HC Deb 21 July 1980 vol 989 cc199-203

Motion made, and Question proposed.

That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries and Pensions Order 1980, which was laid before this House on 14 July, be approved.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]

1.14 am
Mr. English

I wish to ask the Leader of the House a simple question. What is the Prime Minister's salary? The reason why I want to know the Prime Minister's salary is that it has been extremely difficult to find out precisely what that salary is at the moment.

The Library, after considerable research, did not come up with an official answer but provided the answer in Whitaker's Almanack—that the Prime Minister's salary is £ 27,000. I understand that it is made up of £ 22,000 for having the offices of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury and £ 5,000 for being a Member of Parliament.

On the last occasion when we discussed a Boyle report on Ministers' salaries, the Prime Minister said that she would not take an increase in salary. That sounded generous and noble, but in the 1979 order there was a provision for increasing the salaries of office-holders—the members of the Cabinet other than the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor—but there was no provision for an increase in the salary of the office of Prime Minister.

I do not dispute the right of the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister not to take a salary provided by law. We all have that right. In the last Government the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, now Lord Lever, did not take his salary. He was entitled to do that. However, under the 1979 order some difficulties would have been caused if the right hon. Lady's successor, whether Labour or Conservative, did not have an outside interest. The office of Prime Minister's salary was not raised, which is different from saying that as an individual one does not want to take a salary out of the Exchequer.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. It is out of order for several hon. Members to be on their feet at the same time.

Mr. English

Perhaps it is right that the House has just rejected a recommendation that we should not raise the pensionable salary of Members of Parliament. The 1979 order raised, and the current order raises, the pensionable salary of the Prime Minister. It is peculiar that the right hon. Lady should say that she does not wish the office of Prime Minister's salary to be raised but that she wishes the pensionable salary to be raised so that when she or her successors retire they—and she—receive a higher pension.

The Government made a statement in June referring to the implementation after the next election of the Boyle recommendations on the Prime Minister's salary. The statement was tempered by a comment about not putting her salary above that recommended for her Cabinet colleagues. Consequently, she said that she would take no increase in ministerial salary until 1981. We are now presented with an order which increases her salary from 1980 to 1981. It is significant that since that was mentioned on 21 June 1979 the year 1981 has not been mentioned.

In this order the salary of the office of Prime Minister is raised from 1980-81 and not from 1981, as the right hon. Lady earlier suggested. As I have pointed out. it is entirely up to the right hon. Lady—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I beg to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I sense that the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) is about to come to a conclusion.

Mr. English

It is entirely up to the right hon. Lady not to take something provided for by law, but that was true on the previous occasion, when she provided by law that anyone holding her office should not get an increase. The Government are now providing that anyone holding that office should get an increase.

There has been no further statement from the right hon. Lady contradicting or changing the statement that was earlier made. On one occasion she said that she was not taking a salary increase that was not there for her to take. She is now making no statement about whether she is taking a salary increase that will be there for her to take. I believe that we are entitled to know the answer to that question and also why there is the strange contradiction between the 1979 order and the 1980 order.

1.20 am
Mr. St. John-Stevas

It may assist the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) if I state that the Prime Minister's current salary is £ 22,000 plus the parliamentary allowance. The proposed salary from July 1980, updated to the second stage, will be £ 23,500. The proposed salary, updated to the third stage on 13 June 1981, will be £ 26,250, as opposed to the national salary that was suggested by the Boyle committee, which would come to £ 30,250.

1.21 am
Mr. George Cunningham

If the Government attach as much importance to cutting public expenditure in the entire area as they have indicated, should they not withdraw the motion and bring it back with lower figures, in the light of decisions taken by the House on other matters this evening, so that there is no extra cost to public funds?

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 46.

That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries and Pensions Order 1980, which was laid before this House on 14 July, be approved.

Mr. George Cunningham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have now come to the end of what was intended to be one unified debate on these matters. The Leader of the House told the House earlier that the Government would have to consider the situation in the light of the defeats that they have suffered tonight. However, on previous occasions the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister have stated very firmly that most of the decisions that we have taken tonight are very much matters for the House to take. They have said that they would make their recommendations, but that these decisions were for the House to take.

With the exception of the decision taken with regard to pensions—that is, the one-fortieth and one-sixtieth point—which is a matter that requires legislation and which is therefore in an entirely different category to the rest, it would be natural and normal for the Leader of the House to say that the Government accept the decision of the House on the matters on which the Government have said it is for the House to decide, and that they would bring forward the main effective motion—which was on the Order Paper, but withdrawn—in an amended form, to fit the decisions taken by the House. There is no reason why, in accordance with precedent, the Leader of the House should not say that he stands by his earlier statement, and the Prime Minister's statement, that they will accept the will of the House on these matters. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will give him an opportunity to do so.

Mr. St John-Stevas

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I stand by everything that I said in the course of the debate and what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said. We shall have to consider carefully the situation that has now arisen and we shall make a statement to the House as soon as possible.

  1. See Division 419 7 words