HC Deb 02 April 1957 vol 568 cc217-8
19. Mr. Kershaw

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will take steps to alter the system of accounting in the Army.

Mr. John Hare

I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind a recent article in the Press which deals largely with the application of the general system of Parliamentary control of Army expenditure. Within the limits of constitutional requirements laid down to satisfy the control by Parliament, we are constantly seeking to improve our methods.

Mr. Kershaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is not the application of the present system which I have in mind, but whether or not the whole system could be altered? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that no system can be said to be utterly efficient which has as its basic assumption, as the present system has, that every officer and man in the British Army is by nature a liar and a crook?

Mr. Hare

I have considerable sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but we are bound to a large degree by the fact that we are accountable to Parliament. We are trying to work out ways and means by which we can improve present methods while at the same time keeping proper Parliamentary control.

Mr. Strachey

Will the Secretary of State not say that he was impressed by that article in The Times? Will he not agree that if legislation is necessary, the House will almost certainly look on it with a very favourable eye, because it seems that considerable savings could be effected in this way?

Mr. Hare

I have great sympathy with what my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman have said about legislation. I can make no prophecy. We are working on this matter. Having been on the receiving end myself, I have considerable sympathy with what has been said.

Mr. Bellenger

Is there not another aspect of the question, namely the accounting methods of the Royal Army Pay Corps? Would the right hon. Gentleman try to get advice from up-to-date business firms? Was not the Hollerith system, which is now used in the War Office, introduced by an up-to-date adjutant-general who called in business consultants to advise him?

Mr. Hare

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that we hope to make considerable improvements in the Royal Army Pay Corps, for instance, by introducing electronic methods, within a reasonably short period of time.