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Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt - National Debt Commissioners

The National Debt Commissioners have always been appointed on an ex-officio basis; the original six Commissioners were:

  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The Master of the Rolls
  • The Accountant General of the Court of Chancery

The Life Annuities Act 1808 added the Chief Baron of the Exchequer, but that office was abolished in 1880 and the Lord Chief Justice was substituted by virtue of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1881. Similarly in 1872 the Paymaster General succeeded the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery, but was in turn replaced by the Accountant General of the Supreme Court under the terms of the Supreme Court of Judicature (Consolidation) Act 1925. The Bank of England Act 1998 added provision for additional Deputy Governors of the Bank of England and consequently, there are now 10 National Debt Commissioners, namely:

  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer
  • The Governor and Deputy Governors of the Bank of England
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The Master of the Rolls
  • The Accountant General of the Senior Courts
  • The Lord Chief Justice

The National Debt Commissioners Act 1818 provides that any three or more Commissioners acting together can exercise all of the Commissioners' powers.

Records show that meetings of the Commissioners were at first held regularly, usually at the home of the Chancellor, but that the last recorded business meeting took place on 12 October 1860. The reason for the sudden cessation is unknown, no hint being obtainable from the minutes, but since then the day to day decisions have been delegated to the Comptroller General and the Assistant Comptroller, who are civil servants, but are appointed by and act on behalf of the Commissioners. On the comparatively rare occasions when it is necessary for a fundamental policy matter to be put to the Commissioners for a decision it is referred to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor and the Deputy Governors of the Bank of England, who together constitute a quorum and are sometimes referred to as the "active" Commissioners. In practice the only references made to them are when it is necessary to make formal appointments, for example of Attorneys at the Bank of England and of the Comptroller General and the Assistant Comptroller.

However, the Commissioners did reconvene recently, at the Chancellor's invitation, on 15 February 2016, on which occasion the DMO's Chief Executive was officially appointed as the Government Broker, a formal title previously conferred on the senior partner of the stockbrokers Mullens & Co, up until 1986.

The Commissioners' powers and functions are laid down in the Acts dealing with the individual funds or accounts and there is no statutory provision requiring the production of an annual report or other published information about their activities. However, annual report and accounts are produced for the various funds and many of these are eventually published in White Paper form and are available from either The Stationery Office shop for the Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Service Investment Account or on www.gov.uk for the remainder of the investment accounts and the Government Annuities Investment Fund. The remainder of the miscellaneous accounts are published on this website. The Comptroller General, who is responsible to Parliament for the sums administered by the Commissioners, signs these accounts.

© Crown Copyright 2017