§ Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 16 April,Official Report, column 462, when the board of inquiry system was instituted; and if boards of inquiry are automatically set up after an accident or suspected accident involving British-controlled nuclear weapons. 360W
§ Mr. Soames
The authority to convene naval boards of inquiry is exercised under the royal prerogative; there are no statutory rules requiring or relating to them. Records of naval boards of inquiry go back at least as far as the 18th century. The Army Act of 1881 made provision for courts of inquiry to be set up. These were adopted and adapted by the Royal Air Force when it was formed in 1918.
The rules and regulations relating to service boards of inquiry lay down a number of circumstances in which they must be convened: these do not specifically indicate nuclear weapon-related matters, although they are not necessarily excluded.
Any accident or suspected accident involving British-controlled nuclear weapons is investigated, but the appropriate form of inquiry is decided upon in the light of the particular circumstances.