§ 4.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that provision should be made, as from the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven—It is customary for the House to debate and express its views on such matters following upon a Resolution, and the Motion before the House is in accordance with precedent established in 1911, when salaries for Members were first introduced. As hon. Members will remember, that salary was then £400. This precedent was followed in 1937, when the salary was raised to £600, and again in 1946, when it was increased to £1,000. If the House accepts the Motion, which I am moving on behalf of the Prime Minister, it will, of course, be followed by the necessary Supplementary Estimate.
- (a) for the payment to members of this House (in lieu of the salaries payable pursuant to the Resolution of this House of 29th May, 1946, and of the sessional allowances for expenses) of the following salaries and allowances, that is to say—
- (i) in the case of all members except officers of this House, members in receipt of a salary as holders of Ministerial office within the meaning of section two of the House of Commons Disqualification Act. 1957, and members in receipt of any other salary payable under the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, or of any pension payable under that Act, a salary at the rate of one thousand pounds a year; and
- (ii) in the case of all members, an allowance in respect of their Parliamentary expenses at the rate of seven hundred and fifty pounds a year;
- (b) for enabling members of the House of Lords (except the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chairman of Committees and any member in receipt of a salary as the holder of a Ministerial office within the meaning of the said section two or of a salary payable out of moneys provided by Parliament under the Ministerial Salaries Act, 1946) to recover out of sums voted for the expenses of that House (in addition to the costs of travel for which provision is made pursuant to the said Resolution of this House) any expenses certified by them as incurred for the purpose of attendance at sittings of that House or of Committees of that House, other than sittings for judicial business, within a maximum of three guineas for each day of such attendance.
228 No doubt hon. Members will have followed closely the terms of the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and hon. Members appear in a mood to be well satisfied of the need for the proposed improvement in their remuneration. For some time now the case has been accepted by the Government. I should like to remind the House that it was twelve months ago, on 12th July, 1956, when the then Prime Minister said:I will not deny—I do not deny—that some increase in the salary of Members would be justified now"—that was a year ago—if there were not certain special considerations…—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1956; Vol. 556, c. 624.]Leaving aside that statement, which, I think, was prudent at the time, we can, therefore, take the case as proven and confine ourselves to the terms of the Motion, which I shall mention particularly to avoid any misunderstanding which might arise.
I would say a word about the size of the allowance. The Select Committee on Members' Expenses, which reported in 1953, and to whose Chairman, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), I should like to pay a tribute, said that the average expenses of a Member were £750 per annum. This figure was provided by the Inland Revenue; it was, in fact, the average of all Members, and a scientific figure. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) on 4th July, the corresponding figure today is about £880.
It will be remembered that the recommendation of the Select Committee was for a salary of £1,500, and I think, therefore, that hon. Members would agree that, given the increase in the average expenses to which I have just made reference, the figure of £1,750 which the Government have chosen is in tune with the general recommendation of our own Select Committee.
This Motion is in two parts, paragraphs —(a, i) and (a, ii) and (b). Paragraph (a, i) preserves the salary of £1,000 a year for those Members hitherto entitled to it, but it abolishes the salary of £500 a year now paid to certain Members. Therefore, we clear that out of the way. This is because all Members, including 229 Ministers, will receive under our proposals the new £750 a year. It should be known well here, and I wish it were better known outside, in the country, that all Members, whether Ministers or not, have parliamentary expenses of greater or less amount, and it is right that all should have the benefit of the additional £750 a year which has been proposed, with those expenses in mind.
When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I had to go through all this matter and I am probably as well acquainted with it as anybody living. I had a great deal of trouble with it in my time and I am only too thankful that we have a solution now that is nearer to what are the facts of the case.
People outside should realise that Members have no employer and that they cannot credit expenses against their employment as so many people outside can do. They have to provide their own cars when travelling in their constituencies, and their own secretaries, and when they sit in an overcrowded room, over-looking the river here, and answer their correspondence they have to provide their own stamps. I do not think that any of these things are realised.
More important still to North Country Members, irrespective of party and purse, there is the great difficulty of leaving one's family at home and coming to London and finding that hotel expenses in London have been recently increased and having to keep up not only two homes, but two living allowances, for one's family at home and for oneself.
Anyone who lives in this building and treats it, as it is supposed to be, as the best club in the world cannot be at all human unless he understands that in this club there has been a great deal of sacrifice on the part of Members who are heads of families. The more these facts are realised outside the House, the better. As Leader of the House, I should like all people to realise that in making these recommendations we have regard to the very genuine expense borne by hon. Members. I hope that the passing of the Motion will mean that we shall achieve a certain degree of justice to hon. Members and their families.
Paragraph (a, ii), which is the main part of the Motion, provides that all Members, and I emphasise all Members without exception, shall receive additional 230 remuneration in respect of their parliamentary expenses at the rate of £750 a year. In fact, this £750 will be a straightforward addition to salary. The fact that it is equal to the figure of average expenses quoted by the Select Committee must not lead hon. Members to believe that it is an expense allowance and as such exempted from taxation.
We do not want people outside the House to think that. It is not true, as we shall find when we are asked for the tax by the Inland Revenue. I am assured by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that for taxation purposes the Inland Revenue will consider it as part of the salary and taxable. Therefore, it comes to this—that hon. Members will have a total remuneration of £1,750 and will claim their allowable expenses as hitherto against that sum, which is a matter for the Inland Revenue, and then pay tax on the balance. This £750, therefore, all goes into that conglomerate sum, but it will take the place of the Sessional allowance.
I am personally glad that the Sessional allowance has gone, although I introduced it myself. The Government recognise that the introduction of the Sessional allowance was only a partial and temporary remedy, which left the total emoluments appreciably below what our own Select Committee proposed. We feel that our proposals now put the remuneration of Members on a satisfactory basis and as such we wholly commend them to the House. I feel that the work of the country will be better done if this arrangement is ratified and approved by the House today.
Paragraph (b) of the Motion provides for the reimbursement of Members of another place—to which we always refer in that way with great discretion and dignity—of any expenses certified by them as incurred for the purpose of attendance at sittings or Committees, other than sittings for judicial business, within a maximum of three guineas for each day of such attendance. It may seem extraordinary that it is necessary to introduce here such a proposal for Members of another place, because it is always supposed that once a person is a lord he is very rich and very often in a very excitable condition; but that is not the case.
There are people who have gone to another place who are no better off than 231 we are. If they left this House in circumstances no better than those of some hon. Members here, there is no reason why, just by the fact of being made peers, they become any richer. Many of them perform most valuable services to the community and to the conduct of the bicameral system, and that depends on Members of another place having some support.
The Government made their views known as long ago as 7th November, when the then Lord President of the Council said in another place that we could not expect people to do their duty if we did not make it possible for them financially to perform that duty. The essence of the new arrangement is that a peer is to be reimbursed expenses which he incurs in connection with attendances at the House of Lords. He claims his actual expenses, except that he will not be able to claim more than three guineas for each sitting day. Each peer will have to certify from time to time that, in connection with a specified number of attendances, he has incurred such and such expenses.
As announced in the Press today and in the HANSARD of another place, it will be seen that plans will be made between the parties in another place, through the usual channels, to ensure that such arrangements are duly and properly kept. I am satisfied that such commonsense arrangements will work. The certificate will be accepted without vouching of any kind, which, I think, is the only way of doing these things. There will be no question of producing bills or any other evidence, which, I think, would be undignified.
The expenses which may be included in the claim are all out-of-pocket expenses due to attendance at the House, other than the cost of rail travel, which is already separately reimbursed. The claims can, therefore, cover not only subsistence costs—such as hotel charges and meals—but also miscellaneous travelling costs such as taxi fares and bus fares, if a peer goes on a bus, or the cost of any other form of transport. The arrangement, therefore, will cover what amounts to only a daily allowance to our distinguished brethren in another place.
We wish in many ways that we could have made it more, but we have had 232 to pay attention to the normal amount of expense allowance drawn by people on official public duty, and if we had gone higher than that amount it would have been essential to enter the realm of a tax allowance. If we keep to this amount, it is unnecessary, in comparison with the equivalent allowance to persons on official public duty, to enter into that realm and we think it the best way of satisfying the Inland Revenue, and, we hope, of satisfying the peers.
A Resolution has been passed in another place endorsing the principle of the reimbursement of actual expenses incurred. In view of the working of our Constitution and of the service rendered by the noble Lords in another place, I hope that the House will think it reasonable to endorse it. As I have said, the Motion is in two parts, one in relation to the House of Commons and one in relation to another place. I feel sure that it will give satisfaction to hon. Members to feel that there is a general degree of endorsement of this suggestion.
I would only say, in conclusion, that I have heard it said outside that if we are to do this then we must all be certain that we try our best, in whatever place we sit in this House, to ensure that the money which is being allocated today is maintained at its proper value.
While this is not an occasion for me to launch into an economic debate, and while I am now more engaged in human nature than I am in economics, it might be wise for me to conclude my short oration on this subject by saying that I feel all hon. Members will be dedicated to the task of countering any inflationary tendencies which may reduce the value of this money and of the value of the money of people outside who live on fixed incomes, on pensions, or by other means, and who depend so much upon our ministrations.
If we dedicate ourselves universally to that task, I feel that we shall be just in allocating this proportion to ourselves.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
I rise to support the Motion moved by the Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that there was really no need to argue the case for an increase in the remuneration of hon. Members because this had already been 233 conceded a year ago by the then Prime Minister. I agree with him. Nevertheless I was glad that in the course of his remarks he emphasised the heavy expenses which have to be incurred by hon. Members, and the very real hardship from which some of them have been suffering during recent years.
I have little doubt myself that as a result of the failure of parliamentary remuneration to keep pace with the rise in the cost of living over the past ten years there has been hardship. There has definitely been a decline in the efficiency of Parliament, for reasons of which I think we are all aware, and I believe that if this had gone on, and if the matter had not been dealt with, it would have begun to affect the quality of the persons who seek to enter this House, and that would certainly be a very bad thing for British democracy.
It may be said by some that the proposal we are considering is to increase the remuneration to a higher level than that proposed by the Select Committee on Members' Expenses three and a half years ago. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the Select Committee suggested a figure of £1,500 and the proposal in the Motion is £1,750. To that query I would say three things. First, there has been since 1954 a substantial increase in the cost of living and, according to my information, if we sought to fix a figure equivalent in real terms to what £1,500 was in 1954, it would be £1,695 today.
Secondly, hon. Members will recall that the recommendation of the Select Committee for an increase to £1,500 was tied to the proposal for a non-contributory pension. I will read the relative passage in the report:This being so, Your Committee, despite the arguments which may be adduced in favour of a more substantial increase, based on the much heavier work and responsibilities which today fall upon Members, and on the much more generous arrangements existing overseas, consider that in all the circumstances, and on the understanding that their recommendation for a pension scheme is definitely linked with it, the increase should be one which will bring the annual payment to Members to £1,500.…Well, we are not having a noncontributory pension scheme, and I have no desire or intention of entering into that question this afternoon. However, it is worth mentioning to show that the figure 234 of £1,750 is also justified on that account. One must add that, although we would all join with the Home Secretary in expressing the hope that there will be no further decline in the value of money, it would be foolish to deny the possibility of this happening, and we are only too well aware of the difficulty there is in adjusting parliamentary salaries when that arises.
Reference has been made to the amount paid to Members of Parliament in other countries, and it is as well that the public should know that even with this increase the amount that hon. Members are to receive here is still substantially below what is paid in most parts of the world. The United States Congressmen receive a basic income of £8,000, and substantial expenses as well. In France, the deputies receive £1,000, together with something like £1,100 for expenses of various kinds. In Germany, the basic income is £1,450 and expenses £900. In Australia, the basic income is £1,750 and expenses of varying amounts from £400 to £900. So I do not think we need reproach ourselves that in supporting this Motion we are voting for ourselves a figure which is unduly extravagant in comparison with what Parliaments in other countries receive.
There is one other thing I want to mention before I sit down. I believe that the whole House will agree with me when I say that we are very reluctant to discuss our own salaries. We have all been embarrassed by having to raise the matter in recent years. For my part, I would welcome a system by which this was not necessary. I have no desire—indeed, it would probably be out of order—to enlarge the scope of the debate, but speaking for myself, I think that in due course we ought to consider the possibility either of relating the payment of Members of Parliament to some other salary which is paid in some official capacity or to the possibility of an outside tribunal considering the matter from time to time. I realise that there may be differences of opinion on this, but when one remembers the difficulties which we have encountered in the last years, I believe that this should now be looked at.
In conclusion, I turn to the other part of the Motion, that dealing with payment of expenses to noble Lords. It is important, in view of certain statements 235 that have appeared in the Press, that it should be realised that this is a pure reimbursement of expenses. There is no question of simply claiming this amount automatically. The words in the statement of the Prime Minister are clear:The Government now propose to allow Members of the other House to claim a reimbursement up to a maximum of £3 3s. for each day of attendance. This payment will be a reimbursement of actual expenses arising out of unpaid service and will, therefore, not be liable to tax."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 4th July, 1957; Vol. 572, c. 1317.]I do not think that the Government could have done less than this. It is well known to many of us that certain noble Lords, among whom are old colleagues of ours, have been finding it extremely difficult to carry on their duties without any payment to recompense them for their expenses. I think that the proposal for a payment of this kind up to a maximum of £3 3s. is reasonable. I was glad, too, that the Leader of the House referred to the expense allowance normally paid to members of Royal Commissions and bodies of that kind. It is in that light we should regard the allowances which are now proposed.
For all these reasons, therefore, I hope that the House will support the Motion moved by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I am very conscious of a difficult task to perform. Athanasius was right against the world—at least we are all bound to believe he was; but of course it is the easier to persuade ourselves of that because we are also all bound to admit that we do not know what he meant.
It may have seemed futile any time this fortnight, and longer, to resist the suggestion which is now before the House, and it may, even more easily, now seem fatuous to carp. It may very well seem, "This thing is to be done, indeed to all intents and purposes is done—best to say nothing about it."
I think that there are reasons why something more should be said. The House of Commons should not without debate allow anything to pass that is not beyond question, and I do not think that those who are most enthusiastic in their unanimity on this matter can really regard this as beyond question.
236 In this special matter there are other considerations too. One is the delicacy to which there have been frequent references. No doubt other hon. Gentlemen besides myself have, though I hope no other so often as myself, found themselves in situations of delicacy, and no doubt their experience will agree with mine, that in situations of delicacy above all others plain speaking is necessary.
Further—and to this point I think I would not have done more than refer had it not been for the Motion about the House of Lords—there is the matter of the procedure. I was very glad to hear almost the last words—the penultimate paragraph, I think—of the Leader of the Opposition about finding another way of doing this in future. I am sure we ought. If it is not too dogmatic to say so, I would say I am sure we ought to begin by looking at the procedure by which we do this, the procedure on which we are now engaged.
I would make bold to bet that there are not two people now in the Chamber —I am not one—who could stand cross-examination on this procedure, and that there is not one, possibly omitting the Clerks, who understands exactly how and why this procedure came into existence. What is happening is that we have a Motion, then a Supplementary Estimate and then a reference, a very hidden reference—there was one year when it was not so hidden; only one; in 1911—in the Appropriations Bill.
I think I am getting it right. I think I am right in saying that nothing else has ever been done in at all the same way except one thing, and for that also I think nobody really understands the position, even right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The only other thing done in this was the payment of police expenses, and a Select Committee of this House reported in 1949, I think it was, that it was highly anomalous and irregular and ought not to be done that way, whereupon a special Measure, the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Act, 1950, was passed to make, so to speak, "an honest woman" of the police.
But we have never made "an honest woman" of ourselves in the same way, and I think we are all hoping that what we are doing today we are doing for some considerable time. When one does 237 something that one hopes will last a considerable time, one generally forgets all about it meanwhile. That is why I think it is worth wearying the House with these technical details at the beginning of my speech, because I think these technical matters ought to be carefully inquired into soon and not left until the time comes again when it is said to be urgent to save some hon. Members from actual hardship and, it may be, hunger. It ought to be looked at really soon, and that is another reason why I think this Motion should not pass without something being said now.
We talk a great deal about democracy. I have never disguised from the House of Commons, if the House has bothered to look, or from my constituents, that I am more attached to parliamentary Government than I am to democratic Government, but, parliamentary Government having become democratic Government, I ant all for keeping it democratic, being a Conservative. But its being parliamentary Government gives rise to my primary attachement.
What is the method? The method is that the party which gets the largest majority shall have the Prime Minister and other Ministers selected from it, and more or less in accord with its more or less manifest preferences. But, of course, when comes to Ministers wishing to do something in a field in which it is obvious that their opponents would go even further, that their opponents are even more inclined to do it, at that moment those who are in support of Ministers become impotent and have no control over them at that moment.
It is necessary therefore, I think, that Ministers should be reminded when they do something more agreeable to a higher proportion of hon. Gentlemen opposite than to all those on this side of the House that, much as they may dislike it, and preposterous as the democratic or even the parliamentary system may be. Ministers are really there to please me and not to please right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench. I do not mean me in particular, but the likes of me. I think they ought to be reminded of this upon these occasions, and that is another reason why I think something should be said about this now.
I wish next to state, succinctly I hope, my main thesis, and then I shall permit 238 myself, because we are early, to try to develop it a little bit. My main thesis is that the most urgent duty of the House of Commons always is, and most plainly has been for the last twelve years, to sustain and control Her Majesty's Government against inflation and for sound currency and to persuade the world and the country that it is doing so. That is the primary duty of the House of Commons, and always was.
For the House of Commons before so persuading the world—and no one dare say that we yet have persuaded the world —to contract for its own Members out of the disadvantages of a depreciating currency is, in my submission, a mistake on a national scale and a mistake which might have the greatest consequences. I hope the House will bear with me, and I even hope that the House will a little help me in this matter. Hon. Members are fond enough of talking about the rights of minorities. Very few of them have ever made so difficult a speech in so small a minority as I am now making this. I hope the House will bear with me, therefore, and even help me if I develop that thesis a little.
I do not wish to go into the question whether hon. Members ought to have how many pounds or what their expenses are, although I am not to be taken as accepting the Select Committee on that or any other question as Holy Writ. I am not less willing than anyone that I should be given more money, and I hope that I am less willing than most, certainly than many hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to indicate when they are on platforms, to grudge other men getting more. The more they can get, so long as it is fairly honestly done, the better I shall be pleased. [Laughter.] I am doing my best to be dull. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Member is succeeding."] I hope hon. Members will not make rude jokes. I have thought of a good many quite good jokes about right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, partly on the basis of their utterances on previous occasions, but I am trying to leave them all out in the hope of saving time and having a comparatively easy ride.
I have heard it said that provision for increased remuneration for hon. Members is so urgent that it is necessary to save the institution of Parliament. I have heard that said explicitly about the House of Commons and not quite so explicitly 239 about another place. It may be so; but even between necessities sometimes it is necessary to choose. One must not suppose, because I am sure Providence will not long let one, that all those things which one chooses to define as necessities, one can get simultaneously. That is not the way that the universe is arranged.
Suppose that there is also mortal danger to the £ and to defence, which are our two greatest concerns—greater than us. I hope that the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) will not mind my saying "greater than us"; if he looks at HANSARD he will see that he was a great deal worse at Question Time on Thursday. These are much the two greatest things, and, if they are two, they are two so inseparable that the life of neither can be preserved without the other.
Then, if protection for our national liberties, and freedom to be an international unit with a will of our own, and our prospect of feeding and employing on this island at least twice as many people as the island is designed for—if these things all depend upon defence of the currency, if these things are vital to national existence, and, it may be, to the personal existence of some millions of us before the next ten years have gone by, if so, then the preservation of Parliament, even, is a small matter compared with the preservation of England, "the Mother of Parliaments".
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I was quoting, and the quotation speaks of England as the Mother of Parliaments.
It is no good at all, upon that hypothesis, it is no good at all talking about democracy's need of well-paid professionals; for, whether democracy is to go on being here at all, to claim privileged pay or universal equality, individual freedom of earning and saving, or Socialism infinitely expanding taxation and public assistance—whichever the purpose, for neither purpose nor for any other would democracy long survive failure not only to preserve the £ but even to look as if it very much wanted to.
What has to be done is to show that we care more for that than we do for anything else, and, if I may say so, all 240 the arguments about the needs of hon. Members are really beside the point. If it is desired that incomes of hon. Members should be increased, there are two ways of doing it. One is by increasing the number of paper £s they may draw, and the other is by increasing the value of the £ or even by giving them that reasonable certainty that it will not very badly decrease which their fathers always had. So let us not think that, because additional pay is agreeable to us, or even requisite to Parliament, or conducive to democracy, all of which I might well admit—it is in order, all right—therefore we should vote for it today. What Her Majesty's Government are asking the House to vote is that it is expedient to do this, and what I am arguing is that the House has not really considered whether or not there are arguments on the other side. I am trying to indicate some of them.
If it is not helping the defence of the £, it may make the beginning of the end of Parliament and democracy and us. It is just over a year, I think, since Sir Anthony Eden sounded the tocsin and upreared the oriflamme for a rally to defend the £. It is rather less, I have forgotten how much less, since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proclaimed that "The Battle Against Inflation" was on. Is it still on? My right hon. Friend was much better entitled than most of those who use military metaphors, very much better entitled than most of the fighters for peace and warriors for freedom and militants for nationalisation; but he will remember that, when he was a regimental soldier, many of those whose shoulders held the sky suspended were tempted to hard thoughts about superior persons who could arrange for themselves to be as far behind the line as they chose.
I am not saying that it would be fair for those who may regard themselves as the P.B.I. of civilian life to accuse us in that way just now. All I am saying is that it cannot be doubted that we have so acted that such accusations are probable. Those who are responsible for planning and for leading the battle against inflation, in particular those on these benches for seeing that our betters direct the plan single-mindedly and that they do the leading at whatever risk and are seen to do so—those of us would be better for 241 not having been seen to guarantee ourselves against the slings and poisoned arrows of inflation.
If I may be forgiven a little longer, I will come to my final paragraph. In times of stress, and this is a time of stress, hardly less than 1940, the only thing which matters about a politician or a statesman, if one likes to use that word, is that he shall know at any given moment what is the ball which has got to be hit at that moment, and no amount of skill in hitting the other balls will matter.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
Will the hon. Gentleman clarify one important point? Has he received from Parliament all the moneys which have been decided by Parliament in the past?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Have I? I do not see the relevance of the matter. I will tell the hon. Gentleman that, of any money which I am legally entitled to, or which I effectively appear to be entitled to, I owe no audit to anyone. But if the hon. Gentleman wants to make a bet with the Archangel Gabriel, to be settled on the Day of Judgment, and wants my advice about myself, I would recommend him to assume that I do with my money what he would do with his.
All that matters at such a time is to know what it is that does matter at that time, to know which ball it is that has to he hit, to know between necessaries which necessary must be chosen. Resistance to inflation is now No. 1 priority, and vital. Neither do I believe—though it would be out of order, I think, if I explained how the thing were to be done—that it is so mysterious as all that, however difficult. I quite believe that it is immensely difficult, but not so mysterious, so long as that is what one wants, and not everything else simultaneously. Whatever the best method, this, I am sure, is certain —and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would agree with me—51 per cent. of it must consist, first, in convincing oneself unshakably that it is the most important consideration and, secondly, in convincing everyone else that one means it.
The belief that the Socialists really ever had their heart in it was never very strong and died long ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] In stopping inflation—nor 242 was the belief—perhaps this is too controversial to be said—that their heads would be much good for that purpose, because, by the time they got here, they were so accustomed to thinking on quite other lines and working in quite different directions.
At this moment, the hopes of anti-inflationists from the Tories are weak—I do not say this to attack the Government, I do not say it in any way letting out any secret—I brought here all the newspapers which happened to accumulate in my flat over the last three or four days, and I made one-sentence extracts from each of them. Everybody must be aware that, for the last several weeks and especially the last several days, they have been full of stuff about inflation and about the collapse of gilt-edged. Some of them even unkindly referred to—never mind—I think perhaps I will leave that out.
They have been full of these things, and nobody can be unaware that on Thursday afternoon and ever since they have taken it for granted that Members' pay has been put up. Nobody can doubt that they have all of them been increasingly of recent weeks, and much more increasingly of recent days, assuming that the Tories really are not so fierce in the battle against inflation as they were or ought to be. The sceptics are not now only those shrewd men of Zürich or the hard-faced men in the City of London. They have been joined, apparently, by every journalist in England, and by the small investors, and by an awful multitude who have nothing to invest anyway.
Such unanimity might, I believe, have been shaken if there had been something like unanimity that this was not the moment for what we are now doing; if the House of Commons had demonstrated that it desired the interests of its Members to depend on the soundness of British currency and not on the paper notes they could vote themselves. I am quite sure Her Majesty's Government want the same result as I do.
I was very grateful for my right hon. Friend's last sentences in his speech. I hope that everything he can do and repeat in this matter—I am sure repetition cannot be excessive—to repeat and emphasise those words will be done. More particularly, I think this fortnight's 243 work, particularly today's, has made it more difficult for us clearly to attain that result; most particularly difficult for those on the Front Bench to persuade themselves and everyone else that to that end, to the end of resisting inflation, come what may, they are resolute, come what may, with no condition that they must have everything else they would like too. On those last words, at least, I beg my right hon. Friend to prove me mistaken.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I am glad that I have been fortunate in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on this occasion, because two years ago when we last debated this matter I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn). Indeed, it was in conjunction with my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that two years ago I put down a Motion opposing any increase in the pay of Members of Parliament. Although I opposed it two years ago, today I support the Motion, and I hope to show why.
The newspapers say that this move today is unpopular, and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton has, in his own opinion, shown why it is unpopular—
§ Sir T. Moore
I believe that on the whole it is unpopular, but I cannot recall during the last General Election having had one question put to me either because of my attitude in being hostile to any increase or because it might have been favourable. I was not asked any question one way or the other, nor do I think I either lost or gained a vote in that Election because of the attitude I adopted previously. But there is one thing, which is that this vote—if it comes to a vote today—lays upon us a very heavy obligation and a very heavy burden. It is one to which my hon. Friend referred.
We have to go back to our constituencies, whether we like it or not, and face families who are living on fixed incomes and people who are living on pensions, and we have to justify our attitude today. The only way we can justify our decision today —I am glad 244 that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to this in his closing remarks—is by ensuring that all of those who are living on fixed incomes, or who are pensioners, have no justification in the future for turning to us and saying, "Why are you allowing the cost of living to get out of hand?" If this menace of real inflation overtakes us—it may well yet do so—then, indeed, all the increases we give ourselevs today will not be worth a moment's purchase.
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made his admirable and, I think, very well-balanced statement last Thursday on the increases in our salaries, I asked him one question. I asked whether there had been an ommission in his statement in that he had not referred to the general question of pensions for hon. Members. Obviously, the Prime Minister did not understand what I was getting at. Perhaps I posed my question badly, but obviously he thought I was referring to the Members' Pensions Fund. I was not. I was referring to paragraph 64 of the recommendations of the Select Committee, which was presided over so ably by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). That paragraph links the question of pensions with the question of current remuneration. I suggest that this is a matter which, although it has been overlooked with regard to this Motion, is not alone a matter which needs debate, but real revision while we are dealing with this very important topic. The pensions granted under the—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not go too far with this matter, which has no relation to the Motion before the House.
§ Sir T. Moore
It is very difficult to avoid dealing with pensions, because in his statement the Prime Minister referred to the Select Committee and to the fact that the Government were adopting the recommendations of that Committee in so far as they referred to the £750 expenses, which were the general expenses alleged to be incurred by Members of Parliament in the performance of their duties.
In that same Report, and linked with the question of expenses of Members, was the question of their pensions, because obviously if Members were worried—
§ Sir T. Moore
I quite agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but if we were not to pay this increase of salary of £750, then in truth we should have to increase the pensions so as to balance somehow or other the means by which Members of Parliament live.
However, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if you think that I should not refer to pensions at all, I shall, of course, have very much to curtail my speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I think that would be a pity, considering that I am supporting a Motion moved by the Government, and which is now supported by practically the whole House.
In considering either of these questions of salary or of pensions—I am now keeping pensions well in the background—I think that the conditions of life have much changed in the last few years since this matter was first raised in 1939. The tempo of life and the material composition of the House of Commons has altered. Even today hon. Members are accustomed—and rightly so—to living on a rather higher scale of life than they did in 1939. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is quite true.
§ Sir T. Moore
I know—I am telling the truth. Therefore, we have to consider what emoluments are needed in order to satisfy reasonable requirements which, in my opinion, did not exist to the same extent in 1939.
I am finding myself gravely handicapped by the elimination of the pensions question, which I had hoped to dwell upon to some extent, but I would reiterate a remark made by Earl Attlee when we were discussing this matter some time ago. Many of us have personal cognisance of the facts, and have known Members of this House who, when their services to the House were temporarily dispensed with, had to resort to humiliating methods of earning a living until they could get back here.
Either they had lost their skill at their former trade, or perhaps were getting beyond applying that skill, but for one reason or another they had to use 246 methods which none of us would feel proper or right. On the other hand, many of us have seen our colleagues literally dying on their feet before our eyes because they could no longer afford to retire. They could not afford to forgo the £1,000 a year that enabled them to go on living even the very hard life here.
For all those reasons, I have now come definitely to the conclusion that the Motion moved today by my right hon. Friend, and announced by the Prime Minister last week, is right. I hope that we shall not seek to divide the House tonight. I also hope that there will never be any necessity to go through this unpleasant business again and that the inflation which threatens the country will be overcome. I certainly hope that this is the last time upon which I shall have to register a vote in favour of increasing my own salary.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I have never uttered a word upon this subject before and I hope that I shall never have to again. I dare say that many of my hon. Friends wish that I were not going to do so now, but I feel obliged to say one or two things this afternoon, not only because I wish to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) said earlier about the importance of curbing inflation, but because we have not yet touched upon why it is that hon. Members should have to spend almost their whole time here in order to carry out their duties properly. I believe that that is fundamental to the creation of the present situation.
In the past Parliament has been able to have its debates confined—except on very great occasions—to those hon. Members who are particularly qualified to speak or who take an interest in the debate. Nowadays, however, it is far more important than it has ever been in our history that in order to satisfy the party machine—or even, perhaps, the Parliamentary machine—many hon. Members have to be here from 10 a.m. o'clock onwards day after day in order to fulfil their duties.
We might very well ask ourselves whether that has improved the quality of Parliament, whether the debates are better debates, whether the legislation is wiser 247 legislation, and, above all, whether the Grand Debate carried on in watching the Administration is better carried on than it was. If we read any Parliamentary history at all, without doubt we would agree that the real duty of Parliament, which is to carry on its Grand Debate, watching the Administration of the country, was better carried on in the past than it is today.
The fact that the situation has reached the present somewhat deplorable pitch arises because hon. Members have to be cooped up here far too long every day. I do not believe that a good Parliament can ever be based upon anything other than knowledge which is brought into the House from outside by hon. Members. The longer we sit here, day after day and weeek after week, the more we tend to become fungi on the walls—absorbing, absorbing, and absorbing, but having nothing constructive whatever to do with what we absorb. I know that I am deliberately exaggerating and oversimplifying the matter. I know quite well that in both Houses there are many who are fully qualified to be here, and that they have valuable contributions to make on their particular subjects and never hesitate to make their contributions should they feel that they would be helpful to the debate, or, better still, to the country.
It is not upon them that I cast any reflection. I wish that I could feel confident about being able to include myself among them, but I do not, because I know very well that the time I have to spend here—a great many other hon. Members must feel this—prevents my gaining the experience that I ought to be gaining if this Parliament is to be kept dynamic.
It is because of all those considerations that I want to put a particular plea to the Government. I put that plea in the hope that this temporary solution to the problem of the remuneration of Members of Parliament may be regarded as providing a breathing space in which the Government can seriously get down to a consideration of what ought to be the structure of the modern Parliament. If we look back over the history of Parliament we find that one of the most extraordinary features of it is that, whereas we started with the King and his "Parlia- 248 mentum"—according to the late Lord Simon, I am told, that is bad Latin, but it serves its purpose today—the little "talking shop" around the King, which developed with the Church being brought in and then the barons, and so the formation of the House of Lords—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Member, but he is going a little far from the terms of the Motion.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I hoped that I had sufficiently kept within the rules of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to show you that I am trying to find a justification for the Motion. I am not arguing the terms of the Motion but merely trying to draw attention to one consideration relating to its introduction. All I am trying to point out is that the Privy Council, the House of Lords, the Church Assembly and, finally, the House of Commons having been developed, everything came to an abrupt stop. There has been no constitutional development since then to meet the increasing activity of the State and its relations with the electorate, at least in regard to the provision of a legislature or debating Chamber.
I strongly believe that if my right hon. Friends want—as I believe the whole House wants—to avoid a repetition every three years or so of the sort of debate that we are having today, they must seriously consider what constitutional reform is necessary. We shall make Parliament work efficiently and serve the purpose it should serve only if, simultaneously, we do everything to ensure that the constitutional organisation of our Parliament is correct.
What we are debating today is but a symptom of the fact that our constitutional development is very far from adequate. It has stood still for too long. In the interests of all of us who love this place—all on both sides of the House claim to do that—who love Parliament and want to see Parliament survive, our constitutional development must keep pace with our legislation.
Those outside this House who have never been in it are apt to think that it is quite easy to say, "I won't stand 21 the next Election" or, "I will apply for the Chiltern Hundreds now." Those who have been here and have stayed here for more than a few years know that there 249 is a hypnosis about this place which makes it extremely difficult for any hon. Member voluntarily to give it up. Because I am fully appreciative of that and of the fact that the need of some hon. Members is greater than mine, I support the Motion, but I do it on two understandings. One is that the Government will seriously consider constitutional reform, and the other is that they will daily, hourly, and even every minute, consider what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton regarding inflation.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that provision should be made, as from the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven—