HC Deb 29 March 1933 vol 276 cc992-4

I have received two Private Notice Questions on the same subject, one from the hon. and gallant Member for St. Marylebone (Captain Cunningham-Reid) and another from the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour).

Captain CUNNINGHAM-REID (by Private Notice)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he can make any statement regarding the disaster to the Imperial Airways liner "City of Liverpool"?

Captain HAROLD BALFOUR (by Private Notice)

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air if he can give the House any further information about the disaster to the Imperial Airways liner "City of Liverpool"; and whether the Secretary of State for Air intends to order the holding of a public inquiry into the causes of the accident at the earliest possible date?


I regret that at this stage I can add little to the information which has already been published in the Press. The aircraft appears to have caught fire in the air and all the occupants, namely, 12 passengers and three members of the crew, lost their lives. The Inspector of Accidents and an assistant left England by air this morning for the scene of the accident, and until my Noble Friend has received a preliminary report from them it is not possible to make any further statement. Meantime, reports such as that the fire started in one of the engines should be treated with the greatest reserve.

The House may wish to know that since the last accident attended by loss of life, nearly 2½ years ago, Imperial Airways have flown over four million miles and carried over 99,000 passengers, a record of safety in which the company may take legitimate pride. The type of machine involved in this accident is one which has been in constant use for six years, and this is the first serious accident in the course of over two million miles flown by this type on regular service. I am glad to be able to say that public confidence has rightly refused to be shaken by this accident, and the company's early service to Paris this morning was filled up to capacity, with a wait- ing list of passengers anxious to travel had space been available for them.

As regards an inquiry, I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour) that under the approved international procedure the responsibility for investigation rests with the country in which the accident occurs, though it is customary to associate with the inquiry technical representatives of the country to which the aircraft belongs. I entertain no doubt that in the present case the responsible Belgian authorities will work in the closest and most cordial co-operation with the British experts whom, as above stated, my Noble Friend has despatched to the scene of the accident. Pending the receipt of further first-hand information as to the progress of the inquiry in Belgium and the form that inquiry will take, my Noble Friend thinks any decision as to the necessity or otherwise for a public inquiry in this country would be altogether premature. I take this opportunity of conveying to the relatives of those killed my Noble Friend's and my own profound sympathy in the loss which they have sustained in such tragic circumstances.

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