HL Deb 20 May 1998 vol 589 cc1649-50

3.2 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I rise with confidence to move this Motion. In January this year the SSRB recommended that a bicycle allowance be introduced for Members of both Houses. This allowance will apply to journeys for which Members can currently claim the motor mileage allowance or the reimbursement of fares. I am told that bicycle allowances are commonly available in the public sector to reimburse the cost of using bicycles on official business and they are becoming increasingly common in the private sector. Based on that, the SSRB concluded, It would be appropriate to introduce such an allowance for Members of both Houses". The allowance is to be set at 6.2 pence per mile to be updated annually in line with increases in the RPI. I commend the Motion to the House.

Moved, That this House approves the following proposals for the payment of a bicycle allowance to Lords in attending the House of Lords for the purpose of their parliamentary duties or in respect of journeys which they have undertaken by bicycle while on parliamentary duties within the United Kingdom—

  1. (1) In respect of journeys commenced in the year starting with 1st April 1998, the allowance shall be paid at a rate of 6.2 pence per mile increased by the percentage (if any) by which the retail prices index for March 1998 has increased compared with the index for March 1997.
  2. (2) For each subsequent year starting with 1st April, the rate shall be increased by the percentage (if any) by which the retail prices index for the previous March has increased compared with the index for the March before that,
  3. (3) The rate shall be calculated to the nearest tenth of a penny (with exactly one twentieth being rounded up).
  4. (4) In this Resolution, the "retail price index" means the general index of retail prices (for all items) published by the Office for National Statistics (or any index or figures published by that Office in place of that index).—(Lord Richard.)

Viscount Cranborne

My Lords, I am very grateful—as I am sure the whole House is—for the Leader's limpid elucidation of the Motion before us. I wonder whether he can help me on two matters. The first is this: how do the authorities arrive at the figure of 6.2 pence per mile which, presumably, some authorities calculated as being the true cost of running a bicycle? Secondly, has the Leader of the House taken advantage of the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, on the Government's team to advise the House as to the proper procedure when calculating these expenses?

Lord Renton

My Lords, I do not know whether this is the right moment for another speaker to intervene before the Leader of the House replies. This order applies only to bicycles whereas some of us, when we grow old, may prefer to have tricycles. If so, and bearing in mind that a tricycle—

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, perhaps I too may ask a brief supplementary question? Members of this House who live in London cannot claim for travel to this House. Am I right in thinking that if we choose to ride our bicycles here we shall not be entitled to any of this cycling allowance?

Lord Steel of Aikwood

My Lords, I wish to ask the Leader of the House a couple of questions on these proposals. First, does he intend to make personal use of this facility? I hope to give him some encouragement in that direction. Secondly, what are the public expenditure implications of this resolution? Thirdly, does he recall that those of us who were in the other place at one time entered into a scheme whereby a fleet of bicycles was kept in the Palace of Westminster? We paid £5 and we could take one of the bicycles home in the evening. I did that once, but never again because I thought that it was highly dangerous.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I totally agree with the last comment made by the noble Lord. The SSRB set the figure at 6.2 pence. I take no responsibility for how that figure was arrived at or what was taken into account in doing so.

In accordance with the well-known Interpretation Act, I am sure that in this case "bicycle" will include "tricycle". The answer to my noble friend's question is that for those who choose to use a bicycle this allowance will be in lieu of what Members could claim under the motor mileage allowance or the reimbursement of fares. That probably answers my noble friend's question, but not very helpfully. I believe that those were the only questions I was asked specifically. Finally, may I say that I have no personal interest whatever in this plan.

Lord Shaughnessy

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us what evidence of the actual mileage has to be presented to Her Majesty's Treasury for reimbursement?

Lord Richard

My Lords, peers always claim on their honour. Mark you, if someone lives 20 miles out of London and claims that he is pedalling 500 miles each way, I suspect that someone's eyebrows will be raised at some stage. Subject to such an obvious and clear anomaly, naturally peers claim on their honour.

On Question, Motion agreed to.