§ 4.17 p.m.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (EARL STANHOPE) moved to resolve, That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say, to investigate and report upon all the circumstances surrounding the loss of His Majesty's Submarine "Thetis" and the subsequent attempts to save the lives of those in the ship.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, the public inquiry which is the subject of this Resolution will, as I informed the House last Thursday, be held by Mr. 386 Justice Bucknill. The Judge has expressed the desire that he should have the assistance of three assessors, one of whom should be a naval officer with experience in the submarine service, another of whom should be one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House, and the third of whom should be a person skilled in the science of naval architecture. It is accordingly proposed to appoint as assessors: Captain George Cunningham Paton Menzies, R.N., who is a submarine specialist in the Royal Navy; Captain Archibald Hamilton Ryley, one of the Elder Brethren; and Professor Thomas Bertrand Abell, Professor of Naval Architecture in the University of Liverpool. The appointment of these gentlemen meets with the full approval of Mr. Justice Bucknill. I need hardly remind the House that while the technical knowledge of the assessors will be of immense value in carrying out a full inquiry, their function is solely to assist Mr. Justice Bucknill, and they will have no responsibility for the findings of the tribunal.
§ The purpose of the Resolution now before the House is to apply to the inquiry the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921. This Act confers upon a tribunal appointed by His Majesty or a Secretary of State, in pursuance of a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, the powers of the High Court to take evidence on oath, to enforce the attendance of witnesses and to compel the production of documents. The Government will, of course, give all the assistance in its power to the tribunal, and as a considerable amount of preliminary work is necessary before the inquiry can be opened, the Treasury Solicitor has been instructed to place his services at the disposal of the tribunal for the purpose of collecting all the evidence and other material which the tribunal may require to have submitted to it.
§ The House may desire to have information as to when and where the inquiry will be held. These are, of course, matters to be decided by the tribunal, but I understand that it is not now intended, as was suggested in the statement which the Prime Minister made on Monday last, to defer the opening of the inquiry until the "Thetis" has been salved, as it is impossible to say how 387 long this will take. I understand, however, that every effort will be made to open the inquiry as soon as the necessary preparations have been completed and that, so far as the venue of the inquiry is concerned, the tribunal will consider the convenience of all parties in deciding where to hold the inquiry. The inquiry will accordingly be opened in London and some part held in Liverpool to enable the evidence which is more readily available there to be taken. I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say, to investigate and report upon all the circumstances surrounding the loss of His Majesty's Submarine "Thetis" and the subsequent attempts to save the lives of those in the ship.—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.