HL Deb 01 February 1972 vol 327 cc678-88

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill. As I informed your Lordships on December 6 last, the Government have accepted the recommendations made in the Report of the independent Review Body which was constituted under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, regarding the salaries to be paid to Ministers of the Crown and the holders of remunerated offices in both Houses of Parliament. In doing so they had very much in mind what the Review Body said in paragraph 121 of their Report. I feel I should remind your Lordships of the precise language of this part of the Review Body's Report. It was as follows: We have been conscious of the declared intention of the present Government to implement our proposals unless there are clear and compelling reasons for not doing so. We have regarded this as placing on us an added responsibility to keep our recommendations for increases and improvements to the absolute minimum which we consider to be necessary. It is in our view of the highest importance that these recommendations both as they affect salaries and allowances should now be implemented as a whole and in full. The measure now before your Lordships' House gives statutory effect to the recommendations of the Review Body regarding the salaries to be paid to Ministers, including the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the Law Officers, the Speaker in another place, the Government Whips and the Opposition Leaders and Whips in both Houses. The salaries of the other paid office-holders will be adjusted in line with the Review Body's recommendations, but this will not be done by specific legislation.

Before drawing the attention of your Lordships to a number of particular points, I should like to invite your Lordships to join with me in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and his colleagues on the Review Body, two more of whom—the noble Lord, Lord Beeching, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—are Members of this House. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, as she was only recently appointed, did not take part in any of the substantive discussions which led to this particular Report of the Review Body. The nature of this Report shows clearly the care and thoroughness with which the Committee approached a task that was not only difficult but also delicate, and the sound basis upon which they have founded their recommendations. I say in all sincerity that we are deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and the other members of the Review Body.

The salaries provided for in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Bill are those recommended in Chapter 8 of the Boyle Report. In this connection there may be one point of particular interest to this House: it concerns the salary of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. Whereas in the past an element of £4,000 in the salary of the holder of this office has been paid in recognition of his functions as Speaker in your Lordship's House, the Review Body considered that in present circumstances this might more appropriately be determined at £2,500. While it is of course the whole salary that is important, I understand from my noble and learned friend that this recommendation of the Review Body is fully acceptable to him.

The present salaries of those included in this measure were introduced in 1965, some seven years ago, following the Lawrence Committee's Report. The Review Body have, however, recommended, and the Government have accepted, that there should in future be major comprehensive reviews once in the lifetime of each Parliament of normal length. I am sure that your Lordships will welcome this more regular, and, in my view at least, more realistic arrangement, which is less liable to give rise to embarrassment.

In the past, revisions in the rates of remuneration of Ministers, and the majority of paid office-holders in Parliament, have been effected by specific legislation and this is the case on this occasion. Provision is made in Clause 1(4) of the Bill to enable future changes in these salaries to be dealt with by Order in Council. I think myself that the simpler procedure is right. At the same time, I can assure noble Lords that since the Order in Council will be subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure the opportunity for Parliamentary supervision in this area will not be prejudiced by this move away from primary legislation.

Perhaps I should mention another feature of this Bill which your Lordships may find of interest. This is the first Schedule, which usefully simplifies and brings up to date the structure and number of Ministerial Offices. Apart from the Law Officers, who stand in a very particular position, the Bill in effect identifies three tiers of Ministerial Office. In the top tier are the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers. All of them, with the one exception of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, are now either of the rank of Secretary of State or holders of one of the traditional Offices, like my own, which may or may not carry with them some particular Departmental responsibility. This situation, which has come about with the emergence in recent years of a small number of very large Departments each headed by a single Secretary of State, suggested that the present tight limit of nine put on the number of Secretaries of State who can be paid is no longer realistic. The Bill imposes an upper limit of nineteen, not including my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack, on the number of Ministers who may be paid at the top level appropriate to Cabinet Ministers. This gives a head room of three, if necessary, over the size of the present Cabinet in the present Administration. Within the total of nineteen there is considerable flexibility in the number of Secretaries of State who may be appointed.

The second tier contains a range of Ministerial Offices with varying degrees of responsibility, and this is reflected in a band of salaries. The Offices contained in this group are the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, who heads a politically important and sensitive Department which, because it is a small organisation, is not separately represented in the Cabinet, and the various posts within the large Departments where a Minister is given special responsibility for a large and important block of work. Examples of this kind are my right honourable friends the Ministers for Trade and for Transport Industries. The second tier also includes Ministers of State who do not have control over complete blocks of work but exercise a more general function of assisting the head of their Department politically and of taking charge of particular responsibilities with which they may be entrusted. The group also includes the holders of the old Offices and the Chief Secretary (when they are not in the Cabinet), the Government Chief Whip in another place and the Financial Secretary.

Then there is a third tier of work: the Parliamentary Secretaries and the Government Whips in both Houses. A useful and welcome change here is that it will be possible in future to appoint Parliamentary Secretaries to assist any Minister. They will not be tied, as is the case at present, to a number of named Departments and to Departments headed by Secretaries of State—a point which has caused some head-scratching in my own Department. Your Lordships may have noticed in this connection that there is an increase in the maximum number of Lords in Waiting from three to five. I would only add that this is a ceiling and not a floor.

Finally, there are two specific matters in connection with the Boyle Report which are perhaps not immediately involved in the Bill now before your Lordships but to which I should like to refer. In the first place, your Lordships will recall that the Boyle Committee recommended the establishment of two funds to meet the cost of travelling within the United Kingdom and overseas for information purposes by Members of Parliament. The Government have yet to take a decision on the right arrangements for establishing these funds in another place. In this context it has been suggested to me that the relevance of this recommendation to the circumstances of your Lordship' House should be considered; and I have agreed—I may say that I have agreed very willingly—to look into this matter carefully.

Lastly there are the Boyle Committee's proposals regarding pensions. This is a complicated subject, as all of us who delve into it find out, to our cost, very soon, and the Government are examining the form of legislation necessary to give effect to the relevant recommendations of the Boyle Committee's Report. It will be within the knowledge of many of your Lordships that I have already received a number of representations covering various aspects of this matter from Members of your Lordships' House. I think all it would be proper for me to say at this stage is that I am giving careful consideration to those representations. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, we have a long day in front of us and therefore I do not propose to speak for very long. This is in fact a certified Bill; we could not amend it, as I understand it, without a great deal of trouble. It is always rather a delicate matter as to when you can or cannot amend, but I think this is a case where we should not be able to. I am bound to say that I think the broad proposals are right, but I would mention one point in particular about the Lord Chancellor's salary. When people look and see this large salary, they forget that even going back to the days of the Haldane Report not only has the office of the Lord Chancellor been one of the heaviest and most responsible but it is also absolutely essential to provide headroom for the proper payment of Judges. This is therefore perfectly right. It is unfortunate, of course, but the essence of the matter is that increases of this sort which take place over a wide interval of years would look large if they were in fact within the norm; and I suspect that they would be within the norm, whatever the norm might be—for example, 4 per cent. a year, or something of that kind. But it is unfortunate, when one sees the struggle of the miners which we debated last night and on which, although the Government tried to be sympathetic, they were not very helpful. However, I do not wish to pursue that matter.

I was very interested in what the noble Earl had to say about the possibility of the travel funds, which are being made available to Members of Parliament for special trips, both within this country and abroad, being made available to Members of your Lordships' House. Considering that the House of Lords is unsalaried, it seems to me that, if anything, its Mem- bers have a better claim. Clearly this is a matter which would require only simple administering, and I would urge the noble Earl, who I know himself initiated this consideration, to pursue it further.

There is only one other point on Ministerial salaries. Once again the difference in the treatment of the Chief Whips and the Lords in Waiting, as opposed to what is given in the other place, is striking. There is a considerable difference between what the noble Earl himself receives and what is paid to a Cabinet Minister in another place; but I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge that we need not feel that he is suffering unduly. But when it comes to the Lords in Waiting, I think they have been treated shabbily. I do not blame the Government for this, and it is very difficult to criticise the Boyle Committee when they were not specifically considering the general status of the Lords. It may be that we shall have to return to this subject. Indeed, as other noble Lords have said on a number of occasions, the longer this House works, the more the strain on it; and, after all, there was quite a considerable vote in this House around midnight last night. It may well be that we shall once again have to look at expenses. The noble Earl has himself shown great sympathy. As he has said, he has shown sympathy with regard to the pensions of former Members of Parliament who fall outside the present arrangements. My noble friend Lord Beswick on an earlier occasion argued this with force. Having said all this, no doubt we shall continue the discussion further. The noble Earl is himself in a position, if his Cabinet colleagues allow him—and this is the problem—to do some helpful things so far as the House of Lords is concerned.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House a question about a proposed increase of salary, and preface my question by saying that I offer no objection to the increase and raise it as a point for elucidation. It was reported in the Press, and I think that the noble Earl the Leader of the House in his statement just now mentioned it also, but I may be wrong about that. It refers to a proposed additional increase in salary for the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. Reference is made to an increase as Speaker of the House of Lords. Would the noble Earl explain this matter?—or perhaps there has been some misreporting in the Press. But if an additional increase is to be made to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, as Speaker, may I ask whether this anticipates some change in the constitutional position of your Lordships' House? Perhaps noble Lords would like some elucidation.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would allow me to point out that there is a decrease, not an increase.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for saying that he is giving consideration to the question of pensions of former Members of the House of Commons. I would thank him, too, for the consideration he has given to this question and to the representations which we made to him. It may seem strange that here in the House of Lords we should be discussing this matter, but some of us felt that we here were the only people who could get together the former Members of the House of Commons, since most of them are spread over the country and have no opportunity of coming together to discuss the matter. I would thank the noble Earl for that.

There is also the question of the pre-1964 Members, of whom I am not one—those who retired before 1964. I should like here to make one point that might be considered when this matter is looked into. I have heard it said that pre-1964 Members of Parliament should not rightly receive a pension of any kind because they have not contributed in any way. It is perfectly true they have not contributed in that they have not contributed to any special pension fund. But I should like to put the point that, of those who retired from the House of Commons before 1964, many were serving when the salary in the House of Commons was £600 a year, then £1,000 a year, and then £1,750 a year, with no secretarial allowance, no allowance for postages of any kind, and very little allowance so far as travel is concerned. I would make the point that those previous Members of the House of Commons serving in those circumstances have made a very great contribution indeed to the working of Parliament.


My Lords, the noble Earl the Leader of the House was good enough to refer to the travel fund and says he will explore the possibilities of its applying to this House. May I ask the noble Earl whether he would be good enough to bear in mind that, in the case of official delegations in which Members of your Lordships' House are included, if a delegation takes place during the sitting of your Lordships' House those noble Lords cannot, he they away on a one-week, two-week or three-week official delegation, claim the attendance fee whereas in the case of a delegation including Members of another House, their salary goes on just the same? In the past a number of us have suffered very badly from this situation. I would ask the noble Earl whether he had that matter in mind as well.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful for the response of noble Lords to what I said in introducing this Bill, and I can of course confirm that it is a certified Bill.

On what has been said by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition about the Lord Chancellor, I can really only echo what he has said: that this is a constitutionally exceptional office as well as being a highly important one. There is not only the question—this has been made clear in all recent consideration of the remuneration of this great, old office —of ministerial balance here but also the question of head-room so far as judicial salaries are concerned. I can of course confirm what my noble and learned friend said to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell: that Lord Shinwell was under a misapprehension in thinking that the Speaker element in this has been increased. It has in fact been decreased from £4,000 to £2,500. I think I could have given the same assurance to the noble Lord if it had been an increase as I am able to give to him in view of this decrease: that it implies no change in the functions which my noble and learned friend discharges as Speaker, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, should not regard this as a forecast of things to come, presaging a possible constitutional change.


My Lords, is it not a fact, as I believe, that there are a number of noble Lords who do not realise that the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack in fact does so in accordance with Standing Order 17 of 1660, and that he does attend the House of Lords as Speaker? It is just a very different kind of Speaker, with respect to the noble and learned Lord, from the Speaker in the other place.


My Lords, I would agree that it is a rather different sort of animal that we are talking about.

Turning to the two particular points which the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition especially mentioned, first, on the travel fund, I think there is a very good case here for the eligibility of noble Lords to a fund of this kind. But I would agree with what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has said: that if it is decided that such a fund should be set up it will require careful and scrupulous administration. I will, of course, in considering this matter—and I will be very open to representations on it from the noble Lord—bear in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.

So far as the differential between Junior Whips in another place and Lords in Waiting here is concerned—the differential in that which one might call their effective take-home pay—I would only say that, so far as the salary is concerned, Lords in Waiting receive £4,500 per annum; they are £500 better off than Junior Whips in another place. But I recognise what lay behind the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on this matter. This question of the differentials is something we should all be thinking about.


My Lords, would the noble Earl not agree that they are in fact £3,500 less well off in their take-home pay?


Yes, my Lords; this depends on the question how much they might be eligible to claim on one particular allowance, but grosso modo this is the case. But this, of course, is because of the constituency obligations of Junior Whips in another place—a matter to which the Royal Commission gave careful attention. I do not wish to prejudge what would be the right thing in the future. All I would say is that I believe this to be a matter which needs some pondering.

With regard to the point put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, I am grateful for her expression of appreciation. I am glad that those noble Lords who were eligible under the 1965 arrangements have had their pensions—to use the jargon—"jacked up" in accordance with other pensions in the whole public sector. This is absolutely right and I am glad that we had the necessary foresight to make provision for this in the Pensions Increase Act which we passed in the last Session.


My Lords, if the noble Earl will allow me, it might be appropriate at this stage for me to make the point which I have made in correspondence to the Leader of the other place but which has not been taken care of; namely, that anyone who has served less than ten years in another place and thus was not eligible for a pension there, has to wait for five years before he can get any of his contributions back. In the meantime, he receives interest at the rate of only 3 per cent. I am not taking this point up for myself, but I think it is absolutely monstrous that while in any other occupation a person who loses his job is entitled, as of right, to get his contributions back, Members of another place are forced to lend the money at this ridiculous interest rate of 3 per cent. for a period of five years.


My Lords, I am of course open to any representations made to me by this very active "club" whose membership derives from another place and which I regret I shall never be able to join. I think we should not occupy ourselves unduly with something that primarily concerns another place, but I would reiterate that I am most willing to consider the representations which have been made to me.


My Lords, before the debate is closed I should like to sound a note of dissent and discord. When I was young I was told that la noblesse does not discuss money matters, and especially not its own money matters. Also, we have had a Bill brought in during the miners' strike about another salary question. That Bill was unfortunate in timing although maybe not unfortunate in essence. The fact is that we have had these sectional wage claims and sectional salary demands, and indeed of course the demand for the Civil List provision. In my view this is a great disservice to the community. I think one ought not to have these sectional wage bargains but one ought to try to have a general equitable solution to all these income claims. It seems to me that, while no doubt in each case these proposals are quite justified, from a general point of view they are very regrettable.


My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, because I did not see that he was rising to his feet; but if I may, by leave of the House, I should like to reply to him. The noble Lord prefaced his remarks by saying that he was rising to strike something of a note of discord and dissent. I noted what he had to say, and all I would say is that it is not perhaps the first occasion on which he has struck a note of discord and dissent in your Lordships' House.

On Question, Bill read 2ª: Committee negatived.