HL Deb 16 February 1995 vol 561 cc785-7

Lord McCarthy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they will introduce to establish a regular and direct link between the rewards of members of the Government and their contribution to improved levels of performance.

The Ministry of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

My Lords, the Government have no plans to introduce such a link.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which is even more unsatisfactory than that which his noble friend Lord Caithness gave me three years ago. Does he agree that it is disgraceful that the Government are now forcing performance-related pay on to everyone who receives government money, from the Civil Service to the Tate Gallery? They are forcing neurosurgeons, lighthouse keepers and others on to performance-related pay. Apparently, the only group to which that does not apply is the Government. How can that be?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord feels that my performance was not adequate. He has probably given me nothing out of 10 on his score sheet. But, as my noble friend Lord Caithness said when the Question was last asked, the roles of government Ministers would be very difficult to quantify and relate to performance. In any case, unlike most of the other groups that he mentioned, the Government carry a fairly drastic performance-related index, which is a kind of political snakes and ladders. You can climb up the ladder from junior whip to senior whip, to parliamentary under-secretary to minister of state and maybe even higher; then, with a bit of bad luck, you fall off and go down the snake to the Back Benches. That is a fairly dramatic way to judge performance.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, having regard to the fact that all Ministers of whatever government hold their office during pleasure, that is to say, without any right to notice at all, is not this Question the silliest that has ever been asked in recent years?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, my noble friend makes roughly the same point that I made but is slightly blunter. Indeed, Ministers in another place can find themselves having to serve two masters: one, the Prime Minister; and secondly, their electorate. Sometimes that can cause very sudden falls from grace.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, can the Minister say why the Home Secretary and the Minister who deals with prisons are still paid the same amount after having devolved all responsibility for the prison system to Mr. Derek Lewis? If, as he said, it is a game of snakes and ladders, does he agree that the Government should find the nearest snake to slide down?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I recall that the noble Lord found more or less the same kind of snake as I once found. With regard to his more substantive point about the Home Secretary and Ministers at the Home Office, they take the policy decisions regarding the whole question of penal policy and the Director of the Prison Service runs the service itself. It is a perfectly understandable division of responsibilities.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the difficulty in adopting the proposal suggested in the Question is that it would involve paying Ministers enormous increases in salary, which would be rather embarrassing?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. I might have to declare an interest in this matter. If performance were judged on the amount of legislation in this Parliament, for example, I might hit the top of the league.

Lord Eatwell

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the salary of the Governor of the Bank of New Zealand is linked inversely to the rate of inflation? In a week which has seen a sharp rise in inflation in this country, does he agree that it would be appropriate to reduce the Chancellor's salary? Or does he feel that perhaps it would be even more appropriate to reduce the salary of the man who really runs Britain's economic policy; namely, Mr. Eddie George?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I shall not take any lessons on the levels of inflation from a member of the party opposite, given the fact that for many months now our inflation rate has been at quite historically low levels. When looking for performance indicators, we might, for example, see how successful a Minister is in controlling and reducing public spending. Indeed, the party opposite might consider that the proper indicator is by how much public expenditure has been increased. That is what they would do if ever they had the chance to sit on this side of the House.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the British people will continue to expect Ministers to do what is in the people's interest, irrespective of its effect on the Ministers' interests?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. All Ministers carry out their responsibilities in a way that they believe will further the interests of the British people.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minister agree that many skilled artisans and professional men and women believe that they do not get a fair deal when the work that they do is compared, not necessarily with Ministers, but with some senior civil servants whose rises seem so easy to get?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, I am not entirely sure whether senior civil servants or civil servants generally would quite agree with the noble Lord's remarks. The simple truth is that many people, especially inside their own professions or occupations, feel that there ought to be an element of performance-related pay as otherwise people who do very well are not rewarded over those who do not do very well at all. The idea that the Government have introduced that concept, say, into the National Health Service, is at variance with the facts. For many years consultants have had "merit awards", which they all decide among themselves.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, do the Government deny that every single voluntary organisation receiving government money, as a condition of continuing to receive that money, now has to introduce some system of appraisal and performance-related pay? They all do it and they all hate it. The only place where it does not apply is in the Government. Is the only argument they can offer that their jobs are uncertain? Everyone's job is uncertain but only the Government have no performance-related pay.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, he overstates his case. In fact, there would be very few people not running to someone like the noble Lord if they suddenly found themselves sacked by evening time. Government Ministers and Members of Parliament are in exactly that position. All Ministers could be out of a job by the end of the evening without recourse to an industrial tribunal or the employment protection that other people have.

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