§ 15. Mr. RAPER
asked the Secretary of State for Air why the application of a Mr. Sewards, under Clauses 36–39 of the Lytton Report, was rejected by the second investigating committee; whether it is a fact that owing to his absence in Washington his immediate chief was not interviewed as in the other cases; whether his chief had previously recommended Mr. Sewards; whether he subsequently wrote from America protesting against his rejection, and stating that he considered him specially competent; 1452 whether Mr. Sewards had been given a special increment for efficiency and been recommended for promotion; and whether, in view of the two cases of misrecording of evidence which have already been admitted, he will cause this case to be reconsidered?
The statements in the question are substantially correct, but, to complete them, it should be added that, in the opinion of two other experienced officials under whom Mr. Sewards served, he is below the standard of his grade for efficiency, and in these circumstances I am satisfied that the decision of the Investigating Committee was correct, and I cannot agree to reconsider the case.
§ 17. Mr. SUGDEN
asked the Secretary of State for Air how many temporary officials there are in his Department above Grade 1 clerks' who were previously employed in other Departments from which their services were dispensed with on account of age, ill-health, or other causes; whether any of them are in receipt of pensions; and why these officials are retained whilst ex-service men are being discharged?
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the replies I gave to identical questions put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham East yesterday, and by the hon. and gallant Member for North Cumberland on the 21st February.
§ 18. Mr. SUGDEN
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether applications have recently been invited for certain civil positions under the Air Ministry in Iraq; and whether such appointments will be restricted entirely to ex-service men?
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the re-ply given yesterday to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham East.
§ 19. Mr. SUGDEN
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether efficient ex-service men are being discharged from the Air Ministry to make room for clerical officers who qualified at the recent examination; whether cases have occurred in which it has been found impossible to obtain a sufficiently qualified clerical officer to fill the vacant post; whether the procedure in the case of substituting non-service personnel has always been to obtain a suitable substitute before 1453 dismissing the non-service man; why this preferential treatment has been extended to non-service men; and why ex-service men liable for substitution are not similarly retained until a suitable substitute is actually obtained?
I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply given yesterday to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham East.
§ 20. Mr. CARR
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether, in view of the completely changed conditions of Government employment of ex-service men and of the fact that he is finding it necessary to discharge scores of ex-service men, including disabled and those with overseas service, and that these discharges include highly qualified technical ex-service men while other non-service personnel are retained as indispensable, he will set up another committee, including ex-service men representatives, to review all these cases?
My hon. Friend, if he will place himself in my position, will, I think, realise that the changed conditions to which he refers make it increasingly important that, to make up the reduced complements of staff, only those who are most efficient and best qualified shall be retained. Who are best qualified for performing the work required in the different Departments of the Air Ministry, I, with the advice of the heads of Departments, am responsible for deciding. Notice will be given to those persons whom, after all relevant points have been reviewed, it is considered least advantageous to retain. I am prepared, after the notices have been given, to have a list of the persons affected supplied to the authorised ex-service men's representatives, and I shall also be prepared to receive from them any representations they may wish to make from the ex-service point of view and will give careful consideration to such representations, but I must retain the responsibility for deciding, after balancing all the points involved, who is to be retained and who is to be discharged. In accordance with the decision of the Government, the expenditure of the Department must be reduced without avoidable delay, and it is not possible to withhold notices pending discussion or consideration by a Committee.
§ 21. Mr. CARR
asked the Secretary of State for Air what has been the procedure adopted in his Department for interviewing candidates sent by the joint substitution board to substitute non-service men; whether in many cases such candidates have been interviewed by officials well known to be hostile to substitution; whether, in view of the numbers of technical ex-service men who have been submitted by the joint substitution board as suitable, but rejected by officials in his Department as unsuitable, he will cause a Committee to be set up to interview all such applicants, such Committee to contain an ex-service representative; and whether, in view of the numerous non-service technical men still employed at Farnborough and at the Air Ministry headquarters, he will apply to the joint substitution board for candidates to be re-submitted for all such posts?
The answer to the first question is that candidates sent by the joint substitution board are, in all cases interviewed by responsible officers competent to judge their qualifications. The answer to the second is in the negative. With regard to the third, I am satisfied that the examination of candidates has been properly and fairly carried out and that, as the joint substitution board can only say whether a candidate has primâ facie qualifications which entitle him to be considered, no useful purpose would be served by adopting the proposed procedure. The answer to the fourth is, that the joint substitution board has been asked to submit candidates for all temporary technical posts held by non-service men. In certain of these cases, however, the officers are specialists, and in view of repeated and unsuccessful attempts to find qualified candidates, the joint substitution board has agreed that further action need not be taken.