§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I beg to move Amendment No. 66, in page 2, line 44, at end insert:(2) No payment shall be made from public funds, other than an allowance in respect of reasonable expenses incurred in attending in Parliament or a salary payable to a Minister of the Crown, to any voting peer during a period of five years immediately following the coming into force of this Act: any voting peer who receives such a payment from public funds shall be disqualified as from the receipt of such payment from being a voting peer under section 2 of this Act.
§ The Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)
With this Amendment we are taking new Clause 8—Remuneration of peers, new Clause 18—Salaries of members of House of Lords, and Amendment No. 79, in the Preamble, page 1, line 6, after 'of', insert 'unremunerated'.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Thank you, Mr. Irving.
The purpose of the Amendment is to make an honest woman of the Prime Minister. If my hon. Friends feel that that is an excessive illustration of the doctrine of the omnicompetence of Parliament, I shall put it another way and say that it is designed, to use the Prime Minister's phrase, to give statutory recognition to what he said on Second Reading.
Up to the Second Reading of the Bill and most of the way through the Prime Minister's speech on the Second Reading, the Government's position on the question of remuneration for the members of the new Upper House was clear and plain. I should like to recall to the memory of the Committee the words of 1352 the latter part of paragraph 52 of the White Paper Cmnd. 3799:The Government considers that members without private means should not thereby be prevented from playing a full part, and therefore proposes that voting peers should in future receive some remuneration (subject to tax) which would reflect the responsibilities and duties which they would be expected to undertake. The question should however, be referred to an independent body similar to the Committee on the Remuneration of Ministers and Members of Parliament (the Lawrence Committee) which reported in 1964 (Cmnd. 2516).That is clear language as to the Government's intention, and it expresses, if I may say so without impertinence, the not unreasonable view that the system proposed in the Bill would not work unless some remuneration as such were paid to members of the Upper House, or the disagreeable alternative were adopted of appointing only rich men. In the choice between those two I am fully in agreement with the Government's previous point of view.
I ask the Committee to note the words that the salary would have to be such as toreflect the responsibilities and dutiesof the post. Obviously at that time the Government contemplated not only the payment of remuneration, but the payment of remuneration on a fairly substantial scale. They would have to do so, because they would have to take into account the proposal elsewhere in the Bill that a voting peer will lose that status if he does not attend on at least one-third of the occasions on which the House sits. It is obvious that such a voting peer, particularly if he is fairly young, would not have the opportunity to earn a living outside on any reasonable scale if he had that obligation as well. Therefore, up to this point, the Government's proposals, whether one likes them or not, hang together as a coherent whole.
It is, of course, the essence of the scheme—and this is one reason why many of us dislike it so much—that members of the other House are, and must be, and will be intended to be, paid professionals. It is because that House will be composed of paid professionals that the intention is to create a considerably smaller Chamber, beginning at any rate at about one-third of the size of this one. That all hangs together—a Chamber of paid professionals earning 1353 their living as such, a House comparatively limited in numbers and to all intents and purposes whole-time.
What makes the present situation the more remarkable is that the Prime Minister accepted this in the earlier part of his speech on Second Reading. He said:Unpaid or substantially unpaid men or women of this kind can be recommended for appointment to the Upper House only on the basis that either they will have to give up their careers or follow them only half-time, or they will be able to attend in the Lords only on a very part-time basis. Refusal to face this issue, therefore, means that the objective of ensuring that the second Chamber is truly representative of all regions, of all sections of our public life, and of a wide range of age groups, will be most difficult to realise.That, in rather better language than I used, is the Prime Minister making the point about the essence of the scheme.
As far down as column 54, he is accepting this view. Then comes the sudden reversal which caused me to table the Amendment. He said:In the light of these considerations,"—I will not weary the House by quoting them all; they were criticisms of the very large amount of patronage which arises from a paid Upper Chamber—which I think ought to have more thought given to them, the Government have decided not to pursue the White Paper proposal about payment. The existing system of tax-free expenses will, therefore, continue, but there will be no salary and, equally, there will be no examination, such as we originally suggested, to take place by an independent committee, such as the Lawrence Committee which investigated House of Commons remuneration and this will, therefore, not take place at this stage.This will enable us to see how the reformed House works in practice, to see what form of remuneration is best fitted to enable voting peers to give the necessary time to the work of the reformed House, and to form a considered view of the broader issues involved, including those which I have just mentioned. This does not mean that we have decided that voting Members should not be paid at some time in the future or that they should. It simply means that we are preserving an open mind so that the matter can be considered in the light of experience at a more suitable time in the future.It is not wholly surprising that, after that sentence, the OFFICIAL REPORT records:SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS rose——".— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 54–55.]1354 That has altered, of course, the whole pattern of the proposals.
This faces all of us with a problem which we should examine. The Amendments, I suggest, with all diffidence as to the drafting, reflects exactly what the Prime Minister says that he wants to be done. Some people have unworthy suspicions about the Prime Minister. They suspect that the purpose of that passage in his speech was simply to allay anxieties about the large creation of additional patronage, which the Bill's proposals in their original form involved—an anxiety and unhappiness which has arisen on both sides of the Committee—until the Bill was through.
When it was through, if there were no mention of this subject in the Bill, it would, of course, be perfectly easy—the Home Secretary, as a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, will confirm this—to provide for the salaries in the Estimates and put them into operation on the authority of the Appropriation Act, with, in practice, no opportunity for the House to consider them. If, on the other hand, the Committee is good enough to accept the Amendment, it will still be possible for pay to be provided for members of another place during the five years, if, but only if, the Government at that time bring forward a proposal to repeal what would then be a section of this Measure.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
I would not want the right hon. Gentleman to proceed on what I think is a false hypothesis. My understanding is that before remuneration could be introduced a Resolution in both Houses would be needed.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I think that the right hon. Gentleman will find, in the recesses of a Department with which both he and I were associated, that provision could be made—to take one example, provision was made to pay the Parliamentary Commissioner in advance of statutory authority—simply under the authority of the Estimates and the Appropriation Act. Therefore, with great respect to a former Chancellor, I think that he is wrong about this. Not only can it be done, but it has been done, although in that particular case there was a good deal of criticism of the procedure followed. But I suggest that this is a perfectly possible course.
1355 On the other hand, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that if we put a statutory prohibition into this Measure, it will only be possible to provide this payment during the five years covered by it if the Government come forward, first, with a provision explicitly repealing this one. I suggest that this is the fairest way to deal with this issue of remuneration. I selected five years as the period for which a prohibition would last, again in the light of what the Prime Minister said—that the Government wanted some time to have experience of how this worked. Five years is still the maximum duration of a Parliament, and if a genuine investigation of how this works is really intended and the suspicions that I mentioned are unfounded, it is surely a reasonable period.
If the Amendment is accepted, it will be perfectly possible to provide pay without repealing any provision after five years, if in the light of that experience—which the Prime Minister, I stress, says that he wants—it turned out to be required. Therefore, I propose the Amendment very much in the belief that it would be right for the Government to accept it. It seeks to do no more and no less than what the head of the Administration himself has said he wants to do. It would put paid once and for all to any suspicions in any quarter of the Committee that this large accession of patronage would follow within "a matter of weeks not months", if I may coin a phrase, after the passage of this Measure into law, if it is ever passed into law.
Thus, there could be only one reason—although I must not anticipate the Home Secretary—for not accepting this. That could be the reason why the Home Secretary has withdrawn his Amendments from consideration in Committee. Any experienced Parliamentarian knows that those perfectly reasonable Amendments were withdrawn in the hope of avoiding a Report stage, because under our rules when in Committee of the Whole House no Amendments are put into the Bill, there is no Report stage. Therefore, the only possible reason why the Home Secretary could object to legislative form being given to the Prime Minister's own statement would be that he is anxious, above all, as he has shown by the withdrawal of his own reasonable Amendments, to avoid one of the normal 1356 stages of Parliamentary discussion of a Bill affecting a major change in the Constitution. That this has been done is a little revealing as to the attitude of the Government and the expedients which they are prepared to adopt. However, the Home Secretary can deal with this sensibly and satisfactorily and allay all our worries if he accepts the Amendment.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that on the merits of the matter there is considerable anxiety about the proposed large increase in patronage, a large increase which is in many ways inherent in the proposals in this Bill. It is no use saying, as one or two hon. and, indeed, right hon. Members said on Second Reading, that there is not much of an increase in patronage because the Prime Minister of the day can always recommend to Her Majesty as many gentlemen who desire to be noblemen as he wishes. That is true, but under the Bill as it stands there could be a very great difference; they would be paid.
When one talks of patronage, one is concerned generally with something more substantial than honorific titles. Patronage in the strict sense, patronage in the way in which it was rampant in the eighteenth century, was the provision of paid offices. What is involved here, if no restriction is put on the issue of pay, is the creation of literally hundreds of paid offices, most of them in the gift of the Government of the day—some in the gift of the Leader of the Opposition of the day and, entertainingly enough, in the gift of the Leader of the Liberal Party of the day. That has an alluring touch of comedy about it. Bringing the Liberal Party back after nearly half a century into the field of patronage has almost a sentimental ring about it. This is an important issue, and I make no apology for bringing it before the Committee.
We are concerned with the direct relevance of one of the worst features of this scheme, namely, the creation of patronage on such a scale. It was once said—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) could give the quotation—by Max Beerbohm, I think it was, that somebody's idea of Heaven was eating paté de fois gras to the sound of trumpets. [Interruption.] All right, Sydney Smith 1357 may have said it, but I know that it certainly involved eating paté de fois gras to the sound of trumpets. This proposal would have been the Duke of Newcastle's idea of Heaven: to be provided with hundreds of posts, none of the duties of which was particularly onerous, where the remuneration was comfortable and which could be enjoyed up to the seventy-second birthday. This would have had a wonderful appeal to his late Grace. It is therefore particularly appropriate that, so far as we have been able to discover, the only Minister who really wants this Bill is, by happy chance, the Secretary of State for Social Security.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I agree with the motives which inspired the right hon. Gentleman to move the Amendment, but it has one great fault. It does not do what he hopes to achieve. He makes it clear that he wants an allowance in respect of reasonable expenses. If he reads the debate on the White Paper in the other place he will find that peer after peer asked for a much greater expenses allowance than they are getting now. In fact, the position might be much worse with an increased expenses allowance, which presumably would be tax-free, than with a £2,000 a year taxable salary. Therefore, I prefer my own new Clause to the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I have studied the hon. Gentleman's new Clause, which has merits, but in defence of my Amendment I suggest that "reasonable expenses" is a technical term and that if either noble Lords or the Government were inclined to take an over-generous view of it, one could rely on the Inland Revenue to stop it.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I prefer to rest the case on the prices and incomes policy of 3½ per cent. a year, based on increased productivity. Paragraph 52 of the White Paper shows that today peers get a not inconsiderable expense allowance of £4 14s. 6d., plus travelling expenses, provided that they have attended at least one-third of the sittings in the month for which the claim is made. They have to attend only one-third of the days, and even five minutes of a day, to claim their expenses.
1358 If I may quote from a speech which was made in the other place on this very point, the Earl of Mansfield said that it was generally agreed that the figure of £2,000 is rather more than a figure floating in the air, that there was substance in it, and that the Prime Minister's patronage by the introduction of a £2,000 a year salary may well be the beginning of something akin to the corruption in American politics. The Earl of Mansfield went to ask what a voting peer must do to earn his money. This point was not adequately covered by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The Chairman
Is the hon. Member quoting from a speech in the current Session of Parliament in another place?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am paraphrasing. The Earl of Mansfield then went on to ask what the peer had to do to earn his money. He simply has to go in, catch the Clerk's eye, and sign on the dotted line. That qualifies him for his £4 14s. 6d. If the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is accepted—and the Government might accept it—the Government might say "Let us have reasonable expenses". This could mean that they could sign the book and get 10 guineas a day. Would the right hon. Gentleman call that "reasonable expenses"?
§ Mr. Hamilton
The Inland Revenue would have nothing whatever to do with it, the Government would decide the figure. If the Lords said "When we come down from Scotland, we must live in the Hilton in proper pomp and circumstance as befits the upper Chamber", then the Inland Revenue will say "Very well we accept that 10 guineas is reasonable expenses"—which might be for five minutes a day, two or three days a week, or whatever it might be. The right hon. Gentleman was on fairly thin ice and his case was inadequate to meet the problem which we see developing if this situation proposed by the Government goes unchallenged.
It is interesting to trace the story of this matter. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Secretary of State for Social Security. He will remember that 1359 that Minister opened the debate on the White Paper last November. He said:… I should have thought that no hon. Member could say 'No' to that principle.He was referring to the principle enunciated in paragraph 52 of the White Paper that a working House should have working Members and get the salary for the job, and so on. He went on to say, discussing the relative merits of his salary and the tax-free expenses… in my experience outside Parliament tax-free expenses are the richest pasture in which business men feed, occasionally raising their heads to admit that a taxed salary provides little fodder for them.The right hon. Gentleman in his Amendment is arguing that this rich pasture should be made richer for them. The Minister continued:… tax free expenses are totally inadequate if lack of means is not to become an effective bar to membership of the reformed House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1968; Vol. 773. c 1138–9.]It is equally interesting to note that in reply, and in support of the Bill although it was tepid support, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) spoke eloquently for half an hour, but not a word about £ s. d.
One must recall the patronage that is available to Ministers, and not just to the Prime Minister to see the danger into which we are running. I have tabled many Questions to various Ministers in recent weeks and I will give the Committee the figures. The Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity can appoint 56 people under Statute. Only 38 appointments have been made so far, with salaries ranging from £800 to £15,000 a year. This is small beer—a salary of £2,000—except that this is £2,000 for life, or at least to the age of 72.
The Minister of Transport in 1958 had 58 salaried appointments in his patronage. By 1968 the number had gone up to 126. The Minister of Housing and Local Government in 1958 had 101 appointments in his gift and in 1968 the figure had gone up to 190, nearly a 100 per cent. increase in 10 years. The Minister of Power has 272 statutory appointments, including the top of the Steel Board, where there is a salary of about £20,000 a year.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
It is £16.000, going up to £27,000 in April. That has been officially leaked.
§ Mr. Hamilton
My hon. Friend is the professional collector of leaks and I accept his figures. They show the enormous amount of patronage in the hands of one Minister. The President of the Board of Trade has 105 such appointments, varying from £500 to £15,000 a year and the Secretary of State for Scotland has 117, with salaries up to £9,500. Parliament and the country is so numb, so punch-drunk, by the increased patronage being placed in the hands of the Executive that we tend to look on further extensions of it, such as the one we are now discussing, with a shrug of the shoulders and we say, "What can we do about it?"
The Attorney-General's approach was typical. In the White Paper debate he said:The so-called patronage … is not the Prime Minister's alone …It seemed to excuse everything simply because it was more evenly spread. It is nevertheless objectionable for being shared in that the leaders of other political parties are consulted. It is like saying that the guilt of the train robbers is less because so many of them shared the loot. The Attorney-General went on:It can be said of the exercise of the power of patronage in recent decades that at least it has been free of the taint of corruption".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1313–4.]Is it? I do not think that the Attorney-General would like to swear to that on oath. I would not. If need be, I could quote names to substantiate the point. It depends on what is meant by "corruption". I suppose that "ineptitude" might be a more appropriate word.
The Attorney-General then argued, as forcibly as only a trained lawyer can for the proposition before him, and he pleaded in mitigation that, first, there was a committee to be appointed to review the composition of the House and, secondly, that there was a convention as to numbers; so that the extent of the patronage was inevitably small.
It has been pointed out repeatedly that there is nothing in the Bill about this committee, about how it is to be appointed and whether the members are to be paid. It will be advisory only. The Prime Minister may refuse to accept its advice and guidance. The White Paper is hazy on pay. It talks about this independent Lawrence-type committee. The 1361 Attorney-General mused about a sliding-scale, dependent on attendance. I suppose that this is the productivity side of the agreement. There would be no payment at all, perhaps, and the matter would be left to yet another committee, the Attorney-General said, in effect.
Then we had the speech of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), who was just as shy as his right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet—not a word about pay. It was a dirty word to both of them, but in the course of the debate on the White Paper the pay proposals got rough handling from hon. Members on both sides. The speeches in favour of the proposition in the two-day debate on the White Paper can be counted on one hand. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), very nearly the sole supporter of the pay proposals, said:… we are in difficulties.and he concluded:Let us begin by accepting the necessity for under-payment because of the dangers".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1218.]My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is in his place, will recall that in winding up that debate he spent some time on the subject of patronage and did little more than repeat what the Attorney-General had said. He again said that, in terms of numbers, it was small. But numbers is not the point. It is the prospect of patronage and the prospect of payment. Those are the two points that really matter. On the question of remuneration, my right hon. Friend said:If there is a salary attached to these posts, then men who are in the House of Commons now will so conduct themselves as not to offend the Government.He said:I simply do not accept hon. Members elected to this House will behave any differently from those who have already either accepted or rejected office.He then said:I look round and see some of the rebels who have been promoted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1425.]I do the same. The Treasury Bench is crowded with them, from top to bottom, and my right hon. Friend must know that, for many of them, their silence and acquiescence has been bought.
§ Mr. Hamilton
My right hon. Friend has his view and I have mine. I shall be delighted to see him outside and mention names to him, and then, off the record, he will agree with me.
It is interesting that the result of the Vote which took place a matter of minutes after the Home Secretary had spoken showed that over 90 of those who went into the Lobby in favour of the White Paper were on the payroll vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Does my hon. Friend suggest that all of them were passionately in favour of all the terms of the White Paper? That is certainly not the case. Does not my right hon. Friend know that there are now hon. Members of the House of Commons who, this very day, are calculating their prospects of going to another place? We meet them every day. They weigh up their chances, especially if they have majorities of less than 5,000.
The Home Secretary will not deny that the pay proposals got a grubbing in the White Paper debate and at our Parliamentary Labour Party meetings. Doubtless it was this concentrated and sustained attack from all sides of the House of Commons which led to the astonishing performance of the Prime Minister on Second Reading, to which the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames referred. The Prime Minister shuffled us off the patronage issue by saying that it had been dealt with very fully by the Home Secretary. On remuneration, he put up the Aunt Sally which was written in black and white in the White Paper and then knocked it down and said, "Let us see how things go".
The Leader of the Liberal Party, with his usual frankness and clarity, made no mention of pay in his 24-minute speech. As we have come to expect from him, the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), made a typically caustic and cynical speech about the Prime Minister's motives and intentions. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman contradicted himself somewhat in his passionate diatribe against the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman said at one point that the Lords still had a lot of power and did much useful work. He went on to say that he knew of no institution anywhere which got through so much useful work on practically nothing. 1363 Many of my constituents would not regard £4 14s. 6d. a day as practically nothing. Many of them have to live on that for a week. Almost in the next breath the right hon. Gentleman said that we should not succeed in getting people to do that work without payment. He then went on to deal with the point about patronage, with which I thoroughly agree and which is what I and my colleagues are protesting about tonight.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) quite honestly and frankly said that, if payment were to be expenses only, it would have to be in excess of £4 a day—in fact, it is four and a half guineas a day—and regretted that the Prime Minister had nothad the courage to tell the House of Commons that if the new second Chamber has to do a job of work, its Members must be paid the rate for the job and a proper salary."—[OFFICIAI. REPORT, 3rd February, 1969; Vol. 776, c. 153.]This is the purpose of the new Clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie). This is the dilemma in which we are placed. We are being compelled reluctantly to discuss the composition and powers of a second Chamber for whose Members, if the second Chamber is constructed and given powers on the lines indicated in the White Paper, payment is inevitable. All the patronage and the evils of patronage that go with it are equally inevitable. That is why we are forced back to the conclusion all the time that the best thing to do it to get rid of the damned place altogether.
Having got ourselves into this dilemma, we must, consider how we can protect ourselves and our colleagues from this kind of exercise. If there is the payment of a salary or of high expenses, the suspicion—I put it no higher—will be that the exercise of that kind of patronage by party leaders as donors will lead to corruption of the recipients, and not least of prospective hopeful recipients. We see that already in the House of Commons. Anyone who does not is blind.
It is not good enough to say that a committee will overlook this. Will that committee interview the clients put up by the party leaders? Will the clients have to undergo oral and written examinations? Will there be a short list? 1364 Will they be asked for references? We know that the Honours List works through a Committee, and what a lark that is twice every year. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done something to correct some of the worst abuses in the honours system, but there are still many there; and whether that Committee had existed or not those abuses would have continued had my right hon. Friend not done what he did.
I repeat what I said in the debate on the White Paper. I hope that my party and the House of Commons will never accept the idea of a nominated, salaried second Chamber. It has never been the official party policy of the Labour Party. It was one point on which hon. Members on this side in successive private meetings upstairs were consistently unanimous. It is an extremely dangerous and obnoxious pup that is being sold to us by the petticoat bargainers on the two Front Benches. I suspect that the party leaders in another place are the people who want this more than anything.
In my new Clause I am taking the Prime Minister at his word. Leave the pay as it is. That is the least we can do. Let us see how we get on. Any claim for an increase can be sympathetically considered within the terms of the prices and incomes policy—3½ per cent. per annum based on increased productivity, and an experiment for five years. After all, we have the experiment on capital punishment for five years. We have the experiment with British Standard Time for three years. I think it is reasonable to say, "Leave them for five years and see how they get on". Let my right hon. Friend be under no illusion that we are thoroughly opposed to the idea of an entirely nominated, entirely salaried second Chamber of the kind proposed in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
I agree with almost everything that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) said. He disagreed with me slightly on the question of allowances; he said how valuable allowances can be. The point about allowances is that they are valuable to a person who already has an income. They are not much good to a person who does not have an income. The hon. Gentleman said that £4 14s. 6d. 1365 would be very valuable to his constituents. The hon. Gentleman may very well have potential noblemen in his constituency, but £4 14s. 6d. would not be much good to them if they had to spend three days a week in London and then return to Scotland and spend the rest of the time there picking up the information which they needed to represent Scotland.
At the moment, when a Scottish question comes up for debate in the House of Lords—for instance, how many murders there have been in the glens, or whatever it may be—all the Scottish noblemen come down in a body. They do not spend three days a week down here. Even visiting noblemen, some of whom have a certain amount of money, certainly could not afford to do so without remuneration. This is the acid test, not only for the Government, but for my own Front Bench.
I was horrified that my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) did not mention the question of pay, as the hon. Member for Fife, West pointed out. My right hon. Friend may not have read the Bill, but he must have read in the newspapers that the question of pay has been omitted from it. What is perfectly clear is that no second Chamber such as was proposed in the White Paper could conceivably work without pay. That is what both Front Benches are quite rightly agreed upon.
I think that they were absolutely wrong to agree on any such House, but how could such a House conceivably work without pay? In such a House there would be only rich men, because nobody else could afford to go there, and I do not think that rich men would be what have been described as captive balloons. The possibilities of patronage if there were a paid second Chamber are enormous.
It is argued that Prime Ministers can create all the peers they like even now. Of course they can, but those peers are not paid. The title is not something which excites people very much. It has suffered terribly from inflation. In the old days the expression "drunk as a lord" denoted power and affluence. "Drunk as a life peeress" means absolutely nothing. They may have permissive cocoa parties in the House of Lords. I have no doubt that if they do the Home Secretary attends 1366 them. But it does not mean anything nowadays.
What means something nowadays is money. This thing cannot be run without money. I have no doubt that this is why the Liberal Party, which I am very glad to see represented here today, is greatly in favour of this proposal. I have no doubt that the reason so few Liberal Members have been here is that they have been trying to persuade the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) not to oppose the Bill. As has been pointed out, the only paid patronage that the Leader of the Liberal Party and his Chief Whip will have if the Bill goes through is to send themselves to the other place. They may all lose their seats next time, and then they can look forward to carousing in another place, well paid, to the age of 72 or to the end of the world, whichever comes first. With our present Minister of Defence, it may well be the latter.
The point is that this proposal cannot be worked. Everybody knows that the Government intend to bring in pay. I want them to deny this as often as possible. Three times before the cock crows is not enough. That is common form now, and I should like them to deny it many more times. Any denial by the Prime Minister is valueless. We must get the Government either to come out into the open and say "We must pay them. We said so in the debate on the White Paper and in the White Paper. We know that it is essential to our scheme, and we will do it", or deny it again and again, for they know what they will do and everybody else knows it.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) that if we have a second Chamber it must be paid or it will not work. I also think that if we are to have a second Chamber it must be nominated.
I was sad to hear the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) suggest that the method of remuneration should be expenses. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) rightly exposed the evils of expenses, and I agree with him entirely. That is why I have said in my proposed new Clause 18 that Members of the House of Lords should be 1367 entitled to receive a salary. I have purposely left it rather vague because, unlike the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, I do regard it as our job not to draft Bills but merely to suggest principles to the Government which they and their paid employees can deal with.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am sorry that to some extent the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend misunderstood the effect of my Amendment. Its purpose, and, I think, its effect, is simply to preserve the present position in respect of remuneration of both peers generally and peers who are Ministers so as to be able to test the soundness or otherwise of the Prime Minister's proposal that there should be a pause before a salary was instituted. All my Amendment would do would be to preserve the status quo for five years.
§ Mr. Howie
I hope I did not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment involved a change. If I gave that impression, the fault was mine and not his.
I am surprised that there is opposition in the House and, I am told, in the Parliamentary Labour Party to the idea of of salaries. After all, there is a basic Socialist principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire. The capitalists opposite could support the idea of salaries on the well-known capitalist principle that everything has its value, and the Liberals could support it on Liberal principles in general.
I have suggested in my new Clause that the salary should be based on attendance. I am not quite sure at this stage whether I mean daily, weekly, or sessional attendance. In a sense, when the Government put forward the idea of salary or remuneration they were thinking in terms of a person being entitled to pay of some kind if he attended for a third of the time. I do not know whether a third is the right test, but the salary should be associated with some kind of attendance. If a peer were appointed and did not turn up, his salary would reasonably be forfeit.
In suggesting a salary, we face a problem in determining the amount and who should determine that amount. I have suggested a committee appointed by the Lord Chancellor. My idea arose from the suggestion of my hon. Friend the 1368 Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) the other day that there were perhaps three Ministers who were in favour of the Bill.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Howie
There was a small number of Ministers in favour, and it occurred to me that the Lord Chancellor was possibly the likeliest of all to be in favour, and, therefore, an appropriate man to be in charge of the committee.
The idea of remuneration was first put forward by the Government in paragraph 52 of the White Paper, which stated properly and openly that:… voting peers should in future receive some remuneration … which would reflect the responsibilities and duties which they would be expected to undertake.That is an unexceptionable and supportable idea, and that is why I am amazed that the Government withdrew it between the publication of the White Paper and the introduction of the Bill. If they have a fault it is that they are sometimes a little inclined to yield to clamour, especially if the clamour happens to be wrong. An example that leaps to mind is that the Government referred the increases in prices of electricity and so on to the Prices and Incomes Board as a reaction to mistaken clamour. That was quite wrong. They have done so again over salaries for peers because there was a great fuss in Parliament. They gave up the ghost without making much of an argument about it. This is where the importance of this batch of Amendments lies. The Government must state their intensions about the future remuneration, expenses, or whatever it is to be, of Members of the House of Lords, and they should do something which I do not recall my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister doing in his speech, which is to give reasons for the change between the White Paper and the Bill.
In support of the idea of a salaried membership of the House of Lords, I return to the idea of patronage. As many hon. Members know, I approve of it; I have already said so. I do not think that it is quite so terrible as hon. Members say, and they are really over-stating their objections brutally. I have never noticed that hon. Members rush to turn down patronage. It is a legitimate ambition for hon. Members on both sides to try to 1369 get on to the Front Bench. They are all ambitious to receive such patronage, which involves responsibilities and duties, and they always accept the pay that goes with it. If they are prepared to accept the patronage of jobs on the Treasury Bench as they are entitled to do, I see no reason why they should object to the Lords receiving pay for accepting responsibilities. Am I not right in suggesting that the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was wrong to comment that the Government hold in their gift less than half the items of patronage—if that is the right phrase—in this package?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The answer is "No", because the Government have the right under the proposals not only to create life peers in larger numbers than the other two parties combined but to appoint the cross-bench peers.
§ Mr. Howie
I cannot feel that the Government can in the end appoint the cross-bench peers off their own bat. I cannot help feeling that if there is anything in the cross-bench notion the cross-benchers will be appointed by a committee, like that referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The hon. Gentleman has referred several times to the responsibilities which go with the patronage accorded to those elevated to the Treasury Bench. Has he reflected on the contrast with the nominees in the other Chamber, whose sole responsibility under this scheme would be to attend and vote straight in order to make the scheme work?
§ Mr. Howie
I am not sure that it would happen quite like that. Surely, in the realities of political life the back benchers of the House of Lords would be not unlike the back benchers here, apart from two substantial differences—namely, that a back bencher in the other place does not have constituency duties and that he is not under the same kind of recurrent danger in which we find ourselves. It may be that hon. Members regard these as overwhelming differences but I am not sure. We already have examples of back-bencher Lords to look at, and they do not quite behave in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman suggests. But I am a little unhappy 1370 about his intervention because it is having the unfortunate effect of pushing me towards supporting the Bill. I hope that he will desist from that unhappy course.
We accept patronage in many directions, and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West has already spoken of the wide range which exists in public life, much of it very well paid. I understand that some of the beneficiaries are at this moment agitating for substantial rises and we have been told in an intervention that they are to get them. Patronage has wafted people from here to jobs on the National Coal Board, in television and on electricity boards and to many other activities. They are all beneficiaries of straight patronage, are doing public work and are paid to do it. But who can argue that Lord Robens, for example, a beneficiary of patronage and well paid, is the creature of the Minister of Power? Of course no one can. So the argument becomes weak and diminishes when examples are looked at. If we can accept that kind of thing in public life, I see no reason why we should not pay the Lords as well.
An additional advantage which appeals to me is that if Members of the House of Lords are paid an appropriate salary we can then apply to them the same rules concerning offices of profit under the Crown as we experience. This would have the great advantage of removing most, if not all, the cross benchers, which would meet with considerable approval on this side. But that would be an ancillary effect.
On this crucial part of the Bill, it is time for the Opposition Front Bench to declare itself. In recent weeks, the Leader of the Opposition has made a number of keynote pronouncements on immigration—perhaps I should say, "colour"—on hanging and on crime, very often approaching the position taken by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). It seems that, each time a bandwagon rolls by, the Leader of the Opposition leaps smartly aboard. I think that there is a bandwagon rolling at the moment in connection with this Bill and, significantly, it is being propelled hard by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. For that reason, if for no other, the Opposition Front Bench should declare itself.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I did declare myself on Second Reading, when I said that if people are doing a job they should be paid for it.
§ Mr. Howie
I am delighted to hear it but I go on from there to reflect on something else which the right hon. Gentleman said:I agree with this scheme for an agreed reform of the upper Chamber. I shall continue to support the proposals unless anyone can put forward arguments to convince me that they are wrong."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1969; Vol. 778, c. 402.]That is an excellent proposition and compares well with a number of pronouncements that the right hon. Gentleman has made. But, unfortunately, he is never here to listen to the arguments; so whether they are right or wrong he is not in a position to decide when Divisions occur. But from his intervention I expect that he will make a statement during this debate on a crucial part of the Bill and will presumably dissent from the Government. As the Government are not saying that the Members of the House of Lords should be paid, and he suggests that they should be, presumably he agrees with me on that point. At any rate, there is sufficient confusion in my mind about his position to make it plain that he should rise during this debate to clear the matter up if only for my benefit. I am sure that other hon. Members would like their doubts and confusions cleared up as well.
I suspect that the Opposition Front Bench is becoming less and less enthusiastic in its adherence to the Bill. It is extraordinary that on a big constitutional issue like this we have had a series of debates without speeches giving a point of view from the Opposition Front Bench. I do not know when this last happened. It must be a considerable time ago. Even in our debates on Private Members' Bills on Fridays, the Opposition Front Bench makes some sort of declaration of position or intent. It seems extraordinary that in debate after debate on this Bill we should go without comment from the Opposition Front Bench. It is totally wrong.
It makes me wonder whether the Opposition Front Bench is not trying gracefully to glide away from the position of support which it took up at one time. If I were on the Treasury Bench, I should 1372 say to the Opposition Front Bench, "Speak up in our defence on our agreement,"—or convention, or pact, or understanding, or whatever it is which lies behind the Preamble.
§ The Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to address himself to the new Clause.
§ Mr. Howie
I am sorry, Mr. Irving, but I was under the impression that I was doing so. I was asking the Opposition Front Bench, first, to agree with my new Clause, which I thought it was doing, and, secondly, if it disagrees, to make a statement in this debate. If the Opposition Front Bench feels unable to make a declaration of position, then the Government would be well advised to withdraw the Bill and bring in a much simpler Measure which we could all agree to.
Earlier in the Committee stage we found that the number of Members of the House of Lords would not be contained in the Bill but seemed to be hinted at in the Preamble and to be fixed in the agreement. In the same way, I suspect that the treatment of the Members of the House of Lords in future—whether they receive a salary or expenses at the present or a different level—is also embalmed in the agreement. I hope that it is. But it would be better to have figures relating to remuneration written into the Bill. I hope that the Government will consider this matter closely and bring forward an Amendment on Report bringing the whole question of remuneration into the Bill.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Powell
The group of Amendments which the Committee is discussing—that moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), the Amendment to the Schedule in the name of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon)—all have one effect, and probably one purpose. It is to nail to the counter a particularly squalid, though characteristic, manoeuvre of the Government. Fortunately, the manoeuvre has been as transparent as it is squalid, and is unlikely to deceive any but hon. Members who have shut their ears to what 1373 has been going on in the Committee or who, alternatively, are on the payroll vote.
It is painfully necessary to trace in some little detail the history of the manoeuvre. It starts, as a number of hon. Members said, with the White Paper, which, one would have thought, made clear the position at which the Government had arrived, not only after their own considerations of many months, but also after the proceedings of the joint discussion between the parties. That said quite flatly in paragraph 52:The Government … proposes that voting peers should in future receive some remuneration … which would reflect the responsibilities and duties which they would be expected to undertake.There was no qualification or prevarication there, and there is no doubt about what "in future" means. It means under the new scheme. It does not mean at some indefinite future time. When the White Paper went on to say thatthe question should be referred to an independent body … similar to the Lawrence Committeequite clearly in that context it did not mean the question whether or not there should be remuneration. That was already settled. It meant what the remuneration should be, the form which it should take and so on, as indeed it is not the function of the Lawrence Committee to say whether Ministers and Members should be remunerated but to advise on how they should be remunerated.
At that stage there was no doubt whatever about the policy of the Government. Then we had the two-day debate upon the White Paper, as a result of which it was approved. The Secretary of State for Social Security in introducing the White Paper was absolutely unambiguous. He said:The principle of remuneration is in the White Paper and I should have thought that no hon. Member could say 'No' to that principle.Since then a good many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have said "No" in no uncertain terms to that principle, but there is no doubt where the right hon. Gentleman stood. He said:The principle of remuneration is in the White Paper."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1138.]1374 He went on to say it was his conviction thattax-free expenses were totally inadequate it a lack of means was not to become an effective bar to membership of the reformed House.In the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, whom many regard as one of the principal progenitors of this scheme, there would bean effective bar to membership of the reformed Houseunless there were not just payment of expenses but remuneration.
On the next day of that debate the Attorney-General reinforced, restated, the same proposition. He said:… it would be intolerable, if because of inadequate means, men and women otherwise admirably suited to serve in another place were prevented by poverty and lack of means from doing so. … As yet the method of payment is undetermined, as is the amount."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 1315.]That there should be remuneration was in no way in doubt at that stage. It was in no way in doubt when in November the House approved the White Paper. Then two and a half months passed, and what had been the principle propounded by the Government to the House, what had been essential if there was to beno effective bar to membership of the reformed Chamber",what was necessary to avoid what the Attorney-General regarded as an "intolerable" situation, had virtually disappeared. It had evaporated into a kind of vagueness, masterfully put forward by the Prime Minister.
In the course of his references to remuneration the right hon. Gentleman covered the whole spectrum, from enthusiatic recommendation and restatement of the argument for remuneration to the most distant scepticism about it. He put quite clearly the grounds on which the White Paper and speakers in the debate on the White Paper had argued for the necessity of remuneration. Then he went on and referred to the anxieties of hon. Members about patronage. After a certain vagueness on that subject he continued:In the light of these considerations which I think ought to have more thought given to them the Government have decided not to pursue the White Paper proposals about payment.1375 More definitely still in the next sentence he said:… there will be no salary …We appeared to have travelled the whole distance, from the initial affirmation of the grounds for a salary to a firm statement that there was to be no salary.
But the Prime Minister did not stop there. The pendulum did not remain in that position; it started to swing back again. The right hon. Gentleman continued that they were to seehow the reformed House worked in practice ",in circumstances in which they had already said it could not work, in which they had already said there would bean effective bar to membership of the reformed Housewhich they envisaged. Then they wereto form a considered view of the broader issues involved".The Prime Minister came to rest in this sort of central position:This docs not mean that we have decided that voting members should not be paid at some time in the future, or that they should.The pendulum was exactly in the middle. He then finished up by saying:All I am saying this afternoon is that so far as their Lordships' House is concerned the proposal in the White Paper for payment is not being proceeded with for the time being.The Home Secretary in winding up the Second Reading debate that night was a little more precise by what he meant by "the time being." He said that it would not be… in the course of this Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1969; Vol. 777, c. 54–167.]Thus, on Second Reading after two and a half months, the Prime Minister was prevaricating, neither saying that there would be remuneration nor saying that there would not be remuneration, but only pointing out what we had all discovered for ourselves, that there was no reference to remuneration in the Bill. Everyone knows why this had happened. It had happened because of the grave exception taken on both sides of the House, in the strongest terms, to some of the consequences of remuneration. To attempt to meet those objections simply by not putting remuneration in the Bill is dishonest.
One could meet those objections in one of two ways. One could argue them 1376 down. The Government could come to the House and say: "We have considered the doubts, fears and anxieties of hon. Members, but nevertheless we still persist in the view which stood in the White Paper that remuneration is necessary, and that it is right, and we have, therefore, included it in the Bill." That would have been one manly and honourable course. The alternative would have been to say, again quite frankly: "We have considered the fears and objections, we have reconsidered the practicability of having this kind of Chamber without remuneration, and, therefore, we will set up this Chamber without remuneration, in the belief that it will, contrary to our previous opinion, nevertheless work."
The Government took neither of those courses. They just left it open, on the basis that if they could get the Bill through without anyone being able to point to remuneration in the Bill itself, then, sure enough, afterwards, when this House had lost whatever power we have to insist and to argue if necessary for hour after hour, they could come forward and say, "Of course, everybody knows it is necessary for the new Chamber to be paid. Did not we say so in the White Paper?" Then, in a single afternoon, in one sitting of the House, if that—and that depends on the outcome of the debate between my right hon. Friend and the Home Secretary—but in any case with no more than a single debate and almost as a foregone conclusion, with everybody bored with the whole thing, this all-important matter which has caused such deep anxieties would be through.
Evidently the Home Secretary expects that this office will be performed by the incoming Administration, whatever that may be. If some cataclysm should happen in what seem to be the settled preferences of the electorate and the present Government should still find themselves after the next election on that Treasury Bench, who is going to argue about it then, when the new Chamber is in existence? Surely, we shall have to give them the salary which, after all, was held out to them when the scheme was prepared? Alternatively, if there is a change in the parties, right hon. Gentlemen opposite will themselves be free to use all the arguments, all the criticisms, which will be available on the pages of HANSARD for the Session 1968–69 and leave it to 1377 my right hon. Friend and his colleagues to perform what so many hon. Members of this House regard as the dirty work.
It is not as though there has been a genuine change of mind. There has been a mere manoeuvre of a character both transparent and squalid. Indeed, what is particularly insulting about the manoeuvre is that no special care has been taken to cover it up. It is so blatant. In the Prime Minister's words there is virtually an admission of what is going on—getting the Bill through and stuffing in remuneration afterwards.
A good deal has been heard in the course of the debate about a bargain—it is sometimes called an understanding—between those who were engaged in the discussions. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has said to his hon. Friends—I was going to call them his supporters—"We have got something we wanted out of those talks, and the other parties to the talks have something they wanted. The result has been a bargain, and there is something in a bargain for everybody. It is the bargain which is laid down in the White Paper."
Is remuneration part of the bargain or not? I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) is to help us over this; but it is a matter of no small importance and I imagine it will be a matter of no small importance when, which may the gods avert, this Bill gets to another place. Let me put the verb in the conditional mood, a very conditional mood: it would be. But even now noble Lords in another place, the party managers in another place, the managers for the two parties, are surely entitled to be told on what basis we are proceeding; for their view—and it was what they held out to those who voted for the White Paper in another place; it was part of the ground on which they carried their supporters with them in another place—was that there was to be remuneration, and adequate remuneration, for the working and voting peers in the new reformed Chamber.
Are we then leaving out of the Bill and out of the Preamble to the Bill something which was an integral part of the agreement? 1378 Perhaps we shall be told that it was not in the agreement, and that there was no mention of remuneration in the discussions. If so, that will be important. If so, we shall understand that this was something which the Government put into the White Paper of their own volition after the discussions were concluded. But if remuneration was part of the agreed scheme and was part of the bargain, then what right have the Government to produce a Bill which does not embody, which studiously avoids, that element in the agreed scheme and not merely to say, "Oh but that will be done later. We are not twisting anybody. Though it is not in the Bill, it will be done later", but to say, "We are going to see. Maybe they will be paid; maybe they will not be paid"? What a splendid way to honour a bargain, if bargain it was! And if bargain it was not, if this was not part of the understanding but was something of the Government's own volition, then I am sure it will be to the satisfaction of hon. Members, particularly on the other side of the House, to know that their own Government added this of their own generosity, as a work of supererogation, to the agreement which they had already obtained in the discussions. So, one way or another, it is a pretty disgraceful manœuvre.
Much has been said, and much I am sure will be said, in this debate about the patronage which is involved in paid nominees up to retirement age. The Government have sought to argue that this patronage is not very different in kind or in extent from the patronage which has been exercised by Administrations from time immemorial in recommending additions to the peerage. This is a complete misconception. I hope the Home Secretary is going to show that he has understood that that argument simply does not stand up to examination. It is one thing, in the first place, to make additions to the present Chamber, according to the table on page 5 of the White Paper, of 1,062 Members. It is one thing by the exercise of patronage to add 5, 15 or 50 Members to a Chamber of 1,062. It is quite different to exercise the patronage to add Members to a Chamber so reduced in size and so balanced that the voting outcome is intended to be predictable one way or the 1379 other, a Chamber initially of 230 Members.
It is, moreover, something quite different to make an addition, and an unpaid addition, to an unpaid Chamber of over 1,000 Members and to make a salaried addition to a Chamber of 200 or 300 Members. There is, of course, no actual limit under this Bill, or even under the Preamble to the Bill, on the total numbers which the Government can make and many of us suppose—and we regard it as one of the many weaknesses and absurdities of the scheme—that the Government will constantly be obliged to top up membership of another place as they find that the delicate balance is disturbed either by mortality or by that change of mind which can come over Members when they move from one place to another.
Therefore, we are giving the Government an entirely new kind of patronage, a patronage which enables them to influence the effective composition of a relatively small chamber so as to make it subservient to their will by that act of patronage and to exercise a patronage which confers on the recipient a substantial and secure income up to retirement age.
I have heard the point—I think it has been urged more than once in previous debates—that we, too, in this House are in receipt of a salary and that the right hon. and hon. occupants of the Treasury Bench are in receipt of salaries, whether or not those salaries, in the memorable words of the White Paper,reflect the responsibilities and duties which they are expected to undertake".But there are checks upon hon. Members in this House, whether they be official or unofficial Members. We are here in a certain setting. We are here in terms of responsibility, for which they are called to account initially in the House, and for which we are all called to account elsewhere. There is no analogy between the patronage conferred on occupants of the Treasury Bench or the salary drawn by hon. Members, and the patronage and salary which would be conferred on the permanent members of this small, adjusted chamber of nominees. It is that contrast which provokes the indignation—I believe that is not too high a term—of many hon. Members on both sides.
1380 So we are brought at the end of our reflections on this group of Amendments, as we think them through, to the same central point, the same central absurdity. The Government set out to do something which is inherently a conundrum: to form a chamber which would do two contradictory things, which would be independent and subservient. One of the consequences of that root absurdity in which they entangle themselves is the necessity for patronage, for payment, which for one reason or another, but still by common consent, is a smoke in the nose of so many hon. Members.
By this approach, as by so many before and, I am sure, so many to come, the Government are yet again convicted of the inherent absurdity of this scheme. Once again it is dissolved by laughter.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
On a point of order. I wonder whether you could help me, Mr. Irving. I notice that your selection of the Amendments which we are discussing includes Amendment No. 105. I have been through my Amendment Paper once or twice and I have failed to find Amendment No. 105. I should be grateful if you could explain the matter.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Further to that point of order. I have been through the same exercise and endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said. It applies likewise to Amendment No. 79.
§ The Chairman (Mr. Sydney Irving)
I think that Amendment No. 79 is on the Amendment Paper. May I deal with the point concerning Amendment No. 105? It is not an infrequent practice of the Chair to found a debate on an Amendment and to add an Amendment which stands in an earlier position on the Amendment Paper. It is also the practice, when the earlier Amendment is overtaken by the debate, to take it off the Amendment Paper. That is what has happened with Amendment No. 105. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, Amendment No. 105 was not selected for a Division, so that much he has not lost. But the debate on the Amendments is wide enough to allow the hon. Gentleman to say anything that he wished to say on Amendment No. 105.
§ Mr. Onslow
Further to the point of order. I am grateful for your explanation, Mr. Irving, which does not make me very much the wiser, because I fail to see the purpose of including the Amendment. But since there must be a purpose, although it escapes me for the moment, would you remind us of what Amendment No. 105 says and in whose name it stood?
§ Mr. Callaghan
If I may be of assistance, my information is that Amendment No. 105 was in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) and read:Clause 2, page 2, line 41, after 'members' insert 'receiving no remuneration in this capacity'.I do not know what has happened to the Amendment, but that is what it said when it was originally on the Amendment Paper.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
On a point of Order. With reference to your selection, Mr. Irving, and the very convenient practice of circulating the list, I notice that none of the Amendments to be taken with Amendment No. 66 is specifically marked as being for a Division. Am I to understand that you have selected none for Division only?
§ The Chairman
If I take the right hon. Gentleman's point correctly, the answer is that I have not selected any for a Division which are not marked for Division. The Amendment on which the debate is based—in other words, the first on the selection paper—is automatically for a Division. Unless indicated, the other Amendments are not for Division.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I therefore take it that you have not selected any Amendments for Division only.
§ [Mr. JOHN BREWIS in the Chair]
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We have had quite an interesting debate. Time is a subjective matter, I understand, and we can all have our views about the length of time spent on these debates. But it is clear that there is a division of opinion about remuneration. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) 1382 is against any payment. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) is in favour of payment. I imagine that there are others—we have heard them today—who would not take one side or the other in this controversy.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter rose——
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman may have only just started, but he has misrepresented me already. The effect of my Amendment is not that I am against payment altogether, but that I am against it for five years for the reasons given by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. Gentleman's reasons must be his own, but the Amendment states:No payment shall be made from public funds … during a period of five years …That wording is opposed to the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, who wishes payment to be made now and believes that the Lord Chancellor should be brought into the determination of it. I therefore do not think that I am misrepresenting the right hon. Member. He does not want payment made——
§ Mr. Callaghan
He hitches that payment to five years because he wants to attribute it in some way to the Prime Minister.
With all respect to hon. and right hon. Members, I do not think that we have heard anything very new in this debate. Certainly none of the adjectives used by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was new. They were those that we have got used to hearing in a characteristic speech—"squalid", "transparent", "insulting", "disgraceful", "absurd", "indignant". He must, of course, bring in a reference to honour. If one then mixes them all up one has the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman this evening—a speech of the same kind that we have had on many occasions, and the effect is the less the more those adjectives are repeated.
I therefore beg the right hon. Gentleman to try to attribute proper motives in 1383 those who may have come to different conclusions from his, instead of adopting that superior pose which is getting a little——
§ Sir B. Rhys Williams rose——
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, I shall not give way. I am not addressing myself to the hon. Member but to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, who said that he first thought of speaking of "supporters" of the Government but withdrew that description and referred to "friends". I certainly call them my hon. Friends—we are hon. Friends. I know that the Leader of the Opposition would not call the right hon. Gentleman a supporter, and I very much wonder whether he would call him an hon. Friend either. The reverse would certainly not be true. I know that the right hon. Gentleman over-emphasises his case for dramatic effect and it thus serves a useful purpose, but if he persists in banging the big drum all the time the effect is lost because in the end the hearers are deafened and the right hon. Gentleman's arguments are not accepted by those to whom they are addressed, which is a great pity, because some of them are of some value.
We are now dealing with the subject of payment. We are not arguing the whole question of the Bill, although it is possible for skilled Parliamentarians to keep in order and argue the whole question of the Bill on almost every Amendment. I have watched with admiration the way this is done, but I hope that I will be forgiven if I do not engage in that exercise but stick to the Amendment. Unfashionable though that may be, and unpopular though it may be, it may nevertheless be worth it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames wishes to write into the Bill a provision that there shall be no payment from public funds for a period of five years. This has not been done before in relation to all the changes that have been made. I suppose that technically, and purely technically, the right hon. Gentleman could be right in saying that this could be paid out of the Civil Estimates without a Resolution of the House, but this has not been done. There has always been a Resolution of the House. For example, in 1911 there was a Resolution of the House followed by a Supplementary Estimate. In 1937 1384 there was a Resolution of the House before the money was put into the Estimates. In 1946 there was a Resolution of the House followed by an Estimate, and in 1957 and in 1964 the practice was the same.
It may suit some hon. Members opposite to pretend that all the conventions are being broken. I have insisted before in this Committee that a great deal of our working in the House of Commons—and I think that, in other moods, even the opponents of the Bill would concede this—depends on the acceptance of certain conventions. It would not be possible to make this Chamber work unless those conventions were observed, and if we were not arguing this Bill but debating a different matter I fancy that on this I would carry the agreement of many hon. Members opposite. It may suit their argument this evening, and on other occasions, to assume that the Government of the day intend to break all the conventions, as the right hon. Gentleman said. But, even when the right hon. Gentleman says that, he must not expect it to carry conviction with me or expect me to take it seriously. What I say to him, as I have on previous occasions, is that if the normal conventions continue to be observed in this Chamber a Resolution of either House or both Houses—it would depend on the character of the occasion—would, I think, precede a Supplementary Estimate. Therefore, whilst the right hon. Gentleman may be technically correct, there would be no precedent for what he suggests might be done.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Does what the Home Secretary says amount to an undertaking on behalf of the Government that there could be no question of payment without the Government, as a matter of policy, introducing a Resolution in this House?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Most certainly. I would not have assumed that the right hon. Gentleman thought anything else. If there has been a Resolution on every previous occasion, I cannot imagine that even his Government, if we had that misfortune, would ever introduce remuneration for the other place without a Resolution. Certainly, this Government would not do it, and I hope that the Opposition would not do it, either.
1385 I agree that the only time when we came near it, as one might expect, was under a Tory Government in 1954. However, there were special circumstances in that case, and I should not query what they did since they were at the time not increasing remuneration but were proposing a Sessional allowance, as some hon. Members who were in the House at that time will recall. It was during the tenure of office of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. That matter had a different quality, since it was a Sessional allowance, and I make no point about it. In every other case, it has always been done by Resolution. Therefore, we must have better arguments than have been put forward this evening for writing such a matter as this into a Bill, when it has worked perfectly satisfactorily without it on previous occasions.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that the House of Commons will have lost its power. He is not accurate in that, is he? The House of Commons will have complete power to turn down such a Resolution. It would not be without precedent for it to do so and for the matter to come back later before the House.
§ Mr. Powell
My point is that the other Chamber will have been set up and it will then be possible for the Government to say to this House, "The Chamber is in existence, so that now, in effect, you have no choice but to pass the Resolution giving it what we previously argued was essential". It is in that sense we shall have parted with the main decision. That was my point.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With respect, the right hon. Gentleman is sliding on to a different point. That is not what he said. He said that the House of Commons will have lost its power to argue for hour after hour. What he is referring to now is the argument which might be put forward by a Government in support of a particular decision, but what he said in his earlier speech was that the House of Commons would have no power to stop it, that it would have lost the power to argue hour after hour. He is not accurate in that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton referred to Lord Robens and asked whether it was suggested that Lord Robens was the creature of the Minister of Power. 1386 I suspect that the answer which he meant us to infer is that Lord Robens is not the creature of the Minister of Power, and I dare say that that will be accepted both by Ministers of Power and, certainly, by Lord Robens. But I point out the difference. Lord Robens can be removed by the Minister of Power at the end of his term of office. No peer can be removed.
If someone who can be removed is independent in his approach, why should it be assumed that someone who is not dependent on patronage any more, who has his place—as has been said in another argument—until the age of 72 must be dependent and subservient? I do not accept the conundrum posed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West when he says that it is not possible to be both independent and subservient. Of course it is. If the lines of demarcation are clearly laid down, it is possible to be both. I could give a dozen illustrations from our workaday life where that is true. The right hon. Gentleman's conundrum is not correct in this matter. It is quite possible for those in the House of Lords who are there permanently, who cannot be removed by the Prime Minister, to be independent.
I could see the argument if they could be removed by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition at the end of a Parliament, as we have seen discussed in some of the journals which consider these matters. Then one could argue fairly that such a person was a subservient creature who could not be independent. But I do not see how one can use that argument about someone who, once translated to his position, is as free and independent as anyone can possibly be because he is dependent on no one for his position once he has got it.
§ Mr. William Hamilton
Will my right hon. Friend explain how the Government can guarantee their 10 per cent. majority in the other place?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Government cannot guarantee anything in this matter. However, except among the extreme element in the Conservative Party and some of my very independent-minded Friends in the Government party, a Government can on the whole rely on their supporters to support them. That may be an odd proposition to most who are engaged in this debate. It would be astonishing if 1387 the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West were ever to support his party on anything, but he must not assume that, because he takes that view, everyone else takes it.
Therefore while I readily accept that there is nothing to guarantee any Government a majority, on the whole people who come here to support the Government of the day, or the Opposition of the day, usually support them—an odd proposition, but nevertheless true. I never get it out of my mind in the course of these debates, and I say this without offence to those who do all the speaking in them, that when the votes come to be counted, they never carry the majority with them, but are always in a very small minority. They should not confuse their articulateness with their numbers. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is looking very bellicose. I have not said anything which should offend him so far, and the last time I paid a great compliment to his independent mindedness. I hope that he is not searching for further compliments.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is it not a very different matter if a man is nominated as a supporter of the Government and accepts that nomination and the salary that goes with it? At that point, it he wishes to stop supporting the Government on any issue, he must resign; it would be dishonourable if he did not.
§ Mr. Callaghan
These questions of honour and dishonour are interpreted differently. I fully accept that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West can never speak of the Government without using the word "dishonour" in every other sentence, and it has become a fetish which is getting rather boring. It is entirely a matter for the individual. No one can guarantee this. Although many aspersions have been cast against hon. Members on either side of the Committee, most people come here with fixed convictions. They have chosen their party and thrown in their lot with the party which they have chosen, believing that it most nearly represents what they want to do. I do not think that people change their convictions too easily, and, although it would be astonishing if from time to time hon. Members did not disagree 1388 with the Government, I do not find that dishonourable, any more than I find it dishonourable to vote for the Government of which I am a member.
I must say—and I feel a little strongly about this—that the term "pay roll vote" has been carried too far. It is an insulting term in one sense, because it assumes that one is ready to vote only because one is on the payroll of the Government. I do not wish to be priggish, but I think that that lowers the standing of Ministers in the eyes of the public and by so doing it creates a threat to the standing of the democratic system in this sense. I wish that the term had not been invented. That is my own view and other hon. Members may have different views and I may be entirely wrong.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have at any rate one supporter.
I reiterate very strongly that although we can have a certain amount of fun about this, we cannot make the democratic system work without a party system in the House of Commons. Those who attack the system in that sense do a disservice. However, I leave it at that and I come to the final question which I was asked and which was why we had changed our minds.
I must confess to an intense disappointment. I hoped that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would come to the Chamber today to present bouquets to the Government. I thought that the Government would be the recipients of compliments from Kingston-upon-Thames to Ebbw Vale. I knew that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale wanted to help the progress of the Bill and I assumed that that was why he had allowed me to speak, because I had put his case so well that he need not speak himself. I thought that we would be the recipients of compliments from every quarter of the Chamber.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I hope that my right hon. Friend is not suggesting that there is any possible device by which I can be stopped from speaking. If he is, we shall take a very different attitude. I hope that I can have a clear assurance from my right hon. Friend not merely 1389 that I shall be able to state my view on the Clause, but that he will be here to see whether I support him.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In a quarter of a century's acquaintance and I hope friendship with my hon. Friend I have never been able to prevent him from speaking on anything, even though he and I usually disagree about the subject matter. As to his speeches this evening, as he knows, that is not matter for me. That is a matter entirely for the Chair, and I would not dream of infringing on the prerogative of the Chair. I cannot undertake to be here when my hon. Friend speaks—although I always enjoy his speeches—because I very much doubt whether I shall hear many new arguments, since they have all been exhausted already on this Amendment.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
I wish to assure my right hon. Friend that some of us consider this matter to be of fundamental importance to the Bill. The question of pay is central to the Bill, and we think that there must be the fullest discussion on it, because of the changes and also because of a matter which has not so far been mentioned in the debate but which I hope to develop more fully later, that we who happen to be supporting the Amendment are supporting the policy on this subject which the Labour Party held to right up to the time when the Government changed their mind. That is a reputable case which should be put by Labour Members who hold to the views for which my right hon. Friend voted 10 years ago.
§ Mr. Callaghan
But my hon. Friend's case has already been put by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) with great force and power and, I promise him, I listened to every word of it. What is the difference between us? He says that he does not want payment for Members. I have come down to explain that the Government do not propose to introduce payment for Members. This is why I expected the compliments; this is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came to the House to do.
§ Mr. Callaghan
For the reason which I have already given, namely, that it is always done by Resolution. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister came to the House to say that we did not intend to go ahead with this matter at this moment, so that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and I, by different approaches, are arriving at the same conclusion. What he is troubled about is basically not that we are not going ahead with the pay; he regrets very much that we are not going ahead with the pay because we have destroyed his grievance against us. That is what he is troubled about, and that is why no doubt we shall be favoured later on with a speech from him.
I was asked several times what had led the Government to change their mind on this issue. The answer is that we listened to the arguments in the Chamber, and the view was expressed on all hands that hon. Members did not like payment. It would be a novel doctrine, though I have become used to listening to novel doctrines from this Wolverhampton-Ebbw Vale axis, that the Government should not listen to the arguments which are put forward. The Government found that this proposition did not find favour and the Government, therefore, are not proposing to proceed with it at this time.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) rose——
§ Mr. Heffer
In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend says that he has been listening to and adopting the views of the Chamber, would he not go a bit further and listen to all the views that are being adopted in the Chamber, and drop the Bill altogether?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Government always listen to all the views, but may reach different conclusions. My hon. Friend says that we should listen to the views in the Chamber and drop the Bill, but every time we go to a Division the Government win by a substantial majority. He must not confuse minorities with majorities in the Chamber.
The position is that it will be for the next Government to consider and bring forward, if they feel it is right to do so, propositions concerning the pay of 1391 another Chamber. No Parliament can bind its successors. I can, therefore, give no guarantees on this matter. It would be a strange constitutional doctrine if I did. The Government are not proposing to bring forward any Resolution on this matter. It will be for a future Government to consider what they should do and to bring forward proposals, if they decide it is right to do so. It will then be for the House of Commons to determine those proposals, as it has on previous occasions, sometimes accepting them and sometimes rejecting them, because we have always found that the House of Commons takes the closest interest in these matters.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames will not be surprised when I say that, in the light of the fact that he wishes me to break with precedent—and he, on the whole, would not want me to break with precedent, as he is a Conservative—I cannot recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment, and I ask my hon. Friends to defeat it.
§ Mr. Powell
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he tell the Committee whether remuneration was or was not part of the bargain?
§ Mr. Callaghan
If the right hon. Gentleman wants any information on that he should apply to his own Front Bench. I am willing to account to my hon. Friends on this matter and have always done so.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
If the Home Secretary is unaware of the difference of view between himself and his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) he is the only Member in the Chamber who is unaware of the difference.
I am surprised at some of the arguments deployed by the right hon. Gentleman in replying to the debate. Surely inherent in the scheme is the intention to secure, concerning votes, a subservient second Chamber. It has been argued that whatever machinery is employed to achieve a subservient second Chamber, it cannot guarantee its subservience.
So far we have considered the principle of a nominated second Chamber and the difference in categories between voting and non-voting peers. Now we have super-added to this consideration 1392 the principle of payment. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that this is not a vital matter in considering the desirability or otherwise of this scheme.
The other place has been dominated, for as long as anybody can remember, by the Tory Party. Even without the question of payment arising, it has always been able to secure the subservience of the other House to its views.
The last time the House of Lords threw out a major Conservative Measure was the Reform Bill of 1832. The Under-Secretary looks surprised. The House of Lords threw out the Reform Bill of 1832 and then, under pressure, subsequently passed it. It has yielded to pressure from the House of Commons, only when we have had other than a Conservative Government, under the threat of the creation of a sufficient number of peers to carry through any Measure that it had rejected.
It was thus that Asquith secured the compliance of the House of Lords eventually to the passing of the Parliament Act, 1911. It must be remembered that that was regarded as an interim Measure. The intention of the Liberal Government was to bring in a further Measure to secure an elected second Chamber. But the Bill goes further. It not only aims to have a subservient membership of the other House—that is, subservient to the will of this Chamber—it also intends to secure that subservience even further by ensuring payment.
I object not only to an entirely nominated Chamber, but to the principle of payment. We are concerned with something quite novel—the creation of a legislative Chamber that is to consist not only of nominated Members, but paid nominated Members. No one who has read the White Paper and the debates can doubt that this scheme is unworkable unless the voting peers are to be paid.
I think it was Lord Samuel who once said that the efficiency of the other place was secured largely by the permanent absenteeism of most of its Members, and that is true. What the Government are trying to ensure is that Members attend, at least the only Members who will count there, namely, the voting Members. They aim to secure their attendance by a scheme of payment, and it does not matter in the long run whether this is done by 1393 a scheme initially of large expense allowances, eventually graduating to a salary scheme.
The effect of that on this Chamber will be very serious. One would have thought from the speeches, particularly from this side of the House by two of the Privy Councillors who have spoken, that their chief objective was to ensure that the Leader of the Liberal Party had no degree of power over patronage. It seems that the objection of the Tories is not so much to patronage, but to anybody other than themselves exercising it.
I object to patronage all round. I think it is objectionable that the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Liberal Party should enjoy this power of patronage, because one has to consider the possible effect of this on their parties. I entirely agree with the views of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) about the disagreeable effect that this might have in this House. People with narrow majorities will play up to their party leaders in the hope of eventual preferment.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. and learned Gentleman is in a much better position, because the Liberal Party is to have 15 nominations, but has only 12 Members in this House, whereas my right hon. Friend will have 80 nominations, with 250 Members here at present.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Gentleman must not despair. I understand his misgivings about this. He will need patronage some day, and I am sure that he will not be overlooked.
I think that the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) was concerned that the Leader of the Liberal Party should have some degree of power over patronage, but the right hon. Gentleman must not despair because he considers that after the next election he will be so much out of favour with his Leader that his chances of elevation will have gone completely.
It is arguable, but I do not share this view, that if we are to have partonage at all it is better exercised by three separate party leaders than by one. To that extent I suppose there is some argument, 1394 if we are to have a nominated Chamber, that this should be the scheme.
§ Mr. Onslow
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that patronage becomes more tolerable if there are three snouts in the trough instead of one?
§ Mr. Hooson
I have made my position clear. I am opposed to patronage, but it is arguable, if we are to have a nominated Chamber, and if that Chamber is to be paid, that it is better that the patronage is shared among three party leaders rather than exercised entirely by one.
I share the view of the hon. Member for Fife, West. I do not think that it is possible to reform the Upper Chamber in any acceptable way. I should like to see it abolished. I strongly take the view that the functions of the present House of Lords could be as efficiently discharged if we had a refinement of the Committee system in this House. It is a great mistake to bring in a Bill of this kind which satisfies nobody. If it were possible to vote, I should support new Clause 8. I should prefer to support Amendment No. 66, rather than support the Government on this matter.
The only case for a paid Chamber was advanced by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie). He put forward arguments in favour of a paid second Chamber with all the conviction of an ex-Government Whip. He realises that he has to secure a majority in the other place—[Interruption.] Well, the hon. Member knows him better than I do. He is the only person in the Committee to put forward a case, which is the Government's case, as shown in the White Paper, for a paid second Chamber. This will increase the subservience even further. That is why any Amendment, whether that of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) or that of the hon. Member for Fife, West, would have my support in the Lobby.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Paget
This, for me, is the crucial Amendment. I have said from the start that I would support the reform of the Lords provided that it was an unpaid Chamber. I found the Prime Minister's assurance unsatisfactory. The important question is: will this be a Chamber which, upon its formation, expects that, 1395 in the not very distant future, the jobs which are being distributed will be paid, or is it to be a Chamber whose members take on the jobs strictly upon the basis that they are unpaid and that nothing beyond their expenses will be paid to them? That is the vital point.
It is no use saying that it must be done by Resolution. We want a Bill which decides one way or the other between a paid and an unpaid Chamber. Of course this is a sovereign Parliament and the Bill might be amended in future, but the Bill should require amendment and not a mere Resolution before people can be appointed to these offices and paid. This is the critical point of my opposition to the Bill.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that the eighteenth century was the great age of patronage. But I do not think that that century touches the present one. Look at the number of paid jobs both in the State Corporations and in the Government. There are 115 Ministers now—enough to make a Walpole's or a Newcastle's mouth water.
When my right hon. Friend says that we should not talk about a payroll vote and that it is an insult to members of the Government to say that they vote the way they do because they are members of the Government, he knows what nonsense he is talking as well as I do or anyone else does. When the payroll is called upstairs to pass a party resolution and put the Whips on, we know the people who will go there. We know what their reaction was before they were on the payroll and what it is afterwards. It is no use being hypocritical about this, because everyone of us knows it, including my right hon. Friend.
That is the sadness of this situation, because it applies not only to members of the Government: it is increasingly affecting Members of the House. This is the appalling increase in the power of the Prime Minister. Walpole tried to achieve a Parliament of placemen and failed, but where Walpole failed the modern Prime Minister has succeeded. He has created a situation in which membership of this House depends on membership of a party. Not one hon. Member is here on anything but a party interest, a party ticket. That party, the 1396 Government party, is controlled by the Prime Minister. In fact this is an office-of-profit—membership of this House, carrying a salary and a standard of living which a great many Members of this House could not retain anywhere else. It would mean a very considerable change in their way of life and that of their wives and the people who are dependent upon them.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. John Brewis)
I should be obliged if the hon. and learned Member would talk about the other place, and not about this place.
§ Mr. Paget
What I am saying, and I am sorry to get on to this point, is that the patronage to another place is one of the ways in which this House is corrupted. To my mind, that is one of the all-important things. One has the great difficulty of dependence on party, but at least if one is elected by a party to come here one has a certain range.
One can think "What do I owe to the people who elected me, and what do I owe to the Government?" This quite often is the conflict, whether it is my duty to be loyal to the party and to the policies on which I was elected, or to a Government which, in my view, is doing almost the opposite. I consider that that has happened under this Bill.
On the other hand, the man who is appointed to the House of Lords under this system has no ambiguity or discretion in his subservience at all. He is appointed by a Prime Minister as a supporter of the Government, and that is the implied condition of his salary. If a man accepts a salary as a supporter of the Government to support the Government in another place, he either does so or he retires, or he is a dishonest man.
This seems to me to be the appalling problem of a paid, nominee legislator. He has no constituency to look back to. He cannot look at one side and the other side and take his choice. He is alone in obligation, and this seems to me to be almost totally wrong.
This new addition, this formidable patronage which is added to the already enormous patronage of a Prime Minister, seems to me to be yet another method of corrupting this House. Already now we know very well that the prospect of going to another place is one of the awards of 1397 good conduct here. It is a form of retirement, which is a very pleasant prospect for people like myself who are approaching the old-age pensioner range, particularly when they see, as I do, a short prospect of their constituency disappearing. Yet I do not think anybody is in any doubt that I would not have the opportunity to go to another place, because I have not conformed.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My hon. and learned Friend misunderstands me, as does everybody else who takes this high moral line. Why does he think that the moral calibre of others is less strong than his own? I know that he has independent means. On the other hand, he has no right to claim, nor I think would he claim, that because of that his honour or sense of independence is any greater than that of those who have not had his natural advantages in life. It is this moral priggishness which I find intolerable.
§ Mr. Heffer
Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that there are hon. Members like myself who have absolutely no independent means, who are entirely dependent on our salaries from this place, but who are as independent in the way we act as anybody else?
§ Mr. Paget
I admit immediately that it is far more credit to my hon. Friend to be independent than it is credit to me, for the very reason he mentioned. The trouble is that even in the House of Commons it is very much easier to be independent if one has means; and with the large number of hon. Members who do not have means, the inducement to lack independence becomes greater.
If a millionaire—and we get some extremely wealthy ones nowadays—were 1398 looking for a foundation and really cared for Parliamentary institutions, the most valuable action he could take would be to provide a pension of perhaps £2,500 for every hon. Member upon retirement. Nothing would do more to provide an independence for Parliament. It would be of enormous value as long as it went to all hon. Members. In the meantime, to have independence rationed out by the Government to the conformists here is not good for Parliament.
It is nonsense to say that suitable men cannot be found to man another place. We are, after all, talking about a half-time retirement job for old men. That is what will be required of those who will man another place under this system. As my right hon. Friend knows, there are queues of people wanting a peerage from a Labour Government, mostly politically suitable men, and that was the case even before anybody proposed any sort of payment.
Although we are here thinking about a retirement job, we are not really thinking simply about those who have an old-age pension. But even if we were, expenses will be paid and a person would be no worse off in the Lords than he would be doing nothing. In practice, people with a pension—after 15 years' service in the House of Commons hon. Members receive, in addition to their old-age pension, some £900 a year; not a great deal but something extra—could do the work we have in mind in the other place, draw expenses and do a job in which they are interested. If they want to take on another job as well, there is no reason why they should not do so. Being a lord will not present any difficulty.
The only need for payment is to secure the necessary subservience; to make the patronage worth while for controlling this place and to win the subservience necessary to control the other place. To pay a nominated Chamber and then to ask it to act as a legislature is a vicious thing to do and something which we should not allow.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
I was very offended by the Home Secretary's speech. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not here to hear what I have to say, 1399 which I shall in no way alter by reason of his absence. He was, first, extremely rude to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir B. Rhys Williams). The whole of the Home Secretary's speech was disingenuous and full of sophistry. His every word assumed that peers would, in fact, be paid.
The right hon. Gentleman said that these matters had always been dealt with by Resolution. He assumed that there would be such Resolutions. He introduced arguments about independence and payment, and said that there would be no guarantee that the new peers would stay bought, in the Tammany Hall phrase of the 1930s: but went on to say that most people come into politics with fixed convictions. He employed sophistry when talking about powerful speeches on the Bill not carrying the day in the Division Lobby. He dismissed the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), who spoke of honour, and went on to talk of his moral priggishness, after which the Home Secretary walked out on the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Smith
That must explain why the Home Secretary rose to speak when only Privy Councillors had spoken on this side. This very important—indeed, central—subject deserved a speech less disingenuous than that made by the Home Secretary.
I do not support the Amendment, which I think is intended by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) to tie the Prime Minister down to one of his declared intentions. I oppose the Amendment because, although the Bill may be ill-advised, it need not be dishonest or incompetent. I believe that it is incompetent in matters of legislation to omit from a Bill a vital part of the subject. Procedures which are taken after legislation has been passed are normally regarded as patching procedures.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
My hon. Friend must not, in the absence of any member 1400 of the Cabinet, be unfair to the Government. Is my hon. Friend aware that, so far from this proposal being incompetent, it is an example of the Prime Minister's shrewdness? He wants to get the Bill through the House, despite the dislike of patronage of many of us, and then introduce the patronage.
§ Mr. Smith
I suggest that we on this side should not like the Prime Minister to appear to be incompetent. Of course peers will be paid; and if they are to be the creatures described in the Bill they must be paid.
I have not spoken on this subject before, except by way of intervention, and I have no special brief for the House of Lords as it is. In fact, my family have in general tended to resist ennoblement. Very few of them have accepted peerages. One of my family was the first banker to be ennobled, which prompted the rhyme—Bobby Smith was made a peerWith his pen behind his ear.—and that may have discouraged the rest of us.
But I have nothing against the House of Lords. I have no prejudice against the hereditary principle, which is admirably random in its effects. If pressed, I should be bound to say that I would sooner Dame Nature nominated peers rather than the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson). I am in favour of reform—it is happening already—but I am in favour of organic reform. Clean breaks are bad. They are a bad precedent, and should never be introduced in institutions which are the subject of organic growth.
The idea of full-time unpaid "don't-knows" is ridiculous. Nor do I like the idea of attendance requirements; the idea of a partly full-time person is nonsensical. But if we are to have this absurd scheme, then peers must be paid. It is not only extremely snobbish not to pay them but it is against the Government's interests. As anybody who has organised a constituency bazaar must know, volunteers cannot be bossed about.
How are the now famous cross-benchers, the licensed don't-knows, to be held on the fence if not by money? Much more important, and a subject adumbrated, if not actually reached, by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, if we do not pay peers, how are we 1401 to get our own salaries put up here? The hon. and learned Gentleman said something to the effect that the prospect of going to another place is one of the rewards on retirement of Members here. They should not need something for their retirement from this House.
The idea that payment in the House of Lords should be related to work done, which was introduced by the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), is an extremely outmoded concept. What similar employment can one imagine nowadays in which payment is related to the work done?
§ Mr. Ridley
Does not my hon. Friend think that it might be a mistake to impede the flow from this House to another place by failing to pay Members of another place, because it might result in lack of mobility in the Parliamentary system, from which we might suffer?
§ Mr. Smith
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I have suggestions to deal with that contingency, to which I shall come later.
The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) suggested that there should be no pay for non-attendance, which again I thought an extremely outmoded concept. One can think of many bodies where one is paid for non-attendance, and where one's responsibilities are in no way diminished.
If the new peers are to be required to attend a certain amount, they will have considerable expenses. They will need secretaries and will have the same sort of expenses, though not to the same degree, as we have. We shall be introducing a system in which there is a premium on bad service, in which the less one spends on the expenses necessary to do one's job the more one will be paid. This, although it is an inevitable corollary of the Bill, is against the prices and incomes policy, and the very reverse of productivity.
§ Mr. Smith
We have discussed recently how we here are to have the accommodation necessary to do our job. We are to make these new peers professional. They will need staff to help them be professional and a place in which to house 1402 the staff. How is that to be done within this building? Governments are ever better organised and better served, and yet members of Parliament are ever worse organised and worse able to afford the organisation they need to control Governments—and if this applies here, then a fortiori it must apply in a new House of Lords which is supposed to do its job without pay.
How much are the peers to be paid? The figure of £2,000 has been bandied about. It is grossly insufficient. What sort of man can you get for £2,000 a year? We want in the House of Lords the sort of men who can earn £2,000 a year by turning out for a meeting once a month. We do not want it to draw people who are in need of a trivial form of outdoor relief. If we underpay our masters, as we must suppose they are intended to be, they will most assuredly drag us and the rest of the nation down to their level. It always amazes me how very good we all are here when we consider how under-paid Members of Parliament, at both ends of the building, are.
But pay is not enough. What about pensions? Are these men, who are going to work two days a week for several months in the year, to be cast out with nothing at 72, with the prospect of many years before them after the very reasonable calls which have been made on their physique? It is possible to put just as much pressure on a person by denying him a pension for his retirement as it is by paying him when he is in his job.
If pensions in this House were not the derisory affair they are and were not run in a manner which has been out of date in the rest of the country for many decades, we should have a great deal more independence and should not have to suffer jibes like that of the Home Secretary just now, that people speak one way and vote another.
I am not in favour of the Amendment. I do not see why we should attempt to tie the Prime Minister down to this undesirable expression of his intention. I am not in favour of reforming the House of Lords in this way. But if we are to do so we must accept the implications. We must pay its Members. We must pay well enough to get good Members—and we must give them handsome pensions in their retirement—to ensure that those 1403 new peers who are supposed to be independent stay independent, and those who are supposed to vote in a certain way go on voting that way.
§ [Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) has addressed the Committee with the most attractive wit, and I am sure that we have listened with great pleasure to what he has had to say. I am not quite sure whether it would be practicable to translate all his witticisms into legislative enactments, but I hope that before the Committee stage is ended he will seek to do so. It will add greatly to our discussions. The particular financial proposals which he included in his speech should be incorporated in Amendments so that we can discuss them more fully in Committee or on Report.
Talking about peculiar forms of representation, it was said on one occasion by William Hazlitt that the City of London ought to be represented in this House of Commons by a large-sized turtle. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has quite got the physique for that, but at any rate he has made an excellent contribution to the debate, for which we are grateful.
These debates are in some respects the most important of the Committee stage. It is necessary, and unavoidable, that the debate should go wide, because it influences all the rest of the proposals. If we withdraw the whole element of payment the proposal is quite different. What nobody is quite sure about, not even the Home Secretary, is whether the proposal has really been withdrawn. We can all make our estimates and guesses, but we may come to different conclusions. I wish to refer later to the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and to the answers which I think they deserve from their own Front Bench.
As I have said, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) said, it is most extraordinary that in these debates we received no guidance at all 1404 from the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that the few representatives of that bench that we have will last the course so that they may hear that part of my speech. In some respects this is the most important aspect of the Bill, or at least it throws a light upon the most important aspect.
The Home Secretary did not deal with it at all satisfactorily. I do not blame him for not being present—I fully understand why he has had to go—but we must comment on what he has said. If he has really suggested that the whole view of the Government about the payment of peers has been changed by the debates that have previously taken place in Committee, then that ought to be clearly stated. As the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said—and it was perfectly right that it should be underlined—if the Government have changed their mind fundamentally on the question of pay, then everyone in the other place has the right to alter his vote when the matter goes there, because the original White Paper was presented to them in quite different terms.
In passing, I should like to qualify a remark I made about some persons in another place. In an earlier speech I said that there might be a revolt in another place if they discovered that the proposition that they were being offered was very different from the original proposition. I think that may very well be the case; it is one of the reasons why I urge the Government to alter their attitude about the Bill before they have to suffer the humiliation of a defeat in another place. In the course of those remarks I said, and I think it was an extremely inelegant phrase—which is why I wish to withdraw it—that even worms in ermine might turn.
I do not think that it was a clever thing to say at all. I gather that it has given some offence to noble Lords, and I withdraw it, because I am not attacking any of the individuals concerned. What I and many other hon. Members are seeking to attack is the institution which the Government are trying to establish, and which we shall be responsible for establishing if this goes through.
Many people have gone to the other place from the Labour Party and other parties, particularly perhaps since the life 1405 peerage system came into operation—although I was bitterly opposed to it when it was established—because they believed that it was the best way in which they could perform a service or continue to perform services to the nation or to their parties. It would be most reprehensible and certainly most priggish, to use the word of the Home Secretary, if we in this place were to try to assume for ourselves moral superiority over people in the other place. I do not say that at all. Many people in the Labour Party who have gone to the other place and have suffered great financial loss as a result may find it extremely difficult to conduct their affairs because of the absence of a salary.
Therefore, in these criticisms I am not seeking to pass moral judgment—I am not qualified to do so—on anybody who goes to another place. Nor am I trying to depreciate the services rendered by people who have gone there out of the highest possible motive, as they conceive them, about how they can serve the state. None the less, we must examine with the greatest care the question of pay. It alters the whole institution and arrangement if salaries are paid and if they are part of the expectation. Many of the most critical arguments in the history of Parliament have been concerned with the amount of money paid to people in Government jobs. The arguments about placemen in the early part of the seventeenth century very much turned on the question of what would be the effect on Parliament if large numbers of people in Parliament were paid.
That is quite different from paying Ministers. Ministers are paid to do their job. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) emphasised, it has an effect in creating what some people offensively call a payroll vote. But even that is different from setting up a new body altogether which is nominated and paid at the same time. This is an entirely new principle introduced in our Constitution, and we must examine it with the utmost care. This Clause, in particular, affects the whole Bill in a way which we must examine at great length.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—and I say this in his absence— 1406 must not say that he has not heard anything new in the debate. Most of the speeches which I have heard introduced new elements into the argument. He says that the pay proposal has been altered fundamentally because of argument in this Chamber. I do not agree that that is what has occurred, but that is what he says. If he says that, it alters the situation.
According to Gibbon, there was a speech made by a Roman emperor to some of his soldiers, the peroration of which was thought extremely eloquent. He concluded by announcing that a special donation of 200 sesterces would be provided for each soldier. Of course it would. If the 200 sesterces were removed, that might have altered the eloquence. By removing the pay altogether, one alters fundamentally the whole scheme. But we are invited to pass the Bill without being certain whether pay is in or not.
It is no good the Home Secretary saying, "We must have conventions in order to make Parliament work. Parliament works only if we have unwritten conventions and because there is accommodation between different sides". That is true. We all know that some things can be decided only because they are not written down. But that is not what happens when a Bill is introduced. The purpose of a Bill is to write it down. That is one reason why we think that the Bill is so peculiar. First of all, we have a Preamble which does not write it down, and now we are told that some of the main items should not be written in, either. We cannot say that this is a matter to be left to a convention or an agreement, nor can we say properly that it will be possible for it to be included in a Resolution subsequently.
It is true that we have not yet discussed very many Clauses, but in each of the Clauses we have discussed some major item is left over for decision later on. The size of the new Chamber, the numbers to be appointed—all these matters are left to be decided later. Now the question of the cash is to be decided later. As we go through one item after another we discover that one essential part of the Bill after another is not included. Presumably they will be part of a convention to be agreed—but to be agreed between whom? We do not know that. It seems that one party to 1407 the bargain has already contracted out, but we will come in a moment to the other parties to the bargain.
First of all, I wish to establish the proposition that I put to the Home Secretary earlier, that those on these benches—I leave out hon. Members opposite in this matter—who are so bitterly opposed to the Bill, and will continue to be, are representing the traditional view of the Labour Party. What the Government have done has been to depart fundamentally from what has been not merely the understanding of the Labour Party dating back for 50 years or more—and that is a fact—but the understanding of the Labour Party quite recently, and the understanding of most members of the Opposition Front Bench quite recently.
The future of the second Chamber was fully discussed here during the passage of the Life Peerages Bill in 1958. The numbers of the second Chamber, how it should be organised and arranged, and whether its members should be paid were all discussed when that Bill was introduced by Mr. Butler, as he then was—the Home Secretary of the time—and now Lord Butler in another place. As I have mentioned before, in his speech in another place Lord Butler has said that he regards the Life Peerages Bill as having been the precursor of this Bill. He is very proud of it. He has said that when he introduced that Bill he thought that he would not get it through the House of Commons because of furious opposition from the Labour benches. He said that that Bill was the thin end of the wedge: what we have now is the thick end of the wedge.
Let us look back for a moment to the attitude of the Labour Party when the House was discussing the thin end of the wedge. We will come to the vote in a moment. The Home Secretary says that he does not worry so much about the speeches because it is the votes that matter, so I will come to the vote later. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not regard it as Parliamentarily improper if I refer to speeches that were then made. I want to quote at some length, if I may, because those of us who have spent many hours in opposition have a right to state our view to the Committee, to the country and to the Labour Party, and to ask Labour people in the country to 1408 judge who in these matters is standing by Labour Party principles and who is not.
I wish to quote Aneurin Bevan, as I think that I am entitled to. I know that some members of the Government occasionally quote Aneurin Bevan but I think that they are unwise to do so. I believe that a Government that have imposed prescription charges should never quote Aneurin Bevan, but that may be just a quirk on my part. In this matter we are entitled to quote what Aneurin Bevan said on 13th February, 1958, on the Life Peerages Bill. I shall not quote the whole speech, but the latter part of it in which he referred to the question of money—the cash which we are now discussing. He said:I want to warn right hon. and hon. Gentlemen seriously about the consequences of what they are doing now. Everybody who has studied this subject knows that the inwardness of the situation today is the inability to find Socialists to go to the House of Lords to perform their functions there without payment. That is the main difficulty. We never have any difficulties when we are the Government. We can always give enough offices over there to have the job done; it is easy. What happens now, however, is that our noble Friends cannot attend. It is too onerous.The proposal to make life peers is, in my opinion"—although he said that it was his opinion, Mr. Bevan was speaking officially on behalf of the Opposition at that time—the unimportant part of these proposals. That is the facade. The important point is that it is now intended, because of the acceptance of this relationship between the two Houses, that there should be remuneration for the peers. It was stated on the other side of the House by three hon. Members that the time had come to pay the peers. Pelf for peers. It is now being said that it is fair not only that noble Lords should inherit powers from their parents, but that we should confer an honorarium upon them. That is the intention. Already, there is a beginning. Already, they are paid, I think, three guineas a day expenses. It is. not much, but it will go up.And it has.It is certain to go up. The Leader of the House of Lords begged Members the other day not to press him at this delicate moment for an increase in pay. I do not know whether the delicacy derives from my friend Frank Cousins, or whether it derives from the fact that his Bill has not yet passed through this House.He was referring then to the Life Peerages Bill.The fact is that it is now intended to pay the House of Lords, but, of course, it is a big 1409 step to pay 867 people, and an ingenious method is therefore being devised by which some of their noble Lordships can have leave of absence from the Crown.Not altogether different from the proposals now before this House.They can have exemption from attendance. That will leave we do not know how many but a small number, perhaps 200 or 300, who will still attend.Not a bad quess for 1958.Then some life peers will be made—how many we do not yet know—and they will go to the House of Lords, and a nice honorarium will alight on all of them. And here the House of Commons, which has not given its own Members pensions, will give pensions for life to the Lords. That is exactly it.There was some objection earlier to the kind of language used in the debate. I almost hesitate to go on, but I must complete the passage:Never was a slimier trick played. It is our view that the whole idea is that the peer's son should have a reward for his services. So, for the residual services that are left after the attrition of centuries, it is now proposed that the House of Commons, in its right senses, should confer upon their Lordships not only influence but pensions for life"—Apparently, the 72 Amendment is, I suppose, the Government's excuse. Mr. Bevan was at that point interrupted by Brigadier Terence Clarke, who said:Give them a 'bob' for the job"—to which Mr. Bevan responded,Yes, jobs for the boys".Brigadier Clarke objected and said:No, give them a 'bob' for the job—not jobs for the boys. That is what the party opposite gave before.Mr. Bevan continued:I would not have invented so vulgar a phrase myself, but, of course, it is true that outside this Palace not very much interest is taken in this Measure. For us here at present, it is merely a matter between ourselves. But Milton warned us about this. He said:'Consider Liberty, and do not bind her when she sleeps'."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th Feb., '58; Vol. 582, c. 692–3.]That is one of the reasons why some of us think that, when we oppose this Bill, we sustain the proper traditions of the Labour Party. Let no Minister tell me that, of course, we all know that Aneurin Bevan always took a rather Leftward view on these matters. Speaking earlier in the debate—I shall not quote at length—Sir Frank Soskice, as he then 1410 was—now a Member of the other place—warned:If they are to be life salaries, or salaries for a term of years, I ask the Government whether they have considered the implications of what they are doing.Have they considered what a vast new field of patronage is being created?He went on:I put it seriously to the Government that if they try to operate the Bill, and make any use of it, they will be embarking upon a most dangerous precedent. They will be placing any Prime Minister in future under the disagreeable and invidious necessity of having to distribute largesse or to recommend the distribution of largesse on an immense scale. When I say an immense scale, I speak in the dark because we do not know how many new peers are contemplated. If it is only a matter of 20 or 30, I would ask whether it is desirable, as a necessity of our governmental life, that the Prime Minister should have at his command the distribution of largesse even if only on that scale. If we knew what were the Government's intentions, we should be in a position to form a clear judgment upon it, and I press the right hon. Gentleman on this point.… It is a Bill of evil presage. If we start doing that sort of thing, we are embarking on an extremely undesirable course, and I think that it would be extremely invidious for any Prime Minister in the future to contemplate the discharge of the new duty which would be put upon him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 586–8.]People talk about the reputation of the House of Commons, the reputation of politicians and the reputation of parties. I am very much concerned with the reputation of my party. It is not good for the reputation of parties or individuals to change their fundamental views on matters of principle, at any rate not without a full explanation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Luton spoke as though no question of principle were involved in whether we should pay the peers, but nobody can read the speeches of Aneurin Bevan or Sir Frank Soskice of 10 years ago and say that there is no question of principle. That was the basis on which they opposed the Life Peerages Bill. As for the Division; one of those who voted against the Life Peerages Bill on that occasion was the Home Secretary himself, as did several others of those who are now on the Treasury Bench.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
I was fascinated by the passages which my hon. Friend read, but I 1411 heard him refer on two or three occasions to the payment to peers' sons. Was not Aneurin Bevan's condemnation largely in relation to the payment of peers by succession?
§ Mr. Foot
Of course he was opposed to the hereditary principle, but he was certainly not in favour of a change to a reformed House of Lords by the substitution of a nominated Chamber. As I think was clear from what I was reading, there is not the slightest doubt that he was opposing the principle of nomination. In my opinion, although nobody can be certain, he was opposed to the idea of a nominated Chamber even more fiercely than he was opposed to the proposition of sustaining the present Chamber, because a nominated Chamber introduces all the extensive dangers of patronage to which he and Sir Frank Soskice were referring.
What I am saying is that on that occasion 10 years ago the official policy of the Labour Party was not merely to be opposed to the hereditary principle, but to be opposed, because it saw the dangers of this large-scale fresh patronage system being introduced into our Constitution, to a nominated Chamber. Therefore, those of us who hold to this view are holding consistently to the view of the Labour Party. We are holding consistently to the view of the Labour Party, although I will not elaborate this, in the sense that we have a mandate for what we propose, which is to strip the other place of its powers. Indeed, that is the compromise which the Government will eventually have to reach, and when they return to that they will be exactly in line with Labour Party policy. But there is not a scrap of mandate for the kind of body for which they ask, and least of all is there any support in Labour Party policy for the idea of the payment of peers with all the consequences which have been described.
The debate that we have had on payment brings us once more to the question of how we are to resolve these problems in the House, how we are to deal with a political situation where the Government seek to force through the House a Measure which is bitterly opposed on both sides, a Measure for which, although the Government can get majorities, as the Home Secretary says, any fair observer of what is happening in the House 1412 would agree that there has been hardly any support from the back benches, except perhaps from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, and to which there has been growing opposition.
As I have said and as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell) and others have said, the proposal that is now going through the House is a different one from that which was originally proposed to the other place, bad as most of us think that was. It is my judgment, and I may be quite wrong, that when this Bill reaches the other place, if it ever does, there will be a very different reaction to it, particularly on this Clause. If that occurs then the Government will really be in the soup. If there is a revolt of the peers against what is now proposed then the Government will suffer the gravest humiliation. That is why some of us are pleading with them still to look at the matter again.
That brings me to the attitude of the Opposition Front Bench. The experience we are having with the Opposition Front Bench is unique in my recollection of Parliament, in this sense. Here is a major issue, nobody disputes that this is a constitutional Measure of first-class importance; nobody can dispute that if this Measure goes through and is passed it will alter the whole nature of the British Constitution, maybe for generations to come. That is the intention and the purpose of it. It is not a short-term Measure, a minor amendment Act, it is a major change in the constitution.
I do not believe that in the whole history of Parliament there can have been a single example of a Measure of such constitutional importance, with Clauses such as we are now discussing which alter the nature of the constitution, upon which we are given no advice of the official view of the Conservative Party. It is no business of mine to protect them, but it is a matter of extreme discourtesy towards their own backbenchers, their own right hon. Friends who make very powerful speeches in this matter. It is an extraordinary state of affairs when the Opposition Front Bench does not even attempt to answer the arguments on these questions which their right hon. Friends think are of such importance.
1413 We have had the extraordinary spectacle of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain MacLeod) who spoke on the White Paper; he came in for a few minutes and went out without a word. Other Front Benchers have come in and gone out without a word. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who we hoped would contribute to the debate, has not uttered a word. I have never seen anything like them. Look at them, these unlikely novices for a new Trappist order, these bashful tip-toeing ghosts, these pale effigies of what were once sentient, palpable, human specimens, these un-larynxed wraiths, these ectoplasmic apparitions, these sphinx-like sentinels at our debates, why are they here?
That cannot be said about this side. I agree that the Government have not
§ been very successful, but they have at least attempted to answer the arguments. This is no joking matter. It is a matter of real seriousness.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.