Paymaster General

Her Majesty's Paymaster General or HM Paymaster General is a ministerial position in the Cabinet Office of the United Kingdom. The incumbent Paymaster General is Michael Ellis MP.

Her Majesty's Paymaster General
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Royal Arms as used by Her Majesty's Government
Official portrait of Rt Hon Michael Ellis MP.jpg
Michael Ellis

since 16 September 2021
Cabinet Office
StylePaymaster General
The Right Honourable (within the UK and Commonwealth)
AppointerElizabeth II
Inaugural holderHenry Parnell
Formation27 April 1836


Until 1939 the Office of the Paymaster General was at 36 Whitehall (an extension of Horse Guards formerly occupied by the Paymaster to the Forces).[1]

The post was created in 1836 by the merger of the positions of the offices of the Paymaster of the Forces (1661–1836), the Treasurer of the Navy (1546–1835), the Paymaster and Treasurer of Chelsea Hospital (responsible for Army pensions) (1681–1835) and the Treasurer of the Ordnance (1670–1835).

Initially, the Paymaster General only had responsibilities in relation to the armed services but in 1848 two more offices were merged into that of Paymaster General: the Paymaster of Exchequer Bills (1723–1848) and the Paymaster of the Civil Service (1834–1848), the latter followed by its Irish counterpart in 1861. They thus became 'the principal paying agent of the government and the banker for all government departments except the revenue departments and the National Debt Office'.[2]

From 1848 to 1868, the post was held concurrently with that of Vice-President of the Board of Trade.

The longest-serving holder of the post was Dawn Primarolo, whose portfolio covered HM Revenue and Customs (formerly the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise), and who served from 1999 to 2007.


Today, the Paymaster General is usually a minister without portfolio available for any duties which the government of the day may designate. The post may be combined with another office, or may be left unfilled.

Though the Paymaster General was titular head of the Paymaster General's Office, their executive functions were delegated to the Assistant Paymaster General, a permanent civil servant who (though acting in the name of the Paymaster General) was answerable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.[2]

Office of HM Paymaster GeneralEdit

The Paymaster General was formerly in nominal charge (and at one time in actual charge) of the Office of HM Paymaster General[3] (OPG), which held accounts at the Bank of England on behalf of government departments and selected other public bodies. Funds which were made available from the Consolidated Fund were then channelled into OPG accounts, from where they were used by the relevant body. OPG operated a full range of accounts and banking transaction services, including cheque and credit, BACS and CHAPS services for its customers via an electronic banking system. Integration of OPG accounts held with commercial banks was provided by the private company Xafinity Paymaster which is now part of the Equiniti group.

However, in 2008, the government announced that the Office of the Paymaster General would be incorporated into a new body, the Government Banking Service,[4] which also provides banking operations for HM Revenue & Customs and National Savings and Investments. Following the Bank of England's decision to withdraw from providing retail banking services,[5] retail banking and payment services for the GBS are provided by a range of financial institutions including Barclays, Citibank, NatWest, Bottomline and Worldpay,[6] although the Bank of England still plays a role in managing the government's higher level accounts.[7]

List of paymasters generalEdit

19th centuryEdit

20th centuryEdit

Name Portrait Term of office Concurrent office(s) Political party Prime Minister
Frederick Lindemann

Viscount Cherwell


30 October 1951 11 November 1953 Conservative Winston Churchill
George Douglas-Hamilton

Earl of Selkirk


11 November 1953 20 October 1955
Office vacant 20 October 1955-18 October 1956 Anthony Eden
Walter Monckton

MP for Bristol West


18 October 1956 16 January 1957
Reginald Maudling

MP for Barnet


16 January 1957 14 October 1959 Harold Macmillan
Percy Mills

Viscount Mills


14 October 1959 9 October 1961 Harold Macmillan
Henry Brooke

MP for Hampstead


9 October 1961 13 July 1962 Chief Secretary to the Treasury
John Boyd-Carpenter

MP for Kingston-upon-Thames


13 July 1962 19 October 1964 Chief Secretary to the Treasury Alec Douglas-Home
George Wigg

MP for Dudley


19 October 1964 12 November 1967 Labour Harold Wilson
(I & II)
Office vacant 12 November 1967-6 April 1968 Harold Wilson
Edward Shackleton

Baron Shackleton


6 April 1968 1 November 1968
Judith Hart

MP for Clydesdale


1 November 1968 6 October 1969
Harold Lever

MP for Manchester Cheetham


6 October 1969 23 June 1970
David Eccles

Viscount Eccles


23 June 1970 2 December 1973 Minister for the Arts Conservative Edward Heath
Maurice Macmillan

MP for Farnham


2 December 1973 4 March 1974
Edmund Dell

MP for Birkenhead


4 March 1974 10 September 1976 Labour Harold Wilson
(III & IV)
Shirley Williams

MP for Hitchin


  10 September 1976 4 May 1979 Secretary of State for Education and Science James Callaghan


Angus Maude

MP for Stratford-on-Avon


4 May 1979 5 January 1981 Conservative Margaret Thatcher


Francis Pym

MP for Cambridgeshire


  5 January 1981 14 September 1981 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

(5 January 1981 – 14 September 1981)

Leader of the House of Commons

(5 January 1981 – 5 April 1982)

Cecil Parkinson

MP for South Hertfordshire


14 September 1981 11 June 1983 Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

(6 April 1982 – 11 June 1983)

Office vacant 11 June 1983-11 September 1984 Margaret Thatcher


John Gummer

MP for Suffolk Coastal

(born 1939)

  11 September 1984 1 September 1985
Kenneth Clarke

MP for Rushcliffe

(born 1940)

  2 September 1985 13 July 1987 Minister of State for Employment
Peter Brooke

MP for City of London and Westminster South

(born 1934)

13 July 1987 24 July 1989 Margaret Thatcher


Malcolm Sinclair

Earl of Caithness

(born 1948)

  25 July 1989 14 July 1990
Richard Ryder

MP for Mid Norfolk

(born 1949)

  14 July 1990 28 November 1990 John Major


John Ganzoni

Baron Belstead


28 November 1990 11 April 1992 Minister of State for Northern Ireland
John Cope

MP for Northavon

(born 1937)

  14 April 1992 20 July 1994 John Major


David Heathcoat-Amory

MP for Wells

(born 1949)

  20 July 1994 20 July 1996
David Willetts

MP for Havant

(born 1956)

  20 July 1996 21 November 1996
Michael Bates

MP for Langbaurgh

(born 1961)

  21 November 1996 2 May 1997 Lord Commissioner of the Treasury

(17 October 1995 – 11 December 1996)

Geoffrey Robinson

MP for Coventry North West

(born 1938)

  2 May 1997 23 December 1998 Labour Tony Blair

21st centuryEdit

Name Portrait Term of office Concurrent office(s) Political party Prime Minister
Dawn Primarolo

MP for Bristol South

(born 1954)

  4 January 1999 28 June 2007 Labour Tony Blair
(I, II, III)
Tessa Jowell

MP for Dulwich and West Norwood


  28 June 2007 11 May 2010 Minister for the Olympics
Minister for the Cabinet Office
(from 5 June 2009)
Minister for London
(until 3 October 2008; from 5 June 2009)
Gordon Brown
Francis Maude

MP for Horsham

(born 1953)

  12 May 2010 11 May 2015 Minister for the Cabinet Office Conservative David Cameron
Matt Hancock

MP for West Suffolk

(born 1978)

  11 May 2015 14 July 2016 David Cameron
Ben Gummer

MP for Ipswich

(born 1978)

  14 July 2016 13 June 2017 Theresa May
Mel Stride

MP for Central Devon

(born 1961)

  13 June 2017 23 May 2019 Financial Secretary to the Treasury Theresa May
Jesse Norman

MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire

(born 1962)

  23 May 2019 24 July 2019
Oliver Dowden

MP for Hertsmere

(born 1978)

  24 July 2019 13 February 2020 Minister for the Cabinet Office Boris Johnson
(I & II)
Penny Mordaunt

MP for Portsmouth North

(born 1973)

  13 February 2020 16 September 2021 Boris Johnson
Michael Ellis

MP for Northampton North

(born 1967)

  16 September 2021 Incumbent Minister for the Cabinet Office
(from 8 February 2022)
Boris Johnson

List of shadow paymasters generalEdit

Name Portrait Term of office Party Opposition Leader
Richard Ottaway   1 June 2000 1 June 2001 Conservative Hague
Stephen O'Brien   1 June 2002 1 June 2003 Conservative Duncan Smith
Andrew Tyrie   1 June 2004 1 June 2005 Conservative Howard
Mark Francois   10 May 2005 3 July 2007 Conservative Howard
Jack Dromey   14 May 2021 4 December 2021 Labour Starmer
Fleur Anderson   4 December 2021 Incumbent Labour Starmer


  1. ^ Roper, Michael (1998). The Records of the War Office and Related Departments, 1660-1964. Kew, Surrey: Public Record Office.
  2. ^ a b   This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence v3.0: "Records of the Paymaster General's Office and predecessors". The National Archives. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  3. ^ Gater, G. H.; Wheeler, E. P. (1935). "Office of the Paymaster-General". British History Online. London: London County Council. pp. 17–27. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Press Release: Angela Eagle launches the Government Banking Service". HM Treasury. 22 May 2008. Archived from the original on 7 April 2010.
  5. ^ "Important changes to banking arrangements for the Insolvency Services Account". The Insolvency Service. Archived from the original on 30 October 2010.
  6. ^ "Government Banking".
  7. ^ "Government Banking Service" (PDF). Department of Works and Pensions.

External linksEdit