HC Deb 09 June 1920 vol 130 cc422-4W

asked the Minister of Labour whether the inquiry which he promised into allegations which had been made in regard to the administration of the training school for ex-soldiers in the City of Bristol has yet been held; and, if so, with what result?


The inquiry into allegations which have been made in regard to the administration of the training school for ex-soldiers was held at my request by the hon. and gallant Member for Bradford East (Capt. Loseby), to whom I am greatly indebted for his assistance in this matter. The hon. and gallant Member's report is contained in a letter, dated 24th May, addressed to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Labour (Sir M. Barlow), and is as follows:—In accordance with your request I visited Bristol on Friday the 21st inst., for the purpose of holding an inquiry into the allegations made against the management of the Radnor Road Industrial Training Centre for Disabled Soldiers, Bristol. The allegations are summarised in two documents.

  1. 1. A memorandum prepared by your Private Secretary, Mr. Bevan, of allegations made to him verbally by Mr. E. M. Rickard, of Bristol, on 5th May. These allegations were read over to Mr. Rickard at the inquiry and repeated by him.
    • The memorandum is addressed to Sir James Currie, and dated May 6th, 1920.
  2. 2. A letter addressed to Sir Montague Barlow by Mr. Rickard, dated May 18th, 1920.
Before holding the inquiry I satisfied myself that due notice had been given to Mr. Rickard of the time and place of the inquiry, and that he had been invited to substantiate his allegations before an independent investigator. A shorthand note of the proceedings is forwarded to you herewith. I propose, therefore, to confine myself to my conclusions. Evidence was given by Mr. Rickard, Mr. King, the manager, and Mr. Birchall, at the Divisional Headquarters in the morning. In the afternoon I visited the factory and made a close inspection, during the course of which the books were examined and some dozen or so of the trainees were privately interrogated. As a result of this inquiry and inspection I find no difficulty in expressing my opinion that the allegations made in the documents referred to were not and cannot be substantiated. I find in particular that:—
  1. 1. Mr. King, the manager, has done and is doing everything in his power to employ ex-soldiers on his staff. Under any circumstances he is not a free agent in the matter, as his hands are tied by the Local Technical Advisory Committee, who, however, appear quite alive to the importance of employing ex-service men wherever possible. The allegation that 'no ex-service man is employed on the Training Staff of the Training Centre in any of the more responsible positions' is not true. The attached list of employés* proves the contrary to be the case.
  2. 2. Neither King nor Birchall have private businesses.
  3. 3. There are two and not eight instructors for the engineering trainees. The work could not possibly be adequately superintended with less.
  4. 4. None of the charges of irregularity in regard to dealings with stores were substantiated. The books were in a satisfactory condition and the method of checking stores appeared complete. I believe that Mr. King is a man of high character who would not for a moment tolerate any loose dealings with Government property.
  5. 5. My investigations did not bear out the suggestion of incompetence upon the part of the management generally. I was, on the contrary, much impressed by the apparent excellenece of the arrangements. I believe that the institution is thoroughly well conducted, and reflects real credit upon those responsible for the management.
I am sure that Mr. Rickard, in making his allegations, acted in a bonâ fide manner. *Not printed. It is most unfortunate, however, that his informants did not take adequate steps to verify these allegations before giving publicity to charges which cannot be substantiated and must have caused pain to persons clearly actuated by high principles and apparently imbued with a deep desire to adequately carry on their mission of helping disabled men. In carrying out the inquiry I was greatly assisted by Mr. Baillie, C.T.A., Mr. Anderson, A.L.A.M.A., and Sir James Currie's Private Secretary, to whom I express my thanks.