HC Deb 24 November 1959 vol 614 cc219-45

4.4 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, to leave out "under Her Majesty".

I have tabled this Amendment so that we can have an explanation and some clarification from the Leader of the House. I should like to know precisely what the words "under Her Majesty" mean. We know that these words occur in very old Acts of Parliament and that they refer to such posts as governor-generalships which have been discussed under the terms of the Bill, but in later years the question of what these words might mean has changed because of the nationalised industries

Would employment under one of the nationalised industries come under that definition? We know, for example, that a previous Speaker became a member of the Board of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Do those words mean that ex-Speaker Morrison would be able to take employment with the B.B.C., or I.T.V., or any other nationalised industry? It is quite common these days to find Conservative Members of Parliament, and Ministers, leaving high office and becoming chairmen of nationalised industries. For example, the Minister of State for Scotland in the last Government retired and reappeared as chairman of a nationalised board. This conversion to nationalisation occurred spectacularly overnight.

I speak this way because Lord Strathclyde is a constituent of mine. In the event of ex-Speaker Morrison being offered the chairmanship or the membership of a nationalised board, would the restrictions on the pension be applicable? If ex-Speaker Morrison's pension is to be reduced while he is Governor-General of Australia, is it the view of the Leader of the House that the rule would apply if ex-Speaker Morrison were offered a post as a director of a concern in the City?

Members opposite do not think that it is in any way disgraceful to be a chairman or a director of a brewery company, or a member of the board of a distilling concern. I would like to know what objection the Home Secretary would have to applying the same restriction and regulation against the appearance of ex-Speaker Morrison as a director of a big insurance company, a big brewery company, or in a lucrative appointment in the City.

I do not see how a distinction can be made. I suggest that it is possible that a great vested interest in the City might try to exploit the dignity of this House by offering an ex-Speaker a position and then gaining publicity by the fact that he had been the Speaker of the House of Commons. I do not know whether ex-Speaker Morrison would accept such an appointment, but I suggest that if there is to be a restriction on the pension when ex-Speaker Morrison has in an appointment such as the Governor-General of Australia, the argument must be that it would, in the same way, affect the position if ex-Speaker Morrison appeared on a board of directors or had any lucrative employment in the City.

We ought, therefore, to hear from the Home Secretary why these words are included in the Bill, and what his objections are to what is a reasonable and logical Amendment.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I support the Amendment.

The Committee is entitled to an explanation from the Government of the limits which are intended by Clause 1. As it stands, the pension which the House is asked to provide for ex-Speaker Morrison will be reduced in the event, and in the event only, of his accepting a place, office or employment under Her Majesty. The point which I think is of constitutional importance is why there should be such proposed reductions in the event of an ex-Speaker accepting employment under Her Majesty compared with any other employment, whether of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) or any other kind.

Speaking for myself, I can well understand that there are very good constitutional reasons why the Committee should say that an ex-Speaker should receive a pension, but that it will be dependent upon his not obtaining any other employment of any kind. During Second Reading a view was expressed, which aroused a good deal of sympathy on both sides of the House, that the position of Mr. Speaker, and, therefore, of an ex-Speaker, is so unique and distinguished that the House has a responsibility to ensure that an ex-Speaker is relieved of any kind of financial embarrassment. During the course of history it has always been assumed that an ex-Speaker should retire, I will not say into obscurity but into a condition in which he was free from all financial embarrassment, and that if he wanted to undertake some work of public importance or benefit it should not be conditional upon financial remuneration.

The Speaker of the House, as the First Commoner of the Realm, is in a position with which no possible comparison can be made. A comparison was made on Second Reading with the position of ex-judges, but through several centuries it has been assumed that the position, dignity and eminence of the Speaker of the House is such that, once retired, he should be completely removed from politics and from financial embarassment and dependence of any kind.

Here, for the first time in history, we have the case of an ex-Speaker who has been invited to accept, and has accepted, a position of very great responsibility under the Crown. I should have thought that if it were at all consonant with the dignity of an ex-Speaker to accept any other appointment after he ceases to serve the House, and if there were any exception to the general rule, it would be only in the case of accepting the position of Governor-General of one of the great Dominions, Australia and Canada. I can well understand the argument that of all the possible range of offers which may be open to an ordinary individual, for an ex-Speaker perhaps the only offer consonant with his dignity is that of Governor-General of Canada or Australia.

In the Bill we are concerned with the traditional right and function of the House in making provision for the dignity of an ex-Speaker. Personally, I regret that any ex-Speaker should accept any paid employment at all, but I have referred to the possible limitations on that general rule. I would have thought that any ex-Speaker accepting any employment at all would have preferred that the pension which the House traditionally provided for an ex-Speaker should be suspended completely during the time of any such employment.

4.15 p.m.

Having said that, however, I think that we are entitled to hear from the Leader of the House his view on the limitations contained in the phrase "under Her Majesty." Are we to take it that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with the views which my hon. Friend and I have expressed, that this particular appointment is so exceptional and is comprehended by the words "under Her Majesty," and that these would, therefore, exclude any other employment? If that interpretation is right, may I point out to the Leader of the House that if ex-Speaker Morrison, after relinquishing his appointment as Governor-General of Australia, were to accept any other "place, office or employment" which was not under Her Majesty, there would be no abatement even of half of the pension? That is a contingency which I do not think the Committee would regard as sensible or consonant with the dignity of the House of Commons.

If we leave the Clause as it stands, there is an abatement of the pension in the event, and in the event only, of an ex-Speaker accepting an office or employment under Her Majesty. This leaves unresolved what would be the position if either ex-Speaker Morrison or any other ex-Speaker were to accept an office or employment not under Her Majesty. That is an event which I should not contemplate with any complacency. Nor do I think that other hon. Members would accept it with any complacency. I therefore think that the Clause as drafted is perhaps indefinite, and I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to clear up the constitutional point which my hon. Friend has raised.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Edward Boyle)

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I rise now, because I think that the position under the Clause is a good deal simpler and more straightforward than either the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) or the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) have suggested. The words of Clause 1 (1) are: holds any place, office or employment under Her Majesty. … More senior members of the Committee will know that it is notoriously not easy to identify all places, offices or employment under Her Majesty, but, clearly, the Clause would include such offices as appointment to the Civil Service, a judicial appointment or appointment as governor-general. It would not include—and this is the answer to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire—appointments to offices which are laid down by the House under Statute. It certainly would not include appointments to the boards of nationalised industries or to the B.B.C.

There is a clear distinction, which is accepted and widely understood, between those offices which are offices under the Crown and appointed by the Crown and those which are held under Statute passed by the full authority of Parliament. I suggest that the position is much clearer than hon. Members have indicated.

The effect of the Amendment is clear. It would be to abate the pension of Lord Dunrossil if he holds any other appointment, not only a public office. I fully realise that the Amendment is in line with the feeling voiced by a number of hon. Members opposite when the Resolution was debated in Committee and the Bill was debated on Second Reading, that the Speaker should retire completely on giving up his office and should not accept any employment, either under the Crown or directorships in the City.

As hon. Members opposite know, I listened to the whole of the debate on the Committee stage of the Resolution and on Second Reading as well, and I can only repeat what was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on that earlier occasion. My right hon. Friend pointed out that this abatement Clause has been in Speakers' Retirement Bills since 1817 and he stressed the importance of keeping the whole Bill in traditional form, apart from the introduction of a widow's pen- sion, so as to avoid subjecting the Speakership to the strains and stresses of the day.

There is one other point which I should like to emphasise to the Committee, because I think that it is important. In a number of public service pension arrangements it is customary for an abatement provision to operate only where the pensioner gets employment in some other public office. To extend this principle to cases of private employment, which is what hon. Members opposite who have moved and supported this Amendment wish to do, would be an innovation with very far-reaching implications, and I suggest to the Committee that it would be quite wrong to use this occasion and the office of Speaker as a vehicle for an innovation of this kind.

Hon. Members feel sincerely on this point and have put their arguments this afternoon, but the principle behind this Amendment would be a considerable innovation to our proceedings in a wide range of public pension arrangements, and I do not think that Mr. Speaker Morrison's Retirement Bill is the right occasion on which to make this departure on principle.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

The Financial Secretary has said that the terminology of the Bill before us is an old one, going back to 1817. That seems to run counter to that which I read out to the House last week, when the then Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin, on 27th June, 1928, laid down the law on this matter. He did not include private offices in the sort of office that a Speaker ought to take. He said: The Speaker is almost the only man in politics—I include the Prime Minister in the list—who is completely debarred from entering any kind of business or from seeking to promote his own welfare, and it has always seemed"— this is the relevant part— and rightly seemed, that in the Speaker's case, as in my view in the Prime Minister's case, when his term of office is done he should not enter into the ordinary competition of the market-place with other people, but should preserve for the rest of his life the dignity of the great office to which he had been called."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1928; Vol. 219, c. 546–7.] Undoubtedly, those were the arguments with which the Prime Minister of the day convinced the House when an abatement of the pension was being moved by the deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Clynes, some years ago. Therefore, it seems to me that it was in the mind of the Prime Minister of the day that Mr. Speaker Whitley should not go into another office. He did. It so happened that it was Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who was Prime Minister at the time, and, incidentally, Leader of the party when the deputy Leader moved that abatement, who conferred office upon him.

When I spoke before, I was more concerned with the link with the Crown than the constitutional position, and I am still of the opinion that the credit of all concerned would have been better served if we had had nothing to do with this pension at all while there was another Crown appointment.

Our first question last week was that of the link with the Crown. I was reading the other day some lines by Sir Wilfred Lawson, written in 1896, in which he referred to the fact that Mr. Speaker's coach is drawn by Mr. Whitbread's horses, because it had long been a custom for the Speaker of the House of Commons, usually prior to taking office, to hold a brewery directorship. He went on to say that it seemed rather symbolic at that time, when the brewing industry was rampant in the country, that they should drag the Speaker's coach. I do not know, but probably the brewing interest is not so strong nowadays. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not want to be dragged into an argument as to whether the brewery interest is or is not as rampant as in days gone by. I am sure that that would be out of order. I do not think that it is so venomous as it was, and I will leave it at that.

One can well imagine certain spheres of commercial activity to which an ex-Speaker might go and which this House would deprecate. Ex-Speaker Morrison has already made his debut on television. He may be encouraged to do that still further—to become chairman of the Brains Trust, or something like that. I do not know whether that is the sort of spectacle that we should look forward to seeing.

I should have thought that the omission of these words as proposed in the Amendment put the position beyond peradventure. I would be prepared to look at the position again to ensure that the Speaker, when in retirement from the House, went to another place if he wanted to benefit that place with his deliberations, but not that he should be associated with a dubious form of commercial activity. I have mentioned television and other hon. Members can think of other things.

I think that we should accept the Amendment as reasonable and logical.

Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

The Amendment has brought before the Committee something of profound constitutional importance. It is whether a former Speaker should be debarred from any form of remunerative employment. There are arguments on both sides. I am prepared to accept the validity of the argument that the Speakership of the House is a position of such dignity and honour that it is demeaning the reputation of this House that the holder of the office should pass into any other arena after having been Speaker. If that is the case—and if we accept that argument—then its consequences ought to be made perfectly clear, when a Speaker is elected, that hereafter he will be discouraged from indulging in any other form of activity after he has been Speaker.

But there are other arguments. We want, as far as possible, not to confine the office of Speaker to elderly gentlemen. I think that it is very important that we should have young Speakers. It is fairly obvious that useful Speakership cannot endure for more than about ten or twelve years. If we have a young Speaker he may not be much more than 60 or perhaps under 60 at the time he relinquishes the Speakership and it is rather hard that he should, for purposes of practical employment, be sterilised. I rise not to argue one way or another on those lines, because I have an open mind and both those sets of arguments appeal to me.

If the Bill is to have any useful result it must make a clear declaration of the principles and rules involved. It is unfair to elect a Member of this House as a Speaker without his position being clearly and unequivocally stated. If my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is unable to give a ruling today, I appeal to him to promise that a clear and definite ruling will very shortly be given, on behalf of all parties in the House, as to the kind of employment from which a Member is debarred after having held the uniquely honourable position of Speaker of this House.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I dissent from the Amendment, and I hope that my hon. Friend will not press it. I do not think that it is necessary; on the contrary, I think that it is undesirable. If we wish to lay down conditions regarding the behaviour of a retired Speaker we ought to lay them down at the time of his appointment. We should make them part of the tradition of the appointment, whereupon the resistance of the Speaker-Elect to taking the Chair might become a little more real.

It is unfair to seek to impose such conditions at the time of retirement, especially by the means proposed in the Amendment, namely, the abatement of his pension. If the Amendment were carried it would be possible for a retired Speaker to take up a very controversial business appointment, the remuneration of which was £3,999 a year, and not be affected. Yet such an appointment might be that of chairman of the Greyhound Racing Association. The House is very jealous not only of its own repute, but of those who serve it, and it is undoubtedly our wish that a retired Speaker should not engage in activities unbecoming to one who has held a position of such authority and esteem. We must place trust in those whom we appoint to such a high office.

Such a condition as is proposed by my hon. Friend has not been considered necessary in similar Bills in the past, so why should it be considered necessary now? The temptation to go into the City must have been as strong in former years as it is now. It is true that in the past there has not been the refuge—if that is a suitable word—of an appointment to a nationalised industry, but such appointments are in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. They can see, even if a retired Speaker cannot, what may or may not be a suitable appointment for him in the future.

The Committee need have no fears on this score. If it has, however, this is not the way to express them, or to find a way of remedying them. There is a cross-reference here to other public service pensions. I admit that the pension we give a retiring Speaker is in the nature of a social security pension rather than a long service pension, and that that in some respects distinguishes it from the pension paid to a civil servant after forty years' service.

Nevertheless, the principle of abatement is written into the code of public service persons, and is confined to other appointments under Her Majesty. We do not pursue retiring public servants into every branch of their post-retirement activities, and ask them what fees they are receiving and what expenses they must set off against them, for the purposes of deciding whether or not they are receiving £4,000 a year.

Moreover, I understand that it would be possible for a retired Speaker to collect a miscellany of outside appointments, none of which carried emoluments of equal or greater amount than that of the annuity but which, in total, exceeded it. That is a question of interpretation upon which I venture with some diffidence in the presence of the learned Attorney-General, but surely we do not want to set up a code of evasion, under a Bill passed by this House, so that we not only have tax "fiddles" but retired Speaker "fiddles".

It is disgraceful to attempt to circumscribe the activities of a retired Speaker, whom we must trust to behave in a manner becoming the office he has held. If we find that a retired Speaker transgresses what we believe to be a reasonable code of behaviour, we may have to approach the matter in a tougher spirit, but no such occasion has arisen.

The only new factor in this situation is the appointment of the retired Speaker to be Governor-General of Australia. There is no suggestion that he would have gone into the City. The special interest in the Bill arises from an entirely different cause, which can be considered separately on its merits, if need be, when we consider the major question of abatement in principle, but I strongly dissent from the Amendment and I hope that my hon. Friend will not test opinion on this or the other side of the Committee.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

When the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) was speaking, I understood him to couple former Prime Ministers with former Speakers.

Mr. C. Pannell

No. I was referring to an occasion in 1928 when Lord Baldwin, then Prime Minister, made a pronouncement as to what Speakers should do when they retired, and I quoted it.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I am aware of that, but: I understood him to couple with it the circumstances of former Prime Ministers accepting appointments after retirement although in receipt of pensions from this House. I imagine that former Prime Ministers are in a position similar to that of former Speakers—not in such quite a unique position, because there are more of them, but nevertheless in a similar position. Yet I read last week that a former Prime Minister of this House was receiving £150 a time on a lecture tour of America. I do not know whether the report is true or not, but, if it is, where do we draw the line in these things.

Mr. Pannell

Lord Baldwin drew the line.

Sir A. V. Harvey

We should keep a sense of proportion in this matter. As far as I know, no former Speaker has ever failed this House in his period of retirement. I agree that the House has every right to discuss this matter freely, but I think that we are making very heavy weather of it. As the Financial Secretary said, this is not the occasion to amend the law or to create a new regulation which will affect other individuals. We are now considering the retirement pension of ex-Speaker Morrison.

This is also the wrong time and place to discuss Members' pensions. I agree that there is a very strong case for the matter being dealt with urgently, but this is not the time to do it. I will willingly support it at a later date.

I feel very sorry for Lord Dunrossil because of the things that have been said. He was criticised for appearing on television, but today almost everyone has to appear on television if he receives any appointment. Once he is on he has to go on with it. He cannot get out of it. It may have been unfortunate that Lord Dunrossil appeared on television, but I am sure that he did so with the best of intentions—and I do not suppose that he was paid for it.

About eleven years ago, when the Labour Party was in office, a Bill called the Mountbatten Inheritance Bill was brought to this House from another place. A few of those who were then in Opposition spoke against it. They said that it ought to apply to every woman in a similar position. We all realise why the Bill was brought in at that time, and I do not want to drag it up again. But the Leader of the Opposition made a rather unfortunate remark during the Second Reading debate. He said: The right hon. Gentleman referred to the emoluments of the Governor-General of Australia. I see that it has been said that they are not enough. If that is so—and it may well be the case—I venture to say that it is a matter for the Government of Australia to put right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1959; Vol. 613, c. 1178–9.] It is not our business to discuss what the Australians arrange with Lord Dunrossil. In my experience, the Australian Government are no less generous than this Government in dealing with Ministers or ex-Members of Parliament. I think it a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman referred to it in the way that he did. We know that Lord Mount-batten went to India as Viceroy and that legislation to enable the trust to be broken was enacted to facilitate his sojourn in India.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting far from the Amendment.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I am sorry, Sir Gordon. I was merely illustrating how on a previous occasion a gentleman who had taken a high office was placed in very difficult circumstances. That was our business then, but today this is not our business.

Mr. Pannell

The matter mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, which has been ruled out of order, might be corrected in relation to the legislation to which the hon. Gentleman referred by saying that it was enacted after Lord Mountbatten left India.

The Chairman

Perhaps we had better not pursue the matter.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I will not pursue it, Sir Gordon.

The appointment which Lord Dunrossil has accepted, at the request of the Prime Minister of Australia and of Her Majesty, is a very high office. I hope we are all proud of the fact that an ex-Member of this House is to hold that office. It is non-political, and I do not think the question of his pay comes into it at all. I personally would like to see Lord Dunrossil accept the full pension at the outset and not half of it.

If this Committee proposes to lay down rules and regulations about what ex-Speakers ought or ought not to do—whether a man is to live in a cottage in Gloucestershire and never do another thing in his life—I think that we shall be exceeding our responsibilities. That is not a matter for the House of Commons. We should leave it to the good sense of ex-Speakers. If an ex-Speaker accepted a directorship of one of the big banks, one perhaps might be entitled to criticise the appointment, because by so doing an ex-Speaker would be taking an appointment in the ordinary run of commerce. But Lord Dunrossil has accepted a high office under the Crown and is not there to make a profit at all. I hope the Committee will come to its senses and get this affair over and leave Lord Dunrossil to undertake his great office.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) started by saying that he hoped the Committee would keep a sense of proportion. That is exactly what some of us are trying to do. I was amazed at the outburst of my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). He is a member of the T.U.C., and he knows that the T.U.C. is concerned about retirement pensions being taken into consideration.

I have received two letters from constituents who are troubled because they find that their retirement pension, amounting to £4 for man and wife, has been reduced as a result of having taken up part-time work at which they earn more than £3 a week. A lot of people cannot understand why there should be anything wrong about abating half a pension amounting to £4,000 a year if there is apparently nothing wrong about abating a pension of £4 a week when the recipient earns over £3 a week. If hon. Members can explain that to ordinary people—of which there are tens of thousands in this country whose pensions have been abated—they are more fortunate than I am, because I cannot get my constituents to understand why it is that their pension should be abated while there are objections to abating a pension of £4,000 a year.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

The hon. Member should explain to his constituents that at the age of seventy, when they would have reached the proper statutory retirement age, they will be on exactly the same terms as Lord Dunrossil.

The Chairman

Order. The discussion is getting far from the Amendment.

Mr. Fernyhough

May I assure the noble Lord that my constituents will find his answer "very satisfactory."

Until comparatively recently, the Speaker was the one Member of this House who was given a pension. Neither the Prime Minister nor anyone else got a pension for many decades. From 1817, or whatever date it was that my hon. Friend mentioned—

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Pannell

It was 1761.

Mr. Fernyhough

From that time a pension has been given to the Speaker on his retirement, presumably for the sole purpose of enabling him to lead a dignified and useful life in keeping with the high office which he held.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that it is all right for an ex-Speaker to accept any job in keeping with the dignity of this House—a governorship or something like that—but that if he does so and the emoluments exceed his pension, then the pension will be abated. But if an ex-Speaker went into the City, if he accepted a commerical office, no matter how well paid, that would not be taken into consideration.

I believe that the Speaker's pension was fixed at a sufficiently high figure to enable him to lead a useful and dignified life on his retirement without the necessity of seeking additional remuneration. I say to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that I am prepared to come to their constituencies and prove to any audience that £4,000 a year is sufficient to enable any man to live as he would wish without having to seek any other income.

I hope that the Leader of the House and the Financial Secretary will not misunderstand us. We are merely stating a point of view which is widely held. Lord Dunrossil always treated me with great kindness. I have no enmity towards him, because I had nothing from him but kindness. But we must voice the opinion of the people we represent, and many feel deeply on this matter. If any hon. Member does not believe that, I will show him the letters I have received. It is our duty to state the point of view of the people we represent. A married couple who retire at the age of 65 and receive a pension of £4 a week find it difficult to believe that a pension of £4,000 a year—

The Chairman

Order. That has nothing to do with the Amendment.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am making the comparison. Surely I am entitled to point out the difference in the case of an ex-Speaker of this House compared with an old-age pensioner.

The Chairman

We are not discussing the amount of the pension; we are discussing the circumstances in which it will be paid.

Mr. Pannell

On a point of order, Sir Gordon. The effect of this Amendment would be to debar future ex-Speakers from accepting any form of work and putting themselves in the labour market. In effect, it is an earnings rule. If they earn a certain amount, whether from an office under the Crown or an office in a private undertaking, they would be debarred from taking their pensions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Half of it."] They would be debarred from receiving some of the emoluments laid down. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) is advancing an argument of equity. After all, that is a principle which runs from the Speaker—the prime representative of the Commons, which, in turn, represents the people of England—to old-age pensioners. The principle of equity applies to old-age pensioners and it should apply to the Speaker. I would have thought it was logical for my hon. Friend to make that analogy.

The Chairman

The hon. Member was discussing the amount of the pension. We are discussing the circumstances in which a pension is abated, and we can discuss only those circumstances.

Mr. Fernyhough

I am sorry, but what I was trying to do was to incorporate remarks on this Amendment which I would certainly make on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill, if I were not permitted to make them now. I was only trying to save the time of the Committee. I merely wanted hon. Members to understand that, from my point of view and that of a lot of other people, there seem to be two standards, and it is not easy to convince the electorate that there ought to be two standards. I have no intention or trying to convince the electorate that there should be, but I hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Leader of the House will try to understand that there is a substantial body of opinion outside this House which shares the point of view and the sentiments which some of us have tried to express on this matter.

Amendment negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Houghton

On the question of abatement, throughout the debate so far no one has mentioned that, in respect of the National Insurance retirement pension, ex-Speaker Morrison will be subject to the same earnings rule as everyone else who is drawing a National Insurance retirement pension.

Mr. Fernyhough

But the consequences will not be as bad.

Mr. Houghton

My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) says the consequences will not be as bad, but I do not think that is the point. The question is whether the same conditions should apply to the National Insurance retirement pension, whomsoever may draw it. There are many instances, quite apart from retired Speakers, of persons drawing vocational pensions and National Insurance pensions in addition. They are subject to exactly the same rules as all others in regard to conditions of retirement and the earnings rule thereafter in the case of National Insurance retirement pensions. As regards the vocational pensions, there may be conditions applicable to them which vary from case to case.

The question I want to raise is why the principle in this Clause is different from that which applies to all other public service pensioners under the Superannuation Act, 1834. Section 20 of the Superannuation Act, 1834, is a source of considerable grievance amongst civil servants who retire and are re-employed under Her Majesty, but only under Her Majesty, after retirement. In such cases, there is a limiting provision of the Superannuation Act, 1834, Section 20 of which provides that the pension payable shall be abated to such extent as to ensure that remuneration plus pension shall not exceed total remuneration at the time of retirement. That means that no re-employed civil servant can earn more by re-engagement after retirement than he was earning previously, unless, presumably, in the very rare case of a person being re-engaged in a higher post, the remuneration of which exceeded that of his previous post, and I have never struck a case of that kind.

Where that principle differs from the provisions of this Bill will be plain to the Committee. Where a retiring Speaker accepts another appointment under Her Majesty, with equal or greater emoluments than those he was previously receiving, under this Clause the pension is to be abated as to one-half. That is a quite different principle from that which I have described as applicable to the general run of public service pensions.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury a few moments ago made an allusion to the practice in the public service in regard to abatement being applicable only to other appointments under Her Majesty. He seemed to be relying quite rightly, I thought, on the general practice in the case of public service pensions, but if he relied upon the general practice in public service pensions, why has that general principle of the 1834 Act not been followed in connection with the pensions of retiring Speakers?

That is really the reason why I am raising the point on this Clause. That is not to say, of course, that the provisions of the 1834 Act are universally accepted amongst retired public servants. On the contrary, they have made representations against that limiting provision to one Commission after another. I refer to this only because I am not defending the provisions of the 1834 Act, but merely stating them as being in existence and of universal application in the case of public service pensions.

Mr. Pannell

This is rather old.

Mr. Houghton

On this question of age, I am not sure which comes first.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hen or the egg?

Mr. Pannell

The Speaker in 1761.

Mr. Houghton

My hon. Friend says "The hen or the egg?", but it is a question of whether we bring things into line right from the beginning or change them for other people. There has been plenty of time since 1834 to have brought the conditions of the pension of Mr. Speaker into line with the conditions embodied in that Act for the pensions of public servants generally. I simply do not know why it has not been done. I wish no harm to Mr. Speaker's pension arrangements. I have no feeling that because we are treating other citizens less than justly, we should deal unfairly with Mr. Speaker. Let us remedy injustices where they are and not get them mixed up with other things.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

We are a long while doing it.

Mr. Houghton

Of course we are a long while doing it, but that is the duty of this House and the duty of the electorate. If the electorate does not put in office people who promise quickly to remedy some of these injustices, then we are powerless to make greater progress than we do. What I am pleading for is that we should not get entirely different things mixed up and deal less than fairly with one case because we have a sense of injustice in other and more numerous cases.

I ought not to detain the Committee further, because I have made my point. I am asking why there is this difference between the principles of the 1834 Act for public servants generally and the arrangements for the ex-Speaker's pension in the case of his accepting another appointment under Her Majesty.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I have received some correspondence in regard to this matter precisely on the point which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Hough ton).

I have no doubt that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in the office which he held before he was promoted to his present post—for, after all, anything is promotion from the Ministry of Education, unfortunately—must have had brought to his notice the cases of teachers who have responded to the appeals made by the Government that, having retired, they should return to active practice as teachers, and have incurred the limitations on what they now receive, as has just been described so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby. It is quite wrong for us to think that people will not draw these comparisons. I agree that many of them are unjustifiable, but none the less many people will draw them.

5.0 p.m.

There have been one or two phrases used by hon. Members opposite this afternoon which suggest that it is only on this side of the Committee that a grievance is felt about this matter. I would remind the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), however, that the first speech made in the debate on Second Reading after the speeches from the two Front Benches was that by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay), who started the discussion on the lines on which it has been continued by certain other hon. Members.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I thought the main point in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Lindsay) last week was the question about appearing on television.

Mr. C. Pannell


Mr. Ede

Those of us who were in the House at the time will recall the speech made by the hon. Member for Solihull. I had the surprise of my life, for I thought he was going to attack my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for having dared to say anything other than immediately to have made a eulogy of the action of the Government in promoting this pension.

I greatly respect the former Speaker of this House. I think he is a man of whom we should all be proud as having reached the position he did with us and the position he reached in his profession before he entered this House. I understand that without any of the ordinary forms of backing which help a man along he achieved a very high position in that profession. He speedily established in this House a position that was quite independent of any influence other than his own merit, which entitled him to promotion.

I think it came as a shock to all of us when we heard of his accepting the appointment in Australia. Probably the discussion on this Bill has meant that a future ex-Speaker will think a very long time before he accepts a similar appointment. It therefore arises on this Clause whether it ought to be limited in the way the Committee has decided to limit it. The debate the other day on Second Reading will also mean that an ex-Speaker will probably think very long before he goes into the City, or does any of the other things which have been mentioned. After all, very often it is not what appears in the Journals of the House, not what appears in the legislation we pass, but the atmosphere that comes over the House when certain things come up for discussion which really settles what is going to be the tradition of the House and of certain of its Members in future. I do not think we need worry any more about that particular phase of the matter.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does the right hon. Member differentiate between taking a high appointment at the request of a great Dominion and going into the City? Surely there is a great difference between the two?

Mr. Ede

I do not draw a differentiation. To be quite frank, I think a man who retires from the Chair of this House has reached so high a position that he ought not to lend what he has acquired there to any outside organisation after he has retired.

I welcome the provision in this Bill which gives the widow, if there should be a widow, a pension. A man who has given as much service to this House and to the country as did the last Speaker, when he now has to face what will be the reasonable thing for him to do in the spending of the pension allotted to him, must be reassured that, should he pre-decease his wife, those of us who have profited in many ways from his work for us think that there need not be as much anxiety on that score as otherwise would be the case. I hope this part of the Bill will be a precedent to be followed in future Bills dealing with ex-Speakers.

Sir G. Nicholson

I would not have risen but for what was said by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He implied, although I do not know whether he meant to imply it, that it is very difficult to lay down definite rules but that future ex-Speakers will be influenced in their conduct by what has been said in this debate. I would not like it to go out without contradiction that everyone shares his view that it is undesirable for a former Speaker to become a Governor of a great Dominion. I think it a great compliment to this House that Mr. Speaker Morrison should have been invited to take that high office in Australia. I do not know whether the Committee is with me or not in saying that it would be inconsistent with the high office he has held for an ex-Speaker to go into trade or commerce, but, on the other hand, I cannot see why an ex-Speaker who desires to live in the country should not farm.

Mr. Ede

He should not be a farm bailiff?

Sir G. Nicholson

No, but he could certainly farm. I agree that there are grave practical difficulties in laying down a strict code of conduct in black and white. I rose to say that I hope it will not go out as the general feeling of the Committee that it is wrong for Mr. Speaker Morrison, or any other ex-Speaker, to become a Governor of a Dominion. I feel, and I think other hon. Members feel, indirectly flattered that he should be asked to take that job. On the other hand, I personally hope it will go out that it is wrong for future ex-Speakers to go into the arena of trade and commerce.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

I do not think many people in the country will be willing to blame Mr. Speaker Morrison or to do anything but praise him for having become Governor-General of Australia. I think that what shocked a lot of people was that, despite the fact that he had achieved that high office, we should also be voting him a considerable pension.

I know the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that there is quite a lot of historic association in relation to the actual duties when the pension was first laid down. That supports the contention he makes about the tie-up between Mr. Speaker and the Crown. Another thing is a little invidious. Inevitably, if we are to stick to tradition—and the whole plea has been that we should stick to traditional form—in these conditions we shall always be discussing a pension in relation to a particular person. I do not think there is any doubt about that.

Sir G. Nicholson

Unless we do it in advance.

Mr. Ross

We cannot do it in advance. It is inevitable that we shall have to do it in relation to a particular person and in relation to particular circumstances. We cannot say to the people of the country, "Forget all about the fact that it is Mr. Speaker Morrison, forget all about the fact that he is going to a governor-generalship which carries a salary of £10,000 a year." If the Home Secretary tells us that it is time we departed from what was laid down in 1817, he will have me with him. I do not agree with a lot that has been said about sterilising someone who has been Mr. Speaker from participation in industry. All we say in relation to abatement is that if he takes another post under the Crown he should lose his pension.

Under the suggested Amendment, my hon. Friend wished to apply that to a wider field, but again, the ex-Speaker would lose his pension. Surely he would appreciate that in that case the only question that arises is that of abatement and of conditions. No matter how we dealt with this matter in the future we should probably require to deal with the question of conditions and circumstances under which it is being dealt with today. I agree that I would like to see Speakers retiring at a younger age, but then we should have to consider the question of abatement.

Surely the circumstances in 1817, as envisaged by the Parliament of that time, were entirely different from those of today. As a matter of fact, the position of a Member of Parliament in 1817 was very different from what it is today. It was said of Scottish Members after 1707 that though they heard many arguments which swayed them their vote was never swayed by argument but by hard cash. Indeed, the avenues to fortune open to Members of Parliament prior to 1817 were very considerable.

The Chairman

I am afraid that what the hon. Member is now saying is far from the Question before the Committee.

Mr. Ross

I put it to you, Sir Gordon, that we are being asked to pass the Clause in the traditional form as related to an Act of 1817. In 1817, the position of Mr. Speaker was entirely different from what it is today. Then he was taken from the back benches and placed in a position of independence of the Crown and of the Executive, and that at a time when the position of a private Member was very different from what it is today.

I think it was right that in those days the form of the Clause should be as it was. What I am arguing is that the conditions of the private Member who becomes the Speaker are so different today that I think we should invite the Government to contemplate making entirely different arrangements in future in relation to the Speaker and the provision of the pension. To deal with the Speaker's pension in this way is, I think, quite anachronistic in modern conditions.

I am inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite, although not with his arguments, that there is far more in making an ex-Speaker Governor-General of Australia than in his going into the City. If there is to be any penalty, I would prefer it to be for going into the City.

Before concluding, I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who managed to switch his arguments between the Amendment and the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." On the Amendment, my hon. Friend said that we must not pass the Amendment because of the link-up with retired pensioners of the public service—it might be brought into play against them. On the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," he told us that something had been going on since 1834 which, had there been the same speedy effect, would have meant that private Members would since 1834 have had a considerably better time than they are having.

I congratulate my hon. Friend in respect of that, but I hope that the Leader of the House will give us some indication concerning how he hopes to deal with this matter in the future so as to save us from the embarrassment which has arisen in this case, which, I think, is out of all relation to present day circumstances.

5.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

I am sure that Lord Dunrossil would be very touched by the reference of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and his tribute to Mrs. Speaker Morrison, for whom provision is made in the Clause. I am glad that that has been generally accepted by the Committee as a whole. The tributes paid to the late Speaker have been perfectly sincere. As I said in my speech on Second Reading, I do not think that those people outside who may be surprised at the criticisms which have taken place need accept them otherwise than as our undoubted right of free speech which we exercise at all times in the House of Commons and there is no personal issue in what has been said in respect of our revered friend the ex-Speaker whom we wish well in his onerous and important post overseas.

The hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) was on the target, despite the observations of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), in referring to the different provisions of abatement in Section 20 of the Superannuation Act, a copy of which I obtained for greater accuracy before the debate started. There is no doubt that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock is also right, so we may end the debate on a very happy note, when he says that this Act is drafted entirely on the precedent of 1817 and that the figure of the Speaker's pension is also included in this Bill in relation to a figure thought of at that time.

I will deal first with the point raised by the hon. Member for Sowerby. There is no doubt that there is no great satisfaction in the operation of Section 20 of the Superannuation Act so we need not think that the necessary, right and proper course to pursue is to make abatement provisions in pension payments. The fact is that, if we were to take the analogy of the civil servant, this Bill would be drafted in a different form. If we were to take the analogy of a colonial governor this Bill would be drafted in a different form. If we were to take the analogy of a Prime Minister, I understand that no pension is payable so long as he is receiving a salary out of moneys provided by Parliament or by the Duchy of Lancaster or paid out of the Consolidated Fund.

One very striking difference which we have not followed in this case is that members of the Armed Forces suffer no abatement of pension if appointed to a civilian Government post. I do not wish to go into comparisons, but it so happens that Lord Dunrossil's immediate predecessor was in that position, and so was Lord Alexander when Governor of Canada. There were no abatement provisions and, similarly, the judiciary have no provisions for abatement.

As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock quite rightly says, this Bill is drafted and based on the conception of 1817 as to amount and the terms of the Statute as it finally will be. It is, in fact, different from the Superannuation Act. It is less onerous, I think, than the provision affecting a civil servant, more onerous than that affecting an Army officer and more onerous than that affecting a member of the judiciary. I think that is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.

In introducing the Bill the Government were actuated by precedent.

Mr. Fletcher

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the judiciary, but surely there is no precedent for any retired member of the judiciary except he be in employment under the Crown.

Mr. Butler

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when the hon. Member for Sowerby made a powerful and well-informed speech on the technicalities of abatement. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in pursuing the matter to the ultimate destination of the judiciary, though confining himself to the arguments on abatement made by the hon. Member for Sowerby.

We have, in fact—this is the answer to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock—drafted the Bill on the old model. Several of my right hon. and hon. Friends were rather indignant when they found the provision for abatement, and some thought that it had been deliberately included to meet the contingency of United Kingdom Ministers, namely, the acceptance by an ex-Speaker of a post under the Crown overseas.

We have drafted the Bill, I must honestly say, upon the old principle and upon precedent and we have taken into consideration that while £4,000 may have been a lot in 1817, it still remains something in 1959. It formed a reasonable basis so that we did not then have to adopt the onerous provisions of Section 20 of the Superannuation Act which would have been more onerous than the Bill as at present drafted. We were not acting solely on precedent, but were doing something comparatively fair to the ex-Speaker in relation to the amount and the nature of the abatement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked whether we could bear in mind the possibility of reviewing these arrangements on the next occasion. As a member of Her Majesty's present Administration, it would not be for me to pledge my successors, because I do not know what Government will be in power—no doubt, it will still be our Government—at the conclusion of the term of office of our present distinguished Speaker.

If that be so, if our health and strength lasts, we may well take the advice which we have received on this occasion, If, on the other hand, there is a change of Administration, I hope that whatever our views we shall all pay some attention to today's debate. I have said quite frankly that the Bill is based on a very old precedent. It has raised considerable discussion and none of us is yet quite clear about what we ought to impose or ought not to impose on an ex-Speaker. It was said by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) that if we were to do something, we ought to do it ahead of time, and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock argued the same case. It is extraordinarily difficult for the Speaker of the day not to know his position.

It will be very difficult immediately to make any change, but I hope that the debate will result in our being able to look at the matter together. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was backed by the hon. Member for Leeds, West and others in the debate earlier this afternoon on the subject of the size of the pension. If we are to be strict, the subject of the size of the pension automatically arises. If so, we should consider the pension in relation to costs when we next discuss it. Thanks to the beneficent Administration which we are now enjoying, costs are fairly level, but they might in different circumstances rise appreciably. If that were so, the matter would deserve reconsideration in relation to general costs and the standard of living.

Mr. Baldwin's phrases, which were quoted by the hon. Member for Leeds, West were high-minded, but it must also be realised that the House is jealous that a man who has served the high dignity of Speaker should in no way debase that post by commitments into which he enters immediately afterwards. That is a broad generalisation, but I do not think that we should carry it so far as the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Huges). I think that we should leave the Bill as it stands and in passing wish well to our good friend, ex-Speaker Morrison.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.