§ 4.3 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, perhaps with the leave of the House, I might now make another Statement, 672 which I hope will be welcomed. It concerns the expenses allowance payable to Members of the House of Lords and the car allowances and official travel arangements.
Your Lordships will be aware that Members of the House of Lords have been entitled since 1964 to claim reimbursement of expenditure necessarily incurred in connection with attendance at sittings of the House up to a maximum of four and a half guineas for each day's attendance. Whilst a number of Peers do not find it necessary to claim the full amount, representations have been made that the present allowance is no longer realistic in relation to the kind of expenditure for which it is intended to provide; for example, hotel accommodation, meals, taxis in London and other incidentals. The Government have therefore reviewed the position and have concluded that the rise since 1964 in the cost of those items of expenditure which the allowance is intended to cover justifies an increase in the amount of the upper limit which may be claimed. They therefore propose that this maximum should be raised to £6 10s. 0d. for each day's attendance.
The Government also propose that the present rate of car allowance of 4½d. a mile should be increased to 6d. a mile. This follows the basis for calculating the car allowance adopted by the Lawrence Report, and is broadly related to the cost of first-class travel—very broadly related; first-class travel is slightly less. The allowance is not directly related to the cost of actual car expense. In addition, the Government propose a number of changes to improve and rationalise our present travel arrangements. For example, a Peer who has to travel by car to his local railway station and who at present is entitled to claim for this will now normally be eligible to claim the allowance for the car's return journey, also.
I would, however, remind the House that eligibility for travel expenses will continue to be based on the principle of assiduity of attendance—that is to say, an attendance of one-third of the possible attendances during the month or period of claim. The special relaxation for Peers who live in Scotland will continue.
673 The Resolution required to give effect to the proposals which I have just announced will be laid before both Houses as soon as possible; and if this is approved, the new arrangements will then come into force at once.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his Statement, and I am particularly glad to learn of its contents. It is always a pleasure to listen to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, and a particular pleasure to listen to him speaking in his role of Father Christmas. I am glad to have this further evidence of Her Majesty's Government's appreciation of the services rendered by your Lordships. I would only add that these new arrangements for the reimbursement of our necessary expenses seem, to me at least, to be both sensible and realistic.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord for the Statement he has made, and for its contents. I think it must reflect a great deal of the hard work which the noble Lord has done on behalf of us all to obtain this excellent increase in our expense allowances. I am sure we are all very grateful to him for that work as well as for the Statement.
§ LORD BLYTON
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I should like to congratulate him on his Statement, and also on the very important part he has played in getting these improvements for your Lordships? Perhaps I might observe that I still think there is racial discrimination here, because Peers who live 300 miles away and have rail and hotel expenses to meet are at a considerable disadvantage when compared with those who live in London.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am much obliged to noble Lords. I always seek to serve your Lordships: I hope, equally, that your Lordships will continue to deserve my services! Perhaps I might also add one small point—a matter which has not hitherto been covered. Whereas I mentioned that local taxi fares are included in the £6 10s. Od., reimbursement of bus or coach fares for journeys of more than five miles may now be claimed, as are rail and air fares. But there are certain detailed matters involved, and on this I understand that 674 the Committee of the Whips are able to advise and arbitrate, with the Officers of the House, with great skill. I am obliged for the comment of my noble friend Lord Blyton. I must say that any racial discrimination in favour of Lady Elliot as against my noble friend raises very acute difficulties for me.
THE EARL OF JELLICOE
My Lords, I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord a further question. He said that the necessary Resolution to give full effect to these proposals will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible. Could he say how long is "as soon as possible"?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I think it will be possible for it to be laid within the next 24 hours. In the rather dynamic atmosphere in which we live now with regard to Parliamentary business I can only say that I hope it will come before both Houses for approval before the Christmas Recess.