HC Deb 17 February 1948 vol 447 cc971-2
17. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for War if he is aware that men are being released from the Forces without being informed until afterwards that they are in debt; and, in view of the fact that requests for details are not answered for months in some cases, he will make some investigations.

Mr. Shinwell

Where a debit balance on a soldier's account does not become apparent until shortly before he is released, it is not always possible to notify his commanding officer in time to adjust pay issues before the soldier leaves the Army. The soldier's pay book, which contains a record of his rate of pay and cash payments, provides him, however, with a guide to the approximate position of his account at any time. The preparation of a long statement of account takes considerable time and some delay is inevitable. Investigations will be made if details of cases of undue delay are notified.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that there are great delays in obtaining answers from paymasters' offices; and will he do his best to expedite these answers as a good deal of anxiety is caused?

Mr. Shinwell

Certainly I will do the best I can, but some delays are inevitable.

Mr. Lipson

Is the Minister aware that repayment of these debts causes very great financial hardship; and will he consider wiping them all out when a man leaves the Service?

Mr. Shinwell

It is quite impossible to agree to that.

Sir W. Darling

Will the Minister consider the application of the Pay-As-You-Earn system, which civilians are able to carry out with great success, and which carries with it no debts?

Mr. Shinwell

That is a question which should be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. John Hynd

Will the Minister consider the difficulties caused in a number of cases when men come out of the Army without any clear knowledge of how they stand; and will he examine closely the accounting methods in the Army and endeavour to establish some form of accounting which will assure serving men precisely how they stand from period to period?

Mr. Shinwell

If my hon. Friend has any specific instances in which exceptional delays have occurred, I shall be only too glad to hear of them and to inquire into them.