§ 11.38 a.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Waddington)
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The resolution before the House makes a minor change to the arrangements for the overnight expenses allowance to correct a long-standing problem in relation to Peers serving on Select Committees. The problem was drawn to my attention by the Chairman of Committees, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare.
The problem arises because Peers who live a long way from London sometimes find it necessary to stay in London on the night before a series of sitting days because of an early start in committee on the first day. They may also need to stay here on the night of the final sitting day because of a late finish as well as on the intervening nights. In such circumstances Peers stay in London for one more night than the number of sitting days. But under the existing resolutions Peers can claim overnight expenses only for the number of days on which the House sits. Peers serving on committees may therefore be out of pocket.
This resolution makes provision for Peers where necessary to claim overnight expenses on the night before a sitting of a committee of this House. The general rule that Lords' allowances should be directly linked to attendances at sitting days of the House has served us well. It is not intended to change this rule except in the specific circumstances which I have described. All claims from Peers sitting on committees will be subject to the approval of the Leave of Absence and Lords' Expenses Committee.
885 I hope that your Lordships will agree that this change is sensible and I commend the resolution to the House.
Moved, That as from 1st August 1991—
(1) Members of this House, except any Lord who receives a salary under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 and the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, shall be entitled to recover (in addition to the costs of travel for which other provision is made) expenses certified by them as —(a) expenses incurred (otherwise than as mentioned in sub-paragraph (b) below) for the purpose of attendance at sittings of this House or of Committees of this House, or (b) expenses incurred in staying overnight away from their only or main residence where it is necessary to do so for that purpose. (2) The amount which a Lord may recover under paragraph (1) (a) of this Resolution shall not exceed the maximum daily amount for each day of attendance at a sitting of this House or of a Committee of this House. (3) In paragraph (2) of this Resolution and this paragraph "the maximum daily amount" means—(a) for a day in the year beginning with 1st August 1991, £29, and (b) for a day in any subsequent year, the amount obtained by increasing what was the maximum daily amount for a day in July of the immediately preceding year by the percentage (if any) by which the rate of day subsistence allowance payable for an absence of more than ten hours in the case of a member of the Home Civil Service of the highest subsistence classification was increased as from the end of that July. (4) The amount which a Lord may recover under paragraph (1) (b) of this Resolution shall not exceed the maximum daily amount for—(a) each day of attendance at a sitting of this House or of a Committee of this House, and (b) each other day which falls immediately before a day of attendance at a sitting of a Committee of this House if the Lord incurs expenses in staying overnight away from his only or main residence before the sitting and it is necessary for him to do so for the purpose of attendance at the sitting. (5) In paragraph (4) of this Resolution and this paragraph "the maximum daily amount" means—(a) for a day in the year beginning with 1st August 1991, £68, and (b) for a day in any subsequent year, the amount obtained by increasing what was the maximum daily amount for a day in July of the immediately preceding year by the percentage (if any) by which the highest Inner London rate of night subsistence allowance payable to a member of the Home Civil Service was increased as from the end of that July. (6) For the purposes of this Resolution —(a) any fraction of a pound in an amount obtained under paragraph (3) (b) or (5) (b) shall be treated as a whole pound if it is not less than fifty pence, but shall otherwise be disregarded, (b) references to a sitting of this House or of a Committee of this House do not include references to a judicial sitting, and (c) "year" means a year beginning with 1st August.—(Lord Waddington.)
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, perhaps I may offer a brief comment on the Motion. I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the cost of coming 886 to attend to the business of your Lordships' House is rising all the time. Claims for reimbursement can now amount to a considerable sum each time. I draw attention to the anomaly which exists. Members of another place can claim their expenses whether they are incurred or not; civil servants can get an advance on expenses, but we work on a reimbursement basis. That means that on the basis of monthly claims we are giving an interest-free loan to the Treasury amounting in total to a very large sum indeed. I make no complaint. I have no proposal to make. I mention the fact as yet another virtue attaching to life in the House of Lords.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, I do not wish to oppose the Motion. However, I wish to draw attention to paragraphs (3) (b) and (5) (b). Both paragraphs are sheer gobbledegook. I know that I am not a very clever fellow, but I believe that other noble Lords cannot understand those paragraphs. It is not good English and anyone who can work out the meaning of the paragraphs is quite a genius. It behoves the writers of these documents to use good English which one can understand.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene to say that this is an opportunity to put on record the fact that Peers do not receive a salary of £100 a day, as is frequently propagated by a certain Member of the other place. It is important to make clear that we merely receive reimbursement expenses.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, can the noble Lord the Leader of the House say whether any attention is being paid to the other daily allowance for secretarial and comparable expenses? Is he aware that the cost of postage is due to rise in September? The costs of secretarial services are certainly not decreasing and in some aspects they are increasing. Can the noble Lord say whether any consideration is being given to that item?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, before my noble friend answers the questions, perhaps I may support the suggestion made by the noble Baroness. The secretarial allowance is very modest and has the great disadvantage of relating only to the days when the House is sitting, plus a week at each end of the Recess. On the whole, it is unlikely that your Lordships would sack your secretaries when we reach the beginning of August with a view to re-engaging them on 7th October. Therefore, I wonder whether both the amount of the secretarial allowance and the period in respect of which it can be claimed are being looked at. As the noble Baroness rightly said, the cost of secretarial assistance is rising. It is absolutely essential to noble Lords who desire to take a full part in the proceedings of the House to have that assistance.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, as regards the point made about the secretarial allowance, is the Minister aware that it was only a short time ago that there was an extension which permitted Members of this House to draw that allowance for a limited number of days during the holiday period? I believe that the period is 18 days broken up into six three-day 887 weeks. We do not work a three-day week except for a very short period after the Queen's Speech. In the main we work a four-day week. Can the noble Lord say why consideration has not been given to putting this limited expense in line with a four-day week instead of a three-day week?
§ Lord Waddington
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, Lord Dean of Beswick, to my noble friends Lord Gisborough and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and to the noble Baroness Lady Phillips and Lady White. They all raised important points. It is useful to get on record, for example, that we are only paid for expenses incurred in getting here unless we are office holders. It is right that the public should know how modest the allowances are. It is also right that the House should realise that this is a modest proposal. It is the only specific proposal that was put to me. I am here only to explain to the House that a proposition was put to me by my noble friend Lord Aberdare and that the Government have acted on it. All the other matters which have been raised concerning the secretarial allowance, and the rest, can be discussed in good time. I am sure that the various points which have been raised by noble Lords will be borne very much in mind.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.