HC Deb 09 February 1954 vol 523 cc995-8
38. Mr. Pannell

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the circumstances in the case of Mr. G. T. Wills of Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury, which have now been made known to him by hon. Members of this House who are members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, he is prepared to re-engage this man in the service of his Department.

39. Mr. Albu

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has noted the remarks of the Recorder in the case of Mr. G. T. Wills of Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury; and whether he is prepared to restore this man to his previous position in his Department.

40. Mr. Hobson

asked the Secretary of State for War what action he is taking arising from the case of the discharge of Mr. G. T. Wills, Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury, to satisfy himself that the case was not one of victimisation.

41. Mr. Pargiter

asked the Secretary of State for War under whose authority the prosecution of Mr. G. T. Wills, Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury, was initiated for eating a 1s. sandwich, for which he was fined £5 in the local court, a penalty which was later changed to a complete discharge by the Recorder.

42. Mr. Bence

asked the Secretary of State for War, in view of the decision by the Recorder to remit the fine imposed on Mr. G. T. Wills of Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury, what steps he is taking to re-instate this man in his Department.

37. Mr. Lee

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of his failure to reinstate Mr. G. T. Wills of Harlescott Depot, Shrewsbury, in the service of his Department, he is prepared to take the necessary steps to restore to this man his gratuity

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Antony Head)

Mr. G. T. Wills, formerly a War Department unestablished employee and Chairman of the Canteen Committee at 43 "A" Vehicle Depot, Harlescott, was fined £5 for larceny of canteen sandwiches valued at 1s. He asked to have taken into account on his conviction his taking without payment over a period of some six months meals to approximately the value of £9 10s. His prosecution was the result of police inquiries instituted by the Officer Commanding 43 "A" Vehicle Depot. Mr. Wills had failed to exercise proper supervision over the running of the canteen.

Exhaustive inquiries have already been made into this case, and it has been given the fullest consideration. There is no question of victimisation. I have noted the decision and the remarks of the Recorder who, on 15th September, 1952, confirmed Mr. Wills' conviction and dismissed his appeal with an order of absolute discharge and a recommendation that his dismissal from the War Department might be reconsidered. This has been done, but Mr. Wills was dismissed on account of irregularities in the running of the canteen which extended far beyond the offence which was the subject of the court proceedings; and I could not agree to his reinstatement. I have, however, taken account of representations made, and I have agreed that Mr. Wills, on application in the normal way, may be considered for re-employment by the War Department elsewhere than 43 "A" Vehicle Depot. As the decision on Mr. Wills' dismissal must stand, we are precluded from paying him any gratuity in respect of has four years' War Department service.

Mr. Pannell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much of that reply is misleading? The charge upon which this man stood was that of eating a sandwich worth 1s. It was well understood over a long period that this was part of the perquisites of the job, and had this man been properly represented in the lower court he would undoubtedly have been acquitted. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman refer to the remarks of the Recorder calling upon the War Office to visit no other punishment upon this man, and why does he withhold, because of the sum of 1s., a gratuity worth £84? Is not this a gross abuse of power?

Mr. Head

I had a long discussion about this with the hon. Member and other hon. Members interested in the case. I do not think I can go into detail about it in the House. I have been into it very carefully and I have made the offer to Mr. Wills of re-employment elsewhere. I cannot go any further.

Mr. Bence

May we take it that if Mr. Wills is reinstated in another Department of the War Office his gratuity for the past four years will be continued, since the case was dismissed?

Mr. Head

No, Sir. It is automatic under a Treasury regulation that he forfeits his gratuity owing to this conviction.

Mr. Albu

Were not the Recorder's remarks equivalent to acquitting the man and saying that this was nothing more than a technical offence?

Mr. Head

No. As the hon. Member may have noticed, the Recorder said the man did wrong and knew that be was doing wrong.

Mr. H. Nicholls

Are the facts of the case that the penalty imposed upon this man was not for the one offence involving 1s., but that others were taken into account which involved considerably more?

Mr. Head

Yes—about £9 10s.

Mr. Pannell

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) has been misled; he has not come across the case until today. Is the Minister aware that the original charge in the lower court was about 1s.,and that the man fully understood that that was the only charge? The sum of £6 16s. was dragged in by the defence to make the point that this man had pursued this policy in the innocent belief that he was entitled to do so as a perquisite of the job.


Mr. Pannell

On reflection, I beg to give notice—[Hon. Members: "Too late."]—it is not too late; I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter of Mr. Wills on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

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