|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I feel very much the same as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, at least in principle. I had the honour to serve on the Speakership Select Committee under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and it is true that we referred the question of salary in our final report to the SSRB. It is the SSRB's recommendation before your Lordships today, endorsed by the House Committee.
Like every noble Lord, I have the greatest admiration for the SSRB. As the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said, it faced some difficulty in this regard because the post that we have created is like no other. But it is a very modest post. The duties attached to our new Speaker will be very light indeed. It is a matter of opinion whether three hours on the Woolsack each day will be strenuous or otherwise, but the duties overall will not be very great. They will be largely of a representational nature and no less welcome for that. However, perhaps the SSRB failed to realise how modest the appointment actually is. Therefore I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Barnett is right to suggest that the salary ought to be significantly less than the one proposed.
I know there are noble Lords who believe that we should never overturn a proposal from the SSRB. I really do not agree. Although we regard its proposals with the greatest care and almost always accept them, it is not the case that we have never overturned one of its recommendations. I think there are one or two occasions in the past when we have chosen to do that, so there is no principle at stake when we seek to do so on this occasion.
2 May 2006 : Column 401
I believe there is widespread agreement that the salary proposed is too great. The question before your Lordships is by how much it should be reduced below the figure from the SSRB proposed by the House Committee. Speaking for myself, I would prefer an even lower figure than that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. My noble friend Lord Ferrers, who will speak in a moment, has an even lower figure in mind. However, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is certainly moving along the right lines and I shall support him in the Lobbies.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I shall speak to my amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, I think the salary recommended by the House Committee of £101,668 is excessive by all and any standards. To it are added expenses of about £34,000. The committee proposes that the salary for the new Lord Speaker should be, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, says, the same as that of a Cabinet Minister in the Lords. But why? The two offices are not remotely comparable. A Cabinet Minister carries heavy responsibilities; the Lord Speaker will have virtually none. And the proposed figures are only the start. Other expenses will be paid to the Lord Speaker, and a pension, all of which will be increased annually.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, on his eagle eye, and on proposing a lower figure, but for an ex-Chief Secretary of the Treasury he is remarkably generous. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne's figure is getting nearer the mark. The figure of £29,946 proposed by my amendment is the payment the present Lord Chancellor is entitled to receive for performing his duties as Speaker of the House of Lords, and I suggest that that should be the figure the new incumbent should also get.
I sometimes think that we have completely forgotten where we are coming from. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that he does not want to spend one and a half hours per week performing his duties as Speaker of your Lordships' House, for which he is entitled to receive £29,946. He said that he wants to spend his time doing other things, but he has never said what. Most people resign if they do not like the job they are doing. Not so the noble and learned Lord. Not only does he not want to do the job himself, but he ensures that no other Lord Chancellor will do it eithera fundamental change in the constitution for which the noble and learned Lord is wholly responsible. Yet he prides himself on being Secretary of State for the constitution, and presumably its guardian.
So we are forced into creating a new animal: a Lord Speaker. We all know that it is not going to be an improvement on what we have. I do not think that there is one person in your Lordships' House or elsewhere who thinks that our affairs will be better looked after under the new arrangements than they are at present. Then, having reluctantly accepted that we have to find a new person to fill the void created by the noble and learned Lord, we have to find something for him to do. It is unbelievable. People have hunted
2 May 2006 : Column 402
around trying to find jobs for the new Speaker to do. Will he be like a Commons Speaker? No. Will he deal with points of order? No. Will he control the House? Oh no. Will he tell obdurate noble Lords to sit down? No. What will he do? The answer is: mighty little, except sit, and be entertained by Liverpool City Council or whatever as some kind of House of Lords ambassador. That is a curious and unnecessary innovation.
If ever there was an example of deliberately creating a job, it is that of creating a new Lord Speaker for your Lordships' House. He is not wantedthere is nothing for him to dobut he is to be paid £135,000, including salary and expenses. It is not surprising that there are a lot of eager noble Lords queuing up with their eyes sparkling hoping to be successful in the Lord Speaker jackpot. It is absurd. It will do the House no good and it will do the country no good. I suggest to your Lordships that it is a waste of money. When some of your Lordships say, largely tongue in cheek, I am bound to say, that your Lordships should be an elected or partially elected Chamber, others will say that if a non-elected Chamberand not all of us are unelectedcan pay to one of its non-elected members a salary of that size perhaps it would be better if it were elected, but of course it would be worse.
One of the current buzzphrases seems to be "value for money", but I question whether noble Lords are providing value for money in the way in which they used to. When the set-piece debates were on Wednesday and the House sat at three o'clock on Thursday, the Chamber was full for the set-piece debates and it was full on Thursdays. Now hardly anyone attends the set-piece debates and the House is virtually empty at three o'clock on Thursdays. Everyone has buzzed off home. As a Lord-in-Waiting in the 1960s I remember frequently asking permission from the father of my noble friend Lord GoschenI do not know whether he is in his place; perhaps he is notwho was then the Deputy Chief Whip, whether I could leave at a quarter to seven on a Thursday evening in order to catch a 7.30 train home. He usually graciously agreed. The daily attendance allowance then was £4/14s/6d. There were one or two life Peers then too. But now, together with an overnight allowance, it is £231, but we cannot be bothered to come to the House on a Thursday afternoon. I do not know whether that is value for money.
Now we have this other huge expenditure. In 1997Her Majesty's Government always like to compare what happens now with 1997that part of the Lord Chancellor's salary that referred to his being Speaker was £18,855 and the Lord Chancellors of the day carried out their office with dignity. Now, when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is entitled to £29,946, he says that he does not want to do the job. Instead, the public purse is to pay out £135,000 per annum for someone else to do it in his place. In the famous words of the late Lord Hailsham, I think that we have all gone stark, staring bonkers. It is certainly not value for money and it is certainly not in the public interest.
2 May 2006 : Column 403
The noble and learned Lord the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs could do worse than look at what has happened to that part of the constitution which is carried on in this House since 1997 and to realise that under the aura and the influence of this Government it has not been an improvement. This is a pathetic and sorry saga. I suggest to your Lordships that if we are to have this constitutional upheaval the new Lord Speaker should receive the same salary as that to which the present Lord Chancellor is entitled.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, after that emollient speech I do not want to sound too abrasive, but we should not forget why we are where we are. If we do not forget, perhaps nothing like this will happen again. Let us remember that it all began with the Prime Minister believing that he was entitled with a snap of his fingers to abolish an office older than Parliament itself and thus dispose of his former pupil master.
There were those who, to their lasting credit, were not prepared to go along with what the Prime Minister wanted. Unfortunately, some were. Because they were prepared to go along with that, the public are today being asked to fork out over £100,000 a year plus pension and expenses for a Lord Speaker, for whom there would have been no need whatever had the Prime Minister not decided to get rid of the office of Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg.
I find it deeply distasteful that people should have been scratching around trying to find work for a Speaker to disguise what, if not a non-job, is a job which took up an hour or two of the Lord Chancellor's time on only about 150 days a year. That is why I support with enthusiasm the amendment which would give the lowest salary to the incumbent. But the truth is that any of these amendments is better than the Motion in the name of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. It is outrageous that we should be invited to accept as proper a salary which really meansdo not let us forget thisif you look at the hours that the Lord Chancellor sits on the Woolsack, £1,000 an hour plus expenses. That is what we are really talking about.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|