HC Deb 13 March 1940 vol 358 c1185
58. Mr. Shinwell

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is aware that reports of merchant ships alleged to have been lost have appeared in the Press and been broadcast before the relatives of crews have been informed; whether he is aware that the practice in the Royal Navy is that the relatives are usually informed before a loss is reported; and whether that practice can be applied to the Merchant Navy?

Mr. Shakespeare

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave on this subject to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward), on 7th February to the following effect: While the advantages of the proposal are appreciated, publication can only be delayed on grounds of security and in any case publication is often made abroad.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these reports—inaccurate reports sometimes—cause considerable distress? Is he aware that recently a ship was reported in the Press as having been abandoned, although the report was in accurate because the crew, despite serious damage to the vessel, stood by the ship? Cannot the hon. Gentleman arrange for something to be done in such cases?

Mr. Shakespeare

I appreciate the importance of early publication before the relatives are notified, but, under the voluntary system of censorship, we have no power to stop publication except on the ground of security.