HC Deb 21 July 1980 vol 989 cc195-246

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, in the opinion of this House—

  1. (a) the limit on the allowance payable to a Member of this House in respect of the aggregate expenses incurred by him for his parliamentary duties as general office expenses, on secretarial assistance and on research assistance should be £ 7,270 for the year ending 31st March 1981 and £ 7,400 for any subsequent year; and
  2. (b) provision should be made to enable each Member in receipt of the allowance to contribute sums, not exceeding in the year ending 31st March 1981 £ 727 and in any subsequent year £ 740, to an approved pension scheme for the provision of pensions or other benefits for or in respect of persons in the payment of whose salaries such expenses are incurred by him.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


12.57 am
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South)

I wish to move amendments (q), (s), (w) and (y).

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman can move only one amendment at a time. We shall see how he gets on, and how we get on.

Mr. Dubs

In that case, I beg to move amendment (q), in paragraph (a), leave out ' £ 7,270' and insert ' £ 7,859'.

12.58 am
Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)

The House will recollect that I asked the Leader of the House for some information which is relevant to this amendment. Clearly, if we are to ask the country, as we have done, to follow our example, there is an argument for saying that the House should be consistent with that decision in matters within its control. We do not want to say that we shall set an example, ask our secretaries to set an example, and then find that the Government are not following it in other areas of public service, for example on the question of the salaries of secretaries in the Civil Service. Therefore, I hope that the Leader of the House, having had well over an hour to ascertain the information, will be able to give us that information. If he cannot, will he assure the House that there is no question of Estimates being presented for increases exceeding 18 or 20 per cent. in Civil Service secretaries' pay?

12.59 am
Mr. English

The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) has well illustrated the problems that this motion and its amendments raise.

The Boyle report recommended that the first van Straubenzee report should be implemented. A number of hon. Members do not want a secretarial allowance. We merely want the same privileges as Officers of the House and Ministers. We want our secretaries to be paid by the Exchequer, and we want secretarial expenses paid, not to us, but in the way that they are paid in an ordinary business or in the Government. Some hon. Members object to that, and they would prefer to have the money. The trouble is that we do not know where the money goes in every case. The majority of hon. Members have a secretary, and considerable secretarial expenses, but there are suggestions that not every hon. Member does.

On a previous occasion the hon. Member for Battersea. South (Mr. Dubs) moved an amendment to secure that the Boyle report should be implemented, but he did not press it to a Division. It would be more satisfactory to have an opportunity of voting on whether we want to allow Members—not to force them—to have their secretaries paid by the Exchequer, and not have a system of receiving money and then paying it out. That system is open to abuse.

Mr. Higgins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are we to have a reply from the Leader of the House?

1 am

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall reply briefly to the two points. I regret that there is no simple comparison between Civil Service secretaries and secretaries in this House. That is because there are different grades of Civil Service secretaries and their pay is affected by a variety of proficiency allowances—

Mr. Faulds

My secretary is very proficient.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In addition, the pay for Members' secretaries varies from Member to Member. One cannot make a direct comparison. The best I can say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) is that we shall pursue this matter further and let him have further figures.

On the point raised by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), it is possible, if hon. Members wish, for their secretaries to be paid directly from the Fees Office. I have encouraged hon. Members to use that facility and I am pleased to say that an increasing number of them are doing so. However, it should be left to hon. Members to decide for themselves.

Mr. English: What is not possible is to have one's secretary paid and pensioned on the same basis as a secretary in the Civil Service. There is, on an agency basis, for a charge of, I think, some 5 per cent., the possibility of having her paid directly by the Fees Office—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman asking a question, because he has exhausted his right to speak?

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 168.

  1. See Division 418 194 words
  2. c199
  4. cc199-203
    1. c202
    2. See Division 419 7 words
  6. GLUE SNIFFING 4,611 words
  7. cc217-46
  8. PUBLIC SECTOR INDUSTRIES 12,655 words, 14 divisions