Oral Answers to Questions — Delayed Burial.

– in the House of Commons on 4th June 1942.

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Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

asked the Home Secretary why the body of the lance-corporal in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, whose name and particulars have been supplied to him by the hon. Member for Nuneaton, was kept from 7th April, 1942, the day of death, until 27th May, 1942, before a burial order was issued; whether he has taken any steps and, if so, what steps, to ensure that there shall never be any recurrence of a case where the body of any member of the Services or of the public shall remain unburied for so long?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I have made inquiries and find that this death was reported to the Coroner on 10th April by the authorities of the hospital in which it occurred with a view to investigation of the question whether death might be due to some form of poisoning. The Coroner ordered a post-mortem examination by a pathologist, thinking that possibly such an examination might render an inquest unnecessary: and pending the receipt of the pathologist's report he took the view that he was not authorised to allow the body to be buried, as the question whether an inquest should be held was still undecided and there was a possibility that the pathologist might want to see the body again. The pathological investigation proved difficult and the pathologist's report was not received until 23rd May. The Coroner was, I think, wrong in this case in not opening an inquest, adjourning it pending the receipt of the pathologist's report and issuing the authority for burial. I have caused him to be so informed. The delay in burial is much regretted and I would wish to express my sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

Is it really necessary for the body of any person, whether a member of the A.T.S. or of the general public, to remain unburied for 50 days? Will the right hon. Gentleman write a kindly letter to the near relatives? Finally, would he also here and now publicly request the Press, if any of them happen to know the name concerned, not to go seeking information in the locality?

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Hackney South

I am sure that the Press would not wish to rake over this business, which is of such a personal character. On the other point, I will certainly give sympathetic consideration to the suggestion which my hon. Friend has made.