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The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, recently there have been rumours that people have been waving cheques about for large amounts to get into this House and to draw a very small salary. The demand for membership to this House is quite high. Rumour even has it that the demand to place bottoms on the Woolsack is also quite high. Do we need to increase this salary?

The worth of Members in this House is shown in their ability, in what they say and in how they contribute to the debates here, rather than in the size of their allowance. It is right to draw attention, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers did, to the completely and utterly unnecessary gross amount of public money which has been spent by the noble and, in this case, the not very learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, on completely wrecking the High Court and the Lord Chancellorship. The cost of that is £10 million, although the court ran on £180,000 and his salary was £29,000. This was an utterly unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers' money for no improvement in justice, and no improvement in what is going to happen in your Lordships' House. I can therefore see no possible reason why taxpayers should fork out for us to be self-indulgent, and pay somebody a lot of money—as one of my noble friends said £1,000 an hour—for sitting in a chair. That is not what public money is for.

Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I am one of those noble Lords who has supported the Motion. Anybody would think that the House Committee was staffed by Martians, who had absolutely no conception of what went on in this House. But they are representative of all of us and they have come up with this recommendation. From some of the comments that have been made, I sniff old battles being revisited. I really believe that. I am sorry if that is not true in the case of my noble friend Lord Barnett. That is technically not correct, but perhaps I may call him that as we have sat cheek-by-cheek, as it were, over the years.

It is a job that we can create. We have heard that the officeholder will sit for three hours every day, but that is the least important part of the job. He or she will be representing us across the world and—I regard this as the most important part—will be going around the
 
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United Kingdom talking to people of every age and every class about what this place is, trying to repair some of the damage that the ignorance has caused over the years. When I worked in marketing about 150 years ago, we had the phrase, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys", but I am not even sure that we are going to get very many monkeys at the sort of figures being talked about today. If this matter goes to a Division, I shall certainly vote in favour of the Motion.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, this is not an old battle—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords—

Lord Lucas: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Lucas: My Lords, before the noble Baroness brings the debate to a close, I wish to make a very short statement. This is not an old battle; it is a new one. The argument that the respect that we have for the Lord Speaker depends on the salary is completely at odds with a House which is paid nothing and demands respect for that. This battle is about whether we should be a paid House and about setting a marker as to what that pay should be.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I have listened very carefully to the arguments of those who have proposed amendments this afternoon—my noble friend Lord Barnett, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I have also listened very carefully to other noble Lords who have spoken. I am well aware that some in the House would prefer there not to be a Lord Speaker at all. That is of course a perfectly respectable position to hold, but it is not the decision that the House has taken, and I think it is time to allow the clear decision of the House to be implemented—and to be implemented graciously rather than grudgingly.

If the House of Lords matters, the new post of Lord Speaker, our presiding officer, matters as well, and it is important that we do not send the wrong signal about that today. I have sat through, and indeed replied to, a number of debates when noble Lords have argued about the important role played by this House and the importance of ensuring that the role and independence of this House is understood by the wider public. I see the Lord Speaker's role in public engagement, which has been mentioned by some noble Lords, as being a key element in the role of our presiding officer. In defending the self-regulatory nature of this House, noble Lords have, in moving their amendments, concentrated on the Speaker's role in the Chamber and have not commented on the wider role of the Speaker which was recommended by the Select Committee and which existed in the job description that was then sent to the SSRB. I shall come back to that point in a moment.
 
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I urge the House to consider very carefully the implications of rejecting the SSRB's recommendation. The SSRB is independent of Parliament and we asked it to make a recommendation to the House. While it is open to the House to reject the recommendation, I think that, having looked at the research, it would be the first time that we had ever done so. I ask the House on what basis we would decide to pick and choose. What will the House do when we consider the uprating of allowances? Part of the function of the SSRB is to protect the House from any accusation of bias, and it is important that we remember that point. It is the function of the SSRB to determine appropriate salary arrangements. It made it clear that the proposals are provisional. I think it would be far better for the House to accept the advice that we have sought from the SSRB and then to review the arrangements, as suggested, during our next review of parliamentary pay and allowances.

It is regrettable that the differences that still exist in the House about a Lord Speaker are being reflected in a debate about the salary of the Lord Speaker. I remind the House that the job description which was sent to the SSRB mentions not only the role in the Chamber, but also the Lord Speaker's role as chairman of the House Committee and as a member of the Procedure Committee. The Lord Speaker would also take over the Chairman of Committees' formal responsibility for the security of the Lords' part of the parliamentary estate—not insignificant. The Lord Speaker would also have a strong representational role, acting as non-political spokesperson for the House at home and abroad and an important educational role, ensuring that the public understand the significance of the work of the House. I am very sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is so dismissive of that wider educational role. Having the public outside understand the very good work being done in this House, having a representative who can talk to young people about the nature of our parliamentary democracy and the role that this House plays in relation to that is an absolutely essential part of the role. I hope that the House will endorse the House Committee's recommendation.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, this is the latest in a series of debates on the role of the Lord Speaker and it is the latest in a series of debates putting into effect the implications of the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, which has been agreed by the House and which I have no intention of seeking to reopen or to overturn.

This, of all matters, is a House matter. For my Benches, it will be an entirely free vote. But some of the confusion that is sometimes raised on the subject is because nowhere does there exist a single document that lays out all the changes that were implied by the Lloyd committee report. There are changes to procedure, staff, pay, pensions, accommodation and costume—for those who are interested in such matters. At least three committees of the House, with different memberships, have been involved on all those different
 
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aspects, yet nowhere can one find a comprehensive, single document to explain what all the changes will be—at least, not until they have all been debated and agreed in a piecemeal fashion. That it is one of the reasons why I, a member of the House Committee, supported the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, in the representations he made then, and why I shall be supporting him this afternoon if he presses the matter to a Division.

I was also much taken by the arguments made by my noble friends Lord Trefgarne and Lord Ferrers. I have one question to put to my noble friend Lord Ferrers before I decide whether to support him. Is the salary that he is recommending a salary in itself or is it a salary on top of the normal expenses paid to Back-Benchers? That could make a substantial difference and would demonstrate that the Lord Speaker was being treated in the same way as most Members of this House with an extra amount on top. No doubt he will find an opportunity to clarify that in due course.

I disagree with those who say that by supporting the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, we are attacking the SSRB. It is true that we normally accept the conclusions of the SSRB; that is because the SSRB undertakes an exhaustive study of what is required. On this occasion, it took no evidence from anyone—I am not aware that it discussed the salary with any Member of this House—and had no idea on which basis to proceed, which was why it fell back on the first report of the Lloyd committee. So on this occasion, I have no difficulty whatever in disagreeing with the recommendation of the SSRB.

Some noble Lords have talked about the prestige of the Speaker. I yield to no one in my desire for the Lord Speaker to receive the highest prestige, respect, status and dignity possible. The Speaker will be an important representative of this House. But prestige does not rely on big bucks. Indeed, that dignity could well be reduced by overpaying someone to sit on the Woolsack and do the job that has been recommended.

I cannot see that the role of Speaker equates at all to that of a Cabinet Minister in this House. They are clearly different jobs with different roles and responsibilities. The job of the noble Baroness, the Leader of the House, carries far greater prestige and authority than that of the Lord Speaker.

The Lord Chairman of Committees, in his introduction, said that in due course there will be a review of the said salary. I have never heard of a salary being reviewed downwards, so I expect that that will not happen. So should we not start off with a slightly lower salary and if, after a year or two, that is deemed to be insufficient, the review can take care of that?

I will be voting for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. I will do so gladly and I urge the House to do the same.

4 pm


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