HC Deb 22 February 1945 vol 408 cc932-3
22. Mr. Lakin

asked the Minister of Pensions if he has considered the claims for pensions of dependants of the officers and crew of the s.s. "Ashbury," which was lost with all hands on or about 8th January, 1945; and whether this case is covered by his Ministry's ruling concerning eligibility for pension in respect of certain special risks imposed by the war.

Sir W. Womersley

Inquiries into the unfortunate loss of this vessel are still proceeding, but, on the evidence so far available, the disaster appears to have been due to a marine peril, in which event any compensation would be payable as under the Workmen's Compensation Acts and not under the War Pensions (Mercentile Marine) Scheme. For the present the owners' representatives are making interim payments to the dependants, but acceptance of these payments will not prejudice the consideration of claims by my Department when all available information has been obtained.

Mr. Lakin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this ship was incurring special risks by taking the Northern route at this time of the year, when she was in ballast, of low power and unable to keep up with the convoy, and that those risks certainly were imposed by the needs of the war? Was not the ship's route dictated by the Admiralty and is it not a fact that no ship's master would, in such circumstances, have taken that route of his own volition?

Sir W. Womersley

All those circumstances have been inquired into. I want to get this case over as soon as possible, but I must await the report of the inquirers and then I will deal with it as soon as I can.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Might I suggest that the Minister should consult the Admiralty, in the matter, as all merchant shipping is now under their direction? If the master and crew were lost in this way, surely it was because of a special risk imposed by the war?

Sir W. Womersley

The Admiralty are being consulted in this matter, but I would like to point out that the dependants of those lost in this unfortunate affair will receive compensation, either from my Department or under workmen's compensation.

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