HC Deb 13 March 1924 vol 170 cc2624-5

Before coming to the War Office Staff I should like to refer to the Lawrence Committee which was set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, whose report has now been made public. I welcome the interest shown in many quarters of the House in the new system of Accounts and Estimates which we introduced for the Army in 1919, and in the report of the Committee under General Sir Herbert Lawrence which has been recently circulated. Perhaps I may explain that the essence of the new system is to present our Estimates and Accounts in a form which is designed to show, for the information both of Parliament and of the officer administering each establishment, the full cost of the establishment, including stores consumed and liabilities incurred, and not merely one cash analysis—under such subject headings as pay, food, clothing, etc.—for the whole Army. I recognise that the principle of the new system, which, for want of a better term, is known as cost accounting, has much to commend it, but I must take time to consider the matter, especially as to the extent to which the system should be carried in detail, as well as the important question of its effect on the methods of administration within the Army. In the meantime, I shall be interested to listen to any views which Members of this House may desire on the subject.

I should, however, like to remove some misconception which has arisen in connection with the relation between the duties of the Royal Army Pay Corps and the new Corps of Military Accountants. The War Office has been considering for some time past the question of amalgamating these two corps, and if this is done it should do away with a certain amount of duplication which now exists; but I should like to make clear—as indeed the Lawrence Committee recognises—that the duties of the two corps are to a large extent different. The new Corps of Military Accountants, which consists of officers and men with previous accounting experience, is charged with the duty of preparing accounts in the new form, while the primary duty of the Royal Army Pay Corps is to disburse money strictly in accordance with the Regulations, etc., which govern entitlement in varying conditions. This latter duty will always remain distinct and important, whatever change may be made in the form in which the expenditure is recorded in the accounts.