Tax Credits

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East 10:30 am, 29th March 2007

How many people have appealed against a demand for return of overpayments of tax credits since April 2006; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer of a few moments ago.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Conservative, Rochford and Southend East

One of the 343,000 is Mrs. Anne Dalipi, who came to see me about such a demand 12 months ago and still has not received a satisfactory explanation of why she has to repay an overpayment. She does not know which payment is covered, and the bill does not state why there is an overpayment, or why she must pay it back. Given that her experience is typical, when will the Chief Secretary come to the House and explain that, unless the reasons that a repayment is required are detailed, the repayment will not be pressed?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The rule is pretty straightforward: an overpayment will be written off if it is due to departmental error, and if it is reasonable for the recipient to think that the award is correct. There is a process by which people can query and challenge decisions, through the adjudicator and even the ombudsman. A good process is in place, and if there is a particular issue in the case of the constituent to which the hon. Gentleman refers, I would be happy to examine that.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

The number of my constituents suffering hardship as a result of having to repay overpayments shows no sign of diminishing. I have been seeking meetings with HMRC to discuss and resolve a number of particularly intractable cases since August last year. I contacted it in August, September, October and November, and in desperation wrote in December to the Paymaster General, who at least acknowledged the letter, but I have heard nothing from her since. When can I expect a reply?

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I will be happy to look into what has happened to the hon. Gentleman's correspondence.