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Departmental Staff

Volume 929: debated on Monday 28 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) how many persons employed by his Department have been detained in prison or mental institutions; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will take steps to ensure that persons employed by his Department who have been in prison or mental institutions do not in future have access to confidential information about persons on social security;(3) if he will order an inquiry into how Mr. John King, formerly an inmate in Broadmoor, and subsequently convicted on 16th March 1977 of murder within the Department of Health and Social Security local office at Great Yarmouth, came to be employed by his Department, with access to confidential information about persons on social security;(4)whether it was known by his Department that Mr. John King, employed by his Department, and convicted in Norwich Crown Court, on 16th March 1977 of murder inside the local Department of Health and Social Security office at Great Yarmouth, had been detained at Broadmoor before joining his Department; and if he will make a statement;(5) how long Mr. John King, convicted in Norwich Crown Court on 16th March 1977, of murder inside the local Department of Health and Social Security office in Great Yarmouth, had been employed by his Department;(6) what his Department's policy is about employing former inmates of prisons and criminal lunatic institutions; and whether any special ban is put on giving such employees of his Department access to confidential information about persons on social security;(7) whether Mr. John King, a Department of Health and Social Security employee convicted of murder in Norwich Crown Court on 16th March 1977, and formerly an inmate of Broadmoor, had official access to the information which he used to invite his victim to attend the Department of Health and Social Security office where he murdered her.

The recruitment of clerical staff to established posts in the Civil Service is the responsibility of the Civil Service Commission. Departments may act on behalf of the commission, but a certificate of qualification can be issued only by the commission, which has to be satisfied about the candidate's health and character.In 1967 Mr. John King was considered fit for discharge from Broadmoor Hospital, where he had been detained since August 1963. The hospital social worker concerned sought the help of a Government Department in Norwich, which accepted him for employment in the knowledge of his record. The Civil Service Commission deferred establishment initially and Mr. King's employment was unestablished until 1969, when establishment was confirmed, Mr. King's service during the intervening period having been satisfactory.In February 1973, Mr. King was transferred as an established civil servant to my local office at Great Yarmouth, where he was living with his parents, with the object of shortening his daily travelling. His Broadmoor history was not known to DHSS until after the transfer had taken place, but no special action was then thought necessary in view of his satisfactory service since 1967.Most members of DHSS local office staff have access, in the course of their duties, to the case documents of persons claiming social security benefits; Mr. King was no exception. It is a matter of extreme regret that Mr. King seems to have made use of information so gained to further a tragic crime, even though his knowledge of his victim does not seem to have originated from information in case documents.My Department does not maintain a record of staff who have been detained in prison or a mental institution prior to recruitment. The engagement of such a person would be a matter of judgment by the Civil Service Commission and my Department, each case being considered on its merits. In such instances, both the commission and my Department have regard to the needs of the service and the public and to the general desirability of employers helping to rehabilitate ex-prisoners and ex-patients. An individual would be assigned to a local social security office only if he were considered suitable for the duties involved. Once engaged and assigned, I do not think it would be either right or practicable to place restrictions on the duties of a member of the staff of a local office by reference to past convictions or illnesses.