HC Deb 28 July 1915 vol 73 cc2265-6
28. Sir H. CRAIK

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether his attention has been called to a case tried last week before Mr. Justice Horridge, in which an undischarged bankrupt, named Lionel Squire, was plaintiff, and Messrs. J. Keele, London agents for the Sunbeam Motor Company, were defendants, regarding commissions paid on transactions with the War Office, in which the learned judge stated that £40,000 of commission had been paid in a single transaction; whether this undischarged bankrupt is now or has been employed either as an intermediary or as a paid servant by the War Office; if so, upon whose recommendation he was so employed; whether any of the parties to the transaction continue to have any dealings whatever with the Department; and whether the Department intends to take criminal proceedings against those concerned in this matter?


Mr. Squire was employed as a civilian engineer in connection with the assessment of the value of impressed motor vehicles from the 5th to the 31st August last, and on clerical work in connection with the closing of this depot, at a reduced rate of pay, from the 1st September to the 15th November, 1914. He was engaged verbally by the then Secretary of the Mechanical Transport Committee who is now serving at the front. When taken into employment on the day following the outbreak of War it did not transpire that he was an undischarged bankrupt. The War Office originally dealt with the London agents of the Sunbeam Company at the company's request, but for some time past has dealt with the company direct. As regards the last part of the question, the matter is being considered by my legal advisers.


May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether Lionel Squire, at the same time that he was in the employment of the War Office, was receiving a commission which, in the words of the judge, amounted to £40,000 in all from the persons for whom he was intermediary, and whether it is the habit of the War Office to inquire into the character sufficiently strictly to ascertain whether a man is an undischarged bankrupt or not?


The first question that my hon. Friend puts to me is a question of fact, of which he is quite aware as the result of the recent trial. In regard to the second question, of course, we make all the inquiries we can, but I would ask my hon. Friend to remember the circumstances under which this man was taken into employment.


Cannot the hon. Gentleman say what steps the War Office are taking, or are going to take, to prevent this gross stealing of public money, as in this case has been done?


The mere fact that attention has been drawn to the matter is sufficient to put us all on our guard in the future.