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Member's Pay (Expression of Opinion)

That, in the opinion of this House, the following provision should be made with respect to the salaries of Members of this House—

(1) In respect of service in the period starting with 20th June 2001 and ending with 31st March 2002 the salary of a Member shall be increased by £2,000 per annum.
(2) That salary shall be increased by a further £2,000 per annum from 1st April 2002.
(3) The increases referred to above shall be additional to any increase resulting from the operation of paragraph (2) of the Resolution of this House of 10th July 1996.

Parliamentary Pensions

That this House endorses the proposals for changes to the Parliamentary Pensions Scheme to give effect to recommendations 1, 3, 5, and 7 contained in the SSRB Report on the Scheme laid on 16th March 2001 and calls on the Trustees of the Scheme to consider how best to implement recommendation 2 but at no additional cost to the Exchequer and to consider recommendations 4, 6 and 8.

And that this House further endorses the proposals for changes in this scheme and the avc scheme pursuant to the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 in relation to pension sharing on divorce.

Members' Insurance: Reimbursement of Costs Incurred by the Right Honourable Member for Blackburn

That, in the opinion of this House, provision should be made to reimburse the Right honourable Member for Blackburn for reasonable legal expenditure including damages arising in consequence of an action brought against him alleging vicarious liability for an act of negligence committed in the course of his duties as a Member of this House.

Members' Pay (Money Resolution)

That the following provision shall be made with respect to the salaries of Members of this House—

(1) In respect of service in the period starting with 20th June 2001 and ending with 31st March 2002 the salary of a Member shall be increased by £2,000 per annum.
(2) That salary shall be increased by a further £2,000 per annum from 1st April 2002.
(3) The increases referred to above shall be additional to any increase resulting from the operation of paragraph (2) of the Resolution of this House of 10th July 1996.

Mr. Cook: The motions are to give effect to the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body on Members' pay, pensions and office costs allowance. They neither add to nor subtract in any substantial way from the totality of the SSRB recommendations. I have followed the principle that the Government should put before the House all the recommendations as proposed by the SSRB in order that the House itself can make a judgment on them. The large number of amendments tabled clearly demonstrates that the House is keenly interested in the matter and wants to come to a judgment on the recommendations.

It is right that our salaries should be assessed independently. It must also be right that the independent assessment should generally be accepted by the House. The proposed increase is necessary to restore parity with the other posts in the public sector adopted in 1996 as the

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comparators to ours: a director of a district general hospital, a head teacher of a secondary school or a chief superintendent of police.

The proposed increase is wholly in line with the general principle set out by the previous Government, and entirely shared by this Government, that the pay of Members of Parliament should not be so high as to become the primary attraction of the job, nor so low as to deter suitable candidates from standing for election. I do not think that we impress the public if we set too low a value on our own worth. I would not go quite so far as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke)'s famous observation that the

but I do believe that we should not sell ourselves too short. If we believe that our work here is important, we should not shrink from putting a proper value on it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) has tabled an amendment proposing that our annual uprating be tied to the increases recommended for nurses, teachers and doctors. Since 1996, our salaries have been uprated in parallel with pay in the senior civil service. Had his formula applied since 1996, our current pay would be almost £2,000 a year higher. I am not sure whether it was his intention to secure an even higher rate of pay for Members of Parliament, and if it was not, he may wish to reconsider the terms of his amendment.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): My aim was to relate our pay to professions that are meaningful to our constituents. Had my formula applied before July 1996, when we awarded ourselves an outrageous 26 per cent. increase, our pay would now be significantly lower.

Mr. Cook: The 1996 increase was the result of an independent assessment and reflected the fact that there had been no annual uprating by formula in the years preceding it. If my hon. Friend's intention is that we should be paid at the same rate as those in professions with which the public can identify, I am pleased to assure him that the logical step is to support the motion, which will give us precisely the 19 per cent. increase that nurses, teachers and doctors have enjoyed since 1996.

I turn now to parliamentary pensions, on which the SSRB made eight recommendations. The motion before the House would implement all the recommendations on which a decision of the House is now possible, and it invites the trustees of the pension fund to consider the remaining matters on which further work is required. That further work will include consideration of recommendation 8, which covers the question of pensions for unmarried partners surviving Members of Parliament and to which the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) has tabled an amendment.

I should say a word about the second recommendation of the SSRB, which proposed that we drop the provision in the pension scheme that the pension of widows or widowers is withdrawn in the event of their remarriage. The House will be aware that the Government announced in March that they could not accept that recommendation. In the light of representations that I have received, we have looked at the matter again.

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Personally, I find the provision to withdraw pension from widows and widowers who remarry old fashioned, to put it mildly. The motion before the House therefore invites the trustees to consider making changes in line with the recommendation, but at no cost to the Treasury.

As I am about to turn to one of the more controversial issues, may I, lest I lose my audience, first invite consensus from across the House in paying tribute to the trustees of our pension fund? All hon. Members owe a debt of gratitude to those of our number who are willing to serve as trustees. Under the leadership of John MacGregor, they have taken major steps to modernise the scheme in line with good practice, and have put it under proper professional management. I am pleased to report that the fund has been managed with a satisfactory surplus.

In their submission to the SSRB, the trustees proposed that the accrual rate should be cut from one fiftieth to one fortieth of the annual salary. I understand the reasoning that led them to propose a faster rate of accrual in the light of the unpredictability of a parliamentary career. At the present rate of accrual, fewer than 10 per cent. of hon. Members make it to the maximum pension before they retire from the House.

Nevertheless, having considered the proposal, the SSRB explicitly rejected the submission by the trustees. In its report, it submits that the current accrual rate of one fiftieth of annual salary is already better than comparable private sector schemes, and significantly better than the overwhelming majority of public sector schemes, in which an accrual rate of better than one sixtieth is an exception.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): My right hon. Friend has already noted that the average career expectancy of Members of Parliament is about nine and a half years, so does he agree that the comparison with groups in the private or public sectors is therefore invalid?

Mr. Cook: I understand my hon. Friend's point, which is very close to the one that I made earlier to the House. At this point, I should declare an interest as, in the course of this Parliament, I will achieve qualification for the maximum pension.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): No.

Mr. Cook: Indeed I will, and the fact unfortunately confirms the suggestion that I am nearing my obituary. However, I shall be one of only 8 per cent. of hon. Members who make it to that qualification. I have achieved it only because I have been blessed with constituents of judicious judgment. That is not the experience of every Member of the House.

The SSRB points out, however, that other profession also suffer from unpredictability and uncertainty. In the modern age, it felt unable to take that fact into account.

Mr. Bill Etherington (Sunderland, North): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cook: I will give way on this occasion, but I have a number of matters to deal with.

Mr. Etherington: Is my right hon. Friend aware that the accrual rate for serving Members of Parliament in the Republic of Ireland is one fortieth of annual salary?

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