HC Deb 18 January 1972 vol 829 cc349-67

10.14 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 13, at end insert: Provided that in every case £1,750 of the salary payable shall be regarded as an allowance provided pursuant to paragraphs (3) and (4) of the Resolution of this House, entitled Parliamentary Expenses, of 20th December 1971 and shall be paid only after office holders have claimed such allowance in the manner prescribed for other Members of this House and have established their claim thereto. I wish to make it clear at the outset that I am not against Ministers of the Crown receiving salary increases, just as I am not against hon. Members receiving them. Perhaps I should declare my interest in that I have voted for, and declared myself in support of, the Boyle Committee's recommendation that salaries should be increased.

I think it wrong that Ministers should receive increases well over and above the 38 per cent. which has been awarded to hon. Members. This figure of 38 per cent. should not be considered a once-and-for-all award, because it represents eight years' arrears, so that it means a salary increase of 4½ per cent. per annum, which is fair and reasonable.

In making these comments, and in the comments that I shall make on this subject through the night, I want it to be clearly understood that I do not have personalities in mind. I have no animosity against any Minister, past or present, with the Leader of the Opposition or with any of the Whips. I wish them well and I am the first to agree that they are entitled to adequate salaries.

In addition to the 150 per cent. and 175 per cent. salary increases which they are to get, it is proposed that the extra £1,250 which Ministers and other office holders have been in the habit of receiving should be increased to £3,000.

What is perhaps not understood is that today we have been discussing whether the miners, in asking for an increase of £9 a week, are asking for too much. I agree that to the poor old worker on the bench £9 a week may seem a lot, but some of these increases for Ministers, ex-Ministers and future Ministers work out at £5,000 to £6,000 a year, and I consider that to be a reasonable increase even for the best of my friends.

In addition, we are told that the sum of £1,250 which Ministers can claim as an allowance is to be increased to £3,000. That is £60 a week. That is a not insignificant sum, and yet today we have been debating the miners' claim for £9 a week. The Government tell workers who work with their hands and with their brains, who work in the pits, in the docks and in the workshops that they must limit their increases to 7 per cent. or thereabouts. I am told that if we go into the Common Market wage increases will be limited to between 6 per cent. and 7 per cent. That has already been laid down. I do not know how some of my hon. Friends who are in favour of the Common Market can oppose the Government on the miners' pay issue, bearing in mind that when we go into the Common Market we shall be statutorily confined to increases of between 6 per cent. and 7 per cent. for miners and everyone else.

It is suggested here that Ministers and other office holders should have their allowance of £1,250 per year—not a bad supplementary allowance—increased to £3,000. In my Amendment I suggest that the figure of £3,000 should be reduced by £1,750. In other words, I am suggesting that we should leave the figure as it is.

There is a good precedent for that, because my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, thought that the time was not opportune, and that perhaps it was not morally right, while he was supporting a wage freeze and an incomes policy, for his Ministers to accept the full award of the Lawrence Committee. The Government will say that this is a report from the Boyle Committee, and that they have agreed to accept its report in toto. It is nice to know that when they want to do so the Government can accept a committee's report in toto. They do not always do so. We know that in the past this Government, and others, too, have not accepted in toto. each and every committee's report.

I remember the time when the nurses were offered an award, but the Minister of Health at the time would not accept the independent committee of inquiry's recommendation. I shall not argue whether the nurses were more entitled to an increase than Ministers are—it would be a fascinating exercise to do so—because I understand that the nurses have put in for a new increase. But I do not think that they have put in for a 175 per cent. increase, though I am not sure that they would not be entitled to do so. Indeed, I should support them if they did put in such a claim.

I do not want it to be thought that I am miserly. If someone merits any increase, I am the first to support it. That is why I support an increase in Members' salaries and Ministerial salaries, provided that Ministers are treated on a democratic basis and receive the same percentage increase tied to the cost of living as is suggested, and as will be implemented from next month, for Members.

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

This month.

Mr. Lewis

We shall receive it next month, but it will apply from this month. The right hon. Gentleman is right, as usual. He may not be right on major political issues, but on this matter he is absolutely right.

I should be the first to agree that, if Ministers had to provide their own transport, they might well be entitled to the £3,000, but they do not have to provide their own transport. If they had to meet the cost of secretarial salaries, as Members do—

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

They do.

Mr. Lewis

Let me finish. If they had to pay the salaries of their civil servants whilst they were engaged on secretarial work connected with their Ministerial jobs—now does the hon. Gentleman wish to interject, "So they do"?—it would be different. Ministers pay for secretarial services performed by their private secretaries out of their Members' salary. I agree that they are entitled to recompense, but it should be on the same basis as that for Members —£1.000 per year. A Minister doing his parliamentary work should not be entitled to claim £3,000 to pay for a secretary to help him with his parliamentary work as compared with an ordinary Member receiving £1,000 for the same service.

Therefore, the £3,000 is unreasonable and is £2.000 more than a Member will receive for the same secretarial work; because if a Minister is doing his Ministerial work his civil servant will do the Civil Service clerical work. If a Minister is doing his parliamentary work as distinct from his Ministerial work, his private secretary should do the secretarial work.

We know that Ministers must travel, and it would be wrong for Ministers to have to pay their travelling expenses whilst on Ministerial duties. But a Minister does not have to do that. A car is provided for him or he gets certain facilities. It would be wrong if a Minister had to pay travelling costs out of his Ministerial salary or parliamentary allowance while his civil servants were reimbursed in full or indeed made a profit.

10.30 p.m.

A Minister, like his civil servants, while carrying out his Ministerial duties, is reimbursed for his hotel costs or receives a cash payment of £6.50 per day. I shall later refer to the fact that Members of the House of Lords receive £8.50 per day tax free. I am not sure whether the rate for civil servants has been increased to equal that received by their Lordships. It might be argued that they are entitled to the same rate. If Members of the House of Lords can get £8.50 tax free for putting their nose in at the door and saying, "I am here, Charlie. Give me £8.50 tax free in addition to the £1,000 a year to which I am entitled", Ministers may argue that they. are entitled to the same treatment. However, some hon. Members on this side of the House might object.

I would resolve the miners' strike tomorrow if I could say to them, "Go back to work; you do not have to worry. We shall give you the same as Members of the House of Lords are getting, £8.50, for putting your nose in at the pit and saying, 'I have clocked on'"

Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip, Northwood)

Does the hon. Gentleman think that the miners would go back to work if everybody in the House agreed to a 10 per cent. reduction in our proposed salaries?

Mr. Lewis

The hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood my point. I would bet the hon. and learned Gentleman £10 to a penny that if Joe Gormley or Laurance Daly were told by the Government that if the miners went back to work tomorrow they would be able to claim £8.50 per day tax free every time they put their noses in at the pit door, whether they worked or not—I would not work in a pit for £10 a day—the strike would be resolved. The Government would not have to ennoble any miners; they would not have to give them any titles.

I am pointing out how unfair the system is in treating one section of the population who are Ministers or office holders or ex-office holders—

Mr. Mawby

Or Members of Parliament.

Mr. Lewis

No. I am referring not to salary increases but to the fact that certain categories of people are to have their £1,250 a year increased to £3,000— £1,750 extra.

Mr. Mawby

Why did not the hon. Gentleman vote against the Motion to raise Members' pay?

Mr. Lewis

I must start all over again, and the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Opposition Chief Whip will have to blame the hon. Gentleman for interrupting. I declared an interest at the start. I am not against Members having an increase, and I voted for it. I am not against Ministers having an increase. But we are not on salary increases; we are on the question of a special allowance, which Ministers are at present receiving of £1,250 a year and which is being increased to £3,000 on top of their salary increase.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

The main point is that Members of Parliament and Ministers should have some way of writing off expenses in their constituency, and that any expense in excess of the secretarial allowance or other allowances should be written off. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree. I understand that it must be written off against a Parliamentary salary and not against a Ministerial salary.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman makes exactly the point that I have been trying to make. I am all in favour of Ministers having the same opportunity as Members to write off a reasonable figure. In the case of M.Ps. the figure is £1,000 a year per secretary, or more if that can be substantiated, but a Member cannot get £3,000 a year laid down as a write-off. He is limited—and I do not object to this—by the Resolution of the House to £1,000. If he can substantiate more, he can claim it. I am suggesting that Ministers should be put in exactly the same position. By all means let them have £1,000 a year for a secretary, which is reasonable. By all means let them claim extra, up to £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000, but they must then substantiate it in some way, as Members must.

But I went on to explain that Ministers will get this £3,000 as an allowance which is undefined, and I am not clear why they should have preferential treatment as Ministers for their parliamentary job. Certainly as Ministers they must be entitled to higher salaries than ordinary Members. As we are living in a capitalist system, not many hon. Members would, just for the honour and glory of being a Minister, accept the expense and the additional worry and responsibility of being a Minister for the same salary as a Member.

But we are not on that. We agree that they should get extra for being Ministers, but why should a Minister, a junior Minister or, to be fair to the Government, my right hon. Friend the Opposition Chief Whip or the Leader of the Opposition, be able to claim £3,000 as an expense allowance and Members of Parliament be able to claim £1,000 for the same type of activity? The Leader of the Opposition also has a car provided, so he does not have that additional expense. I had better read the Amendment: Provided that in every case £1,750 of the salary payable shall be regarded as an allowance … I see that I have given hon. Members an extra £500. At the moment they get £1,250. I have slipped up. I should have said £1,250, but the cost of living has gone up.

Over the years I have put down many Motions about justice not only being done but being seen to be done. Justice is not being seen to be done if we make Ministers and junior Ministers an allowance of £3,000 for their parliamentary duties and we make Members of Parliament an allowance of £1,000.

Mr. Mawby

This is not clever.

Mr. Lewis

It is not clever, but it is important. This is factually true although hon. Members may not like it. The hon. Gentleman has again interjected from a sedentary position. If he makes a serious interjection I will deal with it, but not silly points.

Mr. Mawby


Mr. Lewis

I am not giving way yet. I will give way in my own time. I do not intend to be clever. I intend to put the facts before the people. The Government have brought this on late at night so that the general public and the Press do not hear about it—

Mr. Robert Mellish (Bermondsey)

That just is not true. The reason for the Bill coming on at this time of night is that the Government made a concession to me that the business arranged for the whole day, which was this Bill, was put on after 10 o'clock so that the House could debate the coal miners' dispute which the Government agreed was of paramount importance.

Mr. Lewis

I apologise to the Leader of the House and to my right hon. Friend if I said wrongly that the Government had brought it on. Technically they have, but I accept that it was done by arrangement through the usual channels. I am not a party to the usual channels.

Mr. Mellish

That is just as well.

Mr. Lewis

I have to be careful how I put this because I see that the Chairman of Ways and Means is in the Chair and that his Deputy is about to take over. There is nothing personal in this. I have the greatest admiration for the Chairman of Ways and Means, so if I criticise him it is not as a person but as an office holder. What do I find? That the Chairman of Ways and Means is to have, in addition to his salary increase, an increase from £1,250 to £3,000.

The Chairman

Order. In the interests of accuracy I should point out that my salary and allowances are not affected by the Bill.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Lewis

I am not on salaries, I am on allowances, and, with great respect, the Chairman is involved. The Chairman of Ways and Means, the Deputy Chairman, the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Chief Whip, two other Whips and some others, are all involved.

I turn to deal with Mr. Speaker. Rightly, he has a staff and an office to help him in his duties. I have not been able to ascertain what that involves, but I know that he has a secretary, and secretarial staff, and that they do an admirable job. But I dot not know why they should have the increase. I am not personalising this. If I were, I should attack the Leader of the House and his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

The Prime Minister gets this increase, in addition to his £4,000 a year tax-free expenses, car, chauffeur, free coal, light, gas and so on. And there is a tax-free bonus of £37,000 from the Brussels Commission.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is my hon. Friend saying that the Prime Minister is having coal delivered at this time? If so I will arrange a picket.

Mr. Lewis

I was not suggesting that the Prime Minister might be getting black-leg coal. I was pointing out that he has 10 Downing Street, Chequers, free coal, gas, light and so on. It has been estimated that the facilities in Westminster are worth £6,000 a year.

Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends come here day after day and say that the right hon. Gentleman is the most wicked Prime Minister that we have ever had and the most awful Prime Minister that the country has ever had. He has attacked our school children by depriving them of their free milk. He has been responsible for increasing the rents of the poor, the disabled, and the miners. He has been responsible for a tediously long list of awful, retrogressive Measures. On the very day that the right hon. Gentleman tells us to oppose any increase for the miners, on the very day that he will no doubt tip the wink to the authorities in the hospital services to refuse the nurses their increase because it is above the 7 per cent. that the Government have laid down, we are expected to award the right hon. Gentleman, in addition to a salary increase, another £1,750 a year on top of his £1,250 a year and on top of his £4,000 a year tax free.

I will settle for a negotiated settlement—

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Lewis

No, not arbitration. That is what we have told the miners. I will settle for a negotiated settlement. If the Prime Minister and the Government indicate that they are content with their own suggested mean of 7 per cent as an increase on both the salary and the tax-free allowance, I will accept it. But they are not doing that. Instead, they are going well above it.

Again, I emphasise that this is a cost-of-living increase. The greatest increases in costs which the average member of the public has to meet bear upon such expenses as fares, rent and rates, heating, coal, gas, electricity, telephone charges, postal charges, and so on, all of them due to the policy of this Government. The Prime Minister has to meet none of them. He gets his house, coal, light, fares, and so on. He does not have to pay for any of them. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman has not had to meet any of these increases in the cost of living. Unlike the ordinary miner, the ordinary docker, the ordinary journalist, and the ordinary worker in a factory, the right hon. Gentleman is cushioned against these increases. The price of soap, for example, has risen drastically since this Government have been in office. The same applies to soda and to practically every other commodity that one cares to mention. But the Prime Minister does not have to meet any of these costs. He gets his towels, his bed linen, his furniture, his carpets, his notepaper—everything—

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Lewis

No, not everything. There are certain comforts of life which he has to provide himself out of the rather meagre stipendiary which he gets from the Government.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman has to provide some of his food. It is not inconceivable that occasionally he might have an official luncheon at No. 10 Downing Street. For the information of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), such a luncheon would be provided at Government expense. One day my hon. Friend may get an invitation to an official luncheon. I wish him well. If he goes, he will have the wine, the nuts, the cigars and the luncheon provided at the taxpayers' expense. Good luck to him. Indeed, who knows, I might get an invitation one day. I dare say that I should enjoy it. I would welcome such a lunch at the taxpayers' expense. I have not had an invitation in the last 27 years since I have been a Member and I am not likely to get one in the next 27 years.

The Leader of the House—I do not know how to put it into words—can purse his lips and open his eyes to the full as he did just now so charmingly. However, I have never had a free lunch at No. 10 Downing Street.

I have been attacking the Prime Minister for some time, but I will now pay a tribute to him. The only occasion on which I was invited to No. 10 Downing Street was thanks to the generosity of the present Prime Minister. That was the first time in my 27 years in this House. About 12 months ago the right hon. Gentleman kindly invited me—the first time ever—to go to No. 10 Downing Street to meet the Australian cricket team. I pay tribute to him. I had some nice cocktails and snacks. I hope to God that he did not pay for them out of his own pocket. It would be unfair if he did. I assume that the Government Hospitality Fund paid and that I, along with all other taxpayers, paid for my enjoyment as well as his.

My point is that in all probability on most days of the week the Prime Minister attends a luncheon, a dinner or a reception, so he does not even pay for his food. I have no objection to that. Indeed, when he is not at No. 10, he is probably attending some official function elsewhere. The point is that the Prime Minister cannot be expending very much at all. He may have to buy the Christmas turkey for himself and his family.

Mr. Skinner

He does not.

[Mr. ARTHUR PROBERT in the Chair]

Mr. Lewis

My hon. Friend will steal my best points and take the glory. In fact, the Turkey Federation selects the biggest turkey it has and delivers it to the incumbent of No. 10 Downing Street. It so happens that, due to Heath's folly, the turkey has been delivered to the wrong person. But that will not last. In past years my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has had it. Therefore, I am not attacking the Prime Minister personally. Next year or the year after—certainly within five years from 1970—the present Prime Minister will be out and my right hon. Friend will be there. Therefore, I am seeing that he, too, does not have what I term excessive assistance from the State.

We are giving £1,750 a year extra to these incumbents—temporarily, of course —and a few others who are waiting in the wings. But we cannot give the old-age pensioners any extra, although they have to meet all these increases in rent, rates, cost of living, and so on. The only expense that I can trace—and it is hard to trace them—which the Prime Minister would have to meet, as would other Ministers who hold grace-and-favour offices, with whom I shall deal shortly, is for their clothing. With great respect, an extra £1,750 a year on top of £1,250 a year is not needed just to meet the Prime Minister's clothing bill. If it is, his salary could and should cover it.

11.0 p.m.

I do not want the Committee to think that I am getting at the Prime Minister. I am not. What I have said about him could be said for a number of other officers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is not present tonight, lives next door to the Prime Minister. He is his neighbour. The Chancellor lives at No. 11, not No. 10. Like neighbours, I hope they get on well together. They ought to get on well together, because they receive exactly the same perks. We had the Chancellor going up to his constituency at the weekend, and wrongly being mobbed by some of his constituents.

Mr. Skinner


Mr. Lewis

Yes. I would never agree to anyone being mobbed, be it the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister. He certainly should not have been mobbed. But I can understand those unemployed workers feeling a little hot under the collar, because they are not only unable to obtain wage increases but also unable to earn a wage at all. Due to the Government's policies and the Chancellor's policies, those workers in his constituency are not entitled to take home a wage. They are told to go on National Assistance and Social Security and told to get unemployment benefit. They are told that they cannot be allowed to work.

Yet the man who is economically responsible for this situation is getting a fabulous salary plus an increase from £1,250 to £3,000 a year of tax-free expenses. He also gets his house and his coal and fuel, plus everything that comes in such as carpets, furniture and lights. This is the man who says, "You wicked council tenants are being subsidised, and you must fall in with the system of being charged on a rent rebate system. If you receive more than a certain income you will not be entitled to any rent rebate and you must pay the full economic rent because we as a Government say, 'If a man can afford to pay, he should pay'." But that does not apply when it affects the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because they say, "We shall be entitled to claim our house, light, fuel and all the other perks tax-free, and we shall be able to include that in addition to our salaries."

That leads me to the Foreign Secretary. He said yesterday that it was wicked of Mr. Mintoff to demand more money. I do not know whether Mr. Mintoff is wicked. But I understand that the Foreign Secretary lives at No. 1, Carlton Gardens. For the edification of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, who may not know this, No. 1 Carlton Gardens is not the kind of poor working-class mining area that he knows in Bolsover. It is not even the kind of area I have in parts of my constituency, in the poorer parts of West Ham.

Mr. Skinner

It is not a Coal Board house.

Mr. Lewis

It is not a Coal Board residence. It is not a one-up, one-down. It is Carlton Gardens. Estate agents tell me it is worth about £7,000 a year without the furnishings, and I do not know to how much this would increase with the furnishings included. But here again, the Foreign Secretary is to receive his increase from £1,250 to £3,000. I do not want to be personal, but I do not think the Foreign Secretary is hard up for a few bob I believe he has a small amount of income elsewhere, and he is not in dire need of this money. I heard in the debate today that perhaps some of the miners were not on the minimum, that some might be paid the maximum and might not be as hard pushed as others. But the Foreign Secretary is at Carlton Gardens, a salubrious area.

I turn to the Home Secretary. We all love, admire and respect him. He is a great man—but he is not here this evening. I pay a tribute here to the House of Commons research staff who did a marvellous job in finding out for me that the Home Secretary lives in a flat in Admiralty House. I do not know what his naval connections are, but I am advised by my right hon. Friends who have enjoyed the position before the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that it is an admirable flat, luxuriously furnished.

The Home Secretary pays no rent for it. His use of it is not regarded as income for tax purposes. I have school-keepers and people who look after public buildings in my constituency who are paid a nominal salary of £20 a week. The job requires that they live on the premises and the flat which is provided is assessed for income tax purposes as part of their income. It is regarded as an emolument. But the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary do not pay a halfpenny in tax for the emoluments they receive.

I do not understand this. I do not know what the Home Secretary's fiat in Admiralty House is worth—probably another £5,000 a year. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster lives next door.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has a flat at 6, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, which I assume is in the better part of the City and therefore worth a few pounds a year. He, too, will get this rise. So will the Government Chief Whip, but he, poor chap, does not get a residence.

There will also be rises for the Leader of the Opposition, who I mentioned, the Opposition Chief Whip and two other Opposition Whips. I always thought that their job was to oppose the Government, and here the Government are increasing their allowances. But there is a method in their madness. My hon. Friends may think that the Government are doing it through generosity and because they like the present incumbents. That is not so. The Government are seeing to it that when, in a couple of years, they are thrown out of office, they will get the advantages that they are currently giving the Opposition.

11.15 p.m.

Indeed, there is agreement on this between the two Front Benches. This is like a game of musical chairs. When one lot leave office, the other lot take over. But the Government are making a mistake because once they leave office they will never get back again. The Prime Minister, when he becomes the Leader of the Opposition, will enjoy the Rover car and chauffeur that go with the office, not to mention the 175 per cent. salary increase that is now proposed and the £3,000-a-year expense allowance. This may make for smooth administration, but unless the Government are prepared to be fair to the ordinary work-people on the shop floor, in our hospitals, factories, schools and in the mines, I cannot support it.

Having gone through a few of those mentioned in the list which I have obtained from the Library who have been singled out for this £3,000 a year allowance, I come to ordinary hon. Members, but for them there is no change, apart from the secretarial allowance. I am not jealous about this, but I cannot understand why some people in this place should have preferential treatment.

This is a democratically elected House of Commons, although across the way we have a House which is non-democratic in this respect and the occupants of which are almost self-appointed and who are position-seekers. They get jobs for which they have not been elected. I am reminded of the Kremlin. Office seekers are given jobs in this fashion there.

I note from the list from which I have been quoting that the Lord Chancellor's salary will go up, though he will not get this allowance. Why not? Mentioned in the list are Cabinet Ministers in another place, the Paymaster-General, the Minister without Portfolio, Ministers of State, Under-Secretaries of State, the Government Chief Whip, his deputy and other Whips in the House of Lords. None of those office holders—I shall deal with their salaries when we get to them early in the morning—gets any allowance. If it is said that Ministers are entitled to £3,000, as against £1,250, as a special allowance in addition to their salaries, why is my noble Friend, Lord Hailsham, not entitled to claim the same sum? Why should he not get £3,000? He is a good friend of mine. He sat with me in the House, and I was pleased to know him well. I like him. I am friendly with him, and now I am his advocate. I think that he ought to get £3,000 a year.

It may be said that he and other Cabinet Ministers, the Paymaster-General, the Minister without Portfolio, and so on, do not get this allowance because they do not have parliamentary constituencies. If they do not have parliamentary constituencies, that seems to my kind of small-minded way of thinking that the reasons why Ministers receive the allowance is that they have parliamentary constituencies. If they receive the allowance for that reason, it follows ipso facto, that they receive it for parliamentary work in their constituencies.

If that is so, they ought to be considered in the same way as Members of Parliament. There is a difference between a Member and a Minister. The fact that the Lord Chancellor and Cabinet Ministers in the other place do not receive the extra £3,000 a year means, I assume, that they do not have parliamentary constituency expenses. If that is so then, quite rightly, they are not entitled to claim these expenses. But, equally, if Ministers in this House have parliamentary constituency expenses, they should be entitled to claim the same amount as is claimed by any other Member.

It is for that reason that, rather hurriedly and without going into too much detail, I have tried to explain why I consider that the Amendment ought to be considered favourably and, I hope, accepted by the Government.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department (Mr. David Howell)

The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has spoken for quite a long time, and very fully. He made a number of points, both those relating directly to his Amendment, and a number of others, and we must at least be grateful to him for proclaiming at the beginning of his speech about an hour ago a complete lack of animosity towards all and sundry.

The object of the Amendment, to which the hon. Gentleman referred several times during his speech, is to provide that £1,750 of the proposed total salary for all ministers specified in the First Schedule to the Bill, the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Whips, should be reckoned as covering, in the first place, the allowance of up to £1,000 which is payable to Members in respect of their secretarial expenses under a Resolution accepted by the House and, in the second place, the allowance of up to £750, payable for the additional cost of stopping overnight in provincial constituencies or, the other way round, for hon. Members who represent provincial constituencies staying overnight in London. Moreover, the Amendment would apparently require that these allowances should be claimed by the Ministers and office holders concerned in just the same way as back benchers will be able to make their claims for re-imbursement of these expenses.

As the hon. Member has pointed out a number of times in the last hour, Ministers and paid office holders who are Members of this House can already, as of now, claim these allowances in addition to the salaries—and they are salaries—provided by this Bill, so that the net effect of the hon. Member's Amendment must be, and can only he, to reduce the income of all the Ministers and of the Leader of the Opposition and Opposition Whips specified in the Schedule and the Bill by £1,750 a year. That is the core, the main aim, of the Amendment about which the hon. Member has spoken at length. This Amendment will also presumably—and I was not quite clear about this—apply to their Lordships who, as he pointed out, do not have constituencies, so there would be a rather odd anomaly.

The hon. Member is aware, and must have been aware when he put down the Amendment, that it departs in spirit and basically from the line of argument and the proposals put forward by the Boyle Committee. As you must be aware, Mr. Probert, in raising the question of the £3,000 Parliamentary allowance on top of the Ministerial salary we are moving outside the Bill, but I see by the Amendment that the hon. Member was anxious to bring the matter in again. In doing so, the hon. Member has made proposals which would depart deeply, clearly, and firmly from the Boyle package.

The Boyle Committee made clear that they considered the £3,000 for Ministers the right amount, after careful analysis and consideration, which is needed to cover the Parliamentary duties which Ministers continue to incur even though they also hold Ministerial office. They found that this was the right sum and put it forward as part of the overall assessment of salaries and remuneration required for Ministers and Members of Parliament. The Government's view is that the whole package put forward by the Boyle Committee should and must be accepted, as the Boyle Committee itself said, as a whole, and they support that totally.

The point is made in paragraph 121 of the Boyle Committee Report where it is argued that this is the absolute minimum necessary to carry on the job and to do the work effectively, and, therefore, in putting forward an Amendment which challenges that, the hon. Member must not be surprised to hear from the Government the strongest possible advice that they must reject the Amendment and its implications and must also ask the Committee to reject it.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am disappointed and surprised at that reply. I thought that the Minister must accept this Amendment. The only point he put forward in rejecting it is what the Boyle Committee recommended. A lot of water has gone under London Bridge since that Report and there has been quite a lot happening this week. Lord Boyle and his Committee, when deciding this, had no knowledge that there was to be a general strike of miners. Had they known that the Government were to bring pressure to bear on the National Coal Board to see that they did not give an increase to the miners, Lord Boyle's Committee might have made a different report. There is now a different situation.

The Government are taking retrogressive action against some of the more poorly paid workers of this country who have dropped from about fourth position in the wages league to sixteenth. I do not object to an increase for Ministers, although I may object to the amount of the increase. However, the Minister made no case for increasing the amount from £1,250 to £3,000. The same Ministers who will receive this amount are refusing any reasonable increase to the miners.

11.30 p.m.

If the Minister had said that he rejected the Amendment because he intended to recommend that the Boyle Committee should immediately proceed to arbitrate on the miners' claim and to treat the miners as fairly and generously as the Ministers have been treated, I should willingly have sought to withdraw the Amendment. Indeed, if the Minister had said that he intended to appoint any other committee of inquiry with clear terms of reference so that such a committee was not restricted in making its report, and on the understanding that the Government would accept that report in toto. I should have accepted that.

The Government have two senses of value, and they are both false ones. In the cases of the nurses and other poorly paid and under-paid workers—miners, engineers, bricklayers, carpenters, and dockers—the Government instruct the arbitration tribunal not to go above 7 per cent. But they tell the Boyle Committee that it need take no notice of the Government's views but can go outside the norm and proceed on the merits. And then the Government accept the Report in toto.

Unlike the Ministers, I declared an interest and confessed that I have done well out of the Boyle Committee. I expected the Minister to say that Ministers are doing well on salaries and expenses and houses, coal, fuel and light.

When Members' salaries were discussed, some hon. Members opposite opposed the increase. Not one of those who opposed the increase is present, not even the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). Had some of those hon. Members been present I might have been able to divide the Committee on the Amendment. Although I will not agree to withdraw the Amendment, I regret that I shall not get sufficient supporters even to get a teller.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Arthur Probert):

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