HC Deb 14 December 1948 vol 459 cc1007-9
42. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that under War Office letter 30 /Gen./9921.S.9.B. it is laid down that overpayments to civil servants in His Majesty's Forces need not be claimed back and can be written off, he will extend this concession to officers who may have received overpayments through a mistake of his Department.

Mr. Shinwell

This instruction did not lay down that overpayments to civil servants serving in the Army could be written off automatically. It referred to a special arrangement limiting the amount to be recovered from some over-issues of balance of civil pay which had accumulated during the earlier part of the war, and which would normally have been recoverable in full. When an overpayment of service pay and allowances is made to a serving officer—whether a civil servant or anyone else—and has been received and spent by him in good faith, recovery of part, or even the whole, of the amount overpaid may be waived, after consideration of the case on its merits, particularly when recovery would involve undue financial hardship or when the overpayment resulted from a genuine misunderstanding caused by ambiguity of orders or regulations.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is it not a fact that no such overpayments in the case of officers have been remitted, and that almost invariably full repayment is insisted upon? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that equal terms are conceded to officers and civil servants in this respect?

Colonel Dower

Will the right hon. Gentleman, when considering this, also sympathetically approach the system of stopping overpayments to officers where there is a hardship when claiming debts?

Mr. Shinwell

In the cases that have come before me we have taken into account all the circumstances and possible hardships and treated them accordingly, but the principle must be observed.

Mr. Mellish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have recently had two cases of officers being overpaid, that in both cases of hardship the overpayment has been remitted, and that we are very grateful to the Secretary of State for acting in that way?

Commander Noble

Will the Minister reconsider the case of the senior officer, about whom I have been in correspondence with him, in the light of the statement he has just made.

Mr. Shinwell

I have already considered that case with the utmost sympathy, and I was bound to come to the decision that I could not proceed further in the matter.