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Inspector of Taxes (Conduct)

Part of Clause 2 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th December 1968.

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Photo of Mr Harold Lever Mr Harold Lever , Manchester Cheetham 12:00 am, 4th December 1968

I am grateful to the hon. Member for presenting his case, to all of which I cannot necessarily assent, with moderation and great fairness, considering how strongly he feels in not involving the name of and means of identifying the officer concerned. It is a sad and sorry story of a delinquent Inspector of Taxes who misbehaved in the manner that has been established by the hon. Member. I need hardly say that we regret the happening of such improper and very saddening events in which this man committed an offence against a fellow employee's child.

The court, however, became seized of this matter, and they are in a better position than I am to form an impartial judgment of the gravity of his behaviour. I think that I ought to be swayed by the view of the court, which certainly implied that he was not an habitual offender, and that it was his first offence. He was given a conditional discharge, and no monetary or other penalty was inflicted upon him. It is clear that the court wanted this man to redeem his offence and to restore his behaviour to that which would, as the hon. Member has said, be more suitable to a man occupying this position.

The question is whether the Inland Revenue authorities ought to have dismissed him. I respectfully submit, although I can see that anyone else is entitled to another point of view, that it would have been wrong for the Inland Revenue to have dismissed this man, having regard to the view of his offence taken by the court, and of the court's anxiety that he should rehabilitate himself after this lapse. Had I the judging of the matter, which of course I have not except by way of review in the light of the hon. Member's representations, it would seem to me the wrong way of approaching this, at this point of a man's life when he has been guilty of this very grave offence and has been given by the court the opportunity to redeem himself, if I or the Inland Revenue were to make it more difficult for him to do so by turning him out of the means of earning his livelihood, for which he had the skills and the connection and, presumably, no alternative skill.

It seems to me that the Inland Revenue authorities were obliged to ensure that the circumstances of his employment were not such as to involve them in responsibility for any further delinquency that might occur. There is no such risk; he does not come into contact with young boys in his employment. It cannot be said that the risks, such as they may be, inherent in this man's psychology have been enhanced by the Inland Revenue decision to let him go on earning his livelihood. Far from being able to go with the hon. Member in wanting to see him dismissed, I am obliged to endorse the decision of the Inland Revenue, which seems to me to be the only decision which they could have taken in the circumstances, having regard to the court's decision.

The second question that I ought to answer is, are we responsible for the nervous breakdown of the mother of this boy? Most sincerely, I would express my deep sympathy for the lady, but, in spite of that, on the closest investigation of the matter, we cannot accept that we are responsible for her condition or are liable to compensate her.

I am sorry to offer two disappointments to the hon. Gentleman. I see no reason to interefere with the decision of the Inland Revenue to retain this man at his post, subject to all suitable safeguards as to the nature of his job. I cannot accept that, in the circumstances of the case and having regard to the condition of the day concerned, the Inland Revenue is obliged to make some form of compensation to her for her nervous condition. I do not believe that it has been established that her condition is an attributable responsibility of the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue is not liable for the acts of its servants other than in the course of their employment. The fact that, incidental to his employment, he meets the child of this lady and she is disturbed or upset because of what happened subsequently cannot be laid at the door of the Inland Revenue.