14. Commander WILLIAMS
asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why, in response to a call for assistance from steamship "Jervis Bay," a slow oiler and not the fast cruiser "Enterprise," which was at Colombo, was sent to help her; and whether any delay occurred in the despatch of the oiler?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
His Majesty's ship "Enterprise" was lying at Colombo with half her crew in the hills for the annual musketry course. In such circumstances it is usual for an overhaul of the engines to be undertaken and for the ship to be at four days' notice for sea. The oiler "Slavol" was the only vessel immediately available and she was at Trincomali, where she had to await the arrival of the Marine guard from Colombo before sailing. The first signal received by His Majesty's ship "Enterprise" from the "Jervis Bay" was at 9.30 a.m. Indian time on 20th June. This signal read:Having trouble. Eight desperate stowaways. Is there any warship on track?and giving her position. The reply from "Enterprise" was sent at 10.40 a.m. on the 20th June, as follows:No warship in vicinity, report if situation serious.The reply from the "Jervis Bay" received by "Enterprise" at 1.0 a.m. on the 21st June read as follows:Situation serious. Ask removal earliest of eight men now under hatches, but they are dangerous, mutiny and incendiarism tried. Passengers alarmed. Constant guard maintained by volunteer passengers. Endeavour assist me.On receipt of this signal the Marine guard were at once despatched to Trincomali and the "Slavol" put to sea as soon as they were embarked.
Are we to understand that all the available help which was practicable at that time was sent?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the cost has been to the British taxpayer in sending this assistance; and also whether the cost will be charged against the owners of this steamship, which made a very unnecessary call for help?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not accept all the statements of the right; hon. and gallant Member. Whether it was unnecessary or not is not for me to say. As to the cost, I will endeavour to ascertain the amount, and also inquire as to the other question of the right hon. and gallant Member. I cannot answer them now.