HC Deb 19 April 1923 vol 162 cc2218-9
4. Mr. SHORT

asked the Minister of Pensions the number of cases in which pensioners have to make refunds due to mistakes; the amount of the money so involved; and the number due to error on the part of the Ministry and the applicants, respectively?


asked the Minister of Pensions if, taking the various weeks since the beginning of the current year, he will state in each case the total amount received through refunds from pensioners or ex-pensioners; and what is the average amount per person paid in each of the same periods?


I regret that the statistics of my Department are not kept in a form that would enable the information asked for to he readily obtained. I may, however, say that the bulk of the deductions made are in respect of advances granted on the express understanding that they would be recovered if pension was ultimately awarded. With regard to deductions in respect of over-issue of pension, I would like to take this opportunity of informing the hon. Members, and the House generally, that further substantial concessions in the matter have been agreed to. In future, where the over-issue is not brought to the notice of the recipient within 12 months and he could not reasonably be expected to have been aware of the overpayment, recovery will ordinarily be waived, and in other cases recovery will be limited to the amount actually overpaid during the last 12 months of the over-issue. When severe hardship would be occasioned, recovery may be waived on that ground. These concessions will be applied in principle to cases where recovery is already in progress, but they will not, of course, apply to cases of fraud or misrepresentation.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the conditions which he has enumerated were not in operation in the lifetime of the last Ministry?


Some of them were. There were undoubtedly cases where hardship had arisen in which repayment was remitted. The complete adoption of the one-year limit has only been fully carried through recently. It was started before, and now it is completed.


In cases where money has been repaid in respect of overpayment, will there be a refund?


No, Sir. I could not agree that money which should never have been paid by us in the first instance should be once more paid to the pensioner.


Will the Minister consider the advisability, where repayment has to be made, of seeing that the pensioner receives the major portion of the payment instead of the minor portion, as is very often done now?


We have often arranged for recovery at a lower rate. I realise the hon. Member's point.