HL Deb 18 July 1974 vol 353 cc1233-5

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the unfairness which can arise between elected members of county councils and co-opted members serving on the same committee, where the former will receive an attendance allowance and the latter nothing in respect of the same duty.


My Lords, I accept that this can happen. It may arise from the fact that the new attendance allowance is payable only to elected councillors. A co-opted or appointed member may be entitled to the financial loss allowance instead, but only where there has been actual loss of earnings or extra expenditure necessarily incurred in order to enable him or her to perform the duty in question.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that clear reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that it is very few of these co-opted members, very few housewives, very few of those men and women who, having just reached retiring age, can give their services, time and experience on these committees, who in fact will be covered by the financial loss allowance; and since the noble Lord no doubt still believes in the rate for the job, will he consult with his colleagues and introduce some amending legislation so that this unfairness, which is admitted, can be put right in the public interest?


My Lords, I have to say that these payments were determined when we considered the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1972, and it is perhaps rather a pity that the matter was not pursued by the noble Lord at that time with a view to getting what from his point of view would be a more satisfactory solution.


I have only just discovered it!


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he detects a similarity between this Question, the matter of unfairness, and the position of Members of your Lordships' House, some of whom live in London and incur no excessive hotel expenditure while other noble Lords live outside the metropolis and incur substantial accommodation expenditure? Would he whisper into the ear of my noble friend the Leader of the House, who some time ago, in reply to a question I addressed to him, committed himself to making a definitive Statement, and I hope a satisfactory one, before the Recess.


My Lords, I would not wish to reprove my noble friend this afternoon for using the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, on local authorities to deal with matters in regard to your Lordships' House. He always uses great ingenuity and charm. I wish to be consistent. I said that it is my intention to make a statement before the Summer Recess, and that is still my intention.


My Lords, if I may revert to' the question of local authorities, is my noble friend really suggesting that because a mistake was made in 1972 it ought not to be put right now?


No, my Lords, indeed I would not suggest that. But I thought it right to draw attention to the fact that we so very recently had an opportunity of dealing with the matter in a different way.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that what is good for the county council is surely good for the district council? Further may I ask whether he is aware that the recent Report of the Prime Minister's Committee on local government rules of conduct unanimously recommended that the statutory register should be filled out by co-opted members as much as by elected members? Will he perhaps include this matter in the questions that are under consultation between the Government and the local authority associations, "in order that the law may be changed in due course? Then this clear unfairness, on which I think both sides of the House failed to comment when the Bill was before the House, can be put right so that there are equal rights for equal work among all local governors, whether elected or co-opted?


My Lords, I shall be pleased to draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, arising out of the Minister's reply to the Question of my noble friend Lord Inglewood, may I ask whether members of local authorities who are appointed to sit on community health councils are entitled to ask for an attendance allowance, whereas the other members, appointed by the region or by voluntary organisations, are not?


My Lords, that is a rather different field, and I should be pleased to consider it if the noble Baroness would table a Question.

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