HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc1081-112
Madam Speaker

It might be helpful if I tell hon. Members the procedure to be followed on the motion on office costs allowance. This is important to hon. Members. There will be a joint debate on the motion and the selected amendments which will last for one and a half hours. The amendments selected are amendment (a), to which amendments (c) and (d) are consequential, and amendment (b). At the conclusion of the debate, there will be an opportunity for the amendments to be moved formally and decided, and I shall then put the Question on the main motion.

10.34 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

I beg to move, That in the opinion of this House—

  1. (1) The limit on the office costs allowance (subject to what follows) should be—
    1. (a) for the year beginning in 1992, £33,190;
    2. (b) for any quarter in the year beginning in 1993, the sum of £8,298 (that is, a quarter to the nearest pound. of £33,190) but increased by any percentage increase by which the standard secretarial salary applicable in that year has increased compared with the standard secretarial salary applicable in the preceding year; and
    3. (c) for any quarter in any subsequent year, the limit for a quarter in the preceding year but increased by any percentage increase by which the standard secretarial salary applicable in the subsequent year has increased compared with the standard secreterial salary applicable in the preceding year.
  2. (2) The limit in relation to Mr. David Blunkett should be 2.57 times that determined in accordance with paragraph (1) above.
  3. (3) Any limit determined in accordance with this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound.
  4. (4) In this Resolution—
    1. (a) "year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April;
    2. (b) "quarter" means a period of three months beginning with 1st April, 1st July, 1st October or 1st January.
    3. (c) "the standard secretarial salary" means an amount consisting of the Standard Pay Point for a Senior Personal Secretary in the Home Civil Service in London and the Inner London Weighting.
  5. (5) For the purposes of this Resolution the amount of the standard secretarial salary applicable in any year should be the amount specified by the Treasury as applicable in that year.
The motion represents the Government's recommendation to the House on the way in which we should proceed following the Top Salaries Review Body's report, which I laid before the House last Thursday, and which right hon. and hon. Members will no doubt have studied.

As the House is aware, the report was commissioned a year ago. The report was received in February, but it was felt at that time, as my predecessor indicated in a written answer on 16 March, that it could more properly be considered by the new Parliament. It is a substantial report, which would entail major changes both in the structure and the amount of the allowance, and whatever view may be taken of particular recommendations, I think that the House would wish to express its thanks to the TSRB for the significant effort that the report represents.

It may be that the main issue on which the House will wish to focus is the amount of the allowance, but it is important that I should first say something about what might be called the structural changes proposed, all of which raise issues separate from the question of the actual sums of money, and which the House also needs to consider on their own merits.

The first of these is the proposal to compartmentalise the allowance, which is at present, of course, a single all-purpose sum, into four separate allowances: one for staff costs, one for general office expenses, one for constituency office expenses where a Member of Parliament occupies only what is described as basic minimum accommodation at Westminster"— a description that many hon. Members may think applies to a great deal of accommodation—and an initial acquisition grant for capital equipment, seen as an interim measure pending the central provision of such equipment.

While understanding the perception of improved accountability that underlines the recommendation, the Government doubt whether there would in fact be a significant gain in that respect, given that almost all the expenditure of Members of Parliament on such costs is now disbursed directly by the Fees Office or reimbursed against invoices, and the obvious scope for regarding some items of expenditure as falling under more than one head. Against a gain that would be at best doubtful, what would certainly be lost is the flexibility, which many Members value, to make the most effective use of the allowance—for example, by varying expenditure between staff and other costs—according to what is quite legitimately a wide variety of individual preferences and patterns of working.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way on a matter of which I have given him notice. Will he not overlook the mileage allowance which I find has been paid to me incorrectly by the Fees Office, a point which I have drawn to its attention and which I have now arranged to reimburse?

Mr. Newton

I entirely understand my hon. Friend's reasons for raising that point, and I shall duly take note of it. But he will realise that the mileage allowance is not under discussion at the moment.

We see particular problems about the proposal to introduce a specific constituency office allowance, which the report itself acknowledges would entail further work and take time to introduce. In our view, the difficulties would verge on the insuperable, both in agreeing a definition of basic minimum accommodation at Westminster and in devising arrangements that would be seen as fairly reflecting the variations between those who do all or most of their work at Westminster, those who do all or most of their work in the constituency, and what I think is probably a growing number who divide it between the two.

Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South)

An important part of the right hon. Gentleman's job is to safeguard the rights and privileges of the House and of right hon. and hon. Members. Does he think that he and, in effect, the Treasury should seek to decide the resources that are given to Parliament to scrutinise the Government? Would not that responsibility be better placed in the hands of a Committee of the House—particularly the Commission, now that it has responsibility for the staff of the House, accommodation, and equipment?

Mr. Newton

The appropriate course—and perhaps you, Madam Speaker, might agree, as Chairman of the Commission—is for the House as a whole to decide. The House is being given that opportunity tonight.

The Government are firmly of the view that the most sensible course is to retain a single, undivided allowance—and the resolution provides for that. I shall mention one smaller change of merit that flows from the report that could be seen as being of a structural kind, and which the resolution also covers.

We propose that eligibility to the office costs allowance should be calculated on a quarterly basis from 1 April 1993. That will rectify a long-standing anomaly, whereby a Member of Parliament leaving or joining the House part way through the year is entitled to claim against a full year's allowance. I know that that matter is of concern to one or two hon. Members who have mentioned it to me in the Corridors.

I should stress that that change does not mean that right hon. and hon. Members must claim the OCA on a quarterly basis or lose entitlement. Claims can still be submitted as and when Members of Parliament wish. The only change is in the total maximum amount to which a right hon. or hon. Member who enters or leaves the House during the year is entitled. I hope that clarifies that point.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

Before the right hon. Gentleman moves on from the separate provision for office costs, and while I accept his general point, telephones in the House are free to right hon. and hon. Members, but that is not the case in their constituencies. I run my office from my constituency, where the phone bill approaches £1,000 a year. I cannot understand why a provision similar to that available in the House should not be made available at a Member of Parliament's constituency office, where his secretary works.

Mr. Newton

My understanding—I assume that the hon. Gentleman has made appropriate inquiries-is that costs properly incurred by a Member of Parliament in performing his duties, and whether the telephone used is in his constituency office or at Westminster, could be properly claimed and reimbursed.

Mr. Taylor

I was making the point that office telephone expenses incurred by our secretaries at Westminster do not count against the OCA, but they do in the constituency.

Mr. Newton

I am sorry—I mistook the hon. Gentleman's point. In practice, it is virtually impossible for the allowances to take full account, especially if we retain a single, undivided allowance—I sense some support around the House for that proposition—of every possible variation. The point could be made, for example, that right hon. and hon. Members who undertake most of their work in their constituencies may incur lower costs—although that too will vary from one part of the country to another—than Members of Parliament whose work is done at London rates. That illustrates the kind of difficulty that can arise if we attempt to over-refine the allowance.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

The right hon. Gentleman represents the Executive, and he is discussing the provisions for the legislature. Can he give even one example of a civil servant controlled by the Government who has a single sum for his secretary, telephone, equipment, or office space? Not one civil servant must operate under the same conditions that he is trying to impose on right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. Newton

Again, I understand the point that is being made, not least in the context of a number of decisions that have been made over the years. The House has chosen to link some aspects of its remuneration to civil service rates, but I do not believe that there is a complete and sustainable parallel between the way in which civil servants are provided with the facilities to do their jobs and the way in which Members of Parliament are provided with the facilities to do a different job.

The second structural issue is the report's proposal to move as rapidly as possible to the central procurement of information technology equipment, and meanwhile to introduce an initial equipment allowance, partly offset by a reduction in the general office expenses allowance in the year in which that equipment allowance is taken.

The Government believe that the case for central provision of IT equipment needs a good deal of further consideration. We think that many Members of Parliament are likely to welcome continued flexibility to lease or purchase the equipment that is most suited to their individual needs. Savings equivalent to those achievable through central procurement might well be obtained by call-off contracts, without the need for bulk purchase by a central authority. Such an authority would inevitably base its specification on generalised requirements, rather than on individual needs.

The House is currently undertaking a networking study, in the light of which further recommendations on compatible IT equipment may be drawn up. Although the Government have considerable reservations about a centralised system of procurement for office equipment, we think it sensible to allow the Select Committee on Information to examine the TSRB's proposals on the provision of equipment in the light of the networking study before a final decision is reached. I hope that hon. Members will agree that that approach is sensible. We do not, however, recommend the implementation of a separate one-off initial acquisition grant as an interim measure.

The third structural issue raised by the report is the proposal to create a Personnel Office, separate from the Fees Office, to provide advice and guidance on personnel matters to MPs and their staff, in particular on rates of pay, and to review the pension provisions for MPs' staff". While recognising the reasons for such a proposal, we are also conscious of the concern expressed by many Members that such an office could be seen as moving unacceptably towards intervening in, and centralising, the many individual arrangements that currently exist. Subject to the views of the House—I emphasise that—we do not recommend proceeding with this proposal, and accordingly the motion that I have moved this evening does not provide for it.

I shall, of course, listen carefully to all that is said about those issues in the debate, and I shall also listen to what is said by hon. Members who make their views known in the many other ways open to them. I am, however, somewhat encouraged—although, I hope, not unduly so—by the absence from the Order Paper of amendments on what might be described as structural points, apart from amendment (b), which you have selected, Madam Speaker. Although I suspect that that amendment is aimed at the level of allowance, it would also delay until 1994 the coming into effect of the switch to a quarterly basis for hon. Members joining or leaving the House, to which I referred earlier.

The same absence of amendments does not, however, apply to the issue of the amount of an increased but non-compartmentalised allowance.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Surely the reason for the absence of amendments from the Order Paper is the fact that, in the limited time of an hour and a half, it clearly would not have been possible for the House to do justice to all the important recommendations in the report. Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that, once the main decision has been made on the increase or otherwise in the money, we can return to the other issues after the summer recess?

Mr. Newton

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's point, although I had not realised that that was the reason for the absence of what might be called structural amendments. As I have said, I—indeed, everyone—will

listen carefully to what is said in the House tonight, and that includes anything that the hon. Gentleman wishes to say about these or any other points.

I was about to deal with the amount of an undivided allowance—if I may use that shorthand. Let me first set out clearly the scale of the increase to which the report's proposals as a whole would give rise.

At the very least, the maximum allowance for every Member would rise from £28,986 in 1991–92 to £37,360 in 1992–93. For those taking the full constituency allowance and the initial equipment allowance—the latter partly offset by a reduced general office expenses allowance—the 1992–93 maximum would be £42,360. Thus, in percentage terms, the maximum increase would range from 23.6 per cent. to 40.2 per cent., in addition to the 4.25 per cent. increase due from April, in line with the existing uprating formula, giving overall increases in the maximum of between 28.9 per cent. and 46.1 per cent. on the 1991–92 figure.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Does the Leader of the House not recognise that percentages are meaningless and that those figures should be compared with the £75,000 or thereabouts that is available for Members of the European Parliament, who have a much smaller burden of case work than Members of this House?

Mr. Newton

I am aware that comparisons are sometimes drawn with Members of the European Parliament, both in this and in other ways. I have two points to make about that. First, their working patterns and methods are entirely different from ours. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I should be obliged if the House would not be so restive. It is only right that the Leader of the House should be given a proper and a fair hearing. He is having very great difficulty at the present time.

Mr. Newton

I do not think that the existence of higher allowances in any other country to which reference might be made can necessarily be taken as providing a good guide to what this House should do at this time in the situation in which Members of Parliament find themselves.

I have underlined the scale of the percentage increases that would be entailed if the report were to be implemented in full. The second point is that the background is not one of prolonged erosion of value but of significant real improvement by comparison with the position not so many years ago. As the survey at the back of the report itself observes: any MP who was a Member of the House before the late '60s will testify that since then the position of the British MP has been transformed. While the context of that comment goes wider than help with office costs, it is in fact the case that, between 1979 and 1991, the office costs allowance increased by 530 per cent., in cash terms, representing an increase of one and a half times in real terms.

I make these points not because they can or should in themselves be conclusive, but because I think that they need to be taken into account by the House in making its judgment—and it is its judgment—bearing in mind also the considerable and inevitable uncertainty about the exact scale of the problem that the report seeks to address.

There will certainly be few in the House who would quarrel with the view that our work load as constituency MPs has continued to rise in recent years, but there are, I think, many who question whether the increase has really been on such a scale since the last big uplift in the mid-1980s, followed by annual upratings, as to justify a further increase now of the size that full implementation would entail.

There is another factor that the House cannot—I repeat, cannot—escape taking into account in making its judgment, any more than the Government can escape taking it into account in considering what recommendation they should make and, indeed, in making their decision on another Top Salaries Review Body report which has recently commanded attention. That is the wider context in which these proposals come forward—at a time when it is necessary to constrain public expenditure and when so many other individuals and groups are being asked to accept restraint, or are finding it necessary to impose it on themselves. I have to say, quite simply, that the Government do not believe that the evidence would justify the House in going as far as the report suggests, or as far as some of the amendments to the resolution seek.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

The Leader of the House is not taking the House with him with this part of his argument, and I am not surprised. It is clearly weak, because he is now making comparisons with personal income. The allowance is to enable parliamentarians to do their job properly. Will he deal with that aspect and say why he thinks the TSRB is wrong to state that we need the money to do the job properly in Parliament?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that my remarks just now were not related solely to salary issues. I said specifically that many other individuals and groups were being asked to accept restraint or finding it necessary to impose it on themselves. That affects not only people's salaries but many other things that they would wish to do if there were no difficulty.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham)

I have listened carefully to my right hon. Friend's rational and persuasive presentation of the issue, and I am glad that he is about to deal with public perceptions. Let us not fool ourselves: whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, it is being observed by the public out there, and the public are about to undergo an economic phase in which they will have not inflation-plus rises but perhaps inflation-minus rises. They will ask themselves why we are behaving like a 1970s trade union and awarding ourselves increases for reasons that they will never understand.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes a point which obviously struck a chord with a number of hon. Members.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the advocacy of restraint has come from the Treasury, which, in a reply to me today, states that, on policy and advice alone, it spends more than £28 million a year, on outside consultancies £2.8 million and on hospitality £115,000 a year?

Mr. Newton

The suggestion that the House needs to act with reasonable restraint comes not from the Treasury but from many Conservative Members and, most recently, from my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) a moment or two ago.

The resolution therefore rests on the proposition that, while it is right that a significant increase should be made in the office costs allowance, over and above inflation, it should be based not on the additional half-member of staff proposed in the report, but on an additional one quarter, together with the full £4,000 proposed for general office expenses. That gives an increase from £28,986 to £33,190, representing a real increase of 9.8 per cent. And—with the normal uprating increase of 4.25 per cent.—an overall cash increase of 14.5 per cent.

We believe that this proposal, while clearly less than the TSRB recommended, strikes a fair balance between the interests of our constituents as taxpayers and the undoubted need of hon. Members for sufficient support to carry out their duties. It would bring a real improvement in the funding for Members' secretarial and research costs, and I commend it to the House.

11.4 pm

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

I have sat through many similar debates in my 22 years in the House, and this one is typical of most of them.

The Government commission an independent report. They establish a committee of people who are distinguished in their fields, under the chairmanship of Sir David Nickson. The secretariat is provided by the Office of Manpower Economics. Hay Management undertakes the research. The committee takes many months to do its work. It takes evidence from hon. Members on both sides of the House. The Government receive the report, suppress it, leak it selectively to the newspapers so that it is grossly misrepresented, then come to the House and tell us that they propose to ignore all the main conclusions of the work.

That is a recipe for confusing the public, and it does the case of the Leader of the House and the Government no good at all to confuse—whether by accident or design—allowances granted to Members of this House to enable them to employ staff with their personal incomes. That is remiss of the right hon. Gentleman and those few people in the press who seek to convince the public that the debate is about the incomes of Members of Parliament. I know that that annoys many hon. Members, but, even more, it annoys our staff—those for whom we must fight in such debates, who have families, homes and mortgages to maintain and who are entitled to much better treatment and conditions than we are able to provide for them whether here at Westminster or in our constituencies.

There is a rumour going round the House—I do not know whether it is true or not; perhaps we may be advised—that the Government Chief Whip has been effortlessly gliding around the Corridors and Rooms of the House trying, for once, to ensure that the Government do not win in the Lobby tonight.

I may say that, in this context, the present Government are no better and no worse than Labour Governments, who also have a pretty undistinguished record on these matters. But if they want to absolve themselves of responsibility for the decision that I hope the House will take in a little while, as they apparently do, it would be better if they accepted the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett), whose point of view I share, and handed responsibility for this matter to the House of Commons Commission, which already has responsibility for every other aspect of the budget of the House. That would ensure that the House, on the recommendation of the Commission, no doubt following some similar work, could make its own decision, quite detached from the Executive of the day.

In my experience, the only Prime Minister who has dealt with this matter properly and expeditiously is the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who received the report, published it quickly and implemented it in full. On that occasion, all the fuss quickly went away. The Government have dragged the process out, with all the consequences that we face this evening—not just for ourselves, I emphasise, but for the people to whom we have a responsibility as employers.

Let me refer briefly to what the report says in its conclusions. Paragraph 51 states: These recommendations arise from our general conclusion from all the available evidence that the pressures and demands on MPs have altered since our last report, and that their workload has increased substantially. Accordingly, we believe that further resources are necessary to enable MPsproperly to perform their jobs. Paragraph 53 says: Together our recommendations are consistent with the objective referred to at paragraph 11 that MPs should receive allowances which are sufficient to enable them to fulfil their duties, but that the way in which the allowances are used should meet high standards of public accountability and employment practice. No one, surely, could disagree with any of that-except, apparently, the Government, for reasons that are not altogether clear following the speech made by the Leader of the House.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Perhaps I may help the hon. Gentleman by suggesting that the reasons are clear. The money to which we are referring is to enable Back-Bench and Front-Bench Members to examine what the Executive are doing. The Government have an interest, I suspect, in ensuring that it is as little as possible.

Dr. Cunningham

I am delighted that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman. He anticipated the remarks that I was about to make, and I wholeheartedly agree with what he said. After elections, Ministers go to their offices and get a nice new Rover or Daimler. Everything is provided for them and they like what they have. I do not blame them for that. However, the last thing that they want to face day in, day out, is a better-informed, better-resourced House of Commons. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) was absolutely right.

As the taxpayer's interest has been mentioned, I make no apology for saying that it is in the taxpayer's interest to have a better-informed, better-resourced House of Commons with hon. Members who are more easily able to take on and challenge the decisions of the Executive. Nothing can be more in the taxpayer's interests than that.

I am very sorry about the way in which the Government have handled the matter and the recommendations that they have put before the House in the motion which I hope that the House will reject. I understand that at least some of the spouses of right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench are also pretty sorry about that. I guess that those who quite legitimately and properly employ their spouses as secretaries to aid them will get a bit of an ear-bashing when they get home tonight if the Government get their way. That is all well and good.

I must say to our friends, the ladies and gentlemen of the press who may want to record our deliberations, that I should be very happy for them all to write whatever they want to write about our decisions, accurate or otherwise, so long as they all publish under their columns their expenses for the past three months.

I hope that the House will listen carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) who will shortly move amendment (a), which I endorse, and which I invite all right hon. and hon. Members who are not the subject of the authoritarian activities of the Patronage Secretary, to endorse also.

Amendment (a) is computed on the basis of what the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body report would mean to us, given that we accept, at least for the moment—I stress, for the moment—the Government's intention to continue to pay the allowance as a lump sum in the way that it has been paid in the past. I know that many hon. Members want to examine that aspect of that decision in more detail later, but tonight is not the occasion to do that.

Amendment (a) takes the Government's recommendation of one allowance and adds to it the consequences of the recommendations of the TSRB. It is accurately and fairly calculated and I believe that it is right that at least that aspect of the recommendations of the people who did all that work over so many months, and who reached such emphatic conclusions and clear recommendations, should be implemented.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will refer to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) who said that there are millions of people outside this place, in the public sector as well as the private sector, who are experiencing very difficult financial circumstances. They will misunderstand the hon. Gentleman—I speak as someone who is to visit his dentist in the next few days.

Dr. Cunningham

There are indeed millions of people outside this place in very difficult circumstances. However, it is rather peculiar that it is only on occasions like this that the hon. Gentleman seems to remember that they are there.

In the time th

at I have enjoyed the privilege of being a Member of the House, very few of my constituents have ever seriously complained about the provision for hon. Members to do an effective job on their behalf. Indeed, I have had far more remarks and observations from people in business and in industry and commerce who are astonished at the mediaeval nature of this place and the provisions not simply for us but for the people who work long hours on our behalf in conditions which, if we were acting like the trade union to which the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) referred, would not be tolerated for a moment, not least because they do not meet the basic requirements of the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, and this place would be closed down if the law applied to it.

Let us have no hypocrisy about what the public think and about taxpayer's interests, thank you very much. The public want, especially in these circumstances, more effective checks and balances to be placed upon the Government. I urge the House to take this opportunity, which is the only opportunity that new hon. Members will have in this Parliament, to strike a blow in the interests of greater and more effective scrutiny of the Executive, in the interests of our constituents and ourselves, and not least the people whom we employ, and vote for amendment (a).

11.15 pm
Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

I have put my name to amendment (a). I am grateful for the opportunity to say that the Government were absolutely right to commission the report. The fact that they commissioned it recognises the substantial change that has taken place in the duties of Back-Bench Members, not just in their weekly mail but in their wider responsibilities, in the extra costs of employing highly skilled secretaries who now have a substantial job to do beyond just typing letters, and, of course, in the increased costs of office equipment. Any hon. Member who has recently sought to sell a second-hand typewriter or early computer will recognise that there are no great capital gains to be made in buying office equipment.

We have a unique job, which is scarcely ever recognised outside this place. It is unique because it is carried out in two separate places, it is carried out for ourselves, yet we have a sort of employer, it is different and it has to be seen as different.

I congratulate the review body on the immense trouble tht it has taken and on its appreciation of many of the special difficulties that assail us. There will never be a perfect arrangement for us. Our London living allowance, for example, is a crazy calculation, but we are not debating that; we are debating the office costs, which gradually, over the years, have become more sensible. I take the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) made, that this matter is not about our salaries or our income. I am delighted with the way that it has been reviewed, but perhaps there are those who think that, because the review has been headed "Top Salaries Review Body", there is some misapprehension. As every hon. Member does, I have to justify every penny of expenditure that I claim, and it has to be justified as an expense in association with my parliamentary duties. In no way could that be regarded as salary or pay.

It has been a long struggle to realism in getting our allowances put right. Since I have been in the House, 13 such reports have been referred to review bodies. The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was right to say that only one was adopted by the Government. It caused no difficulty, it went through quickly, and that was a way to handle it. I am very sorry that, yet again, by this attempt at cheeseparing, the Government have produced controversy, misunderstanding and a dispute which need never have existed had they published the report and adopted it.

The Government, if they propose to deal with these matters by referring them to review bodies, must decide in advance to accept the review bodies' reports. Otherwise they should not bother in the first place. They could just as easily make an arbitrary decision without all this work, without all the effort to arrive at a proper assessment. I make this plea to the Minister; whatever the result of tonight's votes, let the Government, before repeating this exercise, as they will surely have to do in respect of other aspects of our salary and expenses, take into account the point that I have just made. If they do not do so, they will not get responsible people to sit on these boards, and an undesirable disallowance factor will be built in. I urge my hon. Friend to accept the amendment in full and without question. If he were to do so, we should have no controversy at all.

11.21 pm
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

This is, and should be, a House of Commons matter. It is not a matter for determination by the Executive, and when the Executive make a recommendation, it should be reviewed with a healthy scepticism.

At heart, this debate is about how we can make sure that we can do a proper job for our constituents. The pressure on Members of Parliament has increased dramatically in recent years, and it continues to increase. There is legislation to scrutinise; there are Select and Standing Committees to take part in; there is now a flood of European Community directives to take note of and to follow through. At the last count, about two years ago, I found that I dealt with about 6,000 individual constituency cases in a year. I hold five surgeries a month, each lasting five or six hours. The flow of correspondence from constituents get greater and greater every year.

The Leader of the House says that there has been no dramatic increase in the work load of MPs since we last debated this matter. I do not know whether that is true of his constituency, but it is certainly not true of mine. Surely, if we are to do our job properly, we need to be able, as a bare minimum, to employ two full-time staff, to pay them properly, and give them decent conditions of work, and properly to establish and equip an office in the constituency.

As other hon. Members have said. this debate is not about MPs' salaries or perks, although some people much more well heeled than we are have sought to convince the public that that is the case. This debate is about our having the back-up to do our job. I should very much like to see changes in the system of the block allowance. I certainly favour central arrangements for the purchase of equipment. That would be much more cost-effective. There should be much more open disclosure of what happens to our allowances, and there should be proper conditions and contracts for the people we employ.

These are the things we could do to improve the system that has been put before us, but I am afraid that they are not open for discussion tonight. In the meantime, we have the report of the Top Salaries Review Body and the Government's motion. The review body suggests that the allowance should be disaggregated, that it should be split up into blocks for staff, office equipment, a constituency office and a setting-up allowance. For a variety of reasons, some good, some bad, the Government have said that they do not wish to go along with that proposal. For the purposes of the debate, I am happy to accept that position.

The amounts proposed by the review body are as follows: £33,360 to employ two staff; £4,000 for office equipment; £2,000 for a constituency—I observe that £2,000 would probably be sufficient to rent a broom cupboard in my constituency—and, in effect, because of the discounting that takes place if we claim, a setting-up allowance of £3,000.

What I have done in my amendment is simple. I have taken the amounts for staff, office equipment and a constituency office and divided the setting-up allowance of £3,000 by five, because it is supposed to last five years. I have added up all those figures. The result is the figure of £39,960 in my amendment. The Government propose a substantially lower figure than the amount recommended by the review body. The Government's proposal is £33,190.

Even tonight, the Leader of the House has not given us any justification of the figure and how it was arrived at. He has told us that is a percentage, but he has not told us why it is that percentage. It is as if the Government have simply decided on that figure. They have plucked it out of the air. That is the figure on the Order Paper. The alternative in my amendment is to take the total amount that the review body proposed and substitute it for the Government's figure.

Parliament is not the Executive. We are here to do two specific jobs which no one else can do: first, to act as advocates for our constituents; secondly, to scrutinise and hold to account the workings of the Government. To do both those jobs properly we need the necessary resources. I urge colleagues from all parties—it is a House of Commons matter, not an Executive matter-to support my amendment.

11.28 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I shall formally move my amendment when called upon to do so, Madam Speaker but I shall speak to it now.

My amendment takes into consideration the Government's position. We accept that there is a recession. We accept what the Leader of the House said about the wider context and why it was necessary to constrain public expenditure. Opposition and Conservative Members and, indeed, the country are prepared to wait for the recession to turn. We are waiting for the green shoots of springtime to become flowers, buds or shrubs. We shall be ready when that happens.

We must also accept that our work load has increased, but we do not accept the definition of the work load given by the Leader of the House. I refer again to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that, according to the report, our work load has increased substantially. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) also referred to our substantial and increasing workload. The retreads—those who have come into the House since the election and were previously Members of Parliament—say that the greatest thing that has struck them is the increase in their mail and work load and the difficulty that they have in coping with it. That is an additional reason for accepting the amendment rather than the Government's motion.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who may catch your eye later, Madam Speaker, was the first to draw attention to the fact that the House of Commons is essentially a legislature which exists to control the Executive. The hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and my hon. Friends the Members for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and for Islington, South and Finsbury reiterated that.

We are here to hold the Government—the Executive—to account and it is the absolute duty of the legislature so to do.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Does the hon. Gentleman confirm that the report of the Top Salaries Review Body says that, since it last reported, there has been a 50 per cent. increase in the number of letters with which we have to deal? It simply recommends an increase of one third in our staff levels, from one and a half to two. Clearly, the level of work coming into this place will be measured and, in addition to increases for inflation, we should have an increase for our staff because of the volume of work with which they have to deal.

Mr. Bell

The hon. Member makes my point for me. In an aside, my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) referred to one of the issues with which we have to deal from time to time—whales. All of us find it difficult to cope with the mail in our post bags. Each letter received by a Member of Parliament generates four more letters. When an issue arises, it becomes impossible to cope with the burden. That is why we need appropriate secretarial and research assistance and appropriate allowances, so that assistants can "do their jobs properly"—as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said in an intervention.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to another significant factor. This is the last occasion for us to debate this issue in the present Parliament; it may be about seven or eight years before we debate it again. This Parliament will eventually end and there will be another review. Perhaps we shall take up the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett) that the matter should be debated by a House of Commons Commission and that we should await its conclusions. The vote tonight will be the last vote for several years.

I do not propose to delay the House at length, but I repeat the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield: it is the duty of the House to hold the Government accountable.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

If some hon. Members have misgivings about the proposed increase in the limit for one reason or another—collective or individual reasons of restraint—they do not have to claim the maximum; they can claim much less.

Mr. Bell

It is optional; I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point.

Amendment (b) tries to take into account the Government's desire not to enhance secretarial allowances too much at this time, but to accept that the full amount to which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury referred, should be given next year, as this may well be the last review for five or six years. Our constituents, the taxpayer and the legislature will benefit, and the Executive will be held to greater account.

11.32 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

The Leader of the House sought to justify the payment of a lower figure than that recommended by the Top Salaries Review Body by reference to salaries paid to certain public servants. I suggest that that is a misleading analogy, because we are not talking about salaries. I suspect that the Leader of the House has been reading too many newspapers, as the implication in some of them has been that the allowances would be a means of feathering our nests. The only way in which a Member can feather his or her nest through the allowances is by fraud.

Some newspapers have suggested that some Members might commit the shocking act of paying their spouse to work for them. Someone ought to say in this debate that if any spouse does a genuine job of work for any Member of Parliament, they are entitled to be paid a proper rate for the job, and many are not.

Earlier, I talked to one of my hon. Friends whose wife has worked for many years in a remote place as his full-time secretary. Such is the feathering of their nest that she is now paid about £8,000 a year for that full-time job. He cannot afford to pay her more, because his allowance is committed in other ways. I hope that I shall not provoke a major row in the domesticity of Scotland if I say that I think that my hon. Friend is underpaying his wife disgracefully. That should not happen.

The Leader of the House told us that the Government had decided, because of general economic conditions, that the figure should be reduced from the recommendation to £33,190. One is tempted to say that the Government are very willing to rely on consultants' reports when they suit them, but it is another matter when they do not. What on earth was the point of the arm's-length TSRB report on this important issue if the conclusions of those independent people are to be ignored?

What evidence does the Leader of the House have to support the figure of £33,190? I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would tell us that we did not need to employ two whole-time people or an office in our constituency—incidentally, one certainly could not obtain an office even in rural Wales for £2,000. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would produce evidence to support his claim that we did not need research assistants. Where is the evidence that Government briefings in notes on clauses on the Bills that we consider in Committee are an adequate basis for discussing or even opposing parts of those Bills? We did not hear a word of evidence from the right hon. Gentleman about those issues.

I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members share my disappointment at the fact that the Government, relying on no evidence, have simply decided that hon. Members should have underfunded offices. It is time for us to tell the Government that hon. Members are not prepared to service their constituents poorly because their offices are underfunded. I believe in the principle of compartmentalising the allowances, because they could then be scrutinised more effectively.

A constituency allowance would be extremely useful, but while we have the present lump sum system, we have certain purposes to serve. Our first purpose is to serve our constituents. Even nine years ago, when I came into the House, we were not subject to organised mailing—sometimes it is nationally organised. Then, there were not as many word processors, which has led to so many personalised letters being sent to us. We must reply to those letters if we are to be competent, effective Members of Parliament.

I have added my name to amendment (a). I hope that new Conservative Members in particular will realise that, if they are to do efficiently the job to which they have had the privilege of being elected, they too should vote for that amendment. Otherwise, in three or four years, they will find that they are struggling—running hard to stand still. I do not believe that that is right for Members of this honourable House.

11.38 pm
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I support the amendment and I realise that certain elements of the press may expect me to feel guilty about that. I do not. To be blunt, I wonder how some London journalists dare to write about us when they receive up to twice the salary of Members, as well as a large expense account. I think that they do rather well. Of course they work rather long hours, I am told—I think that we do as well. We are not here tonight to talk about Members' salaries, and that does not bother me greatly. As an ex-village schoolmaster, traditionally underpaid, I can make do on my present salary. While it is inadequate compared with what legislators receive in other countries, I can live on it.

However, I am angry over the totally inadequate back-up resources that I have at my disposal and the fact that the interests of my wife and children have to be sacrificed to make up the shortfall between what I receive and what I spend to service my constituency. Members must already work too hard for too long, away from their families, without having that added pressure.

In the last financial year, I overspent my office allowance by £5,044. In the previous year I overspent by about £2,000. I have to find that from my personal resources—in other words, from my current salary—as I have no private means. I have a mortgage and two children at university. It is not a painless exercise for my wife and myself. I pity new Members, with young families, who came here in April.

My staff, who are excellent, must be paid, but they are not paid what they are worth. Nor do they have a properly equipped office in which to work. For example, the photocopier that I bought nine years ago, when I was first elected, now manages about three reproductions before it has to be switched off, allowed to cool down and switched on again. I cannot afford to replace it.

The further one's constituency from London, the more acute the problem becomes. The most disadvantaged are Northern Ireland Members, although the problem applies in varying degrees to Members from Scotland, the north-east and all constituencies that are distant from Westminster.

Because of the remoteness of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, for example—the issue is further complicated by the direct rule system—I find myself with a constant conflict of duties. How do I divide my time between Westminster, where I want to play a full part as a United Kingdom Member, and Northern Ireland, where the interests of my constituents are dealt with almost exclusively from within the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont? Partly to resolve the issue at constituency level, I am obliged to employ two full-time and two part-time staff. As Northern Ireland does not have a meaningful local government stratum, virtually no problems can be resolved at town hall level. They all arrive on my desk.

Let me compare myself with a parliamentary colleague in, say, the south of England. I do not denigrate his or her work, but their parochial duties are often dealt with at local government level, and one secretary or personal assistant and a researcher can work here in the House, where they have access to free telephones and a library service.

My telephone bill in Fermanagh and South Tyrone for the last year was about £3,750. My main constituency office in Dungannon costs me, including rent and rates, about £3,000 per annum. My Enniskillen office, which is over 40 miles away from the Dungannon office, costs a further £2,000. In addition to lighting and heating bills, I am obliged to maintain three separate sets of word processors, one in Dungannon, one in Enniskillen and a laptop machine that I carry for my own use.

The TSRB consultants who interviewed me came and saw the situation in my office and constituency. I suggested that there should be a scale of allowances, related to distance from the House, ranging from £40,000 to £55,000 per Member. At present, my absolute minimum requirement to maintain my present position is £35,000 and I would need a further £10,000 to £15,000 if I were ever to hope to employ a secretary-cum-research assistant in this place. I do not have one at present.

At a time when the Prime Minister is promoting his people's charter, should not we start in the House by ensuring that those who are elacted can pay their staff a reasonable wage so that the constituents who sent us here can expect a response to their problems? It must be remembered that Members are not handed the money as a lump sum but must reclaim it, having provided the necessary receipts. If some Members do not require the full amount, they do not have to spend it, but those of us with difficult constituencies, for whatever reason, should not be penalised.

I suppose that it is not wise to reveal the details of one's business as I have done. I do not make out that I am a martyr; like most hon. Members, I enjoy my job and want to do it properly. None the less, I feel that the public should know how wrong it is for the Government to propose to underfund the work and business of this House because it diminishes the House and those who work here.

11.47 pm
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

In the 1970s when Clive Jenkins was the leader of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs union, I remember calculating that a skilled white collar worker needed to invest some £31,000 a year to be effective in his job. To extrapolate from that and bring it up to date, it must be double that sum today. People running a business and providing the information services that we provide would have to find such sums out of their profits on top of their salaries, which I admit may be less than a Member of Parliament receives.

In my first year in this place I got away with a reasonable electric typewriter and a secretary, but since I have been here the work load has grown and I have gone from a typewriter with a screen, to an Amstrad, to a £4,500 machine with a laser printer. That is not because I am fond of equipment, but because it was essential to match the growing work load.

It is improper for us to be too censorious about the increase when we consider the number of hours and quality of work that we get from our secretarial back-up, most of which is carried out by women who are usually considered worthy of being paid slightly less than if a man were doing that job. If men provided the back-up secretarial assistance, we would be asking for much more. The women who back us up with clerical efforts and skills are worthy of a reasonable salary because they must cope with London prices. Many people outside who will scrutinise the sums that we talk about may deal with considerably lower salary scales, but they do not have to face up to the costs of living in the city—essentially for travel and rents.

For all those reasons, we should adopt the figure that the review body recommended. Unless we do so, we cannot match the service that our constituents require. I find that a day's surgery generates some two days of work for my secretary. That is a fairly modest work load because my constituency is, fortunately, quite prosperous and does not generate as many case histories as some colleagues must cope with weekly.

I need a research assistant because of the many problems thrown up by the legislation that we in the House are constantly passing. The ordinary citizen needs an encyclopaedia, a citizens advice bureau and sometimes a solicitor in order to understand the way in which it impinges on their ordinary lives. We generate the problem. We must, therefore, at least provide the assistance and the back-up to help people cope with it.

I and a number of my colleagues now pay the Fees Office to be here—my contribution has gone from nil in the first year when I did not spend all my allowance, to barely breaking even in the second year, to £3,000 in my third year, to £5,000 in the last year but one, to more than £7,000 in the last year out of my salary in order to meet my work load, which colleagues may well think is partly self-generated, but I make no apology for that. That is my own choice, but for many colleagues that is a difficult matter with which to cope.

We should stop pussyfooting around, remember the people who do our wonderful back-up work—there are as many women working in this place as there are men, toiling away in the background, at salaries substantially less than ours, but deserving much better—bite this little bullet and make it clear to the public that we do this so that we can provide a reasonable service. Until we can cut down the legislative tendency of the Front Benches of both parties when in office, we should provide the service that the public need.

11.50 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) has made a powerful case on behalf of those who work for Members of Parliament and it is one that the House will disregard at its peril.

We are discussing not a financial but a democratic question. The Leader of the House is here to represent Members. He is the bridge between the Government and the House. I notice six civil servants in the Box who have advised him on his speech and no doubt will check carefully what he said. Not one of the civil servants whom he employs will be working under the conditions that he thinks it right we should work under with the staff that we employ.

As I said in an intervention, not a single civil servant has to choose between a computer, his secretary, a telephone call and his office rent—not one. We are discussing the relationship between the Executive and the legislature. Therefore, this is not an occasion for the usual sort of argument that we have in the House; it is one of those rare but important occasions when the House as a House looks at what the Government are prepared to do.

It is no good telling us what the percentage improvements are. Before 1910, Members of Parliament were not paid at all, and I am sure that if, instead of holding elections, we put out parliamentary seats to private tender the House could be filled with people who would be happy to pay to have the privilege of the influence that we have. When I was elected, I received £30 a week, no secretarial allowance, no franked postage, no office and, no telephone allowance and I was even prevented from bringing in a tape recorder to dictate here by someone from the Serjeant at Arms' office because some people did not approve of them. It is no good telling me that we are better off than we were then. The question is whether we are properly equipped to do the job that we now have to do.

Every time I go to my constituency—this is true of every hon. Member—everyone I meet is my employer. A number of people have written to me saying, "We haven't had a reply to the letter that we wrote to you, Mr. Benn," or, "We sent you a message and when shall we get an answer?" But no one has ever told me that my office is stuffed with unnecessary staff, because that is not the case. The truth is that we have to work with local authorities, district and county councils and Government Departments and, now that the agencies have been hived off, we have to chase them up as well. Every time the Government privatise anything, they set up a regulatory body. We are a regulatory body, but the Government say that we cannot do the job that we have to do.

Every hon. Member has his own personal experience. I shall not recite mine, but without the work of one Member of Parliament the Birmingham Six might still be in prison. That work took him years and years of effort. The same applies to other hon. Members. The hon. Member for Billericay has been active in promoting legislation. That is over and above the call of duty, as military citations used to say, but it is an important role for a Member of Parliament. We have to deal with our constituents and our localities, and weekly surgeries lasting five or six hours—as the my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) mentioned. Some of the cases are tragic and involve all sorts of matters. People come to us because they feel that there is nowhere else that they can go.

As to the number of letters, during the Gulf war I received 12,000 letters—including one from almost every hostage in Baghdad. They wrote saying who they were and describing their medical condition, because they knew that I was going there. Was it not part of my duty to reply to them all? If I had not had the assistance of four or five volunteers in my office, that job could not possibly have been done.

We deal also with parliamentary questions; speeches, early-day motions, Bills, Committee work and campaigns of one kind and another. All that requires proper staffing.

There has been an enormous growth in Executive power over the years. I once worked out—I have not updated my figures—that Government expenditure in the first 50 years of my life, from 1925 to 1974, rose 1,000 per cent. in real terms. The number of Members of Parliament is virtually the same as it was in 1925, but we cover a wider range of activity.

Mention has been made of the enormous growth also in the number of pressure groups. I cannot say that I care for some of them, but I agree with others. They bombard us with information. They are well-resourced—they have staff, computers and fax machines. We have to judge whether we agree with them. There is also the growth in the media. One has only to go to 4 Millbank to know that —it will not be long before they are bigger than we are. We will be at 4 Millbank, and the media will be over here, because they need more space.

All staff should be employed and properly paid by the Government. We could select them, but they would be paid from the public account. All equipment should be provided and, when a Member of Parliament is defeated or retires, he would hand it back—in the same way that the Leader of the House will return his seal of office when he ceases to be a Secretary of State or a Minister. There should be an absolute minimum of three staff for every Member of Parliament—one or two full-time in his constituency, and one in London. There is no other way.

Why did the Government establish an independent commission that had no motive for exaggerating our needs and then say that they could not manage to accept its recommendations? What was the point? I fear that it was to delay matters until after the general election.

This decision is one for the House to take. I hope that the Whips have not used their influence and that no Member will find that he or she has been left off a Select Committee because he or she voted the wrong way tonight. I invite the House to support the amendments. They were recommended by an independent commission of inquiry that received evidence from many right hon. and hon. Members, myself included, and reached a very measured view.

11.57 pm
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

I intervene briefly to support the amendments. I do so as one who gave evidence to the Top Salaries Review Body, which studied at length the representations that it received. We referred these matters to the TSBR to take them out of the hands of Members of Parliament and, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), I find it extraordinary that the Government, have torn up its recommendations. That is not the way to deal with the issue.

We asked that body to investigate matters affecting Members of Parliament because that was in the interests of the House as a whole, and it would take the issue out of controversy. I remind Conservative Members that this is not a political issue. I have sat in Parliaments under Labour and Conservative Governments, when they have been pressurised not to implement increased facilities for right hon. and hon. Members because that might upset the norm or Government policy.

If we do not take the right decision this evening, we can forget any improvements for the remainder of this Parliament. That is the key issue. I believe that the amendments, especially amendment (a), will give us no more than what the report entitles us to—a "global" sum that would enable us to do the work that we must and want to do. I urge the House to support the amendments.

11.59 pm
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

Some hon. Members may feel that, as someone who has been in the House for a mere 15 months, I am being rather precocious in speaking tonight. I am comforted only by the fact that the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) and I—who were on opposite sides of the Grunwick picket line in 1977—are agreed on the issue: that must make us right.

I am very conscious that those who have been in the House much longer than I have become accustomed to arrangements that appal a new Member. Those arrangements are primitive—not least in regard to the resources and conditions that we expect our staff to endure. The issue is not, as the Government would have us believe, about Members' pay. An article published in The Sunday Times on 5 July, headed MPs strike it rich at palace of perks", said that we were alleged to have an annual income of £102,671. As we all know, that is a fantasy figure of which Del Boy would be proud: I hope that he will apply for the post of editor of The Sunday Times when a vacancy occurs.

The issue is not about pay restraint—restraint imposed on us, as Members of Parliament. If it were, the Leader of the House would not have presented us with a proposed increase of 14.5 per cent—nearly four times the rate of inflation; he would have presented us with an increase of about 4 per cent. But he did not do that: he plucked a figure out of the air, illogically and pragmatically, in the hope of buying a few votes against the amendments.

I urge the House to reject the hyprocrisy of editors who claim to be on the side of the people, and then deny us the rights and resources to check and challenge the Executive on behalf of the people. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) so eloquently put it, this is a constitutional issue which affects our right as legislators and our right to represent our constituents.

The Government want Members of Parliament to chase their tails, with very little time to consider the complexity of issues, the nature of political questions and the strategies and policies that we must pursue. Their proposals are almost designed to keep us under so much pressure that we cannot seriously do our jobs as parliamentary representatives, seeking to challenge the Executive and hold it accountable. Nor can we hold our constituents in the high regard in which we ought to hold them: we cannot give them the service that they deserve.

Let me briefly describe the experience of an hon. Member with a constituency office. That office, which had not been set up before I became a Member of Parliament for Neath, is now deluged with daily telephone calls from people with housing and social security problems—people without jobs who sometimes break down in tears. They are able to receive service on their doorsteps from their Member of Parliament or his staff; they could not do that under the old resourcing arrangements. We need extra resources, to ensure that every Member of Parliament can provide such a local service.

I believe that the Executive have launched a deliberate strategy to deny us the resources to do our jobs; to centralise power; to ensure that Members of Parliament are buried under an enormous case load; to ensure that they cannot scrutinise the Government; and to ensure that they are dog-tired and half-witted—that applies to me, at any rate. I ask hon. Members to imagine that they were able to act as normal people for once; to listen to others for once; to think properly for once; to go home and share their spare time with their spouses and talk to their children for once. They should imagine themselves having the time and the resources to be human beings for once. This issue goes beyond the question of Members of Parliament having the resources to do their job and to support their staff.

I urge the House to ensure that we get for our staff proper resources, pay and conditions so that we are able to raise a great number of issues covered by the report but disregarded by the Executive, including the disaggregation of allowances to ensure that the staff of Members of Parliament are not compared with computers but are given proper pay and resources. I urge the House to support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

12.4 am

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

As we get very close to making a decision on behalf of our staff, I ought to point out that the Leader of the House has won neither the argument nor the support of his hon. Friends. Having listened to the comments made by his hon. Friends and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), as well as to those of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) who spoke so well on behalf of the staff, it is clear that the House does not believe the case made by the Leader of the House. That is because he did not have the courage to bring the report before the House early enough in this Parliament to enable hon. Members to have a full debate on its contents.

There is much in the Top Salaries Review Body's report that hon. Members, on behalf of their staff, would like to debate. All that we have been able to do tonight is to ensure that at least one of its recommendations is carried out—that Members of Parliament are given more financial support for their staff so that they can do their job. I hope that all hon. Members will support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

A number of the recommendations in the report still need to be discussed. I hope that the Leader of the House will respond to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) and that he will allow the House to discuss the contents of the Top Salaries Review Body's report. Hon. Members want to take account of many of its recommendations, in particular the need to provide support for those Members of Parliament who have constituency offices and who require more finance to run them.

The Leader of the House has clearly misread the mood of the House. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will join us in the Lobby and support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury.

12.7 am

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

I intend to make two points that have not yet been made. First, I am sorry that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Walden) said what he did, for I believe that he is a constituent of mine. I may remind him of that fact when he next writes to me, but, as my secretary is away on holiday, he may not get a quick reply. All I would say to him is that there is no reason why any hon. Member should not say to his or her constituents, or to any member of the press, that we need this money to do our job as parliamentarians. That is what the argument is about.

Mr. Walden

I have been asked by my constituents about this. I have told them that there is a limit to what I can do for them, with one secretary, but that I do not believe, in the wider interests of the country, that I should vote myself more money.

Mr. Soley

The answer is simple—the hon. Gentleman does not have to take the money. This is a matter not for the Government—I agree with everything that has been said about taking it out of the hands of the Government—but for Parliament.

Secondly, the Government tabled 1,000 amendments to their last Housing Bill, several hundred of which were tabled three days before the Bill returned to the Floor of the House. Every Back Bencher on the Standing Committee had to address those amendments and work out what they were to do. We took the advice of outside agencies. Therefore, we delegated our authority and power to outside agencies. We did so because there was no other way of getting through that spate of amendments. That applies to other issues, too. I shall end on that point.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of the proceedings on the motion, MADAM SPEAKER proceeded to put the Question which she was directed to put at that hour, pursuant to Order [9 July].

Amendment proposed to the motion: (a) in sub-paragraph (a), leave out '£33,190' and insert '£39,960'.—[Mr. Chris Smith.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 324, Noes 197.

Division No. 70] [12.09 am
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Adams, Mrs Irene Canavan, Dennis
Ainger, Nick Cann, Jamie
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Clapham, Michael
Allen, Graham Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Alton, David Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Clelland, David
Armstrong, Hilary Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Coffey, Ann
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Cohen, Harry
Austin-Walker, John Colvin, Michael
Barnes, Harry Connarty, Michael
Barron, Kevin Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bates, Michael Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Battle, John Corbett, Robin
Bayley, Hugh Corbyn, Jeremy
Beckett, Margaret Cousins, Jim
Beggs, Roy Cox, Tom
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Cran, James
Bell, Stuart Cryer, Bob
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cummings, John
Benton, Joe Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bermingham, Gerald Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Berry, Dr. Roger Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Betts, Clive Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dafis, Cynog
Blair, Tony Dalyell, Tam
Blunkett, David Darling, Alistair
Boateng, Paul Davidson, Ian
Bowden, Andrew Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Boyce, Jimmy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Boyes, Roland Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Bradley, Keith Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Day, Stephen
Browning, Mrs. Angela Denham, John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Dewar, Donald
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Dixon, Don
Burden, Richard Dobson, Frank
Butler, Peter Donohoe, Brian H.
Byers, Stephen Dowd, Jim
Caborn, Richard Dunnachie, Jimmy
Callaghan, Jim Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Dykes, Hugh
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V) Eagle, Ms Angela
Eastham, Ken Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Elletson, Harold Jowell, Tessa
Enright, Derek Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Etherington, Bill Keen, Alan
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Kennedy, Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Khabra, Piara S.
Fabricant, Michael Kilfoyle, Peter
Fatchett, Derek Kirkwood, Archy
Faulds, Andrew Knapman, Roger
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Leighton, Ron
Flynn, Paul Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Lewis, Terry
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Livingstone, Ken
Foster, Donald (Bath) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Foulkes, George Llwyd, Elfyn
Fraser, John Loyden, Eddie
Fyfe, Maria Luff, Peter
Galbraith, Sam Lynne, Ms Liz
Galloway, George McAllion, John
Gapes, Mike McAvoy, Thomas
Gardiner, Sir George McCartney, Ian
Garrett, John Macdonald, Calum
George, Bruce McFall, John
Gerrard, Neil McKelvey, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mackinlay, Andrew
Godman, Dr Norman A. McLeish, Henry
Godsiff, Roger Maclennan, Robert
Golding, Mrs Llin McMaster, Gordon
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McNamara, Kevin
Gorst, John McWilliam, John
Gould, Bryan Madden, Max
Graham, Thomas Maginnis, Ken
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mahon, Alice
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Maitland, Lady Olga
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Mallon, Seamus
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Marek, Dr John
Grocott, Bruce Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Grylls, Sir Michael Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Gunnell, John Martlew, Eric
Hain, Peter Maxton, John
Hall, Mike Meacher, Michael
Hanson, David Meale, Alan
Hardy, Peter Michael, Alun
Hargreaves, Andrew Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Harman, Ms Harriet Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Harvey, Nick Milburn, Alan
Hawkins, Nicholas Miller, Andrew
Hawksley, Warren Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Henderson, Doug Moonie, Dr Lewis
Heppell, John Morgan, Rhodri
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Morley, Elliot
Hinchliffe, David Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Hoey, Kate Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Home Robertson, John Mowlam, Marjorie
Hood, Jimmy Mudie, George
Hoon, Geoffrey Mullin, Chris
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Murphy, Paul
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Nicholls, Patrick
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hoyle, Doug Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) O'Hara, Edward
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Olner, Bill
Hunter, Andrew O'Neill, Martin
Hutton, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Illsley, Eric Paisley, Rev Ian
Ingram, Adam Patchett, Terry
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Pendry, Tom
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Pickthall, Colin
Jamieson, David Pike, Peter L.
Janner, Greville Pope, Greg
Johnston, Sir Russell Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prescott, John
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce Stephen, Michael
Radice, Giles Stern, Michael
Randall, Stuart Stevenson, George
Rathbone, Tim Strang, Dr. Gavin
Raynsford, Nick Straw, Jack
Redmond, Martin Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Reid, Dr John Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Richards, Rod Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Tipping, Paddy
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Trimble, David
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Turner, Dennis
Roche, Mrs Barbara Tyler, Paul
Rogers, Allan Vaz, Keith
Rooker, Jeff Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Rooney, Terry Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Walley, Joan
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Ruddock, Joan Wareing, Robert N
Salmond, Alex Watson, Mike
Sedgemore, Brian Welsh, Andrew
Shaw, David (Dover) Wicks, Malcolm
Sheerman, Barry Wiggin, Jerry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wigley, Dafydd
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Short, Clare Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Simpson, Alan Wilson, Brian
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Winnick, David
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wise, Audrey
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Worthington, Tony
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Wray, Jimmy
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Wright, Tony
Soley, Clive Young, David (Bolton SE)
Spearing, Nigel
Spellar, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Mr. Joseph Ashton and Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.
Steen, Anthony
Steinberg, Gerry
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Aitken, Jonathan Deva, Nirj Joseph
Alexander, Richard Devlin, Tim
Amess, David Dorrell, Stephen
Ancram, Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arbuthnot, James Duncan, Alan
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Durant, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Robert Eggar, Tim
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Evennett, David
Baldry, Tony Fenner, Dame Peggy
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fishburn, John Dudley
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forman, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Forth, Eric
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bowis, John Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Brandreth, Gyles Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Brazier, Julian Freeman, Roger
Bright, Graham Gale, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gallie, Phil
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Burns, Simon Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Burt, Alistair Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hanley, Jeremy
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Hannam, Sir John
Chapman, Sydney Harris, David
Churchill, Mr Hayes, Jerry
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Coe, Sebastian Hendry, Charles
Conway, Derek Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Horam, John
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hordern, Sir Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Patnick, Irvine
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Patten, Rt Hon John
Jack, Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Jenkin, Bernard Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Redwood, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Key, Robert Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kilfedder, Sir James Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Tom
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Soames, Nicholas
Lidington, David Spencer, Sir Derek
Lightbown, David Spink, Dr Robert
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Sproat, Iain
Lord, Michael Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan
MacKay, Andrew Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maclean, David Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Str'gf'd)
McLoughlin, Patrick Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Madel, David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Major, Rt Hon John Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Malone, Gerald Thurnham, Peter
Mans, Keith Townend, John (Bridlington)
Marlow, Tony Tracey, Richard
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Tredinnick, David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Trend, Michael
Mates, Michael Trotter, Neville
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Twinn, Dr Ian
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Viggers, Peter
Mellor, Rt Hon David Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Merchant, Piers Walden, George
Milligan, Stephen Waller, Gary
Mills, Iain Ward, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Moate, Roger Wells, Bowen
Monro, Sir Hector Wheeler, Sir John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Whitney, Ray
Moss, Malcolm Whittingdale, John
Needham, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Nelson, Anthony Wilshire, David
Neubert, Sir Michael Wood, Timothy
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Yeo, Tim
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Norris, Steve
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Tellers for the Noes:
Oppenheim, Phillip Mr. Robert Hughes and Mr. Tim Boswell.
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendments made to the motion: (c), in sub-paragraph (b), leave out '£8,298' and insert '£9,990'.

(d), in sub-paragraph (b), leave out '£33,190' and insert '£39,960'.—[Mr. Chris Smith.]

Motion made, and Question put, That the main Question, as amended, be agreed to:—

The House divided: Ayes 317, Noes 186.

Division No. 71] [12.24 am
Abbott, Ms Diane Alton, David
Adams, Mrs Irene Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Ainger, Nick Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Armstrong, Hilary
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Allen, Graham Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Austin-Walker, John Dykes, Hugh
Barnes, Harry Eagle, Ms Angela
Barron, Kevin Eastham, Ken
Bates, Michael Elletson, Harold
Battle, John Enright, Derek
Bayley, Hugh Etherington, Bill
Beckett, Margaret Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Beggs, Roy Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Bell, Stuart Fabricant, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fatchett, Derek
Benton, Joe Faulds, Andrew
Bermingham, Gerald Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Berry, Dr. Roger Flynn, Paul
Betts, Clive Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Blair, Tony Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Blunkett, David Foster, Donald (Bath)
Boateng, Paul Foulkes, George
Bowden, Andrew Fraser, John
Boyce, Jimmy Fyfe, Maria
Boyes, Roland Galbraith, Sam
Bradley, Keith Galloway, George
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gapes, Mike
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gardiner, Sir George
Browning, Mrs. Angela Garrett, John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) George, Bruce
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gerrard, Neil
Burden, Richard Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Butler, Peter Godman, Dr Norman A.
Byers, Stephen Godsiff, Roger
Caborn, Richard Golding, Mrs Llin
Callaghan, Jim Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gorst, John
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V) Gould, Bryan
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Graham, Thomas
Canavan, Dennis Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Cann, Jamie Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Churchill, Mr Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, Michael Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Grylls, Sir Michael
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Gunnell, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hain, Peter
Clelland, David Hall, Mike
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hanson, David
Coffey, Ann Hardy, Peter
Cohen, Harry Hargreaves, Andrew
Colvin, Michael Harman, Ms Harriet
Connarty, Michael Harvey, Nick
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hawkins, Nicholas
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Henderson, Doug
Corbett, Robin Heppell, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Cousins, Jim Hinchliffe, David
Cox, Tom Hoey, Kate
Cran, James Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cryer, Bob Home Robertson, John
Cummings, John Hood, Jimmy
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hoon, Geoffrey
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hoyle, Doug
Dafis, Cynog Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Darling, Alistair Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Davidson, Ian Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Hunter, Andrew
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Hutton, John
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Illsley, Eric
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Ingram, Adam
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Day, Stephen Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Denham, John Jamieson, David
Dewar, Donald Janner, Greville
Dixon, Don Johnston, Sir Russell
Dobson, Frank Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Donohoe, Brian H. Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Dowd, Jim Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jowell, Tessa Prescott, John
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Primarolo, Dawn
Keen, Alan Purchase, Ken
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Khabra, Piara S. Radice, Giles
Kilfoyle, Peter Randall, Stuart
Kirkwood, Archy Rathbone, Tim
Knapman, Roger Raynsford, Nick
Leighton, Ron Redmond, Martin
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Reid, Dr John
Lewis, Terry Richards, Rod
Livingstone, Ken Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Llwyd, Elfyn Roche, Mrs Barbara
Loyden, Eddie Rogers, Allan
Luff, Peter Rooker, Jeff
Lynne, Ms Liz Rooney, Terry
McAllion, John Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAvoy, Thomas Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McCartney, Ian Ruddock, Joan
Macdonald, Calum Salmond, Alex
McFall, John Sedgemore, Brian
McKelvey, William Shaw, David (Dover)
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
McLeish, Henry Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maclennan, Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McMaster, Gordon Short, Clare
McNamara, Kevin Simpson, Alan
McWilliam, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Madden, Max Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Maginnis, Ken Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mahon, Alice Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Maitland, Lady Olga Soley, Clive
Mallon, Seamus Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Spellar, John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Steen, Anthony
Martlew, Eric Steinberg, Gerry
Maxton, John Stephen, Michael
Meacher, Michael Stern, Michael
Meale, Alan Stevenson, George
Michael, Alun Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Straw, Jack
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Milburn, Alan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Miller, Andrew Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Tipping, Paddy
Moonie, Dr Lewis Trimble, David
Morgan, Rhodri Turner, Dennis
Morley, Elliot Tyler, Paul
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Vaz, Keith
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mowlam, Marjorie Walley, Joan
Mudie, George Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Murphy, Paul Watson, Mike
Nicholls, Patrick Welsh, Andrew
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wicks, Malcolm
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wiggin, Jerry
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Wigley, Dafydd
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Hara, Edward Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, William Wilson, Brian
O'Neill, Martin Winnick, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wise, Audrey
Paisley, Rev Ian Worthington, Tony
Patchett, Terry Wray, Jimmy
Pendry, Tom Wright, Dr Tony
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L. Tellers for the Ayes:
Pope, Greg Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and Mr. Joseph Ashton.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Amess, David
Aitken, Jonathan Ancram, Michael
Alexander, Richard Arbuthnot, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Jenkin, Bernard
Atkins, Robert Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)
Baldry, Tony Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bellingham, Henry Key, Robert
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Kilfedder, Sir James
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Kirkhope, Timothy
Bowis, John Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Brandreth, Gyles Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Brazier, Julian Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Bright, Graham Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Burns, Simon Leigh, Edward
Burt, Alistair Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lidington, David
Carrington, Matthew Lightbown, David
Carttiss, Michael Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Lord, Michael
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Chapman, Sydney MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) MacKay, Andrew
Conway, Derek Maclean, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) McLoughlin, Patrick
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Madel, David
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Major, Rt Hon John
Couchman, James Malone, Gerald
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Mans, Keith
Davis, David (Boothferry) Marlow, Tony
Devlin, Tim Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Dorrell, Stephen Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mates, Michael
Duncan, Alan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Eggar, Tim Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Merchant, Piers
Evennett, David Milligan, Stephen
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Mills, Iain
Fenner, Dame Peggy Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Fishburn, John Dudley Moate, Roger
Forman, Nigel Monro, Sir Hector
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Forth, Eric Moss, Malcolm
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Needham, Richard
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Nelson, Anthony
Freeman, Roger Neubert, Sir Michael
Gale, Roger Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Gallie, Phil Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Norris, Steve
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Oppenheim, Phillip
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Ottaway, Richard
Hague, William Paice, James
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Patnick, Irvine
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Patten, Rt Hon John
Hanley, Jeremy Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hannam, Sir John Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Harris, David Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hayes, Jerry Redwood, John
Heathcoat-Amory, David Riddick, Graham
Hendry, Charles Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Horam, John Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hordern, Sir Peter Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Sackville, Tom
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Jack, Michael Sims, Roger
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Viggers, Peter
Soames, Nicholas Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Spencer, Sir Derek Walden, George
Sproat, Iain Waller, Gary
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Ward, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stewart, Allan Wells, Bowen
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wheeler, Sir John
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Whitney, Ray
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Whittingdale, John
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Widdecombe, Ann
Thurnham, Peter Wilshire, David
Townend, John (Bridlington) Yeo, Tim
Tracey, Richard Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Trotter, Neville Mr. Tim Boswell and Mr. Timothy Wood.
Twinn, Dr Ian

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House—

  1. (1) The limit on the office costs allowance (subject to what follows) should be—
    1. (a)for the year beginning in 1992, £39,960;
    2. (b) for any quarter in the year beginning in 1993, the sum of £9,990 (that is, a quarter, to the nearest pound, of £39,960) but increased by any percentage increase by which the standard secretarial salary applicable in that year has increased compared with the standard secretarial salary applicable in the preceding year; and
    3. (c) for any quarter in any subsequent year, the limit for a quarter in the preceding year but increased by any percentage increase by which the standard secretarial salary applicable in the subsequent year has increased compared with the standard secretarial salary applicable in the preceding year.
  2. (2) The limit in relation to Mr. David Blunkett should be 2.57 times that determined in accordance with paragraph (1) above.
  3. (3) Any limit determined in accordance with this Resolution should be calculated to the nearest pound.
  4. (4) In this Resolution—
    1. (a) "year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st April;
    2. (b) "quarter" means a period of three months beginning with 1st April, 1st July, 1st October or 1st January.
    3. (c) "the standard secretarial salary" means an amount consisting of the Standard Pay Point for a Senior Personal Secretary in the Home Civil Service in London and the Inner London Weighting.
  5. (5) For the purposes of this Resolution the amount of the standard secretarial salary applicable in any year should be the amount specified by the Treasury as applicable in that year.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. When the result of the first Division was announced, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster indicated with his fingers that the Division was for money only. For the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a senior Cabinet Minister, to indicate in that way is wrong. The Government would be the first people to criticise Opposition Members doing the same. I know that you, Madam Speaker, deprecate such behaviour, whether verbal or otherwise. I believe that it is wrong.

Madam Speaker

That is hardly a point of order for the Chair. Unbecoming gestures are sometimes made in the House. I deprecate them. My old eyes must have been a little sleepy tonight, because I did not notice the gesture.

    1. c1111
    2. Hedgehog Protection 206 words
    3. c1111
    4. Poll Tax (Lambeth) 191 words
    5. c1112
    6. Hedgehog Protection 174 words
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