HC Deb 23 July 1976 vol 915 cc2347-52

Amendments made: No. 1, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'subsection' and insert 'subsections'.

No. 2, in page 1, line 11, leave out from 'to' to 'means' in line 12 and insert 'a resolution of the House of Commons relating to the remuneration of Members'.

No. 4, in page 1, line 18, leave out 'higher rate' and insert 'rate higher than one or more other rates specified in the resolution'.

No. 5, in page 2, line 1, after 'office' insert 'or in receipt of a pension as former holders of an office'.

No. 6, in page 2, line 5, at end insert— '(7) Any reference in this Part of this Act to a resolution of the House of Commons relating to the remuneration of Members shall be construed, where there are two or more such resolutions for the time being in force, as a reference to those resolutions taken together'.—[Mr. Charles R. Morris.]

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 17, leave out 'be deemed to have'.

Mr. Speaker

It will be convenient to consider at the same time Amendment No. 8, in page 2, leave out line 18 and insert 'when the state pension for a single person is one-half of average male earnings and that for a married couple two-thirds that of average male earnings'.

Mr. Cryer

This measure involves retrospective legislation under subsection (4), and Amendment No. 7 would leave out the date. With Amendment No. 8, the effect would be to bring the Bill into operation only when State pensions were improved to a substantial level.

I have no objection to retrospective legislation when necessary, as it sometimes is. However, I must point out that here also there are double standards. There was an occasion, for example, when the Opposition danced with fury against a Bill having retrospective effect to relieve Clay Cross councillors of their disability to exercise civic rights. Much was made at that time of the effect of retrospective legislation. I am a little concerned that the present Bill is to be passed on the same sort of retrospective basis.

My second amendment, as I say, would bring the Bill into operation when there had been a substantial improvement in the State pension, that is to say— when the state pension for a single person is one-half of average male earnings and that for a married couple two-thirds that of average male earnings. In May this year, in manufacturing industry average earnings for manual workers were £64.85 per week, and for all industries covered the earnings were £64.70. My sources are the Department of Employment Gazette and the Department's Press notices. The current flat-rate retirement pension for a single person is £13.30, which as a proportion of average manual male earnings is 20.6 per cent., and for a married couple it is £21.20, which is 32.8 per cent.

5.15 p.m.

If the Bill is to come into operation so as to provide a pension based on a notional salary of £8,000 per annum, it would be far more egalitarian—we are the party of greater equality—if it were linked to an improvement of the ordinary State flat-rate retirement pension. We want to see the flat-rate retirement pension improved, and it would, as it were, be a parliamentary production bonus if we brought the economy to such a state that we could improve pensions and thereby our own position. It seems to me entirely reasonable and right that it should be done on that basis. I do not take the view that to pass legislation which gives Labour Members of Parliament an £8,000 basis for pension is a particularly useful way to work—I said so on Second Reading, and I still take that view—because I do not believe that we should perpetuate a society which is already far too élitist and far too heavily oriented towards an élite structure.

There is a fundamental difference between our view on these Benches and the view held by the Opposition. We are seeking a fairer, better and more just society, while Opposition Members, who have from time to time proposed amendments and have opposed the Bill, take their stand from a position of luxury in that many have large private incomes from outside sources. We do not take their view. We believe that the Labour Government and Labour Members of Parliament are the leaders in a movement towards a more egalitarian society, and

Division No.277.] AYES [5.20 p.m.
Latham, Arthur (Paddington)
Paisley, Rev Ian
Skinner, Dennis
Mr. Max Madden and
Mr. Bob Cryer.
Bates, Alf Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Graham, Ted
Bishop, E. S. Dormand, J. D. Grant, John (Islington C)
Boardman, H. Dunn, James A. Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Eadie, Alex Harper, Joseph
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) English, Michael Hart, Rt Hon Judith
Cohen, Stanley Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Huckfield, Les
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Foot, Rt Hon Michael Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Gilbert, Dr John Janner, Greville
Davidson, Arthur Golding, John Jones, Dan (Burnley)

I do not consider that having pensions based on a notional salary of £8,000 per annum helps progress in that direction. Indeed, it may well put us out of touch with the rest of the trade union movement.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

I recognise the anxiety felt by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) about the level of the State retirement pension, but I question whether his proposal offers the most effective way of achieving his objective. He suggests that the pensions of Members of Parliament should take account of the situation when the State pension for a single person is one-half of average male earnings and for a married couple two-thirds that of average male earnings.

As my hon. Friend recognises and accepts, as all my hon. Friends will, I am sure, Labour Governments have regularly and compassionately increased retirement pensions. On the last occasion, Members had to wait three and a half years before their salaries, and thereby their pensions, were reviewed. It would be a matter of concern to some hon. Members if the relationship between MPs' pensions and public service pensions generally were determined on the basis set out in the amendment. My hon. Friend accepted that the amendment, if implemented, would involve retrospective legislation, and that is the position.

For the reasons to which I have alluded, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw the amendment. Alternatively, I ask the House to reject it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 3, Noes 65.

Judd, Frank Owen, Dr David Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Kelley, Richard Pavitt, Laurie Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Kerr, Russell Pendry, Tom Tomney, Frank
Kilfedder, James Price, C. (Lewisham W) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Lee, John Price, William (Rugby) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
MacKenzie, Gregor Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Maclennan, Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter Ward, Michael
Mallalieu, J. P. W. Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Marks, Kenneth Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Stallard, A. W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Moyle, Roland Stoddart, David Mr. Donald Coleman and
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Strang, Gavin Mr. Peter Snape.

Question accordingly negatived.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)

I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 2, line 18 at end insert— '(5) This section shall not apply to those Members of Parliament who are in receipt of fees from directorships or parliamentary advisorships during the course of their holding office as a Member.'

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment we may take Amendment No. 11, in page 2, line 18 at end insert— '(5) This section shall not apply to those Members of Parliament who are in receipt of any pecuniary interest which totals more than 10 per cent. of their parliamentary salary.'

Mr. Madden

The amendments draw attention to the part-time and full-time membership of the House and the humbug and hypocrisy which have entered into so much of our discussion today, not only on pensions but on Members' salaries. It is indicative of that humbug and hypocrisy that the hon. Members who signed the main amendment that we discussed just now have among them 19 directorships, six consultancies and a partnership in a solicitors' practice. The differences between part-time and full-time Members should be recognised not only in pensions but in other matters. That recognition is long overdue. The amendments would exclude full pension rights for those Members who enjoy significant outside financial interests.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

I realise that behind the amendments is the thought that the job of a Member of Parliament should be a full-time occupation. I am conscious of the difficulties that arose in our earlier deliberations on that subject.

It is the normal policy to base pensions on the promulgated salary rate for the job. In many cases the other income which my hon. Friend says can be obtained will not be pensionable. There- fore, I hope that my hon. Friend will seek to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Madden

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill read the Third time and passed.

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