§ 36. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement of the steps he has taken and intends to take in future to improve the working conditions and facilities of hon. Members.
§ Mr. Peart
I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on 24th July. I am pursuing urgently the outstanding issues, on secretarial help and Members' travel allowances, and I will inform the House of the Government's further proposals to improve Members' facilities as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Hamilton
That is a very vague answer. Can my right hon. Friend be more specific as to the time-tabling of these announcements? Will he make arrangements to have some kind of debate on the Floor of the House? It is very unsatisfactory that these improvements should be made without full public knowledge and public debate of them.
§ Mr. Peart
I am always glad when my hon. Friend says that improvements will be made and that the House should look at them. I would only say that as Leader of the House I think that I have done more on this matter in this last year than any other Leader of the House has done. I am anxious to make a statement on this matter, and I hope that my hon. Friend will wait for it.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I am not so bothered about conditions for Members of Parliament? What I want to know is whether we are going to have better administration by this Government. That would certainly ensure that Members could do the jobs that they were elected to do by their constituents.
§ Mr. Dickens
Reverting to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), is the Leader of the House aware of the growing concern in all parts of the House about the continuing delay in resolving outstanding matters concerning the Sixth Report of the Select Committee? Is he further aware of the deep resentment that many of us will feel if there is any obstruction to these improvements by the Treasury, which takes jolly good care to ensure that it is adequately staffed and serviced in these matters?
§ Mr. David Steel
Is the Leader of the House aware that I was informed the other day that my Parliamentary expenses for last year had exceeded my Parliamentary income by £300, and that this is a matter of growing concern to many hon. Members, who ought not to have to depend on an outside source of income? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the basic provision of salary recommended by the Services Committee is of extreme importance? Will he convey that to his colleagues in the Government?
§ Mr. Maudling
Will the Leader of the House tell us what, in the official view of the Government, is a "short time" in politics?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good debating point, but I just want an effective solution.
§ 46. Mr. Dickens
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the implementation of the Sixth Report of the House of Commons (Services) Committee.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).
§ Mr. Dickens
May I put one additional point to my right hon. Friend? Would he bear in mind in his consultations with the Treasury that the average salaries being paid to private secretaries to medium-rank administrative jobs in the Treasury is about £1,000 per annum and that we as hon. Members would expect him to settle for no less than that figure when dealing with secretarial expenses here?
I know that my hon. Friend has put his point. As I have said, this matter is under consideration and I hope to make an early announcement.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Would the right hon. Gentleman cast his mind back to 24th July and remember that his statement included a reference to hon. Members' travel facilities? Is he aware that last evening the all-party House of Commons Motor Club met and resolved unanimously, after two years of frustration and in desperation, to send a deputation to the Prime Minister on Members' mileage allowances, and that the Prime Minister has now refused to receive the deputation and has referred back this all-party committee to the Leader of the House? Is he aware that this is merely a whirligig of frustration and impediments put in the path of hon. Members? Cannot we have an early statement about raising Members' motor mileage allowances to a realistic level?
This is not an attempt to evade responsibility. As Leader of the House, I am aware of the problems and I have stressed that I hope to make a statement very soon. I recognise hon. Members' difficulties.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In the matter of the provision of secretaries for M.Ps, about which I hear a great deal and read a great deal, may I ask my right hon. Friend to clarify the position? If secretaries are to be allocated, by whom? By the Government? Are these secretaries to be allocated by the Government or are they to be selected by private Members? Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the Government's taste may differ considerably from that of hon. Members?
My right hon. Friend is quite wrong. I agree with him on many matters, but not on this. I chaired the Services Committee which produced a report on this matter. The report was presented to the House, and the Government accepted it in principle. I have circularised lion. Members and I am having discussions on the matter. There must be discussions, both formal and informal. I hope to make a statement very soon.