Paymaster General

Her Majesty's Paymaster General or HM Paymaster General is a ministerial position in the United Kingdom. When the post is held by a minister in HM Treasury it is typically given to the fourth highest-ranking minister, after the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The incumbent Paymaster General is Oliver Dowden, who is also serving as Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Her Majesty's Paymaster General
Royal Arms as used by Her Majesty's Government
Oliver Dowden

since 24 July 2019
Office of HM Paymaster General
AppointerElizabeth II
Inaugural holderHenry Parnell
Formation27 April 1836
WebsiteHM Paymaster General [archived version]
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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. He 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, his or her 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 General

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 services for the GBS are provided exclusively by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Citibank,[6] although the Bank of England still plays a role in managing the government's higher level accounts.[7]

List of Paymasters General

19th century

20th century

21st century

Name Portrait Term of office Concurrent office(s) Political party Prime Minister
Dawn Primarolo 4 January 1999 June 2007 Labour Tony Blair
(I, II, III)
Tessa Jowell 28 June 2007 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 12 May 2010 May 2015 Minister for the Cabinet Office Conservative David Cameron
Matt Hancock 11 May 2015 14 July 2016 David Cameron
Ben Gummer 14 July 2016 9 June 2017 Theresa May
Mel Stride 13 June 2017 23 May 2019 Financial Secretary to the Treasury Theresa May
Jesse Norman 23 May 2019 24 July 2019
Oliver Dowden 24 July 2019 Incumbent Minister for the Cabinet Office Boris Johnson


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