HC Deb 17 May 1939 vol 347 cc1394-6
43. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether the hydrographic department of the Admiralty was consulted as to the route to be followed by the "Empress of Australia" when making the coast of Canada?

44. Major Milner

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty who was responsible for deciding that the "Empress of Australia" should take the North Atlantic route at a time when fog and ice conditions are usual?

52. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty who was responsible for the choosing of the particular route taken by the "Empress of Australia"?

Mr. Shakespeare

The Director of Navigation was consulted as to the distance to be steamed and the weather likely to be experienced at this season. There are seven routes, three to Canada and four to New York and Boston, laid down under the North Atlantic Track Agreement, 1931, which ships can follow at various months of the year. After consultation with the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company, Track "E," the most southerly Canadian route, was selected as the appropriate route for this time of year and the one most likely to be free from ice. On receipt of ice reports from the ice patrol, however, the route was altered to Track "C," the most Northerly Boston and New York route. The delay was caused solely by experiencing three days' dense fog in possible ice area.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is it not the case that the experience of years must have indicated to the hydrographic department that bad visibility and ice were likely to be encountered on the route followed; and, therefore, did not the Admiralty advise that the time schedule for this voyage to Canada should be extended, in order to avoid any possible chance of creating inconvenience to the people of Canada—which has, in fact, been occasioned?

Commander Marsden

Before my hon. Friend replies—

Hon. Members


Mr. Shakespeare

I pointed out to the hon. and gallant Member that, in the first place, the Director of Navigation was consulted, and thereafter we had the experience which is most worth having—the experience of the particular company and of the captain, who for 30 years has sailed this route. The route chosen was that advised by all the experts, and it was only, I think, on 10th May, when the ice was encountered, that a further report came from the ice patrol, and in particular a signal was received from a Canadian Pacific cargo ship, that the southern route, by which she had just come from Canada, was safe, that the captain decided to drop down from the Southern Canadian route into the Northern American route. I think the whole country should be grateful for the way in which he and the crew carried out their duties.

Commander Marsden

May I ask one final supplementary question?

Mr. Speaker rose