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British Army

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 26 April 1949

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Pay And Allowances, Malaya


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will now reconsider the local overseas allowances paid to troops in Malaya.

My right hon. Friend has no evidence from the local military authorities in the Far East which suggests that the local overseas allowance is inadequate for the purpose for which it is issued. He does not therefore consider that it needs to be reviewed at present.

Is the Minister aware that local prices bear no relation to the real rate of exchange—for example, a bottle of beer for a soldier out there costs about 5s. 6d.?

Yes, but these matters are considered in estimating the rate of allowance. On that we had considerable evidence, both written and verbal, when the amount of the allowance was determined.

Is the Minister aware that his point of view is quite wrong in this, that the troops are put into a much worse position than civilians of equal status, and that it is already causing a considerable amount of bad feeling?

I must repeat that this allowance was fixed in the light of evidence most carefully collected, and there has been no evidence from the troops since the time it was fixed, that there is any reason for reviewing it.

Forces, Transjordan (Cost)


asked the Secretary of State for War what has been the average weekly cost of maintaining our Forces at Aqaba during April.

Information is not available centrally from which the cost of keeping the force at Aqaba could be estimated.

Could the Minister give an approximate idea of our expenditure. whether this expenditure is to be continued, and what steps are to be taken to reduce it?

I think my hon. Friend is aware that it is not the practice to give figures which would throw light on the strength of the Army, other than the division between this country and B.A.O.R. and all other overseas theatres together. Even, therefore, if it were possible to make the estimate which my hon. Friend requests, I doubt if it would be in the public interest to give it.

Is there any reason to suppose that the cost would be any more if the troops were somewhere other than in Aqaba?

Overpayments (Deductions)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware of the hardships suffered by individuals of all ranks as a result of the practice of deducting overpayments from subsequent pay; and whether he will now issue instructions that, in all cases where the over-issue was not the fault of the individual concerned, any overpayment is not to be recovered but to be charged against public funds.

The recipient of an overpayment of Army pay or allowances is normally liable, in principle, to meet in full the public claim which is created against him by the overpayment. In cases, however, where the overpayment has been received and spent in good faith and undue hardship would be inflicted by the enforcement of this principle, it is the practice to limit recovery to an amount which the recipient can repay within a reasonable period, and the balance is written off. My right hon. Friend regrets that he is unable to accept the suggestion that in all cases where the overissue was not the fault of the recipient, the public claim against him should be waived entirely.

Will the Minister bear in mind that in civil employment, when wages are overpaid as a result of an error of the management, it is quite exceptional for any attempt to be made to recover the overpayment, and will he also bear in mind that it is the experience of hon. Members who have to deal with these cases that great hardship results from recovering overpayment?

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that the practice he describes is invariable, and it could not be made so in the public service. As to cases of hardship, we are always willing to look at each individual case on its merits.

Will the hon. Member be good enough to see that the earlier part of his answer is communicated to the officials of the Treasury and of the Inland Revenue because, so far as my own constituency is concerned, it is certainly not known and there are a number of cases of refusal on the part of the officials to make any allowance.

Can the hon. Gentleman look at the machinery—there are unquestionably certain hard cases arising—which is put into operation for testing whether they can repay or not, because that is where the fault takes place? Sometimes they take a generous point of view, sometimes they do not.

I should be willing to look at that, but I have myself had experience of a number of these hard cases, and my general experience is that they are reasonably and sympathetically treated.

Officers (Outfit Allowances)


asked the Secretary of State for War why arrangements have not yet been made to credit the accounts of officers commissioned between October, 1948, and mid-January, 1949, with the higher rate of outfit allowances.

These arrangements have been authorised in recent instructions for Army officers concerned except those of the Reserve Forces, the Territorial Army and the Cadet Forces, for whom appropriate instructions will be issued shortly.

Will the hon. Gentleman see that delay of this kind does not take place in future when new allowances are introduced, because it causes great hardship?

The delay in this case applied to the retrospective working of the concession that was made. There were a number of matters, such as definition of eligibility, that made it difficult to reach an earlier agreement.