HL Deb 18 July 1978 vol 395 cc192-231

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Peart.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Baroness WOOTTON OF ABINGER in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Viscount ECCLES moved Amendment No. 1: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

Ministerial Pensions

".—(1) For the purposes of this section "qualifying office" means an office held by a Minister in charge of a Public Department of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom whether or not he is a member of the Cabinet and for whom no provision as to pension is made by any other enactment.

(2) Any person who, before the 16th October 1964—

  1. (a) held a qualifying office; and
  2. (b) was a member of the House of Commons for a period or periods amounting altogether to not less than seven years, shall be entitled to an annual pension of £2,500 payable from 1st April 1978.

(3) Her Majesty may front time to time by Order in Council substitute any figure for that given in subsection (2) above; but no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make an Order in Council under this subsection unless a draft of the Order has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.".

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the new clause standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I am sorry to say that in the printing of this clause a most extraordinary mistake has occurred; that is to say, in Clause (2) (b) the words— for a period or periods amounting altogether to not less than seven years, shall be entitled to an annual pension of £2,500 payable from 1st April 1978 should, of course, apply to both (a) and (b) and should be a separate subsection. Perhaps that does not matter too much, because I should not like to ask your Lordships to divide on an Amendment under which I myself was going to receive a pension of this nature. However, this is the only opportunity to appeal to the Government to put right an injustice to a dwindling number of former Ministers of the Crown. I refer to the handful of right honourable gentlemen and noble Lords who retired from office before Members of Parliament voted themselves—Members and Ministers—pensions.

The new clause is intended to provide that a Minister who has served for a total of not less than seven years and is now not entitled to a pension of any kind, should receive £2,500 a year: that is, half the salary which most of us received when we were in the Government. It is not only Her Majesty's present Ministers who are in receipt of pensions to whom one must compare our sad lot. There are millions of other servants of the State who receive generous pensions and pensions which are increased with the rise of the cost of living. In that sense, the arrangements are retrospective, as is the case with my proposed clause: you get more money than you bargained for when you retired.

Many of those civil servants were officials of the Departments for which the former Ministers were responsible, as their political heads. Of course it may be said that we were adequately paid when in office. We were not permitted—nor did we wish to do so—to make any money on the side. Indeed, in 1951 Sir Winston Churchill urged us individually to sell or otherwise dispose of all the ordinary shares which we held. Of course, it is true that some Cabinet Ministers did not need larger salaries when they were in office, or a pension in retirement; they had private means. I suppose I come into that category myself. But others did not. They had a very hard time in office and now they are having an even harder time, because inflation is eating into whatever resources they still possess.

The question at issue is not one of comparative poverty, but of justice. Is it fair that these old servants of the Crown should get nothing simply because they retired before a certain date fixed by Parliament at the very time when Members of Parliament were voting themselves pensions? Perhaps it is simply because these former Ministers are now too few and too dilapidated to be much of a nuisance. Members of Parliament looked after themselves and neglected their predecessors, and that is a sore point.

Ministers cannot argue that the failure to give their former colleagues any pension is the responsibility of an outside body. I have spoken to my noble friend Lord Boyle of Handsworth, who incidentally regrets that he cannot be here today. As I understand it, his terms of reference prevented him from including in his review those Ministers who had retired before the Act was to come into force. So responsibility rests squarely on Parliament itself. Some day before we old-stagers are all dead, I hope that Parliament may do justice in this small matter, and this afternoon I trust that your Lordships think that I have been right to bring it to your attention.

4.39 p.m.


I put my name down to this Amendment, although it does not directly affect me because, as has just been explained by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, this is a proposition which, if accepted, would apply only to those who are not receiving a pension of any kind. That is what I understand him to say. I happen to be the recipient of a Parliamentary pension. There are various anomalies associated with it, but I understand that that issue will emerge later when we are dealing with subsequent Amendments. Possibly, when further debates occur, I may have an opportunity of supporting some of my colleagues who are responsible for the Amendment and who are concerned with the anomalies that are inherent in the Parliamentary pensions arrangements.

When this matter of Parliamentary pensions emerged many years ago— possibly 40 years ago or thereabouts—it was decided that there should be some compensation, or something should be done, for those Members of another place who had to retire, possibly for health reasons, because of defeat or for some reason of that kind. But it was stated at the time, and I think there was a good deal of truth in it, that it was very difficult to introduce a pension for those members of an institution who lived a rather precarious existence. Briefly, they are in today and out tomorrow, so how were they to provide a pension based on certain definite principles which were clearly understood, and, at the same time, not create a situation which might be regarded as objectionable by a very large body of electors.

On the other hand, there is a precedent for the proposition that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has ventilated. I think I am correct in saying that there was a Cabinet Minister—I believe it was Lord Claud Hamilton, although there was also a Lord George Hamilton—way back before the First World War. He was a Cabinet Minister or, at any rate, held Cabinet rank and was in receipt of a pension as an ex-Minister of the Crown. But after some time had elapsed, either he departed—I am not clear about it—or it was decided to suspend the pension. At any rate, the concept of a Parliamentary pension for ex-Ministers was no longer an issue.

But it has always been recognised throughout this controversy—because there has been controversy about whether or not there should be a Parliamentary pension, either for Ministers or for rank-and-file Members of another place—that there were anomalies which were very difficult to avoid. However, it seems to me that a case can be made out, and indeed the noble Viscount has made out a case, although I observed that while he put the proposition he was merely asking the Government to give the matter consideration, perhaps to refer it back to Lord Boyle's Committee or to take some direct action, in order to provide what I think is a reasonable arrangement for those ex-Ministers who served the Crown in one form or another as Cabinet Ministers, as Ministers of Cabinet rank or, for that matter, as junior Ministers.

I think one is entitled to say—at any rate, I shall say it as an ex-Minister—that junior Ministers are in a most invidious position, and always have been. When I was a junior Minister—I ask your Lordships to forgive a personal equation—way back in 1924, I received £1,500 a year, which was of course subject to tax, and, representing a Scottish constituency and living there as well as having to find accommodation in London, it was very difficult indeed. But the fact was that my £1,500 a year was almost regarded as a mortal deadly sin by many of our electors. Indeed, when I received only £400 a year as a Member of Parliament, I heard it said by some of our supporters in our constituencies "You're alright. You're well off. You have got £8 a week and all I have is 36s. a week" or "£2 a week." How often did I hear that? We were always treated with contempt. We had emerged from the working classes to the well-to-do classes. That is the kind of thing that occassionally happens. There is envy, jealousy and a feeling that one is inferior, and people do not like those who are regarded as superior.

To come to the point, this does not affect me because I have a Parliamentary pension and that question will emerge later. But I think that there is a case for those ex-Ministers of the Crown who, in the language used by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, have served seven years as Ministers, either of Cabinet rank or in charge of a Department, to receive some consideration. After all is said and done, let it not be forgotten that there is now talk about Cabinet Ministers getting £13,000 a year, and of course there are certain perquisites that are available. But when I was a Cabinet Minister I never received more than £5,000 a year, and there were some remarkable features about it.

For example, if one had to go abroad—which one had to do in certain kinds of Department—one's private secretary always took note of any additional expenditure that one indulged in. For example, if you wanted to entertain some friends in America, Germany or where-ever you happened to be, he would present you with a bill when you returned to London. It was very surprising. Your bedroom was paid for and your food was supplied, but if you entertained or indulged in any kind of expenditure which was on the side, you were presented with a bill and you had to cough up. It was sometimes very disturbing and even humiliating. That kind of thing happened.

I do not think that ex-Ministers have been fairly treated, and all that the noble Viscount has asked for is that their situation should be considered. There are several who have now left the scene, probably in straitened circumstances. All that might be taken into account. All I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House is to consider the matter, to refer it back to the Boyle Committee or to consult with his colleagues to see whether anything can be done in order to correct what I think is an anomaly, which should have ben dealt with when the Boyle review was undertaken.

4.49 p.m.


I should like to support the principle of this Amendment, and I think I can say that I do it from altruism, although I have been a Parliamentary Secretary, but not, I am sorry to say, for seven years. I had intended, in any case, to say something in support of Parliamentary Secretaries and I shall be very brief, since the noble Lord opposite has already raised the point. If it is justice to Ministers in charge of Departments that something like this should be enacted, it is equally justice that junior Ministers should be included. If Ministers are ill-paid, Parliamentary Secretaries are even worse paid. If the noble Lord had remained a Parliamentary Secretary from the 1920s—I think he said—until 1960 when I was a Parliamentary Secretary, he would still have received only £1,500 a year. If Ministers are hard-worked, so are Parliamentary Secretaries. They are even harder worked, and on occasion have to do their Minister's work, when they go abroad, as well as their own. Nobody ever says "Thank you" to Parliamentary Secretaries for that. If it is a question of hours, surely the Parliamentary Secretaries who often start work in the Commons at 10 p.m. deserve some recognition for what are now called "unsocial hours" in every other walk of life and which are deemed to deserve some bonus.

I receive no Parliamentary pension, having left the House of Commons and come to this place just a few weeks before the first payment was due. However, I was one of those who voted in favour of the Lawrence Committee's consideration of our then plight. I receive no Parliamentary pension, as I said, and I am not included in this Bill. Nor would I be, even if the words "Junior Ministers" were added. Therefore I am doing this entirely in the interests of others. I think that it is in the interests of justice that the Amendment should be accepted and that it is also in the interests of justice that Ministers in charge of Departments should not forget those who served under them and shared many of their labours and responsibilities.


I should not intervene in this debate if I had a personal interest to declare. I have none. After what has happened, if I were now offered a pension I should not accept it. However, I should like to say to your Lordships that I sat in another place for 34 unbroken years and that I was a Minister of the Crown. What is my pension? Nothing; I get nothing at all. I say that this is intolerable. It would not happen in any other democracy in the world and I think that the Government should put it right.

I have some reason to believe that the Lord President of the Council regrets the refusal of the Boyle Committee to face up to this question. All I can say to your Lordships is that only a handful of people are involved and that the sum involved is trivial. I have had a dozen or more heartrending letters from ex-Members of Parliament who are now living in abject poverty. This is not right. It is very bad, and I believe that the Government should put the matter right.

All I am asking for is a modest pension for Members of Parliament who were my colleagues and who sat for many years in the House of Commons and made no money out of it at all. In those days one's salary as a Member of Parliament did not pay for one's expenses. They all paid money out of their own pockets to serve their country, and they are getting absolutely nothing for it. It is not right; I know it is not right; in my heart I know that it is wrong. I should not take a pension, but I feel very sorry and sad for them. During my 34 years' membership of the House of Commons I think that I rendered some service to the State, if only for the reason that I was always right and the Government were always wrong—whichever kind of Government they were! But what did I get for it? Nothing; absolutely nothing. Therefore, I put up this appeal, not on my own behalf but on behalf of those who, with me, were Members of another place for many years: Do them justice; give them a comfortable old age.


I suppose that most people would be able to enumerate the seven deadly sins. I shall add another and make them eight. It is meanness of heart. This can be laid at the door of successive Parliaments. Those who have spoken about the hardships which are experienced by people are right, and it is time that something was done about it.

I was on the Lawrence Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, was also on that committee. If I and others had resigned because it was going to affect us personally—one must remember that this was July 1964—it may be that the next Parliament could not have put through the legislation for pensions. How could we, as members of the Lawrence Committee, have post-dated it so that it included us?

I had given 19 years' service up to 1964. There are other people with just as much service, and today they are finding the going very, very hard. The blame should be laid at the door of successive Governments who have allowed the value of our pound to sink. Every year inflation eats into the savings of people who have either sold their businesses or whatever, and this means a diminution in their standard of living.

What happened immediately after the 1964 Election? The Labour Government came into power, with Mr. Wilson—Sir Harold Wilson now—as Prime Minister. He wanted an economics Minister, and he wanted Frank Cousins for that post. Who resigned'? The Member for Nuneaton—Frank Bowles—resigned. Frank Bowles was sent to this House. He came here on a pension—only two or three days after people like me, for instance, and I am not really speaking for myself; I can assure noble Lords of that. I am speaking for the few people who are in need at this very minute. Frank Bowles came here with a pension.

Ever since we came into Parliament years ago it has been hammered into us that this kind of thing cannot be dealt with retrospectively; there has to be a straight edge somewhere. We know all about this, but surely there must be an opportunity, perhaps not in this Bill but elsewhere, for the Government to give an indication that they understand the difficulties faced by those people who throughout the years served this country well

4.58 p.m.


First, may I say that the noble Viscount has spoken most persuasively in support of former Government Ministers who receive no pension in respect of their tenure of ministerial office. Although a Members' Pension Scheme was introduced in 1965, it was not until 1972 that the Parliamentary and other Pensions Act introduced a supplementary pension scheme for Ministers and other office holders. As the noble Viscount has explained, his Amendments are intended to provide for an automatic entitlement to a pension of £2,500 for those who have held senior ministerial office and served in the House of Commons before 1964 for at least seven years.

The effect of the new clause would be to provide former Government Ministers who had served for seven years as Ministers and as Members of Parliament before 1964 and who had resigned ministerial office before 1965 with an annual pension of £2,500. Part of this proposal was debated on Second Reading and many of the points that were raised, especially by my noble friend Lord Rhodes, I raised myself. I believe that Parliaments and successive Governments have been to blame here. I then elaborated my own views and I now have to put the Government's position. My noble friend Lord Rhodes said that perhaps if it could not be in this Bill there might be an opportunity at some other time. This point was raised by my noble friend Lord Shinwell when he said that it might again be discussed by the Review Body. I am prepared to say that if there is strong feeling about this matter and if there is a desire for it to be looked at, so be it; but I hope it will be appreciated that there are problems. I dealt with many of those problems on Second Reading.

We are all sympathetic to the circumstances which have given rise to these Amendments. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, rendered sterling service to the country. I remember that even as a Backbencher he did much for the fishing industry and for his constituency and was a great Parliamentary figure. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, had a neighbouring constituency. I know about Parliamentary Secretaries—after all I was in his Ministry as a Minister and I was also there when I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary with no salary at all. One was glad to do it. I would agree with him that Parliamentary Secretaries work very hard, as he certainly did. I know that he did because I was often his pair. He performed sterling service, not only for the Ministry but for agriculture in general.

I am well aware of the situation and I have great sympathy, but, as I mentioned during the Second Reading debate, there is an important principle with regard to retrospection, and that is what has been stressed in another place by Government representatives who put forward the views of the Government on this matter. That still holds today. I believe that principle of retrospection to be important and it has repercussions. I know your Lordships would wish to consider whether it would be right and publicly defensible to take advantage of our position about improving pensions. We should be criticised for that, and that has always been the difficulty. Sometimes people are afraid to make recommendations and that is why we had the Lawrence Committee, which took the decision-making out of the hands of the Members themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Harvey of Prestbury referred to that. So it may be a criticism of Parliament as a whole that our own arrangements before 1964 were not comparable to those of other professional groups. I think the failings of the past do not justify retrospection on a large scale.

Also, as I mentioned on Second Reading, we have submitted this matter to the Boyle Committee, which is an impartial body. The noble Lord, Lord Boyle, himself has worked hard on this matter and the Government have accepted this as a package. On the other hand I have said that I would convey the views of noble Lords on this matter, and one suggestion which has already been made might well be worth considering. But for the moment, I am afraid, because of retrospection and because of the Boyle Report, the Government feel that they cannot accept this new clause.


Before my noble friend sits down may I ask him this Question: He has said a great deal about retrospection, but does he not appreciate that the Bill as brought before the Committee extends the principle of retrospection by giving existing Members of Parliament another five years' pensionable service for which they will not have paid; that 53 Members of Parliament are retiring this year if there is an Election; that they are being given another five retrospective pensionable years without any contribution whatever? So what is ray noble friend talking about when he objects to the noble Viscount's proposal on the grounds that it is retrospective, when he himself has brought forward a Bill which extends the principle of retrospection to existing Members of Parliament?


I was dealing here with the specific clause on Ministers.

Viscount ECCLES

May I suggest to the Committee that we should dispose of this clause on Ministers, because noble Lords are now talking about Members of Parliament, whose case is much larger and, as I personally think, even stronger than the case of the Ministers. Therefore I accept the assurance of the noble Lord the Leader of the House that he will put back to the Boyle Committee the case about former Ministers; and on that assurance I am prepared Ito withdraw my Amendment.


In response to that, while I am prepared to suggest that it should go before the Boyle Committee, obviously there are other people in another place—the Government—whom I shall have to consult. However, I will put it to them strongly.


I will not stand in the way of the Committee if the noble Viscount wants to withdraw his Amendment, but I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will understand that not for one split second do I accept his arguments on retrospection and I hope before long to demolish those arguments.


I should like to ask the noble Lord one question with regard to the withdrawal of the Amendment—


I think—

Several noble Lords



Will someone tell me what is happening?


Is it your Lordships' pleasure that this Amendment be withdrawn?




Then I will put the Amendment to the Committee. The Question is, That Amendment No. 1 be agreed to?

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.

5.8 p.m.

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 2: After Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

Widowers' pensions

(".—(1) In section 14 of the Act of 1972 (pensions for certain widowers), after subsection (1) (qualifying conditions) there shall be inserted as subsection (1A)—

" (1A) Subject to the following provisions of this section, the widower of a woman who was a Member of the House of Commons at any time after the passing of the Act of 1978 shall, if at the time of her death she fulfilled any of the conditions specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) above (as it applies in her case), be entitled to receive a pension under this section—

  1. (a) as from the day following the date of her death if at the time of her death he had attained the age of sixty-five years or was incapable by reason of bodily or mental infirmity of earning his own living; or
  2. (b) where the preceding paragraph does not apply, as from the time when he attains the age of sixty-five years or, before attaining that age, becomes incapable as mentioned in that paragraph;
and subsection (1) above shall not apply in the case of a widower to whom this subsection applies".

(2) In the case of a widower to whom subsection (1A) of section 14 of the Act of 1972 applies, subsections (3) and (4) of that section (Trustees' power to terminate or restore pension in certain events) shall have effect with the following modifications, that is to say—

  1. (a) the references to subsection (1) of that section shall be read as references to subsection (1A) thereof; and
  2. (b) so much of subsection (3) as relates to the termination of a widower's pension in the event of his ceasing to be incapable as there mentioned shall not apply after the widower has attained the age of sixty-five years;
and where his pension has been terminated under subsection (3) of that section on his ceasing to be incapable as there mentioned before attaining the age of sixty-five, that fact shall not affect his entitlement to the pension as from the time when he attains that age.").

The noble Lord said: In speaking to this Amendment I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 which are consequential. During the Second Reading debate I promised that Government Amendments would be introduced that would meet the wishes of those who have advocated a step towards sex equality in the Parliamentary Pensions Scheme. In another place my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for Social Services put the case for improving the provisions in the scheme for widowers. At present the widower of a lady Member office-holder receives a pension only if he was dependent on his wife at the time of her death because of physical or mental incapacity. No such dependency is required in the case of widows although women pay the same contributions as men to the Parliamentary Scheme. The Amendment now before us makes a modest start in equalising the position. Widowers who are over age 65 at the time of their wives' death, or who later reach age 65, will receive the same pension entitlement as widows. In addition, a widower under 65 will receive a pension if, at the time of a Member's death, he is incapacitated to the extent that he cannot earn his own living, or if subsequently he becomes so incapacitated. These Amendments give effect to the changes suggested by my right honourable friend in another place, and reflect the concept of a "survivor's pension" which is already a feature of the State pension scheme.

This Government are a Government that have proved their commitment to greater equality between the sexes by passing legislation to counter discrimination. These changes to the Parliamentary Pension Scheme are consistent with the conclusion reached in the 1976 report of the Occupational Pensions Board on Equal Status for Men and Women in Occupational Pensions Schemes. That conclusion was that, while progress towards equality was desirable, progress should be made only as resources permitted. In this case the cost will be negligible. I therefore commend these changes to your Lordships. I beg to move.

5.10 p.m.


I just want to say one or two words on the general principle of distributing what funds are available. Here is a situation where those who have rendered service do not receive anything, or if they do receive something it is based on a number of years' service. Here is a proposition to provide a pension for somebody who has never rendered any service at all except that he married a Member of Parliament who happened to be of the female sex. That is what is proposed. Am I right? From a compassionate point of view I am 100 per cent. in favour; it is my temperament to be compassionate. But I am bound to say that there is not an awful lot of logic in this when in fact we are refusing to grant an increased pension to ex-Members of another place who have served long years of service whereas those who are now in the other place, if they should return, are to get 15 years reckonable service. Where is the logic in this? There is none whatever.

Well, if we want to dismiss logic let us do it, but, after all, we ought to know what we are doing. I do not doubt that my noble friend the Leader of the House is aware of what he is doing. If I am wrong in my analysis and he corrects me, I will be bound to accept what he says, but I imagine that I am correct. What we are proposing is to provide some subsistence for somebody, because of ill health or whatever it maybe, simply because that person happens to be the spouse of somebody who was a Member of another place. That is the position. There is no logic in it at all. But, on the other hand, if we dismiss the logic and do it for compassionate reasons, I will accept it.


The reason why I intervened quite without premediation when the noble Viscount sought to withdraw his clause was to call attention to a single point which I thought was material to the debate. I never was a Minister; I never was a PPS. Paraphrasing the French Academician who pronounced his own elegy, I once said: Here lies Hale who was nothing or less He was never even a PPS". The noble Lord the Leader of the House is quite obviously facing a difficult situation at the moment. He had based his argument on the one hand on Boyle, and in generalising a little, as he did on the previous occasion, he said we cannot withdraw it but we might be able to send this proposal for Ministers back to Boyle. I do not know how. The noble Lord has now just moved his widowers' proposal without any reference to Boyle, and so far as I recollect the debate in another place this was not mentioned by Boyle at all.

I have nothing against the clause if it really means what it is intended to say. If it means what my noble friend Lord Shinwell says, then I would object to quite a bit of it, but I do not think it does. I cannot understand why one could not have a perfectly simple clause to say that, in relation to the provision for widows, a widower mutatis mutandis should be placed in the same position as the widow. That deals with your sex discrimination and would leave them clearly on an even basis. I have no doubt the intention is to do that. But the noble Lord is getting in some difficulty with this reference to Boyle. I do not know what was referred to Boyle.


May I say this to my noble friend. This clause we are talking about is quite different from what was done by Boyle. This alteration was done by a very distinguished former Minister.


Yes, indeed, and what we are trying to do now is to make various other alterations by very distinguished Members in this House, of very long service, who have tabled Amendments. I am merely saying that you must not say that it was referred to Boyle and that ends the matter. I gather that some of my noble friends may deal with that point with much more knowledge than I. I do not want to anticipate what they will say and I am not doing so. What I am saying at the moment is that it is a little hard quite suddenly to seek to withdraw the first clause, which has very much merit—it does not affect me at all; I do not intend to talk about any clause which could affect me, and some of them later on do—with the vague assurance that something might be done at some vague time in the future.


I wonder if I could ask the Minister a much simpler question. Does the same rule which applies to the ordinary widow's pension apply to this, namely, that they must have been married for three years before they can obtain this? Otherwise there might be a rush of gentlemen and ladies to marry ex-Members of Parliament.

Lord PEART: It is an important point, I agree.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6 [Widows', dependent widowers' and children's pensions]:

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 3: Page 8, line 6, leave out ("and")

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 4: Page 8, line 9, at end insert ("and subsections (2) and (6) above shall not apply where the widower is entitled to a pension by virtue of section 14(1A)(b) of that Act.").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 7 [Short-term pensions for widows, dependent widowers and children]:

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 5: Page 8, line 41, leave out ("age or").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 6: Page 8, line 42, leave out ("and was wholly or mainly dependent on her") and insert ("or had attained the age of sixty-five years").

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 8 [Children's pensions]:

Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 7: Page 10, line 32, at end insert ("of the Act of 1972").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 7 is a straightforward drafting Amendment which contains no implications of substance. Its intention is only to bring consistency to the expression in this clause which, as noble Lords will realise, was introduced in Committee stage in another place. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Reckonable service]:

5.20 p.m.

Lord WIGG moved Amendment No. 8: Page 12, line 19, at end insert— ("( ) Subsection (2)(a) (service to be reckonable only to those who were or are Members of House of Commons on or after 16th October 1964) shall be omitted.").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 8 and Amendment No. 12, which also stands in my name, are an attempt to deal with the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I shall deal with the problem of retrospection in, I hope, a way that will convince your Lordships that something ought to be done about it. However, I am concerned about those of my colleagues in another place. I think some noble Lords, and ex-Members of the House of Commons—whom I do not know—who are affected. I do not know how many people are involved, but there cannot be very many. There is a dwindling number who, after long years of service in the House of Commons, now find themselves in a position of straitened circumstances, and they suffer in dignity and in silence.

The noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, will remember that when he and I sat in another place I became disturbed about two or three cases which had come to my notice. I say "to my notice", because they happened to concern Members I had known and who had found themselves in difficult circumstances, and I felt that something ought to be done about them.

It was ex my political philosophy that I went to my noble friend and put to him what, after all, was the nub of the idea that subsequently became a scheme which raised a fund for the benefit of Labour Members of Parliament. We subscribed to the fund ourselves and trustees were appointed. He and I did a great deal of work behind the scenes at the beginning and the scheme after all has grown and has brought great benefit.

Substantially, the point that I am making is that there is an unknown number of ageing individuals who at present are in straitened circumstances and we ought to do something about it. We are told that we cannot do something about it because of the principle of retrospection; and of course, it would be almost impossible to do something about it within the framework of this Bill because it is a contributory scheme. That is why I have helped by suggesting removing the word "contributory".

I am not such a political mutt as to believe for a split second that my Amendments, however great my effort, will get very far. I can think of a number of valid arguments for the Government—indeed, I could almost, if I may say so with respect, write the brief for the Leader of the House. He is a kindly and compassionate man and he would not want to say to your Lordships that if your Lordships accept the Amendments standing in my name when they get to another place the issue of privilege could arise. I can see that it could. I could also say that if it goes to another place it will never be called because it is not within the Money Resolution.

I am one of those who believe that "Where there's a will there's a way". Let us examine the merits of my Amendments. Amendment No. 12 would remove the word "contributory" so that the bill would be paid from the Consolidated Fund. It would be a charge by the Government, and I entirely agree that there would have to be a Money Resolution. As regards the issue of retrospection, if the Government want to deal with it they could, of course, accept the argument put forward by my noble friend Lord Glenamara. He made an absolutely valid point and that is why I was brought to my feet. I should not like him or the Leader of the House to think that I did not support what the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said. I wish to point out that if the Government really want to do this I can tell them—as they know, I am always trying to be helpful—a way in which it can be done.

Let us meet the problem of retrospection. The Government say, "Right, this is so enshrined in our hearts. Of course, we can give a 40 per cent. increase in pay to policemen as a special case, but we could not deal with an ageing number of legislators as a special case". What does "a special case" mean? "A special case" can have no other meaning than that it must not be quoted as a precedent. After all, if a special case does not mean that in relation to the police force, then everyone from dockers, miners and everyone else will ask for the same. By treating it as a special case it is out; it stands on its own, once and for all. It is just confined to that issue.

Let us go further because that, after all, is only dealing with the surface—just the kind of argument that could be used. There is another one. The Minister wants to go for retrospection. Very good. Give the pension, give the increase that I want to everybody as from the first day of some month in the future—the 1st August or the 1st September; give it to all those on attaining the age of 80 years. I realise, of course, that by putting it that way—that is in the future and not with retrospection—if, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said, they can concede the 10 to 15 years to those who are serving, they can also say: "Ten years it is, but 15 years it will be for all those who come to a certain age at some time in the future". That seems to me to successfully demolish the argument of retrospection—if they want to do it. It is perfectly true, of course, that the Lawrence Commission found difficulties. Whether this has gone to Boyle or not, I do not know. I suggest with great respect that the Committee needs to be told whether it has been formally put to Boyle, and whether the suggestion that I am making has also been put to Boyle; because if it has not, then in fact I suggest that it ought to be.

I do not want to draw from a wealth of personal experience, but I want to remind the Leader of the House that I come from a family which, going back certainly 150 years, back to the Light Brigade, has served the Crown in various capacities. I spent nearly 30 years in the Army, with several years of commissioned service holding senior staff appointments, However, the pension which I receive is, of course, that of another rank. When I left the Army I received a gratuity of £2. My stepfather served for 30 years and received a pension of under £6. My grandfather served for 22 years and was dead within a few months of leaving the Service, and his pension was tenpence a day. So, over the years of service that we have given we have not exactly got a great deal out of the Crown. However, there is always the argument, "Well, you were born too soon." We are saying to the Members of Parliament who have given service "You were born too soon." They get nothing.

It is possible that one of the arguments which will weigh with the Government—and may well weigh with the Leader of the House who is a good Parliamentarian—is what Members of another place will say about our discussions today and the Amendments which have been tabled. As I have said, there will be some who will very quickly say that it is a breach of privilege. There are some who will certainly say that it is out of order because of the point about the Money Resolution. Others will say that we are usurping the rights of the House of Commons in discussing the matter at all. That argument, with great respect, I reject in its entirety.

There is no need for the Government to be afraid of that for the following reason —and let us ponder it for a moment. There are many Members of another place who would have viewed the Palace of Westminster only from the top of a No. 11 bus or from a boat going up and down the river, had it not been for the sacrifices of the men and women for whom I am making my plea now. Therefore, if there is any Member of another place who wants to bandy words about this—about usurpation—I shall turn round and throw the words back again. I say that anyone who believes in the principle of public service must also believe in human dignity to the point of saying that it is an outrage and an affront to all of us, if in fact, those who have given devoted service in the interests of their fellow man should, now in their few remaining years or months, live in poverty, all the worse because it is poverty borne in silence.

Finally, my view is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. He and I share one or two things in common. I have always been right, and that is a valuable asset, especially if one backs horses—I find it an advantage. However, I say this to the noble Lord: "It may even be that the result of something that I have said today will indirectly be to my personal advantage. I say the same as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby: anything, even one halfpenny, that comes to me as a result of any words of mine or any action taken by your Lordships, I do not want and I shall not take. I beg to move.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

This Amendment has been misprinted on the Marshalled List. It should read: Page 12, line 19, at end insert— ("( ) Subsection (2)(a) (service to be reckonable only to those who were or are Members of the House of Commons on or after 16th October 1964) shall be omitted.")". I take it that that is the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg.


That is one matter which I omitted to point out. The Amendment as printed on the Marshalled List contains a printing error. The knowledge of that has been conveyed to the Government and to the Chair. I am not responsible for that error, nor are the officials of the House; it is purely a printing error. The date should read "16th October 1964". I apologise to the Committee for not drawing it to noble Lords' attention when I moved the Amendment.

Baroness BACON

I do not want to repeat the speech which I made on Second Reading, except in one respect. We must consider what we mean by the word "contribute". It is my opinion that the Members of Parliament about whom my noble friend Lord Wigg has spoken contributed greatly in that they had no secretarial allowances, no postage allowances and no living-in-London allowances. In fact, they have made a very great contribution.

I rise again now simply to ask my noble friend Lord Peart to say something about the Members' Pension Fund. I do not refer to what is called the "Contributory Scheme", but to the Members' Pension Fund to which all Members of Parliament contributed prior to 1964. A number of ex-Members of Parliament receive allowances from this Fund, but they are based on a means test. I believe that a great opportunity was lost when the Contributory Pension Fund was inaugurated in 1965 in not bringing these two pension schemes together and crediting those who had contributed to the Members' Pension Fund with the number of years which they had contributed in order to qualify for a pension under the Members' Pension Fund.

When my noble friend replies perhaps he could answer this question. Does the money which is now paid under a means test scheme to those ex-Members of Parliament who contributed to the Members' Pension Fund come from some fund which is derived from past contributions or does it come from Government sources? It seems to me that the cost of including the people whom we are now discussing under the Members' Pension Fund would not be as great as even the Government think. Those Members who have their income made up under the Members' Pension Fund would probably receive no more had they qualified under the Members' Pension Scheme. I should like to know the actual arithmetic of the Members' Pension Fund. Could not this in some way be amalgamated, so that those who paid in to the Members' Pension Fund receive the credit of those years and can be paid without a means test by the Members' Pension Scheme?


I should like to intervene very briefly. This time I must declare an interest, because if this Amendment is accepted, like the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, I should benefit on exactly the same terms. I want to make two short points which I hope may be helpful. The first is on the question of the injustice of the present position and the second is on the question of the sadness. The sadness has been spoken about. Those whom we feel sad about are not those who are here; there are others, and we may never see them again. Just because we may not see them again does not mean that we must forget them for all time and justify our hardness of heart by talking about no retrospection as if it were in the Ten Commandments.

But when it comes to the question of injustice the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, probably feels, as I do, that if one had stayed on in the other place and paid one's contribution, one would have been entitled to what some would call a "small fortune". That is quite exceptional in the normal insurance world when dealing with life business. In industrial injuries one accepts the fact that if one has an injury during one's first week at work one will be treated in the same way as one would if one had many years' service in that work. But on the question of life cover, this seems to be a principle which is not a general one. Therefore, if it makes it easier, I submit that there should be a difference between those who have contributed in this rather, one could almost say, "phoney" way and those who are prevented from doing so simply by this short period of time.

Those who are at present excluded should, in fact, be included in the scheme but at a substantially lower rate. I do not think that they can expect the same as the others who were luckier in this, I shall not say, raffle, but noble Lords will know what I mean. I still think that they could well be treated on a smaller scale by virtue of their position; but they should not be overlooked altogether.


There has been a tremendous development in thinking about rewards for those who have served in any capacity which has benefited the community. It is a long time ago since I started work at the age of twelve, and it was a case of 3s. 6d. a week. But of ineradicable memory to me were the militia men who were pensioned off after three years' service with 1s. 6d. a week, and the boss in the textile factory would knock 1s. 6d. a week off the going wage because they were pensioners. Those were the men who fell at Mons and I saw many of them go.

I am not pleading in the same way for the people who served this country before 1964 in the House of Commons, but there is a common injustice here which needs to be remedied. I think that my noble Friend Lord Wigg has couched it well. Everyone in this Committee who wants to remove an injustice should support him. I only hope that my noble friend Lord Peart will be able to give us an idea as to how we can further our aims in this connection. If he can give us any ideas or encouragement, I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn. Unless he does, I hope that it will be passed.


I should like to reply to a very important point raised by my noble friend Lady Bacon. She asked me about the Member's Pension Fund. This is contributed to solely by Members. The point about the abolition of the Fund or the possibility of changing its form and its being linked with another fund may require legislation. However, I think it is a point that could be considered for the future. In conjunction, of course, we should have to consult the trustees of the Fund. I cannot give any details about the amounts of money in the Fund because they are not made public. But I think that if we make the necessary representations, this may be considered.

I know that my noble friend Lord Wigg has explained to us that his Amendment is designed to help those former Members who retired before the Parliamentary Pension Scheme was introduced in 1964. As I understood his intention, those Members would be eligible for a pension based on up to 10 years of pre-1964 service. I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say that I have nothing but sympathy for those who retired with no occupational pension in respect of their Parliamentary service. This reinforces the shabby way in which these people were treated; we accept and deplore it, no one more strongly than I. My noble friend reminded me of the changes that took place. When I was Lord President I was always sympathetic to the ordinary Member in particular. I got free postage, free telephones, and the first breakthrough on secretarial allowances, which was considerable, for Members of another place. I am as anxious as anyone to see that justice is done.

Noble Lords will of course be aware that the position of these former Members has been considered a number of times over the years. The original recommendation not to apply this pension scheme to those who had no service after the date of its introduction was made by the Lawrence Committee in 1964. The First Report of the Top Salaries Review Body accepted this conclusion. It was discussed very fully in this House in 1972, but the conclusion of the Lawrence Committee was again upheld. Despite the case, and all that, many felt at that time, "Well, there is Lawrence, and this is virtually a package", and this is how it was approached.

The whole issue was, nevertheless, again considered very carefully by the Review Body prior to the issue of their Eighth Report. I know that it is argued now—and indeed my noble friend Lord Aylestone brought this out at Second Reading, and I know that my noble friend Lord Glenamara will probably argue this again—that if fifty-plus Members retire at the next Election it is unfair that they should get the five years, and not former Members. One could argue like that. There are all sorts of difficulties about this.

The point is that improvements to occupational pension schemes in the public service are always confined to existing or future contributors, even if they do retire shortly after, which obviously cannot be prevented. I thought I should just mention this. The whole issue was considered on the Eighth Report. They concluded again that the important principle of no retrospection should be upheld because it would affect thousands of other employees. I am only putting the arguments and this is the argument which the Government have accepted because of the recent Boyle recommendations. I am afraid that it is against that background that the decisions have been made, and that is the attitude that the Government have taken.

5.43 p.m.


I am sorry but I cannot find it in my heart to accept that. Quite clearly one understands the reasoning, if one looks at this case, about the problems which would face the Government if they conceded it in relation to the very large number of Government employees who might make the same claim. But the Government only yesterday dealt with a class of the community and said, "They are a special case". In the case of the employees of the Government it is quite right that there are planning problems. It is a continuing problem. It will go on and on, so that if the Government conceded it they would have to meet the argument now, or it could be next year and the year after, and so on and so forth. But the number of people I am making my plea for will not be here all that much longer. At the end of their life it does not arise. Therefore, the Government could in truth say, "We are going to treat this as a special problem that only applies to these small numbers of people". I do not even know the number.

If the noble Lord cannot find it in his heart to accept that, or is doubtful whether his colleagues' logic will stand up to that—that may be so, I can perhaps hear his doubts and respect them—will he tell us whether the point that I have made has been submitted before; that is to say, to get round the problem of retrospection that the case for these individuals would be submitted on the basis that it would apply on their birthday at some time in the future? Has it been submitted recently and turned down? If so, so be it. If it has not been, would he tell me that he will now ask Boyle to consider that aspect of it and see whether it is possible? If Boyle examines it and says No, so be it. But, on the other hand, I want all avenues to be explored, and, in the classical words of a spokesman for a Labour Government, no stone left unturned. If he cannot give me that assurance, I want to divide the Committee on it.


Would the noble Lord be prepared to accept a lesser level than the remainder of the pension scheme in recognition of the fact that, say, one or very few contributions had not been paid?


Readily. I certainly am not so swelled headed to think that I have thought this through and the scheme I have put forward is perfect. All I say is that there is an injustice here to the extent that I want it dealt with, and therefore I am prepared to leave it to the judgment of others as to the best way of dealing with it. But I insist that it has to be tackled head-on. If it is not, I will divide the Committee.

Viscount ECCLES

If this question is to be submitted to the Boyle Committee then it is essential that the Government should say in advance to Lord Boyle that the principle of retrospection, they would agree, would be waived if Lord Boyle so found, because there is quite a lot of doubt as to what really were the instructions to Lord Boyle on the point of any case which involved retrospection. While I am on that point, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Peart, one question? In the other place the Minister in charge of this Bill said that hundreds of thousands of State servants got no pension at all because of the principle of retrospection. Could we be told who those hundreds of thousands are?


I am informed, employees in the public service. May I take the point about Boyle. Boyle is not instructed; I hope one appreciates that. I do not think you could have a Boyle structure if you had it instructed by, say, Parliament or the Government. He can look at things when a Government put them. The Government accept this as a package.

The arguments were followed up in another place. I am prepared to say to my colleagues that there is strong feeling about this, and there is even more strong feeling about another matter we are going to come to next. I am always prepared to tell my colleagues at least that this should be looked at again, but nevertheless there are great difficulties over this. I know one can argue about the question of retrospection. There is a difficulty there. There is a difficulty about Boyle providing a package. The Government have accepted that that should be their approach.

I know that this was discussed fully in another place. I must therefore ask noble Lords reluctantly to accept, as Members in another place have accepted, that there should be no pension entitlement for pre-1964 Members. But in view of the arguments put forward, if somehow this could be reconsidered, naturally I will do it, because I have great sympathy. I think my noble friends who know my own attitudes on this over the years will accept this. But I am afraid I cannot offer Government support to this Amendment. I should like my noble friend, if he could, to withdraw it, but I shall look at this question very carefully.


I am not going to press the Leader of the House beyond the point of reason. Of course there are difficulties. Of course I accept his sincerity. I know him to be a man of compassion, and he would not lightly turn his back on this if he could find a way. I notice, however, that he did not answer my question, and I am always interested in why the dog did not bark. I asked whether Boyle had considered this proposition, because I do not believe that he has. But, anyway, I am half met on that point, because the noble Lord the Leader has given me an assurance, not that he will accept it—he has once again underlined the difficulties, and that I accept—but what he will undertake to do is to go back to his colleagues and tell them there is some feeling in the House that every effort should be made to see whether it is possible to help this special class of our colleagues whom we think have been treated unfairly. In those circumstances, I will ask the leave of the Committee to withdraw this Amendment, on the specific undertaking—not a future commitment—that the Leader of the House will go back to his colleagues and ask them to consider this point. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


Certainly I shall do that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord AYLESTONE moved Amendment No. 9: Page 12, line 21, leave out from ("(1964)") to end of line 24 and insert ("for the words "ten years" there shall be substituted the words "fifteen years".")

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment I am dealing with a narrower point than that which we discussed on earlier Amendments, with which I have full sympathy. On Second Reading, I referred to the anomaly existing on the subject of reckonable service. This Amendment is about reckonable service, which need not be explained in full. I shall simply say what I said before. Those people who were Members of Parliament when the Lawrence Report's recommendations became law after the 1964 General Election, and who had had service in excess of 10 years before 1964, were allowed to count 10 years as reckonable for pension purposes. The Government paid into what was then the new fund an amount of money to cover this. It was agreed that from that date anyone with service in excess of 10 years should count 10 years; and if they had seven they should count seven, and so on.

The current situation is that Members of Parliament with service in excess of 10 years before 1964 may count 10 years reckonable. However, the Bill now proposes, in respect of present Members of Parliament, that the reckonable amount of service prior to the 1964 General Election shall be 15 years. It is a retrospective action. This is a retrospective Bill in that respect. It will throw up many anomalies. We can all think of them.

One may think of two Members of Parliament entering Parliament, as I did, in 1945, straight out of the Forces. One decides a month ago to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, for some reason or another. The other decides to wait until the dissolution of Parliament, perhaps in a month or two, and then retire. The Member who applied for the Chiltern Hundreds will have done exactly the same amount of service, but he will count 10 years reckonable; whereas the Member who continues until the dissolution of Parliament—without sitting for one day after the new Parliament commences—will count 15 years. That is one of the anomalies.

There is perhaps a greater anomaly for the widow. Two Members of Parliament may have served exactly the same length of time. One wife is widowed before the other, in that awkward period before the dissolution of Parliament. One widow will receive £150 a year more than the other by sheer accident. Members may work out anomalies of those kinds for themselves.

My Amendment is simple. I hope that the wording on the Marshalled List will do this. If not, I am prepared to change it. I seek to make the reckonable service 15 years for everyone who has served for 15 years or more prior to the General Election of 1964. Those who have done the service will qualify. They will be treated in precisely the same way as the present Members of Parliament who retire in a few months' time. To benefit from my Amendment a person must have been a Member of Parliament in or before 1949. I shall mention the figures which I obtained in reply to a Parliamentary Question. This affects 70 Members of Parliament and 45 widows. The widows are probably more important than the 70 Members of Parliament, as some ex-Members of Parliament—not the majority—are in this House.

On Second Reading I said that the cost would be negligible. I put the annual cost at about £20,000. I suggested the that if the Government cared to be generous and added a cost-of-living index-related figure to it, it could cost as much as £55,000. In a letter which I did not receive but which I have seen, the Leader of the House in another place said that the annual cost would be £86,000. There is not much difference between us. I assumed that everyone who received anything would pay income tax. It is a net figure. The Leader of the House went on to say that the total capital cost of extending the five years would be about £l¼ million, worked out by Government actuaries. I have every respect for Government actuaries. If the annual cost can come within £20,000 to £50,000, surely the Government actuaries must be taking everything possible into consideration—that all Members of Parliament might die at the same time, the kitchen sink, the number of lamp posts, and whatever else one takes into account. It is like working out the old rate grant that local authorities used to receive. One cannot have a figure of that kind. I was talking about annual costs. Members of your Lordships' House may not agree with me. However, if one multiplies 70 by 300 in the case of Members, and 45 by 150 in the case of widows, one will reach the figure I mentioned. It is not excessive.

May I make a point in relation to something that my noble friend Lady Bacon said about the Members' Fund? She called it the Members' Pension Fund. It is the Members' Fund. I was trustee of that fund for some time. Although it does excellent work in helping those people who fall outside the contributive scheme, it has not, so far as I know, ever taken up its full amount of Government grant. Perhaps some of that money could be used in another direction. Perhaps my noble friend the Leader of the House will bear that point in mind.

I suggest that the pension should not be based on contributions but on years of service. My view is that we should clearly state our position in the House of Lords. However, I wish that the appeal had come from someone outside this House or from another place, so as to afford those in the other place an opportunity to discuss it again. I should think that that would probably have afforded a better result than we obtained following many of our representations previously.

I do not wish to divide the Committee. However, I feel keenly about this matter. I am in a sense responsible as I was Leader of the House of Commons when the Lawrence Report recommendations became law. I know that my noble friend who speaks today from the Front Bench as Leader of the House of Lords is fully sympathetic. I understand that. In making this comment this afternoon on the Amendment I am speaking not only to him but to the Leader of the House in another place who perhaps has equal, if not greater, authority in this respect. I shall not take this Amendment to a Division if I obtain a firm assurance that the Government are prepared to do something about it.


Many of the arguments that I have answered have been repeated. Before the Committee reaches a decision on this issue, which is by no means a simple one, I know that noble Lords will wish not only to reach a judgment on the arguments which were eloquently advanced by my noble friend Lord Aylestone but to take into account what the Government have said all along about the implications involved. There are three main comments which I must make about the Amendment. There is, first, the fact that extending the back service credit concession would be directly contrary to the clearly expressed recommendation of the Boyle Committee in their Eighth Report. I realise that a number of noble Lords and indeed a number of Members in another place are sceptical whether there would be any particular significance in that. Their scepticism is based in large part on the fact that pay increases also recommended by the Top Salaries Review Body have not yet been implemented in full.

I am well aware of the feeling of noble Lords on this matter and of the strength of feeling in another place and I have much sympathy with it, but as I explained on Second Reading and as I said earlier, the Review Body's proposals were presented as a package and accepted by the Government as a package; if one reads Hansard one sees that that shines through. If we were now to ignore those clearly expressed recommendations, it is argued that we should undermine and usurp the Review Body's function, and if we did that I believe it would be regrettable. Boyle is a good forum to which to put proposals. It has worked, and we pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, on this and other matters.

Moreover, the nature of the change now being suggested is of considerable significance. The Amendment takes one isolated provision from this Bill and gives it retrospective effect. I am not sure how fairly the provision would operate. As drafted, it would not affect those who retired with pensions under the 1965 Act, although there seems no obvious justification for such a distinction, and I am particularly unclear how it would be applied to Members who have died since 1972.

I accept that those technical problems are of secondary importance. What is of primary importance is that the change would undermine the principle of no retrospection. I know I keep repeating that, but that is what the Government have been saying in another place. I appreciate that my noble friend Lord Glenamara takes a different view, and he is entitled to it. What I am giving is the view of the Government, and that is how it was presented in another place; one need only read Hansard to see the attitudes there. There are, therefore, problems here. We can talk now about costs and Lord Aylestone fairly put his point. The extra cost would be £86,000 per year and of course these are index-linked pensions; £1 million would be the capital cost. We could rightly argue that it is not a large sum, but it would nevertheless mark a 77 per cent. increase in the annual cost of the Bill. The cost would be lower if only those who retired since 1972 were covered, but of course there are difficulties here. That increase in annual cost would give very selective help to only one single group.

Mention was made of workers in other occupations, and in the local government industrial scheme they got no pension at all until 1972 and no back-service credit, so there have been difficulties in other sectors. I repeat, that is the difficulty. I have to state the importance of the principle covering retrospection and the importance of the Boyle package. As I have promised on another Amendment, I am willing carefully to look at this and convey the strong views of noble Lords to the Government.

Baroness BACON

I appreciate the difficulties of which my noble friend has spoken and I know they are not just difficulties in detail because I have a feeling that he is rather sympathetic to the view that is being put to him today. I submit that this Amendment is quite different from the others we have considered. It is different in that while in the Bill there is nothing about the pre-1964 people who are getting no pensions whatever, there is a definite mention in Clause 11 of this matter. It seems to me that if we do not do something now, or unless we get a firm commitment from the Government to table an Amendment on Report to change the situation, this matter will not go back to another place for any decision whatever, It was not considered by another place; no Amendment was down and only a passing reference was made to it during the Bill's passage. I have a feeling that Members in another place did not realise the injustice they were doing when it was not discussed.

My noble friend said that this is contrary to Boyle. It is true that the Government do not give Boyle any marching orders, but I am wondering, having read the Boyle report carefully. how far they received advice from senior people in the Treasury and elsewhere as to the precedence in these matters. I have a feeling that they have been told, "This or that is not done." My noble friend also said there could be no retrospection, but the whole point about this provision in Clause 11 is that it is retrospective. I was surprised to see that five years' retrospection would be added in respect of the years 1950 to 1955. And if we are going back to 1950, 28 years ago, that must be the utmost retrospection, so I do not understand the argument of no retrospection.

Then we come to the point about the extra cost. Certainly this would cost more, but surely to give five years' retrospection to those who are in the House now will cost something, so there will be extra cost there. Those of us who support the Amendment are in some difficulty because if we do what has been done with previous Amendments, that will probably be the end of it—the others can be sent back to the Boyle Committee and the pre-1964 people can be reconsidered—but it is definitely stated in the Bill that this applies only to those who are in another place in 1978. As my noble friend Lord Aylestone said, there are some in another place who may be leaving it not in a matter of months but perhaps in weeks and they will not have paid anything towards this. Nevertheless, it will cost money for them and it will go back 28 years, to 1950.

I am a signature to the Amendment and I fear that if we let it go today, having been told that it will be considered, that will be the last we shall hear of it. However, we could, by accepting the Amendment, ensure that another place considers it, whereas it was not considered previously by them.


Why, when the Bill was being prepared and presented to another place, was it decided that the reckonable service should be 15 years? Obviously because to make it 10 years would have been unfair. Fair enough. Accordingly, they decided that the reckon-able service should be 15 years to apply to Members of another place who are there now or who may be retiring after the next election or at some suitable time. If they decided that the reckonable service for them should be 15 years, did it ever occur to them that the ten years' reckonable service should be amended? If it was going to be fair to them, why not fair to the previous recipients of the pension? Why ten years in one case and 15 years in another? I will tell you why. It is because when Lord Boyle and his colleagues were preparing the 1964 scheme they were concerned about the financial effect of reckonable service, that it would cost too much, and now that is obvious.

For example, suppose they had taken into consideration the whole period of a Member's service. In my own case that is over 40 years; so it would cost a lot of money. It would be very good for me but not good for the taxpayers. It would not suit the Government's finances. So it was decided to make it ten years' reckonable service because it was not going to cost too much. Now it is different. We are in a much more comfortable financial situation—or are we? I am not sure. Let us assume that we are. The Members in another place when they retire will have their pensions based not on ten years but on 15 years, but those who served more than ten years in the past—15 years, 20 years, 25 years, 40 years—are to have their pensions based on ten years' service. Where is the justice in that? Where is the fairness?

For Heaven's sake! I ask my noble friend the Leader of the House—but he is more than my noble friend; we worked together in the past but I will not go into all the details—why does he introduce this concept of retrospection? In this particular context it is not relevant at all, obviously. Moreover, as my noble friend Lady Bacon said, when this matter was debated in another place nobody got up. It never occurred to them. When it was suggested that the reckonable service should be 15 years nobody got up and said, "What about our old colleagues whose reckonable service is only ten years?" Nobody thought of it or talked about it. Indeed, there was no suggestion by Lord Boyle that it ought not to be considered. I admit that that is negative, but nevertheless there was no suggestion by Lord Boyle in promoting this scheme and in deciding on 15 years' reckonable service, that he should not apply it to past Members. There was no suggestion of that kind; it simply happened.

I have a great deal of sympathy for my noble friend the Leader of the House, and I shall tell your Lordships why. He has said that he will go to his right honourable friends and tell them what we have been saying. Quite frankly, I do not think that will take a trick. I wish it would. Not that it matters so very much, except in some cases. We were discussing the question of Ministers earlier on. The Amendment was withdrawn, but if the reckonable service were 15 years then perhaps some of the ex-Ministers would come into it who are getting nothing now—as Members of Parliament, not as Ministers who leave the House now.

My noble friend will have some difficulty. Why?—because they do not like this place. That is really the trouble; they do not like this place and they do not like some of us. That does not matter; we sometimes do not care for some of them.

Leaving that aside, the point is that the Leader of another place does not like us at all. He wants to abolish us. He said so. He is determined to abolish us and yet here we are going along to him and saying, "You who are going to abolish us, are now being asked to be a little reasonable and fair and to apply the justice about which you have spoken for donkey's years, to do something for us". And he says, "No, I am finished with that place. The sooner we get rid of it the better, and your Lordships can be disposed with it". No, my noble friend is going to have a difficult job. My suspicion is that he will get nothing out of his colleagues, and the situation will remain unfair, unjust, simply because they do not like the House of Lords.

Baroness BACON

Would my noble friend allow me? Would he not agree that there are many ex-Members of Parliament who are outside this House, who cannot speak for themselves, and that it would be misleading to make this into a House of Lords matter?


Of course there are. It is because of them that we want the reckonable service to be increased. Take another case to which I referred the other day: my noble friend Lord Blyton had long service but he happened to leave another place just before 1964, so he is on the Benevolent Fund. I believe my noble friend Lord Aylestone spoke of it as the Members' Fund, but it was the Members' Benevolent Fund. It started at a very low level many years ago and then it built up to £24 a year. Indeed when we were asked to pay the contribution of £150 a year, we were also paying the £24 a year for the Benevolent Fund. My noble friend agrees. Of course we did that, and even though we paid the £24 to the Benevolent Fund and the £150 to the Pension Fund, if our pensions are based on ten years' reckonable service, we do not even get anything out of the Benevolent Fund. That is the situation. What an anomaly!

Of course, as I said earlier on, this affair is replete, prolific with anomalies, and it was inevitable in the circumstances. There is, however, a way of dealing with it, and that is for the other place to be fair about it. If it were left to the Members in another place, on a free vote, I guarantee that they would agree to this proposition. But if it is to be left to my right honourable colleagues in another place, I am quite sure that we are going to get what perhaps we deserve in the circumstances—nothing at all.


May I interrupt for one minute to make one point. I feel slightly embarrassed to speak although, having been I think 44 years in this building—over 20 years in the other place and over 20 years in this place—I suppose I have an interest. The point I want to make is in answer to the noble Lord the Leader of the House about retrospection. I remember when the old age pension Act was first introduced. Was that not made retrospective?

6.20 p.m.


I should like to say a word on this matter before the Leader of the House replies. May I declare a very small interest. If this suggestion were enacted I would get I think three years' extra reckonable service, and I shall tell the House in a moment what my pension is. The Leader of the House is a kindly, compassionate man. He is my oldest friend in either House of Parliament. He and I were students together. But does he not realise—will he not realise—that there is a considerable injustice here? There is a great inequity, which kindly words from him on this occasion will not assuage. I believe that as well as being the Leader of the House he is Head of the Civil Service Department. This is the case, is it not? As such, he is the Minister in charge of policy on these matters. He is the man who decides the references to the Boyle Committee, and he is in charge of policy so far as this matter is concerned. He is also the Minister in charge of the Civil Service Department.

I should very briefly like to go over the arguments which have been put against the proposal. First, there is the package argument—that Boyle produced a package, and that therefore the Government must accept a package. Is it not the most astounding argument from this Government—that they must accept a Boyle Report in its entirety? Was not the Leader of the House a Member of a Government of which I was a Member a few years ago, when in Cabinet I pleaded with the Government to accept a Boyle Report which we had then? Did not the Government decide to adopt a very small part of it, but not the whole of it? Was the proposal about widowers in the Boyle Report? Of course it was not!

The Leader of the House may say that we can adopt part of the report but cannot add to it. But is it not a fact that Members of Parliament at present base their pensions on a notional salary? Will he tell us in which Boyle Report that appeared? It was not in any Boyle Report at all. It was done by the Government when they were considering a Boyle Report. It was an addition to a Boyle recommendation. So it is no good saying that the Government must accept the Boyle Report as a package.

We have heard of other Boyle Reports recently, and of what the Government have done to them. They have shelved them when it suited them. They have amended them when it suited them. They have ignored them when it suited them. Now, with an Election coming, they say that they have to adopt this one, that they cannot change it. But they have already changed it. One of the proposals which we have accepted today has changed the Boyle Report with regard to widowers. I wholeheartedly agree with that change. I do not oppose it. It was said that that proposal was introduced by a distinguished ex-Minister. Well, I should have thought that there are a few distinguished ex-Ministers here. The noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, was a very distinguished Leader of the other place—and this is his Amendment. So let us hear no more nonsense about having to adopt a Boyle Report in its entirety.

The second argument is about retrospection. Is not that equally ridiculous when the Leader of the House himself has brought along a Bill which gives existing Members of Parliament five more years retrospective reckonable service? He is the one who has brought in retrospection here. All we are suggesting is that the five years be increased to ten years for Members who have left the other place. It would be manifestly unjust that the 53 Members who will retire from Parliament this year, if the Election is to be this year, should be able to count 15 years' pre-1964 service, while Members who retired previously, on much smaller pensions, should not be able to count 15 years' pre-1964 service. So let us hear no more about retrospection.

Then we are told about the cost. A copy of the letter from the Leader of the other House which the noble Lord read out was sent to me. It is one of two letters I have received from him. He quotes a figure of £80,000. All of us know that when Governments quote the cost of any proposal they do not quote the net cost; and of course the Government take a considerable amount of that sum back in tax. I said that I would tell the Committee what my pension is. I served for 25 years in the other place. I served for eight years as a senior Minister. I spent 21 years doing a ministerial job, or acting as a Shadow Minister or as an unpaid Whip. My pension is £121 a month, net of tax. So when we talk about the cost, let us not talk about the gross cost, because the cost to the Government would be nowhere near £80,000; it would be a great deal less.

Another argument which the Leader of the other place has put to me in his letters is that what is proposed would be administratively difficult. What utter nonsense! This involves a small handful of people. Members' pensions are paid by the Public Trustee, who receives the data on which to pay them from, I take it, the Vote Office in the House of Commons. The Vote Office in the House of Commons could get the information out within two or three man hours. In half a day one clerk could get all the information and send it to the Public Trustee. What nonsense to talk about it being administratively difficult!

I appeal to the Leader of the House. I am sure that he has sensed the feeling of great injustice about this question. It is no good his getting up and saying that he is sympathetic. That will not do anything at all, though we appreciate it very much, and we understand his feelings. Will he not give an undertaking now that, as Leader of the House, as one of the most senior Members of the Government, and as Minister in charge of the Civil Service Department, he will see to it that if we carry this proposal it is accepted by the other House, or, if the wording is not right, he will put into the Bill a provision which will achieve the same purpose?


We have had a very effective debate on the issue. I am not going to cross swords with my noble friend on the arguments about retrospection and Boyle itself. After all that has been said the question is, what decision do we take? I should like to think that my noble friend who moved the Amendment would withdraw it. However, if there is strong feeling about it, there will be a Division, I assume, but I would hope that the Amendment can be withdrawn.


I am sure that the Leader of the House will press this matter very vigorously with his colleagues in Cabinet, but, equally, I am sure it is important that the Members of the House of Commons should discuss this issue, which so far they have not discussed. If we divide this evening and my Amendment is carried, then the House of Commons will discuss the matter, whatever happens to the Money Resolution. Therefore, I must divide the Committee.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 19 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 10 not moved.]

Remaining clauses and the Schedules agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.