§ 23 Mr. Fell
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) the reasons for the dismissal of C. M. Coldham by the Board of Inland Revenue on 14th April, 1955, to take effect from 22nd March, 1955;
(2) whether, prior to his dismissal by the Board of Inland Revenue on 22nd March, Mr. C. M. Coldham had been given the opportunity to state his point of view to a senior official of the Board of Inland Revenue other than the investigating officer;
(3) on whose authority members of the staff of the Board of Inland Revenue's Valuation Office, Great Yarmouth, were instructed early this year by an Inland Revenue investigating officer to obtain evidence about their superior, C. M. Coldham, without his knowledge; and to what extent this is normal procedure.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
As Mr. Coldham was informed at the time, he was dismissed for serious irregularities in his claims for travelling expenses and subsistence allowances, which he did not deny; these of themselves precluded his retention in the public service. Mr. Coldham's own statements were recorded by the investigating officers and reported 2107 to the Board, but he was not specifically invited to state his point of view to any other official. The steps taken in this case were justified in the exceptional circumstances.
§ Mr. Fell
Will my right hon. Friend agree that the reasons for the dismissal bore a very close relation to the charges which were brought against Mr. Coldham by the Board of Inland Revenue? Will he also state what was the result of those criminal proceedings? Does the Chancellor not realise that there is a settled procedure laid down to ensure that neither dismissal nor any other serious punishment is given unfairly, hastily or without due consideration of the civil servant's point of view? May I ask him whether he would conduct a full inquiry into the way in which these investigations were carried out?
§ Mr. Butler
Mr. Coldham was acquitted of a criminal charge. My hon. Friend knows that and need not have asked me the question. Dealing with the second part of his question, about procedure, I am satisfied that the Board of Inland Revenue could not, in the exceptional circumstances, have acted differently from the way in which they did act. I think their record shows over many years—and they have an immense staff—that they act with justice. Answering the third question, about an inquiry, I am not prepared to hold out any hopes to my hon. Friend, but if it would be of any assistance to him I should be ready, and I know the Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue would also be ready, to see him and discuss the matter with him.
Mr. H. Wilson
Will the right hon. Gentleman suggest to his hon. Friend that when cases of this kind are to be raised in the House it would be a great deal better not to give publicity to the names of the individuals concerned but to furnish details separately and then to raise the matter as a general issue?
§ Mr. Fell
Is the Chancellor aware that these details have been furnished to the Chancellor? Is my right hon. Friend also aware, when he talks about exceptional circumstances, that I have been trying to find out for weeks and weeks what the exceptional circumstances were and that I could not do so? Can he say what the exceptional circumstances were?
§ Mr. Butler
In answer to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), that is a matter for the discretion of the hon. Member himself and it is usually better for the person concerned that names should not be mentioned. Will the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) be good enough to put his point again?
§ Mr. Butler
I do not want further to prejudice this case. I have offered that conversations can take place; but if I am to continue to answer public questions on this, it is fortunately most exceptional that a head of a department commits offences of this sort and then does not deny them when the facts have all been put before him.