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Earl Ferrers: My noble friend Lord Elton wondered whether his noble friends were speaking to Amendment No. 105. Unfortunately, due to the alacrity of my noble friend Lord Caithness in getting his feet, I was unable to suggest that I might speak to my Amendment No. 105. Although grouped with Amendment No. 73, my amendment is fairly different.
Lord Lyell: It may be worth bearing in mind that I am following in the footsteps of the great Prime Minister Lord Attlee who said that periods of silence from one of his colleagues might be welcome. For various reasons, I was not able to be present for the Second Reading debate. However, looking at this amendment, I believe that it merits scrutiny from the Government and the Minister who is to reply.
I reiterate everything said with great humour by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. But what my noble friend Lord Caithness said made me gasp. When I heard the figures he mentioned and what Members of the European Parliament earn, I wondered whether that was in lira, drachmas or roubles but I am told it was pounds sterling.
I hope that the Government will take on board what my noble friend Lord Ferrers said about the salaries and allowances that are paid today. I am sure that there is enormous misunderstanding outside your Lordships' House, not just about the nature of the Bill but about what Peers "get". We heard from my noble friend Lord Stanley about his expenses. I am--and the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, may confirm this--one of the more remote Peers. My noble friend Lord Rankeillour may be more remote than I am. I live 70 miles from the nearest airport and 25 miles from the nearest railhead. I am a fairly regular attender and, since the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Caithness in 1971, I have been attending about as regularly as he has. The calculation of my expenses to attend the House and to get home each week will therefore be of some interest to your Lordships.
One of the benefits of the system we have grown up with is that every single Member of your Lordships' House is placed on an equal footing once he or she comes past Redcoat or the Doorkeeper at the Peers' entrance. These expenses which we are entitled to claim are set out, as the accountant said to me about 30 years ago, so that "Your Lordship does not lose in coming to your Lordships' House." I take with a pinch of whatever refreshment might be necessary what was said by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderney. I have to advise him, as those noble Lords who regularly fly on the Anglo-Scottish routes will testify, that we are pretty well fed in the lounges, let alone on the plane.
There is a rather dangerous point here. I believe we should never equate these allowances with earnings. The allowances that Back-Bench Peers are allowed to claim are fairly reasonable; certainly, they are something which could be agreed through the usual channels and fairly quietly. Perhaps the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms can arrange through the usual channels that the Senior Salaries Review Body keeps these expenses permanently in mind on the current basis.
Lord Nickson: For six years I was chairman of what is now the Senior Salaries Review Body. We used to call it the Top Salaries Review Body but the word "Top" had a rather unattractive connotation and we persuaded the then administration to change it. I say that I had the honour to hold that post. My predecessor, when handing the job over to me, said that it was the ultimate poisoned chalice. We had some rough times with the previous administration trying to persuade them of the importance of paying our top 2,000 public servants, including the judges, the senior civil servants and the military, a reasonable and acceptable figure.
However, I am not responsible, and I take no credit or any blame, for the expenses paid to your Lordships because during those six years they were not referred to the review body. There were certain great pleasures; for example, seeing the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, who is not in her place, who, when she was leading the First Division Association of civil servants, used to come and sit opposite me once or twice a year. That was very congenial.
The two amendments are very different, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I see no problem--I may be wrong--in the Government referring to the Senior Salaries Review Body, as they have done in the past, the matter of expenses and remuneration of whatever House is in being for comment at any time. A great problem is highlighted by Amendment No. 105 standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, because it deals with a different matter--the question of permanent salaries.
During my time we had to advise the Government on what we thought should be the appropriate remuneration and expenses of another place. We gave a perfectly excellent report as to how the other place should be remunerated; we took enormous trouble over it. We made comparisons with the Chambers of other Parliaments in Europe and throughout the world. We were rather proud of what we said and the previous administration did not appear to disagree enormously with it. But what happened? The other place voted themselves an enormous salary increase, greatly in excess of what we had recommended. The increase covered researchers and everything else.
There are two points of principle here. The first is that, whether we are talking about a phrase-two House or a phase-three House after the Royal Commission, I can see no problem in the Government referring the matter to the Senior Salaries Review Body at any stage. That is always open to them. If I may say so with due diffidence, I cannot see a case for including Amendment No. 73 on the face of the Bill.
As to Amendment No. 105, an important point of principle was made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. That applies both to the successor body to this House and to what the Royal Commission says, which is a matter of principle. It is a matter of principle which this House needs to debate and on which the Government need to give a view; that is, whether future Members of this House and future Members of the House after the Royal Commission has reported--stage three--should be paid a salary or should merely be recompensed for their expenses in coming here. I do not believe that that matter can be left in the air. The Government, if I may respectfully say so, have to come to a conclusion on the interim House, as is suggested, and the Royal Commission will no doubt give its views in due course as to what any successor body should do.
Lord Crickhowell: I was brought promptly yet very briefly to my feet by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Elton who referred with approval to the report of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern. My noble friend quoted the paragraphs concerning pay and allowances. The first paragraph starts with the following reference:
There is no doubt that my noble friend Lord Ferrers is right; there is a grave danger that the costs will escalate in future. I suggest that reasonable remuneration and expenses should be paid. I believe that they will need to be paid if we are to attract the sort of Members (from all sides of the House) that we need. I would press for a reasonable remuneration. We need to have a balance. We do not necessarily want to assume that it will be a full-time House, either in the interim or the long term. We want to try to contain some of the vast escalation of costs that seems to be taking place in other deliberative assemblies.
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