 vol 42 cc1115-7
MR. H. C. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade, whether at the Inquiry into the loss of the Drummond Castle he will obtain the production of Lloyd's Register for survey of the Doune Castle after her accident in January 1891, also the repairing account of the dry dock in which the Doune Castle was docked on her return from her voyage, and any further information relating to the accident to or with regard to the injury sustained by the Doune Castle?"


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, may I ask him a Question, of which I have given him private notice—namely, whether looking to this and previous questions put to the President by the hon. Member for Hornsey, his attention has been called to a letter which appears in the public Press to-day from the owners of the Drummond Castle explicitly detailing what had occurred in the case of the Doune Castle or other vessels while under the command of the late captain of the Drummond Castle, and whether the President will read that letter to the House as the answer of the owners to the imputations which have been cast upon the late Captain Pierce?


I have seen the letter, but I am afraid I cannot venture to read it to the House. These and all other matters in connection with this lamentable occurrence will be fully gone into by a duly constituted Court when it meets. I agree with the spirit of the questions the hon. Gentleman has put, and I deprecate questions which would seem to imply blame to any of the officers of the unfortunate ship, having regard to the fact that all these matters will be thoroughly investigated. In reply to the Question on the Paper I have to say that information as to the casualty to the Doune Castle will be furnished to the Court holding the Inquiry into the circumstances attending the loss of the Drummond Castle. If the Court then require further evidence it will be obtained, but, as at present advised, the Board of Trade do not propose to arrange for the production of the documents referred to in this Question.


said he had not seen the letter to which reference had been made, and he did not intend, as he believed his Question did not convey, any imputation on the owners of the Drummond Castle. It was merely framed with the object of endeavouring to secure proper inquiry should be made. I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. A. J. Balfour), whether he is aware that the inhabitants of the island of Molène are liable to water famines, and that the visitations of cholera and other water-borne diseases they have at times suffered from severely are probably in part ascribable to the deficiency of safe water; and whether, in recognition of the humane and courteous conduct of the people and authorities of Molène to the victims and friends of the victims of the late Drummond Castle disaster, he will take means to ascertain if the offer of provision for water supply by means of a condenser, or by improved storage, or by other reliable form of supply would be acceptable to, and be accepted by, the islanders and their authorities; and, if so, will he request the French Government to allow an acknowledgment of the humanity, kindness, and courtesy of the islanders to take that form, and provide for it by a grant, or by a grant in aid of voluntary contributions from British subjects.


The Government were not aware that the inhabitants of the island of Molène were liable to water famines. The form which the acknowledgment by the Government of the kindness and humanity displayed on the occasion of the recent disaster should take was being considered by the Government. He could do no more at present than thank the hon. Member for his suggestion that an offer of provision for water supply might be made.