HL Deb 08 June 1939 vol 113 cc335-6

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask His Majesty's Government a question of which I have given private notice—namely, whether they have any further statement to make regarding the disaster to His Majesty's Submarine "Thetis"; and whether they can now announce the arrangements made with respect to the public inquiry and the personnel of the Committee.


My Lords, with regard to the salvage of His Majesty's Submarine "Thetis," it had been hoped to attempt to lift the submarine yesterday. The camels were secured to the submarine and all the lifting wires were in position under the submarine. I told your Lordships on Tuesday that there were five wires; there were in fact six. Unfortunately the weather deteriorated as the tide rose and early this morning a heavy north-westerly swell threw a heavy strain on the wires. The wires on the after camel parted and the wires on the foremost camel had to be slipped. The flooding of the submarine is thought to be more extensive than originally anticipated with a consequent loss of buoyancy and increase in weight. This has shown that to lift the submarine additional lifting power will be necessary, and heavier wires will be required. The salvage craft have temporarily withdrawn to Liverpool pending the provision of additional appliances, and more favourable weather conditions.

The public inquiry into the loss of the submarine "Thetis" will be held by Mr. Justice Bucknill. Assessors, whose names will be announced shortly, will be appointed to assist him. In order that the tribunal may have powers in relation to the summoning of witnesses, taking evidence on oath and similar matters, it is desirable that the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, should apply. To authorise this, Resolutions by both Houses of Parliament are necessary. I am placing a Resolution on the Notice Paper forthwith.


I would like to ask the First Lord a further question arising out of the first part of his answer—namely, is he in a position to deny reports in the evening newspapers this afternoon that salvage of His Majesty's Submarine "Thetis" may be abandoned?


Certainly I can deny that statement, because no authority exists for it whatever. Of course it may be that conditions will be found impossible, either through gale or something else, and a decision may have to be arrived at in that sense, but at present I certainly do not foresee any such decision being made, and so far as I know the firm in question, to whom the ship still belongs, will proceed with the work of salvaging her at the earliest possible moment.