HC Deb 23 July 1923 vol 167 cc10-2
19. Captain Viscount CURZON

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his Department are prepared to lay before the House copies of the questionnaire which it is proposed to lay before the Court inquiring into the loss of the s.s. "Okara"; if he will include in any questionnaire the following specific subjects: whether, in view of the age of the "Okara," her steering gear was efficient and in good working order; if she was deeply laden, and, if so, whether she was overladen; if any delay occurred at Calcutta in the broadcasting of the steamer's wireless message; whether she developed a bad leak in No. 4 hold prior to her departure on the ill-fated voyage; and, if so, the nature of the wireless messages specifically referring to this hold; whether, seeing that Mr. North is a member of the firm of Messrs. Lardner, North, and Company, which has business connections with the owners of the s.s. "Okara," he will consider the desirability of appointing some other person to sit as an assessor; whether steps will be taken to secure that the logs of the vessels receiving the wireless messages of the "Okara" and letters written by members of the crew prior to the sailing of the "Okara" shall be produced in Court; and whether it is proposed that the dependants of all members of the crew drowned with the vessel shall be granted compensation for the loss of the breadwinners, and, if so, to what extent?


The questions for the consideration of the Court have appeared in the Indian Press. I am having an extract circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They cover all the points to which my Noble Friend refers, though they make no specific mention of the steering gear or of No. 4 hold. A certified copy of one letter written by an officer of the ship has been sent out by the India Office for the information of the Court of Inquiry, and they have asked for a certified copy of another. The Court are unlikely to have overlooked the desirability of having the logs of the vessels that received the wireless messages of the "Okara" produced in Court, but my Noble Friend's suggestion on this point, and likewise his inquiry as to the personnel of the Court, have now been telegraphed to the Government of India. The last part of the question is one for the Home Office, but I understand that the provisions of the Workman's Compensation Act, 1906, are applicable.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury whether this does not show another reason for introducing the legislation which has been promised by the Government with regard to the dependants of shipwrecked mariners?


Is it proposed to send a certified copy of the second letter from the deceased officer on board the "Okara"?


Yes, Sir; I have said that a certified copy of another letter was being sent out. My Noble Friend will send out all evidence of the kind in question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Following is the extract referred to:

  1. (1) As far as it is possible to gauge, was the "Okara" in a fit and proper condition as regards the hull, engines, and equipment to proceed to sea on 1st May last?
  2. (2) Was the vessel properly loaded in accordance with existing rules regarding free-board? Was she overloaded; if so, to what extent?
  3. (3) Was it prudent for the master, in view of the weather prevalent in the Bay, the steamer's steaming capabilities and the fact that she was loaded to her F.W.I.S. mark, to proceed to sea on 3rd May?
  4. (4) As far as it is possible to judge from available information, what was the cause or causes which led to the foundering of the vessel?
  5. 12
  6. (5) Did Calcutta vessels receive the "Okara's" S.O.S., and, if so, did they immediately broadcast it?