HC Deb 12 February 1985 vol 73 cc167-8 3.31 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

(by private notice) asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the accident that occurred yesterday in Germany to the 1st Battalion RAF Bandsmen and the subsequent death of many of the bandsmen involved.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

Yesterday afternoon on the E6 autobahn near Langenbruck in Germany a coach—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this true or false?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a foolish question. This is a very serious matter.

Mr. Heseltine

Yesterday afternoon, on the E6 autobahn near Langenbruck in Germany, a coach carrying the band of RAF Germany collided with an oil tanker. [Interruption.] It is with the greatest regret that I have to inform the House that in the fire which immediately ensued, the band's Director of Music, Squadron Leader C. R. Tomsett, 17 bandsmen and the civilian driver of the coach died. [Interruption.] A further two bandsmen are very seriously ill and the condition of three others is giving cause for concern. All next of kin have now been informed and arrangements have been made to fly those next of kin who wish, to Ingolstadt, where the injured are in hospital.

Following this tragic accident, an investigation into its cause has been put in hand jointly by the RAF police and the German civil police. In addition, an RAF board of inquiry has been convened but will await the outcome of the police investigations before completing its own assessment of the accident. I know that the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our deepest sympathy to the families of all those so tragically killed and injured in this terrible accident.

Mr. McNamara

We on this side of the House join in the sympathy expressed by the Minister to all the families of the people bereaved and of the injured, and in particular to the RAF as a service, because this band was well-known, respected and loved by people within and without the service.

May I ask the Secretary of State two questions? When does he expect the preliminary inquiry to be completed, and will it be published? Secondly, will he also publish the report of the RAF board of inquiry when it has completed its investigation? Finally, will he convey to the German civil authorities the thanks of the House and of the British people for the splendid and quick way in which they came to the aid of those who were tragically harmed in this accident?

Mr. Heseltine

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I will certainly ensure that his views are passed on to the appropriate people.

I do not have a date by which to expect the report of the German civil police inquiry, but I am sure that it will proceed with dispatch, and I will ensure that the House is kept as fully informed as I can.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Will the Secretary of State please take this opportunity to convey the deepest regrets and condolences of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the families of those concerned?

Mr. Heseltine

Yes, of course I will do so.