HL Deb 23 July 1985 vol 466 cc1091-2
Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in the inquiry into the loss of the log of HMS "Conqueror" and when they expect the inquiry to be concluded.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, I regret that I cannot add to the Answer I gave the noble Lord on 3rd July.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that this issue goes back to last November? Is he really saying that the Royal Navy has lost a valuable document and that the Government have learnt nothing more about it since?

Two propositions have been put to me independently since the noble Lord last answered me on this subject at the beginning of this month, and one of them has been published. The first is that the log was never lost. The second is that a report has been received by the Government and referred to the Director of Pubic Prosecutions, but he decided not to proceed with it. Can the Minister say whether any report has been received from the inquiry? If not, when do the Government expect to receive a report from the inquiry?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as I have told the noble Lord on a number of occasions, this matter is in the hands of the police.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that there was nothing discreditable, in a war situation, about sinking the "Belgrano", but that the Government would have done much better to be more forthcoming and truthful about the affair from the beginning?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, that is a view which has been expressed on a number of occasions, but it does not, I think, arise from the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say whether the log of the "Conqueror" is the only log that has ever been mislaid or lost?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords. There have been others, including one in 1797.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, is the Minister aware that this matter has been in the hands of the police since last November? Does he anticipate that it will still be in the hands of the police next November? And what does he have to say about the November after that?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am afraid that I have no indication as to how the police inquiries are proceeding. Ministers have no power to interfere in such inquiries.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, has the case of the log lost in 1797 been cleared up yet?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am informed that the late, gallant Viscount, Lord Nelson, knew something about it.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the Minister telling the House that we had to wait from 1797 until this Government were elected in 1979 before the Royal Navy lost a ship's log? Is he now saying also that the inquiry has discovered some evidence which is now before the police? The Minister was a little obscure on this point. He said that the matter is with the police. Does that mean that some discovery has been made by the inquiry, which I believe the Government set up, which has now been referred to the police? If that is the case, presumably there is some evidence as to how the log book was lost.

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords, the Government were not able to determine what happened to the log book. That is why the matter was referred to the police.

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