HL Deb 15 July 1957 vol 204 cc1131-8

5.20 p.m.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR acquainted the House that the Bill had been endorsed with the Certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a Money Bill, within the meaning of the Parliament Act, 1911.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House has asked me to convey his apologies to your Lordships, but a very urgent engagement has taken him away, and in these circumstances he has asked me to move the Second Reading of this Bill. The statement made in both Houses of Parliament, by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place and by my noble friend Lord Home in your Lordships' House on Thursday week last, July 4, will be fresh in your Lordships' memories, and I think in commending this Bill to your Lordships this afternoon I need say little more than that it contains the legislation required to carry into effect the proposals in regard to Ministerial salaries under £3,000 per annum contained in that statement which, so far as I am aware, was then received with approval by your Lordships.

Ministers of the ranks affected have, I think, had a rather hard deal hitherto. Their salaries have remained unchanged for several years, and I am sure your Lordships will not forget that while these Ministers are justly proud to serve their country and to give of their best in their positions of varying responsibilities, many of them have made sacrifices to do so because of the operation of rules which impose, and rightly impose, a prohibition as to the holding of directorships and the like on the holders of Ministerial office. These observations are particularly appropriate in the case of the younger members of the Administration who, naturally, hold the lesser offices with lower salaries.

There are two further points to which I might draw your Lordships' attention. First, the Leader of the Opposition in another place receives an increase in his salary, which is raised to £3,000 a year; and, secondly, Clause 3 brings Ministers within the scope of the Injury Warrant. They are now covered in the event of death or injury on duty in the same way as are civil servants and others employed in a civil capacity in the service of the Government. As your Lordships heard the statement a few days ago, I do not think I need occupy more time to-day. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, we have now reached the fifteenth item in the varied bill of fare which the Government have set before your Lordships this afternoon. A lady friend of mine once told me that one day a week she had an "eke" day, because she said that on that occasion all the little bits that were left over from all the other meals eked out the economy on that particular day. I am glad to think that the Government have eked out our business for this particular day with all these little bits left over from other days' discussion in this House.

With regard to the substance of this Bill, I am in full support of the measure, and I think most of those who sit with me on these Benches would agree with me. There are two or three points in connection with this matter which seem to demand separate treatment. In the first place, there is the question of the rise in the cost of living and all the expenses to which Ministers, like other human beings living in this country, are put, which calls for some increase in their salaries over a period of time. That is perfectly easily understood by everybody, and does not raise any special consideration except the question of whether we think the principle is right or wrong.

The second point is rather a subtle one. When I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury some twenty or more years ago, there was the specially hard case of Junior Ministers of the Crown. Whereas an ordinary Member of Parliament could put against his salary the cost of being a Member of Parliament and the expenses attaching thereto it was held by the Treasury at the time that a Minister could not put the expenses which he incurred as a Member of Parliament against his salary at all. I never quite agreed with that view, but that was the view which was taken, and from which I could not escape. The result was that a Junior Minister at that time, perhaps receiving only as much as £700 a year, and who was subject to quite considerable expense in so doing, and who might often hold his office for only a portion of the year, was really much worse off than an ordinary Member of the House of Commons. Nevertheless, that was the position at that time.

That principle prevailed until fairly recently—I do not remember the precise year—when a Minister of the Crown was allowed to treat £500 of the money he received as being due to his membership of the House of Commons, and, therefore, towards that sum expenses could be attached, with the result that he received relief for his expenditure which he had not been able to get hitherto. I am not perfectly clear with regard to this Bill, and I do not know whether the Lord Chancellor is in a position to inform me to-day. If not, perhaps he would do it on a later occasion. But if he is able to answer me I shall be glad. I have read the Explanatory Memorandum at the beginning of the Bill, and I am still not quite clear. The man who has been getting £3,000 a year as a Minister is now to get £3,750. Does anything more than that arise from the fact that he might also be a Member of the House of Commons? I rather gather not. I think it is correct that £3,750 is the total emolument he receives, and that whole or part of it may be chargeable with expenses. Is the £3,750 the maximum? I think it is, but if it is not, I should like to know. Can expenses be charged on part of it, at any rate?

In the second place, we come to the question of the Leader of the Opposition in another place. A good deal of badinage passed between the Front Bench leaders there on this matter when it was being discussed the other day. Each suggested that the other had the greater interest in the raising of the salary owing to the possibility that a General Election might come and alter the balance of the Parties. The salary of the Leader of the Opposition has been put up, and I should like here again to be quite clear whether the Leader of the Opposition draws any sum as a Member of Parliament in addition to his salary, or whether the salary of £3,000 includes the whole £1,750 which an ordinary Member of Parliament is entitled to draw. That is the second point on which I should like to be quite clear.

Another interesting feature with regard to the position of the salary drawn by the Leader of the Opposition is, if I am not mistaken—it certainly was so at the beginning—that it is not voted by Parliament; it is on the Consolidated Fund. The reason for that is obvious; it is that the Leader of the Opposition is there largely to oppose the Government, and obviously, therefore, nearly all, or a great many, of his speeches are in direct opposition to the wishes of the Government. If the House of Commons, the majority of which is on the side of the Government, were to feel disposed to reduce the salary of the Leader of the Opposition because of his opposition, then, if it were not for this provision, they could do so. The salary has to be on the Consolidated Fund from the beginning; then that power to alter it is not open either to the Government or to the House of Commons because that salary is beyond their control.

I presume that that position still stands, but I am a little puzzled by the use of the word "maximum" in Clause 1 (3) which speaks of The maximum amount of the annual salary authorised…to be paid to the Leader of the Opposition". I am not quite clear what the word "maximum" means there. Does that mean inclusive of any Parliamentary salary; or precisely what is the effect? If the Lord Chancellor is in a position to tell me, first of all on the point with regard to ordinary Junior Ministers, secondly, with regard to the Leader of the Opposition and, thirdly, the precise meaning of "maximum", I shall be very glad for his elucidation. With those general remarks, I will conclude as I began, by saying that noble Lords sitting with me, or most of them at any rate, wish to support the Bill. They think it is fully due and right to be introduced.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence. I think I can make the position perfectly clear. It arises from the complication which he will recall, that for certain matters legislation is necessary and for certain other matters only a Resolution of the House of Commons is necessary. Therefore, the Bill increases the salary of the Ministers concerned from £3,000 to £3,750—to take the case of the Ministers of State. But, in addition to that, the Resolution of the House of Commons gives the Minister in the House of Commons £750 of the Parliamentary salary, and he can charge Parliamentary expenses against this £750 for tax purposes.


So that the total really is £4,500?


The total is £4,500, but made up in two ways: as to £3,750 under the Bill and as to £750 under a Resolution of the House of Commons. He can set his expenses against the £750. May I remind the noble Lord why? When I was in another place, there was a Select Committee on Members' Expenses. I am speaking from memory, but I am almost sure I am accurate. The Select Committee found that the average expenses of Members as a whole in another place were £750. So that they do get the money. The same applies to the Leader of the Opposition. His salary under the Bill is increased from £2,000 to £3,000. Under a Resolution of the House of Commons he gets £750, being a Member of the House of Commons. So that all the people included in the Bill who are Members of the House of Commons will be entitled to draw £750 of their Parliamentary remuneration and put expenses against it.


My Lords, may I interrupt, just to clarify the position further, so that there is no misunderstanding? Before this new proposal, the Junior Minister received £3,000 and, in addition, £500 of the Parliamentary salary; so he received £3,500. Therefore, you are putting it up by £1,000 from £3,500 up to £4,500; and at the same time the amount that he can charge against expenses has gone up from £500 to £750. I think that is correct, is it not?


That is perfectly right. But in the old days in the case of the smaller Ministerial salaries the Minister was allowed to draw £500 of his Parliamentary salary and put expenses against it. The noble Lord was right as to his total originally. I think it will be useful if I go through the list, so that the noble Lord may look at it in Hansard. The Paymaster General, the Ministers of State, the Minister without Portfolio, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and the Solicitor General for Scotland go up from £3,000 to £3,750. If they are Members of the House of Commons they get the extra £750.


That is an extra £750, as against £500?


An extra £750 which previously was £500. I think that is perfectly right now. The next group is the Finacial Secretary to the Treasury and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury—their salaries were £2,000 and they now go up to £3,750; and they get £750 instead of £500 out of the Parliamentary salary. The Parliamentary Secretaries, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty and the Assistant Postmaster General received formerly £1,500 and now go up to £2,500; and, if they are in the House of Commons, they get £750 instead of £500. The Captain, Gentleman-at-Arms, the Captain, Yeoman of the Guard, and the Junior Lord of the Treasury (Deputy Chief Whip) go up from £1,200 to £2,200, and they also get the £750 if they are in the House of Commons. Then, the Lords in Waiting, the Treasurer of the Household, the Comptroller of the Household, the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household and the Junior Lords of the Treasury go up from £1,000 to £2,000 and also get £750 instead of £500 if they are in the House of Commons. The salary of the Leader of the Opposition goes up from £2,000 to £3,000, and he gets the £750—I am not sure whether he got anything before; but he certainly gets £750 now. I am sorry that that is the only point on which I am not certain.


I take it that he still remains on the Consolidated Fund.


So far as I know, he does. I think I have now given the noble Lord every office and every increase, and I hope that that information will be useful. There is one point I want to make, in order to have it on record. It is extraordinary what ideas people get about ministerial salaries. Many people in this country think that ministerial salaries are untaxed—why, I do not know. As any of us who have been Ministers know only too well, the contrary is the case. But it is one of these odd ideas that creep round, and I think this is a good occasion to make it perfectly clear that these salaries are subject to tax, and the only relaxation that is allowed is for Members of another place who get that £750. They can use it for expenses, which have been found, for the whole of the House of Commons, to average £750.

If I may end on a slightly lighter note, I would refer to the utterance of certainty the best known, if not the greatest, of my predecessors, namely, the Lord Chancellor in lolanthe. Noble Lords will remember he finished a very good song by saying: With one for him—and one for he— With one for you—and one for ye— And one for thou—and one for thee— But never, or never, a one for me! The same applies to the present increases

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, before we leave this matter I wonder whether I might express one view which I hold very strongly—it follows on what the Lord Chancellor has said. I much regret that the senior Ministers are left out of this whole scheme. Of all the people in this country who are underpaid, our Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of Cabinet rank are the ones who are most underpaid. I do hope that the time will come soon when their salaries, as well as the others, can be assessed on a more realistic note. I presume, however, that the senior Ministers will benefit to the tune of the £750, which may help them a little. But the amount that we pay our Ministers, especially those in the Cabinet, with the responsibility they bear for the country, is at present quite derisory.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, I can speak again only with the leave of your Lordships, and I think that you will agree that, for anyone in this position, one should not do more than to thank my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton for what he has said. But he will realise that there are other considerations which Ministers may take into account at a situation like this. I am none the less grateful for what he has said. I am sure that all of us who have been Cabinet Ministers will realise the motive for which he said it. I cannot say more.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution), Bill read 3a, and passed.