HC Deb 14 June 1939 vol 348 cc1292-3
37. Mr. Parker

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the inquiry into the causes of the excessive punishments of the crew of the New Zealand surveying ship His Majesty's Ship "Endeavour" has been completed; what is the report of the inquiry; what steps are being taken to avoid such a large number of punishments in the future; whether the conditions of service are to be improved; and whether any remission of sentences are to be granted to ratings who have committed offences owing to the harsh conditions?

Mr. Shakespeare

The inquiry has been completed, but so far only a brief telegraphic summary has been received, and the whole matter will be given careful consideration in all its aspects when the written report, which is expected shortly, arrives. I may, however, say at once that no serious cause for discontent has been revealed, and a great majority of the ship's company deeply resents the allegations which have appeared in a certain section of the Press. The men were given complete liberty to make any representations they wished, but not one had any complaint to make of harsh treatment or unjust punishment, and there can therefore be no question of any remission of sentences. There were certain complaints in regard to overcrowding and the condition of the ship, and these will be examined in detail when the Commodore's full report is received.

Mr. Parker

How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the very large number of punishments which took place during the period in question?

Mr. Shakespeare

When we see the full report we shall have a better view of things and be able to form a judgment on a question like that.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Is it not most unusual to make a declaration that there will be no remission of sentences before the First Lord has seen the report?

Mr. Perkins

Do I understand that the members of the crew deprecate the statements which have been made in this House and in the Press?

Mr. Shakespeare

Yes, I understand that before the court of inquiry was held the ship's company themselves made representations to the captain of. the ship that they resented these allegations and the statement that this ship was the "hell ship of the Navy," and they asked that publicity might be given to their resentment.