HC Deb 24 May 1922 vol 154 cc1200-1

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he has any information that the lascar crew of the Peninsular and Oriental mailboat "Egypt" were seized with panic and, with revolvers in their hands, prevented women taking to the lifeboats; and whether he will take steps to prevent lascars on passenger steamers carrying firearms?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Baldwin)

I have no information at present upon this matter, beyond what has appeared in the Press. I am ordering a formal investigation.

82. Mr. MILLS

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the reports of ships' captains who received the wireless message S.O.S. from the s.s. "Egypt," and of their statement that they could not get details of latitude and longitude in order to proceed to the rescue; whether he can state the personnel of the wireless staff; how many were fully qualified wireless operators; and whether or no watchers are employed on passenger-carrying vessels as allowed by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1919?


No reports have yet been received by the Board of Trade from ships' captains who received the wireless message S.O.S. from the "Egypt" to the effect that they were unable to obtain details of latitude and longitude from the vessel, but reports on the subject are being obtained. The "Egypt" carried three fully qualified wireless operators. Ocean-going passenger vessels which carry more than 200 persons in all are required to have three fully qualified operators. Ocean-going vessels, whether passenger or cargo, which have less than 200 persons on board, carry one or two fully qualified operators, as the case may be, and, in addition, one or two certificated watchers. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the Statutory Rules.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make close inquiry into the statement made regarding the steamer "Titan," the only qualified wireless operator of which stated that he was receiving strong signals from the "Egypt" before he went off watch, and when he returned to duty two hours after the accident, there came for the first time knowledge of something which would have been available during the whole period to the watcher if he had had scientific knowledge; under these circumstances does the right hon. Gentleman not think that some fresh investigation should be made into these men being allowed to take duties for which they are not competent?

Viscount CURZON

Before the right hon. Gentleman replies to that, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the wireless operator on the "Egypt," a London boy, went down under circumstances of the greatest heroism, and died at his post?


It is perfectly obvious that every relevant question of the kind referred to must be fully investigated.


In view of the supplementary question of the hon. and gallant Member, I wish to make it perfectly clear that my question imputed no cowardice to any person.