Overpayments (Recovery).

Oral Answers to Questions — Naval and Military Pensions and Grants. – in the House of Commons on 2nd August 1922.

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Photo of Mr John Guest Mr John Guest , Hemsworth

89 and 96.

asked the Minister of Pensions (1) whether he is aware that disabled men who were granted payments as advances or other- wise by local pension committees in 1919 and later are being required to refund these sums on the ground of alleged irregularity; and seeing that the liability should rest upon the committees, and in view of the hardship which repayment will impose on these disabled men many of whom are unemployed, will he limit the retrospective action to a more recent date;

(2) if his attention has been called to the case in which it was decided by Mr. Justice Lush that an officer who had been paid a gratuity, which later was alleged to have been too much, was not compelled to refund it because the mistake had not been his; and whether it is his intention to apply this decision to the many cases in which deductions are at present being made from pensions on the grounds that at some previous period the pensioner had been paid too much, although the overpayment was entirely the fault of the Ministry or its officials?

Photo of Mr George Tryon Mr George Tryon , Brighton

We have no power to pay pensions or allowances at rates in excess of those authorised by the Royal Warrants, and recovery of overpayments is a matter of general principle of administration common to the whole public service. In every case, however, the most careful consideration is given to the individual circumstances of the case, and where it is clear that the erroneous award was one of which the pensioner could not have been aware, and hardship would be involved, recovery may be, and often has been, waived. The question of the liability of the officer or other agent responsible for the overpayment is also fully considered, and in certain cases surcharges are made. I may add that we are considering the question of a time limit in relation to the recovery of overpayments made in the past.

Photo of Mr John Guest Mr John Guest , Hemsworth

Is not an award of pension absolutely the legal right of the pensioner, and by what legal right is any deduction made?

Photo of Mr George Tryon Mr George Tryon , Brighton

The fact that a man has a legal right to a certain payment does not give him a legal right to demand something in excess of that amount.

Photo of Mr John Guest Mr John Guest , Hemsworth

I am speaking of the deduction. By what legal authority is the deduction made?

Photo of Mr George Tryon Mr George Tryon , Brighton

The matter is perfectly in accordance with the Royal Warrant. A man is only entitled to receive the total amount which he should get.