§ 3.24 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Viscount Whitelaw) rose to move, That this House approves the following proposals with respect to expenses incurred by Lords after 31st July 1984–
§ (1) The limits on the expenses which Lords may recover under the Resolution of 22nd July 1980 shall be determined as follows—
- (a) for paragraph (1)(a) of the Resolution (day subsistence and incidental travel) the limit for each day of attendance shall be—
- (i) for days in the year beginning with 1st August 1984, the amount obtained by increasing £16.00 by the percentage by which the rate of day subsistence allowance payable for an absence of more than 10 hours in the case of a member of the Home Civil Service of the highest subsistence classification was increased as from that date,
- (ii) for days in any subsequent year, the amount obtained by increasing what was the limit for a day's attendance in July of the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the rate of day subsistence allowance so payable was increased as from the end of that July (so that, if that percentage is nil, the limit remains the same for days in the year following that July);
- (b) for paragraph (1)(c) of the Resolution (overnight subsistence) the limit for each day of attendance shall be—
- (i) for days in the year beginning with 1st August 1984, the amount obtained by increasing £40.00 by the percentage by which the highest Inner London rate of night subsistence allowance payable to members of the Home Civil Service was increased as from that date,
- (ii) for days in any subsequent year, the amount obtained by increasing what was the limit for a day's attendance in July of the immediately preceding year by the percentage by which the highest Inner London rate of night subsistence allowance so payable was increased as from the end of that July (so that, if that percentage is nil, the limit remains the same for days in the year following that July);
- (c) for paragraph (1)(d) of the Resolution (office, secretarial and research allowance) the limit for any year shall be the appropriate amount multiplied by the number of days of attendance in that year falling within paragraph (1)(a) of the Resolution, the appropriate amount for this purpose being determined as follows—
- (i) for expenses incurred in the year beginning with 1st August 1984, the appropriate amount shall be the amount obtained by increasing £17.00 by the relevant percentage,
- (ii) for expenses incurred in any subsequent year, the appropriate amount shall be the amount obtained by increasing what was the appropriate amount for expenses incurred in the immediately preceding year by the relevant percentage (so that, if the relevant percentage for any year is nil, the appropriate amount remains the same for expenses incurred in that year);
- (d) for paragraph (3) of the Resolution (office holders' secretarial allowance) the limit shall be—
- (i) for the year beginning with 1st August 1984, the amount obtained by increasing £2,000.00 by the relevant percentage,
- (ii) for any subsequent year, the amount obtained by increasing the limit applicable to the immediately preceding year by the relevant percentage (so that, if the relevant percentage for any year is nil, the limit remains the same for that year).
§ (2) In this Resolution "year" means a year beginning with 1st August, and for the purposes of this Resolution—
- (a) the relevant percentage for any year is the percentage by which the amount of salary (exclusive of allowances and overtime) payable for the period of twelve months ending with 31st March in that year to a person in the Home Civil Service at the maximum point on the scale for Senior Personal Secretaries and in receipt of Inner London weighting exceeds the corresponding amount for the period of twelve months ending with 31st March in the immediately preceding year;
- (b) any fraction of a pound in an amount obtained under paragraph (i) or (ii) of sub-paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of paragraph (1) above shall be treated as a whole pound if it is not less than 50 pence, but shall otherwise be disregarded.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper. The purpose of this Motion is to provide for the updating each year of the various elements of the Peers' expenses allowance.
At present a fresh resolution of this House is required each time the allowance is reviewed. Earlier this year my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal asked the Top Salaries Review Body to advise on arrangements for keeping the allowance up to date in a way which would eliminate the need for annual resolutions.
§ The Review Body's recommendations are to link 403 the subsistence elements of the expenses allowance to changes in corresponding Civil Service subsistence rates and to link the secretarial allowance and office holders secretarial allowance to changes in Civil Service secretarial pay. The Government have accepted these recommendations, and they are given effect by the Motion before the House.
§ Perhaps it would be appropriate if I sought—I hope successfully—to explain the terms of the Motion to your Lordships. The new rates of allowance will be based on the current rates, which your Lordships agreed to in July last year, namely, a maximum of £16 per day for day subsistence and incidental travel, £40 per day for overnight subsistence, £17 per day of attendance for secretarial and office expenses and research assistance and £2,000 per year for the office-holders' secretarial allowance. The Motion before the House defines the formulae for increasing each of these limits. I should emphasise that they are to be linked to changes in Civil Service pay and allowances. Thus the subsistence allowances will not necessarily be the same as the equivalent Civil Service allowances, but they will be increased each year by the same percentage as those allowances are increased. And in the same way the secretarial allowances will be increased each year by the same percentage as the pay of the appropriate Civil Service secretarial grade is increased.
§ The Motion provides for the new rates to come into effect on 1st August, and for further increases to take effect on 1st August in subsequent years. I regret that I am not able to say at this stage exactly what the new rates will be, as the changes in the Civil Service rates to which they are to be linked are still under negotiation. But I understand that negotiations on Civil Service subsistence rates are at an advanced stage, and that the changes in those rates are likely to be fixed shortly. In the case of the secretarial allowances, which are linked to changes in Civil Service rates of pay, these cannot be fixed until the conclusion of the current Civil Service pay negotiations.
§ If your Lordships agree to this Motion, it will avoid the need for further motions to deal with routine up-rating. Of course, my Lords, there may still be a need from time to time to review the adequacy of the allowance in the light of changing circumstances. That is something which can be dealt with as the need arises. My Lords. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House approves the above proposals with respect to expenses incurred by Lords after 31st July 1984.—(Viscount Whitelaw.)
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I should like to express my support for the Motion which has just been moved by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. It is still not widely known just how hard your Lordships work in discharging your functions as Members of this House. Not only in this Chamber but in many committees and sub-committees upstairs, many of your Lordships put in long hours and a great deal of effort. The work and the hours have increased substantially in recent years, as all of us know. It is only right that in a House in which the great majority are entirely unpaid there should be adequate provision for the reimbursement of expenses so that noble Lords need not be out of pocket.
404 It was a year ago yesterday that your Lordships agreed to new rates of expenses in accordance with the recommendations of the Top Salaries Review Body. I understand that the effect of the Motion which has just been moved by the noble Viscount will be that the rates agreed to on that occasion will now be automatically up-rated in step with appropriate rates of pay and allowances in the Civil Service. This is a sensible measure which I believe all of us will be glad to support.
I appreciate that the noble Viscount is unable to tell us at present just what the new rates will be, but I do hope he will be able to assure the House that no time will be lost in bringing the new arrangements into operation as soon as the Civil Service rates have been agreed. The increases will certainly be well-deserved.
§ Lord Diamond
My Lords, I very much appreciate the way in which the noble Viscount has moved the Motion and explained it and made it very simple to understand. However, that perhaps leaves two questions which I could address to him. In the first place, in the event of the exact indexation figure not being available at the time that some of your Lordships may find it convenient to submit expense claims, would the noble Viscount indicate the exact way in which noble Lords should fill in their claims? It so happens that the House will be sitting on 1st August.
The second question I want to address to the noble Viscount relates to the important statement he made that, although this is a very good way of avoiding reconsidering the detail of increases, it nevertheless leaves open the question of dealing with variations, one might say. in principle. And, of course, there are allowances which your Lordships are denied but which are paid in another place. That is a matter which your Lordships may feel ought to be discussed from time to time. You may feel that the matter ought to be aired and that there ought to be some opportunity of doing that here. There are a variety of matters but I will not list them at the moment. So I ask the noble Viscount what method he envisages whereby we might conveniently bring these matters on to the Floor of the Chamber for discussion now that they will not automatically come before us in an annual resolution?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their response to this Motion. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, of course as soon as the new rates are available they will be immediately brought into operation.
May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, that I understand that if, when noble Lords are filling in forms, they have incurred more than the old maximum, they would then inform the Accountant accordingly and he, when the rates were put up after that, as they would be, would be ready to increase the maximum amount to what they had claimed.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, as chairman of the All-Party Scottish Peers' Committee, I have been asked on behalf of Scottish Peers who are married (as most of them are) whether it would be possible for an allowance to be made for the wives of Scottish Peers who come to London, as they often do. In the House of Commons I understand that that is 405 almost automatic: 16 passes are issued, or something like that. My Committee did not suggest that, but thought that perhaps we might get six passes for the wives of Scottish Peers who attend this House regularly. That would be a great help to them and it would also mean that the wives would be as interested in what happens in the House of Lords as their husbands are. I have spoken to the noble Viscount about this allowance and I wonder whether this point could be discussed at some time, for I think the granting of an allowance would make it only fair in comparison with the wives of MPs who represent Scottish consitituencies.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, particularly since it enables me to put right a failure in replying to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, on what would happen if there were to be variations from the present expenses levels. That of course could always be debated at any time your Lordships wished and we could come forward with it. Some proposals of course such as the one mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, would have to be referred to the Top Salaries Review Body at their next review, and we could see how we got on at that stage. I am bound to say to the noble Baroness and to the House that when I first became a Member of Parliament in another place in 1955 there were many years during which my wife had no means of coming to London from Cumbria—which being just over the Border is, after all, very nearly as far as the noble Baroness has to travel. So I am basically very sympathetic to that particular point of view.
The Earl of Bessborough
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend one question about secretarial allowances? I am sorry that I have not given him notice, but some of my noble friends have told me that they have some parliamentary business which has to be carried out when this House is not sitting. Could my noble friend look at the possibility of secretarial allowances being paid when a noble Lord is not actually attending a Session of Parliament?
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, may I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, for jumping up too quickly earlier? May I ask the noble Viscount whether these expenses or allowances are going to be tied to a Civil Service grade? May I also ask the noble Viscount which trade union or organisation he would advise noble Lords to join to try to help with negotiations? Perhaps if he does not care to advise them he would say whether the Government would be prepared to pay noble Lords £1,000 not to join?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, I see the noble Lord is seeking to get me into paths of argument which I do not wish to come into on this particular occasion. I think I would have to say to him that it would be up to noble Lords themselves to decide how they would wish to proceed.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, further to what my noble friend Lady Elliot has said, I am not directly interested myself, but I should like to draw attention to a point in connection with Peeresses coming to London, 406 because if they draw a ticket for a seat for the opening of Parliament, then their attendance is really part of the proceedings of the House.
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, in answer, first, to my noble friend Lord Bessborough, I understand that it is possible to "spread the days over", if he understands my meaning. I have had some consultations with the Chief Whip. If I have not made it clear, perhaps my noble friend had better approach the Chief Whip and I together and I will try to make it clearer thereafter.
§ Lord Diamond
My Lords, may I trouble the noble Viscount once more for further clarification as to what he meant when he said he was listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, with sympathy? He referred to the fact that when he was a Member for many years his wife was not able to accompany him; and, as we all know, this can cause domestic problems. I take the view that your Lordships are more, not less, entitled than Members of another place to be rid of any impediment or inhibition which prevents unpaid, honorary Members of your Lordships' House coming to attend to their national duties out of a sense of conscience, which is what happens at the moment. Therefore, I am very sympathetically inclined indeed to what the noble Baroness suggested, especially if it were a matter not limited to Members of your Lordships' House who happen to sit across the Border but were extended to Members in any place in any part of the country.
May I therefore ask the noble Viscount, who has made it clear that it took time in another place for this allowance to become available and that it may take time in this place— indeed it may take even longer in this place—whether he could make it clear that he had in mind that this matter ought to be put before the relevant body at their next meeting so that they can start considering it?
§ Viscount Whitelaw
My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, I was of course expressing a personal view and I should be very glad to discuss that particular personal view with my colleagues, although of course I could not commit the Government in any way. Perhaps I might make one point clear which would emphasise the difficulties attaching to this. Office-holders and Ministers of this House have been given a number of passes for their wives but, unlike Members of another place, we have had to pay full rates of tax on these passes for our wives. Your Lordships will realise that does diminish the value of the passes fairly considerably.
On Question, Motion agreed to.