§ Queen's recommendation having been signified—
§ 11.5 a.m.2023
§ Mr. Speaker
I should inform the House that I have not selected any amendments on Members' salaries and pensions. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time the second motion,That, in the opinion of this House, the limit on the allowance payable to any Member of this House in respect of the aggregate expenses incurred for his parliamentary duties—and the third motion.
should be, for the year ending 31st March 1979, £4,098, and for any subsequent year, £4,200.
- (a) as general office expenses;
- (b) on secretarial assistance; and
- (c) on research assistance for work undertaken in the proper performance of those duties;That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 1978, which was laid before this House on 20th July, be approved.
§ Mr. Price
The purpose of these motions is to give effect to the appropriate increases in parliamentary pay, Members' secretarial allowance and the salaries of Ministers and office holders in accordance with current stage 3 pay guidelines. Under the guidelines, Members are eligible for an increase of 10 per cent. in their parliamentary pay. The first motion therefore increases the figure from £6,270 to £6,897, with effect from 13th June. Corresponding increases are given in the abated parliamentary salaries payable to Ministers and office holders.
No doubt some of hon. Members will say that 10 per cent. is not the right figure, although I hope that many will argue that it is too high. Some may want an increase based on a figure more appropriately reflecting the salary that a Member should be receiving, and the last Top Salaries Review Body report may be called in evidence.
We have carefully considered that argument, as well as all the others put to us. Although we fully appreciate the strong feelings held in many parts of the House, we are convinced that the proposals on the Order Paper represent the only defensible course in terms of pay policy. Certainly it is not part of my case that the present situation is anything like satisfactory and I should like to say something about future prospects a little later. However, I hope that it will be accepted that Members of Parliament should be seen to accept no more than their constituents in the current pay round.
2024 It will be argued—I have a good deal of sympathy for the point of view—that it will never be the right time to correct the serious defects of the past. We recognise that argument, but we say that we could not pick a more difficult time. I do not need the House to remind me that I have been standing here each year since 1975 saying almost exactly the same thing. That is true, and I may as well admit it.
Some hon. Members are concerned about the disclaimers of the stage 1 increase of £6 which many signed. They believe that the time has now come to withdraw that. That, of course, is a matter for the individuals concerned, but no other TSRB group has received that £6 and for Members to do so now would, I believe, be seen as a conflict with pay policy.
Although Members will have reservations about the proposals on salary scales, I hope that there will be general approval of the Government's recommendations on pensionable pay. Last year's £208 pay increase was added to the £8,000 pensionable rate. The stage 1 £312 increase remained unincorporated, and in last year's debate the Government recognised the force of the argument that it should be included but could not at that stage support the proposal. My right hon. Friend has re-examined the issue in the light of current circumstances and we are therefore proposing that it should now be done.
The figure of £9,372 given in paragraph (2) of the first motion thus comprises £8,208 plus £312 plus 10 per cent. The table in paragraph (3) prescribes the supplements payable to cover the 5 per cent. pension contribution on the difference between actual and pensionable pay for the various new rates of parliamentary salary. The rate of contribution to the scheme will increase to 6 per cent. with the passage of the Parliamentary Pensions Bill and the rates shown in the third column of the table are in anticipation of that increase.
The second motion increases the reimbursement limit for secretarial allowance from £3,687 to £4,200. That will not only allow Members to increase their secretaries' pay by the amount under the guidelines; it will allow the increased costs of employers' national insurance contribu- 2025 tion to be met, and that is a move which I know many hon. Members welcome.
To some extent, the increases in national insurance costs were anticipated in the Review Body's 1975 recommendation on the secretarial allowance. However, I am proposing an additional element of almost £150 within the proposed new limit to cover increases which have arisen since then.
The third and final motion seeks approval of a draft Order in Council to implement a salary increase of 10 per cent. for all Ministers and office holders. The maximum salaries for these appointments are laid down in the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975, and the rates may be amended by order in council, subject to a draft being approved by resolution in each House.
There is one point that I should make in connection with the order. Throughout, the order quotes maximum salaries which are not necessarily the actual salaries being paid. Appointments held by Ministers in another place attract higher rates of pay than the corresponding appointments in the House of Commons because of the addition of the rounds 1 and 2 increases which were available to Commons Ministers through their parliamentary pay. Since the 1975 Act gives no power to differentiate the rate laid down if an appointment is held by a member of one House rather than another, the higher rate has necessarily been given, but the Act permits a lesser amount to be paid than that authorised for any post.
Now I come to the question in the future, which is a matter of considerable interest to Members and one which inevitably will lead to some controversy. It is not an easy matter but it is not, in our view, one that we can ignore. During the past 12 months, Members have put to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council by means of letters, Questions and through deputations, a multiplicity of views concerning the course that we should adopt for the future, and we of course are aware both of the amendments that were tabled to these motions and of Early-Day Motion No. 502.
I want at this stage to record on behalf of my right hon. Friend the value that he places on the constructive and helpful discussions that he has had with 2026 a group of Members led by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). We have said many times that we accept the argument that here are real problems of Members' pay, but there is no magic formula available to us which will suddenly put right the injustices of the past, particularly at a time of continuing pay restraint for the rest of the country. We can see little benefit in breaking away from the procedures already established for determining Members' pay, and my right hon. Friend, with the approval of the House, therefore intends to recommend to the Prime Minister that the TSRB should be asked to undertake a further review of parliamentary pay and certain related issues.
So long as we can keep the scope of the reference fairly limited, there is every reason to expect a quick report, and one issue in particular that we should like it to look at again is the question of a salary link—an attractive proposition to many Members.
Obviously, we shall be asked whether we can give an assurance that the Government will fully implement the resulting recommendations. My right hon. Friend has some sympathy for that view and has seriously considered whether a forward commitment would be appropriate. The Government believe, however, that there are grave difficulties in giving a blind commitment to accept immediately whatever the Review Body recommends.
Nevertheless, I assure the House that the Government recognise that they have a strong obligation to Members on the matter of their pay, and I remind the House that they have said that there would have to be clear and compelling reasons for the TSRB recommendations not to be accepted.
I believe that a further powerful argument in this respect is a move towards a bipartisan approach on pay, led by the right hon. Members for Taunton and Anglesey. This development has meant that for some time there has been a substantial common approach between the parties on the problem of how Members' pay should be tackled, and we are hopeful that there will also be a common approach to the acceptability of the report.
2027 This is a matter on which the time will never be right; neither will the amounts recommended meet with universal approval. There are very powerful views on this matter in all parts of the House, and they are by no means unanimous. What I do say is that the proposals before the House today are the most—and, in my view the least, as well—done in the circumstances. I hope that they will meet with general approval.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)
hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, who has given that clear explanation which we all so much appreciate, will not think me in any way discourteous if my first words are of complaint. It seems to me profoundly unsatisfactory that all the proposed amendments to the motion are out of order. I understand that the reasons for that are largely technical. The chief reason, at least in respect of the amendment standing in the names of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) and myself, is likely to be removed in a day or two, when the Parliamentary Pensions Bill receives Royal Assent, but that is scant consolation if one is not able to move the amendment today. This is typical of the confusion, muddle and total unsatisfactoriness which bedevil the whole of the situation and the discussions about Members' remuneration.
Not only did the House as a whole appreciate the explanation that the hon. Gentleman was good enough to give us; I am sure that all of us who have been responsible for the meetings with the Leader of the House, to which he referred, appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said about the way in which the representations have been conducted. It might be appropriate if I were to say now directly to the Leader of the House in public something that I have already said to him in private—that is, how much those of us who have been to see him have appreciated the courtesy and infinite fairness with which he has consistently heard us.
We have had a large number of meetings and a large number of people have seen the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he will not mind my adding that I think that the way in which those meetings progressed indicates clearly how necessary it was to have them. The 2028 Leader of the House took a great deal of convincing in the first instance that what we had to say was sensible and, indeed, responsible and in the general interest, but the fact that he has accepted that view and now has done something constructive about it is something for which we should all be grateful.
I should like to express appreciation that these motions have now been tabled. It is unquestionably right—no one can deny it—that the pay and allowances and pensions of Members of Parliament should be improved in the terms described by the Parliamentary Secretary.
It is also totally appropriate—I have always agreed to and acknowledge this—that what is done at this moment must come within the Government's guidelines. I have never suggested that Members should do anything other than conform to the same rules and obligations, voluntary or compulsory, which affect the remainder of our fellow citizens. If we are lucky enough to have certain privileges in this House—for example, free speech—we should be extremely jealous of those privileges. They should never be exploited, and in the ordinary way we have no business to argue that we should be in a privileged position in any other sense than what is necessary for the performance of our duties.
But certain things need to be said, and said plainly while we have the opportunity. There is no doubt that even at these enhanced rates the pay of Members, their pensions, and certain of their facilities are abysmally and stupidly inadequate. That is a matter of fact, not of argument. For many years the way in which we have dealt with our own situation has been unfair, but that is cur fault—I would not argue differently. As the Parliamentary Secretary suggested, this has always been a difficult and embarrassing matter. It is right, however, that it should be realistically approached, and that is my purpose this morning.
I am all for modesty. Modesty is one of the happiest and most charming of human virtues, and I think it behoves all of us who have the privilege of being in this place to be especially modest. However, I believe that in relation to our own circumstances we have displayed a degree of modesty which shows it to be a false modesty, and in so doing we have done 2029 the nation as a whole a disservice. To pretend that everyone should be paid some trivial remuneration because merit or responsibility cannot be properly rewarded may be honourable enough, but it is a foolish policy.
Therefore, my aim this morning is clear—to bring into the open some of these matters and, above all, to make the point that the responsibilities that we have cannot in any way be delegated. Hence the campaign in which I have been engaged, with my right hon. and hon. Friends and right hon. and hon. Members opposite—I am grateful to them for their support and encouragement in it—to ensure that the issues are better appreciated.
What is the right rate of pay for a Member of Parliament? Should we be paid the equivalent of the rank of colonel in the Army, of an assistant secretary in the Civil Service, of a county court judge, or of the chairman of a medium-sized company? These are all suggestions that I have heard canvassed.
The present position is that we are not paid amounts approximating to any of those suggested rates. We are paid very much less-50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of those amounts.
Should we be paid the same as is received by a skilled artisan working, for example, on a newspaper? Let anyone pick up the reports and accounts of a newspaper company and see the money which such skilled persons are paid. Let anyone calculate what is received by people on the shop floor, throwing in additions for unsocial hours and the rest, and see what the figures would be. We are not paid even according to those levels. Yet I firmly argue that the responsibility that Members of Parliament carry—particularly those who accept special duties in this place—is very much greater and always will be than that which is carried in any of those categories.
Let us compare our situation with membership of other Parliaments. I gave some of the figures and comparisons in a speech on 21st June, and I shall not repeat them. Suffice it to say that the British Member of Parliament is paid, on average, a half or one-third, or perhaps even a quarter, of the rate that other Members of Parliament in demo- 2030 cratic Parliaments are paid. Next June, we shall be having elections to the European Parli ament. So far as I can see, our present remuneration is likely to be between one-third and a quarter of what Members of that august Assembly will receive.
The file of cuttings kept in our excellent Library shows that there is not one serious newspaper which does not acknowledge how unsatisfactory the present position is. I cite just one example, a newspaper that suggested that we are just about the worst paid in the western world.
It is not only of today that it is appropriate to speak. Without doubt, the good will of former Members of the House is being exploited. As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) remarked, in a telling speech to which the Leader of the House listened, there are 270 potential pensioners of the House who do not draw a pension at all, just as there are, as the Minister hinted, a large number of Members in the present House who do not draw and may not be drawing the full amount that we see in the list on the Order Paper this morning.
A number of Ministers in the House of Lords are paid less than their equivalents in the House of Commons are paid. In respect of present office holders, the list of anomalies is legion. Let us take the position of the Prime Minister. I rejoice that it is proposed that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should be given an increase in his remuneration, but at £22,000 he will be drawing a salary approximately one-third of the remuneration of chairmen of some of the largest companies in the United Kingdom, and perhaps an even smaller proportion than that. The same is true of the Lord Chancellor of England. It is true also of a Cabinet Minister, whose salary, at £14,300—is vastly less than the remuneration given to the chairmen of nationalised industries. Junior Ministers, at £6,000, will be drawing less than is received by advertising account executives.
All this shows two things, does it not? It shows that once one starts having pay freezes, and the like, a number of distortions arise. Second, it shows, by comparison with the real world outside the 2031 House, how eccentric is our pay and how out of line it is with that real world.
In an endeavour to establish the rate for the job, as the Minister said, the Top Salaries Review Body was established. I think it appropriate as a general point here that we should pay tribute to Lord Boyle and his colleagues for the work that they do for the national economy. The Review Body reported in 1975 that the right rate for the responsibility of being a Member of Parliament was £8,000 a year. A lesser figure was decreed by the Government and agreed by the House.
It is never the right time, is it, to do the right thing in regard to Members' remuneration and conditions? For that past foolishness—I call it by no stronger term—we have to run all the harder now in order to catch up.
One can revise the figure recommended by that distinguished and disinterested group of persons after subjecting the whole matter to the most careful inquiry, and update it in two ways. One can use either the retail price index or the index of average earnings. Updating £8,000 according to the rise in the retail price index between June 1975 and June 1978, one arrives at £11,500. That is the figure that appears in the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Anglesey and myself. Using the index of average earnings, for which the figures I have are not quite as recent as those for the retail price index, one comes to a slightly higher figure—£11,678.
The purpose of tabling the amendment, therefore, is to illustrate the scale of sacrifice that Members of Parliament have made in the national interest. It is not true, as was said on the radio this morning and as, I dare say, a number of careless people may assume, that what the right hon. Gentleman and I are arguing for is a 100 per cent. increase in Members' remuneration.
The truth—I want to bring this out clearly—is that Members of Parliament are drawing only about 60 per cent. of the amount which an impartial investigating group of persons stated as the proper sum.
Moreover, as the Minister indicated and as I remarked earlier, the figure that appears on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House is not the 2032 amount that many Members of Parliament receive. More than 100 Members of Parliament draw a smaller amount. It would be helpful if the right hon. Gentleman could tell us what their position is now. Are they entitled to draw their full amount or not?
I come now to the Minister's statement on the reconstitution of Boyle. I say at once that that is much appreciated. It was something for which the right hon. Member for Anglesey and I, together with our colleages, representatives of the 1922 Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party, argued strongly, and we are glad that the Government propose to agree to it. I think that it is a wise decision and is the right decision.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that as the TSRB has given a decision, if the case goes back to it and it gives a different and advantageous decision, it may lead to every person who has been awarded anything by the body going back again?
§ Mr. du Cann
I shall come to that in a moment. I am sure that the decision to refer the whole matter to the Boyle Committee again is entirely wise, but there are some matters that I should like to raise in relation to that reference.
First, I hope that the Leader of the House will agree that the reference should be comprehensive. There are many matters to be considered. It is not only the question of what is the absolute rate for the job, which bears on the intervention of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) but it is necessary, once and for all, to settle whether it would be appropriate to have a sort of running comparative yardstick. I think not, but I recognise that many hon. Members argue for that. I think that it is for us to make decisions and not to hide behind the skirts of another profession.
The reference should also include pensions. It was impossible not to be moved by the discussion in the House the night before last, especially by the telling speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North who spoke about the 270 of our colleagues who do not have pensions. As the Minister said in that debate, we need to reconstitute that pension scheme in order to have more flexible rules. That is obviously a 2033 wise way to operate and it would be helpful to have the Boyle Committee's views and recommendations on that aspect.
Clearly we must also look at the scale of allowances and the comparative position of Ministers in another place, just as we must consider the position of Ministers in general. Last, but by no means least, we must consider the remuneration of the small group of our most senior public servants, including the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor and yourself, Mr. Speaker, and especially your pension provisions.
It is clear that the position of hon. Members has slipped through our carelessness, indifference and cowardice. It is urgent that the matter should be thoroughly investigated and it is fine that this is to be done. But that is not enough. There must be a commitment by the Government and the Opposition. What is the point of having an inquiry, with all the work that goes into it, if we do not know whether its results will be accepted?
I speak only for myself—I cannot commit my colleagues or Labour Members—but I should be willing to abide by the recommendations of the Boyle Committee, good, bad or indifferent. If we ask distinguished people to do a great deal of work and to make a thorough survey, we should say that we shall accept their conclusions. The Government and the Opposition should both say that. It should be an understood commitment so that we can remove this matter from politics altogether and say to the British people that we are conscious that we have not got this right in the past, but we are now determined to do so and, whatever party forms the Government and whatever allowances may be due in future, we are determined to see that this business is put into proper order. I hope that the Leader of the House will state that on behalf of the Government, plainly and forthrightly, and that the Shadow Leader of the House will echo that commitment.
We have been fooled once, because the Boyle Committee made a recommendation that was casually tossed on one side. That is not the way to do things. I hope that there will be a general consensus that that precedent will not be 2034 followed in future, and that by setting up the Boyle Committee and agreeing to implement its recommendations, even if we have to phase them, we shall ensure that this matter is handled with better sense and dignity than in the past.
§ 11.35 a.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)
I agree with almost everything said by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann). The House owes him and my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) a debt of gratitude for seeking to put these matters on an all-party basis. Without that, we shall not get very far, but even with it we are not getting, all that far.
The House will know that according to radio reports, reporters on The Sun newspaper are striking for an extra £1,300 on top of the £8,000 a year that they receive at present. Another example was recorded in The Observer last Sunday. Under the recent Government proposals, a police sergeant in London will, from September, receive £6,000 a year, and the Opposition are on record as saying that if they are returned to power they will pay immediately the 40 per cent. increase recommended by the committee of inquiry, which would give that police sergeant £7,000 a year. He would then be getting more than an hon. Member. Such is the state of public opinion that people may say that police sergeants do a more important and better job than do hon. Members. That is a measure of the decline of the status of this House, but part of it is due precisely to the way in which we have handled the problem that we are now discussing. We get the respect that we deserve.
§ Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)
Do the figures that my hon. Friend has quoted for the police sergeant include the tax-free rent allowance?
§ Mr. Hamilton
No, the figures do not include overtime, either. I listened with great interest to the radio interview given this morning by the right hon. Member for Taunton. The interviewer laid great stress on the fact that we get expenses 2035 on top of our salary, but that interviewer probably gets far more expenses than we get.
When I write to my local authority, the officials who reply to me do not pay for their secretarial assistance. Even the most junior official in a local authority has a secretary at hand. When I first came to the House, longer ago than I care to admit, we received no secretarial assistance, and we even had to pay for every stamp on every letter to every constituent who wrote to us. Indeed, some of us were driven to bringing sandwiches because we could not afford the lunches that were provided here.
Labour Governments have been meaner in these matters than have Tory Governments. Tory Leaders of the House have been more responsive to the views of Back Benchers than have successive Labour Leaders of the House. If I were a member of the Boyle Committee I would refuse to take this on board. We have had the Lawrence inquiry. I remember that a former leader of the Liberal Party, Clement Davies, caused an investigation to be made into the subject. All Governments, of whatever complexion, have refused to implement the recommendations that have come forward.
I remember that when Rab Butler, now Lord Butler, was Leader of the House he introduced a £2-a-day allowance, but it operated only from Tuesday to Thursday. A Member who came in on a Friday did not get the allowance. When we used to debate the motion for the Adjournment of the House before a recess hon. Members were inclined to say that the House ought to return a little earlier, because they could get two quid a day extra. That is the kind of squalor that we have brought upon ourselves by our own timidity and hyprocrisy.
The right hon. Member for Taunton was right to talk about European salaries. We have become so used to adopting the hair-shirt attitude that there is some surprise among hon. Members to find that those in the European Parliament will receive salaries three or four times as high as those paid to us. European Members of Parliament laugh at the way in which we have treated ourselves.
I can imagine what some of the newspapers and some people outside will be 2036 saying. They will be saying "Here they are again, on a Friday, fixing their own salaries." Who on earth can do this for us? Boyle cannot. Lawrence could not. If we tie ourselves to the Civil Service I understand that some of the trade unions would object, because it would be regarded as a backstairs method of getting a pay increase. It is extremely difficult to adopt the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman of taking these matters out of politics by getting agreement between the two Front Benches to commit a future Government following the next election. It is impossible to do that.
Let us imagine the scenario. There is a change of Government at the next election, with a hung Parliament, like this one. Does anyone imagine that that Government will place anywhere near the top of their priorities the subject of the salaries of Members of Parliament? There is not a hope in hell of that happening. Back Benchers have to get themselves together, as we are doing, and make some sort of protest against whatever Government are in power. We should insist that Back Benchers are sovereign in this matter. The more hung the Parliament the more sovereign we are. I hope that we shall have several hung Parliaments in the next 10 to 15 years because that is the only way to deal with this matter.
Let me give another example from my own experience. I hope that hon. Members will forgive the personal nature of this example. I have been here for more than a quarter of a century. If I were to announce my retirement before the next election—I hasten to add that I have no intention of doing so—I would not get a single penny by way of redundancy payment. But if I stood at the next election and lost I would receive the handsome sum of three months' pay, which would be about £1,500.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has suffered closures in the steel industry in Ebbw Vale, his constituency. The workers affected are supposed to be covered by the redundancy payments legislation. But we are going outside that law to deal with these workers and are paying them above the rate. I do not complain about that. But things have come to a pretty pass when we say that Members of Parliament shall receive nothing, or at the most £1,500, and then only if they stand for election. If they retire 2037 they receive nothing. We pay ourselves in such a mean fashion that we are treated worse than the most humble worker outside.
Hon. Members will notice how sparsely attended this debate is. There are several reasons for this. One is connected with the fact that my opponent in Fife, the SNP, the Communists and the Tories, will be hanging on to every word I say. If they can use any of this against me at the next election they will do so. Every hon. Member is fearful of that happening to him. No doubt when these proposals go through there will be one or two hon. Members anxiously seeking to wear their consciences on their sleeves. They will say "I will give the increase to the old-age pensioners in my constituency." We have had that time and again. One or two hon. Members might refuse to take the increase and make sure that their conscience is not a quiet, secret thing. The fact that they are not taking the increase will be on the front page of the News of the World and The Sun, when it gets back into circulation. This is highly objectionable.
I wish now to refer to those who will not benefit from what we are doing today. When we discussed pension provisions for Members of Parliament earlier this week I was led to contact some of our ex-colleagues and find out about their problems. I want to put on record just what state they are now in. I will not identify them but the Leader of the House will recognise at least one case when I explain matters. The first case concerns a former Member who came to this House in 1945 when the salary was £600. He had to resign—because of the rules of the union which sponsored him—in October 1964, when the salary was £1,750. He received no pension at all after 191 years in this House. We had no pension scheme until 1964.
This former colleague now gets a means-tested payment from the Members' Fund, for which he is required to complete a form annually giving details of his means, his savings and so on. He makes no complaint about the trustees operating the scheme. On the contrary, he says that they are most humane, as one would expect. But why should someone who has been a Member of this House 2038 for a period of years be subject to that indignity? People outside will say that the supplementary benefits scheme is based on means testing. We on the Labour Benches have always said that we want to get rid of all means-tested benefits. I do not believe that that day will come but it is an ideal. I do not understand why we should inflict this system on ex-Members of this House, particularly since they form a small and declining group. I find it reprehensible that we should deal with these people in that way.
My second case concerns someone who came here in 1941. He retired in 1966 after 25 years' membership. He became a beneficiary of the first Members' pension scheme of 1964. He was given 10 years' back credits plus one year. He did not qualify for the extra five years that we now give.
My right hon. Friend will, perhaps, recognise the identity of my third example. This man became a Member in 1945 and resigned in 1968 after 22½ years' service. He received a pension of £780—£15 a week. He wrote to me saying that he had managed to save a little bit of money. He had been a lawyer and I think that he practised when he was in this House. He had put his savings into Government securities. He said:I was a bit of an ass. I did not realise what inflation could do.He describes how he now lives in London. It is three years since he was out of London. He cannot afford to go to the pictures or the theatre or enjoy any kind of social life. He used to enjoy a drink in this House. He can no longer afford that. The only club he belonged to was the RAC, and he has had to abandon membership of that.
It is heartbreaking, and it makes one very angry, to recognise that this man used to sit on the Bench below the Gangway. He was the most scintillating, exciting and humorous debater in this House. It is absolutely outrageous to treat a man such as that in this way after that kind of public service. We talk about primitive societies in Africa and Asia! They treat their old people in a far more civilised fashion than we treat our ex-Members.
I concede that there are dangers in this. I should like to refer to one or two of 2039 them. First, not only our pay conditions but our working conditions encourage and foster the part-time Member. No one, unless with great difficulty, can do this job properly on the kind of salary and expenses which he now receives. I have always taken the view that however that may be, there is room for the part-time Member in this House. Indeed, I go further and say that some of the so-called part-time Members are more efficient at their job than some of the so-called full-time Members. The fact that a Member spends more hours in this House than others who have outside interests does not necessarily mean that such a Member is more efficient at his job. Nevertheless, this place could not function unless there was a considerable nucleus of full-time Members—I put the figure at about 200—in order to man Select Committees, Standing Committees, and the rest.
The salary ought to be geared to their requirements, rather than to those of the part-timer. But I am afraid that the salary is, and always has been, geared to the requirements of the part-time Member. Therefore, the full-time Member, existing on inadequate salary and working conditions, is subject and susceptible to all kinds of undesirable outside pressures. We can all quote examples of individual Members—I could name them—on both sides of the House who have been subject to all kinds of seedy pressures, and have been paid by those pressures precisely because they cannot resist the temptation as a consequence of the inadequate salaries which we receive. The great dangers of corruption are there. It would not be surprising if more Members than is the case yielded to those pressures under the present system.
We all know the problem. I do not know what the solution is. I doubt very much whether we shall get the solution recommended by the right hon. Member for Taunton. I think that there are two alternatives. There is the one that I have suggested—that Back Benchers ought to exert pressure on the tyrannical Treasury and Front Bench of whatever Government happen to be in power. It is Back Benchers who must assert themselves in this matter.
The other alternative—it is not a new one; I believe Nye Bevan also took this view—is that we ought to try to tie 2040 our salaries and conditions to those of an agreed grade of the civil service. Whatever the objections, I think that with little backlash a Government could agree to that in principle and then work on from that within the next 12 months, or whenever the next pay increase for that grade comes along. At least that would take the matter out of our hands.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
That is an attractive proposition, but is my hon. Friend aware that the greatest opposition to it comes from the Civil Service unions, who feel that such an arrangement might unnecessarily drag down their pay and force them to fight not only on behalf of their own members but on behalf of a whole group of 600 surrogate members who are not actually members of their unions?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I know that very well. My hon. Friend is quite right. That is where the opposition comes from. But this is where a Government should exert their own sovereign right to determine that our salaries shall be tied to that particular grade. After all, the Government now pursue a policy on incomes and the rest which is in conflict with the declared views of trade unions outside. But that has not discouraged the Government from pursuing that policy because they think that it is right and in the national interest.
I think that in the national interest we should put this matter on a civilised and sensible level. Whatever the views of pressure groups outside, it is up to the Government to assert that this is the way in which we shall handle this problem. Unless we do that, we shall come back to this position time and time again. We are very timid in relation to this matter, and Labour Governments are more timid than most.
§ 11.56 a.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I am not opposed to the third of the three motions which are being considered together in this debate, but I am opposed to the first and the second. Although I suspect, from divers indications, that there may be general support for them in the House and, indeed, for propositions more far reaching, it is perhaps right that a contrary view should be stated.
My opposition is upon two separate grounds, the one narrower, the other 2041 broader. The narrow ground is that Members of this House of Commons ought not, even when they decide that it is right and necessary to increase the remuneration of Members of Parliament, to do so in such a way as to benefit themselves in this present Parliament. We, who alone have control of the public purse, ought not to vote money to ourselves. If we think the remuneration should be increased, let us make that decision for subsequent Parliaments—for those whom the electorate shall decide to return here in future; but let us not be seen to be using our power to benefit ourselves who sit here in this present Parliament.
That argument would, in my view, be valid quite apart from one of the principal reasons which brings us here, time after time, with this question, as the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) said. Part of the reason is inflation. What we are doing is voting ourselves, or seeking to vote ourselves, an offset to the deterioration in the value of money for which we ourselves are responsible.
I shall not attempt to divert this debate into an economic discussion; but the Prime Minister believes that it was the profligacy of the previous Administration which, by increasing the money supply, caused the inflation of 1975 and 1976. That is the official view of the Government. So, at any rate on that view, we stand self-accused of being the cause of the inflation which has been inflicted upon the country. When that is so, it is an addition of shamelessness to use our power of the purse to vote ourselves an offset to see that we are all right, Jack. That is the narrower ground why I consider this to be a shameful thing that we are doing in the form in which we are doing it.
But the wider ground is that we have the whole idea of remuneration of Members completely and dangerously wrong. The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said that the financial position of Members had slipped. He assents to my quotation. Of course, all these comparisons very much depend upon the starting point which one takes. But I shall take a starting point which is not arbitrary from my point of view. The House and the country may be interested in the 2042 financial comparison between the year 1950 and the year 1978.
I belong, as others still here do, to the generation which came into the House after the war. It was a generation which longed to find a place in this House. To say the worst of it, those who came in at the General Election of 1950, the first General Election after the cessation of hostilities, were not the least distinguished generation of hon. Members to have entered this House and to have served in it.
The salary then was £1,000. It may surprise hon. Members to recall that a single Member of Parliament, who had no other income, paid £344 in tax out of that £1,000. In 1950 one was "passing rich" on £1,000 a year, if I may misquote Oliver Goldsmith. With a gross income of £1,000 in 1950, an unmarried Member of Parliament had a net income of £656.
Many of us who threw ourselves with the utmost enthusiasm into the work of this House were in some demand for journalism, broadcasting and in other ways. But the majority of those of whom I am thinking were, while Members of Parliament, mainly dependent upon that remuneration.
I have ascertained the net income which would correspond today to £656. It is £3,589 in purchasing power. I have ascertained further what at today's rates of tax the remuneration of a single Member of Parliament would have to be to yield the same net purchasing power after tax as the salary in 1950. That sum is £4,782, somewhat larger than the salary payable at the beginning of this Parliament, which some of us still draw and which was £4,250.
A salary of £4,782 would be the equivalent in purchasing power, net, after tax, of the remuneration on which the post-war generation of Members of Parliament, who against heavy competition managed to find a place in this House, in some cases very marginally, did their duties here nearly full time in many cases and reared families and provided by insurance for their old age or the other events which might befall their families. I thought the House might like to be reminded of those facts.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
I have been following the right hon. Member's argument very closely, and it is extremely interesting. But there is a factor which he has not taken into consideration. It is that the general standard of living in the country has increased considerably since 1950. The standard of living has increased, and the expectations of all the people have increased since that time, including those of Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Powell
The desire to be in this House has neither increased nor diminished, so far as I observe. However, there were factors that I had omitted, and I shall proceed to mention them.
At that time, there were none of the perks of all kinds which we receive today. I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is not the right word. I should have said "allowances, reimbursements and facilities." As the hon. Member for Fife, Central said, except for correspondence with local authorities and Ministries, we stamped our own letters, as our constituents did theirs to us. There was no secretarial allowance.
Let me spend a moment on that, since one of these motions relates to payment for a secretary. The majority of hon. Members in this House do not need a secretary for the proper discharge of their duties.
§ Mr. Powell
Very well. One of the privileges which we have in this House, according to the right hon. Member for Taunton, is that of free speech. During the first 18 years that I was a Member of this House I had no secretary. In those years many complaints were made of me; but one complaint that was not made was that I neglected my correspondence or my duties to my constituents; nor was it urged against me that I was failing in diligence in applying my mind to the matters which successively were put before this House.
Has the volume of constituency correspondence increased? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes".] That is curious. I am well aware of Parkinson's law; and I dare say that it operates in all sorts of areas. But my recollection is pretty clear about the volume of constituency correspondence 2044 when I came into the House in 1950. Of course, we could have some statistics about this. But I depose that in my own case the volume of correspondence which I received as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was higher then than it was 25 years later. That is one hon. Member's testimony.
§ Mr. Bottomley
The right hon. Member is not putting forward an argument; nor is he giving any general information which may be of use to the House or the country. Has he sought information from the House of Commons post office to confirm his impression about the volume of incoming correspondence to Members of Parliament?
§ Mr. Powell
If hon. Members wished, I am sure that an investigation could be made. I am not suggesting it but, if hon. Members wished, I am sure that we could have an investigation made of the number of constituents' letters received by hon. Members per diem and per week. But in the absence of those figures we must state our own experience, opinion and, in the case of those who have a considerable length of service, our recollection.
I now have 90,000 constituents and a very considerable correspondence otherwise. I find at present, taking one week with another, that a half-time secretary meets my needs. I am not saying that she is not a very good secretary. I am not saying that I am not a very fast worker. But it is perhaps a little local colour which is worth contributing to a debate in which we are enhancing further the allowance to enable every hon. Member of this House to employ a full-time secretary if he wishes.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member for Fife, Central says that he will not be paid it if he does not employ a full-time secretary. Well, we are all hon. Members in this House and, therefore, what he says must be true.
I shall not pile on the agony by referring to research assistants, although it sometimes strikes me to wonder what most 2045 Members of Parliament could possibly do with a research assistant, considering the excellent services, very much better than 25 or 30 years ago, that we can receive in the House of Commons Library without additional cost to the public purse.
When I said that the equivalent remuneration to 1950 is £4,782, that was an overstatement. It would probably be truer to say that, taking one thing with another—I have not mentioned all the details such as reimbursement for travel by car and so on which did not exist 28 years ago—the real remuneration of hon. Members who are now on £4,250 is the same as the real remuneration of hon. Members in 1950, the post-war generation on £1,000.
What, then, is the case for a higher remuneration? What is the case for the figure of nearly £7,000 as proposed in the motion, let alone the case for the much higher figures which have been mentioned?
§ Mr. William Price
As I understand it, the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to the belief that I had no right at all to introduce any provision today. He has been consistent in that view, and I respect him for it. I understand him to be saying that we should not have any increase within an existing Parliament. Does it follow from that that he accepts my right to introduce something in the next Parliament? If so, what should that figure be?
§ Mr. Powell
I was at that moment about to come to the question whether there was any justification for the real remuneration of an hon. Member of this House being increased above the traditional figure, if I may so roughly describe what it stood at for several years before or after 1950, with adjustment for the deterioration in the value of money.
The hon. Member for Fife, Central, in comparing our remuneration with that of a police constable and other worthy members of the community, said that we get the respect we deserve, and he seemed to think that we should increase the respect we get by increasing our remuneration. He even went so far as to say that it was our inadequate remuneration which 2046 was the cause of our not being sufficiently respected.
I wish to state the opposite view. I do not believe one can make oneself respected by putting up one's income—certainly not by voting oneself an increase in income. It may or may not be right to do so; but the notion that we should be more respected because we put ourselves on the basis of an assistant secretary in a Government Department or a county court judge is something which this House should unite in repudiating.
It is inherently impossible to discover an analogue outside for a Member of Parliament. This is a unique House and the Members of it fill a unique position, and a uniquely honourable position. Whatever analogue one chooses, it is still absurd to say that the remuneration of a full colonel—or a field marshal perhaps?—a county court judge or a stipendiary magistrate or what one pleases is an analogue for the remuneration of a Member of Parliament.
Our position is unique, this House is unique by reason of our unique position, and we alone fix arbitrarily what remuneration we believe is defensible and what remuneration we believe will be to the future benefit of this House; for when we take decisions on this kind of subject we are taking decisions about the future of this House of Commons and about the quality of those who will sit here.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
The right hon. Gentleman said that there are no analogues in this respect. There are analogues, but not in this country. If we look over the water to the United States Congress, where there is a large estate but where the Members have fewer responsibilities because they are responsible only for federal government, we see that they fix their pay on the simple basis that no civil servant should be paid more than a member of the legislature. I am reliably informed that the civil service trade unions in the United States are among the strongest advocates of an increase in pay for representatives there.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Member for Taunton said earlier that modesty is our characteristic in this House. He was heard without dissent. But in one respect, 2047 at any rate, I am not modest—and that is in regard to this House. I regard no other assembly in the world as in any way comparable with this House of Commons. I have nothing but contempt for those who would argue that we should conduct ourselves in such and such a way, or remunerate ourselves in such and such a way, because the assemblies in France or the United States or some other part of the world do this or do that.
§ Mr. Powell
There is a very good case for doing it for nothing Our honour and the honour of this House is derived from the view that is held of our motives. It is upon that, and that only, that our honour rests—namely, on our motivation. If we pay ourselves in this House a salary such as a person of reasonable talents and education might aspire to if he gets to be a county court judge or a full colonel, if we arrange for ourselves allowances for the expenses we decide to incur such as an employee in a Government office would have, if we provide ourselves with a pension so as to make a career with retirement to look to afterwards, we shall be valued at the valuation we put upon ourselves—as hacks, as people who have come into the job which offered us the best return for our limited talents and who wish to make a career of it, intending to hang on as long as possible until we disappear into a relatively comfortable retirement.
It ought always to be a privilege, and a privilege that demands some sacrifice—that is a word that has been used already in the debate—to belong to the House. There has been talk about hon. Members having undergone sacrifices in receiving the remuneration that has been available to them over the past 25 years. They did not seem to be conscious of the sacrifice they were undergoing when they sought to be re-elected.
We ought to be worthy of our honour and tradition. We should claim no more than that minimum remuneration on which any, high or low, can find the means, if that is his ambition, of serving in the House so long as the electors return him. If we alter that basis, we shall become a career assembly, we shall become an assembly that is not one 2048 which men compete to belong to for the sake of belonging to it whatever they have to lose elsewhere in order to do so. We shall become an assembly that will be valued by the scale suggested by the hon. Member for Fife, Central—in accordance with the money that we pay ourselves.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I, like the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), was a Member of the House in the 1950s. I wish to make some comments not entirely in accord with his description of the situation. It is true that there were some hon. Members then, as there are now, who had other sources of income, private means, and therefore found what I believe was a most unsatisfactory salary to be a salary on which they could manage tolerably well.
As the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat personalised the debate, I shall weary the House for a short while by describing my own position. Compared with many hon. Members, I had a number of advantages. I had a London home and a London constituency. My wife and I did not have any dependent children. We were both able to earn a certain amount by writing and lecturing. We did not earn substantial sums because education work is never tremendously well rewarded. However, we had advantages that many hon. Members did not enjoy. Even with the possession of those advantages, I could only just about manage. I was able to manage because I had been a junior Minister from 1945 to 1950 and in that time I had been able to save. I was able to keep going during the 1950s by gradually reducing those savings. I do not think that I lived extravagantly.
With the advantages that I have mentioned, I could just about manage. That meant that many other younger hon. Members with three or four dependent children and with travelling expenses that I did not have to meet, and who before coming into the House pursued occupations that they could not continue once they were here, even on a part-time basis, were in a grave situation. They had to hope for the best. They had to hope that somehow they would be able to make some provision for their old age.
2049 I accept that many hon. Members in that position at that time did their work diligently. However, it is not right that people should be asked to do the work of Members of Parliament under the financial strain that many of us—I to a limited extent and others to a much greater extent—had to suffer. Members should not be required to do the work under that strain. I reject the idea that in the early 1950s we were all right. That is not borne out by the experience of most hon. Members who served at that time, unless they were fortunate enough to have private incomes.
It is also reasonable to say that the fact that the general standard of life has risen to some extent affects the amount that we should receive. I agree that Members of Parliament should not be desperately eager to see that they are always ahead of the pack. However, it is not desirable that over the years they should drop down and down in the general scale of incomes. That is what the right hon. Member for Down, South is suggesting. When it was pointed out to him that incomes in general had risen, his reply was one of the expressions of contempt which, if I may say so, he frequently uses as a substitute for argument. I do not think that we can accept his proposition.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke frequently of honour and of how we are discredited by raising our own salaries. I am entitled to point out that what is proposed will not make all that difference to me or to any hon. Members who are to retire at the next General Election. It will make some difference and I shall not be sorry to receive it, but I am not concerned about these matters very greatly on my own behalf. However, I should be failing in my duty if I did not have some regard to those who are to come to the House.
It is true that there are some who will say "I care nothing for my income so long as I can be a Member of Parliament." My own feeling is that anyone who is a family man has to pay some attention to his income. Anyone who is so devoted to being a Member as to be not greatly concerned about what happens to his family is not entirely likely to make the best sort of Member. The right hon. 2050 Member for Down, South should take a more generous view of what a Member of Parliament is entitled to and should be entitled to in future.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Sir Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I agree very much with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart). I was astonished by the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who seemed to say that we should not vote money for ourselves. I do not know who else will ever do it. Are our salaries to be frozen for ever because in his view we are responsible for inflation, which in any case is not true?
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the employment of secretaries. He said, to my amazement, that we do not need secretaries. In common with the right hon. Gentleman and many others, I receive many more letters now than I did in 1950. I remember a year or two ago my stepfather, who was a Member of the House and a Minister for many years, telling me that I receive more letters in one day than he received in a week when he represented the city of Norwich. Should our replies, or part of them, be in longhand? Every business man has a secretary. Why should we make ourselves less efficient than others and less efficient than we need be? In my early days here, I used to see hon. Members in the Library writing letters in longhand to their constituents—
§ Sir N. Fisher
—which took up a great deal of their time. I did not consider that to be a good use of a Member's time.
Like other hon. Members, I very much welcome the Lord President's announcement that Ministers' and Members' pay is to be increased by 10 per cent. and that there is to be a further review of parliamentary pay and allowances by Lord Boyle's independent Review Body. I thank him and the Parliamentary Secretary, who introduced the order, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cunn) and the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), who joined together to make representations on this matter—it is not a party matter—and whose influence must have been considerable in inducing the right hon. Gentleman 2051 to bring forward the order. In my view and that of most hon. Members of this House and, as I saw in a recent debate, of the other place and of many people outside, our pay will nevertheless still be very low despite this increase. It always has been.
We know the history of Members' pay. Many members of the public may not. Therefore, I should like to spend a minute or two on it. No salaries were paid at all until 1912, when the rate was fixed at £400 a year. That was not increased until 1937, and then only to £600 a year. By the time that I came here in 1950 the salary was £1,000 a year. But there were no secretarial or other allowances. Members were actually out of pocket after paying for a secretary, postage, telephone, petrol and obligatory entertaining. Therefore, one had no net income at all. Indeed, it cost money to be a Member of Parliament.
Of course, that is no longer the case. But, even now, there is no allowance for entertaining constituents and overseas parliamentary visitors or for most of our constituency expenses and subscriptions. As a junior Minister in the early 1960s, I remember that I earned £2,500 a year for an average 18-hour working day and considerable responsibility. In those days, many hon. Members could not afford to take office because of the fall in income that it entailed.
Ten years later Members' salaries had gone up to £4,500, and in 1975 Lord Boyle recommended an immediate increase to £8,000 a year. The Government accepted that this was a fair figure and fully justified but decided that, in view of the anti-inflation policy, it could not be implemented. Therefore, our salaries were fixed at £5,750 instead of £8,000. That that was far too low was admitted by the Government when they had to resort to the extraordinary device of basing parliamentary pensions on a notional salary of £8,000 a year. Since then there have been two small supplements of £312 in June 1976 and £208 in June 1977 in line with the incomes policy for those years. But the £312 increase was paid only to those Members whose total remuneration from all sources was less than £8,500 a year. That, of course, created the unsatisfactory anomaly of two-tier salaries.
2052 Those who through outside activities earn extra money are inevitably and almost by definition somewhat overworked. But, in order to enjoy a reasonable, by no means extravagant, standard of living, that is almost bound to happen because we are underpaid as Members of this House.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
Is my hon. Friend going to tell the House—if so, I hope that he will forgive me—that the £400 a year which was paid in 1912—I have done a rough calculation in my head--if drawn in gold sovereigns, would be the equivalent today of £37,000 a year?
§ Sir N. Fisher
That is a very interesting figure and roughly comparable with what Members of the German Parliament get today. But in a precarious job, which may be cut short for Ministers by a change of Government or for Members by defeat in an election, our salaries are lower than in any other western country except Eire and Luxembourg, which are not very large countries. That tends almost certainly to lower the standard, because many able men literally cannot afford to enter public life in this country.
By trying to get Government and Parliament on the cheap, this country risks getting the quality that it pays for. Having regard to the rise in the retail price index and in the average earnings figure since 1975, a Member of Parliament's salary, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton pointed out, to be brought up to the level of Lord Boyle's 1975 recommendation would need to be about £11,000 a year. Even at that rate of pay, we should still be getting far less than Members of Parliament in comparable countries.
Leaving aside the United States, where Members are paid the equivalent of £27,000 a year and Japan, where the pay is equivalent to £25,000 a year, the rate for the European Parliaments—some of them not very big countries—works out at the equivalent of £21,000 in France and Belgium, £19,500 in the Netherlands and no less than £37,000, including tax-free allowances, in West Germany.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
My hon. Friend is quite right about the £19,000 in the Netherlands. But does he realise that they also have the very 2053 civilised system of having all votes on Tuesdays?
§ Sir N. Fisher
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that information. I had not realised that. Even the Members of the State Parliaments in Germany get four or five times as much as we do. In Lower Saxony Members get the equivalent of £23,500, in Hesse £26,000 and in Bavaria £33,000.
As some hon. Members have already pointed out, the Members of the European Parliament will be paid about £20,000 a year after direct elections. Salaries in quite small countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, are also higher than we get. They amount to £12,500 a year in each case. In Canada the rate is £14,000 and in Australia it is £13,000.
The reason for our low pay is, as has been remarked, that we are always last in the queue for any increase. That is partly because it seems invidious to raise our own salaries and partly because to do so might be unpopular with the electorate. Therefore, no Government want to do it—we understand that—especially during a period of pay restraint and especially in a pre-election period.
There is, however, one way of overcoming this natural reluctance. It is by no means certain which party will win the next General Election. Therefore, if the leaders of both main parties jointly announced before the General Election that, whichever party wins it, the pay of Ministers and Members will be raised to the level that Lord Boyle, in his next review, recommends, there would then be no odium—or there would be equal odium—for the two main parties and no political disadvantage to either of them. It would also be more straightforward to the electorate to say openly what we have in mind.
Perhaps the rise would have to be phased over a period of two or three years as has been arranged for the firemen, but the principle would have been accepted and the hardship suffered by some Members, of both parties, would be mitigated. I hope that the Leader of the House and the leaders of both main parties will give serious consideration to this proposal.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
The speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was, in one sense, preposterous and ludicrous. However, it contained, as do all the right hon. Member's speeches, certain germs of truth with which I have a sympathy.
The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) spoke about company chairman earning £36,000 per year and said that that was an appropriate salary for our Prime Minister. There are dangers in taking the monetary values of our capitalist society and judging our salaries by them.
There are some dangers—I do not wish to exaggerate them—in taking the salary of, for example, an assistant secretary or colonel and comparing it with ours. The danger in that is that we would type ourselves as assistant secretaries or colonels. I believe that that would be undesirable.
I speak with some experience, because I have voluntarily stopped being a Member of the European Assembly, where I mixed daily with Members of Parliament who earned four, five and sometimes six times as much as I. Those Members of Parliament were firmly notched into a particular position within the hierarchy of their countries.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South that we would lose something important if we admitted for one moment that the House of Commons was not unique. It is not to be judged by any other standard in British life. For my sins, I happen to have appeared before the Committee of Privileges for doing something in the House which I thought asserted exactly that principle—that we have the right to say things here which no one else and no other court in the land has the right to say.
I suspect that Boyle will recommend a linkage, but I hope that we shall not allow any linkage that emerges to lead to the Treasury's imposing regulation after regulation upon our salaries. That would break us away from the unique position that we are now in.
Many changes have been pushed through. There was the little change which no one noticed which made us no 2055 longer self-employed but employed people. The small print said that to be employed one did not have to have an employer. Technically, we are the only group which receives an employed person's salary but which has no employer.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Let us not put that notion abroad. What happened was that in the 1973 Social Security Act it was provided that all persons who paid tax under schedule E as against schedule D would in future be treated as employed earners for the purpose of national insurance. We are not the only group that fits that category. Company directors are in that category. It is important that that idea should not be given any more currency, because it is not true.
§ Mr. Price
I persist in my argument. I do not understand enough about company directors to know whether they are technically employed by companies.
Whatever the arrangements for our salaries and allowances, and however they are organised, it is important that we should not be "employed" in the same way as civil servants. Our role is different, and we must assert the right to keep it that way.
The most eloquent testimony in the speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South was that this Parliament happens, for good or bad reasons, to be different from the other Parliaments with which I have come into contact on the Continent, because of the puritanical conspiracy that is unique to Britain and that stretches across from the right hon. Member for Down, South to the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. It is a conspiracy which, in a curious way, asserts that our democracy is different and that we should not try to fix our rate for the job in relation to anything else. It considers poverty in politics a virtue.
§ Mr. Price
I agree that there is an element of that. But the greatest characteristic is its nonconformist nature. It springs from the country's being Protestant rather than Catholic at heart. This puritan conspiracy has both good and bad points. I do not believe that the 2056 aristocratic element is anything of which to be proud.
The reason why this House used not to pay its Members a salary at all, and then began to pay its Members a comparatively low salary, was that before the Second World War a large majority of its Members did not need any pay. In fact, for quite a long time this House was a machine for ensuring that the aristocracy and the moneyed folk of the country kept unscathed their position of power and wealth in society. The reason we had to bring in salaries was that there came into Parliament increasing numbers of people who wanted fundamentally to change that balance of power.
We still have many people in this Parliament who want to change that fundamental balance of power. Indeed, I was elected in October 1974 on a manifesto whose last sentence is engraved, I hope, on my leader's mind and certainly on the minds of everyone on the Government side of the House—that our whole aim is to change the balance of power and wealth in favour of the working people of Britain. I think that we have gone a little way towards doing that.
Therefore, in the sense that we pay ourselves half salaries, as it were, as compared with the sorts of salaries that a large proportion of Members could get if they decided not to come into the House, it is an unattractive proposition, because it is a hangover of the old idea that so long as we pay ourselves low salaries we shall get here the sort of people who can earn their money outside and, therefore, will support those professions in which they can earn their money outside.
I feel a little persecuted by the lawyers at present, because the lawyers are one such group in the House. I wish that I could earn, through my humble journalistic efforts, as much as some of my lawyer colleagues in the House receive. But as long as we have a tremendous legal element in the House, to those people the salary is not all that important.
§ Mr. Lawrence
The hon. Member seems to be in danger of perpetuating the widely held myth that most of this House is made up of practising lawyers. I think that there are fewer than 30 practising lawyers in the House. I wish that the hon. 2057 Member would take that on board and not go on repeating what is clearly a falsehood.
§ Mr. Price
I did not make any statement about the proportion. The hon. Member may well be right. I do not know. The only point that I was trying to make was that as long as we have a comparatively low salary we shall attract people of that kind. To the extent that we attract that sort of person, there will be no incentive to raise the salary at all.
§ Mr. Alan Clark
I should like to ask the hon. Member a question about the aristocracy. As I understand it, he equates the aristocracy with moneyed folk. But "aristocracy" means "the best". I am sure that the hon. Member would feel that this House, from which the Government are drawn, should consist of aristocrats. Does not he agree that the aristocracy is something whose ingredients shift and alter? I take the view that it is perfectly legitimate and possible that the trade union movement can contribute aristocrats to our Government.
§ Mr. Price
I do not want to pursue that point, except to say that it has always been the characteristic of the moneyed folk, in all societies, to call themselves the best, the aristocrats—even in Athens. However, I do not want to get drawn down that road; I want to move over to what I believe to be the admirable side of the puritanical conspiracy that governs our salaries and has governed them ever since 1945.
I reject the aristrocratic side, but there is a very strong strain in British life, in, for instance, our trade union movement, which is reluctant to pay a general secretary more than the average wage that the membership of the union receives. One could replicate that in various other parts of our national life.
During my year in Europe, I found that this tradition, this strain, was unique to this country. To the extent that our salaries have been held down for this sort of reason, it does not derogate from our honour, standing and status; it is something that simply must be taken into account by anyone who comes into the House.
Having said that, however, I feel, like my right hon. Friend the Member for 2058 Fulham (Mr. Stewart), that all those things being considered, and in spite of the figures given by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr Powell), things have got quite badly out of joint. There is a point at which salaries drop to a level at which people simply do not understand why we allow the situation to continue. My feeling is that this is connected with the sort of fear that Labour Governments, particularly, have had, especially after the Labour Government's experience in 1964. They were quite wrongly castigated by a vicious, nasty Tory press, for purely political reasons, for implementing the recommendations of the Lawrence committee, which had been set up by a Tory Government and agreed by both parties.
That traumatic experience of the Lawrence committee is so branded on the hearts of every Labour Cabinet—it was said that we were putting up our salaries before pensioners could get their money—that over the period of Government from 1974 through to the 1990s, they have been and will be unduly concerned about it.
The Boyle report recommends increases in November or December. I do not know what sort of time scale the Leader of the House has in mind for all this. My view is that when we are reelected, if salaries were then to rise, with an increase of what might well look like nearly 100 per cent.—nearly double—it would pass with little more than a murmur.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, I have to inform the House that a minor domestic problem has arisen. The digital clocks have taken charge and they are moving further away from the exact time. There appears to be no possibility of reversing time in this place—although hon. Members may think otherwise. Therefore, these clocks will be turned off shortly and we shall go back to the old-fashioned method of taking the time from the electric clocks at either end of the Chamber.
§ 12.56 p.m.
Mr. Alan Cork (Plymouth, Sutton)
I completely reject the concept that our salaries can in any way be linked to, or that they are in any sense comparable 2059 with, earnings in other parts of society. I find it humiliating and ludicrous that company directors, and still less colonels or middle-range civil servants, should be compared with Members of Parliament.
I take the view—I say this at the outset to put at rest the minds of hon. Members on both sides of the House—that Members of Parliament should not receive any salary at all.
§ Mr. Clark
The hon. Member says that I would. Would he care to elaborate on that?
The hon. Member rejects my invitation to explain. But he was arguing earlier, in a speech to which I listened with great interest, that we should be attached to a certain grade in the Civil Service. He knows how civil servants treat Members and the combination of contempt and evasion with which they try to keep us in our place. He knows very well that from the moment that we were attached to a certain grade in the Civil Service we would be completely brushed aside by those of a senior grade and we would be simply categorised at a medium range in the administration of the country.
§ Mr. Clark
I should have thought that it would be done by anyone who could master simple arithmetic.
However, if Members of Parliament are to be paid a salary that is in any way commensurate with the arduousness of their task and the duties they have to perform, it should be something between £90,000 and £130,000 a year.
Let us consider the status, the responsibility, the unsocial hours, the working conditions and the hardships to which we are subjected daily in these crowded, stuffy quarters. Let us consider the disgusting and repetitive food that we are offered here. Deep-fried whitebait has been on the menu every day this Session. Let us consider the level of humiliation under which we exist, comparable only with that in domestic service in Victorian times.
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was talking about knee pads being used by those who had to crawl about for jobs. Members of 2060 Parliament stand in a state of apprehensive subservience to practically every other individual whom they meet. They are subservient to their seniors because they hope to receive favours from them. They are subservient to their colleagues because they hope that perhaps at some time they may require their votes for some internal election. They are subservient to members of the party who elected them and put them here, and are apprehensive that these people may suddenly change their minds. They are, of course, subservient to their constituents, upon whose votes they rely for return to this place.
In view of Members' conditions, their duty to scrutinise and amend legislation and the disagreeable regime under which they try to work, either they do so from a sense of honour and duty, in which case their remuneration should be a totally secondary consideration, or, if they are to be paid, they should be paid at least at a level which completely removes them from any comparison with a middle-range civil servant or military commander. That is a completely mistaken yardstick for 635 individuals who have come here from a sense of idealism and a genuine desire either to alter or to conserve things.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) was very dismissive of the the concept that the aristocracy should compose the Members of this Chamber, but, as I said to him, the concept of aristocracy simply means the rule of the best. It is arguable that this country was governed much better when the aristocracy occupied places in this Chamber.
§ Mr. Clark
I am grateful for that support. Were this country's prosperity, standing, prospects and size of its dominions any less when the aristocracy governed? No, they were much greater.
I do not relate the two directly, but if Members are to be paid on a proper assessment of what they do and of their status, honour and obligations, they should be paid six-figure salaries. If we look instead for a combination of a sense of honour a sense of duty and a sense of privilege which allows people to endure all our conditions, it is immaterial what 2061 they are paid. Personally, I would prefer that we were paid nothing at all.
§ 1.2 p.m.
§ Mr. David Stoddart (Swindon)
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is about the smartest operator in this place. He has shown today how smart he is. He appears to have the argument both ways. He blames this House, quite wrongly by his own standards, for inflation, yet he does not want to give it the credit for doubling living standards over the past 25 years. That is sleight of hand.
On the right hon. Gentleman's figures, a salary of £1,000 a year for an MP in 1950, allowing for inflation, would be £4,782 today. But if we doubled that, as everyone else's standard of living has doubled—for which we can take some credit—the figure becomes £9,564, or almost exactly the figure proposed as the pensionable salary. So by his own argument the right hon. Gentleman confirms that the pensionable salary is correct. I hope that he will support it. He cannot say that this House is responsible for inflation and should penalise itself while at the same time refusing the House the credit for doubling living standards.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken, with respect. It is perfectly possible to believe and to argue that Governments can and do cause inflation but that they cannot and do not cause an increase in the standard of living. There is no inconsistency between the two propositions. They may or may not be right, but they are not inconsistent.
§ Mr. Stoddart
I think that there is great inconsistency between them. The right hon. Gentleman has argued that rapid inflation does the most damage to the standard of living. I have heard him argue that, and he is probably correct. So there is no inconsistency in what I say.
I have been unable to discover the figures for professional salaries paid in 1950 as compared with today, but I have found the figures for the average manual wage. In 1950, it was £7.52 a week, and in 1977 it was £72.89. An increase of 10 per cent. would give us a figure of over £79, representing an elevenfold increase in money terms. I am sure that 2062 hon. Members would settle for that kind of increase on the £1,000 that they enjoyed in 1950. So the right hon. Gentleman is caught up in his own argument.
But there is something more serious about his attitude. It strikes at the very roots of representative democracy, which I know he supports and wants to continue. On his argument, it is certain that there is no possibility of representative democracy in this country. It would preclude many people from giving their talents.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) mentioned the responsibility of all men and women to their families. If he had a family, a teacher, a doctor, a civil engineer, or an architect could not afford to give up his profession for the salary paid here—
§ Mr. Stoddart
Yes, but he would also have enforced a cut in the standard of living of his wife and family, which he has no right to do.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
It is not that he could not do it so much as that more and more people will not do it. That is why we shall get fewer people of high ability from the professions, simply because it is not worth their while. More than that, it means such a cut in their standard of living that they will not put up with it.
§ Mr. Stoddart
My hon. Friend is right. The House would be denying itself the wide scale of experience and ability that is essential to a representative Chamber if it is to check the Executive. For that reason the argument of the right hon. Member for Down, South was wrong. If it were put into effect it would endanger the democracy that he, above all, wishes to defend.
The right hon. Gentleman discounts the attitude of people towards salaries. He believes that people have more respect for Members of Parliament or Members of any other Assembly if they do it for nothing—if, in fact, they do not put any value at all upon their services. I ask him to look at the respect with which county councillors and district councillors are sometimes held by the electorate. I 2063 think he will find that the lack of remuneration may have something to do with the low respect—not justified—in which the electorate holds such people.
The right hon. Gentleman also discounts the differences between salaries paid in this legislature and those paid in legislatures elsewhere. I agree that because France happens to pay three times as much to its legislators as we pay ours is not necessarily an argument for paying us three times as much as we are getting. Nevertheless, there must be a relationship; indeed, there is. I repeat that the value that people put on an institution may well be—it is not always so—related to the value that the institution puts upon itself. That is perhaps one of the reasons why the United States Congress may be held in greater esteem than this House.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his attitude, particularly bearing in mind that next year we shall be electing yet another Assembly—one which neither of us wants. It will have an effect on salaries paid in this House, and may have an effect on the regard in which this House is held throughout the country.
I believe that the Government and the House have failed to consider Members' salaries in a proper way for a very long period. The House of Commons has been far too frightened of the electorate and has put far too low a value on the job that it does for the community. I hope that we shall reach a new era—I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has decided that the matter should be referred to the Boyle committee—when the salaries of Members cease to become a political issue, in the sense that they have been a political issue over the years. I do not think that they can cease entirely to be a political issue, but I hope that some means will be found, whether by relating the salary to salaries in the Civil Service or to the salaries of circuit judges, or what have you, by which the salaries of Members of this House can be settled without a political battle and without Members being criticised in the press over the business that we have of fixing our own salaries.
I hope that these motions will be passed in their entirety. My right hon. Friend has given an assurance that he will refer 2064 the matter to the Boyle committee, but I hope that he will also give an assurance that he will accept the Boyle recommendations in their entirety.
§ 1.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I agree with the closing words of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), because we all feel a great sense of uneasiness at debating this matter at all. I have great sympathy with some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).
It is a privilege and honour to be a Member of this House. We have come perhaps for many different reasons, but the honour and privilege of being here is something that we all feel, whatever our political views, very deeply. First, we have the conflict as to what is the job of a Member of Parliament anyway, and, secondly, we are all volunteers. So why should we find ourselves in the position of, in effect, voting money for ourselves or putting ourselves in the position of at least appearing to do so?
I am conscious, particularly as we are approaching a General Election in which many Members will not be standing again—including you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart), I regret to say—of the fact that while I am Member for Cambridge now I shall not be for ever. In course of time I shall have a successor, and I should like to hand to him the same traditions and at least some improvement on the conditions which obtain for Members at the moment.
The right hon. Member for Down, South came to this House in 1950. I first came in another capacity in 1955. When I returned as a Member after an absence of 12 years, I was astonished by the enormous increase in the burden of work falling on the average Back Bencher. Of course, constituencies vary very much, as do the burdens; there is also a variation of manner in which Members cope with their burdens. Mr. David Lloyd George made it a point of principle never to open, let alone read, letters from constituents. Every few months, he would dig out those letters and throw them away. His biographer said that this was one of the egocentricities with which his constituents learnt to live. Whether his attitude would be tolerated by a constituency today is another question.
2065 Quite apart from the additional constituency work entailed in these modern days, the burden inflicted upon Members by Whitehall has increased. We have to consider whether we should not ask what is the nature of our job and whether we should continue to pretend that we are still in the Victorian era when a gentleman of leisure, having thought deeply about the great affairs of the day, came down to the House in the late afternoon or in the evening and made a great speech on the Spanish question, for example. I wonder whether we are not putting ourselves in the position of being little more than glorified councillors.
What should the position and role of a Member of Parliament be? I agree with those, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who have criticised Members in the past for their cowardice or failure to grasp the problem. Nevertheless, having said that, I have to feel some sympathy with our predecessors. When I was a Clerk in the House, at the age of 28 I was earning £500 a year more than Sir Winston Churchill or any other Member. I felt that situation very acutely. I feel it now as we come again to talk about these matters. We are talking about ourselves, and that is why I try to think of my successor, whoever he may be and whenever he may come in.
There are two points which I wish to emphasise. First, I am worried about a situation in which the allowances are so substantial and so important to Members. It worries me a great deal. Everyone is an "honourable Member" and so on, but when one is in a situation where allowances arc so vital, as I know they are to many Members who have no other source of income, the possibility of difficulty and of temptation clearly arises. I would like to see us come to a situation in which the salary is very much higher and we can look again at the whole question of allowances.
Although I agree with what hon. Members have said about comparisons with other countries and other legislatures, I think that there is something to be said for that part of the American system whereby the President and Congressmen and others are paid substantially and reasonably and given very good facilities, in return for which every candidate must 2066 give a clear declaration of his interests, his income and his background.
I know that a lot of hon. Members do not like that idea, but I have no reluctance at all about it. It seems to me quite legitimate to ask, in return for a substantial increase in the parliamentary salary, that candidates should be clear and should inform their potential electors of their worth. The present Register of Interests is quite worthless. The word "barrister" or "consultant" can mean anything. It can mean a very small income or it can mean an enormous income. It can mean a part-time Member of Parliament or an absolutely full-time Member of Parliament.
If we are to move—I know that we shall not do it today, but I hope that we shall in the future—in the direction of a substantial and reasonable salary for Members of Parliament, we for our part must recognise that we have an obligation to be absolutely open with our electorate about our worth and our general financial position.
§ 1.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Membership of the House is unique, but that does not make it any easier for us to make a unique valuation of our worth. It falls to us to do so by the nature of the means by which we are paid. We have to decide, though perhaps on the advice of some committee, how much we shall pay ourselves, and there is no escape from that.
If I could believe that the 630 Members of Parliament had the political courage and virility to take a decision about their worth in complete isolation from the valuation of any other job in the country, I should be happy to leave it at that. I accept the difficulties of trying to tie ourselves to a particular status in the Civil Service, to the status of a company chairman or any other analogue anywhere else. But the reason why we turn our attention to that is that we have lacked the courage in the past to say to people that membership of the House of Commons, although it is unique and although it is an inestimable privilege to be here, is nevertheless a factor which we have to consider in deciding the amount of money which we are paid since, like anyone else who goes out to work, we are dependent for the standard of living 2067 which we provide not just for ourselves but for our families upon the salaries which we receive.
It is right that we should make a position for ourselves which allows those Members—their number is increasing—who decide that they must be professional Members of Parliament and have no other income to live adequately upon those resources without having to burden themselves and their families with concern about finance on top of all the other concerns which we take upon ourselves as Members of Parliament.
Accepting that, I should be quite happy to make a judgment of our own worth and tell people that, if they did not like it, that was what we thought appropriate and at any subsequent election they must make whatever choice they liked about our valuation of ourselves. But I know that that is not how the House works, and still less how the process of government works.
For that reason, we have tried to find alternative ways of reducing the political tension which arises whenever we decide what we should be paid. We have tried the advisory committee. We are now suggesting another way—tying ourselves to Civil Service rates of pay so that automatically we get a payment which we do not have to settle for ourselves.
If hon. Members feel that that is an easier way of settling a valuation of our services, so be it. I should go along with it. But I think that to pay ourselves the rate of an assistant secretary is to some extent demeaning. I remember that when I was a junior Minister, and only a junior Minister, the lowest form of Civil Service life allowed through my door was an assistant secretary, and he was allowed in only in exceptional circumstances. When I recognised that when he came in through the door he was at that time being paid substantially more than I was being paid to take the decisions on which he was advising, it seemed to me that it was a bit demeaning to talk about that, but at the present time an assistant secretary on the full rate is being paid about double the rate at which we are paid.
We cannot be immune to that. It is not true that civil servants will categorise us, as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) said, according to the amount 2068 of money we receive and that a permanent secretary will be dismissive of us simply because we are paid less than he is. If we were paid a lot more, he would be dismissive of us. The real reason why he is dismissive of us is that we do not assert the power we have. Indeed, my main concern in this matter is that we are Parliament. It is not for us to wait upon the Lord President of the Council. It is not for us to wait for the Cabinet or Lord Boyle, or, indeed, the assistant secretaries or the Civil Service unions. We are Parliament. If we really had the dignity which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) says we have, we should be impervious to the criticisms of outside bodies of that kind. We should decide how much we were to be paid.
I had not intended to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South, which seemed to me to be beneath contempt, but, when he expresses populist sentiments of the kind which we heard from him this morning, I recall how much he charges for his television appearances, and I take it ill from him when he talks about hacks. Incidentally, I noticed that when he uttered his populist sentiments the hacks disappeared from the Press Gallery in order to put into tomorrow's newspapers what one Member of the House thinks about 629 others. I do not regard that as improving the standard and dignity of the House of Commons. Moreover, one may add that among those hacks who disappeared gleefully to report that we should not be paid more than £6,000 a year some will not be able to report it in The Sun as they are on strike because they were paid only a 10 per cent. increase on their £13,000 a year and they want a lot more. They are the real hacks of Fleet Street.
Therefore, we need not apologise for saying that we ought to be paid a proper salary—and by a proper salary I mean something which will allow a man to be a professional Member of Parliament and live on his salary without having constantly to consider his own finances as opposed to the other issues which he has to consider.
In deciding what that value is, the kind of role we have is an important matter. When I see the Badge Messengers who bring us our messages wearing their white ties and tails, I remember that I was 2069 told that they wear that dress because they are the descendants here of the butlers who used to come here in the nineteenth century to prepare the meals for their masters who came down for their evening sojourn in this place.
But that was an entirely different kind of Member from the Member who is here today. I recall the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) once told me that, after his first arrival in the House in 1945, he went to King's Cross station to catch the train back to his constituency and there met a Member of Parliament—who shall be nameless—who said "I am just making my annual visit to my constituency." None of us could get away with that now, whatever the size of our majority.
The truth is that, whatever the right hon. Member for Down, South thinks—I am little surprised at his recollections—we are all conscious that we are working harder and we are doing a more professional job, even if we are not full-time professionals. We are doing a more professional job in the House, and we are doing it with much less support in the way of services, facilities and accommodation than is enjoyed by most other people who are doing a professional job.
I want to put this matter into its context. My judgment is that the House of Commons is no real challenge to the power of bureaucracy and the power of Government in this country as at present constituted. We must revise the way in which we work so that we can take a real share in decision-making. We cannot go on with the tradition which has come down to us since the sixteenth century that we simply correct Government decisions after they have been made—that we are the better after the event. The fact that we have the party structure and that we have a systematised way of expressing opposition, which simply means that we can delay things for a little while but in the end the power of the Whips will decide, means that the decisions when taken by the Cabinet are almost always irrevocable.
I accept that in this Parliament—I see my right hon. Friend the Lord President looking a little pained—things have been slightly different because it has not been possible to amass the majority quite as 2070 easily as in past Parliaments, but overall the Government get their way. They got their way last night in circumstances which seemed to be quite unexpected. It is the unexpected for a Government not to get their way, and as long as that continues decisions when in the Cabinet are almost always irrevocable.
Therefore, if we wish to influence the Government and, more important, if we wish to check the power of the bureaucracy, we must be involved in decision-taking before the decisions are made. That requires that we go over to the kind of powerful Select Committees which amass the evidence and evaluate it before it goes to Ministers and before the final decision is taken. This calls for a Member of Parliament entirely different in kind from the Member we have today.
Such a Member must be here more often than we are. He must have support services in the way of research and staff which we do not have. He must be able to work during the day and have his nights off. That means that we have to alter the times at which we sit.
We shall not get that sort of hon. Member on the present part-time basis. I admit that I am a part-time Member in that sense. I do not regard myself as doing a part-time job for my constituents, but I have another source of income. I hate having it and would much prefer to be a professional Member. The only reason why I have the outside income is that I cannot live on the present income of an hon. Member and I regard the other job as a sort of insurance.
If we were given a proper salary and were paid properly for a period after we left the House, none of us could ask for more and we could all become professional Members. I do not think that it is necessary for us to have a ruling that everyone should be a professional Member, but our hours, means of working, pay and resources should be based upon the notion that that is what we are, and I hope that the Boyle committee will evaluate our work on that basis alone. If it tries to evaluate our work on the basis that some of us have other sources of income, that will be an injustice to those who are already professional Members.
We are also discussing the question of the new parliamentary building.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. We are not debating the new building at present. That debate will come on later.
§ Mr. Lyon
I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In those circumstances, I shall not say much about the new building, but it is part of the whole business of what sort of evaluation we have of hon. Members. We must not have the sort of evaluation that says that we cannot be housed in proper facilities with proper accommodation, but we must allow civil servants and anyone else to be housed in such accommodation. Indeed, we make it an offence for employers not to house their employees in proper accommodation, yet we bury ourselves in little holes down Whitehall or round the back of the Jewel Tower. That demeans the role that we should have.
I support the notion that we should be paid properly and should have proper back-up services. We should not be so dependent upon our allowances for secretarial assistance and so on. These should be provided for us because of our need for them rather than by our having to claim them. That is a better way of dealing with our status in this place.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I feel that the sands of time have run out even before I start, so I shall endeavour to be brief. I agreed strongly with the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) when he said that hon. Members should be able to live adequately. I might add "by roughly equivalent standards", but I emphasise "roughly" because I also agree with him that we are unique and I do not think that our salary scale should be attached to any other scale. That must mean a review by the Boyle committee or its equivalent not just once in a while, at the behest of the Government, but at regular intervals. This is an objective towards which we should be working.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) laid so much emphasis on the extent to which, even now, certain people—an increasing number in future—will be precluded from becoming Members because they will not be able to maintain the standard of living that they could obtain outside.
2072 However highly motivated the potential parliamentarian aged 28 or 30 may be, since it is not unusual for young people of that age to have been married only recently, he may well have to consider carefully his responsibility towards his wife and family. In addition, when wives consider the alternatives of the parliamentary salary or their husbands continuing in their present careers and gradually climbing the ladder, most will tell their husbands that in no circumstances should they go into the House of Commons. That is an important aspect for us to take into account.
There was a germ of truth in some of the comments of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), but his main argument was old-fashioned stuff, which had nothing to do with the world in which we have to live. He said that we should make our decision on behalf of subsequent Parliaments and not for ourselves. I disagree; I believe that we should make the decision, implement it, and go to the country carrying that responsibility on our own shoulders, rather than half-pretending that only others will benefit from our decision. I would prefer to come clean with the electors to putting up a smoke-screen and pretending that something that is to happen will not happen.
I agree strongly with those who said that it is never the right time to review parliamentary salaries. For almost as long as I can remember, there have been the additional problems involved with incomes policies, but the real and relative values of parliamentary salaries have been steadily eroded. If it pleases the right hon. Member for Down, South, I add the words "while I have been an hon. Member."
The fact that salaries are too low is entirely the fault of ourselves, particularly the Back Benchers. Our salaries are not imposed on us by the Treasury; they are imposed on us because we have not been prepared to take a strong line ourselves. In the past, there has been a lot of lobbying by us all, particularly Back Benchers, about salary increases, but when the Government of the day decide to make increases or to implement someone else's recommendations, we Back Benchers have too often run scared. We have run for cover and let the Government carry 2073 the can. In consequence, we have got what we deserve—or, perhaps, what we do not deserve.
Looking to the future, it is important that, to a much greater extent, we should personalise the responsibility on each of us for justifying the salaries that we receive. This is a subsidiary objective in the development of the joint approach between both main parties for which the greatest credit must be given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes).
The Minister referred to future pay increases and said that there were grave difficulties in giving a blind commitment in advance. I understand that. It is not surprising that there should be that reaction from the Government Front Bench, in isolation. It is not impossible for the commitment, which has been requested by other hon. Members, to be made by both Front Benches and, if need be, by the minor parties. If such a commitment is not made there will be continuing and growing dissatisfaction because of the uncertainty that will arise.
Unless some such commitment is entered into there will be an unseemly row, such as there has been in other countries, for example, Australia. The outcome of that sort of row will be that the Back Benches will be in control and will impose their will on the Government of the day and, perhaps, the Opposition Front Bench. The Government have to remember that they are the servants of Parliament, not vice versa.
§ 1.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
In some ways it is a pity that this debate has been so wide ranging and dominated by the bizarre and perhaps brilliant exposition of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) which I felt was more suitable to an eighteenth century Parliament than to our Parliament. I often wish that we did live in those great and glorious days but, alas, we do not. I agree that when Members of Parliament were not paid we were probably better governed than we are now, but we have to address ourselves to the realities of the present situation.
I was sorry that the right hon. Member for Down, South seemed to imply 2074 that he was a slightly more honourable Member than others. I am sure that he did not mean to imply that, but it might be read into some parts of his rather puritanical and hair-shirted speech. The right hon. Member was very personal about himself. I do not intend to be. I will say that although it had been my ambition to come to this House for as long as I can remember, I waited until I had started a business and made a success of it and had some money behind me, apart from what I might earn here. When I came here I never thought for a moment of what I would earn or how well off or otherwise I would be.
That is not the case for everybody. Many hon. Members entered this House years before I did. Many depend entirely and exclusively upon their salaries. It is those hon. Members about whom we should be mainly concerned. Those of us who have the advantage of another income must be particularly careful to give that point due regard. It is always a difficult thing for us to consider our own salaries. There are two difficulties to overcome. I speak as someone who has been dealing with salaries and other matters for most of my adult life since the war.
The first point to make is that we are practically the only people in this country who fix our own remuneration. Secondly, that already difficult situation is exacerbated by the Government's pay policies, which have introduced anomalies, delays and frustrations. The occupation of Members of Parliament, strictly speaking, cannot be compared with any other job.
I deal first with Ministers' salaries. We have heard a lot about Members' salaries but little about the salaries of Ministers. I believe that they are still scandalously low, by any comparison. That must have a bearing on Members' salaries. I cannot see why the Prime Minister should not be paid a salary of around £50,000 a year. That is much lower than the salaries of some of the chairmen of our great companies. The salaries of other Ministers could then rise in proportion.
There is a new factor affecting the salaries of Ministers and hon. Members—the vast improvement in the salaries, pensions and conditions of service of the Civil Service. There has been created a 2075 specially favoured class, insulated from the financial problems faced by almost all other people. While I would not for a moment claim that we should enjoy such exceptionally favourable terms, I do say that it is wrong that there should be such a colossal disparity between the Civil Service and ourselves. This disparity is shown up in the non-contributory pensions and in the pay and other conditions of service enjoyed in the Civil Service.
I speak as a Member who, since leaving the Army, has spent most of his life as an industrial manager. I believe that we must attract into the House more people from industry, commerce and the City. The able young men, possibly in their early thirties, who are making their careers outside, must be offered some sort of salary which will not involve too great a financial sacrifice, particularly if they are married, with families. We can never make up our minds what sort of people we are here. Listening to the right hon. Member for Down, South, I felt that he seemed to think that we were still members of the old aristocracy or landed gentry, or possibly the richer burgesses from the towns. Those days are over. This place should represent all classes in society. We still have—I hope that we always shall have—the upper House to correct any excesses of democracy here. I strongly believe that the upper House should be based on hereditary peers. If we are to say that, surely we must have a truly democratic assembly here.
Pay policy has utterly confounded salaries in this place, as it has in every other department of our national life. I do not believe in incomes policies. They are holding back the country's industrial, commercial and professional life. As long as the Government insist on a rigid pay policy we are placed in an awkward situation. If this House later decides that all of those in the country—those who work and those who do not, those with responsibilities and those without them, those who are highly skilled and those who are not—should be limited in their new contracts of employment to an increase not exceeding 5 per cent. it will make us look very selfish and foolish if we talk about paying ourselves thousands of pounds a year more.
2076 That is not to say that we should not do so. It shows how absurd and ridiculous is the 5 per cent. limit. There has been much talk of attaching our salaries to an outside source. This has its attractions. However, I believe that we should have the courage to say that we are comparable with no one, and that we have, in our own wisdom, the right to fix our own levels of pay. The time is soon coming when we must make a supreme effort to deal with this matter once and for all. I feel most embarrassed when I see older Members here hanging on, dreading retirement, because of the continued delay about fixing proper rates of salary and pension.
It is also extremely confusing and muddling to have one rate of salary here and to have another notional salary for pension purposes. The only way to deal properly with pensions is to have a proper rate of salary here.
We have very serious issues before us. People say that the public are extremely disagreeable about our salaries, but I believe that to be largely unfounded. In all the correspondence that I have received in the eight and a quarter years that I have been here, I have not received a single letter either about my salary or about the salaries of other Members. Therefore, I say to hon. Members on both sides of the House, let us be bold, decide what is right, and make absolutely sure that the new figure applies the moment the new Parliament meets.
§ 1.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Stewart (Hitchin)
I should like to say a few words about early-day motion no. 502, which is in my name and which now has substantially more than 300 signatures of right hon. and hon. Members. The Minister alluded to this in his opening remarks. Before I do so, I think that I should make my own position clear. I am a full-time Member of this House with a part-time job outside. I suspect that that is true of many other hon. Members.
As a matter of fact, I find the extra income very useful, even almost essential, but I would go on doing that job even if it were not for the financial considerations, because as a director of a bank which I joined nearly 20 years ago I find that the information which that gives 2077 me on financial matters is very relevant to much that goes on in the House. I felt that I owed a personal comment before saying something about early-day motion no. 502.
In some people's minds I am probably not the likeliest candidate to become an unofficial shop steward for Members of the House, but as a result of tabling that motion I have found myself taking on some aspects of that role. The question of our own pay is such a delicate subject that I wonder whether I am rushing in where more experienced Members have feared to tread. However, in the last two or three weeks many hon. Members have said to me that they thought it was courageous of me to table a motion on such a subject. They thanked me for having done so, because they were then able to add their own names to it.
I certainly do not regard myself as courageous, and I am grateful for their thanks, but I am astonished that that should have been the attitude which they held. It set me thinking about the reasons why hon. Members have these problems in getting round to the subject of their own remuneration. It is on this point that I might be able most usefully to contribute to this debate.
I tabled that motion late one night during the course of the Finance Bill Committee proceedings, when we had just had a debate on the effects of inflation and indexation on various forms of assets and incomes. I thought it might be interesting to table a motion of that kind to see what sort of reaction it evoked from hon. Members. The reaction can now be seen in print, because I think that 308 Members have now signed it. Two others have signed an amendment which actually strengthens it by making it more immediate, and my post bag this morning suggests that other names will be added in future. That makes a total of more than 310 hon. Members who have signed my motion, which numerically is half of the total number of right hon. and hon. Members in the House.
§ Mr. Stewart
I said more than 310. Of course, all members of the Government, the Shadow Cabinet, Parliamentary Private Secretaries to persons in positions 2078 of responsibility, Mr. Speaker and the Deputy Speakers, are all affected. There are also the senior officers of the 1922 Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party, who have felt that since they were involved in direct negotiations with the Lord President they should not append their signatures to my motion. I calculate that there are possibly about 150 Members of the House who are, therefore, precluded from signing such a motion at all. Therefore, the true number of Back-Bench Members who might sign such a motion is probably not more than about 480 in all. To my mind, exceeding 300 represents a substantial strength and breadth of feeling in the House that something needs to be done.
In collecting the signatures to the motion it was not very difficult to get a few dozen, perhaps the first 50, because a number of hon. Members take a particular interest in this subject and would be willing to sign almost any motion which had as its general purpose the aim of correcting the problems of the level of Members' pay. From then on, however, it was very difficult, because so many Members with whom I discussed the problem were reticent about putting their own names forward on a motion relating to their own remuneration.
However, once the figure reached between 150 and 200 it became dramatically easier, because many Members to whom I had spoken a week or two before came up to me and said "Now that so-and-so has signed, and now that you have a respectable number of signatures on your motion, I shall be very happy to add mine." I am not saying who those Members are, but a number of right hon. and hon. Members—I am sure, for the best of motives—clearly felt that there was something rather improper and seemed to be shy about adding their names.
I said that the number had now exceeded 310. That is a very considerable number. I should like to comment on some of the reasons which have been given to me by those who have not signed the motion. First, some hon. Members feel that Members of Parliament should be unpaid. That view was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) earlier in the debate. There are others who feel that the level of Members' pay should be more 2079 or less in line with that of the average for their constituencies. I respect that view although I do not agree with it. Again, they are numerically not very many. A greater number of hon. Members did not feel that they could go along with the last line of my motion, in which I said that the House should delegate its responsibility for these matters. However, they certainly wanted to go along with the substantive part of the motion which calls for the implementation of the Boyle recommendations immediately after the next General Election. Therefore, I think I can say fairly that there are substantially more than 310 Members who actually believe that the Boyle recommendations should be implemented after the next General Election by whatever party forms the Government.
I agree with a number of hon. Members that we are probably over-sensitive about this issue. I do not believe that there is nearly as much public hostility to the idea of having a proper rate of pay for Members of Parliament as is sometimes imagined by the press or by those Front-Bench Members who have to deal with these difficult matters. Perhaps, having publicised my initiatives in this matter, I shall now receive a great deal of abusive post and correspondence. However, when I have discussed this matter in my constituency I have found that the number who believe that we should improve our earnings is greater than the number who resent the increases. Of course, there are a number of people who feel strongly that way, but the body of public opinion actually believes that its representatives in Parliament should have a more reasonable salary than they now receive.
The failure to face up to this problem over many years has had some positively damaging consequences. It may be that some admirable persons, such as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), can live, bring up their families and conduct the whole of their financial affairs on very much less than is possible for most people. I do not believe that the degree of thrift which the right hon. Member is able to exercise is within the scope of most hon. Members. Certainly I have come across, quite unwittingly—to my astonishment and surprise, and even to my horror—cases of hon. Members who have spoken to me about this subject and who are clearly in financial hardship, not 2080 because of the mismanagement of their affairs but because of a factor too easily forgotten, which is that public life is more expensive than private life.
There are certain expenses attaching to our job which are not compensated by allowances but which we have to fulfil if we are to act properly as the representatives of our constituents and as Members of this House. I am not saying, therefore, that we should have a substantially inflated salary. However, we need to take into account in the argument that we cannot say what is the basic subsistence level of any family and say that that necessarily is a living wage for someone who has to carry out the duties and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament.
If parliamentary salaries are unecessarily depressed, inevitably this will have an effect on the quality and variety of the intake in the House. After all, it could be said that as long as anyone was willing to stand for Parliament, the parliamentary salary was adequate. That could be carried ad absurdum to saying that as long as it was above the supplementary benefit level, someone would be willing to stand in all the 635 constituencies. I do not regard that as a serious argument.
It is difficult that we have this recurrent preoccupation with our financal problems. Many hon. Members have told me frankly that they have to resort to a form of moonlighting, not because they want to or even because they have the energy for another job, but purely for the purpose of obtaining additional income. That cannot be healthy for the operation of the House, and I felt that in putting forward my own name on the motion it would come more easily from one who was not in that position. I have another source of income, but I do the job because I think that it is a useful occupation as well. But we should not forget that a quite significant number of our colleagues find it difficult to live on what they are currently paid.
That is the result and the reaction which I have had from what might he described as the straw poll which I have been conducting since my motion first appeared on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. William Price
I am sorry to interrupt a speech for which I have a great deal of affection, if I may put it that 2081 way. Has the straw poll given any indication of what those Members who signed the early-day motion regard as a proper salary? Will the hon. Member say what he would regard as the proper level at which it should be set?
§ Mr. Stewart
I prefer not to answer that question for the obvious reason, which the Minister will know, that there are many opinions about this. My point is that the present level clearly is below a realistic threshold for a considerable number of our colleagues. I have avoided touching on absolute levels partly because other hon. Members have dealt with the question and partly because Boyle has been debated already and I do not want to go over the ground again, but particularly because I want not to move away from the central theme, which is that I believe that we have reached the stage where, whatever we may feel about the right salary, clearly the present arrangements are inadequate and substantially so.
That is my reason for not touching on a matter which I should be happy to deal with if I had much more time and had prepared myself to discuss it. Perhaps I shall have an opportunity to do so outside the Chamber on some future occasion.
The reason why we have this problem arises from a matter of timing. Obviously we are restrained by pay policies, in the same way as every other citizen. But, in those brief and occasional intervals when controls are lifted, it always seems to be the wrong time politically or psychologically to make the necessary adjustments. The only really certain right time is immediately after a General Election.
The Members of the next House of Commons will not necessarily be ourselves. I shall put myself forward, I hope, as the Conservative candidate for Hitchin, and I trust that I shall be returned. But I may not be. Certainly some hon. Members will retire, and others will fill their places. Some will be defeated, and others will come in to replace them. Therefore, it seems proper that Parliament should come to a decision to fix the level of remuneration for the Members of a subsequent Parliament, even though we may hesitate to make substantial changes in 2082 the remuneration of Members of the current Parliament.
In recent years, the Government of the day have been to some extent entitled to disregard the views of hon Members because they have been so reticent in coming forward with their feelings. But it is not a state of affairs which should be continued much longer. The experience of discussing this question personally and privately with a large number of hon. Members from all parties over the past three weeks has convinced me that it is a much more serious issue than I realised when I started down this road. If it becomes necessary on a future occasion for an hon. Member to table a similar motion, I hope that someone else will assume that task, because it has taken me a great deal of time and energy to go through with it. But I felt that having stumbled on to this task I should perform it to the best of my ability.
I can assure the Treasury Bench that the signatories to my motion, whether or not they agree with every word of the way in which it is phrased—it is always difficult to draw up any motion, especially on such a subject, so that it wins the exact approval of all those hon. Members who sign it—agree that there is a need for a clear commitment from both Front Benches that this problem will be tackled after the next General Election Therefore, I welcomed what the Minister said, though I wish that it had been a little more absolute than it was. I hope that a similar commitment will come from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) at the end of this debate.
If my motion has served in any way to concentrate the minds of those responsible on this difficult and recurrent problem, I shall feel that my efforts have been well rewarded.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I am one of the several hundred Members who have not signed the early-day motion tabled by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart). I do not want to be discourteous, but I regret that I cannot join in the self-congratulation that he has poured upon his motion, which I regard as a decadent one.
§ Mr. Ian Stewart
I did not mean this to be self-congratulation. If what I said sounded like that, I apologise to the hon. Member and to the House. I felt that it was necessary to describe how the motion came about. I did not mean it in any way as a personal reflection on myself.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I accept that. Obviously the motion attracted a great deal of support and, as a result, some nice things must be said about it. But I regard it as decadent because of two ingredients in it. First, it calls on the Government to do something. We should not be bothering the Government about Members' pay; it has nothing to do with the Government. It is a matter for Members to decide. The Government are here as a collection of individual Members, each with one vote. The House should stop paying attention to what the Government want and waiting for the Government to act on the matter. This is far too important a matter to leave to the Government. This is a House of Commons matter. It is a constitutional matter.
The second ingredient that I dislike is the motion's proposal that the decision on this matter should be taken away from this honourable House. Decisions cannot be taken away from this House. We are in charge of everything. This is one of the things that, inescapably, we are in charge of. If we were to set up a body and to say that we would implement its recommendations, we still would not have passed the buck. When a recommendation was made it would still have to be implemented by us. So those Members who have a very low embarrassment threshold and who would like to be shot of the problem must face the fact that they will be embarrassed.
I must have a high embarrassment threshold. I do not feel this embarrassment very deeply. We are deciding how much we are to pay ourselves for the coming year, but we are also discussing a matter that is of considerable constitutional significance. How much Members of Parliament are paid and, consequently, how independent they feel in the exercise of their functions in the House, is a very important part of constitutional behaviour. There is a key relationship in this argument. I refer to the relationship between what we pay ourselves as non-ministerial Members and what we choose 2084 to pay ministerial Members of this House. That ratio should be kept fairly narrow, so that there is no enormous incentive to become a Minister and no enormous disincentive to resign ministerial office.
My impression is that the degree of independence exercised by the House in this last Parliament, which has derived from the fact that we have had narrow majorities—if majorities at all—by the governing party, is something that the public want. The public does not want Members of Parliament to be zombies who go into the Division Lobby as instructed by the Whips. Furthermore, they do not want Members to be compulsive rebels who will go against their own side for the hell of it and enjoy doing so. But they do want Members to exercise their judgment. They think that that is why we were elected, and they are right.
If that is to happen, the Member concerned needs a sufficient measure of financial security. If he is to give to the job of the House the time and effort that it requires in these days, given the vast and complex nature of governmental activities in modern times, he must be a full-time Member. He cannot conduct that task—or the House cannot expect him to do so—unless he is.
I should not like to make it a rule that every Member has to be a full-time Member, but I would regret it if most Members were not full time. The trend is clear. More and more Members on both sides are full time and give the vast majority of their time to working in this place. It is preposterous that Members of Parliament, even after the increase for which we are providing today, pay themselves less than very large numbers of not just senior but middle-rank employees, not only in Whitehall but in local authorities.
The borough secretary of every London borough is paid probably 30 per cent. more than a Member of Parliament is paid. That is absurd, and is not even a matter of argument. Anybody who thinks that that is a sensible arrangement is nuts. That cannot be right. It is not fair, because it is not a sensible allocation of financial resources to the responsibility of the various jobs.
We must also face the question of the relationship between the pay that we determine here and the pay of European 2085 Members of Parliament and of the Members of Parliament of the other member nations of Europe in their national parliaments. It will not be acceptable that Members of this House should be paid a salary which is less than half of that which is inevitably to be the salary of Members of the European Parliament. We shall not for long be greatly out of line with the rates of pay established in the national parliaments of the other European nations.
We should decide that the rate of pay for a Member in the coming decade or two should be equal to the rate that applies somewhere near the top of Civil Service salaries. I do not wish to put the matter any more precisely than that. That means a minimum of the rank of assistant secretary and a maximum, in my view, of the rank of deputy secretary, or somewhere of that order.
§ Mr. Cunningham
That may not be the appropriate arrangement thereafter, but it is the rough level that I would establish for the coming decade or two.
I favour linkage, and we must remember that in 1975 the House decided in favour of linkage. The resolution of 1975 was in favour not only of linkage but of linkage to a particular grade in the Civil Service, namely, that of assistant secretary, although we did not prescribe whether we meant the top or the bottom of the broad range of salary payable to an assistant secretary.
§ Mr. Cunningham
No. I do not think that there is a need to follow the exact habits of the Civil Service simply because one links to a grade in the Civil Service. A number of Members in past debates—and it has been hinted at in this debate—have objected to linkage on the ground that somehow this would affect their status. It was suggested that if we were to link to a salary or grade in the Civil Service, when a Member of Parliament sat in a Committee interviewing civil servants he would feel that the civil servant at the end of the table was saying to himself "I am an under-secretary, and he is only an assistant secretary." It does not matter a hoot what any civil 2086 servant thinks. Our status and power do not depend on what civil servants think. We have but one thing in this House, namely, the right to vote in it. That is all the power that we need to do everything we need to do. Therefore, I would not feel at all embarrassed at establishing an equivalence of this kind for the purposes of avoiding having to pluck a figure out of the air every year. It would not affect our status in any other way.
I apologise for the fact that I did not hear the opening speech. I assume that it mentioned the reference to Boyle that the Government will now make. I hope that in that reference to Boyle it will be made clear that the committee is expected to take serious account of the resolution that the House passed in 1975. I accept that it cannot bind the Boyle committee. It is an independent committee, and must put forward what it thinks is the right recommendation. But it would be curious, to say the least, if the House, having passed such a resolution with a large majority, were to regard itself as free to ignore that decision because the Boyle Committee was opposed to the notion of linkage. The House has taken its decision once. It can change its mind, but it has taken its decision. The Boyle committee should accept the situation and work within those parameters.
Finally, I repeat that the ratio between the pay of a non-ministerial Member and that of Ministers other than the Prime Minister is a key one. Personally, I would increase the rate of pay of the Prime Minister to an enormous level compared with the present figures. I would think of a figure in the region of £50,000, £60,000 or £70,000. I think that the Prime Minister is in an exceptional position.
§ Mr. Powell
I wonder why there should be such an enormous inducement in a job that people want so badly.
§ Mr. Cunningham
That is not the only principle that one should adopt—it is one of the principles. If many people wish to do a certain thing, one does not take into account the subject of shortage of supply in determining what the late of pay should be. There are other considerations—there always are—in determining how much is to be paid. I think that it is contrary to the dignity of this 2087 country that we should pay our Prime Minister as little as we do.
However, let us leave the Prime Minister out of the argument, because the point that I am seeking to make is that there should be a close ratio between the pay of a Member of Parliament and the pay of a Cabinet Minister. I would settle for a ratio of 2:1. On that basis a Cabinet Minister would receive no more than double the pay of a non-ministerial Member, with all other Ministers fitting into the calculations. It is important that an hon. Member should not feel compelled to seek ministerial office and, having achieved it, should not feel compelled to hang on to it even if his conscience suggests that he should resign.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
I always find these debates rather distasteful. I never take part in one without referring to that distaste. I sympathise with the many hon. Members who have, perhaps, absented themselves today rather than incur that disagreeable sensation. On the other hand, it is the duty of some hon. Members to take part in these debates, perhaps more especially those who are so circumstanced that they are able to earn an income outside the House.
I, in common with a few of my colleagues, am a London-based barrister. I have a constituency that is near the capital. It is not a difficult position. I must point out to some hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that the House represents the whole kingdom. For example, how is an Edinburgh-based barrister to earn a living in his skill once he comes to the House? How is someone from Orkney or Shetland to do so, whose connections may be local? After all, we do in a special sense represent our constituencies. It would be sad if those who came to the House had to be people whose roots were not strongly in their own area.
Many who come to the House to represent their constituencies are not able to earn a living outside the House. We must take that into account. It has been said by many that the House has only itself to blame for the continual predicament in which it finds itself. That is not so. During the time that I have been 2088 here, I have not found that the House has been inhibited—it has, of course, been troubled and unhappy—about doing anything in respect of its pay. However, the House is almost powerless. Only a Minister of the Crown can propose a change. Today all the amendments are out of order because they are not proposed by a Minister.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Today the amendments may be out of order, but until a year ago they were not thought to be so, and until 1972 they really were not. As soon as the Pensions Act comes into force—the Act that we passed last month—it will be perfectly in order again for a non-ministerial Member to move increases in expenditure on this subject, provided that they are in traditional form, being only opinion-expressing motions. The House has always jealously guarded the right of hon. Members to propose increases in public expenditure for this purpose as against others.
§ Mr. Bell
I am aware of what the hon. Gentleman says, having discussed the matter fully with the Clerks at the Table. I appreciate that there may be a change coming. I hope that there is. I am not sure that it will follow that a private Member will be able to move such a proposal. He may be able to do it in the form of an amendment to a motion that already has the Queen's recommendation. I do not wish to become involved in a dispute about the future. I was dealing with the present. All the amendments today are out of order. On previous occasions the motions that the House has passed have not been treated as having effect. For example, the motion that it passed in 1975 did not do anything. That has always been the trouble.
The Government of the day are bound to regard a vigorous and independent House of Commons not as a vision but as a threat. To them the House of Commons is a nuisance. However, hon. Members are sent to this place to ascertain what the Government want to do and to stop them, if necessary. We can hardly expect Governments to want to build up the power of the House of Commons—to make it better informed and more vigorous. We see that there are complications when we consider these matters. I suppose that Ministers feel a sense of deli- 2089 cacy. I suppose that their remuneration is in some degree linked with ours.
These matters go back a long way. I must tell the right hon. Member for Down, South that it is not very much a matter of inflation. It is never the right time to increase the pay of politicians. For example, in 1831 there was a great cry for economy. Secretaries of State accepted a one-third cut in their salaries, reducing them from £7,500 to £5,000. It took slightly over 130 years for the cut to be restored. That is because it was never considered to be the right time to restore cuts. The temporary crisis passed, but the crisis of delicacy never passed.
The issue was raised time and time again. A Select Committee sat in the 1920s. Those who are interested may read the evidence of Mr. Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister of the time. He was asked how on earth the situation had been allowed to develop, and he replied that he supposed that we all have a sense of delicacy about proposing increases in our own remuneration.
In 1950, I introduced a Bill—at the time we had a Labour Government and I did not think very much of them—to increase Ministers' salaries to what I thought were reasonable figures. I believe that I proposed increasing the Prime Minister's salary to £20,000. The Bill got nowhere. Apart from anything else, I was not a Minister. The issue is not linked to inflation, and this is a long-continuing controversy. It is for that reason that I strongly support linkage. I can understand all the objections to linkage. There is the lack of true comparability. However, we want to get rid of the embarassment that so often occurs.
We often overlook the reason for the payment of Members out of local funds fading out. Traditionally, the House was paid in that way, but it would be wrong to look back to the nineteenth century and to generalise from that basis. It may be a lot to ask, but I should like the attention of the Leader of the House. Members used to be paid out of local funds. If we were paid out of the rates now, there would be a great deal of controversy. However, Members were paid in that way, and through the centuries there were endless controversies and lawsuits because of that fact. The 2090 unpleasantness of bringing a lawsuit against one's own local borough or county was such that the payment of Members began to fade out.
I often agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South, but I cannot do so today. He went back to 1950 and brought forward Members' remuneration from that time by reference to the index of retail prices. Why did he start at 1950? Why not go back to 1900, when Members were not paid at all? That should be no precedent for what we do now. Indeed, we could go back further, to the days when the grand jury of the county of Lancaster indicted the sheriff for promising to pay the Member £10 for the Session. The indictment continued:when a perfectly adequate man could have been got for £5.Are we to take the purchasing power of those times, extrapolate it, and say "If a perfectly reasonable or adequate man could have been obtained for £5 at that time, what should one pay for a perfectly reasonable man now?" We cannot do that. One of the disputes of those days ended in a compromise and the Member was paid a barrel of salted herrings at Christmas instead of being paid in coin of the realm. We cannot value a barrel of salted herrings at that time and extrapolate it to ascertain what we should now be paid.
We must take a commonsense view. We cannot apply anything but common sense. Surely it cannot be common sense that at present Members are paid almost precisely the same as a London bus driver if he is driving a one-man bus. He is performing a valuable job, but if there are to be differentials in society, that does not make sense.
The desire to enter the House does not have a lot to do with it. By statute, I am qualified to be Lord Chief Justice of England. I have the requisite qualifications, experience, and so on. I suppose that I would take on the job for £500 a year less than he is paid. What is more, everyone at the Bar with more than nine years' seniority in practice is qualified to be Lord Chief Justice. I can think of hundreds of people at the Bar who would be prepared to take on the job for £5,000 a year less than the Lord Chief Justice is being paid. That goes for many other positions.
2091 All the top positions in society are immensely prestigious and desirable. Many people who are technically qualified would be prepared to take those positions for less than the present incumbents are being paid, but we all recognise that those top positions in society should be filled by people with the highest ability.
This is a deliberative assembly. Collectively, it is sovereign. Individually, its members are nothing. But it would not be much of an assembly collectively if individually the people who came here merely wanted to obtain some minimum remuneration. We must think of the kind of people who come here.
This is a complicated argument. If we think of independence, there is no one so independent of the Government and the Whips as an unpaid Member. Ideally, I suppose that we should go back to the assembly of the eighteenth century, when the magnates of the kingdom sat here. They were stiff-necked and independent. They would not have been bullied by the Whips. The Government of the day had to argue for their legislation. There was no nonsense about the Government's having a right to get their business. There ought not to be now. Governments have no right to get their business. They should have to persuade Members. Some of us often point that out and, I hope, act accordingly.
But we must apply contemporary common sense. In each century the House has to reflect the society that it represents. I remember one of the predecessors of the present Clerk of the House telling me that in his day he had many letters from people complaining about the number of apparent lunatics in the House of Commons. He said that he always replied by pointing out that there were many lunatics in the population at large, and that fact ought to be reflected in the House of Commons.
However that may be, the fact is that the House should mirror in a special and sophisticated way the society in which we live. The fact is that the society in which we live would not furnish an eighteenth century House of Commons. We have moved on. Expectations are different. More than that, the demands upon people's time and the taxes imposed upon them make a leisured category of 2092 Members of Parliament almost non-existent.
I cannot suggest any exact criterion. The Minister invited hon. Members to name a figure. I shall not name a figure. It is not that I care about being associated with a particular figure; I do not. I apply the broad test of common sense. That tells me that the present remuneration of Members of Parliament does not make sense in relation to those who come from a distance—for example, those who were coal miners, or something like that—and do not have the opportunities of London-based barristers, journalists, broadcasters, or writers. There are some people whose earning power is enhanced by their being in the House, but for the great majority that is not so. We must do what seems to us to be right and explain why we are doing it. I think that the British public are fair-minded. They grasp the main point. If we get a recommendation from the Boyle committee, I think that the public will accept it.
I recur to the point that I made earlier. Whatever the disadvantages, for goodness sake let us have a linkage and an automatic system, so that we can get on with the job for which the public sent us to the House of Commons, namely, to look after their interests, to scrutinise legislation and to criticise the Government, and not continually fuss about our remuneration and allowances. We should be able to forget about them, having established reasonable levels, and not have any more of these wretched debates on Friday afternoons.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) carried us back to the nineteenth century and beyond. Other hon. Members—for example, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham)—have carried us abroad and looked at the rates of pay in other parliamentary assemblies. I met that situation last February. The Congress of the United States voted its Members an increase of $12,900, which, give or take fluctuations in the exchange rate, is almost exactly equal to the increased amount of pay that we shall get when this motion is passed.
At the moment, we seem to get the worst of all worlds. I cannot recall any 2093 person in the last 20 years coming to me and saying "We admire your forbearance in not pushing up your salaries higher than they are." On the other hand, I can recall many friends and constituents who jeer loudly whenever an increase in Members' pay is a matter for active public discussion. Almost invariably, those who jeer draw higher salaries than we get as Members of the House of Commons.
For many years I have believed, as have the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart), that the right way of tackling this problem has been to ensure that any increase in salary took effect only after a new Parliament had been elected. I take the point that we naturally have some influence on the rate of inflation. If inflation goes up rapidly in the course of one Parliament, we should bear some of the cost. But it has been easier to say "We shall vote an increase in salary, but it shall take effect only for Members elected in the next Parliament".
That was a tenable view in the 1950s and 1960s, but I doubt whether it is tenable in the inflationary 1970s. We are soon to have a General Election. I dare say that it will be pointed out that since the last General Election the cost of living in this country has increased by 90 per cent. We live in inflationary times. I do not believe that it is any longer possible to say that an increase should take effect only after a General Election.
Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who has done so much excellent work in this area, and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison), who also made a substantial contribution, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should accept the recommendation of the House in 1975 regarding linkage.
I am glad that the Boyle committee's attention has been drawn specifically to the question of linkage. The committee will have to decide what our salaries should be linked to. We have heard about the disadvantages involved in a linkage with any particular grade of the Civil Service. The Civil Service unions seem to be opposed to that, for understandable reasons. It is fundamentally 2094 wrong that our salaries should be linked to any particular grade and be affected by trade union pressure.
When the Boyle committee last examined our salaries, it recommended a sum which was then almost equal to the recommended salary of a full colonel on appointment. The sum suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton is almost exactly equal to the salary for a full colonel suggested by the Armed Forces Review Body. There are substantial benefits in linking our salaries to a rank in the armed forces. There is a regular system for evaluating the pay of members of the armed forces which is wholly insulated from trade union pressure.
I accept that we are a unique body and that Members of Parliament are unique. Every colonel and every corporal is unique. Each of them bring to his job unique qualifications and experience. The fact that we are unique does not mean that we should reject a sensible method of setting our salaries. The present system does not work. We must change it.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
I wish to speak briefly on a number of matters. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) courteously allowed me to intervene as a new Member. He is right. Most hon. Members have entered the House since 1950, and the right hon. Member's speech could have been made by an hon. Member who entered the House after a by-election in 1965. That hon. Member could come to totally different conclusions from those of the right hon. Member.
There was a time when hon. Members paid for their own postage and a three-course meal in the Members' Dining Room cost is 6d. If one updates the cost of that meal by five times, as the right hon. Member updated the salary of hon. Members, one should be able to get a meal for 7s 6d. I visited the Dining Room today and had a cheese omelette and chips, pineapple fritter and custard, a cup of coffee with two lumps of sugar and a glass of water. It cost me £1.03. One should be careful about that type of argument. I recognise that my argument is incomplete, but it contains a useful degree of anecdotage.
2095 I know of an hon. Member who kept records of the postage that he paid in 1950. The bill came to £30 a year. If that is updated by a factor of five, that sum would now pay for 14 letters per day. If we sent only 14 letters per day, we should not need secretaries. Most of us send many more letters.
The right hon. Member for Down, South is right to say that this place is unique. The respect which people have for the House is determined by the people who are here. I felt that I had arrived when I was washing my hands in another part of the building next to the right hon. Member. Having read many of his speeches with great respect in the past, I felt that I was part of the product of the Mother of Parliaments, and I have enjoyed being here. The fact that I do not always agree with the right hon. Member does not alter that feeling.
Certain facts settle the calibre of the people who are sent to the Commons. There is the choice at election time. Most electors have a choice of up to eight candidates but normally a main choice of two or three. The person who comes here is the result of the popular choice. Beyond and behind that, there is the choice of constituency associations or parties. The selectors will not be changed by pay. The calibre of people who are on the selection committee will not change.
What will change is the range of people who put themselves forward to be considered as candidates. An acquaintance rang me up three weeks ago and asked what was likely to happen to pay for MPs after the General Election. He is deputy headmaster of a comprehensive school and earns £9,000 a year. It is not easy for someone such as he to get part-time work if he gets elected at the next election. Should we seriously ask him and his family to take a reduction in their standard of living for him to become a Member of Parliament?
Many people who stand for Parliament are willing to take severe cuts in salaries. I call them the "vicar" types and I respect them. If, however, one followed the free market economy, one would look for the marginal pricing that would bring in all the group that is wanted. It is clear that certain people will be brought in only if they do not have to make too great a personal sacrifice.
2096 Some people have been brigadiers at the age of 30. Others are Members of Parliament. But the difference in the pay of a brigadier and a Member of Parliament is enormous. People have family responsibilities, and we need Members of Parliament who have heavy responsibilities.
I do not wish anybody to think that we are unaware of the plight of the unmarried mother with one child who probably receives an income of £16 a week plus rent. We do not overlook the many people who are worse off than we are, such as pensioners, some workers and people who cannot work. That does not affect what the rate of pay for a Member of Parliament should be. It should be borne in mind, but it should not be the determining factor.
The Minister asked for suggestions about what the rate of pay should be. I believe that had the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) stayed in the Civil Service, he would now be earning between £12,000 and £14,000 a year. The same could apply to many right hon. and hon. Members. That is the level at which pay should be set. I recognise that that figure might be regarded as being in excess of the value of someone such as myself, but perhaps in time I would be replaced or would learn the job and become worth it. The point is that, if the rate of pay is put at a higher level, the electorate can do something about it and other people who think that they would be better Members of Parliament can also act. We are not only dealing with the rate of pay of present hon. Members but we are trying to ensure that the right people come here in the future.
§ 2.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich. West (Mr. Bottomley) underrates his own contribution to the House. It has emerged from what he and other hon. Members have said that our debate centres around the nature of the job. It is a curiosity of the job that there is no such thing as a job specification for a Member of Parliament. In fact, it is up to each of us as individuals, whether we are new arrivals in the House or have been here for many years, to carry out the job in the way that we think appropriate.
2097 We have had some discussion about that. We had an interesting contribution from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on the way in which he interprets his job and the tools that he finds necessary for it. I suspect that most of us find it essential to have the facilities described in the second motion that we are discussing, which puts forward a figure for an allowance to cover general office expenses, secretarial assistance and research assistance.
I think that most of us would find that in order to carry out the job of a Member of Parliament in the way that we think proper we need some sort of office accommodation—which is provided, of course, by the House—we need expenses to cover the running of it, and we need a full-time secretary to carry out the work involved, not only in constituency correspondence but in correspondence connected with matters in which we take a particular interest in the House. Many of us could certainly do with some sort of part-time, if not full-time, assistance from a research assistant, or something of that sort.
To cover all these things, the salary of a secretary, plus national insurance and so on, the expenses of running an office, and possibly the services of a part-time assistant, it is now suggested that we should have for the forthcoming year £4,098 and for any subsequent year £4,200.
Any hon. Member can walk a few hundred yards away from this building, down Victoria Street, and see advertised at any employment agency vacancies for secretaries at figures of that sort, simply for employing a secretary alone—£4,000 plus luncheon vounchers and all sorts of fringe benefits. Therefore, we must consider whether even this, increase though it is, is a realistic figure to provide Members with the sort of facilities necessary to do their job properly.
In my view, it is not a realistic figure. It is not surprising that many Members of Parliament have to make do with using half a secretary, or with a secretary of indifferent quality, or with a good secretary who does not last because she goes elsewhere to get more money. Happily, many of us have the services of a secretary who works here because she is 2098 dedicated and enjoys doing the work, but who is overworked and underpaid. That is not something of which the House ought to be proud.
Necessarily, perhaps, because it involves us all personally, much of our debate has centred on the salary of Members of Parliament. It is right that we should emphasise that we are talking about salaries, to avoid the confusion that arises so often in the media with regard to our expenses or, as they are commonly called, our perks.
Concerning the secretarial allowance, there can surely be few other jobs in which a secretary is not already provided. It is very unusual for people to have to provide their own secretaries. Certainly I know of no other job in which, when one takes it on, one is expected to provide not only one's secretary but a typewriter and other equipment.
On the question of the allowance for a second home, there are very few jobs where it is not normal for an employee to get some sort of allowance or expenses for lodging or staying away from home, if that is the nature of the job.
What is described as free travel is confined to driving from one's home to Westminster and the constituency. Again, in virtually any other job that involves travel it is taken for granted that the employee will have some sort of allowance and that those expenses will be fully covered. My complaint is that our travel is unnecessarily restricted within that triangle. Although there are many circumstances in which, as Members of Parliament, we would want to undertake travel in furtherance of our personal parliamentary duties, we are unable to do so unless we do it out of our own pockets.
I am secretary of the all-party paper industry group. If I visit a paper mill for the purpose of forwarding the interests of that group, I must pay for it out of my own pocket. As secretary of my party's home affairs committee, if I am interested in visiting a prison or a children's home outside my constituency, the travelling expenses have to come out of my own pocket.
Similarly, if Members wish to visit defence establishments, or anything of the sort, their expenses must come out of their own pocket—unless they go as members of a Select Committee.
2099 I cannot see why it should not be practicable for Members of Parliament simply to have a rail pass, which is quite usual in other legislatures. It would be perfectly practicable. It might be possible then for Members to carry out the sort of visits that I have indicated. Our commitments in this place would give very little opportunity for abuse, if there were the slightest temptation on the part of any Members to abuse it. Certainly the existence of such a pass would save an enormous amount of time and trouble on the part not only of Members but of the staff of the House, with all the paper shuffling that goes on in filling in warrants, passing them for payment, and so on.
Finally, I turn to the question of the salary itself. It is important that it should reflect the responsibility of the work that we do—"the rate for the job", quite rightly, has been the expression used. Much of our discussion stems from the Boyle report of three years ago. Boyle was not printed yesterday. It was three years ago, almost to the day.
The House will recall that in his report Lord Boyle analysed the work of Members of Parliament and the amount of time that was spent on our various commitments. He commented, incidentally, that between 1971 and 1975 the average number of hours that Members of Parliament devoted to their parliamentary activities had increased from 63 to 70 hours a week. It was 70 hours a week in 1975, and I suspect that it has not decreased since then. That is an interesting figure to bear in mind at a time when there is pressure for a 35-hour week.
In paragraph 20 of the report, Boyle recommended that the salaries of Members of Parliament should be increased to £8,000.
In paragraph 21, Boyle went on to say:We consider it to be of the highest importance that our recommendations both on Members' salaries and on their allowances, and on a Parliamentary salary of Ministers and office holders, should be implemented in full and without delay.That was in July 1975. Both sides of the House decided to ignore that recommendation and to offer only a marginal increase. Both sides of the House have continued to ignore that recommendation for three years.
2100 The time has come when this issue should be dodged no longer. After all, it is not simply Members of this House who are suffering from being inadequately remunerated for the work that they do. In my view, we cannot do our job properly. I have already referred to travelling expenses, which are inadequate. Also, we arc often precluded from, for example, entertaining constituents as we would wish. That is the sort of thing which a Member of Parliament ought to do and ought to be expected to do, but he should not have to suffer financially for doing it.
How many of us have experienced the situation in which a constituent of ours turns up in the House to speak to us, and although we would like to take him for a meal we just have to take him to the bar and give him beer, because that is the best we can do. We ought to be able to entertain our constituents to a reasonable level.
§ Mr. Rhodes James
Will my hon. Friend emphasise the point that the take-home pay of a Member of Parliament is less than £100 a week? That is the key salary figure which is involved in all the problems about which he has been talking.
§ Mr. Sims
Whether we are talking about the take-home salary on a weekly, monthly or annual basis, obviously it will depend upon a Member's commitments, and so on. But I would not dispute what my hon. Friend says.
The whole point is that at the end of the day it is not simply we who are suffering. Indeed, the right hon. Member referred to sacrifices and said that we should expect to make sacrifices. He is absolutely right. We willingly make sacrifices, but our wives and families have to make them too and we should be able to recompense them with holidays and nights out without putting an unreasonable strain on our pockets.
We cannot and must not dodge this issue any longer. Shortly before a General Election, this is a golden opportunity to introduce a commitment to solve this problem. The lines have been indicated in early-day motion no. 502, in connection with which my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart) has done so much work. I pay tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the 2101 Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and of the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) towards getting a solution and a decision from both Front Benches.
I welcome the Minister's undertaking to ask Boyle to look at this matter again—although if I were a member of the committee I should think twice before doing so, in view of the way in which its previous recommendations were treated. However, I deplore the Minister's refusal to permit the Government to accept the recommendations. There is ample precedent, with the armed forces, the police and the firemen, to announce beforehand that the recommendations will be accepted, either immediately or in phases.
I see no reason why both sides of the House should not make a commitment. The Leader of the House has the task of representing and defending the interests of Back Benchers, and I hope that he will do so in this connection. I urge my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) to take the lead and commit the Conservative Party to implementing in full any Boyle recommendation. Perhaps that will shame the Government into doing the same. I urge my right hon. Friend to do so not only in his personal capacity but as Front-Bench spokesman. His Back Benchers have rightly supported him and his right hon. Friends; I ask him now to support us.
§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)
This has been a wide debate, covering not only a whole range of matters relevant to Members' pay and pensions but, beyond that, to the role of Members of Parliament and how we carry out our responsibilities. Is it slightly unfortunate that we have spent almost a whole parliamentary day on our own salaries. That is slightly out of proportion, but it reflects the problems created by inflation.
Many conflicting views have been expressed today, but everyone has agreed that this place is unique and that the job of an MP cannot easily be compared with anything else. However, the needs of those of us who try to do this job and the needs of our families are not so different from the needs of people outside. Our difficulty is largely the fault of the House itself. We have been pusillani- 2102 mous. Despite the terms of early-day motion no. 502, put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart), he himself said that we had been oversensitive about this matter. That is correct.
The 10 per cent. increases provided for in these motions will obviously be accepted by the House so far as they go—not, I think, by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), but by everybody else—but reluctantly and only on account of the present Government's counter-inflation and pay policy. The 10 per cent. is not only the maximum which the Government can afford and permit: it is also the minimum. It is the least they can do.
If these motions are passed, we shall be very much where we are now in terms of remuneration. Wherever that is, it is not satisfactory and requires adjustment. With the exception of that one speech, I think that every hon. Member takes that view.
One particular anomaly is the two levels of remuneration—the difference between hon. Members who accepted the full increase a couple of years ago and those who did not and who have since received £312 less. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) referred to our pay conditions as eccentric, and this is a particular eccentricity. It ought not to have happened, but it did, and it should now be erased.
As I understand it, the Government's view is that Members may on their own initiative cancel their own waiver because the pay policy is voluntary. But my inclination is for the Government themselves to be active and forthright about this and to facilitate the payment of their salaries to all Members on the same basis. I think that everybody ought to be on the same basis. The Parliamentary Secretary advised against that, but I think it is wrong that there should be some Members paid at one level and other Members paid at another level, unless entirely through their own voluntary will they wish to have a reduced salary or no salary at all. This is an anomaly that should be ended.
I remind the Leader of the House that he wrote to at least one of my hon. Friends—the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins)—a couple of 2103 years ago, in 1976, indicating that the present situation would be only temporary. As I understand it, it has in effect ended, so I hope that he will be able to advise in that sense.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
I am wondering about what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, because surely it is entirely the responsibility of the individual Member whether he chooses to receive the full figure or the full figure minus the £312 or whatever it was. As I understand it, no obstacle is being placed in the way of any Member who wants to cancel his instruction.
§ Mr. Pym
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information, but the Parliamentary Secretary advised Members in certain circumstances not to request payment of what they had waived. I am suggesting that that advice ought not to have been given and that the Leader of the House should give revised advice today.
I come now to the question of expenses and allowances. I agree with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) that it is wrong to regard the recoupment of the expense of a secretary as being in any sense an allowance. It cannot possibly be regarded as an allowance. We know that the right hon. Member for Down, South can manage his constituency and other work without a secretary, and I think that he can probably manage a lot of things in a way that some of the rest of us are not able to do. For practically every other hon. Member, however, a secretary is necessary, and it is not right for that to be treated as an expense, because it is not.
I also agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) when he referred to the connection between expenses and allowances and salaries. I refer the House to the comment in the eighth report of the TSRB. It said:we are perturbed that, whereas our recommendations for increased allowances have been accepted in full, Members' salaries have been increased by little than one-third of what we recommended. We consider this imbalance between salaries and allowances to be wrong in principle and unwise in practice.I agree with that view. I remember that in 1975, when we had one of these debates, it was being said to Members who 2104 were complaining about the extent to which the proposed increases in salaries were being limited by the Government that the allowances and expenses were not being limited. I think that that is wrong.
The most important issues are what should be the level of remuneration of Members and Ministers and how that decision, whenever it is reached, should be implemented. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to injustices. He also referred to the obligations of the Government, which I think almost every Member who has spoken feels that the Government have not actually fulfilled. He made the point that the time is never right to do it. We have to put that right; we have to decide and find the right way to implement whatever decision is taken.
It must be right to ask the Review Body to reconvene and consider the matter. That is the body to determine the issue. I agree with the Government about that. But I doubt whether the members of the Review Body will be very pleased to be asked to do it after the treatment accorded to their deliberations on the last occasion. Indeed, the Review Body was outspokenly critical in its eighth report about what was subsequently done. In paragraph 4 it said:we feel bound to express our concern at the consequences of continuing to undervalue the demands on those elected to govern the country.I share that concern. The report does not specify the concern or go into detail, but at this point in our history, in the economic circumstances of today, the present levels of remuneration put many Members in great difficulty. That difficulty is not peculiar to them. There are lots of other groups in our society which are in difficulty, and to the extent that we share that difficulty perhaps it is good for us, but that does not alter the fact that there is something wrong.
It is a serious matter to put those in highly responsible positions in public life in such circumstances that they can scarcely make ends meet or, at any rate, have great difficulty in doing so. There are dangers in underpaying those who carry substantial responsibilities in public life. That is one reason why historically, for example, the judges have been relatively highly paid, though I do not think that they are so relatively highly paid today. Anyone in a responsible position 2105 in public life ought not to be underpaid, since the result must surely be to give such a person a strong incentive—even a need, but certainly an incentive—to find extra sources of income.
Some Members in such circumstances will find it easier than will others to increase their earnings. Some will be able to augment their salaries without too much difficulty, and that will be of general benefit to the House, as the hon. Member for Fife, Central said, and it will be of benefit also to the particular Member. But when a Member has difficulty in finding extra income he may be put in an acutely awkward situation, and so perhaps may his family. I thought that the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) spoke very compassionately, sensibly and with great understanding about that.
This state of affairs is worrying since in current conditions the demands made on Members of Parliament are extremely onerous. As the years go by, more and more is expected of them, and I do not imagine that many hon. Members will agree with what the right hon. Member for Down, South said about that. For just a few minutes during the course of the debate I went out and obtained information from the post office in this building, and I was told—I give the facts in so far as they can be taken as an indication of what is happening—that over the past six years the postage in and postage out has increased by about 35 per cent.—at any rate, by more than one-third—which by any standard is a pretty substantial increase.
The development and extension of Government into many areas of everyone's everyday life, areas never previously invaded by Government—a point well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge—means that over a wide range of matters a Member of Parliament is often the last hope or the last resort for a constituent who seeks redress of a grievance.
We all know from our surgeries the frustration and exasperation of our constituents at the consequences of greatly extended bureaucracy. One of the things which we can do for them is to investigate a case on their behalf, to compel consideration or reconsideration of some matter or decision already taken. In relation to overall policy, it may not seem 2106 a major issue into which they ask us to look, but to the individual it is a major matter, and, of course, all of us in the House like to help people in that way as far as we can. But I often wonder how many more people there must be whom we could help and would like to help, as Members of Parliament, but who have not yet got in touch with us.
That is only one facet of a Member's responsibilities. There is plenty of other parliamentary and other work to be done here because of the expansion of Government. For example, there is the scrutinising role which we want Parliament to do more effectively in future than it has been doing recently. But I mention the constituency work load of Members is the present context because I believe that the full range of responsibility that a Member has is not widely known or understood. Historically in this country we have had our politics on the cheap in terms of public expenditure, but in today's circumstances it is hard to see how Parliament can work satisfactorily or successfully on that basis.
We are experiencing a transition from what could be described as an amateur to an increasingly professional Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher) said that it used to cost money to be an hon. Member. Comparing that situation with today's circumstances indicates the scale of the change that has taken place. However much anyone may regret that change, much regret is irrelevant because the change is inevitable. We have to cope with things as they are. The approach of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) was entirely right. We must do it on a commonsense basis. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) made this point most effectively. Whatever else happens in future, I hope that there will always be scope for part-time Members on quite a large scale, or at least many Members who have time for outside activities. If we had a House where that was unusual, I am sure that we would take even worse decisions than we sometimes take anyway.
To the extent that politics and parliamentary life are becoming more professional and a more full-time job, with commensurate salaries, the independence of hon. Members may be affected. The 2107 genuine and individual independent judgment that is so vital to the successful working of the House—indeed, it is of its essence—against party lines or anyone else would be jeopardised to some extent if being an hon. Member represented a person's only livelihood. There will inevitably be at least some disincentive from doing anything that puts that livelihood at risk. I do not make much of that, but it is worth saying.
There has been talk of high-quality people not giving up other occupations to come here because they could not afford to do so. This is, in part, a misconceived argument, because this is a voluntary occupation. No one has to come here. In addition, there is an element of sacrifice in coming to this House, and I hope that there always will be. To talk of people not being able to afford to come here is to talk of membership of the House as a major professional career, and if that ever became the basis of membership throughout the House it would considerably alter the character of the place.
Reference has been made to Parliaments in other countries--the international comparison argument. I have no doubt that the Review Body will take such comparisons into account. I expect that it will take all factors into account and will update its 1975 figures to recommend a salary that may well be into five figures. How many of us are likely to disagree with that?
If our job is to be done properly and as many members of the public want it to be done, it must be paid for. In today's circumstances it cannot be done properly on the cheap. Obviously we must await the outcome of the review which the Government are setting in hand, and it is not fair to ask them to commit themselves absolutely in advance to accept all the recommendations in full.
The early-day motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin asks for that undertaking, but it is difficult to visualise that the Government could go that far. We have to acknowledge that no Government, as far as I know, have ever done so. The nearest that a Government came to this was with the undertaking which this Government gave concerning the Edmund-Davies report on the 2108 police. There may be a precedent there which might be relevant to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton and the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) are asking the Government to do.
With that possible exception, it is an unusual thing for a Government to accept undertakings in advance. I am certain that a strong indication from the Leader of the House in the direction of acceptance or something close to it would be both realistic and reasonable. I remind the House that the last Conservative Government implemented in full the recommendations of the then Boyle report. That is a credential that it is possible and appropriate for me to put forward at this Box as an indication that we for our part in the circumstances envisaged—that after a General Election we shall be the Government—would do our utmost to go as far as we can in whatever is recommended and give the House of Commons the chance of coming to a decision.
I turn to the question of responsibility for the decision about our pay and conditions. Traditionally, the initiative has come from the Government. It has had to do so. They have to release the money and carry the responsibility for that release. Therefore, the Queen's recommendation has been required. That procedure fell into doubt, but it has now been put right with the help and encouragement of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham)—in so far as it ever went wrong—by new clause 4 which was inserted in the recent Parliamentary Pensions Bill. In that way it is possible for Back Benchers to move an amendment or to debate this issue in the way suggested in the amendment tabled for today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton which is at present out of order.
In recent years the Government have not faced up to their responsibility. That is one reason why we have got into such a mess. This is a matter for the House of Commons rather than the Government. It is a matter for the Back Benches just as much as for the Front Benches. It is they who should take the initiative and the responsibility for whatever is decided. There are difficulties for the Government in giving firm commitments. There are 2109 similar difficulties for the alternative Government, sitting temporarily on the Opposition Benches. This is an issue in which the whole House should be involved.
It is possible that, thanks to the new clause 4 added to the Parliamentary Pensions Bill, we shall have found a way of enabling the House to take the initiative and the responsibility for whatever is decided. The same thing applies in principle to the linkage argument contained in the early-day motion and also contained in the amendment passed in July 1975. I refer to the linkage with the Civil Service. I am against that proposition. I realise that I am in a minority, although I was supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) and Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) as well as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). I appreciate that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), took a different view. It is difficult to know with whom we can link ourselves.
I remind the House of what the eighth report of the Review Body on Top Salaries said in paragraph 5. It commented:the level of remuneration for Members of Parliament should continue to be judged on the demands of the job itself and against all factors relevant to it; Members ought not to be insulated from these factors".I am inclined to agree with that.
The controversy will not go away. I do not believe that there is any action which could flow from the last line of the early-day motion which would remove responsibility for future decisions from this House. I do not see what can be done to achieve that, because there will always be the argument over to whom or to what we should link our salaries. Should it be to civil servants, colonels, bus drivers or miners? What is it to be? It is not for me to say. It is not for the Leader of the House to say. It is for the House of Commons as a whole. I may not like the decision which we take, but that does not matter. The important thing is that the House of Commons should take that decision.
§ Mr. Pym
The hon. Gentleman says "We did". That amendment was passed three years ago and that decision can be said to have been taken. But I am sure that the House of Commons will have to return to this matter after the reference to Boyle. I am simply saying that I personally disagree with it. That is as may be. The point is that the House of Commons as a whole will have to decide.
We cannot escape our responsibility. In my view, we ought not to try to do so. If the House decides to try to escape from its responsibility for settling the salaries of Members, so be it. But I predict that, whatever we do, we shall find that in the end the buck stops right here.
I ask the Leader of the House to be as positive, forthcoming and helpful as he possibly can be about the future. He knows the uneasiness and disquiet which there is in the House about the level of salaries at present. Indeed, he knows what hardships there are on both sides of the House. We appreciate that the Government are hooked with their own pay policy and with those problems. But the right hon. Gentleman also knows that we cannot continue with Members remunerated on the basis upon which they are remunerated today.
In supporting the motions, for the reasons that I have given, I ask the Leader of the House to be as helpful, forthcoming and as positive as possible in indicating how he sees his Government putting this matter right in due course.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
Before responding to the final words of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym)—obviously the matters to which he referred at the end of his speech reflected some of the principal questions discussed during the debate—perhaps I may comment on some of the other general remarks that have been made. If I hinge some of them on the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), it is because he took a view contrary to that of all other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. He put the case against what we are proposing. I should therefore like to comment on some of the things that he said, and comment thereby 2111 on some of the other remarks that were made by other hon. Members.
The first proposition that the right hon. Gentleman put was that in some sense this was shameful. I think that that was the word that he used. One of the reasons why I should reply to the right hon. Gentleman is that his comments speed around the country and, therefore, it is necessary to reply to them.
I do not assent to the right hon. Gentleman's view that in some sense it is shameful that the Members of the House of Commons should vote amounts for themselves prior to a General Election. I think that it is perfectly proper for the House of Commons to do what it is doing. We are doing it in the open. We are not seeking to conceal what we are doing, or the reasons why we are doing it. Nor have we concealed what has happened in the past, or what we hope will happen in the future. There has been no attempt whatever to do anything behind the backs of the electorate. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting that, but there was an implication that this is the wrong way for us to proceed. I cannot accept that.
Although many of my hon. Friends, and others, may disagree, I think that it would have been wrong, if, in 1975, when we had the Boyle recommendations and when, almost at the same time, we were asking for a voluntary acceptance of a £6 limit throughout the country—a limit that some of us believed was essential to defeat the very great danger of inflation—we had proceeded to carry out the Boyle recommendations in respect of Members of this House. That is what I said in the House at the time, and I do not depart from it now.
It is easy for some hon. Members to say—and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said it, in a sense—how pusillanimous the House of Commons has been, or how much too sensitive it has been. If we remember the circumstances in which we had to make up our minds, and if we recall the reason why the House of Commons came to what I believe was the proper decision, that we should not give ourselves more than we were asking others throughout the country to accept, I am sure that most of us will agree that the same principle applies now. However, that does not mean that I agree 2112 with the right hon. Member for Down, South that we have not the right to do this now as we are doing it and as we did it three years ago.
The right hon. Member made a comparison with the time when he came to the House in 1950, and various replies have been given to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart) replied on the grounds of numeracy, and I shall not seek to compete with him. He gave the numerate reply. I am not an expert in these matters, and I shall not go into any figures if I can avoid it. My hon. Friend replied effectively on that subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) also replied on another aspect of the matter. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) also joined the common retort to the right hon. Member for Down, South on these matters.
The right hon. Member for Down, South did not merely get the figures wrong in the sense that was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon; he also took a slightly romantic view of what happened in the House of Commons when he first arrived here in 1950. I believe that he is a romantic and that that is one of the explanations for his attitudes in politics generally.
I remember the 1950 Parliament and how some Members of Parliament used to conduct their business in those times. I remember Seymour Cocks, for example, who was one of the closest friends that I had in the House of Commons. He spent hours and hours in the Library replying in his own hand to every letter that he received from his constituents. He was so careful, precise, diligent and conscientious in the way that he discharged his duties that he even wrote to Ministers, in his same longhand, telling them what he wanted to say to them. There was none of this business of attaching a little card to a constituent's letter saying "Get on with this, please, and let me have a nice full answer to send to my constituent." A vast amount of his time had to be devoted to replying to his constituents satisfactorily in that way. He was also scrupulous in avoiding coming into the Smoking Room unless he was sure that he could pay for a round of drinks. We saw him there only once a month, and we always looked forward to his coming.
2113 There were many Members of Parliament who sought to conduct their affairs in that manner during the years that the right hon. Member for Down, South described. I do not believe that that is a satisfactory way for hon. Members to operate. I am not saying that the right hon. Member for Down, South did not discharge his duties, but I believe that many Members of Parliament sacrificed their health in discharging their duties to their constituents. The right hon. Gentleman's picture of the way in which hon. Members can discharge their duties, therefore, does not tell the whole story.
There have been great changes in the House of Commons over the past 20 or 25 years. I am not sure whether the right hon. Member made the suggestion, although there may have been some implication in what he said tending in this direction, but I disagree strongly that there has been any decline in the sturdy independence of Members of Parliament during that period. In my view, the opposite is the case. Members of Parliament today are a good deal more independent than they were 20 or 30 years ago, when I first came here. Certainly they are a good deal more independent than many Members of Parliament in previous decades, or even in previous centuries.
It is a myth to imagine that in the eighteenth or nineteenth century all 600 Members of the House of Commons were sturdy people coming here and, on their aristocratic incomes, defying the Whips, such as they were in those days, determined to stand up for their rights. The independence was confined to a very small number.
In a sense—I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) when I say this—there is much greater independence in the House than there has been for a long time past. My hon. Friend and others sometimes suggest that the sole reason for that greater independence is the non-existence of a majority for the Government. It has an effect, because no Government want to expel their own majority. That would be a curious course to take. Even if one were tempted to do so, one would be brought back to reality the following morning, because there 2114 would always be another night to be got through.
Going back to the 1940s and early 1950s, I remember the strictness of the party machines that then operated. Long before the narrow majorities of this Parliament, there was a great development in the independence of Members of Parliament. In the 1930s such was the power of the party machines that on the Labour side the machine took steps to throw out of the party altogether Aneurin Bevan. On the Conservative side it took such steps as it could just before 1939—indeed, the war came in the nick of time to prevent its happening—to kick Winston Churchill out of the Conservative Party altogether. In those days independence on both sides of the House had to be striven for.
Compared with that position, there has been a healthy transformation. The fact that the salary of Members of Parliament has risen in the interim has not injured independence; it has assisted it. I agree with the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) that in sustaining, encouraging and developing the independence of Members of Parliament there is a strong case for bringing about a considerable improvement in their pay, conditions and pensions.
Pensions, in one sense, are the most important of all. The most disgraceful feature of what has happened in the treatment of Members of Parliament is the way in which hon. Members who spent as long as 30 or 40 years in this House were awarded no pensions at all. On retirement from the House, many of those people had to return to circumstances which were utterly degrading and which should not have been tolerated.
We are seeking to overcome that position. We now have in operation a decent pension scheme. There are some anomalies and problems. Those matters are still to be referred to the Boyle committee, and I hope that they will be overcome.
I fully agree that there must be a substantial improvement in the general pay and conditions of Members of Parliament, because it will enable the whole House to transact its business in a better fashion. I want to see that happen as speedily as it can be assured.
2115 I am not enamoured of top salary review bodies. I do not think that they always make the best recommendations, and they do not always make it easy for Governments to make choices. I do not recommend such a system as ideal but, faced with our present position involving the pay of Members of Parliament, I believe that it would be absurd at present to try to seek a different way of dealing with it. Therefore, I am in favour of the reference to the Top Salaries Review Body as speedily as possible after we have been able to carry the relevant motions. Following the consultations that will enable us to proceed, I am in favour of referring the matter again to that body, in the hope that we shall achieve some fairly early recommendations.
The right hon. Member for Taunton said that the terms of reference should be comprehensive. I do not dispute the desirability of that aim, but we do not want to make the terms so comprehensive that the procedure will be too lengthy. To some extent we must limit the number of recommendations, but all the matters referred to in this debate can be included in the references.
We should, of course, have consultations with those who have made representations on the subject, especially the right hon. Member for Taunton and my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes). In the Labour Party we have a parliamentary affairs group that has a special interest in and knowledge of these matters. We would wish to consult with all interested groups about the form of the new recommendation. I want to ensure that it commands the general support of the House. That does not mean that I want to delay proceeding with it.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and others asked whether the Government were able to give an absolute commitment that we should carry out what the Top Salaries Review Body might recommend. I cannot give that commitment. I set out the Government's position in the same terms as those used by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary at the beginning of the debate. However, I do not think that our approach differs in any sense from what the right 2116 hon. Member for Taunton said. I am grateful to him for what he said. I do not dissent from his words.
I believe that we have made a considerable advance, in the sense that the proposal that there be a reference to the Boyle committee and the way in which it is to be done has resulted from the representations made by the right hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey, and many other Back Benchers who have spoken to me and discussed the matter. I believe that the reference will be made with the general asset of the House. When the recommendations come forward I think that there will be strong backing for proceeding along those lines. I am ready to respond to what the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire said at the end of his remarks, in almost the terms that he used.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
My right hon. Friend will remember that in 1975 there was considerable irritation that the Boyle report was made available to the Government and was in the Government's hands certainly for several weeks, and perhaps even for a month or more, before it was made public. Is my right hon. Friend able to give an undertaking that that will not be repeated and that as soon as the report is out from the Boyle committee it will be made available to hon. Members, who have a direct interest in it, before the Government make up their mind on their recommendations?
§ Mr. Foot
I am afraid that I cannot give the undertaking that my hon. Friend seeks. I doubt whether it is a reasonable idea. When the Government receive a report they must be able to consider whether it is desirable to issue it at the same time as they publish their recommendations or comments. That is what has happened on many other occasions. There have been a number of occasions when the possibility of the Government's being able to give consideration to a report before its publication so that their recommendations or comments may appear at the same time has been highly beneficial to those included in the recommendations. I would not give the undertaking that my hon. Friend seeks without being able to consider the particular circumstances—and who knows what they 2117 might be? That does not detract in any sense from what I have said about the way in which we wish to approach the matter and the way in which I believe the whole House should approach it.
The right hon. Member for Taunton is correct about the way in which we shall be able to deal with these motions in future. That is largely due to the initiative and persistence of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, who ensured that the relevant clause was included in the Bill. I believe that that will be of benefit to the House in dealing with these problems in future.
§ Mr. Rhodes James
We are deeply appreciative of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has replied to the debate. Will he deal briefly with the problem that I endeavoured to raise, namely, the problem of the disparity between allowances and salary? Will that be referred as well?
§ Mr. Foot
That can certainly be referred. It is obviously a matter on which the Boyle committee will wish to comment. I think that it commented upon it before. Therefore, it will no doubt wish to comment on it again. We would not wish to do anything that would debar that committee from commenting upon that matter. We shall look at that aspect of the matter, too, in making our recommendations.
The motion in the name of the hon. Member for Hitchin undoubtedly commands wide assent throughout the House and the Government must certainly take that into account. I am sure that the Boyle committee must also take it into account. I am glad that I have not omitted to emphasise this aspect, because I fully intended to do so. The Boyle committee must take full recognition of the motion passed by the House on the whole question of linkage. This matter has been debated in the House many times. Arguments on both sides have been put forward. However, it does not alter the fact that Members are in some respects the best judges of some of these questions.
There is no doubt that we had a serious debate in 1975, when Members voted on that motion precisely because they believed that it was one of the ways in 2118 which we could escape from some of our difficulties. It commanded support in many parts of the House. That is why we have made clear in our motion that we are asking Boyle to look afresh at the possibility of linkage. Of course, we are referring to the motion that was passed by the House of Commons. I believe that the committee must make some recommendation on how best we can carry out that resolution. Whether, in the end, the House wishes to choose that course is another matter. It is for the House of Commons to decide. We are seeking to ensure that we get a further fresh consideration and recommendation on that aspect of the matter.
I hope that on these general grounds, despite the position of the right hon. Member for Down, South, the House will be prepared to accept these recommendations and motions. I do not believe that it is possible for anybody to say that Members of Parliament have in any sense sought to treat themselves favourably compared with other sections of the community. Anyone who looks at history over recent years will see that, so far from doing that, Members have held back. That should be well understood. It is not always understood by those who report the affairs of this place. Some of them apparently have no interest in reporting the situation.
§ Mr. Sims
I am grateful for the trouble that the right hon. Gentleman has taken to meet the wishes expressed in many corners of the House. Does he appreciate that the terms that he used have been so general as to allow either side of the House in government to do anything or nothing on receipt of the report? Will he give us an assurance that at least we shall not be told that while the Government completely accept the spirit of the report, under the present policy of 5 per cent. that is what we shall get and no more? If so, the debate has been a waste of time.
§ Mr. Foot
I think that the hon. Gentleman has misconstrued—I think he is unwise to do so—what I said and what was said by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire. Neither of us said that the report would leave the House of Commons free to do anything or nothing. Those were not the terms used by either of us. We said that, particularly in the 2119 light of the way in which the recommendation is being made by the House, all the representations that have been made by hon. Members on both sides following the appearance on the Order Paper of a motion of this character will be taken into account by the House of Commons and by the Government when they get the future report of the Boyle committee. The interpretation by the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) of what I said does not stand. I would rather rely on what I actually said.
§ Mr. Rhodes James
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the linkage at the tail end of early-day motion no. 502, I must tell him that one of the factors that led hon. Members to sign that motion—even though they had doubts about linkage—was the reluctance of both Front Benches to make a commitment to implement the recommendation. That has happened in the past. If hon. Members felt that the recommendations would be implemented the question of linkage would be regarded as secondary.
|That, in the opinion of this House, the following provisions about salaries and pensions of Members of this House should be made with respect to service on and after 13th June 1978:—|
|(1) The salary payable to Members of each of the descriptions in the first column of Table 1 below shall be at the yearly rate specified in relation to that description in the second column of that Table.|
|Description of Member||Yearly rate of salary|
|1. Member not within any other paragraph.||6,897|
|2. Member receiving a salary under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 as Comptroller or Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household, Junior Lord of the Treasury or Assistant Government or Opposition Whip.||4,642|
|3. Officer of this House or Member, other than Member of the Cabinet, receiving any other salary under the Act of 1975, or receiving a pension under section 26 of the Parliamentary and other Pensions Act 1972.||4,299|
|4. Member of the Cabinet receiving salary under the Act of 1975.||3,529|
|(2) The ordinary salary of every Member shall be regarded for pension purposes as being at the rate of £9,372 a year (the proper rate for Members within paragraph 1 of Table 1).|
|(3) Members of each of the descriptions in the first column of Table 2 shall be credited, by way of supplement to their salaries, with amounts at the yearly rate specified in relation to that description in the second column of that Table (that is to say amounts representing, subject to certain adjustments, 5 per cent. of the yearly amount by which the salary of a Member within paragraph 1 of Table 1 falls short of what a Member's ordinary salary is regarded to be for pension purposes); but with effect from the date on which section 3(2) of|
§ motion. He is entitled to do that, but I and others are entitled to say that the House passed a resolution on the question of linkage. We are entitled to say that those who decided to do that on that occasion must have their views taken into account as much as the hon. Members who signed the motion. It is because a resolution was passed and because of subsequent representations that we sought to include a fresh recommendation along those lines.
§ I hope that the House will be prepared to accept our proposal. Gibbon reported that the peroration of a Roman emperor addressing his troops was considered singularly eloquent because he offered £200 to all the members of his army. I do not know whether my words will be interpreted in that sense. I do not expect that that is the exact figure. But I believe that out of these proposals we shall achieve better treatment for Members of Parliament, enabling them to perform their functions better. It is high time we achieved that.
§ Question put and agreed to.2121
|the Parliamentary and other Pensions Act 1972 is amended as proposed by the Parliamentary Pensions Bill the amounts so credited shall be at the yearly rate specified in column 3 of that Table.|