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War Office Messenger (Inquiry)

Volume 462: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for War if he will make a statement concerning the dismissal of the War Office messenger, Mr. Harold King, a disabled ex-Service man, for taking a leading part in the organisation of the Government cleaners' demands for better pay.

Mr. King has not been dismissed. He has been sent on paid leave in accordance with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 15th March, 1948, about the employment of individuals whose reliability is in doubt. His case has been under investigation for some time and the action taken has nothing whatever to do with Mr. King's activities on behalf of Government cleaners.

Is the Minister aware that all the charges against Mr. King relate to the years from 1932 to 1940; is he aware that this information was known or could have been known to his Department before March last year; and is it not a strange coincidence that this action was taken a bare fortnight after he had taken a leading part on behalf of the women cleaners in his office?

These activities relate to the period long before the cleaners agitated, and some of the facts were known to the Department, but it was only after the Prime Minister had issued the directive to which I have referred that this case received active consideration. It is just a coincidence that Mr. King was asked to deny the allegations on or about the date when the cleaners were agitating, but that has nothing to do with it at all.

May I ask the Prime Minister if, in connection with the question of reliability, this man has not a record of service to his country as good as, or even better than that of any Member of the Government?

It is not a question of service to the country. It is a question of whether or not this man belongs to a political party, the members of which are regarded in certain departments of the public service as unreliable. He has not denied the allegations, and therefore, the facts are as stated.

In view of the not very exalted position held by Mr. King, can my right hon. Friend say precisely what danger is constituted to the State?

Mr. King was a Government messenger responsible for the transit of documents from one Government Department to another, and it was thought inadvisable that he should be entrusted with this task.