HC Deb 22 May 1905 vol 146 cc953-4

To ask the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that the entire sum assigned in the grant for the pay of officers in the Army is paid over at monthly or other intervals to a private banking firm, constituted Army agents for this purpose, who disburse the pay to the individual officers, that the sum is paid to the agents out of the Treasury en bloc at some interval before it becomes payable to the individual officers, with the result of giving the agents the use and control of this public money during these periods, he will say under what authority this system originated and is maintained; whether any similar or analogous system obtains in other Departments of the public service; whether it has been brought to the attention of the War Office that the effect of constituting private bankers paymasters of the Army officers is to give one firm a practical monopoly of the banking business of officers in the Army; and will he explain why the practice of the India Office and Admiralty is not followed, whereby an officer can draw his pay personally or by power of attorney from a Government Department.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Arnold-Forster.) The agents are only paid the money as it becomes due to the officers. The practice has been in force for very many years. It is maintained by the authority of the Secretary of State, with the sanction of the Treasury. The War Office is not aware of the practice of other Departments in the matter. There are three firms involved, not one. The practice has been maintained in the interests of the officers concerned. From July 1st any Army officer will be able to draw his pay either locally or through the agents as he prefers. Regimental officers can do so at present.