HC Deb 06 August 1940 vol 364 cc9-11
15. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Minister of Shipping whether, in view of the serious charges made in connection with the sinking of the "Arandora Star," he will set up a judicial inquiry under the Merchant Shipping Acts, in accordance with the precedent in the case of the loss of the steamship "Lusitania," by submarine action in 1915?

The Minister of Shipping (Mr. Cross)

No, Sir. I do not consider that this occurrence calls for a judicial investigation under the Merchant Shipping Acts.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on board this ship there were prisoners of war and internees mixed up with Fascists and anti-Fascists, Nazis and anti-Nazis, and that this ship was overloaded? Is he also aware that it had not sufficient lifeboats or apparatus, and does he consider that that is in keeping with the British sense of justice?

Mr. Cross

The earlier part of the hon. Member's question related to the selection of the persons who were on board. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and would not justify the holding of a judicial investigation under the Merchant Shipping Act. As to the latter part of the question, if the hon. Member has heard that there were not adequate apparatus and lifeboats for all on board, that is not the case. There were lifeboats for 750 persons and buoyant and raft apparatus capable of supporting 1,088 persons, against the total of 1,569 persons on board. There were also 2,000 life jackets as well as life-saving equipment for the crew.

Mr. Kirkwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how these people could get at the lifeboats when they were locked below?

Mr. Cross

It is not true that they were locked below.

Mr. Kirkwood

Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the statement of mine is not true—

Mr. Speaker

The Minister has just said that the hon. Member has been misinformed.

49. Mr. Graham White

asked the Prime Minister whether the next of kin of all those lost on the "Arandora Star" have now been informed; and, if not, whether he will direct the Department or Departments concerned to complete the task without further delay?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in reply to a Question on 1st August, steps have already been taken to notify the names of the missing to the Swiss and Brazilian Legations and to the Refugee Organisations, with a view to the next of kin being informed. In addition, any information available will be supplied to any next of kin who apply to the Special Information Bureau which will be opened next Monday at St. Stephen's House, Westminster.

Mr. White

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is the responsibility of those who were responsible for the shipments to notify the next of kin, and, further, is he seized of the fact that in their anxiety and anguish to know what has happened to relatives, people are now writing to Members of Parliament and asking them to look at the list in the Library; and is it the duty of Members of Parliament to give that information?

Mr. Attlee

The hon. Gentleman will realise that, as was stated by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, every endeavour is being made to inform the next of kin, but in some cases it is very difficult to find out who are the next of kin.

Miss Rathbone

Will the right hon. Gentleman take the simple means of announcing over the wireless and through the Press the two Legations to which applications should be made, as this would save a great deal of trouble?

Mr. Attlee

I will pursue that matter.

Rear-Admiral Beamish

Is there any truth in the rumours that there were a great many people on board the "Arandora Star" who impersonated other people still in this country?

Mr. Attlee

That is another question.