HC Deb 04 April 1989 vol 150 cc25-6 3.52 pm
Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, South)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of discussing a specific, urgent and important matter, namely, the statement made by the Secretary of State for Transport or his Department yesterday that he intends to delay, at the request of the Boeing company, the publication of the report of the inquiry into the Chinook helicopter disaster". In that disaster, 45 men were killed. It was the worst civil air disaster involving a helicopter and the delay in the publication of that report has caused extreme concern, particularly to those of my constituents with relatives who were involved in the disaster.

There has been no explanation for the delay in the publication of the report except the fact that Boeing has made its request because it appears to feel that it prejudices certain legal proceedings that are under way. I find that difficult to accept, for a number of reasons.

First, the majority of the facts in the case which were the subject of the investigation were canvassed in the Aberdeenshire court on the hearing of the fatal accident inquiry into the disaster in 1987. Secondly, the delay in publication prejudices the implementation of the report's findings. Some 30,000 men work in the North sea and travel to work by helicopter. If there are lessons to be learned, we want the report to be published so that those lessons can be implemented immediately.

Considerable anguish has been caused to relatives. I have spoken to one of those relatives, a constituent of mine, who lost her husband in the disaster. She is involved in legal action, both in this country and in the United States, against Boeing—together with all the other relatives who lost a loved one in the disaster. Those legal proceedings have caused considerable trauma. Part of the reason for the increase in that trauma is the failure to publish the report.

The publication date of 5 April has been known for many months, and legal proceedings have been further delayed as a result of the delay in the report's publication, causing considerable anguish. When I spoke to that lady this morning, she found it very difficult to believe that the only reason for non-publication is pressure from a multinational company. We have heard already today about the suppression of reports and of the concern that that causes to the House and to the country at large. This appears to be another example of pressure from a multinational causing delay.

We all appreciate that inquiries and reports must be respected, believed and accepted by the general public, and that their integrity is extremely important. In this case, pressure from a multinational company to delay publication of a report must lead us to question its integrity. For all those reasons, the matter is of sufficient importance and urgency for me to request the Adjournment of the House to debate the matter.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the delayed publication of the report of the inquiry into the Chinook helicopter crash in the Shetlands in November 1986. I listened with great care to the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given precedence over the business set down for this evening or for tomorrow. I regret that the matter raised does not meet the requirements of Standing Order No. 20, so I cannot submit his application to the House.