HL Deb 27 July 1976 vol 373 cc1173-7

2.48 p.m.


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 have received any further recommendations from the Boyle Com mittee regarding pensions for ex-Members of the House of Commons; and, if so, what they were.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council announced in another place on 12th July, the Top Salaries Review Body has submitted a further report to the Prime Minister which should be published within the next few days. I think that it would be preferable to give all concerned the opportunity of studying the report.


My Lords, arising out of that Answer, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House whether he is aware that the House of Commons, during the last 10 years, has repeatedly raised the salaries and allowances of its Members—and, indeed, did so last week—whereas there are quite a number of people who served for many years in the House of Commons before 1964 at salaries which nothing like covered expenses, and with no allowances at all? Is he also aware that they get no pension at all and some of them are living in comparative penury? May I ask him whether he is further aware that I have had representations from Members on both sides of both Houses of Parliament asking me to do my best to bring this scandal to an end? Finally, may I ask whether he will ask Lord Boyle to hurry up? Otherwise we shall all be dead—which is what, I suppose, they want.


My Lords, I am not too sure about that. The noble Lord has persistently carried out a campaign on behalf of many of his colleagues who served for many years in another place but who had left the other place before the pension arrangements came into force. This matter was once referred to Boyle. It was because of the pressures which were placed upon me by other colleagues in another place that the matter was again sent to Boyle. As I have said, the report has been received. It will be published in the next few days and then there might be an opportunity for considering it, either in your Lordships' House or in another place. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, will recognise that this, at the end of the day, is a matter for the House of Commons.


My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether the Boyle report, which is to be submitted within the next two or three days, will affect Members of this House? For two years or so, Members have been promised that Boyle is considering matters affecting certain allowances for Members of this House, and each time an interim report has been issued by Boyle the membership of this House has been the missing link. Will we be included on this occasion?


My Lords, if my noble friend is referring to the system of expense allowances, the answer is, No. That report has yet to be received. Clearly, any recommendations by Boyle regarding the pensions of ex-MPs will apply to those who are also Members of this House.


My Lords, returning to the Question asked by my noble friend Lord Boothby, if the report is coming out within the next few days, does not that mean we shall not be able to discuss it until after the Recess? Is there a possibility of some method being found whereby, if the report is in favour—most of us hope that it is—of pensions being given to those Members, something can be done before the House resumes?


My Lords, I cannot anticipate the report. Clearly, this is a matter which would need to be considered by both Houses. We hope to rise for the Recess on Thursday; another place are sitting next week. I cannot believe that we shall be able to debate this report and take a decision by that time.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I can well understand Boyle settling what any rate might be if any rate is settled? However, I should think that the principle of whether something ought to be done is a matter for the Government, not for Boyle.


My Lords, of course it is a matter for the Government, and the reason why the Government sent it to Boyle was because there is a deep dilemma about this matter. If the principle were accepted that Members of Parliament who had left another place before the pension scheme became operative and had made no contribution, should suddenly be brought into the scheme, the ramifications would be immense throughout the country, or else Members of Parliament, whatever their experience or length of service, would be treated differently from the general public. If we get into a matter of principle, then things become difficult.


My Lords, could my noble friend tell me why a Member of Parliament is paid 11.8p per mile car allowance when a Member of the House of Lords, using the same car, has an allowance of 10.2p per mile?


I could, my Lords, but I will not because it does not arise from the original Question on the Order Paper.


My Lords, the Minister referred to those who have made no contribution. Can he explain to me what happened to the £30 a year which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and many other noble Lords, subscribed for many years towards Members' pensions? We have never seen any of it or heard anything more about it.


My Lords, the noble Lord, having been in another place, has had a privilege I have not shared. He will be aware that the contribution which he and his noble friend made was to a fund which was set up to deal with hardship to Members and their widows and existed before the pension scheme was brought into operation. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord that he checks his figures before, if I may say so, a sense of allegation of unfairness is brought in.


My Lords, reverting to the reply to the previous question, regarding the contribution to the new scheme, may I ask whether the noble Lord can confirm that the contributions to the new scheme in no way pay for the pensions? The contributions are simply a small fraction. Can the noble Lord tell us to what extent it is funded as a result of these contributions, and how much is funded by direct contribution from the taxpayer?


My Lords, I do not have those figures with me. I will communicate with the noble Lord on that. It is in line with what is normally contributed by persons in an occupational pension scheme. I will provide the necessary material for the noble Lord. My Lords, we have spent 18 minutes on two Questions.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!


Fortunately, my Lords, for once I have your Lordships with me. Next Question!