HC Deb 26 October 1995 vol 264 cc1191-201 6.10 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

I beg to move, That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 23 October, be approved. Last year, I had to make a somewhat lengthy speech to explain the complications arising from the freeze that had earlier taken place. This year, I think that I can explain the position simply and clearly. During the debate on Members' salaries in 1993, two years ago, I made it clear to the House that the Government thought that the right course thereafter was for the salaries of Ministers to be dealt with on exactly the same basis as those of Members. That arrangement has been applied for the past two years and is straightforwardly the basis of the proposed increases for 1996.

As the House will recall, the annual increase in Members' salaries is linked to the pay settlement for civil servants in grades 5 to 7. That means that Members of Parliament will receive an increase of 2.7 per cent. on 1 January without the need for parliamentary action. Because the proposals follow established policy, there is no need for me to go into detail except perhaps to say that the increase for Ministers in this House will be 2.7 per cent., precisely in line with the Members' figure. For our colleagues in the other place, because they do not have a reduced parliamentary salary, the increase is equivalent to the overall cash increase received by their counterparts at this end of the building.

I should remind the House, and with more force than usual in view of the events of the past hour, that the order covers not only Ministers but the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses, the Opposition Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip in the Commons, and one other Commons Opposition Whip together with the Opposition Chief Whip in the Lords, and, of course, Madam Speaker. Additionally, though they not covered by the order, you will be pleased to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the same increases will be paid to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means and to the Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of Committees in the other place.

I say in the friendly spirit with which I address the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) that I might be prepared to accept a manuscript amendment to confine the increase in respect of the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip to the present rather than the prospective holder of the post. That might be attractive, were I in that frame of mind, after the speech that the hon. Gentleman made a few moments ago. Some observations have probably already been made on that. When he finally becomes Deputy Chief Whip and sits two seats along the Bench from where he is now, he would have public executions of hon. Members who spoke at the length that he did in the previous debate. Nevertheless, it was a fascinating speech.

The policy of a clear automatic linkage for Members of Parliament which is then straightforwardly carried through by order to Ministers and others has provided us with a mechanism that has meant that for the past two years we have been able to settle these matters without substantial controversy. The proposals in the order are sensible and right. I commend them to the House.

6.13 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I do not wish to detain the House because this is a repeat of last year's debate. The right hon. Gentleman rightly listed some of the posts included in the order. It goes without saying that the most deserving cases in the order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are, of course, those of yourself and your colleagues in the Chair.

I was expecting that the order would be the same, word for word, as last year's order and that only the figures would be different. This is the only detailed question that I have for the Leader of the House. The order is not the same, word for word, because two words are missing from paragraph 2. I do not understand why the words "of salary" have been Snopaked out of this order.

As the Leader of the House said, the increase is 2.7 per cent., the same as for Back Benchers. That is based on civil service grades 5 to 7, which, I regret to say, have been separated. Therefore, in 1996 some other arrangements will have to be made for Members of Parliament whereas I thought that we had a formula and had put the matter to bed. It appears that we have not.

It is right that the salary arrangements for Ministers should be dealt on the same basis as those of other hon. Members. That being so, I regret the need for this debate. We are not debating Members' pay having agreed a formula such as that which has produced the 2.7 per cent. increase.

In last year's debate, on 24 November 1994, I offered the Leader of the House the chance to secure Opposition support to amend the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 so as to provide the same automatic linkage for Ministers that applies to hon. Members. I have since repeated that offer to the Leader of the House. It should have been taken up. A Labour Government will legislate to clear up the anomaly. If it is not done before the general election, it will have to be done afterwards. It is an utter waste of parliamentary time, bearing in mind that we have dealt with the matter in respect of hon. Members.

It has been a tough year for Ministers, as the chickens from the false promises made in 1992 have come home to roost. On the other hand, this year the Ministers who will receive this salary increase have had their loyalty tested by the Prime Minister when he put his leadership on the line. They have ended up with a powerful Deputy Prime Minister and First Secretary of State. The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) can well manage on a Cabinet Minister's salary. I am surprised that the order, listing in detail as it does different Ministers by title as members of the Cabinet, does not refer to a First Secretary of State or a Deputy Prime Minister. Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman is a member of the Cabinet but is not listed.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has his own special arrangements for official cars; he does not have one but is paid to use his own. He has not done well at answering questions at the Dispatch Box. All we have had from him so far is party-political rants. Who should pay him—the taxpayer or the Tory party? We are not sure whether he is a second Minister Without Portfolio or the Minister with the good bits of everyone's portfolios. In due course, he will answer for himself, as will other Ministers, to the electorate.

I agree that to participate in public life is both a duty and a privilege. Very high standards of conduct are expected and standards for Ministers are rightly higher than those for others. Notwithstanding the Nolan report, which the Opposition fully support, I believe that Ministers are honourable people carrying out a responsibility placed on them by the Prime Minister of the day. We may not agree with all their actions; we may believe that many of them do not care, are incompetent and out of touch. The answer is to replace them, not deny them a modest increase in pay.

6.17 pm
Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing)

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House pointed out that there have been some improvements in the mechanism for dealing with Members' and Ministers' pay. I feel bound to say that if one takes a long-term view of the way in which we have dealt with those matters, we are now in a situation that can be described only as a crisis.

Since I first came to the House some 30 years ago, the statistics show that Members' pay in real terms, allowing for inflation, is just back to where it was 30 years ago. Between then and now, it has been below that level, sometimes by a substantial amount. Meanwhile, real incomes in the country as a whole on average have gone up 80 per cent. Members' pay has not gone up at all.

Even more remarkable, and this is relevant to the motion, is what has happened to Ministers' pay and indeed to the Prime Minister's pay. They are paid less than half what people in the Government were paid when I came to the House 30 years ago. That, too, has happened against a background in which the real income of the country as a whole has risen by 80 per cent.

The situation is creating a serious recruitment problem. One cannot divorce the issue of Members' pay from that of Ministers' pay because in our system, unlike that of the United States, for example, where the Executive is drawn from outside the legislature, we have to get people into the House of Commons or House of Lords in order to recruit Ministers. So the level of both Ministers' and Members' pay is relevant in this context. An article in today's edition of The Times rounded up the figures, but I suggest that we would need to double Members' pay and treble the Prime Minister's and Ministers' pay to get us back to approximately where we were 30 years ago. If we do not take such a once-and-for-all step, the quality of hon. Members and those fit to become Ministers will become an increasing problem.

Top salaries outside the House have risen even more. The papers talk every day of "fat cats". Let us look at salaries that, in many ways, are not exceptional. I know from personal experience not so long ago that, if one wants to recruit a good finance director for a public liability company in a risky industry—no one can deny that politics is a risky industry in terms of remaining a Member of Parliament or a Minister—one will probably have to pay £250,000. A good chief executive would have to be paid some £500,000. Meanwhile, this order increases the Prime Minister's salary at £82,000 by £1,500. It is preposterous.

We must deal not just with the question of pay. I announced a little while ago, following some totally irrational boundary changes and various other matters, that I would not stand at the next election, so I may be in a stronger position than present Ministers or those who will stand at the next election to make this point. Many people have said that the status of Members is not what it was when I was first elected and, alas, that is true.

Reference was made to the Nolan committee. I can say nothing about that because I sit on the Select Committee that is seeing how its recommendations might be implemented, but I hope that it will do something to restore the standing of Members and that the measures that we have already taken will do so. That is another problem that we must take into account.

We must consider carefully what should be done. I am particularly worried that the salary now paid to Members is not sufficient to attract the sort of person that used to be attracted here—those with a good degree, someone who has been president of a union or who has a similar background in some other field. They are no longer attracted here because they can earn more than hon. Members in two years after university, and, in some occupations, more than the Prime Minister in five years.

Another real change is that Ministers currently in office decide that they will not go on. Previously, ex-Ministers remained in the House for one, two or three Parliaments. I can think of a number of hon. Friends who are still here, and it is true of myself. But that will no longer happen. Few ex-Ministers are recycled, so they will take the first available opportunity to leave the House at the next general election. The people on whom we rely to man Select Committees, to engage in debate on the Floor of the House and give experience, will simply no longer be here. That is a worrying development.

What should be done? We know only too well from the misrepresentations of the increase in Members' pay before the last one, when the press said that it was vastly in excess of inflation—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House pointed out at the time that that was untrue—that there would be an outcry in the press if Members' salaries were doubled. But we have reached a stage where we must face up to that. We have two possible options. First, as the Nolan committee seems to have remarkable public approval as an independent body, we could refer the question of Ministers' and Members' pay to that body as soon as possible. Secondly, we could ensure that negotiations take place between the two sides of the House on what should be done in the next Parliament. We can do nothing in. this Parliament, but if we were to do something now for the next Parliament, we would at least help to deal with the argument that we were voting for our next pay increase, and the electorate would know where it was.

I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition has decided not to take his pay increase. I notice that some Labour Front-Bench Members did not know that that was so. This is similar to some of the worst excesses of Thatcherism, when the previous Prime Minister refused to take her full salary. That was a serious mistake and I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition seems to be following in Mrs. Thatcher's footsteps in that respect. I hope that, on reflection, he will give further thought to the matter because we must reach an agreement across the House about what should be done to introduce a once-and-for-all change to redress the balance.

This is now an extremely serious issue. Although my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House says that we can introduce a pay rise now on this basis without it arousing controversy, there is a distinction between having no controversy and ignoring a potentially serious problem.

6.25 pm
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I have listened to the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) make exactly that speech on a number of occasions, and it gets more compelling with the listening. He makes a powerful case and is in a strong position to do so. I support everything that he said. We now have an opportunity to get a hold of the problem and make matters more realistic before the next Parliament. That would be the proper and honourable way to proceed.

The right hon. Gentleman's idea of referring the matter to a Nolan-type inquiry ignores top salary pay review reports.

Sir Terence Higgins

They were all ignored.

Mr. Kirkwood

If the matter goes to the Nolan committee and is not ignored, that would be a massive improvement, which may be why the right hon. Gentleman makes that suggestion. I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues for the number of hours that the Select Committee has spent examining the Nolan committee's recommendations. It is a sobering thought that the Nolan inquiry would not have been necessary if Members' and Ministers' salaries had been proper and commensurate with normal market salaries.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was right to stress that this order is ludicrous and otiose. It is certainly so as far as I am concerned. The Leader of the House will recognise that, as a member of a minority party, I have no financial interest whatever in this or any other such order. I am shop steward and I do all the hard work for all the minority parties. I do not mind that. It is a great public duty, which I enjoy doing.

Mr. Newton

Is the hon. Gentleman confirming that the Liberal Democrat party does not expect to form the next Government?

Mr. Kirkwood

I shall not be tempted to answer such an unfair question. It was a monstrous attack, and it was out of character for the Leader of the House to suggest any such thing to such a humble person as myself. I have written the Leader of the House a letter, which he may not yet have received. It does not necessarily offer him a position in my Government but asks him to consider helping the process of the usual channels. That is a separate issue. The important point that the hon. Member for Perry Barr made is that we should use the fast track procedures to get rid of this order altogether. That would save the House time and we would all be the better for it.

Many hon. Members are confused about the new way in which Members' and Ministers' salaries are linked with those of civil servants because there has been a revolution in how the civil service is paid since the introduction of performance-related remuneration and job regrading. I am pleased to see that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is responsible for those matters, is in his place. I do not know how it will be possible to achieve a sensible link in future. That reinforces my view that a senior salary pay review body or a Nolan-type committee should investigate the matter so that we can prepare recommendations for the next Government to apply in the next Parliament. They can then take effect properly and with a minimum amount of controversy. However, I accept that there will be controversy and I agree with the right hon. Member for Worthing that we should confront that and take part in it positively and robustly.

I want to ask a genuine question—I do not make a party political point. Given the obvious change that there has been in the power of agencies and given the number of agencies that are now spawned by Ministers, then if we are to have very small policy units with Ministers in charge—I know that there has been much political controversy about the Home Secretary and the Prison Service—should the inquiry that I and the right hon. Member for Worthing and other hon. Members are suggesting, consider the future and continuing responsibilities of Ministers?

However, all those matters should be removed from the potential controversy of a debate on the Floor of the House of Commons. They should be tackled by people who can make evaluations sensibly, dispassionately and objectively. They should make recommendations to Ministers and Ministers should have the courage to implement them.

I should like to think—certainly in as far as I have any influence in any new Government or otherwise—that Liberal Democrat Members would support Ministers if they made sensible recommendations that brought ministerial salaries and Members' salaries into line with ordinary modern market levels.

6.30 pm
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I shall be quite brief; I have only three arguments to make.

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) on making a case that I should have thought would be acceptable to all hon. Members. The idea that we must at all times do nothing because the press will snipe at us seems to me to be the worst of all possible arguments.

I disagree with my right hon. Friend in only one instance. I do not think that the issue of Ministers' and Members' salaries should go to a Nolan-type inquiry. The case is so well proved that three or four hon. Members—some Ministers and some Opposition Members—should be able to get together to hammer out a joint agreement that can be made public, which will operate from the next Parliament. We should not ask someone else to consider the matter—someone whose recommendations we would review and alter before putting the report to one side. The job should be given fairly and squarely to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), so that together they may work out a new structure.

It cannot be right that the chairman of UK Ltd.—our Prime Minister—is paid less than any chief executive officer of one of the top 100 companies, and probably of many other companies. That cannot make sense. Something has gone wrong with the structure. Whoever the Prime Minister is, that cannot be sensible, and that anomaly should be corrected.

Similarly, something is wrong when Ministers in charge of Departments are paid considerably less than their chief civil servants and often much less than their deputy secretaries and other people, not only the permanent secretary. That is archaic, wrong and should be corrected—and corrected now, to take effect from the start of the next Parliament.

That is the main message that I wish to give to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. However, there is one other thing. Will he please get together with the Opposition to work out what shall be the indices that we must apply in 1996 for the adjustment? We have been through that so many times over the years.

Eighteen months ago, we believed that we had put the thing to bed— that we would never have that debate again. As a result of the alteration of indices, I understand that we shall have to decide on something. Surely that can be done quickly and mutually, because there should not be any dispute about it, and it can be adopted by the House, without any political aspect being brought into it, for the benefit of all Members who will be affected after the 1996 adjustment. Surely that does not need to be referred to anyone. We and our leaders should be reasonable enough to be able to get that done.

That is a common-sense matter, which would be tackled in that way in any other organisation. Simply because we happen to be in the public eye, we are scared silly that we may be criticised for being greedy or wrong or something of that nature.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Peter Emery

I am just about to stop, but of course I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Skinner

It is all right as far as it goes, but the right hon. Gentleman is one of those Conservative Members who will gladly support a minimum wage for Members of Parliament, and in this case for Ministers and others, yet, when it comes to ordinary workers earning £1 or £2 an hour, will undoubtedly walk into the Lobby with all the Ministers to prevent those workers obtaining a miserly £4 an hour.

Sir Peter Emery

One might have expected the hon. Gentleman to make that sort of comment, but there are some times when he can rise above being extremely negative and derogatory. The position is not as he would imply. I am suggesting that Members of Parliament might begin to approach—not actually approach—a true market value for the job that they do.

Hon. Members often work 60 or 70 hours a week—not the number of hours that the hon. Gentleman would imply—including working on Saturdays, in time when other people are absolutely free. That is a special job, which needs to be done, and done properly. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing said, we need to attract the best people to do that.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will forgive me for leaving the Chamber. I shall return when he replies to the debate, but a presentation is being made to the Clerk of Committees, who is retiring after 41 years. I shall go, if my right hon. Friend will excuse me, to pay attention and then return to the Chamber.

6.35 pm
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I believe that I hold a quite different opinion from most hon. Members in the Chamber tonight. However, I endorse some of the comments made about a need to regularise the salaries of Ministers and Members of Parliament for the next Parliament. That is prudent.

I shall discuss all the people mentioned in the order at least to Minister of State level, if not higher—with the exception of you and your colleagues, Madam Deputy Speaker, whose salaries are a pale shadow of what they should be.

I broadly agree with one thing that the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) said. In the unlikely event of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) inviting me to join his Government—perhaps contrary to his better judgment—I certainly would accept the salary of the Minister appropriate to that portfolio, because I believe in the well-established trade union principles, "What you have you hold" and "Take the rate for the job." However, I believe that the way in which we set the rate for the job of Ministers is not appropriate. There are some constitutional dangers, on which I invite the House to pause and reflect.

The historical reason why Ministers have salaries is that, in the days when membership of the House was a part-time job—it could be and was done part time by the vast majority of people—obviously when Members were given a ministerial appointment they were expected and required to give up outside interests, so there was a case for a salary, which created a disparity between Ministers and other Members of Parliament.

Nowadays, even if the work of a Back-Bench Member is not wholly full time—although I believe that it should be, and I have no remaining time to give to any outside interest—there is a consensus that it requires a tremendous amount of time and attention. So, of course, does the work of a Minister, but in my opinion a case cannot be made for a disparity of salary between a Back-Bench Member and, at least, a Member who has reached the level of Minister of State.

I believe that Back-Bench Members of Parliament and Ministers of State work equally hard. They have different roles, and there is a danger of our not recognising the different roles. However, it is important that people should aspire as much to the role of a Back Bencher as they do to that of a Minister.

The functions of Back Benchers and Ministers differ from one other. There is a need for people who will concentrate on being a Back Bencher—who will probe, criticise, cajole and ferret out information. There is a need for hon. Members who ask questions in the House of Commons on evenings when others might want to get away and move on to other business. Such people might be a nuisance and make aggravating remarks. That is an important role, and it is wrong to suggest that it is less important than being a Minister of State. We must bear that in mind.

There are other hon. Members with important functions. The deputy leader of the Labour party does not receive any additional salary; the leader of the Liberal party does not receive any additional salary and the Front-Bench Opposition team do not receive a different salary—they are on Back Benchers' salaries. If there is a case for Ministers receiving a higher salary than Back Benchers, it seems that there is a case for those other hon. Members to whom I have just referred receiving a different salary. However, I believe that we should all be equal here.

Before people deride what I am saying, they should reflect on the fact that there is likely to be a Conservative Opposition in the not too distant future. The Conservative leader of the Opposition will have to choose people to serve on his or her shadow Cabinet. They will no doubt be required and expected by the party to give their full-time energy and enthusiasm to their shadow portfolios, but they will have to do so on their existing Back Benchers' salaries. At that time, some of them might remember my speech and think, "Mackinlay had a point." When they are sitting on the Opposition Benches, they may well think that perhaps their worth, energy and enthusiasm, with minimum resources, are as important as those of the Labour Members sitting on the Treasury Bench.

There is a danger of having two tiers of Members of Parliament, which would not be conducive to good parliamentary democracy. There is no doubt that many people come to this place with a burning ambition to sit in a ministerial car. That is a perfectly honourable ambition, but of equal importance are those people who come here to probe and check the Executive.

Some hon. Members have given long and distinguished service to the House. The late Bob Cryer used to sit below the Gangway on the Opposition Benches and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) works diligently as a Back Bencher. Certainly, millions of people consider my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to be extremely good value for money. If there were to be a vote, they would want him to have a salary at least equal to that of a Minister of State.

The system is wrong. I hope that there will be some reflection on the fact that hon. Members should be equal and their salary—their remuneration—should reflect that. Much more important than our income levels are the resources available to us to do the job as Members of Parliament—but that is another debate, as is the subject of hon. Members' salaries. The issue of salaries is important—our cousins across the water in the United States have far more resources than we do to fulfil their roles as legislators.

Mr. Rooker

Will my hon. Friend please finish his speech?

Mr. Mackinlay

My hon. Friend asks, from a sedentary position, when I will finish my speech. He makes my point: the relationship in this place between the Treasury Front Benchers and the Opposition Front Benchers is far too cosy. There are occasions when hon. Members need to stand up and demonstrate a degree of independence which is not reflected here too often.

On that note, I shall conclude my say—I am pleased to have had it. It is time to cut out the cosy relationship and recognise that parliamentarians here are, and should be, equal.

6.44 pm
Mr. Newton

I am tempted to say that tonight's debate has been an almost heartwarming experience for a Minister. It started off with Ministers being collectively described by the Opposition Front-Bench team as kindly, honourable people, or words to that effect. A series of speakers, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins), supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton. (Sir P. Emery) and Opposition Members, then described us as underpaid and overworked. I hope that my right hon. Friends and others will understand that I am not sure that it would be appropriate for me, in my position, to spend the rest of this debate warmly agreeing with every word that they said. I thought that some powerful points were made, on which I shall reflect. I hope that others, including those who comment on our affairs outside the House, will also reflect on them.

I listened to the characteristically engaging speech of my fellow Member of Parliament for Essex, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay). I cannot say that I agreed with every word, but, as he defined a Back Bencher's role as being a nuisance, I thought that he had established some degree of expertise and should be listened to with appropriate respect.

I shall now comment on some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), which will enable me to pick up, albeit briefly, points raised by other hon. Members. He asked a technical question about a couple of missing words. I have been given the customary soothing assurances from those who send me such assurances that that was no more than a drafting matter, not a sinister, devious plot. I marvel at the hon. Gentleman's assiduousness; I had better confess that I did not sit down and compare every word of this order—

Mr. Rooker

I did.

Mr. Newton

I know: I am returning the compliment that the hon. Gentleman was kind enough to pay to those on the Treasury Bench by complimenting him on his remarkable feat. I am almost tempted to agree with the hon. Member for Thurrock that the hon. Member for Perry Barr has demonstrated the need to be paid more. I certainly note the point raised by the hon. Member for Perry Barr and assure him that there was no sinister intention or error involved, but an attempt to improve the drafting. We are always looking to save a word here or there to save the hon. Gentleman's reading time.

I recall the offer that the hon. Gentleman made last year relating to primary legislation, which I did not reject then and certainly would not reject now. In my role as the person with responsibility for the legislative programme, may I say that it is necessary to weigh the question of how much time to use on one issue rather than another. Judging from some of the speeches that have been made from below the Opposition Gangway in today's debate and last year's debate, however much co-operation there may be from the Opposition Front Bench, it is not absolutely clear that that co-operation would be universally reflected throughout the House. I note that the hon. Member for Perry Barr has repeated his suggestion.

I realise that the issue of linkage was raised more in relation to hon. Members' pay than to Ministers' pay and so runs a little wider of the main subject of tonight's debate. I note the concern expressed. As I have demonstrated to the House in the past three years, I have no doubt about the value of a system whereby hon. Members' pay can be increased sensibly and fairly, annually, without the need for an annual debate. I have every intention of ensuring that such a system is sustained.

A number of interesting suggestions have been made in relation to Lord Nolan and other matters. I hope that the House will understand that, against the background of today's debate and the time pressures—quite apart from the factors that I have already mentioned—it would not be right for me to give an extensive, philosophical speech ranging over all those subjects.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is the Leader of the House aware that a number of points have been made—including some by Conservative Members—that need to be considered seriously? Perhaps we shall return to them soon when we debate the Nolan report. Is the Leader of the House aware that one reason that many of us cannot go along with the suggestion made tonight by the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) is that, over the past 16 years, a Tory-dominated Parliament has worsened the position of the poorest paid in this country—those who live on a pittance? All the statistics—even Government statistics—bear that out. In those circumstances, there is no room for cosy complacency between the two sides on the issue of pay.

Mr. Newton

I note what the hon. Gentleman says and I understand why he makes that point. I shall not use my former experience in the social security area to expand on the many improvements that have been made for less well-off pensioners or for people in low-paid employment with children through family credit. I simply make it clear that I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis. Beyond that, the hon. Gentleman has not tempted me to make a speech about social security or any other wider subject. Once again, I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to

Resolved That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 23rd October, be approved