HC Deb 25 June 1956 vol 555 cc32-4
Mr. Burden

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a statement concerning the loss of the Argonaut aircraft of B.O.A.C. which crashed yesterday just after take-off from Kano.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

As the House will know, an Argonaut airliner of British Overseas Airways Corporation was lost yesterday afternoon near Kano Airport, Northern Nigeria. The aircraft crashed shortly after take-off about two miles South-West of the main runway. I regret to inform the House that of the 45 people on board, 30 lost their lives. Several of the suvivors are injured. A senior inspector and a senior investigating officer from my Ministry left this morning for the scene of the accident. I am sure the whole House will join with me in expressing sympathy with the friends and relatives of those who lost their lives and with the injured.

Mr. Burden

While thanking the Minister for that statement, may I say that I am sure that all hon. Members will wish to be associated with his remarks about the loss of this aircraft? In view of the fact that it is usual for an investigation into the loss of an aircraft to take place in the country of occurrence and the probability that there will be great difficulty in finding the necessarily qualified persons in Nigeria to undertake such an investigation, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that the facilities which are available to his Department will be placed freely at the disposal of the Nigerian Government?

Mr. Watkinson

Certainly. The services of any officer of my Department will be freely available for that purpose.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I say that we on this side of the House join with the right hon. Gentleman in expressing deep sym- pathy to those who have suffered loss in this terrible accident?

Mr. Beswick

On a point of order. It will be within the recollection of many hon. Members that they have attempted to put a Question of which they have given Private Notice but they have been disappointed because it has been held that there is no urgency about the matter, or that no national interest will be served. May I ask on what grounds there is permitted this practice under which Questions are automatically put when there is an aircraft accident?

While everyone would wish to express sympathy with the relatives of those who have lost their lives, and while we all wish to make absolutely certain that there is proper inquiry into these accidents, it seems that no useful purpose is served by asking Questions of this kind with their attendant publicity, provided that we can be satisfied that the proper procedure is being followed, as it usually is. It seems to me that matters of urgency or national interest do not arise.

Sir T. Moore

Further to that point of order. Is it not right and suitable that the relatives of those who have lost their lives should be aware of the sympathy of the House as soon as possible?

Mr. Speaker

I have to take many things into consideration in deciding whether or not to permit a Private Notice Question. I decided that, on its merits, this was a subject worthy of a Private Notice Question. That is all I can say on the matter.