HC Deb 29 April 1968 vol 763 cc780-1
42 and 43. Mr. Corfield

asked the Minister of Technology (1) what steps he has taken to improve the security arrangements at the Aircraft and Armaments Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down;

(2) what records are kept, what accounting procedures adopted and what stocktaking undertaken at the Aircraft and Armaments Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down; how it came about that equipment valued at £7,500 was stolen from the establishment; and what disciplinary action has been taken against the employees concerned.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

The Establishment operates an approved system of stores control and stock-taking checks, the procedures varying according to the value and security classification of the stores concerned. The thefts, which took place over a long period, mainly involved small consumable stores and equipment from obsolete aircraft awaiting disposal, for which it is not practicable to account in detail. The main safeguard against losses of this kind is a random check by the police at the gate; a comprehensive daily check not being practicable.

One of the employees involved in the thefts has been dismissed; the other two resigned.

None of the stolen equipment was classified. The security of classified stores and documents is however kept under review, and improvements are introduced from time to time as necessary.

Mr. Corfield

Is it not the case that, far from this offence being detected by the police at the gate, it was detected by the ordinary police when one of the offenders advertised this material for sale? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us who was responsible and what action is being taken against him, bearing in mind that we have had a recent incident of a chairman of a company being held responsible for the action of his subordinates?

Mr. Benn

This is a case of theft from the stores concerned. I cannot, obviously, disclose to the House the measures which have since been taken to improve security, but the principle of Parliamentary responsibility makes me responsible for the affairs of the Establishment.