HC Deb 31 May 1954 vol 528 cc893-5
44. Sir R. Perkins

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the fact that so far as is known there is no suspected cause, and that, therefore, there exists a very wide range of possible causes of the Comet disasters at Elba and Naples, he would be prepared to extend the terms of reference to the public court of inquiry, to be presided over by Lord Cohen, into the Comet disasters at Elba and Naples, so that they will include the three previous accidents to Comet aircraft at Rome, Karachi and Calcutta; and whether the British Air Line Pilots Association will be permitted to give evidence.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

The answer to the first part of the Question is in the negative.

My right hon. Friend has no jurisdiction over the investigation carried out by the Pakistan authorities into the accident at Karachi to the Canadian-registered aircraft. The accident at Rome was investigated by the Chief Inspector of Accidents, whose report was published on 1st January, 1953, and the accident at Calcutta was investigated by a public inquiry ordered by the Indian Government. This report was accepted and published in the U.K.

Regarding the second part of the Question, it is for the court to decide from what sources evidence is taken at a public inquiry.

Sir R. Perkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that the British Air Line Pilots Association considers that Captain Foot, the pilot in the Rome accident, was wrongly blamed, that the inquiry sat in private and that today no machinery exists to enable Captain Foot to appeal and clear himself except to the court which has already convicted him? In view of the fact that since the accident three changes have been made in the take-off technique of the Comet, will my hon. Friend institute a full public inquiry to enable this innocent man to clear himself?

Mr. Profumo

The question of the amendment of the Regulations is under consideration, but in the case which my hon. Friend has in mind the review of the original investigation was carried out by a different Chief Inspector of Accidents. The Rome accident was the only one of its kind during the substantial period when the technique existing at the time was in operation. If B.A.L.P.A. wishes on this occasion, as it has done on many other occasions, to make representations to the court, it is for it to write to the Treasury Solicitor.

Sir R. Perkins

Can we have a public inquiry?

Mr. Profumo

As my hon. Friend knows, the inquiry into the latest Comet disasters is to be a public one.