That, at this day's sitting, the Motions relating to Members' Salaries (Expression of Opinion), Members' Salaries, Members' Office, Secretarial and Research Allowance, Travel Facilities for Members' Children and Future Arrangements for Members' Salaries may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Archie Hamilton.]
§ Question again, proposed.
After the Divisions tonight, if there are any, which is up to hon. Members, not the Government, no blame will attach to the Government. All the blame for whatever happens or whatever does not happen will attach, on this issue as on so many others, to hon. Members and not to the Government.
The present salary that the House thinks is appropriate for a Member of Parliament is absurd: there is no other word for it. It is not a salary that is regarded as natural in other Parliaments, with rare and inappropriate exceptions. It is not a salary which compares at all with what has been decided by the House on several occasions in the past.
If hon. Members will look at page 18 of our report, in an amendment that I sought to move but which was, of course defeated, they will see that I pointed out that if we take the figure that the House decided was right in 1964 and inflate it by one of two possible indices—one for the retail price index and another for average earnings—the salary at the time the report was written, just a few months ago, is 21.7 per cent. lower, taking the RPI, and 44.2 per cent. lower, taking average earnings.
The next occasion after 1964 when there was a major decision as to what the appropriate level was was in 1971. It came into effect at the beginning of 1972. The present figure is 16.8 per cent. lower than the 1972 figure, going by the RPI, and 28.9 per cent. lower, going by average earnings. If the figure was right in 1964, it is certainly too low now, by a long way. If it was right in 1972, it is too low now.
The significant thing about the work of the Select Committee and the evidence that was given to it was that most people—the right hon. Member for Taunton was an exception—who gave us evidence—I regret that that included those who in the past have played a principal part in the working of the Top Salaries Review Body—felt that the present salary of hon. Members was about right, but—I think that these are the words—perhaps somewhat too low. In other words, those witnesses felt that the salary appropriate to a Member of Parliament ought to be lower than the salary that they thought appropriate in 1964 and 1972, to which the House agreed on those two occasions.
The main point that the House must face up to in debating and considering the issue is that the salary is too low and that it has got too low as a result of the process that tonight the Government are asking us to perpetuate In the end and in the beginning it is not a decision for the TSRB to take as to what the rough salary ought to be. It is a decision for the House to take a view upon. The House did take a view. In 1975 the House passed a resolution by a large majority in favour of linking our salary to that of a specified grade in the public service. By a tiny majority it specified the grade that it would like to choose, which was that of an assistant secretary in the Civil Service. Again, in 1980, we passed a resolution saying simply that we approved of linkage to a specified grade in the public service.
489 It was therefore my view, the House having twice by considerable majorities expressed its opinion in favour of linkage, properly speaking, that what we should do is to put that issue to the House once again, and if the House repeated that decision that should be regarded as the end of the matter. We should then proceed in future upon that basis. The argument that is mounted against that is that the job of a Member of Parliament is unique and, therefore, one cannot possibly link the salary to any basket or anything of that nature. Of course the job is unique. All jobs are unique, but that does not stop one from having a view as to where roughly any unique job stands in the spectrum of what ought to be poorly paid jobs and highly paid jobs.
The job of the Clerk of the House is unique. Can anyone think of any other job in the country comparable with that of Clerk of the House? It actually is unique. There is only one of him and there are 635 of us, but his salary is not just plucked out of the clouds. It is related to Civil Service salaries. I think it equates to that of a permanent secretary, not because he does the job of a permanent secretary but because it is thought that roughly that is where that kind of job fits into the salary spectrum.
There is no problem whatsoever in that degree and that kind of linkage. Those of us who have gone for proper linkage over the years have had that attitude to it. We do not deny the claim that the job of a Member of Parliament is unique.
Another mistake that we commonly make in discussing the subject is to feel that what we are doing is deciding our own salaries. Of course we are, but we are also doing something rather more important. We are discussing what the salary of a Member of Parliament ought to be. We may not be the people who should be here. It may be that by setting the salary at its present level we are cutting out the people who ought to cut us out. There are many people in the country who would not seek to become Members of Parliament, because the salary is too low. There are some people who, when they become Members of Parliament, achieve a salary which they have not previously enjoyed, but there are fewer and fewer of them. There are far, far more people who, when they become Members of Parliament, suffer a reduction in their standard of living and, more important, who face that reduced standard of living to an intensifying extent for the rest of their lives.
That is the mistake that we are making. We are cutting Parliament out as a possible, or remotely attractive, proposition for a very large number of people who ought to be willing to come here. Once again, I tried to put a passage into our report which made that point, but naturally it did not attract a majority of my fellow members of the Committee. Until the House takes that broader approach to its decisions, we shall always go on in the mess that we are in now, and we shall always go on undervaluing ourselves and, more important, undervaluing the job which we are imperfectly doing.
I think, Mr. Speaker, this is my swan song on the subject. I am heartily sick of it and I am heartily sick of the way in which it is hon. Members, and not the Government, who will not do what needs to be done. I cherish the fond thought that perhaps some day there will come a change of heart and that a greater respect for the House of Commons will come about, and with a greater recognition of the status that hon. Members should enjoy in the spectrum of other jobs and salaries.
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
I shall confine my remarks, not to the current situation but to the future, because I was a member of the Select Committee, chaired by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas), and I am glad to have had the opportunity to sit on that Committee.
Again, the Government are casting their baleful eye on the matter of Members' salaries. The record of successive Governments in this regard has been, to put it mildly, disappointing. Progress was achieved when the chairmen of the 1922 Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party Committee worked jointly on the problem. In my view, the involvement of the Top Salaries Review Body has been generally beneficial, and I welcome the Government's commitment to a review next year by that body.
Disappointment has arisen because successive Governments have too often intervened to cut back or delay the implementation of the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body. It was very much in the minds of the members of the Select Committees at all stages of their discussions and in the taking of evidence that we could have little confidence, based on the record of Governments, that the Government would implement adequately the recommendations made by the Top Salaries Review Body. That is the reason, or one of the reasons, why the Select Committee took the view that it would not be good enough merely to leave the situation to a four-yearly review by the Top Salaries Review Body, but that in addition we should have a mild form of linkage to maintain the salary position within reason during the four years between the major reviews. If we had more confidence in the Government to accept the full recommendations of the review body, such linkage would not be necessary. Again I make the point that the work of the Select Committee, its deliberations and its decision were based on what we believed would be practical and reasonable and would therefore commend itself to Members of this House and also—sadly, in vain—to the Government of the day.
There were two simple recommendations. As hon. Members will have realised, not everyone on that Committee necessarily agreed that the recommendations went far enough. They were a compromise, but in my opinion they were a balanced and practical compromise, and I am extremely disappointed that the Government have not accepted them in full.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South said, we are back to square one. We have not progressed. In my view, the salary base now is too low, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said. Perhaps I am not as bold as my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton was in putting forward his figure, but I would say that £20,000, as of now, is a reasonable figure. A recommendation of the correct salary will be made by the Top Salaries Review Body next year, and I, for one, am likely to be happy with that recommendation.
I make the point to my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton that it is not the Top Salaries Review Body that decides. It recommends, and it is for Parliament to decide. However, I believe that it is right to have an outside body to look at the problem. My right hon. Friend 491 suggested that perhaps Parliament ought to settle its own salaries without the benefit of outside advice. I cannot see that as a practical proposition, based on the difficulties that have arisen over the years in that respect.
The key question remains. We get a recommendation next year, but will the Government accept it? If the jump from the present figure to the new figure is, in the Government's view, too large, we know from experience—if the previous record is anything to go by, and I fear that it is—that they will limit or delay the recommended increase. Therefore, I appeal most strongly for Members to have confidence in themselves, in the job that we do here, and in our standing as elected public servants. Based on an outside review body's objective recommendation, we must vote for an adequate salary for the job in hand.
If the House supports the Treasury Bench motion and thereby rejects the second recommendation of the Select Committee, we are as Members once again severely exposed to the vagaries of Government decisions on this issue. Our intention on the Select Committee was to provide, through the recommendation for annual reviews linked to the new earnings survey, a safeguard against the continuing problem of Members' salaries becoming seriously out of line between major reviews. If we throw away that safeguard, I am seriously worried that we shall never do an adequate catching up job.
I repeat that our recommendations were modest. They were not for full index linking. The only index linking that we suggested was to be based on the average increase of similar salaries throughout the country and the fact that it would be based on an historic comparison adds weight to our recommendation. We are not asking for something that would be slap up-to-date. We are asking for a comparison with a survey, the material of which would be about a year behind.
If those interim reviews resulted in the salary becoming too high, when the Top Salaries Review Body did its job at the end of four years it would be in a position to recommend that there should be no major increase. As my right hon. Friend the chairman of the Select Committee said, by throwing out this modest recommendation for keeping salaries reasonably in line between the four-year major reviews the whole problem of total linkage, voted on at least twice by the House, will erupt again. It is my firm contention that, unfortunately, the Government are again making a grave mistake, as they have done in the past, on this matter of Members' salaries and arrangements for the future.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson). I think that I am the only Labour Member of the Select Committee who has spoken so far. Obviously, I speak only for myself and do not pretend to represent the views of any large body of opinion.
It is, however, tempting to refer to some of the points that have already been made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), but that would serve no purpose, because the only theme that I am aware of is that of total opposition to what the Government are proposing. So far, not a word has been spoken in support of the Government.
492 I shall not be provocative, because I want us to win. I know that the Leader of the House was not the Prime Minister's first choice for the job, but clearly he will need to do better if lie wants to enhance his well-founded reputation for being a liberal thinker. He certainly has not shown that in this debate. Without being too uncharitable, let me amplify what I mean.
I am not suggesting that we should set up machinery comparable with that in a factory, nor am I suggesting that we should have shop stewards, a convener or anything as proletarian as that. However, we badly need some kind of machinery that will avoid these distasteful annual debates which, as other hon. Members have said, are quite out of keeping with the problems with which we should be concerned.
The Minister hoped that the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body would be observed more faithfully in the future. He has not made a very good start. What hope is there that any Government—Labour Governments were just as bad, if not worse—in future will accept any recommendations from the Top Salaries Review Body?
The right hon. Gentleman said that the suggestion that travel facilities should be extended to children came from the Opposition. It certainly did not come from me. I do not think that I am past the age of creating children, but my wife assures me that she is past the age of child-bearing. Therefore, I have no vested interest in this matter. To the best of my knowledge, this question was not discussed widely even among Opposition Members. It is a trivial issue to bring forward in the light of the Select Committee report which genuinely tried to do a job.
Probably out of courtesy and formality, the Government say that the Select Committee's report was very constructive. It was bound to be. I pay tribute to the Chairman. Not only was he able and courteous, but he had good members including myself, who genuinely sought to achieve a consensus that would be acceptable not only to the House but to the Government. That is a fair point to make. It is always annoying when people do not recognise that we have genuinely tried to prepare a report that was acceptable, even in difficult circumstances, to all Governments. That is something that should be borne in mind.
When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Government reluctantly accept linkage and annual review, it is almost a slap in the face to the Select Committee. It is the only Select Committee on which I have served, and it is not a good advertisement. I feel that we have just been used. It was a means of pushing a problem to the side after an embarrassing vote about 18 months ago, and here we are back to square one.
This is a difficult problem, otherwise we would not have such debates so frequently. It would be churlish not to accept that here have been many improvements. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks has only been here since 1979. I have been here for 18 years. All of us who have been here that long, or longer, recognise that there have been many improvements. We used to have to pay for telephone calls, postage and secretaries. There are many allowances. There has been a vast improvement, not only in our conditions but also in the services that are provided for us, either by those whom we employ or those who have some contribution to make. Nevertheless, there has still been a failure with regard to salary. It is the key question. It is not a party issue.
493 We are unique. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) asked what is unique about a Member of Parliament. No two individuals are alike. No two Members of Parliament are alike—thank God. I do not wish to be compared with some hon. Members. The job is unique to the extent that not only are we different as individuals but also no two constituencies are identical in size, in the number of electors or the types of problem that arise. The job is unique in that sense and it is almost impossible to define an adequate salary for it. I said so in the Select Committee.
In my constituency I am probably regarded as being well-off—"loaded", in Glasgow parlance. That does not apply to many hon. Members. If a Member's salary was his sole income, he would be regarded as being way down the social and economic scale in many constituencies. Of course it is difficult to make adequate comparisons. But we all agree that the salary is too low. That is not a Select Committee recommendation, but it is generally accepted.
What is the role of Government? I am in the minority in my party. I believe in an incomes policy. All Governments operate an incomes policy—certainly in the public sector. Irrespective of what party wins the next general election, there will be an incomes policy of one type or another. We must be realsitic. I have great respect for the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury with his Calvanistic Scottish background and impeccable logic. But he is not dealing with a decision that will be made by the House of Commons. The decision on salaries will be made by a Prime Minister. It does not matter which party is in power. There is always the need to be seen, or to be thought to be seen to set an example. There are bound to be differences of opinion about incomes policy and wages.
The Select Committee went out of its way to take account of all the problems that face any Government. Governments make the decision. Whether we like it or not—I usually do not—Governments have the power, if they are so minded, to present the matter to the House in such a way that makes party votes inevitable. The Select Committee genuinely tried to produce some form of working arrangement that would make sense to the House and make it easier for the Government to do what I hope at least some Members of any Government also want—improvement.
Of course there must be public scrutiny of Members' salaries. I do not see many in the Press Gallery tonight. They will scrutinise what we do. They are probably filling in their expense accounts, for all I know. There is not one qualified journalist who does not earn more than a Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
I remember asking James Fenton, when he was working for the New Statesman, what he was paid. He was then earning half of what a Member of Parliament was paid.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) must have forgotten that Mr. Fenton was allowed to earn money outside the New Statesman at the same time.
§ Mr. Brown
I cannot think that any member of the NUJ would work for half the salary that a Member of Parliament now receives. I think that it is a trick question and I shall not follow it.
Of course we have a right to expect public scrutiny of what we do here. That is the whole purpose of getting some kind of linkage. My interpretation of the Select Committee report was that the Top Salaries Review Body would carry out a four-yearly job evaluation, as it were, to see whether there had been any significant change in the life style or work style of Members of Parliament. For example, some of my hon. Friends think that we shall be out of the EEC in a few years. Perhaps the salaries should then go down again if the work load is lessened. It seems to me quite reasonable that the Top Salaries Review Body should carry out a four-yearly general review of changes in the work load of Members of Parliament in one way or the other.
In between times, clearly there should be modest increases, linked not to the cost of living—no one could accuse the Government of accepting something that would be embarrassing to them—but at least linked to some comparable group of salaries that would make sense to us and to the public. I do not think that those are revolutionary proposals and I am disappointed that the Government have not found it possible to understand or appreciate the thinking behind the Select Committee report and to accept its findings.
Finally, I hope that the Minister will give some indication that he accepts the urgency of examining pensions and severance pay. I know that it was not included in the remit of the Select Committee and the Select Committee rather strained its remit in drawing attention to this, but it was legitimate because the subjects are to some extent linked. I hope that if we do not win tonight—I assume that we shall be voting on this—the Minister will at least give some indication that in future there will be a greater possibility of accepting the Top Salaries Review Body and that in the meantime urgent action will be taken to improve pensions and severance pay.
§ Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)
You will be well aware by now, Mr. Speaker, that we are still able to defend and stand up for our rights in this Chamber. I therefore intend to make a plea on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves in the Chamber—our secretaries.
Before doing that, I, too, pay tribute to the members of the Select Committee and to the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) who chaired it to the best of his ability. I am proud of the recommendations that it made, and it is a great pity that the Government have not taken full heed of them.
Many of the secretaries have worked very hard for us over a long period. They have given of their best and they have worked long hours for little pay. The present allowance of £8,400 is supposed to cover secretarial, research and office expenses, although many people outside believe that a secretary working for a Member of Parliament qualifies for the whole of that amount.
It is regrettable that there are many hard masters in the Chamber and outside who are not paying their secretaries what they are entitled to. There are many secretaries who should be earning at least £8,000 for working for us but 495 who are getting only, the meagre sum of £2,000, £4,000 or £5,000. It would be interesting to know how many hon Members pay the full sum of £8,400 to their secretary.
§ Mr. Keith Best (Anglesey)
There is great validity in the hon. Gentleman's arguments. However, he should acknowledge that the opposite can also be true. If an hon. Member were to pay his secretary the full amount, which is meant to encompass part-time research assistants as well as secretaries, it would be difficult for other hon. Members to fund both a secretary and a research assistant, even part-time, because there is no clear division between the two amounts. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the fairest approach would be for an hon. Member to have two separate allowances, one for a secretary, and one for a full-time research assistant?
§ Mr. Howells
I am sorry to have to inform the hon. Gentleman that I disagree with him. It is up to each one of us to defend our rights and what we should pay our secretaries.
Allowing for the employer's national insurance contribution of 13 per cent., there is only enough money for one full-time secretary. An increase of 4 per cent. would give her or him a meagre increase of 4 per cent. if the employer passed it on, which I do not doubt he would.
Even in the public sector, settlements are near to 6 and 7 per cent. The Opposition Front Bench has tabled an amendment suggesting 8 per cent. I agree with that, although there are before us proposals for greater increases.
Many secretaries do not receive overtime pay, luncheon vouchers, or London weighting. If an hon. Members keeps money aside for office expenses and research, his staff are hardly existing on what he pays them, unless he has private means. It is undemocratic that those with extra money should be able to give their constituents a better service than those without, though that happens in Britain.
The most important proposal being discussed tonight is that for the payment of London weighting. The figure mentioned by the Government of £1,016 per annum is in line with what civil servants receive. I should like that London weighting to be paid direct to the staff concerned by the Fees Office although the motion does not mention that.
If the Opposition Front Bench want the support of the minority parties in the House they should be more specific about how staff will qualify for the weighting. That is not clear. Perhaps the Shadow Leader of the House will clarify the position.
My plea on behalf of those secretaries who work so hard and diligently for hon. Members is that they should have a reasonable wage of £8,400. I hope that all hon. Members will ensure that they are paid that money in full in the years to come.
§ Sir Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I shall not go down the road taken by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), but I thank him for his words of praise about those of us who were members of the Select Committee on Members' Pay. I must confess that I was a very reluctant member of the Committee, because I thought that it was an invidious job for that Committee to have to judge our pay. However, having been appointed a member of the Committee, I attended its deliberations. I greatly 496 appreciated the remarks made—both in Committee and in the House—by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown).
I remind the House of our remit. It is simplyOrdered, That a Select Committee be appointed to give further consideratio a to the desirability and possible method of conducting reviews of Members' salaries by an independent body once during the first Session of each Parliament and of adjusting such salaries during the periods between such reviews by reference to increases in the remuneration of a designated group of outside occupations, and to make recommendations to the House.
We fulfilled all that was asked of us. We offered the Government the !east that hon. Members would accept. However, that has been turned down. I take a somewhat cynical view of the way in which the Government turned down the Select Committee' s report. Why on earth did the Government set us up in those terms if they were then to reject the very modest measure suggested? The Government's alternative leads me to think—as perhaps I should have thought from the beginning—that no Government will give away the right to say "No" to a pay offer from the review body or to a formula to regulate pay between reviews. There are all sorts of incomes policies—be they written, formal or informal. I have a feeling that all Governments will say that they will ultimately decide how much Members of Parliament should get, because it will affect their standing in the country. Why w as the Select Committee set up if our recommendation was only going to be thrown on one side without something similar, and more positive, in its place? To some extent, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham)—whose contributions I always listened to with great respect in Committee—adopted a romantic view. I have never done so, but I confess co the Leader of the House that I am very disappointed with the result.
§ Mr. English
I shall briefly refer to three of the motions. However, I should like first to welcome the Leader of the House. I know that this is not the first time that he has spoken in his capacity as Leader of the House, but it must be the first time that he has spoken on a subject that is so deeply personal to hon. Members. It is the baptism by fire that all Leaders of the House have to go through.
The Leader of the House was unfairly treated in relation to motion No. 5. The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said, in a somewhat carping way, that the motion did not come from the 1922 Committee or from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Of course it did not; it came from the Floor of the House. It was mentioned in one of the six previous debates that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. It was clearly said that there was an anomaly if hon. Members could collect a car allowance and pop their children into the back of the car but could not benefit in the same way if travelling by rail. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) mentioned this matter on a previous occasion, because representations had been made to him. [Interruption.] The Chairman of the Conservative Party seems to want to have a debate of his own. I think that the Leader of the House will not mind my saying that the previous Leader of the House thought out the details. Therefore, the present Leader of the House is being unfairly treated for a perfectly sensible and generous gesture.
497 There is one feature of Members' secretaries' salaries that has not so far been mentioned. The first van Straubenzee report, as it is familiarly known, said that the proper way to pay our secretaries would be to treat them in exactly the same way as Civil Service secretaries and secretaries of Officers of the House. The unanimous recommendation of that all-party report was that our secretaries should be put on the Exchequer payroll at the same rates of pay as Civil Service secretaries and secretaries of the Officers of the House.
Some Members pay their secretaries whatever is the appropriate Civil Service rate. Some Members pay more and I regret to say that some probably pay less. Some secretaries work for one Member, while others work for more than one. It is all a mess.
Secretarial allowances are paid in cash. It would be much better, as has been recommended by a Select Committee, if we like others outside in business had our secretaries paid for by the "company", as it were. Someone who works for ICI and has a secretary does not pay his secretary's salary personally. The company pays and it pays the standard rate. This is the arrangement for Officers of the House, civil servants and Ministers. Why should we not do the same? Nothing has been done by successive Governments to implement the Select Committee's report.
The Government are making two assumptions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated publicly that the 4 per cent. pay increase this year was negotiable. The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords, the Baroness Young, also said that in her capacity of being in charge of the Civil Service. In the first year of the Government's administration civil servants were given a 26 per cent. pay increase. The increase for Members of Parliament was also quite generous. It was awarded in a year when those in outside industry could only afford about 8 per cent. It was somewhat invidious that central Government should be paying its own staff rather more than those in outside industry could afford to pay its staff in a bad year, but that is what happened.
When the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Baroness Young said that 4 per cent. this year would be negotiable, they meant, apparently, that, unlike last year's 6 per cent. increase, which was not negotiable, more would be paid if a trade union argued. That is what has happened. Our secretaries do not have a trade union to represent them and nor do Members, and because of that we shall be the only two groups in the country to be subjected to the 4 per cent. increase. It seems that "negotiable" meant that it would be open to people to negotiate with power. In effect, the Government were saying "You cannot expect the Government to be reasonable. If you happen to have a strong trade union at your back, we shall give you more than the 4 per cent. that we offered originally. If you do not have a trade union at your back, you will get only 4 per cent." That is what has happened.
I hope that everyone will take on board the implications of that policy. I am rather surprised that the Government should wish to convey that impression. It strikes me as rather odd that they should wish to encourage the trade union movement in that way. It is not the normal line of approach that one gathers from certain members of the Government.
It is clear from motion 7 that we are modest in our claims. The Select Committee is similarly modest. There 498 is at least one democracy, the United States, where by Act of Congress it is stated that no civil servant shall be paid more than a senator or congressman. Some people are. The United States Cabinet is, the Supreme Court is, and various other people are, but the civil service is not, because the United States, as a democracy, makes the assumption that if people have taken the trouble to elect a legislature it is of some importance. In this country we regard the legislature as secondary to not merely Permanent Secretaries but a large chunk of the Civil Service, the Armed Forces, the judiciary, Ministers and so on.
This is very interesting. I do not know whether it is simply because it is that in London it is possible for people to earn money outside Parliament. It may be that we should have a two-tier structure and say that we should have a higher salary than the people technically subordinate to us if we do not have an outside job. It is much more difficult in Washington to have an outside job because Washington is not New York. One cannot simply go and work in a merchant bank in Washington.
Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of the Common Market. The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) gets a certain sum from the Common Market, which would be reduced if he earned more than a certain amount from an outside source. This is a very legitimate system, which should be encouraged. It may be that we should have an adjustable system of salaries—I do not know. I do not object to people having jobs outside the House of Commons, but if the fact that some people have outside jobs will limit the salary of all the Members of the House of Commons that is wrong and perhaps we should take a leaf from the book of the Common Market in that regard.
There is another respect in which even the Select Committee was extraordinarily modest. Why on earth should we say that the Top Salaries Review Body should determine this amount once every four years or however often it may be? It is extraordinary. This is an appointed body—the great and the good, chosen by the permanent secretary to the Treasury or the head of the Civil Service or the appropriate Minister, the Leader of the House or the Prime Minister. I should much rather have an appointed body, appointed by somebody else.
I should rather have a body where nearly half of it, for example, was chosen by the CBI, and an equal number chosen by the TUC, but not by the Government in either case. Perhaps there might be a self-employed person as chairman, or something of that character. Why should we assume that the appropriate body to fix our salaries is a body chosen by the Government of the day. It is improper. It should be chosen by people dissociated from the Government of the day and dissociated from Parliament for that matter.
When we come to the Government's amendments to the Select Committee's report, I can only say that I am amazed by paragraph (d). According to this, we are eventually supposed to be of the opinionthat Her Majesty's Government should instead, in the period between one such review and the next, move annual motions to effect changes in Members' salaries and in so doing should be guided by the average change in the rates of pay of appropriate groups in the Public Service over a relevant period".499 As has already been said, the vagueness of that is incredible. The period must be relevant, the grouping must be appropriate and then there is an average of what is appropriate.
Do we mean judges? Or do we mean secretaries? What do we mean, because the rates of pay have been vastly different? Do we mean the relevant period of the first year of this Government, when civil servants got a 26 per cent. pay increase, the second year when they got 6 per cent. pay increase, the third year when they were offered a 4 per cent. pay increase and got something approaching 5.9 per cent. or 6·1 per cent. or whatever. The vagueness is incredible. It would be much more appropriate if we got the average of the whole of the people that we represent in this country or something of that character, which was the proposal of the Select Committee, not the average of people in the public service fixed in an arbitrary up and down way by a Government who clearly do not understand their own pay policy. I do not just mean this Government. Previous Governments had extraordinary pay policies as well—I am quite prepared to admit that. I am not making a party point. To say that it should be related to the public service in that way implies that the Civil Service is more important than Members of Parliament. It also implies that the Civil Service is more important than everyone else in the country who may not be getting as much or who may be getting more in a given year. Surely, if we relate it to anything, it should be to the whole country and not just to a section of it.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was both courteous and forthright when he opened the debate. He referred to the debate as a blood sport. It is not a blood sport but ineffective. All the debates that we have had on Members' pay in the seven years that I have been in the House have been ineffective. As the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said, the reason is that Members of Parliament have not taken control. We are here to control the Government. Although I shall give full-bodied support to my right hon. Friend at the end of this debate, I should prefer to do so wholeheartedly. Now that I have given that assurance, he will probably switch off, as with many other hon. Members, having had only six hours sleep in the past 60 hours.
My right hon. Friend must consider the future. Hon. Members should ask themselves whether a general practitioner should be elected to the House without a drop in salary. Should the headmaster of a large comprehensive school be elected to the House without a large drop in salary? Should someone such as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury be able to transfer to the House from the Civil Service, where he had a distinguished career, without a substantial drop in salary, let alone whatever promotion he might have achieved? Should an assistant director of leisure services of a London borough be elected to the House without a substantial drop in salary? I could continue by mentioning a series of jobs in industry and commerce.
Even with our present salaries, most people who are elected to the House will be earning more, if we take the average earnings in Britain. Here we are on the horns of a dilemma that is normally exposed unintentionally by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who says that more people are trying to enter Parliament than 500 there are places and d that we are paying too much. That is a fractious argument, because one could put a tax of £3,000 a year on a Member of Parliament and end up with 635 candidates. I doubt whether the right hon. Member for Down, South or anyone else would be satisfied with all such people in the House of Commons.
The test is the one that I put a few moments ago, and I take the general medical practitioner as an example. If a general practitioner were to enter Parliament, he should earn £23,000 a year. That figure is also suitable because I derive it from page xviii of the Select Committee report and the clause proposed by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, which was not approved. If we relate the 1964 figure to average earnings, the present salaries are 44 per cent. too low. To restore its value would mean a 79 per cent. increase.
Not even Members of Parliament should expect to get the full increase. The big mistake that we have allowed our trade unions to make is to believe that all sections of society can be restored at the same time to their peak level. I shall take off 20 per cent. and instead of increasing Members' pay by 79 per cent. let us increase it by 59 per cent. The pay would then be £23,000 and that figure should be accepted.
The motions are basically acceptable. There is no dispute that we will and should settle for 4 per cent. this year. In an intervention that my right hon. Friend allowed me to make earlier I made the point which I have made in previous debates that, if we are to take the norm, we should do so at the beginning of the pay round and not at the end.
As I understand it, there is no great debate about the secretarial allowance. Clearly that will go up by 4 per cent. or whatever the Government figure is. There is no significant argument about that increase, although there are arguments about what the future level should be.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris
The hon. Gentleman keeps on making the general assertion that there is no debate. He cannot have listened to the debate that has taken place so far. There has been major debate about why we should not accept 4 per cent. for uplifting Members' salaries and 4 per cent. for the secretarial allowance.
§ Mr. Bottomley
What I was saying was that there is no doubt about what we will accept. If the right hon. Gentleman was serious about the point he has made. he would have recruited more of his hon. Friends both to be here and to vote. We know that they are not here and that they will not vote. I was here at the beginning of the debate and have been here for two-thirds of it.
§ Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones (Eccles)
Was the hon. Gentleman here when my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) made his speech?
§ Mr. Bottomley
No, I was not here for all of it.
The point I am making is that there is no doubt that the 4 per cent. will and should be accepted and that the Government proposals for the secretarial allowance will also be accepted. The children's travel allowance is of no consequence and provides an option for Members of Parliament. I am all in favour of people having options.
There is much doubt about the future. But there is no doubt about the Government motion or the Select 501 Committee proposal. It is about whether Members will say what they believe the figure should be. More than that, it is also a question whether the Government will say in a reference to the Top Salaries Review Body what they believe it should be. So far we have allowed the Top Salaries Review Body to do its work and the Government emasculates it. Then the House debates it and normally we are left to confirm what the Government have proposed, or we do something different and the Government ignore US.
We must be much more open. We must follow my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and, in as courteous a way as possible, be blunt. The Government should be blunt and say what they think the figure should be. The pay of Members of Parliament should be settled in the old Parliament before the beginning of a new one. I do not care very much about what the increases are during a Parliament, but at the beginning of each Parliament the salary should be at such a level that someone in the sort of professions I referred to earlier could become a Member without significant loss of earnings.
§ Mr. English
When the hon. Gentleman said that there was no doubt about the 4 per cent., that might have been true when the Government first enunciated it. But the Government have since paid their own secretaries on average 6 per cent.—it is about 4.8 per cent. at the bottom of the scale and rather more at the top of the scale. The point is that it is a lot more than 4 per cent. in any case. Since there is a doubt, imported by the Government into this, because they accepted a reasonable negotiation and put on an extra 2 per cent. in round figures, why should they wish the secretaries of Members of Parliament to be paid 2 per cent. less than their own?
§ Mr. Bottomley
I am sure my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House can answer that question later. I choose not to.
The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) said that there was one group who could not speak for themselves—the secretaries. He is not right. There is another group who cannot speak for themselves—the Ministers. The argument that I put forward about Members of Parliament applies equally to Ministers. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to consider how the interests of Ministers can be considered.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Instead of just saying "Hear, hear", my right hon. Friend might come up with an answer, not necessarily tonight but for future years. While he is considering Ministers, will he consider London weighting for Members who represent London seats? That is one of the worst anomalies. London weighting for secretaries is not an important issue because the salary that they are paid for working in London presumably has a London weighting element in it, although it is not specified as such.
With regard to pensions, it is ludicrous, given the average age at which people come into the House, and the disturbance to alternative careers that they might have to return to if they leave after 5 or 10 years or after 15 or 20 years, for them to be treated as if they were a civil servant or even an ordinary employee in industry, who expects to 502 get half his salary after 40 years or two-thirds after 40 years. It is also wrong to expect Members of Parliament to wait until they are 60 or 65 to draw a pension.
I hope that the Government will make sure that the House gets the opportunity of putting forward its view. The Government can put forward their view, and if necessary present it to a review body. Let the Government be as plain and blunt as I am. I am giving them my support. I hope that they will support my suggestions.
§ 11.6 pm
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I am concerned not about our current pay and allowances, but about another matter. I agree with the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann). The real answer to the question is that the House should determine its own pay and have the guts to recognise that we have underpaid ourselves for many years and get it right. However, we are right to say that we do not have the guts to do that. Therefore, we look for palliatives and other alternatives.
The reason why we do not have the guts to do that is shown best by the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley). He has got to the stage where, if the Government say something, he must do as the Government tell him. If he has got to that stage so early in his career in the House, we know exactly why we are in this mess.
I prefer the churlishness of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). I would go with him into any Lobby, because it is clear that he thinks about what he will do before he votes. He does not just do what the Leader of the House tells him.
As long as we are in this situation we shall not be paid the salary that we should receive. The sum of £14,000 for a Member of Parliament is ridiculous. Members of Parliament in Botswana are better paid than we are, even though it is among the 25 poorest countries in the world. We are the seventeenth richest country in the world, yet we dare not pay ourselves a decent salary.
I pass from that point, because for the moment my perception is that our most important need is not to deal with current salary and allowances, but to recognise that the status of Members of Parliament has so changed that any of us who leave this place after the age of 40 are unlikely to work again for a long time, and may never work again.
At the general election, 45 Labour Members of Parliament lost their seats. At least 12 had to apply for help to the Parliamentary Labour Party benevolent fund, which is about as low as one can get. Eight of them went on asking for help for a considerable time. I know that four of them have not worked since the election and there may be more.
I know from my experience that many ex-Labour Members of Parliament have taken jobs that were non-jobs. One is going round trying to sell Labour Weekly. Another man, in 1970, went back to his post as a printer in Fleet Street but was not allowed to become a printer. He was left to sweep the floor.
It used to be the case that to enter the House was to achieve a status which, when one left, meant that one could always command a job. I suppose that the majority of Conservative Members can still do so, although, as I understand it, it is not so easy now. It is manifestly much more difficult for a great many of my hon. Friends.
503 The most important thing that the House has to recognise is that when we come here we seriously damage our job prospects. Not only do we take cuts in salary but we lose chances of promotion. If I had stayed out of the House, I should probably have been a judge. As a judge, the Government would be giving me a rise of 18 per cent., even though they recognise that after 15 years, however old I was, I should receive a full pension and not a mere forty-sixtieths. Yet the Government think that it is necessary to pay judges 18 per cent. in order to maintain recruitment.
I believe that we are worth more than that. We are worth a decent pension when we reach the age of 65. We have to recognise the fact that when we leave the House—especially if we leave it as a result of an electoral whim—we may not be able to earn a decent living. We owe it not only to ourselves but to our families to ensure that some kind of assurance is given for that time. What that assurance should be is a matter for discussion.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that you did not select my amendment, which would have allowed us to put to the vote the general principle, but I recognise that the amendment, as I tabled it, has some defects. It should be possible to devise a pension scheme that applies for as long as ex-Members remain unemployed. If that unemployment continues until the end of their working lives, they should be paid a pension until then.
If that is difficult to construct I suggest that there should be a pension after a period of at least two Parliaments. I should be willing to say one Parliament, because many of the hon. Members who lose their seats have been in the House for only one Parliament, having been elected to marginal seats. There might of course be difficulties about that. As a result of a by-election, a Liverpool Member entered the House the day before a general election. Had he lost the seat the following day under such a scheme he might have left with a pension for life, but there are ways of overcoming that difficulty.
I have looked for precedents. Researches in the House have not shown me alternatives elsewhere, but some of my hon. Friends who have wide experience of Europe tell me that in Holland and Germany there are precedents for people receiving a pension for a period. Even in this country there are the judges, to whom I have referred, policemen and many people in the public service who receive a pension at an age lower than the retirement age.
We should recognise that our job is so unique, and our job prospects when we leave here so difficult, that we should have that assurance. I am glad that the Leader of the House said that the Top Salaries Review Body would look at the matter. When it does, I hope that it will consider seriously what should be done to deal with this difficulty.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
There is the interesting example, which the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has not given, of a field marshal. That is a unique distinction to achieve and he retires on full Service pay for the rest of his life, on the basis of the principle that he is not expected to do any other work. It is worth putting that into the maelstrom of the interesting and important remarks of the hon. Member for York.
§ Mr. Lyon
I am sorry that I have been misled. However, the principle is perfectly clear. What worries me is that colleagues who have had the status of a Member of Parliament, whom we regard in this House as hon. Members and who have given of their lives to the House of Commons and the service of their country, should go on to what is virtually an unemployment job heap, and not be given the opportunity of some kind of assurance.
§ Mr. Carter-Jones
I wonder whether it would be possible for the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) to get together and arrange a coalition with those of us who are over 60? When one reaches 60, one has one's pension, it is reduced, and it is difficult, but normally one's family has grown up. My hon. Friend the Member for York is right when he says that many people leave this House at the age of 40 or 45 and never have another chance of employment. Perhaps those of us who are over 60 should form a coalition and vote something down when the next chance occurs.
§ Mr. Lyon
I would prefer it if not only the chairmen of the respected parliamentary parties formed a coalition but if Members of the House did so. If we voted, we could put that lot in their place. the reason why we do not vote was given by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. I only wish that we had the chance to vote tonight.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
Perhaps I might correct the hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) spoke about a field marshal retiring. I remind the House that a field marshal never retires. He continues on active Service pay.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
I should like to take up the theme of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), whom I used to refer to as my hon. Friend. He said something that must strike a chord in the hearts of all those who normally take part in these debates. One sees the same team batting, from both sides. The hon. Member said. "Here we go again", and that when we come round again, whatever the review body decides, we shall be back at square one, because Members of Parliament lack the courage to do what they know should be done. I entirely agree with the hon. Member.
I came here in 1964. It has been said today that we should know when we come here what the salary is likely to be. On that occasion—for the first time, as far as I know in the history of paid parliamentarians, which goes back to 1911; I have never believed in the hair shirt philosophy that Members of Parliament should not have reasonable or above-average salaries—it was decided that the salary was to be the figure set by Lloyd George in 1911. In 1963, when Lord Home was the Prime Minister, he and the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), because the salaries of Members of Parliament had not been increased for six years since 1957, and to save party rancour and stop hon. Members from standing up and saying that we need to set an example, it was agreed that, for the first time, our salaries would be taken out of parliamentary hands and be given to Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, Q.C. We knew that, at the beginning of the new Parliament in 1964, Members of Parliament would get a salary increase. It was almost 505 double. It had to be, because the salary was £1,750. That is what Members got in 1964. For Back Benchers it went to £3,250. However, again, it was fudged. The Labour Party, which was in power, decided to make a grand gesture in respect of Ministers' salaries. Actually, there was a delay of six months, deferring to what we call the pension lobby, before Cabinet Ministers and junior Ministers got their salary increases.
But Back-Bench Members of Parliament picked up the £3,250. Another seven years went by. Our late colleague, Charles Pannell—Lord Pannell as he subsequently became—in coalition with my noble Friend Lord Houghton, tabled a Private Member's Bill. The then Leader of the House persuaded them to withdraw the Bill and said that we would once and for all stop the fudging and mudging and introduce the Top Salaries Review Body. It was a sensitive issue for Members—I believed that we could deal with it—to be determining our own salaries during periods of wage restraint, and so on.
Every time that Parliament has dealt with the matter—the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is right—the Government have interfered. The Government, with the power of the payroll vote and party loyalty, which we all recognise, manage to get their way and substantially to interfere with what we have given to an outside body to do because we are frightened to do it ourselves. Unless we grasp the nettle, that interference will continue.
None of the suggested remedies will work. They have all been tried before. The right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said—I intervened in his speech to point out an obvious contradiction—that he favoured letting Members know their salaries in advance. We cannot determine the last year of Parliament because that is within the gift of the Prime Minister. It could be at the end of this year. No one can say. Everyone knows that Government's seize what they consider to be the best moment to go to the country to enhance their own prospects. They would be barmy not to do so. We do not know when the Government will go to the country. My belief is that it will be next year.
Let us assume that one could declare what the salary will be for Members. The Government can rightly say that they are getting inflation down to single figures, which is what it was when they came into office, but in a period of rapid inflation, unless we adjust by some mechanism, preferably annually, the last agreement suggested for Members, we shall again have an enormous gap and Governments will fudge the issue once more. For instance, they fudged it when the Prime Minister suggested on the last increase that we should have the increase spread over three years. Due to some pressure through what is known as the usual channels the Government were gracious and said that we could have half the increase, with two quarters later on and have the adjustments in between.
I believe there is only one way to tackle this issue. We must go for linkage. The House freely voted on linkage. That linked figure has got so far out of sight that nobody, not even the most independent minded man with no fear of any consequences from his electors, would say that we should get to that figure now, because that increase would be £7,000 or £8,000. We cannot have that. That is the problem we shall face. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) followed on the 506 theme that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury set when he last spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, that we should not compare ourselves with the Clerk of the House, although he effectively demolished the argument about uniqueness. He went through the list. He got down to a low position in the strata of Clerks. They have plenty to aim at. They are not subject to reselection. They do not face the vagaries of Government policies. They have little explaining to do. I say this respectfully because I want to keep them on my side. If anyone needs help, it is the hon. Member for Ince. They have a good job, but when the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury read down the list, I was staggered at the low level with which we could be compared. I do not know how things have changed since then, but it has obviously altered in our disfavour.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Openshaw was searching for a comparison. I am a working class Member of Parliament sponsored by the miners. The miners have a saying "Leave it to the brusher up". When my right hon. Friend next tries to compare the scales, we shall probably be with the brusher-up unless we grasp the nettle. That is how far we shall slip, because we cannot restore our position at one fell swoop as electorally the consequences would be disastrous.
I said earlier that we do not give ourselves a proper increase because we wish to set an example. No one has ever yet said to me in an election or elsewhere "You lads are setting a wonderful example". There is a pending factory closure in my constituency with a severe reduction in employment. Obviously it is not the most convenient time to broach the subject of pay guidelines. However, on a previous occasion when another factory did close, the guidelines were broached because at that time there was much publicity about Members getting a relatively modest increase to catch up, although in percentage terms it looked a lot more than the norm that was set by the then Labour Government.
One man challenged me in homely terms. He said "You are feathering your own nest while you are down there instead of fighting for us". Another colleague was with me who represented the Left-wing view of the party, but I dealt with the man's challenge and afterwards he asked "Is that all you fellows are on?" Even when I told him what we would get what was then regarded as a substantial increase, he did not believe me but said "Pull the other leg, Michael".
The point is that no one takes a blind bit of notice of our sacrifices and examples. Anyone worth his salt knows that. People already think that we are getting three times more than we are. It is not that the public wants our salaries to be pitched at about £11,000, £12,000 or £13,000. It is simply that people do not believe the salary that we now receive.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
Does not my hon. Friend agree that the right way to get rid of this so-called adverse publicity, which always seems to frighten us, would be to tie ourselves to the pay of Fleet Street editors, because then it would never be mentioned?
§ Mr. McGuire
My hon. Friend made a telling contribution on severance pay and the hazards of life that hon. Members now face. He has now dealt even more eloquently with this nonsense about our pay. The question of Fleet Street pay and the publicity given to Members' 507 increase was effectively dealt with by Bill Price, a former Member of the House. I think that he was a former journalist, and he effectively demolished that argument.
No one notices the sacrifices that we make. People could not care less. In fact, the general reaction seems to be "If you are daft enough, keep on doing it but it ain't going to stop me from going for what my union feels is a proper increase".
I was once a member of the NUM. I stood unsuccessfully against Joe Gormley in 1961 for the secretaryship of the Lancashire miners. I can say truthfully, but perhaps a little immodestly, that had I kept on I would have succeeded Joe in that job and I would be enjoying far better conditions and pay, without the hazards of reselection. Even the unions that indulge in reselection have a fall-back clause whereby, once one has tested the temperature twice, one does not have to do so again. I agree with that. There is some sense in it. They do not unremittingly demand reselection. If one has gone a few times and reached a given age, one can continue in the job.
We believe, sometimes more on these Benches than on the Government side, that the unions are looking at Members' pay with envy and malice. Most members of unions feel that if we cannot fight for ourselves we cannot fight effectively for anyone else. I agree with that. A short time ago, my union, under the leadership of Joe Gormley, said that they must cease their hair shirt philosophy, and put the pay of officials equal to managers of the NCB. They did not believe that their resolution and resolve would be strong enough to improve the pay and conditions of their members if they treated themselves poorly. Joe Gormley said that they should be aiming for the top. The matter got through with little discussion. The members who attend meetings say to themselves "I have a chance to get up there and if he is making a reasonable job for me, all the better." Miners' officials therefore allied themselves with the top Coal Board officials, but not with the chairman—even the members would find that a little difficult to swallow. Nevertheless, they have a reasonable salary structure that does not depend on a hair shirt philosophy. It certainly does not depend on a balmy notion of setting an example upon which we seem to place too much faith.
What should be our attitude towards pensions? My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) touched upon the matter. Many hon. Members know that I am a Member of the Council of Europe. After a committee there one day, the chairman paid tribute to a German colleague. He announced that the report in question was the last one that would be produced by our distinguished German colleague. I had been on the committee only about 24 months.
Later, when my colleague and I were in the cloakroom washing our hands, I said that I understood that it was his last report and that I had enjoyed the others. Like so many Germans, this chap spoke faultless English. He said, "Thank you very much, Michael. Yes, I am packing up." I said, "Are you packing up because you have not been put on the list, because you are not to be reselected, or are you just packing up?" He said that he was 57 and had been in the German Parliament for rather a long time.
My German colleague had not been a member as long as me, but I did not have the shame to tell him so. He said that he had been a member for 15 years, that he would never make the front bench and was content to be a good back bencher. I asked him whether he could get a pension.
508 He said that conditions were reasonable and that he could get one. I said "I am interested in the subject. Can you tell me how reasonable they are?" "Well", he said, "with my years of service"—he thought that it was an exceptionally long time—"I will qualify for 75 per cent. of my salary." His salary was light years ahead of ours. But I shall leave that aside for the moment: as my point concerns the percentage of salary that my colleague there received as pension. In addition to the 75 per cent., to ease him back into civilian life, he said that he would receive a full salary for three years. No doubt that was to soften the blow. I said that it sounded very good. My hon. Friend the Member for York said that he would like some pension arrangement to take effect after one Parliarnent and he gave the reasons for so thinking. I came here rather early from a mining area at the age of 38. The idea of having to go to 68 to get half pay makes me extremely angry. The pension scheme should be structured for hon. Members who come here at an average age of about 3.5. The system should not be based on a pension scheme which a person joins at age 18 or 20 or as a graduate of 23. It should be structured to the fact that the average age at which a person becomes an MP is about 35 to 40.
Dutch Members of Parliament have a salary far in excess of ours, but I am talking about the principle. After serving four years in the Dutch Parliament, if a person does not get a job, in the first year out he receives 90 per cent. of the parliamentary salary, from which a pension deduction is taken. At the end of four years, if he has still not acquired a job, he will receive about 75 per cent, of full salary. Since four years' pension contributions have been deducted from that salary, he qualifies for eight years' pension rights. That is sufficient to provide him with about one-third of his salary and such an arrangement would cover the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for York.
One calculation will appeal to hon. Members. We discuss this matter only once a year, so I hope that hon. Members will not be too fidgety if I take longer than 10 minutes. Hon. Members have received a document containing comparative wealth figures for Common Market countries. The top of the tree for purchasing power is Luxembourg with a figure of 120. The German figure is 116. France, Holland and the Benelux countries are ahead of us. The figure for Great Britain is 96. Greece is at the bottom of the scale. Just above Greece, with a figure of 76, is the Republic of Ireland.
Irish Member; are troubled about how to settle their pay. The right hon. Member for Taunton made a joke about the Irish. The only people one can now insult racially are the poor old Irish. I happen to be Irish. I take great exception to such insults. Spleen is vented upon us because people cannot comment upon other races. Irish jokes are a standby for comics, and sometimes for hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman talked about a mad Irish logic. I wish that we had some of that here because the Irish have dealt with the matter sensibly. They have asked an outside body to decide the proper rate of pay for Members of Parliament and nationalised industries.
With their mad Irish logic, they have said that the Government should not interfere but that there should be a self-denying ordinance on the cowboys who, for political advantage if elections are near, want to say that they voted against such a move and that they spoke for the nurses, doctors or any other currently popular group. All the Government are required to do is to put the proposals to 509 the House. No debate is required. I am talking of a country which is second to the bottom of the scale in terms of prosperity, cost of living and purchasing power in the Community. The Irish pension scheme is based on fortieths. Thus, if a man serves 27 years in the Dail he receives 27-fortieths, and he cannot contribute any more. Moreover, he can draw that pension, I think that this meets one of the points raised here today. If he has served for 10 years and is over the age of 50, he leaves with those years of accrued service and pension. That is why I say that if we could have a little more mad Irish logic on this we might do a lot better.
We might even have a little mad English logic. What we have tried in the past has not worked, for the simple reason that when Members of Parliament face the reality of doing what they know in their hearts is right, we fudge it and run away and then blame the Government when we know in our hearts that we should be blaming ourselves.
I hope that the Leader of the House will take on board the fact that hardly anyone who has spoken in the debate has welcomed the proposals. There was some comment about welcoming the children's transport facilities, allowing them the same number of tickets. That might have been of use to me a few years ago, but my youngest is now 18. Nevertheless, if hon. Members feel that it is of value, I shall not vote against it. The Leader of the House should take on board the fact that nobody has welcomed the proposals in general. I believe that there is a deep reluctance to accept them. We know that we have sold the pass yet again and that the 4 per cent. is an insult.
I hope that the Leader of the House will take the mood of the House and will quickly ensure that instructions are given to the review body and that they reflect the mood of the House. We want substantial alterations in the pension arrangements. We must have a better system for the rate at which pension rights can be accrued. At present, a person who has served 30 or 40 years has to wait until the age of 65, although I understand that if he has 25 years service and is 62 years old he can surrender a little and go out. The arrangements must be brought into line with those prevailing in most Western democratic Parliaments.
Further, I hope that the Leader of the House will give instructions that the question of linkage be examined, as it is the only remedy. Otherwise, as has been said, we shall face this problem time and again and we shall fudge it time and again.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
There has been much talk about lack of guts and courage, the cowardliness of Members of Parliament, and so on, but no mention has been made of the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, no debate on this matter ever takes place in prime time. It is always late in the day, preferably after 10 o'clock at night, although we had something of a reprieve today in that we began at eight o'clock, so it is usually too late for the press and the public to hear the debate. I suppose that it is rather cowardly, really.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) and my Independent hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) reached roughly the same conclusion about what we 510 should pay ourselves. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West achieved this by discounting a little—in my view, unfairly.
While all this was going on, I had time to do a little calculation. When David Lloyd George introduced the first payment for Members in 1912, Members of Parliament were paid £400 per year. At that time, the old-age pension was five shillings per week for a single person and the average wage was £75 per year. The average wage today is £7,500 per year, so it has increased 100 times, and the old-age pension has increased by more than that. On that basis, the salary of a Member of Parliament should be £40,000 per year. That might well be the correct figure, but, however brave we might be, I do not think that any of us would suggest that our pay should be raised to that level. Perhaps we should therefore try to aim eventually for the discounted figure suggested by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West.
Frankly, I do not believe that that gap will be bridged at all. Here we are meekly listening to the Leader of the House suggesting 4 per cent. Some hon. Members are bravely suggesting 6 per cent. That is a difference of 2 per cent.—less tax, of course. We will sneak out like thieves in the night, hoping that the press and the country have not heard us, because some might say that we do not deserve a decent rate of pay.
I do not think that that is true. The work load has gathered enormously in importance and in the effort that it requires since Lloyd George's day. We have to be welfare officers as well, which Members of Parliament never were at that time. Our days are much fuller, and our work is much harder.
In the light of that, I do not understand why there should be such an objection to getting some other body to decide the matter for us. We have not the guts to do it ourselves. We all accept that we are underpaid. Why on earth do we not let some other body do the work for us?
Several precedents have been given us. I did not know about the Republic of Ireland, but I did know about Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the United States of America. I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) that Congress has a splendid resolution saying that no civil servant may be paid more than a member of Congress. That is the way to get a high salary for a Member of Parliament. The civil servants will then ensure that we are paid properly.
Let us have an automatic linkage and work it out properly. There are the beginnings of that in the Select Committee report, although it does not go as far as I would have liked. It certainly did a great deal of work, and rather more speedily than the Government either knew or wished. I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas), the Chairman, and his Committee on having produced it so rapidly and opportunely.
In the light of a long debate, I think it wise to concentrate on just a couple of items. All the rest have been dealt with strongly. Those items on which I shall concentrate have not really had their full measure of discussion. The first is the question of secretaries' pay and inner London weighting.
The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) asked for an explanation of annual London weighting allowance of £1,016 for secretaries. Incidentally, that figure is now out of date. I gather that it should be £1,142, based on the 511 London weighting for secretaries in the Civil Service who work alongside our secretaries in the House. It applies to anyone who works in the Inner London area. It is as simple as that.
There is a distinction between a secretary who works in Inner London and one who works in the provinces. There are hon. Members who represent constituencies in the provinces and who have secretaries there. Of course, the cost of living is more in London. We have all accepted that. We accepted it for ourselves. There is nothing unusual about that.
§ Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)
Hon. Members who do not have London constituences but who live in London and have no other residence do not get a London weighting.
§ Mr. Silkin
That is perfectly true, but on the other hand they get allowances that London Members do not get, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.
§ Mr. Higgins
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. Those hon. Members in the circumstances that I have just described do not get any allowance whatever.
§ Mr. Silkin
I stand corrected. I am astonished. I thought that London Members did rather worse than provincial Members. Perhaps the Leader of the House can enlighten us on this, I see that he remains seated. I thought that he, as the Leader of the House and a provincial Member must know. Perhaps we can compromise the issue. I do not want to take up too much time.
If the Inner London allowance is paid to London Members, it strengthens the case for a large Inner London allowance for provincial Members. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) will begin to press for that. I am astonished that he has not tabled an amendment on that.
§ Mr. Biffen
My silence was intended to be a mercy to the House. I should explain that I am certain that the circumstances of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) are quite different from mine, as a Member of Parliament for a rural area and as an office holder. However, I think that I fully understand my right hon. Friend's point.
§ Mr. Silkin
The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) has had his fun, but next time he should table an amendment. He should speak on it in the relevant context. We are discussing, not payments to hon. Members, but payments to secretaries. We are discussing why they should receive Inner London weighting. They work alongside secretaries who receive Inner London weighting. Inner London weighting is not unusual. Let us consider the allowance. We have an extraordinary idea of what a top salary is. Can it be that £14,000 is a top salary? That is our salary and it is subject to the Review body on Top Salaries. We have a most extraordinary idea of a top salary.
We must do something about our secretaries. As the Leader of the House said, the relationship between a Member of Parliament and his secretary is an important, personal political relationship. However, it is a financial relationship in which the secretary gives of her time and career so that she can assist the Member of Parliament. It is not right that secretaries should have to take what little there is available. If, as the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) said, we were paid sufficiently, we could 512 pay our secretaries out of that amount. No doubt that was true in David Lloyd George's day. However, the modern equivalent of £400 in 1912 is £40,000 a year. 1 would willingly make that exchange.
We have not debated the subject of severance payments in detail, but I shall spend three minutes on it. Any hon. Member who leaves the House can get a severance payment, subject to age and length of service, ranging from six to 12 months. However, the conditions vary slightly. For example, if one's constituency disappears in a major boundary redistribution one becomes eligible. the difference between a major and a minor redistribution might be only two constituents. If an hon. Member is defeated in an election he is also eligible. However, any hon. Member can make himself eligible, even if there is no major redistribution and even if he does not contest his seat. He need put down a deposit of only £150 in any constituency. He need take no part in the election, but he is then entitled. 1 am over 50—although hon. Members may not have guessed it—and have been a Member of Parliament for more than 15 years, although hon. Members will be unaware of that fact. Therefore I am entitled to a year's severance pay. I need only contest a constituency such as Oswestry at the next election to get a year's severance pay. How ridiculous.
In other words, the House has said that if an hon. Member wants to get his severance pay he can do so. Why not say that every hon. Member—whether he retires, is defeated or is the victim of a boundary redistribution—should receive severance pay on the scale laid down. It is not a generous scale. If we slightly amended the Congress resolution and provided that no civil servant may do better in any way than a Member of Parliament, there would be a great difference. Civil servants do extremely well in comparison with us when it comes to retirement pensions.
I conclude by saying that I think that there are three issues on which Me House should divide. These issues are the percentage increase for Members of Parliament—I believe that it should be 6 per cent. and not 4 per cent.—the secretarial allowance and severance pay. There will be free votes, of course, and I cannot bind anyone. I do not wish to do so.
§ Mr. Biffen
This has been a fairly lengthy debate, although not particularly so by the standard of debates on this subject. The debate has had its nuances and changes of mood. It was much enlivened in its later stages by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), who must have been inspired by the consideration of the Northern Ireland Bill. The hon. Gentleman brought to our proceedings an encyclopaedic consideration of our problems, which added to the charm and compelling nature of his case. Alas, I cannot accept his arguments on linkage.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) said that this was a baptism of fire for me, and that is probably true. Given that there is real diffidence about considering these matters in the House, the debate has proceeded in a good, measured and constructive fashion. For all our allegations of cowardice and almost total reluctance to address ourselves to these great issues on pay, it seems that we overcame our inhibitions. In doing so we were immensely assisted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) and by all those who served with him on the Select Committee.
513 It is proposed in the motion that Members' pay and the secretarial allowances should increase by 4 per cent., which reflects the pay factor in the Estimates. This has not been universally welcomed in the House, but I was reinforced by the support that I received from my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann). I note that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) intends to divide the House on Members' pay. The increase of 4 per cent. is a value-judgment figure. It is somewhat less than generous, but it is defensible.
§ Mr. Mike Thomas
Is there a group of workers covered by the Estimates which has been offered 4 per cent. and accepted it?
§ Mr. Biffen
There is not. If I had had such evidence, I should have used it.
The proposals for the secretarial allowance have given rise to a sharp feeling of anxiety. I take note of the speeches of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) and of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). I accept that there is concern about the comparison to be drawn between what happens to those who are employed in the Civil Service and work alongside secretaries employed by Members and what happens to Members' secretaries themselves. The differences in terms and conditions give rise to problems. That is why it is important that the review body should have an early remit to consider the allowances. In that context, I also took note of the argument put forward by the hon. Members for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) and for Nottingham, West, that not only the sums, but the way in which the sums are paid are matters for consideration by that body.
The debate has also ranged widely on matters other than pay. Perhaps the most significant single topic that featured in the speeches was that of pensions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton has made his views on this subject clear on many occasions. I am sure that the House was pleased to have those views reinforced this evening. He again marched in step with the right hon. Member for Openshaw.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) made a particularly effective and poignant speech, in which he referred to some of the difficulties faced by our colleagues after their defeat at the last election. I sense that this is something on which feelings in the House are not only strong, but are rising. Although the TSRB has recently examined pensions, it is appropriate that this should again be one of its early considerations.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) made a powerful speech on the problems of severance. The matter was also mentioned by the right hon. Member for Deptford. Although I sound as though I am passing the ball down the line, it is a fact that no really effective judgments can be made on these matters until we have the measured judgment of the TSRB. The important thing is to have these matters remitted to it as speedily as possible so that it can begin its work this autumn.
Needless to say, during the debate the question of the general level of Members' pay was raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) made a distinguished speech. It was the only one that supported my position, and I am extremely grateful to him for so 514 doing. He said that the absolute level of Members' pay was unacceptably low, and he hoped a remedy would soon be found. I enjoyed his powerful contribution.
The item that formed the core of the debate, notwithstanding the importance of the 4 per cent. issue was the report of the Select Committee. I welcomed the words of the right hon Member for Deptford on the importance of the TSRB. One or two previous remarks by his hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett), could at least bear the interpretation of his being somewhat less than enthusiastic about it.
We shall not proceed to a more settled consideration of these matters unless the review body has the fullhearted support and confidence of the House. Central to the recommendations of the Select Committee is the role of the review body.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
That sticks in the craw of many of us a great deal. Apart from the fact that Governments have on many occasions rejected the recommendations of the Committee, in this Parliament the Prime Minister gave a promise to the review body that the Government would implement what it next recommended. She went back on that promise, and the right hon. Member voted in the Cabinet to support her.
§ Mr. Biffen
If the hon. Gentleman feels that there has been a deplorable standard of conduct by successive Governments in respect of the review body, I only hope that at this hour he will feel sufficiently uplifted by my charitable comments about the body to take encouragement and not repudiate me as though I were here to perform a cynical exercise.
As to the work of the Select Committee and the Government's reaction to it, I understand that the authors of the report are rather disappointed that it has not been accepted in full by the Government, but I doubt whether the Government's reaction merits some of the language used in the debate. The hon. Member for Provan said that the Government's reaction was a "slap in the face" to the Select Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) said that the Government's reaction was "cynical". My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Wolfson) said that he was unwilling to trust the Government—I do not mean that in the harsh sense—in the light of their past behaviour.
The difficulty has been the Government's reaction to the choice of comparator for the linkage and whether the figure produced by the comparator should be automatic or should come to the House for authority. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hendon, South, the Chairman of the Committee, said that the House could not abandon its ultimate responsibility for determining Members' salaries. Are the Government entitled to say "We accept the principle of linkage, although we have a different comparator from the new earnings survey, but we believe that it would be unwise to establish the precedent of automatic pay increases during a four-year period where the House did not have the responsibility or was not required to make a judgment on those matters."
The comparator of the new earnings survey is not the most satisfactory. I gave some reasons for that in my opening speech. I inquired about the percentage change in earnings within the lifetime of this Parliament. The new earnings survey comes up with a figure of plus 53 per cent., against average earnings of plus 36 per cent. If that 515 was believed to be the means whereby an automatic pay increase would be secured, the position would be politically embarassing and would demonstrate the wisdom of having another comparator and of the House being entitled to have a view on the matter.
For those reasons, I ask my hon. Friends to support the Government's adjustments to the Select Commitee report, because I believe that that is the best way in which to proceed.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 41, Noes 136.516
|Division No. 201]||[12.09 am|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||McNamara,Kevin|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Mitchell,Austin(Grimstone)|
|Campbell-Savours,Dale||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Cohen,Stanley||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Cook, Robin F.||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Cowans, Harry||Snape, Peter|
|Cunningham,G. (Islington S)||Spearing,Nigel|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Stoddart,David|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Straw,Jack|
|Dormand, Jack||Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|HomeRobertson,John||Mr. Michael English and|
|Howells,Geraint||Mr. Frank Hooley.|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Glyn,Dr Alan|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Goodhew,SirVictor|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Greenway, Harry|
|Best, Keith||Griffiths, E.(B'ySt, Edm'ds)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Brittan,Rt. Hon. Leon||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne,John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Buck,Antony||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Butcher,John||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Cadbury,Jocelyn||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Carlisle,Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jopling,Rt Hon Michael|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Clark, Sir W.(Croydon S)||Lang, Ian|
|Clarke,Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lyell,Nicholas|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||MacGregor,John|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Marlow,Antony|
|Finsberg,Geoffrey||Marten, Rt Hon Neil|
|Fletcher,A (Ed'nb'gh N)||Mather,Carol|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Miller,Hal(B'grove)|
|Milchell,David(Basingstoke)||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Moate, Roger||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Newton,Tony||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Viggers, Peter|
|Percival,Sir Ian||Waldegrave,Hon William|
|Pollock,Alexander||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Waller, Gary|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Warren,Kenneth|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wells, Bowen|
|Rhys Williams,Sir Brandon||Whitelaw,Rt Hon William|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||Wolfson,Mark|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Young, SirGeorge(Action)|
|Rossi, Hugh||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Shaw,Michael(Scarborough)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Shelton,William(Streatham)||Mr. David Hunt and|
|Silvester, Fred||Mr. Selwyn Gummer.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, the salaries payable to Members of this House in respect of service on and after 13th June 1982 should be at the following yearly rates—