HC Deb 14 January 1913 vol 46 cc1870-3

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if any report has been received from the collector of Customs and Excise at Edinburgh or from the Procurator-fiscal on the case of the officer of Customs and Excise who committed suicide on 6th December; if a copy of a letter written by the officer just before his death, in which he said that he was being driven out of his mind by the overwhelming amount of work that he was expected to do, and for which he had neither training nor experience, has been sent to the Board; to what do such reports as have been received attribute his suicide; if there is in existence a letter written by the collector of Edinburgh to the deceased officer just before his death in which the collector admitted that the work was very difficult for a young and inexperienced officer, but begging him to stick to it as there had been eight changes of officers in nine months; if, since the suicide of this officer, two officers have been put in the station to do the work; and will he state why this important revenue station has been left without an established officer for nine months?


The circumstances attending the suicide of the officer in question have been fully reported to the Board of Customs and Excise by their collector at Edinburgh. No report has been received from the Procurator-fiscal. A copy of the letter written by the officer just before his death has been sent to the Board. It is impossible for the Board on the information before them to assign a definite cause for the officer's suicide, but they are satisfied from the reports received that the work of his station was not sufficient to account for it. The collector of Edinburgh states that no such letter as that referred to was written by him. It is not the case that two officers have since the suicide been put in the station to do the work. Assistance was given for four days in order to meet special work annually recurring towards the end of December, and such assistance would have been given to any officer in charge of the station. Owing to the great increase in the work of the Department, and the consequent increase in the number of stations, it was impossible to appoint fixed officers to all stations.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is informed by the Board of Customs and Excise that the collector did not write the letter referred to in the question?


Yes. The collector states that no such letter as that referred to was written by him.

34. Mr. HORNER

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that a large proportion of the present Excise staff is now only in receipt of salaries sanctioned by the 1894 scale, whilst others are considerably below that scale; and whether he can hold out any hope that the scale will be revised soon, seeing that the volume and responsibilities of their duties have been materially increased by recent legislation and that the cost of living has advanced about 25 per cent, since 1894?


I am aware that if the 1894 scale were still in force certain officers might be now receiving under it as much or in some cases slightly more than they are actually receiving under the new Hobhouse scale. But this is only a temporary incident, as the new scale will bring them substantial improvements, both of annual increments and maximum salary. The new scale was fixed quite recently after long and careful consideration, and I see no reason to revise it.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Excise officers are bringing frequent and forcible complaints before individual Members'? As they would appear to have some substantial grievance, may I ask whether this matter is really engaging the attention of the Department?


It has been engaging attention for some time.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if any examination of surveyors of Excise origin for inspectors has been held since the amalgamation of the Customs and Excise; if not, will he state if any officers of Customs origin have been appointed to inspector ships which, if the amalgamation had not taken place, would have been filled by the appointment, after examination, of super visors of Excise; and when a chance of promotion to the inspectorate will be given to the surveyors of Excise origin?


The answer to the first paragraph of the question is in the negative. The old class of inspectors no longer exists, having been absorbed with other Excise and Customs classes in the new controlling grade under the Amalgamation Committee's recommendation. The answer to the second paragraph is in the negative. Nobody has been promoted to the new controlling grade since its constitution, except three officials of Excise origin who had previously passed the examination for the abolished post of Excise inspector. In reply to the third paragraph, I am unable to state when further promotions will take place.