§ 3.8 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 9th July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].744
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order before your Lordships today is unusual in that it provides two sets of increases which come into effect at different times. This is to implement the recommendations of the independent Senior Salaries Review Body, which were debated in the other place last Wednesday and accepted in full. The order, when made, will provide increases of 3 per cent. for all Ministers and office holders in this House and a modest increase of £500 in the Lord Chancellor's salary lead over the Lord Chief Justice. It also provides further significant salary increases for a selection of Ministers and office holders to take effect after the next election. In this House, those affected are Cabinet Ministers and the Lord Advocate.
§ I should make it clear that Her Majesty's Government thought the increases recommended by the SSRB were too high. We therefore proposed in another place awards based on the 3 per cent. increases recommended for Lords Ministers. Members of another place chose to reject the Government's advice and voted for the whole package, one element of which is before you today.
§ In making its recommendations on all parliamentary salary levels the SSRB applied the principle that the main determinate should be the level and range of responsibilities. In the case of Ministers and office holders in this House it also accepted the historical argument that ministerial salaries should remain higher than those of their counterparts in another place. Those principles are reflected in the new rates which the review body has recommended.
§ Your Lordships will have noted that no post-election increases have been recommended for Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries. The same is true for their counterparts in another place, although they will continue to benefit from the increases in their parliamentary salaries. The reason for this is that in the time available the SSRB was unable to consider in sufficient depth the relativities between Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries in this House and their counterparts in another place. It will therefore consider that aspect further and make its recommendations in due course. If any of your Lordships wish to examine the development recommendation in the SSRB report I recommend a review of paragraph 59.
§ I should comment also on the three recommendations in the SSRB report on your Lordships' allowances, particularly in the light of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. Those allowances are: a consolidated allowance for regular attendance; the entitlement to claim for two return journeys for spouses to attend parliamentary occasions; and the proposal to introduce these allowances from 1st August of this year and uprated in accordance with normal practice.
§ Her Majesty's Government need to consult the House authorities on the administrative arrangements involved in implementing those recommendations. I submit that they could be fairly complicated. If the House permits, I shall return to your Lordships with more detailed proposals in the light of those investigations as soon as I can.745
§ I have already referred to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. I can readily understand that other noble Lords may share his disappointment that the SSRB has not recommended any significant increases in Peers' expenses. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, Leader of the Opposition in your Lordships' House, has already drawn my attention to the concerns of a number of Back Bench Peers on that and other matters. I welcome the noble Lord's interest in this matter. I hope that it will be possible for him, the Convener and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats to confer with me in order to consider how best we should approach this matter in due course. I hope that your Lordships' House will regard it as sensible for that confabulation to take place before I return to your Lordships on this matter.
§ For that reason, I suggest that it is preferable to treat ministerial salaries and Peers' expenses separately in spite of the understandable concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. Indeed, it is entirely commensurate with the past approach of the House to these matters. I should like to underline one way of looking at this important matter. In the past your Lordships have endorsed the principle that Peers' expenses should be treated as just that. They are not in any way remuneration, but a reflection of the fact that your Lordships' House is, in political terms, although not in terms of the expertise which this House embodies, an amateur House. Therefore, any suggestion that your Lordships' House as at present composed should attract remuneration is at variance with the nature of the House. I suggest that it would be sensible for your Lordships to regard expenses as just that. Therefore, we have a difficult line to maintain. On the one hand, we do not wish your Lordships to feel that you are subsidising attendance at this House in any way. On the other hand, I suggest that it would be wise for the general public to be aware that, in contrast to predilections elsewhere, your Lordships do not—dare I say it?—suffer from greed, and that if there is an opportunity to depart from the narrow path which I have suggested should be followed, your Lordships should err on the side of public economy rather than the reverse. That is something that your Lordships will wish to look at when considering the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell.
§ For that reason, I hope that your Lordships will feel able to approve the recommendations embodied in my Motion this afternoon. I commend the recommendations to the House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 9th July be approved [26th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Viscount Cranborne.)
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, we have been told year after year that our remuneration is not a matter for this House but that the decision is made in another place. But when the Minister gave an answer to a question in another place at the time this matter 746 was debated he bounced the ball in here. In another place Mr. D.N. Campbell-Savours, the Member for Workington, asked the Leader of the House:Why do the Government refuse to include evidence on the remuneration of peers? Many working peers find it difficult to manage; yet they do as much work as many Members of this House. Are they not being treated disgracefully?".One could also say that about Ministers and the workload in the House compared with others. Mr. Newton's reply was quite clear:The remuneration of working peers is a matter for the other place".
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I believe that there is an amendment to this Motion on the Order Paper. It is the custom of this House to take the amendment first and the order afterwards.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is not yet the Speaker of the House, so I will proceed. Mr. Newton said—
My Lords, I am, as always, to be guided by your Lordships. If the noble Lord, Lord Dean, is intervening in my remarks I shall be happy to try to conclude my remarks by attempting to answer his point. On the other hand, if he is anticipating what the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, is to say I wonder whether the House would prefer to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Dean, after the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, rather than before.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House. However, my remarks have nothing to do with the amendment on the Order Paper; they are related to a completely different subject. When Mr. Campbell-Savours put his pointed question Mr. Newton replied:The remuneration of working peers is a matter for the other place".He was referring to noble Lords. He went on to say,There are three recommendations in the report on which I have not touched".—[Official Report, Commons, 10/7/96; col. 491.]He made it quite clear that we should be the masters of our own remuneration, not sit back like lapdogs waiting for the crumbs to fall off the table when the MPs have had their snouts in the trough. According to Mr. Newton, we have some say in this matter.
My Lords, I observed the useful and disinterested trades unionist intervention from the honourable Member for Workington, and indeed the reply of my right honourable friend in another place. Noble Lords' expenses are entirely a matter for your Lordships' House. I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord on that matter. Ministerial salaries are a different matter. That is 747 a matter for resolution by both Houses, and it is to that particular resolution that I direct your Lordships' attention this afternoon.
My Lords, I am reminded of my time in another place. I shall, of course, be guided by your Lordships, but in view of the strong feelings that this matter clearly engenders in your Lordships' House, and the fact that we have a great deal of business to get through this afternoon, I wonder whether your Lordships might feel it sensible to listen to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, in support of his amendment, and for other noble Lords to deliver themselves of their opinions afterwards.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean. I am not, in any way, Speaker of your Lordships' House and I think it is thoroughly undesirable for this House to have a Speaker. I hope I am right in thinking that my noble friend is perhaps suggesting against the will of the House that he should intervene at the moment. I will listen to what he has to say with the greatest of interest, but I wonder whether it would be possible for the House to listen to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell.
My Lords, I have to confess that I had hoped we would conduct these proceedings with somewhat greater decorum than we have managed so far. My noble friend is a very experienced parliamentarian. I appeal to his experience and, indeed, his better nature. I assure him that I shall listen to what he has to say in due course.
§ Lord Monkswell rose to move, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end to insert ("after the Leader of the House has consulted all Members of the House to discover how many Lords in receipt of a Writ of Summons are unable to obey their Writs on a daily basis because of inadequate allowances and when he has reported his findings to the House.").748
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must, first, apologise to the House, because in submitting this amendment I had no idea that it might cause any consternation.
§ In moving this amendment I should like to review some facts; put forward an argument for more information; and seek the support of noble Lords in the name of the effective involvement of all Members of your Lordships' House. I shall tell your Lordships what this amendment is not about. It might be felt that I am trying to curry favour with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in another place who both urged restraint on the increase in ministerial salaries. I am not trying to do that. This amendment is not about stopping or curtailing the salary increases.
§ Members of your Lordships' House and Members of the House of Commons are all Members of Parliament. Parliament sits for approximately 140 days per year. Members in the Commons will be paid £307 per sitting day. Members in the Lords have an allowance of £33 per sitting day. Members in the Commons have a second homes allowance of £85.50 per sitting day. Members in the Lords have a second homes allowance of £74 per sitting day. Members in the Commons have an office costs allowance of £331 per sitting day plus free postage while Members in your Lordships' House have a secretarial allowance of £31 per day and no free postage.
§ We need also to be aware that the average daily attendance in your Lordships' House is 374, or 31 per cent. of the total membership. The maximum daily attendance in the past year was 517, or 43 per cent. That was last week when we had a big debate and vote on the sale of married quarters. Our total membership is 1,195 Peers in receipt of a Writ of Summons. So 678 Peers who had received their Writ of Summons did not attend on that day—the highest attendance day in recent memory.
§ Some of those 678 Members will be old and infirm and therefore, for reasons of health, unable to attend your Lordships' House. But we need to be concerned that some Members of your Lordships' House in receipt of a Writ of Summons may be unable to obey that Writ of Summons because of inadequate allowances.
§ It is interesting to note that the Senior Salaries Review Body in its investigations into the subject of Peers' allowances interviewed only active Peers. There has been no attempt to glean the responses of those Members of your Lordships' House who may not be active.
§ We may also be trespassing on the goodwill and private income of our colleagues who do attend. I shall give details of a case study: an elderly Peer—I will not name him—takes a taxi to the House in the morning. He spends £5 and arrives at 10.30 a.m. He buys a cup of coffee: 35p; he has lunch in the Peers' Dining Room: £6; later in the afternoon he has a cup of tea and a muffin: £1.15. We need to recognise that cream cakes cost extra. Dinner in the evening will cost him £21.35. At the rise of the House at 10.30 p.m., he takes a taxi home. That is another £5. His total expenditure during the day for attending your Lordships' House is £39.85. That is before he has paid for a decent suit, shirt cleaning, and other costs which may be incurred. The daily allowance is £33. In that case, for 749 working a 12-hour day in your Lordships' House, the Peer subsidises the House by £6.85, and that is without having a drink.
§ My amendment requests the Leader of the House to consult all Members of the House to discover how many Lords in receipt of a Writ of Summons are unable to obey that Writ on a daily basis because of inadequate allowances, and to report his findings to the House. That information is important because I am sure that even Ministers would be unhappy about receiving an increase in their pay if they knew that Members of your Lordships' House in receipt of a Writ of Summons from Her Majesty the Queen felt unable to take part in your Lordships' business. I beg to move.
§ Moved, as an amendment to the above Motion, at end to insert ("after the Leader of the House has consulted all Members of the House to discover how many Lords in receipt of a Writ of Summons are unable to obey their Writs on a daily basis because of inadequate allowances and when he has reported his findings to the House.")—(Lord Monkswell.)
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, there is a distinct difference in both the importance and the presentation of the amendment and the statement made by the Leader of the House. Following the statement by the Leader of the House, I want to ask him a question about the constitutional standing of this House.
I am not interested in Back-Bench arguments on the price of coffee and cream cakes that we have just heard, but I am interested in seeing that our standing as part of the parliamentary system is preserved. I want to ask my noble friend what efforts he has made to avoid the distinction between junior Ministers in the other place and junior Ministers here. Under the constitution, many Members of this Chamber have to be part of the Government. I should like to know whether they are truly Ministers when they are appointed or whether they are some down-graded type of Minister who comes rather lower.
In 1911 everyone agreed to give the other place all the powers relating to finance. However, we preserved our right to have our Ministers as part of the Government. Under the arrangement as I understand it, and as explained by my noble friend, that means that in terms of payment there is a distinction to the disadvantage of Ministers who sit in this House. I believe that that is bad and an acceptance that Ministers in this House have a lower status than those in the other place. One is either a Minister or one is not. One is not a part-time psuedo-Minister if one is a Minister in this House but a proper Minister if you are a Member of the other place.
On the basis of wishing to preserve the constitutional rights of this House, I did not want my point to be entangled with an argument about how much we should pay for our cream cakes.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, I, too, tried to speak on the original Motion. I did not wish to become involved in the amendment. I wish to say to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House—and I hope that he 750 is listening to me—that I find the matter extremely distasteful. I have said so previously, and I shall continue to say it while it remains the procedure that recommendations that come before both Houses of Parliament are moved by Members who will benefit from them. That is most distasteful for the ordinary Members of this House who are obliged to accept the recommendations.
These matters should be dealt with in the same way as the Government have recommended that companies should review their directors' salaries. There should be an independent body within the House, rather than having the Leader of the House moving the Motion, which is promptly seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. Surely it would be more practical for the Chairman of Committees, who is independent, to move the Motion rather than two politically involved Members of the House.
§ Lord Howell
My Lords, perhaps I may express my appreciation to the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal for what he said and the way in which he said it. I am content that he will have these various matters investigated. I do not support the amendment that is being moved.
However, there are real problems and I am grateful to the noble Viscount for acknowledging the role of my noble friend Lord Richard and others. I endorse what was said by the noble Viscount: no one having the honour to serve in this House receives remuneration unless he or she is a Minister. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, about Minister's salaries.
The same should be acknowledged in relation to Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. They work long hours, and under our existing arrangements no adequate research facilities are provided. In view of the changing character of the House and the long hours we now sit there is a need for a proper accommodation allowance. No noble Lord should be expected to subsidise the Government or the work of the House, as distinct from receiving remuneration. It is not possible to rent a flat for 12 months, for example, on the kind of allowances which are provided. Nor is it possible to have proper secretarial assistance.
I hope that the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal will take on board the fact that I do not see why spouses of Members of this House should be regarded as less important than spouses of Members of Parliament, who are given assistance for 15 visits. That suggests that those of us who come from up-country should not be allowed the same attendance of our wives or husbands as those in another place. I cannot believe that that is right. We all know that wives of Peers and of Members of Parliament do a great deal of work for the country without recompense. I hope that we can be generous by saying that husbands and wives are entitled to have their spouses with them more often than twice a year.
751 I rest content in leaving these matters in the hands of the noble Viscount and I am sure that he will have them examined.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, I rise to take up the noble Viscount on the point of greed. I personally would find the expenses entirely adequate for my needs if it were not for my greed and my thirst.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the matter of the journeys of Members' wives. If one comes from Scotland that is a little expensive. When the noble Viscount talks about administrative arrangements, does he mean that for 30 attendances in the House you get one wife here? How is that to be arranged?
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I may be wrong but I detect a feeling that the House does not want a lengthy debate on this issue today.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, perhaps I may make three points. I read the report of the top salaries review body with some disappointment. I thought that in relation to your Lordships' House it had either disregarded the issue or had fudged it. As regards Ministers in your Lordships' House, the committee appeared to have disregarded the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. Those points should have been regarded.
Secondly, I have considerable sympathy with the position expressed by my noble friends Lord Monkswell, Lord Dean, Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Howell. It is all very well for the Leader of the House to say that this is an amateur House. In one sense it is an amateur House but in another sense it is becoming increasingly less amateur and rather more professional. In those circumstances, there is an issue which needs to be examined.
Thirdly, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to a letter which I wrote to him. I did so expressing my disappointment about the terms of the report. I stated that I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Leader of the House, the Convenor of the Cross-Benchers and myself should get together to see how we could advance this matter. By "advance this matter" I do not mean that we can persuade your Lordships to accept the terms of the report. I mean that perhaps we can produce a set of proposals which will be more amenable to your Lordships and fairer to this House than the report. I hope that that meeting will take place reasonably quickly. I also hope that there will be an opportunity to come back to the House before the Summer Recess so that you Lordships will be able properly to assess the whole matter.
I am afraid that I could not advise my noble friends to support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Monkswell if it were put to a vote. It appeared to me to be somewhat premature and not totally in line with the terms of the statutory instrument which we are 752 addressing. I hope that, having aired the issue in the way that he and other noble Lords have, he will feel it proper to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has said. I hope that noble Lords who attempted to intervene before the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, moved his amendment will understand that my perhaps rather arbitrary suggestions were motivated in the interests of good order rather than anything else. I hope that noble Lords who felt that I was perhaps rather high-handed will forgive me.
There is no doubt of the justice of what my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said. Perhaps I may refer him to paragraph 59 of the Perry Report, which I am sure he has studied. The report sets out a "development recommendation". Attention is drawn to the relationship between the salaries of Ministers in your Lordships' House and the salaries of Ministers in another place. It is proposed by Sir Michael and his team that they should examine the relationship between those two, and I hope and believe that they will give a very high priority to doing that. Certainly it will be my duty to come back to your Lordships' House to lay before your Lordships any proposals that Sir Michael and his team develop as a result of implementing the recommendations set out in paragraph 59 of their report.
Although, as a result, I cannot give a clear indication to my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls of what will be proposed, I hope that he is satisfied that I am wholly conscious of the importance of this matter. I agree entirely with the sentiments that he has expressed. I hope that Sir Michael will take the feelings of your Lordships' House on board, particularly as support for the sentiments that my noble friends have expressed has come from the Leader of the Opposition.
I am also extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for what he said. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Richard, knows, I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of members of the Opposition Front Benches who, to the discomfort of the Government Front Bench, manage to turn in a distressingly effective performance in your Lordships' House in spite of having restricted resources open to them. The question of "Short money", as it is known, was outside the scope of Sir Michael's remit, as he makes clear in his report. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will forgive me if I break a confidence and say that he and I have already discussed this question at some length. I hope that it will be possible to make some proposals in due course, although I am not yet in a position to give your Lordships an undertaking to that effect.
I am aware also that your Lordships' House has become increasingly active over the past few years. To say that your Lordships' House is an amateur House perhaps begs a question in the way that the 753 noble Lord, Lord Richard, suggested. Nevertheless, it would be wise if we, as a House, did not move too far towards using expenses as a substitute for a salary. There is a difficult line to toe here and it is one which, in the end, will be a matter of judgment.
I look forward to the conversations which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the Convenor, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and I will hold—I hope this week, diaries permitting. I hope that we shall be able to give some account of our conversations before the Recess. I suspect that an account of substance will not be possible because, after all, one of the merits of referring the matter to the SSRB lies in the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made; that it is difficult for us to be judge and jury in our own case. It is one of the things that makes the subject that we are discussing difficult and distasteful to all of us.
The fact that the SSRB has been asked to examine these difficult matters goes at least some way towards addressing the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made, although I accept that it does not go the whole way.
I have already detained your Lordships too long on this matter. However, I hope that your Lordships will nevertheless feel able to support the substantive motion which is about Ministerial salaries. In view of the exchanges which have taken place and, I am sure, the entirely inadequate answers that I have been able to give so far, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will feel that enough has been said to enable him to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the short debate. It is not my intention to detain the House further. I was glad to hear from the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal and my noble friend Lord Richard, that there will be discussions through the usual channels to try and sort out some of the anomalies that have arisen as a result of what, I would suggest, is a somewhat inadequate consideration—no doubt due to time constraints—of our situation here in the House of Lords by the Senior Salaries Review Body. I am sure that something will come out of those deliberations to support the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and provide resolutions to other problems which will follow further considerations by the Senior Salaries Review Body.
On the basis of the assurances that have been given during the short debate, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, to put the record straight, when I referred to the fact that he was not yet the Speaker of the House, my remarks were not directed at the noble Viscount, they were directed at the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who sits behind him.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Motion agreed to.