HC Deb 15 February 1971 vol 811 cc1541-66

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the annual sum of £5,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom for the payment of an annuity to the Right Honourable Horace Maybray King, lately Speaker of the House of Commons, and that, if Una King, his wife, survives him, the annual sum of £1,667 be granted as aforesaid, for the payment of an annuity to her.—[Mr. Patrick Jenkin.]

Mr. Speaker

I have to inform the House that I have selected the first two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), to leave out '£5,000' and insert £4,000', and to leave out '£1,667' and insert '£1,250'.

9.8 a.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I am amazed to discover that, apparently, the Financial Secretary does not feel that it is necessary to give the House some explanation for the introduction of this Motion. This is the first time in my memory that such a state of affairs has existed when the Government have desired to raise a sum of money of a continuing character without giving hon. Members a logical and reasonable explanation.

I shall have a word or two to say later about the Government's attitude to this matter, and the way in which they are trying to flout the democratic will and traditions of this Chamber. However, before coming to that, I hope that I can begin by getting 100 per cent. support from both sides when I say that we owe a very sincere vote of thanks and deep appreciation to the Library staff for the excellent work undertaken on behalf of hon. Members on both sides. In addition, I want to pay them a tribute for the way in which they have given me some historical background on this matter for Mr. Speaker King's pension.

I begin by saying that every word I now utter will be in the past tense and will not in any way refer to you, Mr. Speaker, or to any other occupant of the Chair, for I appreciate that it would be out of order to make an adverse comment about any occupant of the Chair. The Library staff kindly gave me a factual historical background to the whole subject of the Speaker's pension.

The first Speaker to be awarded a pension was Arthur Onslow, who was Speaker for 33 years, from 1728 to 1761. I emphasise that it was for 33 years, because that will be relevant to my later argument. Mr. Manners-Sutton had a pension granted to him, but in that instance it was passed on, like the hereditary titles in another place, to his sons and heirs. They did a little better in those days than has been the practice in recent years right up to the most recent case, that of Speaker Hylton-Foster in 1965.

It may be unknown to some newer Members and even some older Members that it is a tradition that the House of Commons should oppose Mr. Speaker's pension and I am, therefore, not the unique animal which I have been called. I am following good precedent, because as far back as 1895, when Mr. Speaker Peel retired, that great Speaker still so often quoted in the House, his pension was opposed by none other than the late James Keir Hardie. I am proud to be able to follow a Member who came originally from West Ham, South, a constituency which adjoins mine. Strangely enough, he, too, moved for a reduction of £1,000 a year on grounds somewhat similar to those which I shall advance; namely, that he was dissatisfied with giving pensions to Speakers when old-age pensioners were being shabbily treated, as they then were.

In 1905 James Keir Hardie moved a similar reduction in the pension of Speaker Gully, and in 1928, on Speaker Lowther's retirement, Mr. J. R. Clynes, on behalf of the Official Opposition, amazing as that may seem to some of my hon. Friends, moved a similar reduction. The pension of Speaker Clifton-Brown was opposed, as was that of Speaker Morrison. I am following in good footsteps.

I should like to comment on the procedure adopted by the Government in this matter. It is rather strange how quickly this Government can act when they want to. As soon as Mr. Speaker King retired, within a week or so, there were the official Government-inspired Press leaks. We have become accustomed to these now from all Governments. I exonerate the present Government from any charge of starting a new practice. The leak was designed to sound out public opinion, appearing mainly in the quality newspapers. The Government started a hare running, suggesting that Mr. Speaker King would get a pension of £4,000, £5,000 or £6,000. They let it circulate and then settled upon £5,000.

Within a few weeks of that hare being run the Government tabled a Motion. It is amazing how quickly they can table Motions when they want to. This was done in such a way as to preclude—or so they thought—any debate on the subject because they did not want the House of Commons to debate this in a democratic way. Always they put it down as the very last item, after a very long agenda, hoping that it would go through on the nod at two or three o'clock in the morning when all hon. Members had gone home after a long sitting on the Industrial Relations Bill. Thus the Government would be saved any explanation such as the Minister will have to give now. In addition, public attention would not have been drawn to this and the Press would not have got hold of the matter.

Keir Hardie and J. R. Clynes opposed proposals like this. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) does not have to stop. He can go. I have been here all night and I am still making my speech.

The original opposition was on grounds of the failure to deal with the underprivileged sections, the old-age pensioners and the millions who should have been better treated but were not. There are millions—old-age pensioners, those on welfare benefits of various kinds and the lower-paid workers—who are interested in this subject. That is why I thought it wrong for this to go through without debate.

I also think it is wrong not to have had this debate at a reasonable time. I am adducing reasons why I think the Government who claim to believe in democracy, should have let it come on at a reasonable time, and should not play cat and mouse and try to get it through on the nod. If the hon. Member wants to interject, I have plenty of time—

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

What time is reasonable for democracy and what is not?

Mr. Lewis

The usual time the Government put down is 2.30 to 10.30, in the daytime and not after an all-night sitting on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I do not know when this has been done before, after the Consolidated Fund Bill has been closured, but the hon. Gentleman can look up the records himself. I have the debate, and hon. Members can go.

The Leader of the House is in some way a party to this. I would have liked to see him here because I would like to know his reasons.

I have nothing against Dr. King personally. He is a great friend of mine who came to the House while I was a Member. I was a good friend of his, and I hope I still am. I was one of the hon. Members who canvassed for him to become Mr. Speaker when many hon. Members on both Front Benches who now eulogise him and say what a wonderful Speaker he was did their utmost to prevent him becoming Speaker. Therefore, I am not against the former Mr. Speaker King. When he was a Member I supported many of his campaigns, particularly when they were in favour of more being done for old-age pensioners. If he were here now, he would probably support me on the general principle of this issue. I gave Mr. Speaker King personal notice that when he retired—and this imminent retirement was "leaked" in the Press—I would oppose his pension Motion whenever it came up for debate, not on the question of personality, but on the principle, as I had done previously with regard to Mr. Speaker Morrison and Mr. Speaker Hylton-Foster.

This was the object of the exercise but there happened to be one Member here, the hon. Member for West Ham, North, who would not be worn down. Night after night, morning after morning, consistently over the past fortnight or more he was here, whether it was two, three or six o'clock in the morning. Talking of running hares, it was amazing to find how the Financial Secretary tried to stop democratic debate, not only trying to move this so quickly that it would go through on the nod, but racing in, in the hope of getting it all through without the hon. Member for West Ham, North having a chance to object. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I can say "object" much quicker than he can run through—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am giving the hon. Member a certain amount of latitude in making his speech, but he is moving an Amendment to the Motion. He must bring his arguments to the Amendment.

Mr. Lewis

With great respect, I am opposing the Motion and I am entitled to move my Amendment at any time. I am now speaking on the Motion which was formally moved by the Financial Secretary. Before I come to move my Amendment I can debate and give reasons why I oppose the Motion. I am putting forward as one of the reasons the shabby and under-hand manner in which the Government, in general, and the Minister, in particular, have tried to get this Motion through on the nod. I was explaining how they tried to do it again today. The Minister has not given any reasons; he has moved the Motion formally and I am giving reasons why I oppose it. I will, of course move my Amendments as and when I come to them, giving my reasons.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)

It may be for the convenience of the House if I explain that it seemed to me that debate might most easily arise on the Amendments as I understood that the hon. Gentleman is not opposing the granting of a pension to Mr. Speaker King in total but is merely quarrelling with the amount.

Mr. Lewis

The Minister has had his chance to get up and put his point of view. He purposely declined to do so, and I must ask him not to ask me to give way. He had his opportunity and he could have got up and explained his views.

I will now explain why what the hon. Gentleman assumes to be so is not the case. How does the hon. Gentleman know that I am not opposing Dr. King's pension. I am not concerned about the Opposition. I speak for myself. He must not jump to conclusions, and, with respect, neither must the Chair. The Chair is not entitled to say that I will not oppose the Motion, and, in fact, I am adducing reasons why I think it should be opposed.

One is the shabby way the Minister tried to rush to the Dispatch Box to try to prevent me saying "Object" and to prevent a debate. Day after day, night after night, week after week, the Government tried to prevent debate, but I can move more swiftly than the hon. Gentleman.

It is amazing how the Government can see these things go through on the nod with no debate or discussion. My object is to have good and thorough debate, and I am glad that the little subterfuge on the part of the Government has not worked out. They tried to closure the Consolidated Fund Bill on my Motion and then tried to slip this through after the Bill when they thought everyone would have gone home. I am glad that I have a House so that I can explain my views to hon. Members.

I recollect supporting Mr. Speaker King in one of his campaigns for old-age pensioners at a time when we were discussing Members' salaries. Horace King, Norman Dodds and Emrys Hughes said that they would refuse to take an increase in salaries until the old-age pensioners had had a pensions increase. They did not carry their threat into execution they drew their increased salaries. I did not support them to that extent, but I supported them in saying that old-age pensioners should then—it was in the days of the Labour Government—have an increase, as Members of Parliament should have had. Old-age pensioners and others on welfare benefit are entitled to be considered, perhaps not before, but certainly at the same time as Horace King.

Last week or the week before, the Government said that they could not and would not increase old-age pensions until the autumn review, and they suggested that we had to await the outcome of the review. [Interruption.] I am glad to see the Leader of the House come into the Chamber. I said some not unkind things about him a little while ago. I am sure that he will read them in HANSARD.

I see no reason why old-age pensioners should have to wait until the autumn and the outcome of the review if, as is the case, Mr. Speaker King does not have to await a review of his case.

One cannot deal with the question of pensions and retirement without looking at the conditions of service and employment. Mr. Speaker King, who retired in June, received a salary of £8,500, plus £1,250 as a parliamentary allowance. Of this, the Treasury allowed him to deduct £4,000 a year as a tax-free expense. He had the benefit of a house which was free of rent and rates. He received fuel, heat, lighting, cleaning, furniture and all that goes with that, which, according to answers to Questions, was worth at least £3,000 or £4,000 a year. Unlike school caretakers and public building caretakers or others who have to live on the premises because of the nature of their job, he was not taxed on them as the people I have just mentioned are. I am also advised that he used to get a car, a chauffeur, garage, servicing and upkeep, which again was worth £2,000 a year tax free. He also got his secretarial assistance and facilities for Government hospitality, and so on. All this must total many thousands of pounds tax free.

The former Speaker was also able to travel the world, and did, under various auspices—

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)

When my hon. Friend replies to the specific point about the Speaker's pension I should not wish the hon. Gentleman to think that, because he does not necessarily refer to these various other facts—which the hon. Gentleman says are facts—about a Speaker's emoluments, they are either necessarily accepted or correct.

Mr. Lewis

I wish that the Leader of the House had been here earlier, because he would have heard the fact—and it was a fact—that the Government declined to put forward their case. They declined to give reasons. Hence, I have had to make my own case. But earlier I paid tribute—the Leader of the House was not here, so I must now refer to this again as he has interjected—to Mr. Speaker King and the Library staff, because they had kindly given me the official facts and figures which I got from the Lawrence Report. I shall refer to the Lawrence Report later. It is all factually true and can be quoted. I can give the right hon. Gentleman chapter and verse from the Lawrence Report. I shall have more to say on that later.

I was about to say that the former Speaker also had a number of opportunities for touring the world under various auspices—again with very little or no expense. This will have given Mr. Speaker King in his five and a half years—this is another point which I mentioned earlier when the Leader of the House was not here—less heavy expenses to meet from the salary which I have quoted, but will not quote again to the Leader of the House, from the Lawrence Report. Therefore, the former Speaker is not likely to be as hard pressed and in such difficult circumstances as some of these old-age pensioners and some of those on welfare benefits to whom I have referred.

I have mentioned a number of tax-free emoluments which are in the Lawrence Report. If the Lawrence Report is wrong, I am not to blame. They are quoted there.

It will be noticed that this Motion does not say that it is a pension. The previous ones were pensions. It says "annuity". I should like to know whether this is an annuity or a pension. If it is an annuity, is it tax free?

We know that the Chancellor introduced a new scheme for executives and company directors who, if they had no pension funds, could take out, through insurance companies, an annuity system of payment which would be tax free, but which would be on a contribution basis.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

That is not so.

Mr. Lewis

The Minister will tell me whether it is or is not tax free.

Sir G. Nabarro

It is wrong.

Mr. Lewis

Assuming that I do not oppose the Motion and allow it to go through—at this stage I am trying to get my views across whether I should or should not oppose it—will Mr. Speaker King, in addition to his annuity, get that to which I think he is "entitled"—namely, his teacher's pension and his old-age retirement pension? Will he also be entitled to get a pension from the Members' Fund? Will he also be entitled to claim on the Members' Hardship Fund? He has paid into these funds, but he has not paid for this annuity. I am not suggesting that he will necessarily claim, but will he have the legal right to claim, his 6½ guineas tax-free expenses from the Lords? There have been some precedents for this. Shakespeare Morrison went on to a pension of £4,000 a year. It had originally been understood that he would draw that money and that was the end of the matter. But the Government appointed him to a sinecure as Governor-General of Australia at £10,000 a year on top. There was an uproar in the House —not led by me, incidentally—and he eventually voluntarily relinquished £2,000 of it and only drew £2,000 in addition to his Governor-General's salary.

When this figure was originally fixed at £4,000, it derived from the Lawrence Committee's investigations into Members: Ministers', former Prime Ministers' and former Lord Chancellors' salaries. That suggested a pension of £6,000, and Ministers' salaries were uplifted, but the then Government did not think the time opportune to put it up to £6,000. They reduced it to £4,000 because of inflation, high salary demands and the economic situation.

If that was a good reason then, do this Government now feel that there is no inflationary spiral and no worry about high wage rates? Do they therefore suggest that we should not worry and everything is all right? Former Lord Chancellors and Prime Ministers are still adopting the Lawrence Committee recommendations and are on, or can claim, £4,000 a year when they relinguish any State appointment or income. I do not suggest that, in addition to the salary, the Leader of the Opposition is getting £4,000. He cannot get both, but any time he wants to retire he can claim £4,000, as can Lord Avon and Mr. Macmillan, assuming that they are still drawing: at least they can draw. After one day in office Lord Chancellors can immediately go on a pension of £4,000 a year.

The late Lord Kilmuir, formerly Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, went on a pension of £4,000 a year and immediately took a job as chairman of Plessey at £10,000 a year. Again there was a scream in the House, and he voluntarily declined to accept the £4,000. The point is that this was voluntary. There is no regulation that they should accept only the pension allocated to them. Therefore, I want to know whether or not, if this were agreed, Mr. Speaker King would then be able to take a job as a Governor-General or chairman of Plessey on top of his pension. If that is the case, as it was opposed previously on the same grounds I think that it would also be opposed now.

I have mentioned former Prime Ministers and Lord Chancellors. They were allied to the former Mr. Speaker's rate of £4,000. I happen to be a member of three trade unions. I have been a trade unionist all my life and am proud of it. The present Government have attacked what they call escalation and wage applications, using comparability and relativity Are we to find, as I am dead certain will be the case, that if this proposal goes through to increase the £4,000 by 25 per cent. to £5,000, former Prime Ministers and Lord Chancellors will say, "We were allied to the rate of the former Speaker of £4,000. It has now gone up to £5,000, and normal trade union practice means that we must now ask for an extra 25 per cent. in our pension"? Much as I hate to have to say if, if the Government's proposal were to go through I should find that they would have logic on their side, because if one pensioner's rate went up by 25 per cent. and the others were based upon that, there would be a case for them to argue that they should, in fairness, have the same treatment.

I have mentioned the Lawrence Committee, and the Leader of the House interposed. The fact is that the Leader of the House months ago said that he would set up a review body to consider the salaries and conditions of Members of Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is coming."] But the Leader of the House did not work with the same expedition for that as he did with Mr. Speaker King's Motion. He has not tried to get it done with the same haste.

When Mr. Speaker's emoluments, conditions of employment and pension were investigated by the same Lawrence Committee which investigated Members' salaries, Ministers' salaries, Ministers' pensions and all the rest—and, arising from that, his salary, conditions and pensions were settled. Why is Mr. Speaker King being contracted out? Why is he not put in with the review body which, the Leader of the House says, he will set up some time in the distant future?

I cannot see why it could not be left that there is to be a review body. I have mentioned two review bodies. The old-age pensioner is to have a review body in the autumn. The salary and conditions of Members of Parliament are to be review. Why cannot Dr. King, who was formerly treated on the same basis, be reviewed? He could go temporarily on to the Members' Fund, on which he is entitled to draw because he has contributed. Pending that, he could, no doubt, await the review body's decision.

I want to pay a sincere tribute to Horace King—whom I knew personally and with whom I worked—because he was a very good man. But he occupied the Chair for only five and a half years, not 33 years. I agree that he should get a pension; I am not against that. I am not, perhaps, against the £4,000 if I can be assured on the points that I have put forward. I cannot, however, understand the logic or fairness of saying that on a non-contributory basis he should get the equivalent of £900 per year for every year he served in office—that is, if it is based upon his earnings—or, to put it another way, 60 per cent. of his retiring salary. I tdoes not matter which way it is done, whether on an annual increment basis for years of service or on the basis of a percentage of salary. That is not logical, because he will be better off financially in retirement than if he had remained Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether the Government understand this. Mr. Speaker King can well be better off financially in retirement, if the Government's proposal goes through unopposed, than if he had remained Speaker.

I am pleased to pay my tribute to the great parliamentary record of Horace King. Like me, he came here in 1945.

Sir G. Nabarro

In 1950.

Mr. Lewis

Then he came here five years after I did. Dr. King worked hard here. He did a 5½year stint as Speaker. He gave great service to Parliament. However, other great Parliamentarians have also given 5½ years service but they have not been so fairly treated. Indeed, there is one great Parliamentarian whose virtues I now extol and whose name I shout out loud, namely the great and noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who did an enormous amount of work for Parliament, not for 5½ years, but for 48 years. Indeed, he is still serving Parliament. Lord Shinwell, after 48 years hard and diligent work in Parliament, gets the odd sum of not £900 per year of service but £900 in total.

Sir G. Nabarro


Mr. Lewis

After tax, £600.

Sir G. Nabarro


Mr. Lewis

Mr. John Gordon of the Sunday Express, in supporting my opposition to the Motion, said that politician do themselves very well on pensions. John Gordon is wrong. Some politicians —not all—do themselves well. Lord Shinwell—we affectionately knew him, and still know him, as "Manny" Shinwell—did an enormous job for Parliament and receives the handsome reward of £900 a year.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if Lord Shinwell had for 48 years contributed on a commercial basis outside the House to an insurance for a pension he would have received seven times as much in pension today as he has from successively mean Governments?

Mr. Lewis

I am obliged, although the hon. Gentleman has stolen my thunder. I shall go one better. If Lord Shinwell were treated as generously as it is proposed to treat Dr. King, he would get after 48 years at £900 a year a pension of £43,200. Everyone would say that that is a bit farcical, but the analogy is there. Dr. King is to get £900 a year for each year of service. Lord Shinwell, at 48 times £900, would get £43,200 per year. Even if it were to be based on a percentage of the last year's earnings, such as Dr. King will have under this proposal, Lord Shinwell would get 60 per cent. of his then salary of £3,250—namely, £1,950 or about three times what he now gets.

I support the Government in their attitude when they say, "We must be careful. We must stop this escalation of demands and wage applications. We must ensure that other people do not get on the bandwagon." I read recently in the Press that there is a certain noble Lord—Lord Robens—who has resigned from a full-time job to take on two part-time jobs and that he is now negotiating a pension. What will happen if Lord Robens says, "Mr. Speaker King got £5,000 a year for doing five and a half years' service. I have done 10 years. He was getting £12,000 a year. I am getting £20,000. I deserve a pension of at least £10,000 a year; that is, on top of the £20,000 which, as a part-time employee of two concerns, I am able to earn."

We are constantly told that the trouble with the country is that the workers are always asking for more. The trouble is that the workers referred to in that context are those in the lower income groups like the dustmen, postmen, nurses, engineers, bricklayers and carpenters. Ministers from the Prime Minister down-wards are always telling them that they must not ask for more and that nothing can be granted above production levels lest inflation goes wild.

By raising this matter I am not getting at Horace King personally. I have also attacked increases granted to the higher-paid members of the Civil Service, the judges and the chairmen of nationalised boards. Some of them have been allowed to get 62½ per cent. Not only have I been here all night to raise this point but I have been here virtually every night for the past fortnight. I happened to tune in on my little pocket radio this morning and I heard a music hall song which I recall my late beloved father singing. One line struck me.

Sir G. Nabarro

Sing it to us, Arthur.

Mr. Lewis

I speak well but I do not sing at all well. The line went: It's the rich wot gets the pleasures and the poor wot gets the blame. That old cockney song sums up the position well. I trust that John Gordon, who I think is deputy editor of the Sunday Express, will take note of my remarks. If hon. Members were treated half as well as we propose to treat our former Speaker, we would not have much to complain about in John Gordon's comments.

A postal workers' strike is in progress. What is it all about? They are arguing about figures ranging from 8 per cent. to 10 per cent., or perhaps a little more. We are told that they are asking for too much. I want Tom Jackson to bear in mind that the Government set up Wilberforce to try to stop the power workers getting more than 10 per cent. They have adopted the same attitude towards other groups of workers.

They are, on the other hand, suggesting that, in addition to his £4,000 a year, this man should receive an increase of 25 per cent., giving him £100 a week. Meanwhile, the poor old Post Office worker wants £2 extra to make his money up to £16 a week. Will not many civil servants say that if a 25 per cent. rise is okay for one man it should be good enough for them? There might be a scream later if ex-Members, now retired, get an increase. I am told by a little bird that flies round this place that for months past the Treasury has opposed a proposition that former Members should get increases in their pensions. Obstacles have been put in the way, because the Treasury feels that the implementation of such a proposal would have a bad effect in the country.

It is amazing how, whenever there is a proposal likely to affect the salaries, conditions or pensions of Members of Parliament, it is always said that it will have a bad effect in the country. It is never said about judges, the chairmen of nationalised industries, higher-paid civil servants, or the Speaker.

I am told that the Treasury has been opposing a 20 per cent. increase for Members, although I understand that it will come through. But, if it comes along, the difference is that Members of Parliament have a contributory pension scheme, albeit a very poor one. As I have said, after 48 years' service, the maximum that a retiring Member can get is £900 a year. If it comes about, it will be on a contributory basis. However, retiring Members of Parliament will not receive the same treatment as that now suggested for the Speaker. The pension of a Member of Parliament will not be based on 65 per cent. of the salary that he was getting or £900 per year on the basis of years of service.

I can make the House very happy. I can make the Chief Whip and the Government very happy. I can even make the Treasury happy. If I were to be offered the same pension rights as those being offered to Dr. King, I would go on pension tomorrow. The Government could get rid of me. I would have 26 years at £900 a year. It would pay me to go on pension rather than remain in the House. However, I do not believe that the Government will treat me or other hon. Members as fairly or as generously as they now propose to treat Dr. King.

Just now, the Leader of the House came into the Chamber and went out again, not denying the accuracy of my figures but saying that the Minister would not confirm them. However, I do not want him to confirm them. Any hon. Member who requires confirmation will find the figures in the Lawrence Report.

The former Speaker has been receiving an adequate salary. He cannot be as hard-pressed as some of our constituents. Many thousands of them find it difficult to manage. Some are permanently disabled. Some are receiving industrial injuries benefit, health benefits, retirement benefits, and so on. The Government are not acting with the same expedition in those instances as they are in this case, and I suggest that if the Government intend to single out certain better-paid people for preferential treatment they should realise that such actions cause trouble in the ranks of the trade unions.

As the Financial Secretary knows, I have tabled about 25 Motions, all of which are headed Justice must not only be done but must obviously be seen to be done. I have drawn attention to the 101 different cases where this Government have deliberately and with malice aforethought gone out of their way to assist those in the higher income groups, who are better off and more able to look after themselves, more than they have those on lower incomes.

In view of the shabby way in which the Government have tried to "nod through" this proposal without public discussion and without attention being directed to it, may I ask whether the Bill will be so drawn that I shall be able in Committee to move Amendments to it? If I am assured of that, I shall think twice before moving my Amendments to the Motion, but if once the House has agreed to the principle of the £5,000 it is difficult for me to suggest Amendments to that amount, I shall have to continue my opposition to the Motion. I want to be assured that it will be possible to amend the Bill in Committee and that there will be adequate opportunity to do so and that the Government will not adopt any underhanded subterfuge and bring the matter forward at two or three o'clock in the morning, because it has an important bearing on wages, prices and dividends.

My constituents are dockers, engineers, bricklayers and carpenters, the lower-paid workers. The Government have increased the cost of a television licence. I do not blame them, and it may well have been the responsibility of the former Government. But my constituents cannot be expected to pay that and increased fares and pay more for gas and electricity and other costs if increased pensions are refused to them but paid to the former Speaker.

I invite the Financial Secretary to come to the street markets in my constituency, to Rathbone Place and to the Angel, where he will find old-age pensioners buying scrag end of lamb, just a few bones to make a stew and try to get a decent meal. They will be discussing pennies and halfpennies, not because of decimalisation, but because that is all they can afford for a meal. They cannot afford to buy a pound of carrots costing just a few coppers and so they ask whether they can buy half a pound, and the stallholders, being the good Cockneys they are, will say, "You may have half a pound, although I do not usually sell in that weight" and then give a pound, but charge for only a half. I am talking not about buying caviar or rump steak but about buying potatoes and carrots. As hon. Members know, people blame not the Government but their Members, and they ask me, "Is it right that you refused us a pension at the same time as you gave an extra £1,000 a year to the former Speaker who was already getting £80 plus a week?" They ask: Is that fair or reasonable? Is it Christian? I do not think it is. I ask the Financial Secretary to bear this in mind.

I now formally beg to move to leave out £5,000' and insert '£4,000'.

10.7 a.m.

Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)

Although the House as a whole understands that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) speaks only for himself and is entirely alone in the line that he is taking, it might be misunderstood outside if on this Motion the House relied simply on what I have no doubt will be the devastating reply of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. It is right that someone should speak from these Benches and express warm enthusiasm for the proposal put forward in the Motion, and complete hostility to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member.

In a word, Mr. Speaker, your predecessor was a loyal and devoted servant of this House and spent himself in its service, in what—and at this particular moment I do not think you will disagree with me—is one of the most exhausting offices to which a man can be called. It is a fact that your predecessor was a devoted servant of this House, and it would be wrong and would seem ungenerous on the part of the House if this House were even to appear to demur against providing what is, in modern terms, the normal provision for a man who has held such an office.

There is a certain irony in this, that this foray not only should be launched against the first occupant of your office to come from the Labour Party—and a very worthy representative of that party indeed—but that the opposition should be linked with the needs of retirement pensioners. Before he went to the Chair, and in the Chair, your predecessor was particularly concerned about the needs of such people. No one could challenge him in his care and concern for the old, the sick and the retired.

Their case, real as it is, is nothing to do with this provision. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will deal with such arguments as emerged during the course of the speech which we have had to endure. I will deal only with two. The hon. Member saw fit to refer to the remuneration received by Mr. Speaker King during his tenure of office and suggested by that reference, accurate or not, that there was no need to make proper pension provision. It will be within the knowledge of the House that the occupant of your office is exposed, as a result of holding that office, to very heavy expenses indeed.

It is again ironical in these circumstances that when your predecessor retired hon. Members on all sides paid tribute to the generous hospitality that they had received at his hands. Everyone knows that the occupant of Speaker's House is compelled, whether he likes it or not, to undertake a great burden, much of which may be very dreary to him, by way of entertaining. It is extremely improbable that he is other than out of pocket over the whole thing.

There was this extraordinary argument that this is a 25 per cent. increase on the Lawrence Committee recommendations.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I did not say that.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. Member said precisely that. If he will look in HANSARD tomorrow, he will see that it is so. He said that the Government cannot possibly then object to people seeking 8 per cent. or 10 per cent., but if he had paused for a moment he would perceive that the Government objection is to 8 per cent. or 10 per cent. being given to people who received increases last year. The Lawrence Committee's recommendation was made in 1964. It in fact recommended more than is now being given. But even taking the current 1964 figure of £4,000, the increase of 25 per cent. over that is spread over six years, and so amounts only to something like 4 per cent. per annum.

There was a complete lack of substance and reality in the speech with which the hon. Member detained us for a period not short of one hour.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Exactly one hour.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I am obliged to the Financial Secretary, who says "Exactly one hour", for a speech full of the half truths, irrelevancies, and illogicalities of just the character to which I referred.

I have one criticism of the Motion with which I hope my hon. Friend will deal. No doubt it follows custom that the provision for Mrs. King, should Mr. Speaker King predecease her, amounts to only one third of the pension which the House will bestow upon her husband. This may follow precedent, but modern pension practice normally provides at any rate half-rate pension for a widow.

I have found that in public affairs we as a country treat widows very badly indeed, relatively worse than their husbands. It is difficult for a woman who has been bereaved and in that state of shock suddenly and drastically to have to curtail the standard of life she has enjoyed while her husband has been alive. One third is mean and inadequate. I would like the Government to consider following contemporary pension practice, which provides at least one-half pension. In many cases it is two-thirds. The House as a whole would feel that any inadequacy in the treatment of Mrs. King, whose kindness we remember with warm enthusiasm, would strike a jarring note.

I give my enthusiastic support for proper and prompt provision for your predecessor. I am sorry that the action of the hon. Member for West Ham, North has delayed its being enacted with a promptitude which would have had a certain appropriateness about it but I hope it will go through this morning.

10.13 a.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has delivered some brief and pungent comments on the speech of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). Perhaps I may therefore take it as relieving me of any obligation to reiterate it, and on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends and the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members opposite I would say that we would wholly dissociate ourselves from the strictures of the hon. Member for West Ham, North.

It would be helpful to remind the House of the nature of our proceedings. Apart from a brief reference in the end of his speech, I gained the impression that the hon. Member for West Ham, North did not understand it. We are engaged, Mr. Speaker, on a Ways and Means Resolution on which I hope to be able to found a Bill to provide for pensions for your predecessor and for his widow. I hope that the Bill will be introduced at the end of this debate. It will have to go through the usual process of Second Reading and Committee stage. Therefore, it is entirely to ignore the reality of the matter to argue, as the hon. Gentleman sought to argue, that night after night he had to object to the introduction of this Ways and Means Resolution to have his say, for what it is worth. He knows it to be wrong because at the end of his speech he started asking questions about the Bill, and having first indicated that he would not move his Amendment, he moved it. The hon. Gentleman proceeds in a most extraordinary way.

The hon. Member asked two questions about the Bill. The first was whether it would be amendable. The hon. Gentleman may in the normal course table Amendments which are in order. Secondly, he asked about finding time for the Bill. That must be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who has taken note of the hon. Gentleman's points.

I do not believe that I am alone in approaching debates of this nature with some degree of diffidence. They are sensitive debates, dealing as they do with individuals known and widely respected on both sides of the House. But the hon. Gentleman, as was his right, raised a number of issues, and I will do my best to answer them.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames completely punctured the false allegation which was the sole foundation of the greater part of the speech of the hon. Member for West Ham, North; namely, that we were granting a 25 per cent. pension increase over and above the recommendation of the Lawrence Committee.

Mr. Arthur Lewis


Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman indicates that he did not say that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and I distinctly heard him say that the figure of £4,000 was fixed on the basis of the Lawrence Report. That was quite untrue. The Lawrence Report recommended £6,000, and the proposed pension is £1,000 less than the amount recommended by the Lawrence Report.

The figure of £4,000 stood for well over 100 years. It was in 1832—the year of the Reform Bill—that the figure of —4,000 became established for a Speaker's pension. It remained at £4,000 until 1959.

Sir G. Nabarro

What was income tax then?

Mr. Jenkin

My impression is that there was not any. It ended at the end of the Napoleonic wars and was not reintroduced until 20 years afterwards.

In 1964 the Lawrence Committee was set up to consider the remuneration of Ministers and hon. Members. It recommended that the Speaker's salary should be increased from £5,000 to £12,000—the level for senior Ministers, also recommended in the Report—and that his pension should be £6,000. However, the House will recollect, and certainly Ministers and former Ministers will keenly recollect, that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), the then Prime Minister, decided, in accepting the generality of the Lawrence Committee's recommendations, that increases for the Prime Minister and for Ministers should be abated by half on the assumption that the other half would follow later. Mr. Speaker was covered by this decision, and instead of an increase of £7,000 being made in his salary, only half that was awarded, and his salary has been £8,500 since.

The Committee also recommended that Mr. Speaker's pension should follow as of right, but both parties have felt it more appropriate to follow the traditional pattern and to vote the pension in a separate Act at the time of each retirement. But the amount is to be fixed on exactly the same principle. The Lawrence Committee recommended a £2,000 increase. Half of that is £1,000. Thus we get the figure of £5,000. Therefore, for the hon. Gentleman to argue, as he did throughout his speech, that somehow the provision which the Bill will make for Mr. Speaker King represents a 25 per cent. increase on what went before is entirely wide of the mark. On the contrary, the amount is £1,000 a year less than was recommended by the Lawrence Commit- tee over six years ago. It is right that the public should be aware of that.

The House will remember with sadness that Sir Harry Hylton-Foster died in office; but the then Government—our predecessors—decided that it was appropriate to fix his widow's pension by reference to what the Speaker's pension would have been following the principles which I have just enunciated. That was the first precedent.

The Resolution, and the Bill which I am seeking to introduce today if the Resolution is accepted—as I hope it will be—by fixing £5,000 as the former Speaker's pension, do no more than apply the principle which was established in 1965 by the previous Administration.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that it was excessive. I have no doubt that he would wish—indeed, his Amendment, which he moved formally at the end of his speech, seeks—to return to the figure fixed in 1832. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is seriously arguing that all the other categories of people to whom he referred in his long speech should return to the levels of remuneration which were appropriate in 1832. If so, I suggest that he stands up and says so.

It is invidious to compare the office of Mr. Speaker with any other office or profession. The office of Speaker of the House of Commons is unique, and the amount to be fixed for his remuneration and pension must, in the last resort, be a matter of judgment. I have explained how the £5,000 was reached. In present circumstances, and for the reasons which I have stated, the Government believe that it is right.

The hon. Gentleman asked: is it an annuity or a pension? It is a pension.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether it is tax free. No, it is not.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Mr. Speaker King will get his teacher's pension. That must be a matter between Dr. King and his superannuation fund.

As to Mr. Speaker King's retirement pension, that must depend on his contributions.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Mr. Speaker King would be entitled to a pension from the Members' Pension Fund. No. When Mr. Speaker takes office, he leaves the Members' Pension Fund.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Mr. Speaker King would be entitled to a pension from the Members' Hardship Fund. That could not possibly be relevant, because it exists to help Members in indigent circumstances.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether Mr. Speaker King would be entitled to claim what as he described as the six and a half guineas per day tax-free expenses. The hon. Gentleman has persisted, month after month, through dozens of Questions, the cost of which I cannot begin to guess, to misunderstand the nature of the payment made to noble Lords in another place. They are entitled to reimbursement of expenses actually incurred—

Mr. Lewis

I asked about Members of this House.

Mr. Jenkin

I am talking about members of another place. They are entitled to reimbursement of expenses actually incurred up to the level of six pounds and fifty pence a day.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of references to Lords Chancellors and Prime Ministers, and indulged in that curious kind of distorted egalitarianism which somehow is able to compare Mr. Speaker with the old-age pensioners but classes Members of Parliament with old-age pensioners and demands increases in the pensions of Members of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman must make up his mind where he stands. I do not pretend to understand how his mind works in these matters.

I turn to one question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames about the pension which would be paid to Mr. Speaker King's wife should she survive him. This is fixed, and has been since 1959, when the widow's pension first became payable at a third of the pension. The figure in the Resolution is £1,667 per annum. This figure of a third was considered appropriate in 1959 because that was the normal public service practice. It applies to the Prime Minister, to the Lord Chancellor, and generally in the public service. It was felt right to follow precedent in 1959, and again in 1965, when the House voted a pension for Lady Hylton-Foster on her husband's death in office. On balance, I think that it was right that it should be followed in the present Bill.

I entirely take the force of my right hon. Friend's argument that a third is a figure which no longer represents the generality of provision, either in public or in private occupations. It would seem that this was pre-eminently a matter for consideration by the review body which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced on 4th December would be competent—it would have a reference made to it—to consider the whole question of Ministers' and Members' remunerations and pensions.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Before leaving that point, and although I accept that this is no doubt an appropriate matter for the review body, would my hon. Friend, before introducing the Bill and before the Government reach a final decision on this matter, consider whether practice in other and analogous fields has not changed in recent years? Whereas in 1959 widowhood provision was quite a rare part of any pension scheme, today provision up to a half or indeed two-thirds is now a regular practice. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want the Government in this respect to fall behind the usual practice. He will find, I think, if he goes into the matter that even in matters closely related to the public service a half is the usual practice.

Mr. Jenkin

I take very strong note of what my right hon. Friend has said, and will undertake to consider this between now and the Committee stage, to see whether a change would be appropriate. But I cannot give any wider undertaking. I see the strength of the argument, and it is one with which many right hon. and hon. Members will have a great deal of sympathy.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I am sure that there are hon. Members on both sides who share the view of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) on this point. It seems that a widow's pension should be some proportion of her husband's salary whether she happens to be the widow of a civil servant or someone who is not a civil servant. But all we need at this stage from the hon. Gentleman is an assurance that it will be possible, notwithstanding the usual technicalities of the Queen's recommendations and so on, for us to discuss it in Committee and possibly decide it on a free vote of the House. I do not think that this is a partisan issue.

Mr. Jenkin

I entirely take the point. I understand that this is perfectly open to be discussed in Committee, and no doubt opportunities will be found for this. I have indicated some degree of sympathy with the general argument. The question will turn on whether it is appropriate that we should innovate on this Bill, or whether we should await the recommendations of the review body to which the whole question is to be referred.

There may be other issues. I hope that I have answered all the relevant questions of the hon. Member for West Ham, North. I think that he recognised that most arguments could equally well have been put on Second Reading or in Committee rather than on the Resolution.

We have had what I think one newspaper described as one of the longest runs in the Westminster farce in the last few weeks by trying to get this Resolution introduced—[Interruption.] Indeed, and in the end the hon. Gentleman has forced a debate on the Ways and Means Resolution, every word of which could have been said in the ordinary course on the Bill.

However, the hon. Member acknowledged that one thing which no one enters politics for in Britain is to get rich. Many of our leading statesmen leave little or nothing when they die, as we have had reason to know recently. The attitude of the House towards the remuneration and pensions of our own Members could by no stretch of the imagination be called extravagant. It is nevertheless fitting that those who serve the House in that most arduous and demanding of offices, the office which you hold, Mr. Speaker, should be entitled to retain in retirement a standard of living which reflects not only the dignity of the office which they once held but also the gratitude of the House which they served. That is the purpose of the Bill which I seek to introduce, founded upon the Resolution which I now commend to the House.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) wish formally to move his other Amendment?

Mr. Arthur Lewis

No, Sir.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the annual sum of £5,000 be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom for the payment of an annuity to the right hon. Horace Maybray King, lately Speaker of the House of Commons, and that, if Una King, his wife, survives him, the annual sum of £1,667 be granted as aforesaid, for the payment of an annuity to her.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the foregoing Resolution by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Prime Minister, Mr. Reginald Maudling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Patrick Jenkin.


Bill to settle and secure annuities upon the Right Honourable Horace Maybray King, and after his death upon his wife, Una King, in consideration of his eminent services, presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time this day and to be printed. [Bill 97]

    1. c1566