HL Deb 14 December 1989 vol 513 cc1407-12

3.44 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th December be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: As your Lordships may know, under the terms of the resolution of another place of 21st July 1987, parliamentary salaries will increase on 1st January 1990 in line with Civil Service rates for grade 6s—that is, formerly senior principals in the Civil Service. The draft order which I laid before your Lordships' House on 1st December determines the revised salaries proposed for Ministers and paid office holders from the same date.

In a Written Answer I gave to the House on Monday 4th December, I set out in detail all the changes which we envisage. The average increase in salaries in this House will be a little over 7.5 per cent. and 6 per cent. in another place. The average for the proposed package as a whole is just under 6.5 per cent.

In your Lordships' House we propose that Ministers and paid office holders should receive a cash increase of £2,594 in their official salary. This is the same cash increase as Members of Parliament will receive in their salaries.

In the Commons all Ministers and paid office holders will receive an increase of £641 which, with the increase of £ 1,953 in their reduced parliamentary salary, gives them a total increase of £2,594—also the same as Members of another place. As I have said, these increases represent an average increase for Ministers and paid office holders in both Houses of just under 6.5 per cent. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th December be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Belstead.)

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for explaining this order to us. The Government have again adopted the ingenious solution first used last year of applying as a flat rate increase the increase given to Members of Parliament and the increase in ministerial and other salaries. That has a lot to commend it but it produces the quirky result that the highest paid Minister receives the lowest percentage increase; so the Prime Minister herself receives the lowest percentage increase of all.

In other circumstances one might have some reservations about flat rate increases. I heard noble Lords yesterday afternoon talking loudly and strongly about the difficulties of flat rate increases in the refreshment department. However, these are other circumstances this afternoon and I think that the Government's decision to apply a flat rate increase to these salaries is probably right.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, my noble friend has explained the proposals to your Lordships. On the face of it they seem reasonable and modest, setting a good example to the rest of the public sector. However, I must express a note of regret that the opportunity has not been taken to remedy a matter which I think is of significance and importance in this House; that is, the very poor level of remuneration of junior or middle grade Ministers in the House. In another place, after all, Members receive a substantial part of a parliamentary salary and allowances added to their ministerial salary, which produces a not unreasonable figure. However, in your Lordships' House these junior Ministers have no parliamentary salary with which to augment their ministerial salary, which looks a little bare.

Moreover, there is an important point which I think most of your Lordships understand. Those who take on duties as junior Ministers in the House are almost always of the younger political generation, often with families and children to educate. I do not wish to quote examples—that would be embarrassing—but there is no doubt at all that some of those who have taken on junior ministerial office in this House have done so at considerable financial sacrifice. It is also reasonably well known that some former junior Ministers have felt it impossible to continue on the present basis and have returned to more remunerative occupations. I believe that others have felt it impossible to join the administration for these reasons.

I had hoped therefore that when this review took place an effort would be made substantially to increase both in absolute and in relative terms the remuneration of middle and junior Ministers in the House. I did so for two reasons: first, the fairness to the individuals concerned and, secondly, from the practical point of view of securing for the House the service of the best possible Ministers.

Lord Renton

My Lords, before my noble friend proceeds, will he clarify one point? When he uses the expression "junior Ministers", can he assure us that he has particularly in mind Lords in Waiting?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I did not have Lords in Waiting particularly in mind as they are specifically provided for here. To be frank I had more the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries in mind. However, what I have to say obviously has its applicability to Lords in Waiting. I prefer to refer to the category of junior Ministers as embracing Ministers of State, Parliamentary Secretaries and Lords in Waiting, in fact the whole of the Ministerial team below the Cabinet level.

Although nothing has been done on this occasion, I hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House will be able to give some encouragement to those of us who, as he knows, have for some time been urging upon Her Majesty's Government the desirability, and indeed the necessity, of making some quite substantial improvements in this direction if fairness is to be shown to individuals and if this House is to be properly served.

That is the main point I rise to speak to, but I should be grateful if in replying my noble friend the Leader of the House will explain one provision of the order, and that is the apparent disparity among Law Officers in favour of the Scottish Law Officers. It is not on the face of it obvious why the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate should be paid £7,000 a year more than the Attorney-General. It is still less obvious why the Solicitor General for Scotland should be paid £9,000 a year more than the Solicitor General in England. This may of course reflect the presence on the Woolsack of a Scottish Lord Chancellor, thereby ensuring that the merits and appeal of Scottish Law Officers are fully recognised. However, on the face of it, it is a little surprising because, important though the role of the Scottish Law Officers is—I am the last person to underrate that role—those of us who have seen the Attorney-General and the Solicitor General at work in another place on the immense volume of business they handle wonder why they are not treated at least on a similar basis. No doubt there is an explanation for that as there generally is for these things, but I should be very interested to hear it.

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I had not intended to speak, but I wish to support the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in his submission that junior officers, particularly those in this House, need some increased remuneration. I believe that that probably goes for junior and middle Ministers generally. However, I should not like it to be thought that Members in another place who hold ministerial office receive an extra salary and allowances by virtue of their parliamentary seats simply as a way of augmenting their ministerial income. That is not the case because they do not even receive the full parliamentary salary. The recollection of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, may be a little dim as it is some time since he held the dual function of a Member of the House and a Minister, but I know that Ministers carry the additional burden of constituency duties which incur expenses that could not reasonably be met out of their ministerial salaries. They may have the additional burden, as I had whenever I was a Minister, of having a small majority.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, during my period as a Cabinet Minister I had a number of distinguished junior Ministers who were Ministers in this House. I became seized of the importance of the point that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has made. I would not dream of mentioning names, but one particular Minister who served with great distinction and fortitude terminated his position as he felt he could no longer continue. He confessed to me that his period as a Minister in this House had cost him something in the order of £5,000; that is to say, he was that much out of pocket at the end of his period of office as compared with the beginning. He was putting his hand in his pocket in order to serve this House and the Government.

It is no secret that former Leaders of this House—I do not expect my noble friend on the Front Bench to disclose what representations he may have made—have made representations again and again that this anomaly should be dealt with. It is simply not fair to the individuals concerned. It does not serve the Government well and it certainly does not serve this House well. It really is time that this unfair anomaly should be dealt with. I hope that the word may go out from this House, and from such distinguished Members as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, that those with some experience of these matters feel that the situation cannot go on like this. This matter must be dealt with next time round.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I had intended to speak quite briefly, but certainly I wish to endorse what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has said. I do not wish to play with words, but it always seemed to me, and still does, that the anomaly rests not necessarily with the salary but more with the expenses that junior Ministers have to cope with. I am talking of course about the London allowance. It is monstrous that junior Ministers in your Lordships' House are deemed to live in London. If one looks at the list over the past 10 years or so, one finds that they do not live in London. They have to take up a residence or an establishment of some kind and incur an expense which has to come out of taxed income. The taxed income in terms of the remuneration is not all that generous, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said.

When we look at the package that Ministers in the House of Lords receive, it should be borne in mind that acceptance of a position of some responsibility which is discharged honourably and properly should not mean that Ministers are so disadvantaged in terms of that particular cost. Will my noble friend the Leader of the House give more importance to that point than the salary iself?

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I am a former member of the Top Salaries Review Body although I served on it some years ago now. The members of that body discussed these matters. The decision was made, rightly or wrongly, to link these salaries to a Civil Service grade. Following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I should like to know whether these other matters such as the London allowance and other payments are being sufficiently considered.

I well recall that we gave great attention to such matters. We found that at that time there was a great number of these relatively small expenses which in aggregate make a lot of difference to the position of junior Ministers. Perhaps linking those salaries to a Civil Service grade has led to a position where those other items do not receive sufficient consideration. Will the noble Lord the Leader of the House look into that?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for his support for the order I have moved. I am also grateful to all the other noble Lords who have spoken briefly but succinctly on that order. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter regretted that the remuneration for junior and middle rank Ministers—I shall call them junior and middle rank Members of the Government, as I certainly include Lords in Waiting in this matter—had not been, as he put it, remedied. All the remarks which my noble friend made about the duties of junior and middle Members of the Government in your Lordships' House were absolutely true. I also thought the remarks of my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth were important and I shall draw them to the attention of those of my right honourable friends who are concerned with this matter. I can assure the noble Baroness that all those matters are always considered at the time of a pay round.

My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was good enough to say at the beginning of his remarks that he felt that a total increase for members of the Government and paid office holders of just under 6.5 per cent. set a good example. I believe that it is important at a time of inflation that the pay increase should be of that kind of percentage.

I was asked one direct question which also had a bearing on the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Mulley. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked why, looking at the list of increases, the Scottish Law Officers seem to receive a great deal more in total pay than my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General and my honourable and learned friend the Solicitor-General. My noble friend is quite right, as usual, in the sense that the official salaries of the Scottish Law Officers are higher than those of the English Law Officers. However, when one looks at the total, taking into account the parliamentary salary, it can be seen that my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General and my honourable and learned friend the Solicitor-General receive a good deal more in cash than the Scottish Law Officers.

However, one has to bear in mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, said, that the parliamentary salary is only a proportion of the parliamentary salary paid to Members in another place. Nonetheless, the answer to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter is that when one looks at the total cash which goes to those particular members of the Government one sees that the amount which goes to the English Law Officers is a good deal more than the amount which goes to their Scottish counterparts.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down—

Lord Mulley

My Lords, I want to make it clear, as I failed to do earlier, that although Ministers in another place receive only part of their parliamentary allowance their constituents expect them to discharge their parliamentary responsibilities as well as, if not better than, those Members who are not Ministers. In order to avoid misunderstanding it should not be thought that Ministers in another place do not also have to be treated as living in London. I do not know whether the position has changed, but in my experience that was certainly the case. One received no allowance for that in another place as I understand no allowance is made in this House.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before my noble friend finally sits down, does he appreciate that the argument that he has just used concerning the higher payment to the Scottish Law Officers—that unlike their English counterparts they do not receive a parliamentary salary—undermines his whole argument in respect of other Ministers who are not given the same treatment? If that is right for Law Officers—and it is a fact that lawyers are sometimes quite good at looking after themselves—why is it not right for all the other Ministers in this House?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if I gave anything away it was entirely inadvertent. I am unable to answer the last question of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. However, as I promised, I shall draw the remarks of my noble friend as well as the remarks of all other noble Lords to the attention of those of my right honourable friends who are concerned in these matters.

On Question, Motion agreed to.