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Atomic Energy Documents (Theft)

Volume 478: debated on Monday 18 September 1950

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27.

asked the Minister of Supply whether he has any statement to make as to the loss of documents relating to atomic energy by an officer of his Department at Euston Station on 8th August.

30.

asked the Minister of Supply what action he has taken with regard to the loss on 8th August of secret papers by an official of his Department; why such papers were left unattended in a railway train; and why several hours elapsed between the loss at Euston Station and the first information to Scotland Yard.

A suitcase belonging to an official of my Department and containing, besides personal effects, a few documents on atomic energy was stolen from a railway carriage at Euston Station on 8th August. The official at once reported the loss to the station staff and to the railway police. The suitcase was recovered within two days; the documents, none of which contained any information of value to a potential enemy, were undisturbed. The railway police carried out their investigations promptly and efficiently and the matter was reported to Scotland Yard as soon as it was known that they had failed to recover the case.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he has any information to show in whose hands these documents were during the two days concerned?

Yes. The suitcase was taken by the thief to a hotel bedroom. When he opened the case and saw some documents dealing with atomic energy apparently he took fright and disappeared, leaving the documents and the case behind.

As the official missed the suitcase at Euston, why did he not report the loss of the secret papers until he arrived at Warrington?

He reported it immediately to the police at Euston and it was hoped that the case would be found in the train. When it was not found the loss was reported when the train arrived at Warrington. The station police were informed immediately, however, but they did not think it necessary at that moment, particularly in view of the fact that the documents were not of a really secret nature, to inform Scotland Yard.

Is it not a fact that no report was made by the official of the loss of the secret papers to the police at Euston and that nothing was said to the police about the loss of the secret papers until he reached Warrington?

The station police were informed but they were told that the papers were not of a very secret nature.

Could the Minister say whether any disciplinary action has been taken against this official?