§ 24. Commander Noble
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will reconsider the case of a senior officer who was overpaid for five months through a War Office error, and has been called upon to refund some £300; and what is the maximum proportion of net emoluments that may be deducted without notice for this purpose.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have reviewed the case of this officer but I can find no grounds for interfering with the decision taken by the Army Council in September, 1947, that repayment of the debt should be made in full. The practice in such cases, where an over-issue has been made through a mistake of fact, is to invite the officer to make proposals for repayment or to give his reasons why he is unwilling to do so. If he is unwilling to refund, the case is considered by the Army Council as an appeal, and a decision is taken on the merits. If it is decided that the whole or part of the over-issue should be refunded, it is recovered by monthly deductions from pay which have regard to the rank and domestic responsibilities of the officer, but if he becomes due for release while part of the debt is outstanding, half the net monthly pay is during release leave, after notice, normally deducted if necessary to effect recovery. In the case referred to in the Question, the deduction of one-half the net pay was, through an oversight of the Army agents, begun without previous notice to the officer in respect of the month's pay due, in arrear, at the beginning of his release leave. This did not affect the net result to the officer, but resulted in somewhat earlier completion.
§ Commander Noble
Is the Minister aware that this officer, who is now out of the Army, is labouring under a great grievance, and as this happened at the end of the officer's career, could it not be reconsidered?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have given this matter careful and personal consideration, and I am bound to say that, although a mistake occurred, the officer has no legitimate grievance and, in fact, the whole of the amount due from him has now been recovered.
§ Sir Ronald Ross
Is there any special regulation as to the monetary deductions? Is the Minister aware that in my own case the authorities took such a view of my responsibilities that they thought £4 a month would be quite sufficient?
§ General Sir George Jeffreys
Although such mistakes do occur in practice, will the Secretary of State take steps to see that in future they are as infrequent as possible? And is it not unfortunate that, when such mistakes occur, it is always the Treasury which is held to be in the right?
Is not the trend of this Question for the purpose of proving that these are the spoils of war that should go to the soldier?