HC Deb 14 December 1939 vol 355 cc1275-7W
Miss Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make some alteration by which, when a non-commissioned officer is reduced in rank and his wife's allowance is thereby reduced, as it takes some weeks for the reduction to take effect, his wife should not be penalised by having the whole reduction taken off from one week's allowance, as, in a recent case in Jarrow, which left a woman with only 3s. for herself and her children for the week when the deduction was made?

Sir V. Warrender

In the absence of particulars as to the soldier concerned, it is not possible to deal with the specific case mentioned, but, where allowances and allotment have to be lowered and over-payments recovered owing to a married soldier having been reduced in rank, steps are being taken to ensure that the amount to be recovered will be spread over a period in order to prevent hardship to the family.

Sir P. Hannon

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) whether the Army Council, in cases where an order for maintenance of his lawful wife has been made by a court against a soldier, takes steps to have deducted from the pay of such soldier the sum adjudged to be paid by the order, and appropriation made in the discretion of the Army Council, but so that the soldier shall be left not less than one-fourth, or, if he is a warrant officer or a non-commissioned officer not below the rank of sergeant, not less than one-third of his pay;

(2) whether it is the duty of the appropriate fixed centre paymaster, on receipt of an application to assess and issue a special dependant's allowance to an unmarried wife under Regulation 8 of the Army Order 170/1939, to have regard to Section 145 of the Army Act, 1881, and to inquire and report to the War Office if the soldier has a lawful wife living and has discharged his liability to such lawful wife, or if any order has been made against him for maintenance under any Act or at common law;

(3) to what officers or branch of the War Office administration the powers of the Army Council, under Section 145 of the Army Act, 1881, are deputed, and to whom applications under the provisions of this Section may be made by a deserted wife;

(4) whether, in the event of a soldier having deserted his wife or left her in destitute circumstances without reasonable cause and where no maintenance order has been made by a court, the Army Council order that such sum as they in their discretion think fit, subject to the same limitations as in the case of a court order, to be deducted from the pay of the soldier and appropriated towards the maintenance of the wife?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The officers authorised to deal with such cases are shown in Army Orders 95 and 167 of 1939, of which I will send my hon. Friend copies. In addition, the powers have been deputed to officers in charge of records in the cases of soldiers serving with the British Expeditionary Force. In the case of the latter, applications should be addressed to the officer in charge of records of the soldier's unit; in other cases, to the headquarters of the command in which the soldier is serving. If these addresses are not known, applications may be sent to the War Office.

Where a maintenance order is so sent or where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Army Council or of an officer deputed by them for the purpose that the soldier has deserted his wife or left her in destitute circumstances without reasonable cause, appropriate action will be taken as laid down in Section 145 (2) of the Army Act.

If, in the case of a soldier called up for service in connection with the war, the amount of the soldier's pay which can be made available for compulsory stoppages under this Section is substantially less than that which he was contributing towards the support of the wife before being called up, it can be supplemented by the grant of special assistance through the Ministry of Pensions War Service Grants Advisory Committee.

It is not the duty of the paymaster to inquire into such questions.