asked the Secretary of State for Air if he is now in a position to make a full statement as to the cause of the loss of the aircraft on passage from this country to Malta on 31st January to 1st February, conveying officials of the War Office and Foreign Office to the preliminary conference held on 2nd February.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that there would be great advantage, in view of the criticisms which have been made in the House, if he were to publish this report?
No, Sir, I am sure there would be great disadvantage. I am sure that anyone who has had to do with inquiries in any of the three Services would know that it is of the utmost importance that officers should be able to speak freely, and even criticise their superior officers, and that any divulgence of the report or findings would make it more difficult to ascertain the truth.
On 14th March a Liberator aircraft crashed shortly after take-off at the Azores, causing the deaths of the six members of the crew and the 12 passengers. The accident has been fully investigated, but the proceedings of the court of inquiry are not yet available in this country.
When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to have the report? If he will tell me that, I will follow the example of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), and put down another Question later.
May I also ask whether in this case the evidence of the inquiry will be made available, and, if not, whether the right hon. Gentleman does not consider that in these cases where Transport Command is concerned mainly with the transport of civilian passengers, there ought not to be a public inquiry, exactly as there would be in the case of a railway accident?
That is a question which I have answered already. I am sure that the object of the House is, as it is mine, to get at the truth and to encourage people to give their evidence without fear or favour. All that is greatly fostered by non-publication of the report.