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Public Bill Committee Debates

Draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: David Taylor
Barlow, Ms Celia (Hove) (Lab)
Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab)
Cash, Mr. William (Stone) (Con)
Davies, Mr. Quentin (Grantham and Stamford) (Lab)
Gibson, Dr. Ian (Norwich, North) (Lab)
Goodman, Helen (Deputy Leader of the House of Commons)
Heath, Mr. David (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
Johnson, Ms Diana R. (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab)
Key, Robert (Salisbury) (Con)
Pritchard, Mark (The Wrekin) (Con)
Riordan, Mrs. Linda (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op)
Robathan, Mr. Andrew (Blaby) (Con)
Salter, Martin (Reading, West) (Lab)
Smith, Sir Robert (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD)
Spellar, Mr. John (Warley) (Lab)
Vara, Mr. Shailesh (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con)
Rhiannon Hollis, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 23 June 2008

[Mr. David Taylor in the Chair]

Draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008

4.30 pm
The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Helen Goodman): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Taylor.
The Senior Salaries Review Body’s report on parliamentary pay and expenditure was debated in the House on 24 January and resolutions on hon. Members' pay were agreed then. However, any changes to the salaries of Ministers and other office holders were not discussed at that time. The order gives effect to the Government policy set out in the written ministerial statement of 16 January 2008 by my right honourable and learned Friend the Leader of the House, which is that ministerial salaries should increase at the same rate as those of Members of Parliament. The order will therefore increase ministerial and other office holder salaries by 0.84 per cent. of their value on 31 March 2007 from 1 April 2007 and by a further 1.06 per cent. of their value on 31 March 2007, from 1 November 2007. The total increase in the salary paid across the year will amount to 1.9 per cent., including the 0.66 per cent. automatic increase.
Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): There has obviously been some concern about the order being retrospective. Perhaps the Minister will clarify why it took so long, from the statement in January till now, for us to debate the order.
Helen Goodman: The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. It is largely down to the detailed, technical nature of the order, which had to be considered, and a shortage of staff in the relevant division in the Cabinet Office.
Wehave noted the conclusions of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments on retrospectivity, which the hon. Gentleman raised. As is highlighted in the JCSI's report, the Government accept that the order is retrospective. Nevertheless, they believe that the general presumption that powers delegated in enactments are not capable of being exercised retrospectively is outweighed by other factors in this case. In particular, some backdating of salaries is now common practice, especially in the public sector, due to the timings of negotiated pay settlements. The practice of backdating ministerial salaries, to a limited extent, has also been reflected in previous orders relating to ministerial salaries, such as the Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2001 and the Attorney General's Salary Order 2000, both of which were approved by the House.
The order relates only to increases in 2007-08 and matches, as I have mentioned, the increase that hon. Members awarded themselves in January. The provisions of the order do not clash with Government policy on ministerial salaries, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which is that ministerial colleagues will not be accepting any increase to their pay in 2008-09. I commend the order to the Committee.
4.33 pm
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): It is a privilege and pleasure, Mr. Taylor, to serve under your chairmanship today.
I do not intend to detain hon. Members for any longer than is absolutely necessary. We Conservatives will not oppose the measure under consideration. However, given that we are talking about money, may I just put on the record the fact that the Deputy Leader of the House does not receive a ministerial salary? I suspect that that is not her own choice but, partly, because the Government simply ran out of ministerial positions. She deserves the money—if it were available.
4.34 pm
Sir Robert Smith: I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for outlining the order. However, I am not sure that the order, which is only a page and a half long, is really that complicated and technical, as she said in response to my intervention. Something else must have led to its protracted gestation. The Government should learn that, if they make statements, they should be able to advance the legislation that enacts them.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): The complex, technical part is in article 2: it is the sum that must, presumably, have been worked out for Members of Parliament’s salaries already. So the technicality was transposing that sum from one piece of paper to another.
Sir Robert Smith: Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the House will explain what more complex technicality went into the order. I cannot understand why it has been delayed for so long. The concerns about the order being retrospective would have been far more limited had it been advanced more urgently. The Government should get their act together. If the general requirement is that things should not be retrospective, they should do things in time. They should take away that important message from this discussion.
4.35 pm
Helen Goodman: I should like to address two aspects of the retrospectivity that hon. Members have mentioned. First, the order is retrospective because part of the increase applies from the beginning of April 2007, whereas the vote on hon. Members’ salaries, to which the order is tied, was taken in January 2008. Obviously, that retrospective aspect is necessary. I suppose that it would have been possible for payments on account to have been made to hon. Members beforehand and for those Ministers who had had payments to have paid them back. However, I am sure that Committee members will agree that that would have been far too complex, ridiculous and unnecessary.
Secondly, the order applies only to those Ministers and other office holders who are still in post now, when the order comes into force. Although the order could have been framed prospectively, so as to confer equivalent increases on those Ministers and other office holders, that, too, would have been complicated. We were considering that aspect in between the motion in January and bringing the order to the Committee this afternoon.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): I did not mean to intervene—
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): He does get paid.
Mr. Robathan: I declare an interest: I do indeed get paid. We Conservatives would understand entirely if the Deputy Leader of the House wished to withdraw the motion and not move it until she got a salary.
Helen Goodman: I am pleased that Opposition Members are so concerned for my financial welfare. However, I have to report that I am motivated by a desire to support and work for the current Government.
Without further ado, I commend this order, which all Committee Members accept is sensible.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 2008.
Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Five o’clock.

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