HC Deb 07 February 1958 vol 581 cc1487-9
Mr. Storey (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he would make a statement about the accident to a British European Airways aircraft, chartered by Manchester United Football Club, on Thursday, 6th February.

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

Yes, Sir. As the House will know, an Elizabethan airliner of British European Airways Corporation crashed during take-off at Munich Airport yesterday afternoon. It was on a charter flight with a crew of six and thirty-eight passengers, amongst whom were the Manchester United Football Club team. I regret to inform the House that, as far as can be ascertained at present, more than twenty of those on board lost their lives and a number of the survivors are confined to hospital.

Under international agreement, responsibility for the investigating of this accident rests with the German Federal Government; I have appointed a senior inspector, who has already left for Munich, to take part in the German investigation as the accredited representative of the United Kingdom.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy with the bereaved and with those who have suffered injury.

Mr. Storey

May I, on behalf of my constituency, in which Manchester United have their headquarters, and on behalf of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who represent neighbouring constituencies, thank the Minister for his statement and for the sympathy which he has expressed. We share the sorrow of the relatives of those who have lost their lives, of the Manchester Club which has lost so many of those who have helped it to build up its fine record at home and abroad, and of the newspapers which have lost valued members of their staff.

In view of the world-wide publicity which this accident has received, may I ask the Minister whether he can confirm that British European Airways Corporation have until now not experienced a fatal accident with this type of aircraft, with which they have flown 30 million miles and carried 2⅓ million passengers?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes, that is so. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that fact and to the very fine safety record of B.E.A.

Mr. Beswick

No one who was in the House last night when this news was received can doubt the shock which this accident caused throughout the House and throughout the country. On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I should like to say how much we wish to be associated with the message of sympathy which the Minister has offered. May I ask him a question? There seems to be some doubt as to exactly what the casualty list is. Can he say whether it is now known fully?

Mr. Watkinson

It is not. That is why I used the words "as far as can be ascertained at present." I am afraid there are certainly more than twenty dead, but the final passenger list has not been completely checked and it may be a little later today before a final, complete list of those who were on the plane and those who were killed is available. B.E.A. are doing their very best to produce this as quickly as possible.

Mr. Royle

May I be allowed to be associated with the message of sympathy which has been expressed? Salford lies across the Manchester Ship Canal from the Manchester United Football Club ground and every Saturday thousands of my constituents pour over Trafford Bridge to see the match. Two of the dead players were constituents of mine. I therefore feel that, using the voice of Salford, I should be associated with the Minister's remarks this morning.

I should also like to add to what was said by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Storey) in order that we might retain some sense of proportion about air accidents. The figures for the Elizabethan aircraft are marvellous, and we have a right to be proud of the record. It is perhaps wise under these very tragic circumstances that we should remember the millions of miles which are flown in perfect safety.

I wish to be associated with the expression of sympathy.

Mr. W. R. Williams

May I, as one representing a constituency in Manchester, very humbly associate myself with the expressions of sympathy which the House has been good enough to offer on the occasion of this very sad occurrence, which affects so many homes in my constituency and constituencies round about. I thank the House profoundly for the expression of deep sympathy which it has voiced.