HL Deb 12 July 1978 vol 394 cc1595-628

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. The main purpose of this Bill is to implement the recommendations for the Parliamentary Pension Scheme contained in Report No. 8 of the Top Salaries Review Body. It also makes a number of lesser administrative changes in the scheme. I should explain that although the Review Body's Report was presented to Parliament in July 1976, pay policy at that time virtually ruled out any improvement in occupational pension schemes. Accordingly we could not take immediate action. But from 1st August 1977 the restrictions were eased and we were then able to consider implementing the Review Body's recommendations.

I hope it will assist noble Lords' consideration of this measure if I begin by saying a little about the Review Body's approach to the Parliamentary Pension Scheme and about the Government's attitude to their Eighth Report. I must emphasise, first of all, that in examining the existing provisions of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme, the Review Body concentrated chiefly on the arrangements affecting Members of the House of Commons and, in particular, on how these arrangements matched up to those in public service schemes generally. Accordingly, most of the improvements that the Review Body recommended were confined to the scheme for current Members of the House of Commons (or the "basis scheme", as I shall call it). But some changes will affect those Members of this House who are eligible to participate in the "supplementary" scheme for holders of qualifying offices. This is, therefore, first and foremost a House of Commons measure. But I am sure that the House will have a general interest in the changes being introduced for Members in another place.

My Lords, having considered the recommendations of the Review Body, the Government decided that they were able to accept the proposals as a package (which is how the Review Body presented them). There are, of course, other improvements that some Members in another place would have wished to see in the Bill. There are probably measures that some noble Lords would wish to see in the Bill. And I cannot deny that some of the suggestions that were put to the Review Body—and which did not find a place among their recommendations—were in themselves attractive and might well have been beneficial to Members in both Houses. But it is always possible to think of desirable additions—that is in the nature of things in an imperfect world.

That is why, therefore, it is so much to our advantage to be able to refer such matters to the Top Salaries Review Body. This Body is independent and can look carefully and impartially at our Pension Scheme in comparison with similar schemes elsewhere. It can ensure that improvements in the scheme are introduced against the background of a thorough review of the overall level of benefits under it.

I believe this system works well and to the advantage of Members in both Houses of Parliament. And it is for this reason that the Government are reluctant to depart from the Top Salaries Review Body's recommendations, particularly in circumstances where a specific proposal put to them has been considered and rejected. We do not wish to undermine the Review Body's standing or to usurp its function. Indeed, we attach great importance to its work, and I think that it would be right for me to say a word of thanks on this occasion to the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and to his Committee. Theirs is a difficult task performed in a sensitive field.

I hesitate to detain your Lordships too long on the individual measures in this Bill. But there are certain features to which I would like to draw attention. First of all, I must acknowledge that the Bill is both technical and complex. Pension schemes are always complex and often difficult. Our scheme, I am advised, surpasses many others in the range and scope of its difficulties. This is because it is really two separate schemes—one for Members of Parliament and one for office holders—woven tightly together. And, as the House will be aware, there are many possible permutations of service both in this House and in another place. Moreover, the entire scheme is contained in legislation. Indeed, once this Bill is passed, interpretation of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme will require a reading list which includes at least 12 Acts.

It may be time to consider whether this continues to be the most sensible way of arranging things, or whether perhaps administrative rules under general legislation, such as those governing the Civil Service pension scheme, would be preferable. I see that a predecessor of mine, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, described the scheme as "complex but ingenious" when introducing the major improvements in the 1972 Act. But since then different provisions in the scheme have become subject to five additional Acts of Parliament. The noble Earl could scarcely have realised the extent to which his words would turn out to be not only apt at the time but also prophetic.

The Bill implements all the Review Body's recommendations and includes only one improvement that did not count among them, to which I shall return in a moment. The first main improvement is a new provision, in Clause 1 of the Bill, for Members of the House of Commons who have reached the age of 62 to retire at the end of a Parliament with their full pension accrued to that date. This change, which is restricted to Members of the House of Commons in service after the passing of this Bill, marks a very significant improvement on the present arrangements.

Clauses 2 to 5 contain new arrangements for retirement on ill-health grounds. The arrangements will also cover the retirement on ill-health grounds of the holder of a qualifying office. In all cases the Member or office-holder must satisfy the Trustees that he ceased to be a Member as a direct consequence of ill-health which was such as would prevent him from performing adequately the duties of a Member of the House of Commons. This test may seem a strange one where holders of qualifying offices are concerned, but this must, I think, be regarded as a reasonable test for the Trustees to apply and is, in a sense, the only consistent test that they would be able to apply. Although Members of the House of Commons will be eligible, subject to certain limitations, for enhancement of their pension entitlement when they retire on ill-health grounds, similar arrangements will not apply to members of the supplementary scheme in line with a specific recommendation of the Review Body. Former members of both schemes with service after the passing of this Bill who later have to retire on the grounds of ill-health from subsequent employment will, however, be eligible to receive an early pension.

My Lords, Clauses 6 and 7 contain improved arrangements for the widows' and dependants' pensions of those who die in service in the House of Commons. Clause 11(3) provides for Members actually in service in the House of Commons after the passing of the Act to receive an extension of back-service credit from 10 years (as at present) to 15 years for service as a Member of Parliament before the introduction of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme in 1964.

The Top Salaries Review Body considered the terms of this recommendation extremely carefully and reviewed a number of possible options, including that of allowing all previous service in the House of Commons to count as reckonable. Their conclusion was reached on balance against the background of their conclusions on the pensions arrangements as a whole. It was that the change should be restricted to those actually serving in the House of Commons. In reaching this conclusion they would doubtless have had in mind the invariable practice that improvements in public service pension schemes should not retrospectively confer improved benefits on those who are no longer contributing to the scheme in question. To do otherwise would be very costly in the larger public service schemes, and obviously inequitable if not applied consistently to all the many public service schemes.

As far as changes particularly affecting office-holders are concerned, I have referred already to the new arrangements for retirement on grounds of ill-health. The other main change which will be of benefit in the future to the holders of qualifying offices—particularly in this House—will be the reduction in Clause 15 in the qualifying period for pension under the supplementary scheme from four years to three. This change was tentatively suggested by the Review Body against the background that four years was a long time to qualify for pension in the unique context of tenure of Government Office. A further change I would just briefly mention is the provision in Clause 12 whereby, in future, officeholders will have a rather longer period (12 months in fact) to decide whether or not they wish to participate in the supplementary scheme. The Top Salaries Review Body accepted that three months was not long enough to reach a decision given all the other pressures on a newly appointed Minister.

Finally, certain office-holders will stand to benefit from the provisions of Clause 16 of the Bill—the appearance of which may look rather daunting. The main purpose of the clause is to bring about a small improvement in the position of those who retire from the House of Commons and then hold offices in the House of Lords with fairly low salaries. At present they may not receive any part of their pension earned as a Member of the House of Commons so long as they hold office in the House of Lords. Clause 16 would allow some or all of their pension to be paid up to the level where pension and salary together equal the current salary of a Back-Bench Member of Parliament.

Before I conclude my detailed comments on the Bill, my Lords, there are three other matters I should briefly mention. I explained earlier that there is one improvement in the Bill that was not among the Review Body's recommendations. This is an improvement in the basic rate of dependent children's pensions from an eighth rate to a quarter rate. It will be of advantage to the dependents of those in both the basic and supplementary schemes after the passing of this Act. This particular improvement was supported very strongly by the Trustees and commanded wide sympathy when the matter was discussed in another place. The Government therefore accepted the suggestion and it is now incorporated in Clause 8 of the Bill before your Lordships.

Secondly, on the question of the cost of the improvements, Clause 13 provides for an increase in contributions by Members of the House of Commons. But there is to be no increase in the rate of contribution to the supplementary scheme—reflecting the fact that almost all the improvements are restricted to those in the basic scheme.

Thirdly—and this is, I am sure, a matter that will be of considerable interest to a number of noble Lords—discussions in another place supported very strongly the introduction of changes in the arrangements for widower's pensions. I am now in a position to inform noble Lords that the Government have considered the views put forward and have decided, in the light of the opinions expressed, to introduce certain measures at Committee stage to give effect to the changes advocated by my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Social Services in another place. This will mean that all widowers of Members or office-holders with sufficient service to qualify for pension, will themselves receive a pension once they have reached the age of 65, or below that age if they are too ill to earn their own living.

My Lords, this is a modest Bill although a much needed one. It is primarily intended to bring the basic scheme for Members of the House of Commons up to the level of other public service schemes. It is not, I think, a Bill to arouse Party controversy although it is obviously one in which there is keen interest, and I know that some noble Lords feel very strongly on certain matters which will no doubt be raised today. However, I suggest to your Lordships that these provisions are no more than those required to ensure that Parliament continues to maintain the conditions of service for its Members that are required if it is to operate as an effective element in our democracy. I would therefore commend these provisions to your Lordships and I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

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

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the Leader of the House for introducing the Second Reading of this Bill. As he has said, it is principally a Commons' interest which therefore perhaps does not call for a great deal of comment from us beyond saying more is the pity that perhaps we do not sometimes recognise the long service which some of us here believe that we have contributed over the years. However, I dare say that this is not the right moment to raise that matter.

I am glad to see the name of the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, on the list of speakers, because he put down a Parliamentary Question on this subject the other day, but I think that I had better leave reference to that to him. I suppose that it is fair to say that everybody nowadays is in favour of pensions, especially if they think that they are likely eventually to be the beneficiaries of pensions. I have always found it such an incredibly complicated subject that I have studiously avoided getting embroiled in it in the past, and it is with some reluctance that I find myself trying to deal with it today.

It is fair to say that, so far as either House of Parliament is concerned, anything which enables Members to have the self-confidence and the security which makes it easier for them to resign without suffering too much must, in itself, be a good thing, because sometimes there comes a limit to how far one is prepared to put one's personal self-sacrifice in defence of a principle. I think that the Bill goes some way towards helping that situation.

Even by the normal complex standards of Parliamentary drafting, I am bound to say that I found the Bill extraordinarily difficult to understand and I am not, therefore, wholly surprised that the noble Lord the Leader of the House described it as technical and complex. I can assure him that there is no disagreement between us on that point at all. It seems to me that there are just two general points worth making. Some of the consequences of the way in which the Boyle Committee recommendations have been treated are pointed up in the Bill. We must face the fact that Members of Parliament are chronically underpaid and the situation is not getting better. I totally understand the reason why the Government have slightly shied away from feeling able to implement all the recommendations of the Boyle Committee, and I think that that really emphasises the rather curious anomaly that we now have, whereby the salary which is reckonable for pension purposes is different from the salary which is actually paid. That is a real "mad hatter" type of arrangement, but I can see that it was a device which had to be adopted to get us out of a difficult situation. However, I do not think that we should miss the opportunity to say that it is, nevertheless, a rather anomalous and unsatisfactory kind of arrangement to have been forced into.

To raise a purely practical matter, I was surprised that the noble Lord said that he would be introducing Amendments in this House during the Committee stage. That seems a curious way to deal with a Bill which is basically a House of Commons interest and as regards which one would have thought that it would have been more satisfactory if the Amendments were introduced in another place. However, I imagine that there was some sophisticated timing issue which made that necessary. So, from these Benches, all I should like to say is that we shall hasten the Bill on its passage through this House with perhaps a tiny tinge of envy as regards what it does for Members of another place and how little it does for those here.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I should like to ask whether there is any chance of the Opposition Front Bench showing sympathy in a practical way to the point that ex-Members who served in the other place in the early 1950s have 15 years taken into account as regards their pension, instead of being restricted to 10? Only a limited number of Members can be involved. It concerns only those who are still alive and who served at that time. That seems to me to be a recommendation that this House could give to another place which would make the Bill so much more fair in terms of reflecting a true, honest pension scheme.


My Lords, I think that I must answer that question by saying that I should like to discuss this matter with my noble friend and perhaps, through the usual channels, with the Leader of the House, to see what possibility there is of meeting that point at a later stage.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for introducing the Second Reading of the Bill and I do so most sincerely because I believe that anything that can be done for Members of Parliament by way of salaries and pensions should be done. Those of us who have served in another place—and there are Members on both sides of this House who have done so—will realise how difficult life there is on occasions. Members come in at quite a late age and leave as a result of a General Election and, in the old days, did so without very little consideration.

In fact, the Bill now under consideration amends the first "pension of right" Bill which was introduced in late 1964 and which became the 1965 Act. During my 22 years in another place it was my duty—I was going to say, "pleasure", but very often it was not a pleasure—to negotiate with Prime Ministers and Leaders of the House of Commons of all complexions. I can look back on so many occasions when I asked for increases in the Members' salary and, of course, in the Members' pension which eventually was introduced in 1964. They were not easy days. When I first entered Parliament in 1945 the salary was £600 a year. I do not know what it is today, but it was difficult enough in those days to manage on that sum and to keep two homes going. However, we are not discussing Members' pay at present; we are discussing Members' pensions—Parliamentary pensions.

If I may be allowed a little historical retrospection, I should like to recall that until 1964 there was no Members' pension as of right. There was what used to be called—I think that it probably still is—a Members' Fund to which Members contributed way back in the 1930s £2 a month (£24 a year.) And the retirement pension of the day, called an old age pension—which in 1945 was 10 shillings—was made up to something which enabled them to live a little easier. That Members' Fund does, in fact, still exist today. Of course, there have been many changes in it. It is still worked on the same basis; that is to say, a Member who served in the House of Commons before the 1965 Act and had the qualifying number of years—that is, 10 years, which I think has since been changed—could have his income from all sources made up to a figure which was thought enough to enable him to live—not comfortably, but sufficient to get by.

I was a trustee of that Fund for a number of years and I can assure noble Lords that on occasions the circumstances were harrowing. We took into consideration the value of the house that a man lived in and thought that that gave him certain income; whereas, if he paid rent a different figure was arrived at. That Members' Fund has been called a means test. In those days—and I suppose that we still do so—we used to camouflage it by calling it a "help" rather than a means test, or perhaps a "needs" test.

But before the General Election of 1964 there was still pressure from Members of Parliament for an increase in salary, which was then £1,750 a year, and for a pension fund. Successive Prime Ministers and Leaders of the House had always given the same answer: "Now is not the time; the country cannot afford it at this time". But it is to the undying credit of the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel—and I wish that he were present to hear me say this—that in 1963 he had the courage to set up a Committee under Sir Geoffrey Lawrence with a view to looking at the whole question of ministerial salaries, Members' pay and Members' pensions. A General Election was imminent and it was felt right that the Lawrence Committee should not report until after the Election. There was a tacit understanding—I do not say that it was as firm as a tacit agreement—between the Opposition and the Government that, whatever happened in the 1964 General Election, the Lawrence Committee would report to the new Government and some action would be taken upon its findings.

An Election did take place and Sir Harold Wilson became Prime Minister. The Lawrence Committee reported to him. It was from that date in 1964, as a result of the Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill, that we had the first pension in the House of Commons as of right. It was a wise and courageous step to take because there is always criticism about Members' salaries. Members' salaries were increased to £3,250 and we did a number of other things. However, that was not actually done under the Bill; it was done by order.

The 1964 Bill, which I introduced into the House of Commons, introduced payment for the first time for the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords and payment for the first time for two Opposition Chief Whips, one in the Commons and one in the Lords. I had served as a Whip for 17 years and, although introducing the Bill myself, I felt a little uncomfortable about introducing a pension and a salary for the Opposition Chief Whip for the first time, having served in that Office for at least nine years and for eight years as a Whip. However, it was done and it was the right thing to do. That was the basis of this Bill. The contributions, as my noble friend has just reminded me, were £150 a year. We did a number of other things in the 1965 Act which were worth doing, but I think that our action on the pension fund was the most important. It took the place of the old Members' Fund. For a contribution of £150 a year, out of a new salary of £3,250, a pension as of right was introduced.

The Lawrence Committee's Report dealt with the current situation, but it also took into consideration the many years of service before 1964 of Members of the House who were in the House of Commons after the General Election of 1964. For example, many of us went in with a rush in 1945 and wondered how we had got there, but we were there. Others, like my noble friend Lord Shinwell, were old stagers in the House of Commons even in 1945. The Lawrence Committee reported that that service up to 1964 could be reckoned for pension purposes only as to 10 years. For example, if anyone served—and I declare an interest here—as I did in 1967, which was three years on from 1964, with 10 years' service before, he received a pension for 13 years' service. I myself had been at that time in the House for 22 years; but that provision was thought right at that time.

There is one other point in that report which is of interest; namely, the increase in salaries of Cabinet Ministers. The House will be interested to know that up until 1964 the salary of a Cabinet Minister was £5,000 a year. But it had been £5,000 a year since 1831. Therefore, an increase after 133 years was not out of the question. The recommendation of the Lawrence Committee was that a senior Minister's salary should be £12,000 a year, but the Prime Minister and the Government decided that they would only take half, so a senior Minister's salary became £8,500.

I turn to the provisions of the pensions Bill at that time. As my noble friend reminded me, the contribution was £150. For every year that we could count for pensions purposes—that is, every year actually served, which had to be a full year, plus the 10 per cent. or less that we may have earned before; and it could not be less in 1964 but it could be less at this stage of course—the pension was £60 a year in the case of a Member of Parliament and half that amount, £30 a year, for a widow: the widow received half of her husband's pension. As my noble friend the Leader of the House has reminded us, after that date in 1964 there were a number of amendments. I believe I am right in saying that the 10-year qualification for a pension became a four-year qualification, but the reckonable service remained at 10 years for any service exceeding 10 years before 1964. Of course, many Members of Parliament had served for that longer period.

I turn to the Bill before us. Although I welcome it and everything that it does for sitting Members of Parliament, I think an improvement could be made under Clause 11 for those Members who have retired from the other House. Some of them are to be found on each side of this House, but the majority are now outside Parliament altogether. In reply to a Parliamentary Question a week or so ago I was informed that this applies to 70 Members and 45 widows. I ask the Government to consider that the reckonable service of those Members whose reckonable service is 10 years—that is to say, who served many years more than 10 years in the House of Commons before 1964—should be increased to the 15 years which this Bill provides in the case of present Members. I am sure that we shall be told in reply that there ought not to be any retrospection, but, in fact, there has already been a slight element of retrospection in the Bill before us. Equally, we shall be told that it was not contained in the Boyle Report. In my view it is rather interesting that the recommendations of the Boyle Report—and, incidentally, this is the eighth Boyle Report—seem to be selected by the Government according to whether or not they want to use them. For example, there is a recommendation in the Boyle Report that the salary of Members of Parliament should be £8,000 a year. It has not been accepted. It ought to have been. It is a small amount and it is a necessary amount for a Member of Parliament. But they have decided that so far as the 70 pensioners and 45 widows, about whom I am speaking, are concerned there must be no retrospection. I hope they will he prepared to think again.

During the debates on this Bill in another place this question was raised by one or two Members, including the right honourable gentleman who was speaking from the Front Bench for the Opposition, Mr. Francis Pym; and I think it is somewhat ludicrous to suggest that this small adjustment for the Members who retired after 1964 and who have 10 years' reckonable service could be very costly. I do not know what my colleagues feel but I hope I am speaking on behalf of some of them. All I am asking is that five years should be added on, and added on from the date of the Bill we are now considering, which has not yet had the Royal Assent. At the outside, according to my figures, it could mean £300 for a Member or £150 for his widow added to the existing pension.

It is true that the Parliamentary pension has been tied to (as is the Civil Service pension) and linked with the cost of living index, which has been helpful, but if one simply took the basic figure of £300 and added it on this year, the total cost would be rather less than £30,000. The Government would take back at least 33 per cent. in tax, so it would work out at about £23,000. On the other hand, if the Government care to be generous and add the cost of living index figure over that since the period when it started in 1964—again these are my figures—it would cost about £55,000.

I am sorry, in a sense, that this proposal has had to come from me and had to come from this House. It ought to have been done, and ought to have been said, and there ought to have been an Amendment, in another place, because the main recipients, the 70 pensioners and 45 widows, are outside of both Houses. They are the people we should be endeavouring to help. It is not costly. I know that anything that is suggested from this House—and I regret to say it—is treated by some people in another place who have rather a jaundiced view about this House, as though we ought not to be meddling in what is really a House of Commons matter. It is true that it is mainly a House of Commons Bill, but it applies to pensioners most of whom are outside both Houses, and some of whom are here. I hope that the Government will listen with sympathy and that my noble friend, when bringing his other Amendment on Committee stage, will bring one to put this matter right.

3.44 p.m.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, like my noble friend who has just spoken, I must declare an interest in that I was in the other place for a period of 25 years, and as I retired from the other place after 1964 I qualified for a contributory Parliamentary pension. It is one of the embarrassing facts of our system that Members of Parliament are put in the odious position of having to fix their own Parliamentary salaries, expenses and pensions. I wish that there were some other means of doing this, with some outside body to do it. It means that Members in another place and ourselves are the only people who can speak on this Bill. But I make no apology for this because, as my noble friend has just said, most of the people who would be affected if we had the amendment that we would wish are people outside both Houses of Parliament.

I met one of them this morning in the corridors of this building. He had come to London from Scotland for a few days. When he heard that some of us were going to speak about this Bill this afternoon he was very pleased indeed that somebody was remembering him and people like him outside both Houses of Parliament. He said that it had made his day. I welcome this Bill in general because of the improvements that it makes, and particularly those for widows and children. As my noble friend the Leader of the House has said, Parliamentary pensions are very complicated. As was said in another place, there are five Parliamentary Bills covering the pension scheme, and ten documents which Members have to read in order to to realise just what is the position.

My noble friend pointed out that previous to 1965 there existed only the Members' pension fund, to which Members subscribed, and in regard to which benefits were issued on a means test basis. When we had the 1965 pensions Bill it was only for those who were serving in the House of Commons then and not for anybody who had given service before that time, even though, like some Members of this House, that service might have been 20, 30, or 40 years.

Let us consider what kind of service it was before that time. My noble friend has just referred to the fact that when we were first elected to Parliament in 1945 the salary was £600. It was afterwards raised to £1,000, and much later on to £1,750. But not only was the position that the salary was low; there were no expenses whatsoever. We had to pay our own secretaries. There was no living in London allowance. Those of us who lived in the Provinces had to keep a home in the Provinces and a home in London. There was no postage allowance. We had to buy our own postage stamps and stick them on. There were no free telephone calls even to our constituencies. I remember that when we wished to telephone our constituents on urgent matters, or when we had to telephone to Government Departments within our constituencies, there was no STD and we had to go down to a Members' telephone room, give the number to the man in charge from the post office, and he would then set the time on a clock and at the end of our call he would then say: "Five shillings", or, "Seven and sixpence, please." I only say this to show that those people who are getting no pension whatsoever, except perhaps a means-tested one, are people who gave this service to the country at that time.

I should have thought that the service they gave, and the way they were remunerated, really means that they should have some consideration. Even though they have not in actual pounds contributed to a scheme, I think that they made a most adequate contribution in the kind of service that they rendered. My noble friend said that perhaps it is not a means-tested pension; but while I want to pay tribute to those who administer the Members' Fund because they are quite generous, nevertheless, it is a means-tested pension.

I knew very well a woman who was the widow of a Member of this House and who died before the pension scheme came into operation in 1964. She was a local public figure who had fought hard all her life to do away with the means test. She told me that the most dreadful day of her life was when she had to fill in the form putting down all her income, what she had in the bank, and so on, in order to get the pension. She was treated fairly well, but still it was a means-tested pension. Incidentally, she happened to be a member of a local authority, and when councillors were paid that was the end of her pension.

In another place it was said that any Amendment to bring in the pre-1964 people—that is the people who left the House of Commons before 1964—would not be in order in this Bill, and I accept that the way in which the Bill is drawn makes it impossible. They are a dwindling number of people and I should have thought there was a way round the dilemma. It is said that they have not contributed but, as was stated in another place, neither have civil servants. This matter should have attention, although I appreciate it is impossible to table an Amendment to this measure to put the situation right.

I now want to refer to something which is in the Bill and to which my noble friend Lord Aylestone referred. Clause 11(3) says: … after the words 'ten years' there shall be inserted the words 'or, in the case of a person who is or was a Member of the House of Commons after the passing of the Act of 1978, fifteen years'.". In 1965, when the pensions Act was passed, those who were in then and had been in for some time were credited with 10 years' back service, which meant that our period began in 1955, even though we had been in in 1945; at any rate, we were credited with 10 years' back service. Clause 11(3) extends that 10 years to 15, back to 1950, but only for those who are in the House of Commons now and not for those who have left it. I cannot see the purpose of inserting that for Members of the House of Commons who are in now and not for those who have left. My noble friend the Leader of the House—I sympathise with him in his task today—has said that this is because those who have left will not have contributed to the extra amount which they would get, but a number of those in the present House of Commons will be retiring at the next General Election.

A noble Lord: When will that be?

Baroness BACON

We do not know when the General Election will take place, my Lords, but, whenever it is, those people will have contributed very little indeed to the extra five years' service with which they will be credited. Some of my noble friends and I feel that we should probably table an Amendment in Committee to discuss this matter. I do not think the House of Commons fully considered this aspect; no Amendment was put down there, and I do not think some of the Members realise what an injustice Clause 11 will be doing to those who have left another place. It is only if we in this House carry an Amendment that the matter can be reconsidered in another place. I realise the difficulty in that the Government would need to move a Money Resolution in the House of Commons. There is of course an alternative; if, perhaps, the Leader of the House could persuade his colleagues in the Government, he could table a Government Amendment at a later stage of the Bill.

The Leader of the House said the Government felt they had to adhere to the recommendations of the Boyle Committee. They have accepted various recommendations of that Committee, including those on the salaries of the heads of the nationalised industries. If the Government are so keen to adopt the Boyle recommendations, I am wondering when we in this House can expect the Government to say that they accept the Boyle recommendation in regard to the expenses of Members of your Lordships' House. It is a long time since that report was received and so far nothing has been done, but I realise that that is another matter.

It is admitted by Government spokesmen in both Houses that Members' pensions are riddled with anomalies. Clause 11 produces another anomaly, and I hope that we can at any rate get rid of that one. I am sure the Leader of the House is sympathetic in this respect, and I feel sure that if he makes the necessary representations, the Government will have another thought about the matter so that the problem can be rectified.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, most of the special pleading has already been done and I suggest that what we want to explore is the possibility of action. The traditional stinginess of public, Press and Parliament towards Members of Parliament has never really been overcome, and some of us remember the tortuous history of how the conditions of Members of Parliament came to be considered by a Review Body. Sir Winston Churchill took the view that Parliament must have the courage to settle its own conditions; it could not pass the responsibility to somebody else. But of course when Select Committees were set up to consider the matter and made recommendations, Governments were reluctant to accept those recommendations. Thus, we got practically nowhere by allowing the House the prerogative of settling its own conditions, and that is why in 1964—although the matter began in 1963—there was a pact between the main political Parties that the so-called Lawrence Committee should consider all these matters and that the report should lie on the table ready to be opened by whatever Government came to power after the General Election of 1964. I was there when Pandora's Box—the report of the Lawrence Committee—was opened.

Two views could be taken of the Lawrence Report at that stage, bearing in mind the acute economic problems that confronted the country at the time of the change of Government in October 1964. One was to do nothing about it for a while. The other was to accept the Lawrence Report, which the Parties had undertaken to do, and implement it—the whole of the report and nothing but the report. That seemed a fairly straight, though perhaps courageous, line for the Government to take, but they did not take it. They shied away from the Lawrence Committee recommendations for increases in the pay of Cabinet Ministers. In 1964, the Cabinet cut back by half the increases proposed for Ministers by the Lawrence Committee. Indeed, some people would have been willing to cut back the recommendations for Members of Parliament as well, such was the mood of the incoming Cabinet at that most difficult time.

A precedent was set on a matter which is relevant to the debate today, that of reckoning past service for pension purposes. The Lawrence Committee recommended that past service up to 10 years should be reckonable; beyond that nothing should be reckonable. Some of us—I declare an interest in the matter—lost service in the House of Commons by restricting the reckonable service to 10 years. I lost five years' reckonable service. Ever since then, that precedent has dogged Ministers, Members of Parliament and everybody; if you depart from that precedent, you are warned that all sorts of reactions and repercussions will gather forth and you will find yourself, as the Minister of State said in another place, on the slippery slope.

In another place, the Minister of State oozed sympathy; it came out of his ears—it was sympathy all along the line—and why the whole place was not reduced to tears I do not know. Of course it was very hard and one could be very sympathetic, but it was very difficult indeed to break with the precedent set so many years ago. There is only one thing to do with a precedent—unless you are going to follow it religiously and slavishly—and that is to break it, to decide that different considerations apply years after the precedent was set, and to take the ministerial courage in both hands and decide on something more equitable in the light of present conditions.

Members of your Lordships' House will find this far too tedious to look into, but I would recommend inquiry into the problems of the counting of unestablished service for pension purposes in the Civil Service between 1935 and 1949. A Royal Commission recommended that one-half of unestablished service should count for pension. That recommendation was implemented in the 1935 Superannuation Act but when my friend of great dash and panache, Hugh Dalton, became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1946 he decided to cut that and he took the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which had been limited to service rendered after a date in 1935, right back to 1919. So, when Chancellors make up their minds to do something, they can do it.

I do not think for a moment that what is being sought as a change in this Bill carries any real perils at all. When are we going to realise that service in Parliament is very different from service in the public sector, where careers are continuous, where security of employment is mostly granted, where there are no elections to turf you out, where there is no Left Wing to say that it is tired of you, and where you go on until you have completed your service and then you find that you have 40 years' pensionable service, probably reckoning some part of unestablished service to count at the very beginning? What has this to do with service in Parliament, where the hazards of elections, of health and of electoral selection all have a bearing on one's continuity of service?

I hope that it is possible for us to put down an Amendment to this Bill to extend, where applicable, to those at present in receipt of a pension under the scheme the benefit of the extra five years provided in Clause 11 of the Bill. That is really all that is necessary. I know that this will be unfair in some respects. It is impossible to retrieve the meanness of the past. One can only get a fairly rough equation of what is right and proper. That Amendment would create no new pension, it would only add to pensions already in payment; it would raise nobody from the dead, it would merely add a marginal increase, based on the extra five years of service reckonable for serving Members of Parliament, to the amount of pension under Clause 11

If that Amendment is put down, I have no doubt we shall be in difficulties. I understand that another place could take no notice of it. Unless there is a Money Resolution, put down in another place to cover the expenditure of this Amendment, nothing need be done. Sometimes another place regards inactivity as by far the best answer to a difficult proposition. It may be, therefore, that another place may say, "Well, we are just going to do nothing and if we do nothing then this Amendment will be out of order when it gets to another place".

I do not know, but I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will be able to guide us in this situation. Are we wasting our time or must we get militant, go marching down the corridor into another place, besiege the Members' Lobby there and tell them that we are angry at this shabby treatment of so many former Members of the House of Commons who are now in this place?

That is all I have to say. Either it can be done and there is a willingness to do it, or there is not; and I believe that this is the opportunity for the Government to show a little generosity. We are the meanest treated Parliament in the world and everybody knows it. Everybody sees the figures and other Parliaments cannot understand it. They wonder what sort of Parliament we get on the basis of the pay, allowances and expenses that are given to the British Parliament. I do not think it befits the dignity of this Parliament that we have to make this kind of plea to get a little back service counted for a small pension already drawn by many former Members of the House of Commons who are now in your Lordships' House.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, it was only today that I discovered that this Bill was coming before your Lordships' House. I had neglected to observe that this would happen. In the last few days I have been absent from the House and from London, but I put my name down at once and I knew that I was to follow, according to our usual traditions, my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby.

Obviously this is a Bill we cannot oppose. It is a House of Commons matter, but if there are defects or alleged defects in this proposed legislation there is no reason why they should not be ventilated and even exposed. I must confess that when I occasionally read in the newspapers about the moanings and groanings of some of my colleagues in another place I observe, but in a jocular fashion, that if I had only known that they were going to be so well off I would never have resigned from the House of Commons. In fact, there was no reason why I should. After all, I was only 84 or 85 and I was not asked by my constituency in Easington to resign. I notified them that I felt that I was entitled to some retirement and that I did not intend to stand at the next Election. When I met them, they were a bit reluctant to accept my proposed resignation, but I prevailed upon them to allow me to escape. It is a paradise now compared to what it used to be.

My noble friend Lord Aylestone, with his usual clarity, dealt partly with the history of this affair. I entered the House of Commons back in 1922. I stood first in 1918, but owing to the manoeuvring of Lloyd George I did not obtain the consent of the electorate by a small majority. It might have changed the whole course of our political history if I had won on that occasion; but I did not, and I had to wait until 1922. In all, in Scotland and in 35 years in the two Durham constituencies consecutively, I had about 43 years service. That is why I can perhaps claim to be the oldest inhabitant.

I can remember when I went to the House of Commons first we had £400 a year and we had to pay our fares to our constituencies. That situation was very difficult for us. There are some very amusing stories about it. I had a colleague who was a brother of Keir Hardie. He and I clubbed together, and some weekends we did not have enough money for our fares to go home, to go up to Scotland. Nor did we have very much money to provide ourselves with food. We made the acquaintance of some of the shabbiest, dirtiest, beastliest restaurants in the whole of London. We had to search the purlieus of some areas in order to get a meal, sometimes for six pence or eight pence. I remember that sometimes on a Sunday at a restaurant we would get a joint and two "veg" for a shilling. That was all right; we could manage that.

That was the kind of thing that happened. As my noble friend Lady Bacon has pointed out, we had to pay all our postage and such like. But we never complained about it at that time. I can say very sincerely and earnestly, and with no exaggeration—I am not asking for any compassionate sympathy because of this—that we were rebels against injustice. We wanted to do something for the country, and we thought that by going into Parliament we might be able to do it. I wish I could believe that we have achieved as much as we hoped to achieve. But there it is.

Then it came to 1964, though before then we had the Members' Benevolent Fund, to which we contributed £24 a year. Then along came the noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Handsworth, with his scheme. I do not know whether he is present at the moment, but I can say even in his absence—I think he would agree with it—that he apologised to me many times for the piece of legislation for which he was responsible, because of its effect on me. But the fact is that I never complained at any time, and I am not complaining now.

My noble friend Lord Aylestone was incorrect in one point, when he said that no Amendment was moved in the other place. It is true that there has been no Amendment on this Bill. But frequently old colleagues of mine have referred to my special case, saying that when it came to a pension I had to rely on 10 years' reckonable service although at that time I had given practically 40 years' service. However, I have never complained about it, and I do not complain now. I am not asking for sympathy or compassion.

I agree that there is a defect in the legislation. It does not much affect people like myself. It would have some effect, but not much. I should still be able to have three meals a day and so on, and I could always borrow a few shillings from my colleagues here, if necessary. I do not know whether they would respond, but I could try it on. Rather, I am concerned about one or two cases involving Members of your Lordships' House. Let us take the situation of my noble friend Lord Blyton, who is present today. He and I are old friends, and we shall remain so until the end. I do not know how long that will be; I am no astrologer. He relies on the Benevolent Fund and the means test, despite his long service.

There is also the case of my noble friend Lord Boothby. He happened to resign from the House of Commons and came to your Lordships' House just before 1964, and he is therefore deprived of a pension. There are cases of that kind, and that is all so wrong. But that was what happened under the Boyle scheme. I do not for a moment blame Lord Boyle. I have no complaint against him. He had his terms of reference, and he produced the legislation which was required.

Here I wish to refer to a very important point which should be remembered. Part of the scheme was a gracious act on the part of the Government then in existence. Previously no contribution was made, apart from the £24 which we paid to the Benevolent Fund. It was only after 1964 that Members of Parliament contributed £150 a year. It all boils down to reckonable service. If the Government accept the proposed suggestion to increase the period of reckonable service from 10 to 15 years it will apply to some Members of another place now; they will get the benefit of it. If it is decided to apply the proposal retrospectively to those Members who either left before 1964, or who remained after 1964 but had not only 10 years' but 15 years' service—some, such as myself and a few others, had much longer—it would remedy a defect, and would at the same time provide some Members of your Lordships' House, as well as those who are now outside, with rather more than they have.

It should be remembered that the pension is subject to tax. I think about this point when I make my returns to the Inland Revenue and receive my assessment. I wonder whether my noble friend the Leader of the House could take note of what I have in mind here, and perhaps make an arrangement with the Inland Revenue so that, instead of receiving the amount I now get, I would receive the amount I pay in tax on the pension! I should then be much better off. I do not know whether that could be arranged, but it would make all the difference. One receives a pension based on reckonable service—which is in itself an anomaly—and then one has to pay tax on it. That kind of thing is not good enough.

I do not know what your Lordships' House will do about this matter. After all, it is not a matter for us but for the other place. However, they might take note of what has been said, and I hope that perhaps they will have regard in a compassionate way, not for people like myself—I do not bother about it at all—but for those people, to whom my noble friend Lady Bacon has referred, who are now outside the House, are still alive, but are not doing very well.

Action such as that covering children and widowers is being taken, and I agree with this. I see that my noble friend Lord Castle is smiling. He knows exactly what I mean. I do not mean that I am expecting him to become a widower. There is no such idea in my mind, though that kind of situation can arise. If it has been decided to make certain new arrangements to amend the legislation in those directions, there is no reason why the same should not be done regarding reckonable service. If that were done, we should all be very grateful and very happy, and we might be able to enjoy ourselves a little more than we do.

I want to make my own personal position quite clear. I have never complained about my own position, but my colleagues in another place have raised the matter time and time again, and I have said to them, "Don't bother me with that sort of thing". I am not complaining at all, but there are some people whose need is greater, and I hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House can use his very great influence with the Cabinet and persuade the Government to remedy one or two defects.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for not having put my name on the list of speakers for the debate, but I was away on business and I did not realise that the debate was taking place this afternoon. As one or two noble Lords opposite know, I have been connected with this matter for a very considerable time, and I feel that I could, and should, make a small contribution. First, I wish to say how much I appreciated the tribute paid, in his absence, to my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone. My noble friend acted very courageously in what was, after all, a pre-election situation in 1964 in appointing the Lawrence Committee. I was particularly interested because, being then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I was in fact my noble friend's executive arm for the appointment of the Committee, and I think was myself responsible for what I still consider was the very good selection of Sir Geoffrey Lawrence to undertake the chairmanship of the Committee, which he did so well and so successfully.

I have listened to the debate with great interest. I was particularly interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, said about the treatment of those Members of another place who went out, in most cases involuntarily, in 1964, and therefore did not get the benefit of the 10 years' back service with which those of us who, like herself and me, retained their seats on that occasion, were credited. It has always seemed to me that that was grossly unfair; and, if the noble Baroness is successful in getting an Amendment through the procedural tangles, I for my part will be very tempted to support her in righting what I believe is a long-standing wrong. On the other point, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, like many other people I would then have an interest, and I must therefore keep an open mind on that.

What I really want to say is that, judging from the tone of this debate, I think we are at risk in kidding ourselves that we are now making things satisfactory in respect of remuneration in another place. I do not believe that that is so for a moment. The rate of remuneration of Members of another place is, by international comparison, extremely low. Noble Lords will have seen the problems that have arisen in connection with the remuneration of Members of the European Parliament, in an attempt to find a level which is not too out of line either with our low level or with the much higher levels which our European friends pay. I still regard the level paid to Members of another place as really outrageously low and, perhaps, from the broad social point of view, dangerously low.

Moreover, by this Bill we are not making life in another place into a reasonably secure career pattern. I do not suppose we should; but we kid ourselves a little if we provide (as this Bill, as I understand it, does) for those sad cases where, on medical grounds, a Member has to retire during his working life, but do not touch the far greater number of cases where a Member is involuntarily retired by the electorate. In these days, when it is becoming increasingly difficult for a Member of another place to earn very much outside, the situation of such a Member who loses his seat, perhaps in middle life, perhaps with a young family, is a very serious one indeed, and is one which this Bill does very little, if indeed anything, to remedy.

I know that there are purists who say, "Back-Bench Members ought to have another profession or means of earning", and in many cases I am quite sure that this is right. But it is frankly not always feasible for people whose occupations or whose past professional experience do not fit in with earning a living in London. It is probably all right for members of my old profession, the law, or for journalists or accountants, but for people from industry it poses a very difficult problem; and I think we want to be quite clear in our own minds that we are doing absolutely nothing by this Bill or in any other way to remedy this.

Before I make a suggestion, I should like to emphasise that this is even more extreme in the case of Ministers. I know that all Ministers, while they are Ministers, think that they are officially immortal. I know that, in the event, they are all in due course proved to be wrong. But what is so serious in their case is that there is no question of their earning a living in any other way. Except, I think, in the case of writing a book or running a farm—both of which exercises the late Mr. Richard Crossman was able to do, but either of which most of the rest of us, when in office, had little opportunity to do—one is forbidden to earn a living outside at all as a Minister. I can cite my own experience. I had been a Minister for almost exactly 13 years when my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, after the Election of 1964, tendered the resignation of the Government to Her Majesty. I had been for those 13 years absolutely debarred from earning a living in any other way. Yet my official salary—and, as the noble Lord opposite has pointed out, it was one in the case of which the rates had been fixed in the 1830s—terminated, not merely at the end of the week in which the resignation of the Government took place but on the Friday on which my noble friend went to the Palace. Any private employer who treated an employee of 13 years by cutting him off on the day of departure would suffer very appropriate maltreatment from Press, public and courts. But this is what is done to Ministers: and let me warn the Lord Privy Seal that if what is quite likely to happen in October does happen, he will find himself in the same position even although his long and distinguished period of ministerial service was not in fact continuous, as mine was.

So I feel that for Ministers in particular, and for Members of another place, there should be some form of resettlement arrangement; that when someone who, after a number of years as a Minister, or perhaps for a larger number of years as a Member of another place, loses his office or his seat, he should have his salary or some part of it continued for some period while he resettles himself in another occupation. That is outwith this Bill. I do not think it would be possible to set down an Amendment dealing with that, because it is plainly beyond the scope of this Bill; but it is the sort of point which, when we are discussing this. I should like to put forward.

I think it is particularly good that we in this House should ventilate these matters. As the noble Lord opposite pointed out, it is the inherent difficulty of Members of another place that most decent and honourable people hate having to fix their own remuneration or rewards. It is embarrassing, it is awkward, and you always feel that there are harder cases than your own. But we in this House, reasonably detached from these problems, can look at it objectively; and we can also look at it, not solely from the point of view of the impact on the individual Member of another place but from the broader point of view, which is very much our responsibility, of the efficient working of the British governmental and political system. I am convinced, after some experience of this, that the low level of remuneration and its precarious nature, both of Ministers of the Crown and of Members of another place, works quite seriously against the efficient operation of our Constitution and the administration of this country. I have intervened in this debate very largely for the purpose of saying just that.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I will detain the House for only a few moments, but I should like to endorse all that has been said this afternoon. It has been a good debate, particularly the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. Like other speakers, I have been involved in Parliament for a long time—32 years. Looking round this House, I see that there are about a dozen of us here who went into the other place in 1945. In fact, there are today rather more Members in this House of 1945 vintage than there are in the other place, which is quite extraordinary. Nevertheless, I do not think a country can have government on the cheap; and, as my noble friend who has just spoken said, the British Parliament is probably the worst paid in the Free World.

I recall, after the war, a few ex-Members of the House of Commons who, before they died, went on to National Assistance. They were men who had given their life's work. Then, the widows. I recall the case of the wife of a Cabinet Minister (I will not mention which side) whose husband died. He had sold out his endowment policies to keep office. She received a pension of £300 a year, and the hat had to be put round. It really is absolutely wrong. Then there is the number of men and women who have refused office in another place because they could not afford to take the job on, as they had a growing family in the middle of their education, or a mortgage on the home. We have lost untold numbers of Parliamentarians who just could not afford to take on the job. Up to the post-war years, I think a Cabinet Minister received £5,000 a year, which was about the same as the salary in 1870, when the judges got £5,000 a year.

A noble Lord: It was 1830.


My Lords, I stand corrected—1830. I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is well versed and sympathetic in these matters, to look at this matter afresh. It has always been said, "If a Government increase the pay of the Parliamentarians, they lose votes in elections". That just is not so. I have watched it over the years and when Parliamentarians got an increase it made no difference to the votes in their respective constituencies. When this Bill goes back I am sure that the other place should look at an Amendment with sympathy if one is put down here because it is a very deserving case. And when you add up the sum, it amounts to very little money in relation to what is spent by the country—a very small sum. I hope that an Amendment will be put down which will be recommended to another place.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, I am sorry that I did not put my name down. I was upstairs in Committee and could not hear the first part of the debate. I should like to know whether an Amendment could be put down. To give my own case, which is not of very great relevance, I became Minister of Works in November 1951; I remained in Government until 1962, when I retired. I came back as Paymaster-General for three years, so that I was a Minister of Cabinet rank for 14 years and I get nothing. It happens that the matter does not have great relevance to me, but that is pure accident. I have colleagues and people with whom I have been friends all my political life on both sides in the other place who have served in Government and who also get nothing. For some of them this is very serious, indeed. Can the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal say whether an Amendment can be put to this Bill in this House?


My Lords, in immediate response to that, the answer is: Yes, of course. We shall have a Committee stage on this Bill.


My Lords, may I ask a question of the noble Lord, the Leader of the House? Why is it that the Civil Service and the Members of the House of Commons who get widows' half pension are rated above the Armed Forces?

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot answer that. But I will look into the matter. I assure the noble Lord. May I say that we have had a good and interesting debate on this Bill. Naturally, it has widened into other issues; and I think that the debate was all the better for that. I welcome many of the contributions that were made. It was the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who asked whether this Bill can be amended. I have told him that an Amendment can be made. I understand from the grapevine that some Members feel so strongly about this that they are anxious to move an Amendment although some of them feel that it should have been done in the other place. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, that this Bill is principally a House of Commons Bill. On the other hand, we have a special interest in it. Here, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that we can speak freely about these matters, much more so than individual Members of Parliament. We have not got their inhibitions.

Many of my colleagues in this House have long experience of Parliamentary activities in the other place and it is right and proper that they should draw upon their experience. My noble friend Lady Bacon mentioned the difficulties that we experienced previously: how we never had expenses (but we have them now); how we had no free postage; that we have to pay for our own stamps and so on, and for our own telephone bills. I am proud to say that I was the Leader of the House at that time who got it changed. I think that that was probably the best thing that I ever did in the House of Commons.

Still there is the problem of basic pay and other matters and I think that what has been said is right: if you have low pay it harms Parliament in the long run. After all, we are in the Community now; and when I go abroad and discuss with Parliamentarians what they earn in other countries it makes me ashamed of what is done in this country. I blame Members of Parliament for this. I do not believe that we should always play up to the public. Some people think that in not doing so we may lose votes. I believe that people should have had the courage to improve matters.

The Government are, of course, committed to Boyle in the sense that we have set up this body and it has always been said that we should take care of their suggestions because this has been a package. I think the Bill is a good Bill. I believe that some of my colleagues feel strongly that here and there changes should be made. I think my noble friend Lord Aylestone set the main theme in an eloquent speech when, from his long experience, he went back into history to talk about the days before the 1964 Act when there was no pension and no Members' Fund. He brought us up to date with the Lawrence Committee and he rightly paid a generous tribute to what the noble Lord, Lord Home, did. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, emphasised that.

There have been changes. I know that many of my noble friends want to alter Clause 11 and to change the 10-year figure to 15 years. I understand that and, no doubt this is where some noble Lords are going to press an Amendment. My noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby feels strongly about this, and, with his long experience of Civil Service matters over the years, I must make careful note of his views. I understand; but I hope that noble Lords will appreciate that I am presenting here today what the Government feel is a sensible package. There are good parts of it; we are moving forward in this direction.

Incidentally, it is not true to say that Boyle did nothing for noble Lords. We have had our maximum allowances improved to £16.50 a day; although, probably, now that is out of date—I do not know; but some of my colleagues feel that. Nevertheless, there is a body of people who can adjudicate and assess fairly and carefully. I hope that we shall not spoil that system. I take careful note of what my noble friend has said and that applies also to what my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby stressed. My noble friend Lord Shinwell went back into the past. He said he did not complain. I know that some people are complaining and that you get changes only when people complain. Nevertheless, he was philosophical about it and I hope that he will still be with us here for a long time. He does not need to be pessimistic about his position in this House.

My Lords, I think that I have covered the main points in this short debate. I believe that Clause 11 is the main issue and I think it may be that noble Lords will press this on Committee. I shall have to wait and see. I will convey to my colleagues what noble Lords feel about this matter. There is a strong feeling One can feel it. It has been expressed in speeches. I will take careful note and will inform my colleagues of the views of Members of this House. Nevertheless, the Government have put this forward as a package and we believe that it is moving in the right direction. I understand the feelings of my colleagues on this matter.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask a question on this? I take it that it is in order to put down an Amendment to Clause 11. In another place when a Member put down an Amendment to cover the pre-1964 people, the Deputy Chairman ruled that it was out of order because this Bill is so drafted as to deal only with contributory pensions.


My Lords, I am advised by the Clerks, and it has been confirmed immediately, that noble Lords can move an Amendment to this Bill. For the convenience of the House, I may say that we shall have a Committee stage on Tuesday of next week so that noble Lords had better he thinking about their speeches.


My Lords, on a point of correction—and I am sure that my noble friend did not mean it this way—it was incorrect to suggest that the remedy for this rested in the hands of Members of Parliament who failed to exercise their position. As a matter of fact, I was a Member of every Select Committee for a period of over 20 years, and we always put up proposals which always ran into difficulties with the Cabinet. It was successive Cabinets and Prime Ministers who stopped this. The will was there in Parliament, but, apart from Party disloyalty and voting against the Whips—which my noble friend never advised us to do—it was not a lack of will on the part of the Back Bench Members, it was a lack of backbone on the part of Government.


My Lords, I do not want to get involved in a debate on this matter because it is outside the Bill; but I was in the House longer than the noble Lord. I used to lead delegations to Lord Attlee on this subject and to write articles and complain. I used to say to my own constituents: "If you want a politician on the cheap, you vote for the other candidate". I have always been strong on this. I am only saying that Members did not bestir themselves enough; but that is another matter.

On Question, Bill Read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.