Select Committee on House of Commons Members' Fund Report


  2.1  The Fund was set up by the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, which provides for discretionary grants to be made by the Trustees to former Members of Parliament who have attained 60 years of age, to their widows, and to orphan children under 16 years of age. A subsequent Act of 1948, which was amended in 1991 (see paragraph 2.3 below), provides for the Trustees to authorise grants to any former Members or their dependants having regard to their circumstances.

  2.2  The House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 introduced a further category of award, payable as of right to former Members, or their dependants, who satisfy certain conditions. To be eligible for an award under this provision, former Members must normally have attained the age of 65, with no service after 15 October 1964. I understand that there are no more possible beneficiaries in this category who are not already in receipt of an award.

  2.3  Section 7 of the Ministerial and other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991 amended the 1948 Act as follows:

    (a)  It widened the powers of the Trustees to make payments under the 1948 Act. Instead of making payments for the purpose of alleviating special hardship, the Trustees may now have regard to the circumstances of the person to whom payments are to be made.

    (b)  It is no longer a requirement for payments under the 1939 and 1948 Acts that the former Member must have served for at least 10 years.

  2.4  The Trustees used these powers to make payments to a new class of beneficiary: widows of former Members of Parliament who were members of the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund before 6 April 1988 (the "pre-1988 widows"). The payments from the Members' Fund were such as to increase the total pension to the widow from one-half of the relevant Member's pension to five-eighths (an uplift of 25%).

  2.5  In recent years, the level of grants has been increased on each 1 April. These increases have been similar to those awarded each year under the Pensions (Increase) Acts. At the date of this assessment, 30 September 2006, the amounts payable under the 1981 Act were set at the level of £2,822.02 a year for a former Member and £1,764.37 a year for widows and widowers. An award payable under the legislative provisions other than the 1981 Act has no specific limit.

  2.6  Income to the Fund is derived partly from statutory contributions from Members under the 1939 Act, which since 1961 have been £24 a year, and partly from Grants in Aid. The amount of the Grant in Aid is determined by the Treasury under the Members' Fund Act 1957 "having regard to the amount for the time being of the payments to be made out of the fund and of the income of the fund from other sources".

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Prepared 29 October 2007