HL Deb 12 March 1981 vol 418 cc379-81
Lord Boyd-Carpenter

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are now in a position to announce the promised improvements in the remuneration of junior Ministers in this House.

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Saomes)

My Lords, I regret to say that the position remains unchanged from that which I told my noble friend when I last answered his Question. The Government realise that there is a very real problem here and are considering what steps might best be taken to resolve it.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, does my noble friend recall that it was appreciated last summer from that Box that there was a very real problem here? It is a problem which is in financial terms insignificant, but a problem which affects not only the question of justice to a few individuals but the effective functioning of this House. Can he really not hold out hope that something will be done quickly and decisively in the immediate future?

Lord Soames

My Lords, I appreciate all that my noble friend has said. Consideration of this matter has taken very much longer than we had either expected or hoped. Although I recognise that this may give my noble friend little comfort, I can only say that the issues involved are complicated, much more so than we at first thought. I can only say that I hope I will be able to give him a more definitive answer when my noble friend next asks.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House: is it the case that junior Ministers in your Lordships' House are not remunerated in the same fashion as applies to junior Ministers in another place?—because if they are not equal with those in another place I want to say that, despite unsatisfactory answers to my questions to junior Ministers in your Lordships' House, I want to see them fairly treated.

Lord Soames

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for a question which, if I may say so, is typical of his attitude towards these matters and his magnanimity towards the Government. As Ministers they are remunerated in the same way as are junior Ministers in the other place. But their cash flow is much smaller because junior Ministers in another place also get their parliamentary salary, plus a number of other allowances which are not available to junior Ministers in this House. This is where the problem really lies. It is in this area that there is such a great difference. It is these areas which present such great difficulties, because the allowances are for specific purposes, some of which are related to constituencies, which of course junior Ministers in this House do not have.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, in giving further thought to this matter, would the noble Lord the Leader of the House bear in mind, first, that when Members of this House become Ministers they often have to give up other forms of regular employment; secondly, they may suddenly become unemployed as a result of a general election in which they played no part; and, thirdly, some are of an age which makes it difficult for them to take up the threads of some former employment? Does not that mean that they should receive some kind of severance pay, as do Members of another place who fall by the wayside?

Lord Soames

My Lords, again I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think I might reply, "Whom are you telling?" But I assure the noble Lord that all the arguments he has just developed are very much in our minds.

Lord Goronwy-Roberts

My Lords, while appreciating very much the spirit and tone of the noble Lord's replies to these questions, may I ask a factual question? How is a junior Minister defined? Are they all Ministers below Secretary of State level?

Lord Soames

My Lords, what we are considering is the remuneration of Ministers in the House of Lords inasmuch as this refers to all Ministers. But it is junior Ministers that are a particular cause for concern because of the level of their ministerial salaries. That is the principal cause of our concern. But we are looking at the question of ministerial salaries in this House. I do not want the House to feel in any way that I deal with this as a matter of levity; it is an extremely important point. These are obviously personal matters, but I absolutely take the point made by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter in his supplementary question, that this also affects the way in which this House works. It is essential that those who have responsibilities need not be looking too much over their shoulder at their own financial difficulties when they carry the kind of burdens which everyone in your Lordships' House knows Ministers do carry.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, could my noble friend bear this point in mind, that we are not only thinking about the personal problems of individuals but also wondering about the Government's power to attract intelligent young talent to the Front Bench, and that in turn, of course, bears very directly on the operational efficiency of the House?

Lord Soames

My Lords, I think when it comes to remuneration the question of supply and demand should always be taken into account.

Lord Byers

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord the Leader of the House would appreciate that, in his endeavours to solve this problem, he will have a very great deal of support from all quarters of the House.

Lord Soames

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord.

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