§ Major M. WOOD
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether certain persons in the Archives Department have been accused of irregular conduct; whether the circumstances have been inquired into; and, if so, what steps have been taken?
§ Mr. HOGGE
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions if a superintendent of the Ministry of Munitions has been dismissed after demanding an inquiry into grave irregularities before the findings of such inquiry have been made public or conveyed to the superintendent concerned; and, if so, will he explain why this course was adopted?
§ Brigadier-General CROFT
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions (1) whether the dismissal of Mr. Hankinson from the post of superintendent of the Archives Department was not due to a reduction of the staff; and if any reduction has taken place;
(2) whether Mr. Hankinson, a superintendent of a Department of the Ministry of Munitions, called attention to grave irregularities amongst his subordinates in his Department and pressed for the removal of the culprits; and whether these persons remain in the employ of the Ministry of Munitions whilst Mr. C. J. Hankinson has been dismissed from his post;
(3) what is the result of the inquiry into the conduct of certain persons in the Archives Department of the Ministry of Munitions accused of leaving the premises during Ministry working hours for the purpose of visiting public houses, of drinking on Ministry premises in working hours, of card playing on Ministry promises during working hours, of listening to confidential 1850W messages on the telephone, and making improper use of the Departmental telephone; and what is the result of that inquiry?
§ Sir R. COOPER
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions (1) Whether Mr. C. J. Hankinson, the Superintendent of the Archives Department, who has done excellent service in the Ministry of Munitions for 3½ years, has been summarily dismissed; whether he bears the highest character; whether he has called attention to the misconduct of a subordinate; whether an inquiry was held prior to his dismissal; and, if so, what were the findings of such inquiry;
(2) who conducted the inquiry into the charges of irregularities in the Archives Department: whether the male and female staffs were separately examined; and what were the names of those employed to make the inquiry?
§ Major KELLEY
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions whether Mr. C. J. Hankinson, Superintendent of the Archives Department of the Ministry of Munitions was given notice of his release prior to his having demanded an inquiry into grave irregularities in his Department?
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
The work of the section referred to is that of receiving and warehousing heavy parcels containing the official documents and records of the Ministry's contracts and other transactions during the War. The place in which this work is done is a disused factory in Southwark. The men against whom the charges referred to in the questions were made are all ex-service men working under the direction of a disabled ex-service man wearing the Mons ribbon. On the 9th February Mr. Hankinson asked that this man should be dismissed on the ground, amongst others, that he had taken his assistants to licensed premises during working hours after having been forbidden to do so. The inquiry held into this complaint showed that no drinking had taken place during working hours. Neither of the two witnesses called by Mr. Hankinson could substantiate this charge, and both denied any knowledge of card playing during working hours. It was, however, proved that the assistant had been discourteous to the Superintendent, but in view of his record for gallant military service, and his otherwise satisfactory record, it was 1851W decided not to dismiss him, but to transfer him to another section of the Ministry with a warning of dismissal in the event of further complaint. Mr. Hankinson expressed himself as satisfied with this decision, and the man concerned has given complete satisfaction in his new post.
The inquiry was held on the 14th February, under the direction of the Principal Registrar of the Ministry, assisted by the woman Staff officer of the Registry, who was the appropriate officer to question the women staff. The male and female staffs were questioned separately. No charges of drinking on Ministry premises in working hours were formulated at this inquiry. Notwithstanding the facts that Mr. Hankinson had expressed himself satisfied with the result of the inquiry, he asked, on the 25th February—five days after the issue of his notice of release—for a further investigation, alleging that the first inquiry had not been of an impartial character, on the ground that the woman staff officer was a relation of the ex-service man against whom Mr. Hankinson's charges were made. A second inquiry was accordingly held on the 5th March by a Deputy Assistant Secretary and the Chief Woman Establishment Officer of the Ministry, the male and female staffs being examined together. The result of this inquiry confirmed the findings of the first inquiry. The facts ascertained proved that the porters, whilst working under conditions of dust and discomfort, had carried out their duties conscientiously, and were all hardworking men. The woman telephone operator in the factory admitted that she had on a few occasions listened to conversations which passed on the telephone, but denied having passed on information at any time to the staff, and nothing was proved to the contrary at the inquiry.
After consideration of the Report following this inquiry it has been decided to confirm the action taken after the first investigation, and Mr. Hankinson has been informed of this decision. There has been no summary dismissal of Mr. C. J. Hankinson, but, in common with a large number of temporary officials, he was released with full notice in order to effect staff reduction. Since December last the staff of the Ministry's Registry, of which the section in Mr. Hankinson's 1852W charge forms a part, has been reduced by 52 persons, and the staff in the section itself is being reduced by five. Mr. Hankinson's conduct in the Ministry has been satisfactory. In view of the serious suggestion contained in this question that Mr. Hankinson was summarily dismissed in consequence of having called attention to irregularities in his section, I desire to point out that as early as November last Mr. Hankinson was informed by his superior officer that he would probably be released in February or March of this year. This information was repeated to him later, and prior to his having put forward any complaint of irregularities. It will be obvious, therefore, that, as I informed the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Brigadier-General Croft) on the 9th instant, Mr. Hankinson's discharge was in no way connected with the inquiry referred to, and there is not the slightest ground for any suggestion to the contrary.