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3 July 2008 : Column 1078

Also, it is not unfair to have some regard to what those who work in this place with us and for us earn. I took the opportunity to consult our admirable Library, and in 1970, when a Member of Parliament’s salary was £3,250, the Clerk of the House got £8,600. Today, we have what we have and the Clerk of the House gets £160,000—and God bless him, but there are very few senior people in the Clerks Department who are not earning significantly more than Members of Parliament. There are quite a significant number in our Library who earn more than Members of Parliament. There are people in the catering department who earn more.

I do not begrudge any of those people a ha’penny of what they earn, but I do know that most of them do not work the 70 or 80 hours a week to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean) referred, and which we have to do if we are to do our jobs remotely properly. So this afternoon, which is another compulsory exercise in navel-gazing which none of us likes, let us grasp the nettle once and for all—I hope that it will be once and for all, although I do take the points made by my right hon. Friend. I hope that a future Parliament does not have to debate this again, and that Sir John’s wishes can be fulfilled. I hope that from now onwards, whatever is earned by Members of Parliament will be determined elsewhere, but we are not going to assist that process if we follow the Government and the Opposition Front Benchers’ line this afternoon.

I endorse the points made by the right hon. Member for Islwyn when he talked about the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd). If that amount of money is piled up—if we have another two or three years of some degree of austerity—we will put the next Parliament in the position where it would have to reject that £6,000 or £8,000 pile-up; it could not accept it. What Sir John Baker has given us is the opportunity to have a modest increase on a modest salary, and to give the determination of future salaries to another body, so that we can get on with what we are sent here to do and not have to bother with it.

I strongly support the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Islwyn. I hope that colleagues in all parts of the House will do likewise, and I trust that this will indeed be the last occasion on which we shall have to debate these matters.

2.53 pm

Sir John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West) (Con): I fear that where we are now is not where we expected to be when we last had a debate on this subject, on 24 January. At that time, I think the whole House agreed that this matter of our pay should be taken out of our hands and given to an independent adviser of the Government’s choosing, who would report to us, that we would implement whatever that adviser suggested, and that henceforth all these rather sordid matters would be taken out of our hands.

That is not, sadly, the position that we find ourselves in today, and I have to say that I do not think that the Government have acted fairly in any way in relation to the undertakings given on 24 January. They decided to ask Sir John Baker to report to the House and implied that they would accept whatever he recommended, so that it would not be a matter of contention on a party political or any other basis. That is not where we are today.

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The other problem is that the Government have changed their position on a lot of the aspects of the Baker report during the course of its evolution. It is worth examining those aspects. When the Government made their recommendation to Sir John about the correct work force comparator for Members of Parliament, they said in paragraph 17 of their submission that

was senior civil service pay. They claimed that that had been supported by the Senior Salaries Review Body. It is true that the SSRB supported it at one time, but as Sir John Baker made clear in his report, he no longer supports it. It is worth quoting what he said on that subject. In paragraphs 32 to 36—the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) commented on the criteria contained in paragraph 32— Sir John states that for various reasons, which he sets out in great detail, he no longer thinks that SCS pay is the appropriate comparator. Paragraph 37 states that

and goes on to give his reasons for that. In summarising, he states:

He clearly repudiates the proposal put to him by the Government in their initial paper.

Sir John goes on to examine details of the other proposals and the basket of comparators, which he restricts to public sector pay. Of course, many Members have said that they should be restricted to public sector pay, because we are public sector workers. However, the SSRB has said in the past that we ought to be compared with people in the private sector, because our Members are not drawn exclusively from people who have been working in the public sector. Probably the overwhelming majority of right hon. and hon. Members are drawn from the private sector.

We must have some reason for people to want to come here, considering the amount of income that they are likely to give up—even those from the public sector. We run a risk of our recruitment being of interest only to public sector employees or, as has been said, those who are so well off that it does not matter, for whom this is a hobby. We hope that there are not too many of them.

Sir John deals in great detail with comparators in the public sector, particularly in paragraph 39. He states:

I shall not bore the House with all the reasons that he gives for that, but everybody can read the paragraph. He goes on to state:

One reason is that he believes that if they are exclusively public sector comparators, they are capable of being manipulated by the Government from time to time. He wants to avoid that, because he does not think that it
3 July 2008 : Column 1080
would be a robust way of going forward. He points out that in 2007, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was then advising the SSRB,

the public sector average earnings index—

rather than to what was actually being paid. He says:

Nor does he believe that a basket of comparators would be appropriate. The basket now proposed by the Government is so huge, complex, opaque and open to different interpretations that it would be impossible to implement. The Government are asking us to accept smoke and mirrors today.

Sir John concludes, in paragraph 46:

the PSAEI option—

If the Government were to act in good faith, they should accept those presentational difficulties and the House should also accept them. Having said that, I also accept that there is a problem in the present climate with accepting Baker in full. Although Baker probably should be accepted in full, we need to continue to try to set an example, even though that has been ignored in the past. By the way, our pay has increased—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to cut off the hon. Gentleman, but he has had his eight minutes.

Sir John Butterfill: Could I just say—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I dare say that the House could listen to some speeches for a considerable length of time this afternoon because of their informed and reasoned content, but we are operating under a time limit.

3.2 pm

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): If the House did not hear the last remark by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), he said that he accepted the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig).

Although it would not be proper to vote against the motion, I think that the House has set off on the wrong course. Ministers and Members of Parliament have to take tough decisions, and the idea that we are too weak or feeble to set our own pay every now and again is wrong. However, the general consensus seems to have moved on, so perhaps we will have to come back to that in the next Parliament.

I also believe strongly that we should not have pay increases from one general election to another. Pay should not be set at the beginning of a Parliament: it should be set in advance to come into effect at the
3 July 2008 : Column 1081
beginning of a Parliament, so everyone knows the rate of pay for a bog-standard Member of Parliament after the election. Perhaps as well as putting our party and address on our ballot paper, we should suggest the level of pay we would be willing to accept. If I decided that I wanted to be paid more than the Liberal Democrat and less than the Labour candidate, people could judge whether we were worth it—[ Interruption.] That may be going a step too far.

If we assume that the standard rate of pay will apply to each of us, the question is what that rate should be. When I first spoke on this subject, Enoch Powell intervened and asked whether I was aware that there were more candidates than places, and did not that suggest a certain superfluity—he probably used a much better word. The point was then put back to him that instead of being paid, we could have a nominal tax of, say, £2,000 a year, so there would then be exactly the right number of candidates to match the number of constituencies, and then he might be satisfied with the calibre of his colleagues.

The truth is that in the past it was the poor and well-off who became Members of Parliament, not those on middle incomes, and that would happen again under these proposals. When I first got elected, I had been running a small neon lighting business putting bright lights outside theatres and cinemas in the west end. I worked with 25 people. When I became a Member of Parliament in 1975 my pay dropped from £5,000 a year to the £3,200 that my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) mentioned. When we had these debates, I then found that if, at that election, I had been a number three ranking person in the London borough of Lambeth, where we then had a home, I would have earned about 20 per cent. more.

I take the view that the right level of pay for a general practitioner in politics is about the same as for a general practitioner in medicine, but that does not work any more because GPs are getting significantly more than I thought they were. It would be quite easy to pick a rate of pay that would sound about right and we could then say to the public that we would not take the increases between elections and that we would keep the Government out of it.

It is perfectly understandable why the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) made the speeches that they did, but they were not the sort of speeches to which a Member of this House should pay attention. We should either support the amendment or reject the increases and say that we will determine that we will set our rate of pay with advice from Baker or some equivalent. It could then come into effect at the next election when both we and the public know what the terms of trade will be.

3.5 pm

Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I have taken a close interest in this subject since being, in a former existence, the shadow Leader of the House. At that time, I made recommendations on behalf of the Conservatives to the SSRB and proposed that Members’ pay should be linked to that of a chief executive of a
3 July 2008 : Column 1082
small local authority, given that they deal with approximately the same population as us and deal with chief constables and others in public positions on the same basis as MPs. However, I do not think that even the recommendations in the Baker report are anywhere near what the chief executive of a small local authority earns.

It is a great shame that today the House will be unable to accept the Baker recommendations for the reasons that many colleagues on both sides have given, especially when we want to depart from the practice of having to keep voting on our pay. I do not think that the public understand how much we object to it. It is almost as if their perception is that we want to make that decision because we will get more out of it, yet MPs’ pay increases over the past five years have been extremely modest. Not only have they been modest in comparison with other public sector pay increases but they have been staged, too, which means that they have been worth less.

I have no axe to grind, as I will leave the House at the next election, but I am well aware of the need for incentives to attract future generations to apply to become a MP and to consider representing a constituency. Although I know that we all do it for the best reasons, we, too, have to live. One great sadness, which the Leader of the House mentioned, is that we find ourselves in a great mishmash of misinformation. There are genuine problems with MPs’ allowances that will need to be sorted out—they are the subject of the next debate—but the public perception is that our salary and our allowances are one and the same. That makes it particularly difficult to debate the salary alone and to accept something like the Baker report.

I think that today’s proposal is more to do with the public perception than with the Government’s public sector pay policy. The Leader of the House is shaking her head, but we all know that out there the public have been led to believe—mainly by the tabloid press—that somehow secretaries’ salaries and the range of allowances are rolled into one and that we as MPs receive them through our private bank accounts. We all know that is not true, but the fact remains that that is how the water has been muddied and why today we find the Government and Opposition Front Benchers seeking to make some sort of gesture that will convince the public that we are not greedy and so on.

I speak as a Member who will be leaving the House. Incidentally, from what I have heard today, on retirement, a job in the House of Commons catering department looks extremely attractive, if only to keep me out of the house for a bit. I am sure that my husband would be delighted.

Seriously, we are where we are, for all the reasons that every Member of the House knows. I will support amendment (a), which is in the name of the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), because he has struck a good compromise. I say to Members who will be here long after I have departed: take courage in your hands. There will never be a good time to play catch-up with MPs’ salaries. No matter what gestures we make today or in the future, there will always be a reason not to increase that salary. That is why I shall support the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

3 July 2008 : Column 1083

Amendment proposed: (a), in line 9, after the word ‘year’, to insert the words

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 155, Noes 196.
Division No. 250]
[3.10 pm


Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bercow, John
Betts, Mr. Clive
Binley, Mr. Brian
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burgon, Colin
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Foster, Mr. Don
Gapes, Mike
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Greenway, Mr. John
Griffiths, Nigel
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hayes, Mr. John
Hoey, Kate
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Keen, Alan
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Levitt, Tom
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr. Andrew
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Maples, Mr. John
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
McCafferty, Chris
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McKenna, Rosemary
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mudie, Mr. George
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen

O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra
Ottaway, Richard
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Russell, Bob
Smith, Sir Robert
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Vaz, rh Keith
Viggers, Sir Peter
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Jim Sheridan and
Mr. Robert Syms

Alexander, Danny
Anderson, Mr. David
Austin, Mr. Ian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Berry, Roger
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Gordon
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Burt, Alistair
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Coffey, Ann
Cooper, rh Yvette
Creagh, Mary
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Dai
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goggins, Paul
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hall, Patrick
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr. Evan
Healey, John
Herbert, Nick
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Irranca-Davies, Huw

Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Kelly, rh Ruth
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, Mr. David
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lidington, Mr. David
Linton, Martin
Lucas, Ian
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Osborne, Mr. George
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Prentice, Bridget
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Randall, Mr. John
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Ruddock, Joan
Seabeck, Alison
Selous, Andrew
Shaw, Jonathan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spink, Bob
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Matthew
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Trickett, Jon
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Webb, Steve
Wicks, Malcolm
Willetts, Mr. David
Wills, Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Alan Campbell and
Tony Cunningham
Question accordingly negatived.
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