§ Queen's Recommendation having been signified—
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ The Minister Without Portfolio (Mr. Peter Shore)
I beg to move,That the rate of the salary which may be granted to the Comptroller and Auditor General under section 1 of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1957 be increased from £8,600 to £9,800 per annum and the date from which, under subsections (3) of that section, the person now holding that office is entitled to a salary at the said increased rate be 1st July 1969.
§ Mr. Speaker
It occurred to me that we might at the same time take the next Order, that is, the Motion relating to the salary of the Parliamentary Commissioner,That the rate of the salary which may be granted to the Parliamentary Commissioner under section 2 of the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 be increased from £8,600 to £9,800 per annum and the date from which this resolution is to take effect be 1st July 1969.If both sides of the House approve, so be it. We shall discuss them together.
§ Mr. Shore
It may be helpful to the House if I explain briefly the purpose of both Motions, in view of the similarities between the two cases. Both the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner are in the special position of being officers of the House. Their salaries are borne on the Consolidated Fund and can be altered only by Resolutions of the House. This may, perhaps, seem a cumbersome procedure, but it follows from the fact that these two officers are responsible directly to the House and are thus independent of the Government Departments whose work they scrutinise. The procedure is less cumbersome than it used to be. Before the Exchequer and Audit Department Act, 1957, an Act of Parliament was necessary to alter the Comptroller and Auditor General's salary.
The proposals to increase these two officers' salaries follow from the increases in the salaries of the higher Civil Service recommended by the Standing Advisory Committee on the Pay of the Higher Civil Service under the chairmanship of Lord Plowden. As a result of the 554 Committee's recommendations, the pay of Permanent Secretaries in the Civil Service increased from £8,600 to £9,800 with effect from 1st July this year. The salary of the Comptroller and Auditor General has been the same as that of a permanent head of Department ever since the office was set up in 1866. When the Parliamentary Commissioner was officially appointed in April 1967 his salary was also fixed at the level of a Permanent Secretary. The Motions therefore propose that these two officers should keep in step with Permanent Secretaries and receive the same increases from the same operative date.
Both offices represent important parts of our constitution. One is over 100 years old, the other less than three years old, but together they play the vital rôle of watchdogs on behalf of Parliament, and, through Parliament, the people of this country, over the activities of Government Departments. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a warm tribute to the work of the present holders of these offices and the devotion and skill with which they carry out their duties. I am sure that I speak for the House as a whole in expressing our gratitude for their services.
I commend the Motions to the House.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Public Accounts, is unfortunately unable to be present this evening as he has a longstanding important engagement outside the House. But he has asked me to express his regret and his welcome for this proposal. It is perhaps appropriate that I should say this as II am the Chairman of the sister Committee, the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.
I am certain that I speak for every member of my Committee, every member of our sister Committee, and every Member of the House in welcoming the proposal and in saying that we who work with these two officers of the House can echo most heartily everything that has been said from the Government Front Bench. These two officers serve us 555 splendidly, and we think that this is an entirely appropriate measure to present to the House.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)
Perhaps I might first congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his new appointment and join with him in the words of acknowledgement he has extended to the two gentlemen covered by the Motions. It is entirely appropriate that we should link them because, as he rightly said, both the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner are concerned with protecting the public interest. In many respects the position of the Parliamentary Commissioner was modelled on that of the Comptroller and Auditor General.
It is absolutely right that we should adopt what might seem, to an outsider, the rather clumsy procedure of authorising increases in the salaries of these two officers by means of Resolutions in the House. It is the case that it is their impartiality which is all-important, and for that reason it is right and proper that we should approve the matter in the House itself.
On previous occasions, there has been some question as to whether these increases should not be automatic, but I think that the view has been, quite rightly, that we should treat these officers as different from members of the Civil Service but it is also right that their salaries should be kept in line with those of the Civil Service.
There is, perhaps, one point which I might query with the right hon. Gentleman. We have had a series of increases of this kind. In 1964 the sum went up from £7,000 to £8,285, in 1966 it went up to £8,600, and now it is proposed to raise it to £9,800. I would not wish to oppose the increase in any way because we believe it right and proper that such heavy responsibilities should be reasonably rewarded.
But the figure is made retrospective to 1st July last, and I am not quite clear why it is that this should be so and why we do not debate this matter before the increase normally becomes due rather than retrospectively, because I think that 556 the House, rightly, feels it better to anticipate these things rather than cover them retrospectively.
I, too, know how sorry my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) is at being unable to be present tonight and I know that all of us on this side of the House, as on the other, wish to express our thanks to the Comptroller and Auditor General for the tremendously important work he does. We are deeply and continuously indebted to him.
I have one or two questions with regard to the position of the Parliamentary Commissioner. It is a welcome change, in a sense, that we should be debating the matter of his salary here because, as the right hon. Gentleman will recall, when the office was first established considerable controversy arose, particularly on the Consolidated Fund, because the appointment was made before any legislation establishing the Parliamentary Commissioner was actually passed and approved by the House. So we welcome the fact that the Government are planning on this occasion to cover the question of his salary. I am sure that the House would wish, too, to express its thanks to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the immensely heavy burden he carries.
I want to raise one point in this connection. We know from what has been said in the House that it is proposed to extend the Parliamentary Commissioner's duties to Northern Ireland. I am not quite clear from these Motions whether it is intended that this shall be the total extent of his remuneration or whether some adjustment will be made as far as his work in Northern Ireland is concerned. In other words. I am not clear whether this will be his full-time salary, as it were. or his part-time salary.
Given the stringency with which the House has always controlled this matter, perhaps this is a point on which we should have some elucidation from the right hon. Gentleman tonight. But, over all, I certainly join both the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) and, I am sure, all right hon. and hon. Members, in expressing our thanks to the holders of these two offices whose salaries we are proposing 557 now, rightly, to increase to the level suggested in the Motions.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the rate of the salary which may be granted to the Comptroller and Auditor General under section 1 of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1957 be increased from £8,600 to £9,800 per annum and the date from which, under subsection (3) of that section, the person now holding that office is entitled to a salary at the said increased rate be 1st July 1969.