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Column 411Reid, Dr John
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Young, David (Bolton SE)
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Robert N. Wareing and
Mr. Frank Haynes.
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Report 1989-90 (House of Commons Paper No. 32), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th December, be approved.
That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report 1988-89 (House of Commons Paper No. 33), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th December, be approved.
That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1987-88 (House of Commons Paper No. 34), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th December, be approved.
That the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 3) Report 1986-87 (House of Commons Paper No. 35), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th December, be approved.-- [Mr. Fallon.]
That the draft Ministerial and Other Salaries Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 8th December, be approved.
I hope that I need not detain the House for long on this matter. I shall briefly outline the changes that we are proposing and will hope to deal with any other points requiring an answer at the end of the debate.
As hon. Members will know, under the terms of the resolution of 21 July 1987, all Members will receive an increase in their parliamentary salary on 1 January 1989. The draft order which I laid in the House on 8 December determines the revised salaries proposed for Ministers and paid office holders from the same date. On Thursday 8 December, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), I set out in detail in a written answer all the changes that we envisage. The average increase in salaries in this House will be 4 per cent. and a little over 6 per cent. in the other place. The average for the proposed package as a whole is 4.5 per cent.
All Ministers and paid office holders in the House will receive an increase of £322 in their official salary. Together with the £1,237 increase in their reduced parliamentary salary which they receive automatically on 1 January 1989, they will thus receive a total of £1,559. That is, of course, the same cash increase as hon. Members will receive in their salaries. We propose also that all Government Whips should receive a further £200, which should go some way to protect their position as against that of Back Benchers. Traditionally, the salary of Assistant Opposition Whips is linked to that of Government Whips, and we propose that it should be increased by an additional £200, so that the link is maintained.
In the other place, we propose that Ministers and paid office holders should receive the full £1,559 in their official salary because they, of course, have no parliamentary salary. To narrow the salary differential between Ministers in this place and those in the other place, we propose that Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries should receive an additional £800 and £400 respectively. We also propose that Lords in Waiting should receive an additional £200. To maintain salary linkages that we have adopted following past Top Salaries Review Body recommendations, some other paid office holders in the other place will also receive additional increases.
The increases in salaries amount to about £81,000 and, against the background of a 6.9 per cent. increase in parliamentary salaries, cannot be described as excessive. I believe that our proposals represent a modest, fair and realistic settlement, and I commend my motion to the House.
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South) : The Leader of the House said that he would not detain the House for long, and I think that that is right. There is little justification for these increases. I find it interesting, if not ironic, that in the past two or three weeks we have been told by leading members of the Government here and in the other place that increases of £8, £9 or £10 a week in the wages of
Column 413low-paid workers are inflationary. Increases in Ministers' salaries of £30 a week are apparently not inflationary and should be agreed by the House.
I should like briefly to refer to three groups of people on whom I feel that this money would be better spent. First, there are the young people, many of whom--if they are aged between 16 and 18--will in a week's time be receiving no money whatever. A few days ago I raised in the House the case of a young lad from Coventry, Terry Flowers, a few days from his 18th birthday. He has received no money from the DSS for the past seven weeks, and has been told that his only salvation is to approach the Salvation Army hostel. His mam is on income support, and because he is 17--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the motion deals with the draft Ministerial and Other Salaries Order, and that it is not in order to widen the debate to cover the points to which the hon. Gentleman is now referring.
Mr. Nellist : I ask you to reconsider that decision, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If I were to seek to divide the House on this question, I would have to lay before hon. Members the reasons why I wished them not to vote in favour of the order. The brief case that I hope to make is that there are three groups--among many others--on whom the money could be better spent. That has been seen in the past as a justifiable argument against passing an increase in the salaries of Members of Parliament in this or the other place.
Young people of 16 to 18 who are receiving no money this Christmas are, in my view, more appropriate recipients of the £30 a week increase-- £1,500 a year--that is going to Ministers. Terry Flowers was never going to get a YTS place, although the social security Minister said that it was always on offer for him. A 16-year-old with two years ahead of him is more likely to be chosen for a YTS place than someone seven weeks away from his 18th birthday.
Every hon. Member will, I believe, have received a copy of a pamphlet and a letter from the National Children's Home giving a number of other examples. Apparently we, as Members of Parliament, have decided that come Christmas such young people are not entitled to any money, but that Ministers should receive an increase. In my own city of Coventry, there are young people on low wages, students and others on youth training schemes. Because of other decisions of the House, people on a second-year YTS income of £36 a week--a fraction above the increase that we are discussing--after they have paid rent for a council bedsit and likely charges for heating and lighting are left with £17 a week for food and clothing, even after rent rebates. That is half the increase in ministerial salaries that we are asked to vote for. I could give other examples of low-paid workers and students in the city of Coventry.
The second group that I wish to mention briefly is the pensioners. My early -day motion 204 referred to the case of an 82-year-old former miner in the Warwickshire area. Because of a mistaken non-declaration of a £3 colliery pension in 1975, he has been asked to pay back £10 each week- -one third of the increase that Ministers have been offered--until 1996. He is 82 years old, but the Department of Social Security is taking £3,067 off him because of a mistake with a pension. Yet tonight we are
Column 414asked to give half that sum--£1,559--to the same Ministers who refused charity to Mr. Harry Rider. It is ironic that there is a doctor in Coventry who apparently overclaimed £42,000 in expenses, yet the same Ministers are talking about writing off those expenses while they ask Harry Rider to pay back £10 a week.
My early-day motion 162 deals with pensions as a whole. I would argue that instead of spending hundreds of pounds on Ministers, we should allocate a similar amount to the pensioners, whose £10 Christmas bonus, had it not been frozen over the past decade and a half-- [Interruption.] Hon. Members are intimating that that was not uprated under the last Labour Government. I agree with that criticism. I was not a Member of the House then, but I was the chairman of a constituency Labour party that protested at the action of that Labour Government. If nothing else, I plead guilty to the crime of consistency. If that uprating had taken place, in the same way as the uprating of ministerial salaries, pensioners would receive a £73 Christmas bonus, not a £10 bonus.
The last group of people whom I wish to mention--although I could have picked other low-paid groups such as nurses for consideration for equal largesse and generosity from the Government--as a reason for not supporting the order are the families who face the next five days in the run-up to Christmas with income support as their only income. I do not expect to change the minds of Tory Members, but I recommend them, if they have no other reading this Christmas, to read The Guardian of 14 December, and the article by Carol Irvine, a mother of three children who, with her husband Bob, is facing Christmas on the Easterhouse estate in Glasgow. She is trying to bring up that family on £61.19 a week after rent and electricity charges. At the end of a seven-day cycle, she describes how she faces the last day on 82p. Which Tory Member here tonight, if there were to be a vote on the order, would go through the Lobbies with a clear conscience about giving Ministers--some Cabinet Ministers are already on £1,000 a week--a rise of £30 a week, when families on the Easterhouse estate, estates in my constituency such as Willenhall, Stoke, Hillfields and Cheylesmore, and other estates in the country, are expected on the day before Christmas to bring some Christmas joy on 82p?
The House should reject the order, but I suspect that it will not. The House and the country will be the poorer for that decision. 12.19 am
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : I have never understood why Ministers are paid anything extra. Members' salaries have now reached a level that is higher than that of most of our constituents. Ministers should receive the parliamentary salary and be satisfied with that. After all, they have the use of cars, offices and in some cases houses--albeit tied houses--which are part of the arrangement. So Ministers already have advantages. People say that they have extra responsibilities, but I suspect that hon. Members on both sides would be prepared to accept those responsibilities. We are not here for financial reward ; most hon. Members are here because of their political ideology. The responsibilities of Government arise from a desire to put into effect these
Column 415political ideologies. There is nothing wrong with that ; it just so happens that the present Government's ideology is wrong.
The notion that we should pay Ministers extra is wholly mistaken and should be re-examined. People might say that no one in the House does anything extra without being paid additional money for it, but that is not so. For example, Standing Committees, whose proceedings are often long and tedious and last all night, are chaired by Members of the House who receive no extra remuneration for it. The only advantage they derive from this duty is that they are more likely to be called at Question Time because they are part of the charmed and magic circle on the Chairmen's Panel.
Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North) : Does the hon. Gentleman think that people who perform important jobs, such as being the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, should be paid more too?
Mr. Cryer : I am saying that members of the Chairmen's Panel are paid nothing ; and that people who do obscure, humdrum but necessary jobs such as being the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments should get nothing, either. I dare say the hon. Gentleman will view what I say with cynicism, but I do the job because someone in the House must examine Statutory Instruments, although it is a dull, boring and often repetitive task.
The Leader of the House will acknowledge that I have written to him to say that someone in the House should examine the codes of practice which are being spewed out by Government Departments. I do not expect such a person to be paid extra for examining them and determining whether Ministers are abusing their positions or providing clear guidance--
The House and the Government should not mirror the executive market place, in which the only measure of a person's worth and contribution to society is the amount of money he earns. The salaries in the executive market place are astronomical compared with what ordinary people earn in their work places. Ministerial and City salaries seem grotesquely out of proportion--
Mr. Cryer : I received a Government salary for the two years during which I was a member of the Government. Of course there are inconsistencies -- [Laughter.] No hon. Member can claim that he has been 100 per cent. consistent in all his actions inside and outside this place. Some of us argued about the narrowing of differentials. The salaries when I was a Minister were very much smaller, and differentials between Members' and Ministers' salaries were narrower. This Government have greatly broadened those differentials. If we are to develop a greater sense of justice and a better society we must narrow differentials, not broaden them. In a successful co-operative like Scott Bader in the
Column 416midlands, which has about 200 co-operators working there, the salary differentials have a range of 4:1. That is the sort of range for which we should aim in society as a whole. That is one of the basic problems of society and an ideological matter about which we argue bitterly from time to time. The order does not help matters. People will reflect that the Government are out of touch with ordinary people because, for one thing, Ministers are insulated by the huge salaries that they receive.
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : I have been a trade unionist for many years. In view of what Mr. Delors has said in relation to the Single European Act, with 80 per cent. of power being moved to the Council of Ministers in Brussels, should we not be talking about a substantial increase for Ministers and an 80 per cent. cut in the salaries of Members of Parliament?
Mr. Cryer : He is making many decisions now, and he claims that he will make many more in the future. I believe that the Commissioners should be paid no more than the members of our Government are paid. No member of the British Government, including the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor, who has a high salary, has a salary which approaches the salary of Jacques Delors. The Common Market is out of touch with reality in many respects, and that is one example.
Mr. Cryer : This matter is always raised with me. It is an intimidating factor for me, but I will not allow the fact that for the few months until June I shall be a Member of the European Assembly, and receive one third extra salary--[ Hon. Members :-- "Ah!"] I do not know why hon. Members say that. I have said this almost every time that I have talked about incomes. That salary is declared in the Register of Members' Interests and, after tax, is divided between the Sheffield and Labour movements. I get no advantage from the extra salary, which I do not like. I should have preferred to have a by-election when I was elected to this Parliament, but that was not possible. But even if every Conservative Member stood up and made an accusation against me, it would not prevent me from talking about incomes or from criticising the Common Market and all its works. I have been part of the Common Market and that has strengthened my view that it is a shambolic organisation. Britain would be better out of it. But I shall not pursue that argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it may attract your wrath.
Despite the difficulty that I have experienced in advancing my argument, I repeat that these ministerial salaries are excessive. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) talked about people who experience great financial difficulties. The order will make the Government seem even more remote and
Column 417isolated. It will bring home to ordinary people the fact that Ministers make decisions on insulated experience, not on experience shared with the vast mass of people.
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) used to represent the constituency of Keighley from which he was dismissed. He would have carried more credibility in the House if he had proclaimed the truth. When he was a Minister of the Crown, he accepted from the Crown a salary higher than that he received as a Member of the House. I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House of the advice given by Polonius to Laertes :
"This, above all : to thine own self be true Thou canst not then be false to any man."