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Lord Bach: My Lords, I was not aware of what my noble friend has just asked about. Everyone agrees that the question of water leakages is very serious.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, will the Minister endorse the measures suggested by the Mayor of London that individual householders should take to save water, including preventing the unnecessary flushing of lavatories? My husband's favourite adage is, "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down".

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bach: My Lords, I endorse what the Mayor of London has said on the subject up until now.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the last time a Labour government faced a serious and prolonged
 
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drought they appointed a Minister with specific responsibility to deal with the matter, which was extremely successful. However, the Government have already repeated that action this time and, although there has been some rain, the drought persists. What further discussions—particularly with Thames Water—will the Government have to deal with the situation in the event that the drought persists for a serious period?

Lord Bach: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, if the situation requires, a water company can apply to the Environment Agency for a drought permit to provide additional means for it to take water from new sources or to alter restrictions on existing abstractions. If the additional measures provided by the drought permit are insufficient, a water company can apply to the Government for a drought order. It goes further than a drought permit and deals with discharges of water abstraction and discharges by people other than the water undertaker affected, and can provide for further restrictions on essential use. At this stage, Thames Water has not applied for either.

Piped Music and Showing of Television Programmes Bill [HL]

3.07 pm

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to provide for the Secretary of State to draw up a plan to prohibit piped music and the showing of television programmes in public areas of hospitals and on public transport; and to require the wearing of headphones by persons listening to music in the public areas of hospitals and on public transport. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Speakership: House Committee Report

3.08 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

This report concerns the Lord Speaker's salary and pension. On 31 January this year, the House approved the report of the second Select Committee on the Speakership. In paragraph 54 of the report, the committee recommended that the Senior Salaries Review Body should be invited to propose a salary and pension arrangement for the Lord Speaker which,


 
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The Senior Salaries Review Body considered the report of the Speakership Committee and the Hansard of the debate on it, as well as its previous recommendations concerning parliamentary salaries. It has proposed the following provisional arrangements, which it may revise during its next full review of parliamentary pay and allowances due in 2007 or after further reform of this House. First, it proposed an annual salary of £101,668, subject to annual uprating on 1 April, in line with the average movement of the mid-points of the senior Civil Service pay bands. This would give the Lord Speaker the same salary as a Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords. Secondly, it proposed a pension in accordance with the normal pension scheme provisions for Ministers, MPs and the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees in this House. In addition, the House Committee considered that the Lord Speaker should be entitled to claim the same expenses as other paid office holders in the House of Lords.

In the past, this House has accepted the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body on expenses and salaries for Members. Several members of the House Committee were concerned about the possible consequences of cherry picking between SSRB recommendations. However, as today's Order Paper shows, not every member of the House Committee agreed with the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations in this case. Nevertheless, the committee recognised that the final decision rests with your Lordships.

Finally, it may be helpful to say a word about the procedure to be followed on the three amendments tabled to my Motion. In a moment, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will move his Amendment No. 1, and the debate will then proceed in accordance with the outline speakers' list. A decision will then be taken on Amendment No. 1. If Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, it will still be possible for Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to be moved, but the Deputy Speaker will propose them in a different form so as to leave out the words last inserted. If Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, it would replace Amendment No. 1. Similarly, if either Amendment No. 1 or Amendment No. 2—or both—are agreed to, and Amendment No. 3 is agreed to, Amendment No. 3 would replace any earlier amendments.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 152).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Barnett rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert "except that the annual salary of the Lord Speaker should be the same as the annual salary of the Chairman of Committees (£79,382 at 1 April 2005)".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment refers to a figure of £79,382, but including the allowances that are normally paid and are agreed in this case, the total would be £115,000, plus the pensions referred to. I should make it clear that I was
 
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one of the two Members of the House Committee who disagreed with the recommendations that have been put before your Lordships.

The committee's case and, as I understand it, the case of those who voted for it, as the Lord Chairman said, is that we never normally oppose the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations. Traditionally, that is absolutely true and I accept that the SSRB is usually very good in its recommendations. It carries out full research, checking nationally and internationally whether the figure recommended is appropriate. But in this case it was impossible to do that. This is a unique job; there is no other comparison to be made. So the SSRB made no case but simply repeated that the salary should be equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords. That is a very strange recommendation, if I may say so. The report of the Senior Salaries Review Body was, as the Lord Chairman said, made on the basis of debates in your Lordships' House and of the Select Committee report. In other words, your Lordships are as well informed and able to make a decision on this as the SSRB.

The SSRB's recommendation should be looked at from a different standpoint. Whatever disagreements there may be about the whole question of the Speakership and the Speaker's salary, there is one point on which your Lordships are in unanimous agreement: we will remain a self-regulating House. In those circumstances, the position of the Speaker cannot be compared with a Speaker anywhere else, certainly not down the Corridor. The Speaker in the Commons has some real powers; the Speaker we would have, on the recommendations made and agreed by your Lordships, would be able to offer advice, which could be rejected by your Lordships. He or she would not even be able to give advice on the important time of Question Time—that has been specifically ruled out by your Lordships.

3.15 pm

So we are told that the recommendation is that the new Speaker should sit up to three hours a day on the Woolsack or in the Chair. I accept that that is quite a burden, having listened from time to time to hours of debate in your Lordships' House, but to say that it warrants a Cabinet Minister's salary cannot be serious. It is ludicrous to suggest such a salary for that kind of job. It is not a serious job in that sense. It should have the dignity that the House wants, but does not involve a Cabinet Minister's responsibility.

If one rejects the idea of a Cabinet Minister's salary, one has to consider what salary should be paid for a job that would have some dignity and which we would care about. My amendment suggests that the salary should be the same as that of the Chairman of Committees, which would bring it to a total—including agreed allowances—of £115,039. Actually, the Chairman of Committees would continue to do a much bigger job in your Lordships' House. He would continue to chair many Select Committees and the new Speaker would chair only the House Committee. That
 
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being said, I recognise that many believe that my proposal puts too high a figure for the new Lord Speaker and I accept that. It is not possible to define an ideal figure in the circumstances because the job is unique. It should have some dignity attached to it, but the Select Committee on the Speakership recommended—and the SSRB also made the recommendation—that the Lord Speaker's salary should be based on the salary of a Cabinet Minister. That recommendation was made on page 15 of the first report of the Select Committee. The committee used only one word to justify the decision—it was not mentioned in our previous debates. It said that a Cabinet Minister's salary would be "appropriate". I hope that your Lordships will accept that it is anything but appropriate.

My proposal is not ideal but, given that the salary proposed is excessive, as I hope your Lordships will accept, it is a reasonable compromise which would provide the dignity that is required. I hope that there will not be any Dutch auction here because the matter is too serious. I am suggesting a serious compromise figure and I hope that that figure will be accepted by your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert "except that the annual salary of the Lord Speaker should be the same as the annual salary of the Chairman of Committees (£79,382 at 1 April 2005)".—(Lord Barnett.)


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