asked the Under-Secretary of Slate to the Air Ministry (1) whether he is aware that the Select Committee on National Expenditure have recently reported that replies given to them by Major Cockburn, Royal Air Force, in connection with certain clothing contracts, were contradictory and unsatisfactory; what is this officer's war record; whether he is still on the active list; and whether it is proposed to take any and, if so, what action in connection with the matter;
(2)whether he is aware that the (Select Committee on National Expenditure have recently reported that they were unable to attach any credence to the statements made to them by Colonel Latimer, Royal Air Force. in connection with certain clothing contracts; what is the war record of this officer; whether he is still on the active list; and whether it is proposed to take any and, if so, what action in connection with the matter; and
(3)whether he is aware that the Select Committee on National Expenditure have recently reported that replies given to them by Colonel Bersey, Royal Air Fore s, in connecnection with certain clothing contracts, were very unsatisfactory; that this officer ignored the request of the Committee to come before them for further examination; what is this officer's war record; whether he is still on the active list; and whether it is proposed to take any, and if so, what action in connection with the matter?
§ Major-General SEELY
The answer to the first part of the first two questions is in the affirmative, and to the first part of the third that the complaint of the Committee is What Colonel Bersey did not attend at all, and not that his replies were "very unsatisfactory."
The facts asked for about the three officers mentioned arc as follow:
Major Cockburn was transferred from the Army to the Royal Air Force as from the 1st April, 1918, and was employed at 1326W Headquarters up to the 24th October, 1918,first with the Directorate of Manning and then in the Directorate of Air Quartermaster Services. He was then transferred to Headquarters, Midland Area, where he remained until he was demobilised on the 21st February, 1919.
Colonel Latimer was employed in an administrative position first at South Farnborough, and then at the Air Ministry, from the 12th October, 1916, until the 3rd May, 1919, when he relinquished his commission.
Colonel Bersey joined the Service on the 29th October, 1917, and was employed in an administrative capacity under the Air Board and Air Ministry until the 30th September, 1918, when, he was transferred to No. 7 Royal Air Force Reception Depot, where he remained until his transfer to the unemployment list on the 25th April, 1919.
As regards the statement that Colonel Bersey ignored the Committee's request for his attendance, the only information I have is that contained in the Committee's Report and a letter -which appeared in the Press from Colonel Bersey's solicitors, explaining his non-appearance; but in fairness to this officer I must state that there has been nothing in his conduct, so far as the Air Ministry are aware, to show that he wishes to avoid examination, and that in point of fact he is attending in London to give evidence before the O'Sullivan. Court of Inquiry.
As regards any action which it may be desired to take in regard to these officers, I cannot, I am afraid, make any statement until the findings of the Court of Inquiry just referred to have been received. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War gave an undertaking yesterday that the results of proceedings of this inquiry should be laid (before the House.
§ Mr. BRIANT
asked the Under-Secretary of State to the Air Ministry if the attention of the Air Ministry was drawn to the statements of Sir John Hunter that there had been fraudulent conspiracy in connection with the carrying out of contracts; and if no action was taken because a prosecution would reveal what appears to be inefficiency and absence of control on the part of the representatives of the Ministry on the spot?
§ Major-General SEELY
I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member when he put a similar question to me oh the 11th August.1327W