Oral Answers to Questions — German Warships' Escape (Bucknill Report).

– in the House of Commons on 18th March 1942.

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Photo of Major Lawrence Kimball Major Lawrence Kimball , Loughborough

asked the Prime Minister whether the Report by Mr. Justice Bucknill on the escape of the three German warships from Brest has now been received; and can he now make any statement on this subject?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

The Report has been received, but I do not feel able at this moment to make any detailed statement upon the episode referred to. To be of any value, the statement would have to be a very full one, and this would be of much interest to the enemy. These reasons also make it impossible to publish Mr. Justice Bucknill's Report, which would reveal so much technical detail about our arrangements as to be of great convenience to the enemy, who gives us no corresponding information about his affairs.

Every effort will be made to profit by the facts and the conclusions which the Report contains, but the House should, I think, be made aware, that apart from a few points which need some attention to secure improvement, the general findings of the Board of Inquiry do not reveal that there were any serious deficiencies, either in foresight, co-operation or organisation.

Photo of Viscount  Turnour Viscount Turnour , Horsham and Worthing

May I ask whether, in coming to that decision, the Government gave full consideration to what occurred in the last war in regard to the Mesopotamian campaign and the Commission which was appointed to investigate it, and other Commissions whose findings were published, when it was not held that it was against the public interest to state whether there had been defects in policy or otherwise?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I am sure the Noble Lord will realise that a discussion of the campaign in Mesopotamia and its details was very different from discussing the detailed arrangements made by air and sea for dealing with ships, and it is quite impossible to give away details like that without conveying information to the enemy.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

Has anybody got the sack?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham

If there was no deficiency in organisation and foresight, how was it that these vessels managed to escape?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I think the answer to that is, 'Tis not in mortals to command success.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that this answer will leave the public in a most unsatisfied condition, and that it is not good enough, after every reverse, to be told that there is no lesson whatever to be learned?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not listen to my reply. I said the lessons would be taken into account.

Photo of Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha , Plymouth, Devonport

I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the lessons were minor in character. Could he undertake to give further information in Secret Session?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

That question should be put to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I have already stated that it is impossible to give details in public. Obviously, it is a matter for consideration as to whether these matters can be given, ever in Secret Session. I am not prepared to answer that now.

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson Mr Austin Hopkinson , Mossley

While I agree with what. my right hon. Friend said about the necessity of concealing certain facts, would it be possible to disclose whether the Report shows that any of the trouble was due to deficiencies in material?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

Perhaps my hon. Friend will put that Question down.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish Rear-Admiral Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Is the House to understand by the right hon. Gentleman's original reply that to all intents and purposes this grave incident is closed, so far as the public and this House are concerned?

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I have given a reply to the Question which was put. It is obviously quite impossible to discuss the Report in Public Session.