|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Howell: My Lords, perhaps I may express my appreciation to the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal for what he said and the way in which he said it. I am content that he will have these various matters investigated. I do not support the amendment that is being moved.
However, there are real problems and I am grateful to the noble Viscount for acknowledging the role of my noble friend Lord Richard and others. I endorse what was said by the noble Viscount: no one having the honour to serve in this House receives remuneration unless he or she is a Minister. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, about Minister's salaries.
The same should be acknowledged in relation to Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen. They work long hours, and under our existing arrangements no adequate research facilities are provided. In view of the changing character of the House and the long hours we now sit there is a need for a proper accommodation allowance. No noble Lord should be expected to subsidise the Government or the work of the House, as distinct from receiving remuneration. It is not possible to rent a flat for 12 months, for example, on the kind of allowances which are provided. Nor is it possible to have proper secretarial assistance.
I hope that the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal will take on board the fact that I do not see why spouses of Members of this House should be regarded as less important than spouses of Members of Parliament, who are given assistance for 15 visits. That suggests that those of us who come from up-country should not be allowed the same attendance of our wives or husbands as those in another place. I cannot believe that that is right. We all know that wives of Peers and of Members of Parliament do a great deal of work for the country without recompense. I hope that we can be generous by saying that husbands and wives are entitled to have their spouses with them more often than twice a year.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I rise to take up the noble Viscount on the point of greed. I personally would find the expenses entirely adequate for my needs if it were not for my greed and my thirst.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised the matter of the journeys of Members' wives. If one comes from Scotland that is a little expensive. When the noble Viscount talks about administrative arrangements, does he mean that for 30 attendances in the House you get one wife here? How is that to be arranged?
Lord Richard: My Lords, perhaps I may make three points. I read the report of the top salaries review body with some disappointment. I thought that in relation to your Lordships' House it had either disregarded the issue or had fudged it. As regards Ministers in your Lordships' House, the committee appeared to have disregarded the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. Those points should have been regarded.
Secondly, I have considerable sympathy with the position expressed by my noble friends Lord Monkswell, Lord Dean, Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Howell. It is all very well for the Leader of the House to say that this is an amateur House. In one sense it is an amateur House but in another sense it is becoming increasingly less amateur and rather more professional. In those circumstances, there is an issue which needs to be examined.
Thirdly, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to a letter which I wrote to him. I did so expressing my disappointment about the terms of the report. I stated that I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Leader of the House, the Convenor of the Cross-Benchers and myself should get together to see how we could advance this matter. By "advance this matter" I do not mean that we can persuade your Lordships to accept the terms of the report. I mean that perhaps we can produce a set of proposals which will be more amenable to your Lordships and fairer to this House than the report. I hope that that meeting will take place reasonably quickly. I also hope that there will be an opportunity to come back to the House before the Summer Recess so that you Lordships will be able properly to assess the whole matter.
I am afraid that I could not advise my noble friends to support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Monkswell if it were put to a vote. It appeared to me to be somewhat premature and not totally in line with the terms of the statutory instrument which we are
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has said. I hope that noble Lords who attempted to intervene before the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, moved his amendment will understand that my perhaps rather arbitrary suggestions were motivated in the interests of good order rather than anything else. I hope that noble Lords who felt that I was perhaps rather high-handed will forgive me.
There is no doubt of the justice of what my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, said. Perhaps I may refer him to paragraph 59 of the Perry Report, which I am sure he has studied. The report sets out a "development recommendation". Attention is drawn to the relationship between the salaries of Ministers in your Lordships' House and the salaries of Ministers in another place. It is proposed by Sir Michael and his team that they should examine the relationship between those two, and I hope and believe that they will give a very high priority to doing that. Certainly it will be my duty to come back to your Lordships' House to lay before your Lordships any proposals that Sir Michael and his team develop as a result of implementing the recommendations set out in paragraph 59 of their report.
Although, as a result, I cannot give a clear indication to my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls of what will be proposed, I hope that he is satisfied that I am wholly conscious of the importance of this matter. I agree entirely with the sentiments that he has expressed. I hope that Sir Michael will take the feelings of your Lordships' House on board, particularly as support for the sentiments that my noble friends have expressed has come from the Leader of the Opposition.
I am also extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for what he said. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Richard, knows, I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of members of the Opposition Front Benches who, to the discomfort of the Government Front Bench, manage to turn in a distressingly effective performance in your Lordships' House in spite of having restricted resources open to them. The question of "Short money", as it is known, was outside the scope of Sir Michael's remit, as he makes clear in his report. However, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, will forgive me if I break a confidence and say that he and I have already discussed this question at some length. I hope that it will be possible to make some proposals in due course, although I am not yet in a position to give your Lordships an undertaking to that effect.
I look forward to the conversations which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the Convenor, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and I will hold--I hope this week, diaries permitting. I hope that we shall be able to give some account of our conversations before the Recess. I suspect that an account of substance will not be possible because, after all, one of the merits of referring the matter to the SSRB lies in the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made; that it is difficult for us to be judge and jury in our own case. It is one of the things that makes the subject that we are discussing difficult and distasteful to all of us.
The fact that the SSRB has been asked to examine these difficult matters goes at least some way towards addressing the point that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made, although I accept that it does not go the whole way.
I have already detained your Lordships too long on this matter. However, I hope that your Lordships will nevertheless feel able to support the substantive motion which is about Ministerial salaries. In view of the exchanges which have taken place and, I am sure, the entirely inadequate answers that I have been able to give so far, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will feel that enough has been said to enable him to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the short debate. It is not my intention to detain the House further. I was glad to hear from the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal and my noble friend Lord Richard, that there will be discussions through the usual channels to try and sort out some of the anomalies that have arisen as a result of what, I would suggest, is a somewhat inadequate consideration--no doubt due to time constraints--of our situation here in the House of Lords by the Senior Salaries Review Body. I am sure that something will come out of those deliberations to support the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, and provide resolutions to other problems which will follow further considerations by the Senior Salaries Review Body.