HC Deb 09 June 1972 vol 838 cc884-908
Mr. Arthur Lewis

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 6, line 33, leave out 'before 16th October 1964'.

The Chairman

With this Amendment we are to discuss the following Amendments:

No. 7, in line 35, leave out 'beginning on or after 16th October 1964'.

No. 8, page 7, line 1, leave out subsection (2).

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

The three Amendments have the same principle, which is that we should grant to Members of Parliament, irrespective of who or what they are and where or how they serve, all their service to the House for pension purposes. Under the Clause, service before the 1964 datum line, with the 10 years given, is excluded. It is true that Lawrence made a mistake, and my Government at the time made a mistake because they only partly implemented the report. But I hope the Minister will not say that the proposal in the Clause is Boyle and that it is a case of Boyle, all or nothing. If the Boyle Committee slips up, as did Lawrence, I hope that we shall try to put the mistake right. The Amendment seeks to deal with a genuine mistake.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) have given a lifetime's service to the House. They are not now political figures but are both House of Commons men, parliamentarians. I remember canvassing for my right hon. Friend when I was a boy of 16, but he still looks as young as ever. All his service before 1964, plus the 10 years, is ignored, and I do not see why. People in local government and the Civil Service and those with private pension schemes have all their service counted towards their pension, provided they meet the requirements of the scheme. Because Lawrence wrongly decided that right hon. and hon. Members who were here before that time should not receive a pension, we have been depriving them of it. The Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker receive a pension for all their service, even if it is for only a day. I cannot see why any hon. Member should not be able to claim as of right for all his or her service to the House.

I should declare an interest, because I have been here for nearly 27 years. But for pension purposes I came here only in 1954. I do not know where I was for the first nine years. I thought I was a Member from 1945. I remember I was quite active in attacking the Labour Government, but according to the pension rules I just could not have been here.

I am only a relative junior. There are some who have been here for 30 or 40 years. One of the greatest men I love, admire and respect, as does everyone in the House, is the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, whom I affectionately call Manny Shinwell. That is what he will always be to me. He gave 40 years' service to the House. I do not think it was consecutive service, but that does not matter. He was a good House of Commons man, though he was also a bit political on occasions. Because according to the calendar, and only the calendar, he had reached what was supposed to be an old age, 85 or 86, some of his local people wrongly thought he was too old, and eventually he left his seat. He was not too old. In heart, vigour, strength, ability and everything else he is still like a man of 50.

When he retired from the House after 40 years' service he was told, "We shall only count the years from 1964, plus the 10, for pension". Therefore, his official pension, the pension he could claim by right, was about £900 a year. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington here, because I pay tribute to him and his colleagues, through whose trust fund arrangements have been made to do the right thing in seeing that Lord Shinwell does a bit better than he would otherwise have done. But that is a kind of charity affair—I say that in no derogatory sense—provided only through the generosity and good-heartedness of the trustees.

I do not mean it offensively when I say that probably my right hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth does not need the pension, but I am not concerned with whether a Member is in need. He should be able to claim his rights for the time he has served here. Whether my right hon. Friend would claim it would be up to him.

We had an hon. Member some time ago who was wealthy and said that he did not want to draw his extra salary because by the time he had paid surtax on it, it would have been worth only £15 a week extra to him, which did not matter to him. But my case is that the fact that that hon. Member had millions was no reason why he should not get the same salary as others. I say that such hon. Members should get the same salary. But, of course, if a wealthy hon. Member does not want to draw his salary, leaving it for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that is up to him. The same goes for the pension. If there are hon. Members who do not need it, they do not have to draw it. But they should have the right to draw it.

The Amendments would ensure that every hon. Member who has given service to the House would get pension rights. I appreciate that there is a point of difficulty. Some have left the House; some have gone to another place—I mean the Upper House; some have gone to yet another place. We cannot deal with them, obviously. But we can deal with those who have gone to the other place and those who are still with us. There are, of course, still a number of these older Members still with us, but not many.

There was a method in my madness in putting down the Amendments. Do not let us have the argument—I am afraid that it will be used because I have heard a whisper that it will—that we cannot deal with those who were Members because they will not have contributed. No doubt it will be argued that because they have not paid contributions it would be wrong to pay them a pension and that we cannot ask those who are retired now to pay. That does not meet the point because we wrongly precluded these Members from having their just rights. They are the people who have suffered over these years.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall and the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington know more about this than I do, and I have been here since 1945. They will confirm that these old, retired Members worked here in shocking conditions. When I first came here I was accused of being—but perhaps I can put it a better way and say I was proudly proclaimed as being—the shop steward of Members of Parliament. I was always putting down Questions on Members' salaries and conditions. But I came here as a trade union official and I found that my conditions were far worse than those I have found outside as a union official.

These poor devils—I assure the House that I am being respectful—had to pay all their own expenses. They had to pay their own rail fares, and their living away from home expenses. They had to pay for their secretaries, for their postage and for their note paper. They had to pay for everything needed to do their job. It was only during the wartime period that the salary went up to a few hundreds pounds a year. I do not know how they managed, and even if there had been a contributory scheme not many of them could have afforded to contribute.

Therefore, they were precluded from having these rights which they should have had. They were shabbily treated over their wage, income, salary—call it what you will. I would call it an inadequate expense allowance. They were not able to take out private pension schemes. They are now deprived of a pension. Indeed, we could not give back to them all that they have lost.

I do not see why we should not get out a list of such old Members. The Minister can do it. Let us for once not allow the Treasury to tell us what we should and should not do just because it does not like what we propose. Let the Minister tell the Treasury to work out how many ex-Members there are and amend the Bill accordingly. Let us so organise it that every Member who has given service to the House has his service recognised for pension purposes.

I am not asking to go back over the years. These old right hon. and hon. Friends of mine on both sides of the House have lost the period gone by, but let us make the last few years of life at least that much better for them. Let us work it all out and say that as from April, 1972, every past Member will be able to claim for the service he has done.

Do not let us use the argument that Boyle did not recommend it. I am not concerned with that. Do not let us use the argument that Lawrence did not recommend it. He made a mistake. Do not let us use the argument that these old Members did not contribute. If Mr. Speaker, the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister get pensions although they have not contributed, I see no reason why these old Members should not be told that as from April, 1972, they will have their pensions adjusted to take account of the years during which they were deprived. They were robber for years. They were robbed by both Governments. At least let us try to put right the injustice which they have suffered.

Sir R. Cary

I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has been saying in pleading for his Amendment. I will deal first with the old retired Members who have not benefited.

Before I go on, I would like to point out that, although I said on Second Reading that we contributed only £6 a year, the subscription was, in fact, £6 a month to the original benefits fund. That is the fund we have used to take care of the needs of many of those to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) will confirm that about 74 individuals are beneficiaries of the fund, and they are divided roughly between former Members and the widows of former Members. Therefore, we have largely taken care of that need.

I, too, think that Lawrence's decision on contributions was mistaken. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned Lord Shinwell, who came to the House in 1922—it seems almost another age. He was indignant that he should be given a credit for only 10 years. I feel a bit indignant myself. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall and I are contemporaries and we now have more than 30 years' service in the House, which is a long time, but not all of it counts for pension purposes.

In answer to our representations asking that the scheme should be extended, the Prime Minister of the day, the present Leader of the Opposition, said that he was proposing not to accept all the Lawrence Committee's proposals because of the economic needs of the time. There were proposals for increases in salary for Ministers and other officers of State, but he proposed to recommend to the House that those increases should be cut in half. Because of that he was not prepared to go beyond giving 10 years' credit.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I do not disagree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. The former Prime Minister may have been right or wrong, and I am not much concerned. What I am concerned about is that, whether there was an economic crisis at that time or not and whether or not ministerial salaries should have been cut, injustice was done by the Lawrence Committee, and we now have a chance to put it right: let us put it right.

Sir R. Cary

I do not want to delay the passage of the Bill, but let me say that if I still have the privilege to remain Chairman of the Trustees, the first time that the Review Body meets—and I hope that that will not be too long—this is one of the recommendations that I would make to it, subject to the agreement of my fellow trustees. At the end of this Parliament the group of Members in which I am included will have a credit of 20 years, but my service in the House will be 30 years. There will be a long period of my service which will not be accountable and for which I shall not have credit. I would ask the first Review Body to look at the position again with a view to increasing the average number of years of service able to count for an individual Member.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

The Committee will have been interested in what the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) had to say about his intention that this matter should be likely to be the subject of discussion by the Review Body when the next occasion comes.

This proposal will ultimately affect all hon. Members. It follows the Boyle Report. Hon. Members are constantly embarrassed by being obliged to ventilate their financial difficulties in public, by having to wash our dirty linen in public. I well understand the Prime Minister and other Ministers and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) wishing to press on and to get the matter over and done with, to regard the proposals as a complete package.

My first inclination was to regard the Boyle Report as a package. I did not get as steamed up as some of my hon. Friends about the disparity between salaries for Ministers and those for ordinary Members. I do not regard such incomes as hereditary rights. I am not so affected by that as, for instance, by the income of the Royal Family, and in that matter I have some sympathy with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton).

I regard it as a package, but there is a fly in the ointment and it concerns pensions. I do not know what we may expect from the Parliamentary Secretary. He may stick to his guns and ask the House to accept the package, but he will have to address his mind to the logic of the situation.

I hope that the hon. Member will not use the argument that there has been no contributory element, because when in opposition hon. Members opposite agitated on behalf of people who were over 80 and were not receiving pensions, and on entering office they enacted legislation to remedy that position. We welcomed that legislation, but it was recognised that there was no contribution element in the pension entitlement. The reason was that the benficiaries of that legislation had not had the opportunity of contributing to pensions during that time.

I have been a Member of the House only since 1966 and I shall plainly have a better deal than many older Members, because I suppose my electors are likely to continue to send me here. That is a supposition, of course, but I am sure that I deserve to be returned to the House! However, it was with some trepidation that I entered the last General Election having voluntarily severed all my pension rights from my old employment, which, incidentally, was with the TUC, so that if I lost the election I would be in some difficulty—unless someone was prepared to recognise my other talents and snap me up and give me a similarly salaried employment. One has the embarrassment of not being able to line a job up before the election. However, I had a reasonable hope of being returned, and that, of course, is what happened. This does not mean that I do not have compassion for those who have been here much longer than I have and for those who are retired. I passionately seek a service basis for the pension.

Many progressive employers conduct periodic reviews of the occupational pensions that they operate so that their former employees can live in retirement on a reasonable retirement income. The Government introduced the White Paper "Strategy for Pensions", which pays much attention to the concept of earnings related occupational pension schemes; but that does not mean that we should not recognise the entitlement of existing old-age pensioners on flat-rate pension and the Secretary of State has said that he does not exclude that consideration from his mind.

I, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, will, in Committee on the National Insurance Bill, be arguing in favour of a better deal for old-age pensioners, and I hope that the Minister will accept our proposals, some of which I adumbrated in the speech I made when introducing my Ten-Minute Rule Bill. I hope that these matters and my proposals can be related to what is owed to the previous generation of old people who did not have an opportunity of contributing to occupational schemes. In that sense, both sides are committed to these principles, and I therefore hope that this debate will have a similar bearing on our attitudes to our former comrades in the House.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is temporarily absent from the Committee, because I had hoped to explain to him that, having intervened previously—helpfully, as he said—when he was propounding his earlier Amendments, I propose now to be equally helpful in my support of these Amendments.

I can well understand that hon. Members on both sides believe that there is much justice in these Amendments. It is true that neither Lawrence nor Boyle has gone so far as to recommend that the pension benefits should be calculated over the whole years' service of hon. Members. However, as other hon. Members have pointed out, neither Lawrence nor Boyle is infallible. Judging by the utterances that some of our bishops make, even the good Lord can be in error from time to time; and we can, therefore, believe that even Boyle can be fallible, particularly in this respect.

The hon. Member for West Ham, North referred to the conditions under which Members have worked in the House of Commons over past years, and he referred particularly to the very low salaries and the almost non-existent expense allowances some years ago. Although I speak as a junior Member of the House of Commons, having been here for only 20 years, in relation to the much longer-serving Members who have spoken so far, I can remember coming here at a time when the salary was spent almost entirely on meeting the expenses inseparable from the proper work of a Member. Only Members who were able to supplement their incomes outside were able to be free from financial worry unless they had private incomes. This is one aspect which should be taken into consideration when calculating what pension should be paid to Members now, and over what length of service it should be calculated.

12.45 p.m.

I imagine that in making recommendations to the House of Commons the committees which have been responsible for studying this problem have taken into account the practice which is common outside the House of Commons. Generally speaking, a company or other organisation wishing to establish a superannuation scheme for the first time rarely provides for past-service benefit for a period of longer than the previous 10 years' service. The reason is predominantly the cost. A company which provided a past-service benefit for all its employees would, on introducing a scheme for the first time, find the cost in many cases prohibitive and might be discouraged from introducing the scheme. I imagine that this is one of the main reasons why the committees have recommended that past-service benefits should be limited to 10 years.

Sir R. Cary

This was exactly the consideration of Lawrence. We have two schemes. Lawrence told us that we should make the greatest use of the benevolent scheme as well as of the new contributory pension scheme; and that was confirmed by Boyle.

Mr. Hall

I appreciate that helpful and absolutely correct intervention. However, that consideration does not solve the problem, because a person should not have to depend upon a supplementary fund—the original Members'Fund—to make up a pension to which he is entitled by reason of his years of service. However, I will not stress this, because everything has been said already which gives support to the Amendment.

I urge my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to give further thought to this. I am sure that his brief tells him to reject the Amendment. If I were a betting man, I am sure that this would be one of the few occasions on which I should win a bet. I urge my hon. Friend not to close the door completely but to leave it open for further consideration so that an Amendment can be tabled in another place. There is great justice in the Amendment. That is why it has been tabled. Further, it does not run contrary to custom generally followed outside the House of Commons.

The position of a Member is very different from that of persons in pension schemes in other walks of life or occupations. Special conditions apply to membership of the House. My hon. Friend should take that into account when answering the debate and leave it open to himself to be able to introduce an Amendment in another place, even though his brief tells him to resist the Amendment now.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that out of the Members' Fund pensions are paid on a very generous scale to a very large number of people who were here long before 1954? It is not just a small sum which they get. They get substantial pensions—though not more than is paid under the Contributory Pension Fund, it is true. It would be wrong to suggest that the money they get is trivial.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate also that this goes back a long time? We are paying a pension to the widow of a gentleman who was a Member of the House of Commons in 1908? There is no time limit. It would be wrong to consider that because those who were here before 1954 are not included in the Contributory Pension Fund they are severely handicapped; as a result of the liberal and generous deliberations of the Pensions Committee, they get a very generous provision in reasonable cases.

Mr. Hall

If I suggested that the amounts being paid out of the Members' Fund are necessarily trivial, it was inadvertent. I had intended to suggest that the pension should not be dependent on what amounts to a means test; it should be paid as of right.

Mr. Houghton

This is a substantial Amendment compared with some of the things we were discussing earlier. What on both sides of the Committee we have to bear in mind is that this Bill is a pretty faithful reproduction of the recommendations of the Boyle Committee. When my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) were speaking earlier on pensions of Ministers, and so on, they rightly referred to what people outside think, to public opinion; and the railway men are part of public opinion, and they and other workers looking at the conditions of service of Members of Parliament in comparison with their own comprise an important section of public opinion. It is because the House is so sensitive to public opinion that we gave up taking the main responsibility ourselves for fixing our own conditions of service.

We tried it before, as the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) will remember. We tried it by appointing a Select Committee in 1953 to try to do it for us, jointly on a non-party basis reflecting the opinion of responsible Members of the House. What happened? We made recommendations which the Government of the day felt unable to place before the House; the Government felt unable to put down a Money Resolution to provide for them; and that was because of public opinion outside, of electoral opinion, and of the possibility that Members' pay would be a political football.

Mr. Strauss

Does my right hon. Friend remember that the most violent attack on the modest increases proposed by the 1954 Committee came from The Times?

Mr. Houghton

I do not remember anything of that, but I was a member of the Select Committee and I remember having wasted a lot of my time, along with a lot of other Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss).

It was four years before the Government of the day had the nerve to put to the House proposals on Members' salaries. We all realised that this was no sort of way to fix the pay and conditions of Members of Parliament, and so in 1963 it was agreed between all the parties in the House that it was time that we grasped this nettle and referred the matter to an independent body, then the Lawrence Committee, to bring outside opinion to bear. The Lawrence Committee and the Boyle Committee represented outside opinion. That is what we asked for, and that is what we have got, and that is what we are up against in looking at the Boyle proposals.

I think I ought to say something more about the Lawrence Committee. It was agreed on all sides that after the General Election, which we all knew had to come in 1964, whichever party would be in power it should implement the recommendations of the Lawrence Committee. That was the understanding reached between the political parties, and so no Government who came in after the General Election in 1964 could be accused in this matter of doing something off their own bat. It was a responsibility laid upon them by the House of Commons; a responsibility and a duty to implement the recommendations of that Committee.

I regret to say that the Government of the day in 1964 felt unable to implement in full the recommendations of the Lawrence Committee. They did not improve on Lawrence: they worsened it. I was a member of the Government at the time and must take my share of responsibility. But this is the problem which confronts a Government when a report of this kind is received: should they implement it or should they not? Should they modify it? Should they bow to what they believe to be politically expedient at the moment, or to the psychology of the economic situation and to the attitude of people outside? Should they give way to that?

The Labour Government did give way to it by reducing the improvements which the Lawrence Committee recommended in the salaries of Ministers. We did not interfere with any other part of the Lawrence Report, except to reduce the increases which the Lawrence Committee had recommended, but it was bad in principle, I think, to have interfered with the recommendations of an outside body. If the House thinks it can do the job better itself, it should do it itself, but never again, in my judgment, will the House attempt to deal with this matter itself. We have now established, I think, the clear understanding that there will be a review body in the middle of every Parliament of normal length, and it is to that body all these things will be referred, as they were referred, of course, to the Boyle Review Body.

There is no doubt that the point of this Amendment, which derives from the Lawrence Committee, has been a very sore point from the beginning, and it is perhaps an even bigger grievance now because of the recommendations of the Boyle Review Body. It would improve the pensions based on reckonable service. We had in paragraph 81 of the Lawrence Report, what were the Lawrence conclusions.

We have to bear in mind that before Lawrence we had no pension scheme as of right. We had the Members' Fund, which is often described as on a means test. It is subject to means. There is no doubt about it. When I first came into the Members' Fund I deeply resented having to submit to a compulsory deduction from my remuneration to the Fund from which I could never draw any benefit. That seemed to me extremely hard, but that was the position we were in at the time of the setting up of the Lawrence Committee. The Lawrence Committee brought out the first as-of-right pension scheme. It had many flaws, and I shall refer to some of them a little later when we reach another substantial Amendment, but one of the things which the Lawrence Committee did was to deal with back service, as the hon. Member for Wycombe has pointed out.

The Lawrence Committee had to deal with the absorption of Members into a new contributory scheme—Members who had not made contributions up to the time the new proposals were recommended. How far should it go back? To what extent should past service be blanketed into a contributory scheme? The Lawrence Committee decided to go back 10 years. It seemed reasonable to bring into immediate benefit in the proposed pension scheme those who had served 10 years, even if they had not made contributions. That is what was recommended. It ignored service prior to 1954, and it excluded those who were not Members of the House on 16th October, 1964.

There is no doubt that some noble Lords in another place feel acutely that their long service in the House of Commons has been completely ignored for the purpose of reckoning pensions for them. There are many noble Lords who served long periods—some have been referred to already—in the House of Commons and who get no pension as of right because they were not serving in the House of Commons on 16th October, 1964.

The question is, what shall we do with Lawrence? This was referred to Boyle, and Boyle came out with an answer. Even if we do not like it, it came out with an answer, and that was in paragraph 69 which says: We do not feel able, however, to modify the recommendations on these points of the Lawrence Committee. The inclusion of former Members would be contrary to normal pension practice, while the changed retirement benefits we are recommending will greatly enhance the pensions payable to those Members who have reckonable service prior to October 1964. That does not overcome the grievance of those who have had substantial previous service which does not count for the reckonability of pension.

It may be that another review of this scheme would lead to a different approach to the provisions for retirement of Members of Parliament. I will suggest one later. The importance of what we are doing today is not in the hope that we shall persuade the Government to amend the Bill but in putting on record some considerations for the next review. That, I think, is the important aspect of what we are doing today. There is no doubt that the grievance created by ignoring previous service is bound to persist so long as our pension scheme is literally related to actual years of service in the House.

1.0 p.m.

There is a very strong argument for not regarding actual length of service as an important criterion in providing pensions for Members. Length of service is not the criterion in fixing pensions for Prime Ministers, Lord Chancellors and Speakers. The fact that they hold office is regarded as sufficient justification for an adequate pension on retirement and it might be that the principle could be applied to ordinary Members. If an hon. Member has a reasonable length of service, that should justify ensuring that his retirement is free from hardship and financial worry. This may be a principle which another review body might adopt, having regard to the difficulty of relating the pension strictly to all Member's reckonable service on the principle of the vocational pension scheme. Later we shall see the difficulty which the Boyle Committee acknowledged, of relating the service of a Member of Parliament to the normal service of people outside this House who are in occupational schemes. There are important distinctions which must be taken into account.

What do we do about the Amendment? It would be a good thing if it could be accepted. It would sweep away considerable grievances that are felt not only by hon. Members here but by previous Members now in the House of Lords who put in long service in this House. Are we justified in demanding of the Government that they should make this change here and now, notwithstanding the recommendations of two outside bodies on the matter? I doubt whether we are, much as we would like to. But I think we are entitled to suggest to the next review body, which I understand will deal with pensions as well as with pay and allowances, that it should make an entirely new proposal about the problem as it affects hon. Members, probably adopting a new principle, so that we can get away from the literal application of the principles of vocational schemes which are so difficult to apply to us.

The House must face the fact that it deliberately remitted its domestic problems to an outside body hoping for an answer which would relieve it of the need to assume immediate responsibility for fixing conditions of service and pay for hon. Members. If we reject the verdict of outside bodies we may imperil chances of getting any outside body to look at the problem at all.

We may also expose our own conditions of service to the caprice of political expediency or economic stress and all the other factors which have led Governments to refuse to act and to say, "We cannot do that now because of what the public will think. They will say the first thing that MPs did was to improve their own conditions of service. What about the old-age pensioners?" We faced this in 1964 and 1965. Whichever party won the 1964 election was under the honourable obligation to implement Lawrence. It was to start with that cross to bear, whatever other difficulties it encountered. But we shrank from it then and future Governments might shrink from it again.

The whole thing has turned into a shambles and become a political football. It is of supreme importance to uphold the authority of review bodies. In which circumstances are we justified in proposing to change pensions? A change downwards is our greatest fear, having regard to the political considerations which have always beset the problem.

We are putting on record some considerations for the future, but I doubt whether any of us would advise the House to divide on the Amendment.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I should like to support all that the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) said. The debate gives the House the opportunity to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) for everything he has done over many years in helping those hon. Members for whom no benefit was available. There is a distinction between the benefits which the hon. Member has under the scheme and those which are due to him from the House as of right.

I agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman said but we have already handed over responsibility for determining the terms of service and pension matters to an outside body and I do not believe that we could be accused of furthering our own interests if we implemented its recommendations because we are speaking for those who are not present and who are unable to speak for themselves. That is the only difference of view I have with the right hon. Gentleman. The only result I can see from this discussion is that perhaps in the future a review body will take into consideration those large numbers of hon. Members who, through sheer ill luck, have been unable to benefit in any way financially except through the scheme which my hon. Friend the Member for Withington has administered so adequately over the years. Perhaps the body will consider that service to this House is rather a unique service and that people should not be deprived of benefit literally because they have served half a Parliament too little.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will make a point of assuring the House that a future Review Body will be asked to consider the matter.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Several hon. Members have anticipated what I was going to say, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said that my brief was marked "resist". It is marked "resist", but I would not want the Committee to think that I have not considered the matter carefully. I have considered it carefully and I have taken note of the comments by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell), the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn).

In moving the Amendment the hon. Member for West Ham, North said, fairly, that a small technical point was involved. The Amendment does not cover hon. Members who left the House before the 1964 General Election, but hon. Members speaking today have clearly had these people in mind. I appreciate very much that this is a matter of some sensitivity because we are discussing friends and former colleagues of many present hon. Members, and some of them are by no means well-off after retirement.

The Government appreciate that this is an issue on which there is considerable and strong feeling. Needless to say, the Lawrence Committee went into this with great care. I must correct the record here. Lawrence recommended deliberately and not by mistake that 10 years of service from 1954 to 1964 should be included. It did not pluck 10 years out of the air, meaning to make the period 20 years.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I should explain that I said that 10 years was not morally justified or right according to the principle. I am not suggesting that Lawrence made a mistake, only an error of judgment.

Mr. Baker

It may be an error of judgment, but that is the hon. Member's subjective personal view.

The Lawrence Committee recommended that full credit for past service before the beginning of the scheme should be granted up to a maximum of 10 years for those still in service in 1964, but that any years of past service in excess of 10 years should be ignored. This recommendation, which Lawrence did not find ungenerous, was adopted and included in the 1965 Act.

I was asked whether I based my objection on the ground that the pre-1964 people did not contribute. I would not do that because the 1965 Act made provision for a substantial Exchequer subsidy running at the rate of £132,000 a year to make up for the fact that Members serving in 1964 had not contributed for the previous 10 years. Normally this kind of issue is settled once and for all when the pension fund is set up, but a re-appraisal of the scheme afforded an opportunity for second thoughts. This is what happened under Boyle.

The Boyle Committee explained in paragraph 69 its reasons for not changing the Lawrence recommendations. It had been asked to consider certain issues, which included the possibility of providing for full credit for all service in the years up to 1964 in place of the present limit, and concluded that it did not feel able to modify the recommendation of Lawrence on these points. It pointed out that the changed retirement benefits which it was recommending would greatly enhance the pensions payable to Members who have reckonable service before 1964 and whose pensions would ultimately be payable under the scheme.

The Lawrence proposal involved a rather strange calculation. It meant so much for 15 years and so much for the rest of the time; it meant that there was a bias in favour of those who had a short parliamentary career. To take the two periods concerned, the rate of accrual for the first period of 15 years under Lawrence is l/54th, but for the second period it is 1/135th. These anomalies have been ironed out in the present scheme. But it was not felt by Boyle that it could go further back and make provisions for those excluded or those existing Members of the House of Commons who cannot count more than their 10 years, although they must have had service of 20 or 30 years.

I refer briefly to the Members' Fund. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) for the work he has done for the Fund and for many Members of the House over the years. Despite the introduction of a contributory pension scheme massively supported by the Exchequer, the Members' Fund, which also receives Exchequer support, has continued in existence providing fallback facilities for those whose parliamentary career ceased before contributory pensions were introduced.

Although increased only a year ago, the maximum grant payable from the Members' Fund is to be increased by 10 per cent, as soon as the Parliamentary and Other Pensions Bill is passed. Total income limits are to be extended by a greater amount, giving a more extensive discretion to pay higher grants, subject to the overriding limit on pensions payable from the contributory scheme in respect of similar periods of service.

I sum up by saying that I cannot accept the Amendment, although I appreciate that hon. Members feel strongly about this matter. This subject has been well studied by Lawrence and Boyle. I emphasise the point made by the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), that it is better for us to accept these reports in to to. Secondly, by giving back-credit to Members when a pension fund is set up it is normal practice in the private sector that this is a once and for all adjustment. One does not keep on looking at it. Having decided on a period of 10 years, one does not in a few years think that it should be 15 or 20 years. It would be a retrospective element which would be out of character with other public service pension schemes and would be more generous. We would treat ourselves more generously than we treat many public servants. I also have responsibility for public service pensions, and I am concerned that we do not incorporate into our own scheme as Members of the House of Commons provisions which in certain circumstances can be held to be more generous than apply to many of the people to whom I have to write and say "I am sorry, but I cannot give you back-credit". This is a continuing problem.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. John Hall

Is this not the basis of some of the misunderstanding of the problem; namely, a comparison of Members' salaries and pensions with those which obtain in outside organisation whether they be the Civil Service, commerce or the professions? The two are not comparable. We cannot support an argument on the basis that we are doing something that is not done for other people outside the House.

Mr. Baker

I would not claim that our pension scheme is comparable, and that was the basis of my argument on an earlier Amendment—namely, that to some extent this is a unique scheme. What I am concerned about is that we should not be seen to be giving ourselves, despite our unique career pattern, privileges and advantages which I in the day-to-day administration of my Department have to resist for other public servants. I find it exceedingly difficult to do that. I shall revert to this point on the next Amendment, which is probably the most substantial Amendment before us. I shall elaborate on this matter fully then.

I end by saying that I am sure that when the next Review Body is set up it will look into this debate and will take on board and appreciate the views of hon. Members on this point. I cannot predetermine what it will say, but I am certain it will look at the point again.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am very disappointed with the Minister's reply and particularly his tone of voice in saying that the Review Body will perhaps consider the matter later and then, in effect, telling the Review Body that the Government will not recommend it to accept the suggestion set out in the Amendment.

I accept that the Amendment may not be properly worded in a legal sense, but that is not the point. The point about Amendments is that they involve discussions of principle. The Minister has not dealt with the principle.

There is no question of our trying to ally ourselves with the Civil Service or public servants, because there is no comparison. The Civil Service and public services have always had reasonably adequate salaries; the Civil Service unions have been able to argue and negotiate these salaries.

I do not know of one civil servant who has ever had to pay for the postage he uses for his letters, or who has had to pay his secretary out of his salary, or pay money out of his salary for his phone calls, his train fare, or for his hotel, lunch or dinner when staying away from home overnight. Certainly no civil servant pays a penny towards his pension since he is on a non-contributory basis. There are perhaps very few who may have had non-recordable pension service, and the unions have been rightly arguing that even those civil servants should be included. There is just no comparison between them and Members of Parliament.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) is right to say that we are dealing with Members of Parliament who have in the main left the House. With great respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), I am not so much concerned about the noble Peers who were Members of this House. I am more concerned with those who were here and who are not now noble Peers. They are the people who were treated shabbily for years. They are the people were were precluded from getting their rights. We are saying that because of that, and because Lawrence and Boyle have said that they will not do anything for them, it is wrong for the Government, with the agreement of the official Opposition, to say that they intend to do nothing to upset the arrangement because Boyle and Lawrence agree with it. My right hon. Friend at least said that the Review Body should consider it. But the Minister went a little further and said that he would tell the Review Body beforehand not to interfere with the present arrangement since it would create problems for him.

There is another point which has not been mentioned and I want to draw attention to it because it has slipped out of public focus. I want to get it back into focus. Those concerned have also lost on the reduced rights that they have had over the years, when one considers how shabbily they have been dealt with in not having their pensions reviewed. I am glad that there is to be a review in depth. In a Written Question on 25th May I asked the Lord President of the Council about the erosion that had taken place in these pensions which in any event had not been fully paid. I was supplied with full details. They have lost £638 in their pensions. They have never had their pensions put up as a result of the Pensions Increase Acts which have applied to those public servants for whom the Minister is so concerned.

Mr. John Hall

What is the pension to which this fall in value relates?

Mr. Lewis

I am willing to give the hon. Gentleman details. However, we do not want to waste time. He will find them in the Written Answer to which I have referred. The purchasing value of a £600 pension has depreciated to £480, and the cumulative loss over the period from 1964 to April, 1972, is £638. That takes into account the 20 per cent, adjustment made last year. But my point is that they have lost these sums cumulatively each year, and they will never get them back. Some of these people will not be here for the next review. It is no good suggesting that we will look after them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) mentioned the case of the widow of the Member in 1908. I do not know who she is. She must be a ripe old age. God bless her. I hope that she lives to see the next review. But is it right to say that because she and her husband were deprived over the years she must still be deprived because Lawrence and Boyle say so and we must not interfere?

I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) and his fellow trustees. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall said that generous treatment is given. However, it is on a means-test basis. Like my right hon. Friend for Sowerby, I have had to contribute to the fund over the years knowing that I would never draw anything out of it. I do not mind that, because I know that some poor devil who needs it will get it. Now we have a chance to put matters right, not on a means-test basis but on the basis that every man or woman who has given service will of right be able to get his or her pension on the basis of the time served.

I do not know of any person, whether an ordinary member of the public or anyone in industry, who would object if a dear old Member of Parliament who had given a lifetime of service and had been underpaid in the past were now to get back what he had missed in past years. There would be no objection from the public. I do not believe that even civil servants would object. The Minister has tried to use Members of Parliament as his whipping boys in respect of the Civil Service. But if a civil servant had given 40 years' service and was only to get a pension for the last 20 years, I would support him in any protest that he made, and if the Minister cared to introduce a Bill to put the matter right I should not oppose it. Therefore, that is not an argument, and it was unfair of the Minister to introduce it, because it will load the scales when the Review Body next considers the position.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I do not want to be thought to have implied that the Government will make any recommendation to the next Review Body. It is not the Government's function to do that. The Review Body sits and it calls evidence. It would be inappropriate for the Government of the day to submit that sort of evidence. I am sure the Review Body will take note of the arguments deployed this morning. However, in my capacity as a Minister I am neutral vis-à-vis the Review Body's next meeting and the way that it treats its evidence and takes various arguments into account. The Government do not have a view, as the previous Government did not have a view while the Lawrence Committee considered its recommendations. The Government take a view only after the Review Body has reported and they have considered its recommendations.

Mr. Lewis

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I withdraw what I said before. I am very pleased to hear that. When the Review Body reads this debate, it will be able to take cognisance of the fact that the Government are not telling it that in deciding whether or not to put this matter right it should bear in mind the position of civil servants and others. I should prefer all that I have said about it to be deleted from the record. I am glad to hear that the Review Body will judge the case on its merits.

Notwithstanding that, I shall not withdraw my Amendment. I prefer to wait and see how the debate proceeds.

1.30 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

I apologise for arriving in the middle of the debate. However, I want to support what the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and others have said. At the moment we are dealing with the past and in the main with people who have left the House. The provision made in the past has been derisory, and the only reason why we believe the provisions in the present bill to be satisfactory is that we are comparing them with the absurdity of the past. I should prefer to see a proper pension scheme with more substantial contributions but finishing up at a different level from that proposed in the Bill, which is absurd.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has been talking about the Review Body. However, I do not take the view that this is a matter for the Review Body. The purpose of the Review Body is to keep this scheme up to date as events change. Consideration of how the past should be dealt with is for the House, not for the Review Body looking at future changes. This is the moment for the change to be made and to say that all past services should be reckonable. After all, does this come within the remit of the Review Body? It might by a great stretching of it. But it is not the job of the Review Body at all.

The Government should take a view about this matter. How can we be neutral about this matter? Do the Government need to be advised on how past Members over the years should be treated? Do we need advice about that from some outside body reviewing future changes? The Government should make up their mind and say what they think, and the House should decide.

I am glad that the hon. Member for West Ham, North will not withdraw his Amendment. I hope that he will press it to a Division. There is no point in moving Amendments if one does not do so. The only way one can ever get anything out of Governments of any complexion at any time in any century is by taking matters to a Division, and then they have to take one a little more seriously.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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