|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
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 Parliaments 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 £160,000and 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 hapenny 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 allI 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 Johns 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 upif we have another two or three years of some degree of austeritywe 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.
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 Governments 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.
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
the correct workforce comparator for determining MPs pay uplifts
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 36the 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
I no longer believe that any linkage to the SCS would be a sound, independent mechanism,
Thus it is clear that linkage to the SCS does not satisfy the criteria of independence, transparency, simplicity or freedom from risk of manipulation and would be unsuitable as an automatic uprating mechanism.
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 upeven 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.
There are practical obstacles to the use of such a basket for an automatic uprating system.
Again I conclude that an approach to uprating based on a basket of comparators cannot satisfy the criteria set out in paragraph 32 above.
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
would be a robust way of going forward. He points out that in 2007, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was then advising the SSRB,
recommended that the PSAEI
be used to uprate MPs pay and pointed to some of the problems that would be caused by an attempt to link MPs pay to settlements
At that time the SSRB was reluctant to follow PwCs advice, but on reflection I believe PwC were right and, as I explain above, a new linkage to the SCS as previously proposed by the SSRB would not satisfy the test of independence.
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.
I am sure, having considered and discussed the options extensively, that this
is the best solution. It meets all the criteria in paragraph 32 above and I believe that, if implemented, it would be likely to last for many years. However, I also recognise that it has presentational difficulties for both the Government and MPs themselves.
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: 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.
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
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 superfluityhe 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.
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
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 outthey are the subject of the next debatebut 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 todays proposal is more to do with the public perception than with the Governments 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 believemainly by the tabloid pressthat 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.
provided that, without prejudice to the calculations based on the agreed formula, from 1st April 2008 the annual salary is increased by no more than 2.3 per cent. and that the balance of any increase due at 1st April 2008 should be payable from 1st April 2009 in addition to any increase payable at that date.. [Mr. Touhig.]
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|