HC Deb 21 June 1979 vol 968 cc1508-24
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

The Top Salaries Review Body, under the chairmanship of Lord Boyle, submitted to the Prime Minister on 11 June its twelfth report, which deals with the pay of Members of Parliament, Ministers and office holders of the House of Lords, and with certain allowances. The Government are most grateful to Lord Boyle and his colleagues for their thorough review and clear recommendations. The report was published today and copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Review Body draws attention to the fact that the parliamentary salary has not been brought properly up to date for seven years. It recommends a revised figure of £12,000 with effect from the due date of 13 June 1979. It also recommends that the parliamentary salary of Ministers and other paid office holders who are Members of the House of Commons should be increased from their present level to £7,000. The Review Body makes a series of detailed recommendations about the pay of Ministers and of office holders, of which the most significant are an increase in the pay of Cabinet Ministers from £14,300 to £25,000, and of Parliamentary Secretaries from £6,050 to £13,000, excluding in both cases the relevant part of their parliamentary salary. The other increases it proposes are set out clearly in the report. These increases are large, although this is in part the result of action taken by previous Governments in holding back the recommended rates in earlier reviews.

The Government accept the sums recommended. However, both sides of the House will recognise that it would be entirely wrong if we in this House were to treat ourselves more favourably than others. We have therefore decided to recommend to the House that the full parliamentary increases should not be brought in immediately, but in three equal stages, the first in the present month, the second in June 1980 and the third in June 1981. That is over a two-year period—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three years."]—and not, as reported in some newspapers, a three-year one.

The Government also propose that the full recommended salary rates should be adopted for pension purposes from the appropriate date this summer. This, too, follows the treatment agreed for other groups covered by the Review Body.

The Review Body also recommends increases in the secretarial allowance for Members of Parliament from £4,200 to £4,600 as an interim measure, pending a final recommendation in the second part of its report, which is due shortly. It proposes increases in the peers' expenses allowance, together with certain changes in the definition of eligible expenditure.

The Government propose that the increases in allowances, including peers' expenses allowances, should be introduced in full immediately. The Government have asked the Review Body to consider urgently the question of secretarial and other necessary expenses incurred by Ministers and other office holders in the House of Lords in the course of their parliamentary duties.

The Review Body considered how its recommended salaries should be kept up to date. Its view was that for Members of Parliament and for Ministers alike, the proper course is regular, independent review. It recognised, however, the practical advantage of finding a suitable way of keeping the salary of Members up to date between reviews and described in detail the comparative advantages and disadvantages of some of the different forms of link that had been suggested to it. This is a difficult issue and there are arguments for and against a link of this kind. The Government prefer, therefore, to reserve judgment until we have had further opportunities to take account of the views of the House.

The rates recommended by the TSRB for the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor are, as in the past, higher than those for other Cabinet Ministers. The Prime Minister is unable to be in the House today because she is attending the European Council in Strasbourg. She has, however, authorised me to say that, while she and the Lord Chancellor have agreed that the proposed rates are appropriate for their respective offices and should apply after the next election, they have decided not to accept any increase which would put their ministerial salary above the amount recommended for their Cabinet colleagues. Consequently, they will take no increase in ministerial salary until 1981. They have decided to take this course on the clear understanding that all other ministerial increases are accepted, subject only to staging.

The House will have an early opportunity to debate and decide upon these matters.

Mr. Foot

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, first, what consultations he had, before the Government decided to make these recommendations, with other parties in the House and representatives of Back Benchers who have made representations on these matters over a number of years? What were those consultations and what was their outcome?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take account of the fact that one of the matters that the House will wish to discuss is the question of the linkage of Members' salaries, as has been proposed previously? Does he recall, as I am sure the House recalls, that the House of Commons itself passed a motion on this matter some years ago, and that the previous Government recommended to the Review Body that it should take special account of that resolution and the recommendation? Therefore, will not the Government come forward with a recommendation on that subject after we have been able to consider it?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take account of the fact that many of us do not accept for a moment the statement that he makes that what he is proposing about phasing is treating Members of Parliament equally favourably with others, because a very different treatment has been proposed by the present Government for dealing with other questions?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take account of the fact that the House of Commons now has to decide the matter—it may be that in future we should have some system of linkage, and many of us believe that that would be the right course—and it may be that the House of Commons will wish to insist that the Boyle recommendations should be carried out—not merely the general recommendations but also the recommendations about the phasing, which for some reason the Government apparently have rejected?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

With great respect to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), I must say that on the question of consultations he has got his remarks into the wrong context. The context of all our discussions is this House. We have the present report before us, thanks to the efforts of the Back Benchers of the House, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and the former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Mr. Cledwyn Hughes. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work that they did. When the Review Body, appointed as a result of their efforts, reported, the Government's duty was to take a view. We have done so.

As a matter of proper courtesy, the Prime Minister conveyed the Government's proposals in advance to the right hon. Gentleman. I did so myself to the leaders of the various minority parties in the House. No doubt the Leader of the Opposition will express the Opposition view and supplement anything that has been said by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. But I must stress that this is not a matter for consultations in the sense implied by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because this is not a matter to be settled by discussion through the usual channels; it is a matter to be settled through and by decision of the House of Commons.

The right hon. Gentleman referred, secondly, to the question of the linkage of salaries in this House to some other criterion. This is an extremely complex question, because it raises social questions of other people's standing and their needs throughout the country. We have to decide what Members' salaries should be linked to. The Boyle report recommended against any form of linkage [HON. MEMBERS: "It did not."] Yes, it did, but it recognised that there might be political reasons, and so on, why a Government might have to adopt this course, and it recommended links with an index, the new earnings review. But that is quite a different link from that suggested by the House of Commons itself when it last discussed this matter.

That conflict alone should show the House that it is a difficult issue and cannot be decided within a few days of the receipt of the report. Having taken account of all the considerations and debated the issues, it is for the House to reach a decision.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that different people had been differently treated by the Government. That is not true as far as the three review bodies are concerned. With the exception of the police and defence forces, all the salary increases recommended by those bodies have been spread over two years.

Mr. Foot

Of course I am not suggesting that the matter should be settled by consultations through the usual channels or with representative bodies of Back Bench opinion. I am suggesting that if if only the right hon. Gentleman had taken the same course as previous Governments he might not have come forward with recommendations that the House will regard as unfair to hon. Members.

Mr. St. John-Stevas:

I can only express my disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. du Cann

I agree with my right hon. Friend that such decisions ultimately must be for the House, but will he, as Leader, follow the example of his predecessor which led to the establishment of Boyle and be good enough, before we discuss the matter, to receive representations about the numerous issues that flow from his statement and that have given obvious concern to us all? Phasing is one of those issues. Secondly, and more important, is the need to discover a method by which the British House of Commons can be saved from such embarrassments in future. Finally, will my right hon. Friend explain why we read about these matters in the newspapers or hear about them on the radio before hon. Members are themselves informed?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We take all the precautions that we can to ensure that leaks do not occur, but unfortunately they happen from time to time. I cannot say where they came from. I certainly regret the leaking of frequently inaccurate information before issues are brought before this House.

I am in the greatest sympathy with my right hon. Friend's second point. These matters are embarrassing to all hon. Members and should be dealt with in a dignified and reasonable manner. I shall be grateful for representations from my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members on that.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Leader of the House aware that I was one of those who accepted, in the 1975 Division, that we should reject the recommendations of Boyle and accept a lower salary? With the benefit of hindsight, I think that that decision was wrong. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that Boyle put in italics the point that our salaries now—four years later—are still lower than was recommended four years ago? Will he note that Boyle specifically said that if there were to be staging it should be done in two stages by no later than June 1980?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that in the debate we shall have the opportunity to vote for that option? Finally, will he recall specifically that in 1975 the House actually had a vote and decided that it was in favour of the principle of linking? It urged that that be done by the new Government within three months of the election, and we regarded that as binding on whichever Government came to power.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that salaries of Members of Parliament—and even more of Ministers—have fallen dramatically behind. That was due to the anomaly of the last decision not to implement the £8,000 recommendation, which, as the right hon. Gentleman candidly admitted, he supported. That is the difference between this recommendation of the Government and that on the previous occasion. We have accepted that figure, but have said that it should be phased—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three years."]—No, it is not three years. It is two years. We have said that it should be phased over the period that I have outlined.

It is the Government's duty to see that justice is done to hon. Members. It is equally the duty of the Government in particular and the Leader of the House to see that our proposals do not undermine the position of this House in the country. This House rests ultimately on the good will and respect of the electorate. We should forfeit that respect if we treated ourselves more favourably than other groups in society.

Whatever propositions the Government put forward on these matters, it is for the House, having considered carefully the issues on a free vote, to decide what should be done.

Mr. James Callaghan

I am grateful for the Prime Minister's courtesy in giving me prior information. As far as I know, I am not responsible for the leak. I should have preferred some consultation instead of just being asked to go and hear the Government's decision. However, I make no further point on that.

Our Government and the Government before us must accept responsibility for the position in which the House and hon. Members find themselves. We should not seek to make party advantage out of that—and so far no one has done so.

Boyle is independent and comprises a number of people who have made recommendations for other groups. That is precisely to avoid the embarrassment to which the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) refers. The way to avoid that embarrassment and the invidious fact that hon. Members may feel that they have to vote against the Government to increase their salaries is to accept the Boyle report.

Boyle proposed initially—and it is clear that that was his real view—that because hon. Members had fallen so far behind there should not be staging. He then concluded that it would be right to stage in such a way that half should be paid on 1 June 1979 and the remainder on 1 June 1980 or, if linkage or updating was introduced, that the second instalment should be paid in November 1980.

The right hon. Gentleman has seen the turbulence in the House. Speaking for myself, I believe that there would be overwhelming support in the House for the proposition that Boyle should be accepted in one of those two forms. If that were so, both sides of the House would have to accept equal responsibility for what was done. We should have to account for ourselves to our electors and constituents. Most of us would have no difficulty in that, in view of the past record on the matter.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for that constructive intervention. We have accepted the principal recommendation of Lord Boyle's report that the salaries of Members of Parliament should be raised to £12,000. It is true that the report recommended against staging, but, recognising certain political difficulties, it went on to suggest a form of staging as a reluctant alternative. I have outlined to the House why that time scale is not acceptable to the Government. The House must now consider the matter and see whether it takes a different view.

The Leader of the Opposition said that we must follow the Boyle report on linkage. If we do, it means that we must come out against linkage. But again, in a second thought, the Boyle report recommended linkage with an index. This is a complex matter, and the House has made another recommendation. However, I assure the House that in this matter the House of Commons is sovereign. If the House, by whatever means, indicates clearly that it wants a particular form of linkage after it has had time to reflect on the issues, of course the Government will accept that decision.

Mr. Callaghan

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for indicating that this would be a matter for individual hon. Members to take their decisions upon, but will he please reconsider the issue and not put us in the position of saying that we must differ from the Government on this matter? We do not necessarily wish to differ from the Government. Instead of hon. Members reconsidering the matter, will the Government, who have had no previous consultations, take the matter back and reconsider it to see whether, on the basis of the arguments in Boyle and on the basis of the expression of the feeling in the House this afternoon, they cannot come forward with a resolution based on Boyle? Then, if hon. Members disagree and want to take a more restricted view, they may vote against that proposition. I suggest that the Government should reconsider the matter, bring forward Boyle and then let the House, in its sovereign responsibility, take a decision on that.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Leader of the Opposition has had a full response from myself on the essential points. I have said that the Government will accept the decision of this House. That is the major issue. How this recommendation on linkage comes forward is a minor matter, and there are a number of ways in which it can be pursued.

Mr. Emery

Does my right hon. Friend accept that this was a very difficult statement to make and that it is obvious from the submissions that have been put to him that a large number of hon. Members believe that Members of Parliament deserve to be paid the full amount that has been recommended by Boyle? However, if linkage were to be put into that recommendation, I believe that hon. Members would be more than willing to accept the staging. Without the matter of linking, the acceptance of the staging may well mean that at the end of three years Members of Parliament would again be 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. out of kilter with the rest of the economy. Therefore, I believe that it is important that if linkage is put in in the manner suggested by Boyle it will ensure that the Government obtain staging, which they feel is necessary.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not necessarily agree with everything that my hon. Friend said. However, he made a very important and constructive contribution to what I hope all Members will recognise is an extremely difficult situation to resolve. I shall take full account of that consideration, along with others that are made in the course of these questions.

Mr. Molyneaux

As there does not appear to be any shortage of volunteers to come to this place, can the hardship really be as great as we are led to believe? Secondly, does the Leader of the House agree that the status and standing of, and respect for, Members of Parliament would be further diminished if we were to award ourselves, from public funds, vast immediate increases at a time when we are preaching restraint to others?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. Of course it is a privilege to serve as a Member of this House. I accept that. I accept also that labourers are worthy of their hire. I accept also the point that the hon. Gentleman made that we must take account of feeling and opinion in the country, which is not always the same as the opinion expressed by reporters and newspaper editorials.

Several Hon.


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I appeal to hon. Members not to argue the case but to ask a question? I must be mindful that a half-day Supply debate follows and hon. Members are deeply interested in it. That debate will end at 7 pm. I shall include as many hon. Members as I can.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith

Is not my right hon. Friend, like Clive of old, astonished at his own moderation? Is it not a fact that assistant secretaries in the Civil Service—not a very exalted grade—with whom it has been suggested Members of Parliament might be linked for pay purposes, will receive an increase from about £13,000 to £17,000, or perhaps £18,000 taking account of the London weighting allowance, to take effect no later than 1 January? Will not my right hon. Friend reconsider the long phasing proposed for Members' pay? With great respect, I do not agree with his assessment of the public's reaction. Will he do his best to make clear to the public, in which he will be assisted by hon. Members of this House, that this is at best a tardy and partial act of justice?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for pointing out in a practical and restrained way one of the difficulties of linkage. If we had a straight linkage of the kind that the House wished, we would be advancing the salary far beyond £12,000 to the ultimate £17,000 to which my right hon. and learned Friend has referred. We must avoid that. I am extremely grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for the statesmanlike way in which he approached this difficult matter. We must recognise that we are in a difficult situation and we must resolve it in accordance with justice to Members and the good standing of this House in the country.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in paragraph 21 of the Boyle report it is recommended not only that staging, which Boyle was basically against, should be completed by June 1980, but also, if staging were contemplated, that the increase in Members' salaries should be accordingly updated in the intervening period? Will he give a firm commitment that in the event of any staging—I do not concede that the House will accept that—he will suitably update the pay in the interim?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I must point out that the hon. Member's argument, and, indeed, the argument of Lord Boyle's report, would be absolutely true if we were living in an abstract world of logic and justice. But, in fact, we are not. We are returned here by our constituents, who have great financial problems and who are looking to us to be fair to ourselves, but also to set an example to others.

Mr. William Clark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whether it was the fault of the previous Government or the Government before that, it is never the right time to increase the salaries of Members of Parliament? This is the dilemma that any Government face. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance—as there is a lot of feeling about this matter on all sides of the House—that when the issue is debated in the House, if the House decides that phasing is not on and that the £12,000 should come immediately, and, indeed, that there should be some form of linkage, the Government will then accept the decision of the House and not put the matter to any other committee?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have already made it clear that the Government will be bound by the decision of this House. Members must consider not only their interests but the long-term interests of the House as a corporate body. We are not here solely for ourselves; we are here as part of this House of Commons, representative of the nation. We must consider both sides of the coin in order to reach a just and reasonable solution that is acceptable to the country.

Mr. Ashley

As the Donnison recommendations were published before the Boyle report, may we take it that this House will discuss those recommendations, on poor people's pay, before the report relating to the pay of hon. Members?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot give that undertaking, but I welcome the point made by the right hon. Gentleman in drawing attention to the social and economic condition of the entire country of which we are a part.

Mr. George Gardiner

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that Members of this House have for a long time received adjustment of their salaries towards the end of the annual pay review. Therefore, does he accept that an award that is paid in three stages, the last stage of which is in June 1981, is a three-stage rather than a two-stage payment? For the enlightenment of the House, will he point to any other occupational group which has had its pay award phased over a similarly long period?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

If I may correct my hon. Friend, I believe that there is a difference between the staging and the period over which it is staged. Before there is a great storm again, I remind the House that this is a three-stage award over a two-year period. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I know that none of us in this House is a professor of mathematics, but if the first stage of the award is made on 13 June 1979 and the last stage is made in June 1981, the period is two years.

Let me give my hon. Friend other examples of those who have had similar three-stage awards over a two-year period—if I may dare use those offending words again. I refer to civil servants, senior members of the Armed Forces, the judiciary, the senior managers of the nationalised industries who were referred to the Top Salaries Review Body, and the doctors and dentists who were referred to that body. The only exception was the reference of the Armed Forces and the police. Therefore, it is against that background of principle that this recommendation is made.

Mr. Ashton

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen that part of the Boyle report which says that since the last Boyle report in 1975, which was not implemented, the national average wage has risen by 60 per cent. when the pay of Members of Parliament has risen by only 17 per cent.? Is it not, in all fairness, time that we caught up?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is a most telling figure, and I hope that it will be noted by those who comment on and publicise this matter. Indeed, if the increase that has been reported by Lord Boyle's committee had been based on the pension figure of £8,000, as uprated, the increase proposed today would be 28 per cent. That figure, taken with the figure given by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), gives a reason- able picture of the situation. We have accepted a £5,000 rise. I do not think that it would have been acceptable if we had paid ourselves that all at once.

Mr. James Callaghan

I apologise for intervening again, but may I put a clear question to the right hon. Gentleman? In the light of the views expressed in the form of questions from both sides of the House this afternoon, will he report back to the Cabinet what has taken place in the House and invite the Cabinet to reconsider its decision and ask it to come forward with recommendations based on the Boyle stages, leaving it to hon. Members—if they take the view of the Leader of the House—to impose a more restrictive condition if they think fit?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Cabinet has thought very carefully about these matters and has given its view to the House. I, as Leader of the House, am most willing to receive representations—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I have had representations. It is not always those who make the most noise who are the most representative. There may be others in this House who take a different view. I am open to all representations, so that we can reach a satisfactory solution to this problem in the interests of the House and the country that we represent.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call two more hon. Members from either side.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement this afternoon is both deplorable and disgraceful to many Members on both sides of the House? Will he take seriously the request made, in a moderate and responsible fashion, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and reconsider the proposals that have been put to the House this afternoon? Will he also give an assurance that there will be a free vote in this House on the subject, including Ministers, so that the House can come to a proper decision? Furthermore, will he say how hon. Members are to be able to contain and manage the bureaucracy if the people who comprise it are given much better facilities and far higher salaries than Members of this House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

On the question of a free vote, I must point out that the proposals that have been put before the House are Government proposals. Since they are Government proposals, they will be supported by the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, of course, they must be. It is no good hon. Gentlemen shouting. That is the most elementary rule in our constitution. There is a Government recommendation before the House, but hon. Members who are not members of the Government will be free to vote according to their interests. I cannot speak for members of the Opposition. I am saying, I hope as clearly and as openly as I can, what the situation is from the Government's point of view.

I have already expressed my appreciation of the attitude taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that he will be delighted that that support has now been backed by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). However, I cannot agree that these proposals are deplorable and disgraceful.

Mr. Winterton

They are.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is my hon. Friend's view. I believe that they are a responsible attempt to put forward proposals that reconcile a number of conflicting interests. There is no proposal before the House on the question of linkage. It is a matter for the House to decide and not a matter for Government proposals.

Mr. Cohen

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard Ministers as Members of the House? He said that eventually the House will decide what is to happen on the matter. In reply to the question from his hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) he stated clearly that Government Ministers will not be entitled to the privilege of a free vote. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman three questions and I like succinct and short answers to them.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that the hon. Gentleman's questions will be short.

Mr. Cohen

They will be short. First, will time be provided to debate the matter? Secondly, will the debate be on the basis of either "Yes" or "No" to the Government's proposals or will there be the right to introduce amendments? Thirdly, in the light of what has happened here today, will the right of Ministers and all Members of the House to have a free vote be reconsidered? It is not a political matter, and there will be support across the Chamber. The Government will be well advised to take account of the strength of feeling in the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's argument. However, it is a contradictory proposal for the Government, as the Government, to put proposals before the House and not to support them. If a Government Minister does not wish to support the recommendations and he wishes to exercise his right as a Back Bencher, he is free to do so. In reply to the question "Will the Government provide time for the matter to be debated?" the answer is "Yes". In reply to the question "Will it be possible for Members of the House to vote either 'Yes' or 'No' or to table amendments?", the answer is "Yes". I cannot be more succinct than that.

Sir Raymond Gower

Does my right hon. Friend recall that when the House last considered the matter the question of linkage was debated at considerable length and in great detail? The House reached a certain conclusion. Is it not remarkable that my right hon. Friend is speaking about linkage as if it were a novel idea upon which he would like to ascertain hon. Members' views? All hon. Members take a certain amount of stick on the issue—it is invidious—and there is a certain degree of opprobrium expressed. Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the formula commended by the Government, through him, is one that ensures maximum opprobrium, staggered over three years?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall resist the temptation to resume the three year-two year argument. I wish that there was an independent review body to which the matter could be referred. I am not saying that the idea of linking is novel; I am saying something quite different—that it is a complex idea. Before we decide on the form that linking should take, there must be an opportunity for reflection and discussion about the difficulties involved and which form of linkage is the most appropriate. The Government have not taken a view on the matter.

Mr. Mike Thomas

The House has taken a view.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

This House of Commons has not taken a view on the matter—a previous House of Commons has. That is one of the indications that must be taken into account, but it cannot be the resolution of the question. What the Government are saying is that if the House wants linkage it must put forward a motion and we shall see what the support in the House is for the matter. When that has been assessed, appropriate action will be taken with that result in mind. The Government have responsibility to propose, but the House, in the last resort, disposes of the issue.

Mr. Straw

Is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster aware that, with respect, he was in error in suggesting to the House that the Government have treated the Review Body's proposals on Members' pay consistently with the manner in which the Government have treated other Review Body proposals on pay? Is he aware that in respect of doctors and dentists—the nearest analogue to Members of Parliament—the Government accepted in full the recommendations of the Review Body, including those on staging and updating? In the light of that, does he believe that, far from treating hon. Members more favourably than members of the public, the Government are treating them less favourably? Finally, would the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster kindly subtract 78 from 81 and tell the House what the answer is?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am willing to do that and I think that I could if I tried. However, we are not in the year 1978; we are in the year 1979. I hope that we do not need an independent review body to resolve that question. The doctor and dentist review stretches over a two-year period from 1978 to 1980.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have there been any changes in the procedure of the House since 1975? At that time, the House did the best that it could to link Members' pay. When it was not possible to make that binding on the Government, it was because of the procedures of the House. Have those procedures changed, or will there remain the same difficulty if the course outlined by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is followed?

Mr. English

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you able to confirm whether a Cabinet Minister's statement is equivalent to that of a Treasury Minister? If so, by his repeated statements today, the Leader of the House has committed the Government to introduce a money resolution such that hon. Members could, if they wished, vote for the Boyle recommendation and not merely for the Cabinet's recommendation.

Mr. Ogden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Leader of the House be allowed to make further comment, not only about salaries and linkages but about the possible effect of wage freezes on those over the next few years?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that I am unable to help hon. Members with the questions that they have raised.