Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the limit on the allowances which under the Resolution of this House of 18th December 1969 are now payable to Members of this House for travel by road on certain journeys shall, for journeys commenced after the date of this Resolution, be replaced by a limit in respect of the use of a car of 1s. a mile.—[M r. Whitelaw.]
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
I rise for a moment to express my gratitude on behalf of all Members in all parts of the House to the Leader of the House and those associated with him for the alacrity which he has displayed in dealing with this difficult and delicate matter of Members' motor-car allowances. The history of it is that there were no allowances for Members using their cars, on public duties in their constituencies, between their constituencies and Westminster, between their homes and Westminster and their homes and their constituency prior to 1963, when 1039 an allowance of 4½d. per mile was granted in lieu of a first-class rail fare, which it had always been the right of hon. Members to claim if they so desired. It remained at 4½d. per mile from 1963 to 1969 when the allowance was increased to 6d. per mile. The date on which that became operative was December, 1969.
That allowance was rather inadequate compared with the allowance of a county councillor, for example, undertaking similar duties and using his own car, for whom the allowance, according to horsepower or cubic capacity was generally in excess of 1s. a mile. I feel that the allowance now given at the rate of 1s. per mile is a recognition of the reality of contemporary circumstances and the fact that it should be given within a few weeks of the accession to Parliamentary majority of the present Conservative Government is a tribute to the foresight of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I want to express my deep sense of gratitude to him for what he has done.
§ 12.47 a.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South and to pay tribute to him for his persistence in this matter on behalf of Members in all parts of the House.
I should also like to ask the Leader of the House what is his view on the whole question of parliamentary expenses, which is the heading of this Resolution. It seems to me—and a number of new Members who might feel bashful about talking on this subject so soon have expressed this view to me—that it is unsatisfactory that we should go on from year to year fiddling about with our own expenses and should have a static salary which only we can alter. It is invidious and very unfair on the Government at any given time. I appreciate the difficulties for a new Government. It is never the right time to deal with this sort of thing. It is either just before the election or just after it—and it is inconvenient for a Government.
I ask the Leader of the House to tell us what are his thoughts on the subject of Members' pay and conditions and whether there is any hope that we shall 1040 refer the matter to some outside body, such as the new Commission on Manpower.
§ 12.49 a.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I should like to be associated with the remarks of the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). As Chairman of the House of Commons Motor Club, he was most persistent in pushing this matter. I declare an interest here because I am one of the two joint honorary secretaries. I should like, too, to pay tribute to the Leader of the House and the Government for, in this instance, facing up to the realities of the situation. Does the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) wish to intervene? I am willing to give way, because as he is the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary he may have something to tell us from the Prime Minister.
I pay tribute to the Government and the Leader of the House. The Labour Government did nothing about this. I am not here to criticise a Tory Government because it is a Tory Government. I criticise any Government when it is wrong. Hence I criticise the previous Government. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer was most unparliamentary in his behaviour. He refused to meet a deputation of Members of Parliament to discuss the issue. This is not the usual practice of members of any Government. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer is not here; I wish he were. My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) is shaking his head, but I do not say one thing in the House and another thing outside. I say what I have to say both inside and outside the House. It was wrong for the former Chancellor of the Exchequer to refuse to meet a deputation of Members of Parliament on this issue.
Will the Leader of the House confirm that Members of Parliament will be treated in the same way as persons in private industry, local government, the Civil Service and the nationalised industries? A Member of Parliament who buys a car out of his private income and uses it on his job as an M.P. is reimbursed in part for the cost of the petrol 1041 he uses on that job. The trade unions have agreements with the employers that if a worker goes away on a job the employer pays the fare, provides a conveyance or meets the cost involved in that person using his private conveyance. If an M.P. uses his car to come to the House of Commons or between his constituency and his home he will have to pay tax on this money, but he will not have to do so if he uses his car between the House and his constituency. I cannot fathom why this should be.
Ministers and, to be fair, the Leader of the Opposition are provided with State cars which they can use to and from their offices. They do not have to pay for such cars or for their upkeep. They can use a car to and from the House of Commons, and I think I am right in saying that they do not pay tax on it. I do not understand the difference in treatment. If Members of Parliament are taxed on this amount—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
The hon. Gentleman is pursuing his argument on too large a scale. This is a very narrow Motion that seeks to raise the amount from what it is at present to a shilling. Too much argument on matters of tax, and so forth, cannot be considered to be in order.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I am speaking, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on the Motion that the allowance is to go up to a shilling, and I want to know whether the past practice will continue, and I am assuming that the money will be taxable. I am not objecting to it, but I am asking for explanations why it is taxable for some Members of Parliament and not others. The acting Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Workington, may know the answer. I do not know and I want to know. I hope that we shall have from the Leader of the House some explanation why there is a difference of treatment between one section of the population and another. The acting Leader of the Opposition may not like it, but I have often had to listen to him. If he feels there is something I have said that is wrong, I will give way. But the fact that he does not like what I am saying is nothing new. I am quite used to having the Front Benches 1042 on both sides of the House objecting to what I say. I know that what happens—and I have seen it for 25 years—is that Members are cushioning themselves for when they go in and out. I want answers to legitimate questions about the mileage allowance to Members.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) was wanting a fight when he should know that there is no fight at all. If he wishes to have a fight with anybody—
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis rose—
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend has had his say. I do not need a lecture from him. When I was Leader of the House I always treated him decently and I hope that he will treat me the same way. I sometimes resent people why try to make personal attacks on individuals, indeed on past Chancellors of the Exchequer, on the question of meeting deputations. This is irrelevant tonight.
I congratulate the Leader of the House for what he has done. The Motion is sensible. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) for his pioneering work on this matter. Indeed, he met me on many occasions, and I am only sorry that I was not able to concede his request entirely. But he has achieved so much and the House recognises that he has been a great fighter on this issue. He will be pleased that the Leader of the House has now conceded his case.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) has argued the wider issue. I agree with him. I have no doubt that in the end inevitably we shall have to come to a great argument about Members' salaries. We are still the most under-paid and overworked representatives, when compared with other Legislatures. I think that we have to take note of the hon. Gentleman's point. Probably one day we shall deal with it. But many of us on both sides of the House have tried in our own ways to do certain things and, in my period as Leader of the House, despite what my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North said, I did a great deal.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
I do not think that I was childish before. I have never said a word against my right hon. Friend's work in this connection, and I pay tribute to him, because I know that he did a good job and met deputations. He did all that he could to help. The Chairman of the Motoring Club can confirm that my right hon. Friend tried always to get this proposal through when he was in office.
§ 1.1 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
I want to add my congratulations to those which have been expressed to the Leader of the House. However, I hope that he will answer the question raised by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) on the very vexing subject of Members' salaries. I know that we are not discussing the point, but I think that it is inconsistent to deal with Members' allowances in this way when the Government have made provision for reviewing the salaries of people who—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will be out of order if he develops that argument. He must keep to the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. McGuire
I will not pursue it in that way, but I ask the Leader of the House to bear in mind that Members' expenses and salaries are inextricably linked. I have great personal admiration for the right hon. Gentleman, and I ask him not to dodge the issue merely because we all lack the courage to do what we know has to be done, which is to pay realistic salaries to Members of Parliament. It is time that the subject ceased to be a political football and came to be discussed on the Floor of the House. If necessary, an independent body could be set up to take the onus off the Government of the day.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that that is quite far enough about independent bodies. Mr. Whitelaw.
§ 1.3 a.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
I thank the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and other hon. Members who have been kind enough to make complimentary remarks about this Motion. In the last Parliament, I listened to many representations which were made to the Services Committee on the subject of the Members' mileage allowance, and I became convinced that it was sensible for Members to be given the same sort of allowance as that given to members of local authorities. That is what this Motion does. I am glad that we have been able to make this arrangement and that it is welcomed in the House.
It is perhaps reasonable to say that on this occasion I am following in the tradition of what the right hon. Member for Workington did when he was Leader of the House concerning various other allowances and expenses. I thought that he did much in this respect. I admired what he did and thought that I might be able to make some further advance in this sphere. That I have done, and I am glad that it is welcome to the House.
It would be unwise for me to take any further steps at the moment. It is best always to take the maxim: one step at a time is enough for me. Therefore, I prefer not to say anything about the other representations made to me. However, I have noted them and I appreciate hon. Members feelings about them.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, the limit on the allowances which under the Resolution of this House of 18th December 1969 are now payable to Members of this House for travel by road on certain journeys shall, for journeys commenced after the date of this Resolution, be replaced by a limit in respect of the use of a car of 1s. a mile.