HC Deb 15 November 1944 vol 404 cc1934-6
10. Mr. Austin Hopkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Air, with what rank one of the officers guilty of food offences and reproved by the commander-in-chief Training Command, R.A.F., is now employed in his Ministry; and in what capacities are the other three employed and with what rank.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Air (Captain Harold Balfour)

The number of officers reproved by the Commander-in-Chief was three, not four. None is employed at the Air Ministry. Two have left the Service at their own request. The third is employed as an assistant adjutant in the rank of flying officer in a unit outside the Air Ministry.

11. Mr. Hopkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Air, whether he is aware that the inquiry into the food offences in a unit of 54 Group Training Command, Regent's Park, provided prima facie evidence that the following offences had been committed: false entries on Form 658; false descriptions of the contents of packages of foodstuffs illegally distributed: illegal consumption of motor fuel; illegal use of vehicles and employment of R.A.F. personnel for private purposes; and whether any steps have been or are being taken to bring the offenders to justice.

Captain Balfour

Yes, Sir. Irregularities were committed when Service transport and labour were used for the business of the farm. The farming activities were carried on, not for private reasons, but for the benefit of the station institute. The irregularities were taken into account by the Commander-in-Chief when he investigated the case and dealt with the offenders.

Mr. Hopkinson

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend to reply to the first part of my Question? What about the false entries on Form 658?

Captain Balfour

I have said that these irregularities were committed when Service transport and labour were used in a way in which they should not have been, and it is admitted that wrong entries were made on that particular form. These were made by comparatively junior officers, in an excess of zeal, in thinking that they were carrying out the requirements of their senior officers. This transport was improperly used to the extent of £106, of which, approximately, £100 was in carrying swill from the cookhouse to the pigsty.

Mr. Hopkinson

Are we to understand that it is a mere irregularity that packets of ham and similar foodstuffs delivered from the station to private houses were described as "Operational Papers. Urgent"?

Captain Balfour

The Commander-in-Chief who investigated this case did not find that the charge of concealment was proved. He could not make sure, in his investigation, whether, on these journeys, a small diversion occurred, or, alternatively, that papers were not being carried.

Mr. Shinwell

May I ask my right hon. and gallant Friend, in view of the fact that these irregularities have been admitted and appropriate action has been taken against the alleged offenders, if it is desirable that we should persist in this persecution of these men?

Captain Balfour

These irregularities did take place. They were exposed by the officers concerned, who actually asked, two months before our inquiries started, that an investigation should take place in order to see that everything was in order. My right hon. Friend has been absolutely frank with the House in his replies, and I have given true answers to the best of my ability to-day. We are not trying to conceal anything, and, if my hon. Friend will kindly accept that we are trying to give the facts to the House, I think he will be more satisfied, especially if he is less suspiciously minded about the replies to his Questions which he is quite entitled to ask. He must, however, accept our replies.

Mr. Hopkinson


Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member cannot carry the matter further now.