HC Deb 04 November 1958 vol 594 cc763-4
42. Mr. Peel

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has yet considered the report from the commission of inquiry into the loss of the m.v. "Melanesian" with 60 people on board on 10th July between Malaita and Sikaiana in the Solomon Islands Protectorate; whether anything is now known as to the cause of the disaster; and why three days were allowed to elapse between the expected date of arrival at Sikaiana and the institution of a search.

Mr. Profumo

No, Sir. I am expecting to receive the report shortly from the High Commissioner, Western Pacific with his comments. I understand that the Commission of Inquiry found no evidence to show the cause of the disaster. I am sure the House will join Her Majesty's Government in expressing their profound sympathy with the relatives of all those lost.

43. Mr. Peel

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the loss, in July last, of the medical vessel "Betua" at Manawai in the Solomon Islands Protectorate; and, in view of the fact that the loss of this ship, as well as that of the m.v. "Melanesian" in the same month, has left the Protectorate with an inadequate patrol fleet, what steps are being taken to meet the inter-island transport needs of the British Solomons.

Mr. Profumo

Yes, Sir. The "Betua" struck a reef whilst proceeding to the rendezvous for the search of the missing "Melanesian". Several attempts to refloat the vessel had to be abandoned but most of the equipment, including the engines, was salvaged. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

The loss of the two vessels has been a very serious blow to the Protectorate fleet, but every effort is being made to meet their needs. It is hoped that one second-hand vessel may shortly be purchased and a search for a replacement for the "Melanesian" is continuing. Approval in principle has been given by Her Majesty's Government for the necessary funds.

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