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Travel arrangements are another nitty-gritty area but one of great importance to all noble Lords. Many speakers referred to the fact that spouses are supposed to travel second class. Clearly, that is another matter that needs to be addressed because not only does the current proposal underestimate the contribution made by spouses but it is not conducive to good relationships and it is also inequitable. It is a spurious means of saving money in this technological era when buying tickets on the internet can result in great savings, as the
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Noble Lords-including the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers; the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, who made an impassioned speech; and the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard-expressed concern and exposed some absurdities relating to travel. Those are well noted, and I can assure noble Lords that the Government are not salivating at the thought of creating another new team of inspectors. This is not another job creation scheme. Details like that really have to be looked at carefully.
The noble Lord, Lord Shutt, was concerned about the implications of illness among Members that were posed by the SSRB's recommendations. He is right to say that regular attendance for younger Members is much easier than it is for some of our older colleagues. The SSRB's report makes it clear that it had a number of representations from Members on that issue and that serious consideration was given to it. It expressed sympathy on the point but, in the absence of salaries, could find no way of making such a provision. However, I know that this is a serious issue and I hope that we can find a way of addressing it outside the scheme of financial support. We will certainly take the issue away for consideration.
The tone of the report was mentioned by several noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Graham and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I note the disappointment and frustration expressed. Many Members have rightly spoken of the fact that so much of the work of Members of this House is hidden from public view. Members do a superb job not only in the Chamber but in committees which meet in the morning as well as in the afternoon. As my noble friend Lord Peston and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, said, work in the Chamber and in committees requires huge amounts of preparation which must be taken into account, as must the other activities that noble Lords undertake, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant. Some of those activities continue during the recess.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, raised important issues about committees, including the payment of allowances when committees meet outside the House. I do not have an answer to that or to many other questions but the ad hoc committee will look at them and provide answers to some. The noble Earl also asked why the SSRB is taking the 40-day additional office cost allowance away. The additional office cost allowance is not being taken away but is being incorporated into the new £200 daily fee. It will be open to the ad hoc group, as part of its implementation work, to consider whether the recommendations on office costs are sufficient and appropriate. I have heard the arguments made by many noble Lords who obviously have to employ secretaries and not just for 140 or 145 days a year. I am sure that members of the SSRB do not give their secretaries a P45 before every holiday.
On administration and bureaucratic costs, our system clearly has to be more transparent. Transparency often means additional administration but that does not mean that it has to be over-bureaucratic and hugely costly. We really need to look at that.
On capital gains tax, as I understand it, the HMRC regulations allow an individual an exemption from capital gains tax in relation to gains made on the sale of their only or principal private residence. If an individual has more than one residence, they need to notify HMRC which is their principal residence. Paragraph 4.12 of the SSRB report makes it clear that a Member who claims the costs of a second property in London under these SSRB arrangements should always declare that as not his or her principal residence for CGT purposes. That is the implication of the SSRB arrangement, as the basis on which the financial assistance is being claimed is that the Member's principal residence is not within a reasonable commuting distance of the House. That comes from an answer I was given by my friends in the Box and I cannot pretend to be authoritative on that issue. Clearly, that needs clarification.
We have had a long and full debate. We may not have considered every aspect of the SSRB's report but we have looked at many of the issues raised in it and at the system of financial support for Members of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, asked for my assurance that noble Lords would not be putting their heads in a noose. I have no noose to hand. This is not the last word on the SSRB report. Today's debate is an invaluable part of the process.
The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, suggested that at the end of the process we should accept recommendation 26 of the SSRB report, which is that we ask IPSA to look at whatever the House eventually decides. That recommendation relates to the future and not to the present. For the present, I do not think that that is the correct way forward. The Government's position is clear: it is not appropriate for IPSA to be involved with the Lords as presently constituted.
We asked the SSRB to review the financial assistance to Members of the House and that is what it has done. We have its independent advice in the shape of the report. I believe that the process on which we have embarked today is the correct one: agreeing to the principles and architecture that it suggests; asking the ad hoc committee to look at the detail; and to consider, consult and implement. I am confident that in following this process we will demonstrate to the public that we are taking independent advice, but we will also ensure that the advice is made fit for the purpose of the House of Lords. I am grateful for the advice from the noble Lord, Lord Nickson, on that.
Of course we must take account of the crisis of confidence in politics and the creeping contempt for our parliamentary institutions, as the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, put it. We need clarity, certainty and comprehensibility; we want to ensure that we enhance, not damage, the reputation of this House, a House of which we are all proud and privileged to be Members.
I note the views expressed by my noble friend Lord Barnett about the instances of abuse and alleged abuse. We have to consider the well-being of this House, which includes its reputation. My noble friend asked me to ask the House Committee to define the tasks of the ad hoc committee and to bring that definition back to the House. As the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said, I think that the committee should have maximum
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There have been many comments about the word architecture. We were not seeking to be dilettantes in any way by using that word. It is rather like the cathedral mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. In many ways, architecture and framework are the same thing; it is semantics and means no more and no less. However, it was right for the House Committee to put the current Motion, rather than a Take Note Motion, before the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, spoke wisely when he said that the ad hoc committee would not be able to reconcile all of the problems and concerns that have been brought to our attention today. Some of the points of view expressed were simply contradictory. Also, we should recognise that whatever the committee recommends will not be welcomed by every Member of this House-that is simply not possible-but we have to find the best possible system for the majority of Members of this House. I know, however, that an ad hoc committee would look at the particularities and practicalities of the report through the eyes of Members of this House, knowing and understanding the real implication of the recommendations, and that its advice would make us more comfortable with future change.
It is for this House to decide on what changes it wants to make for the system of allowances for Members. The Government have given their response to the SSRB and the House Committee has proposed a way forward as contained in the Motion before you, but it is for the House to decide, this House and none other than this House-not the SSRB, not the Government, not the House Committee and certainly not the media, but this House. It is for the Members of this House: the decision is in your hands and your hands alone.
In taking that decision, I urge all noble Lords to support the Motion, to vote for the course of action set out for the benefit of the House by the House Committee, to accept the principles and architecture of the SSRB's report and, following that report, to refer the practicalities of a new system of financial support, issues for consideration and consultation and advice on implementation to an ad hoc group of Members of this House, and to review that system within a year of its implementation. That is the way forward, and I urge all Members of your Lordships' House to take it.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, I would be grateful if she would be kind enough to get me out of a muddle, because I still do not understand it. She said at the beginning that we
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: No, my Lords, we are not dismissing elements of the report. We are saying that we adhere to the principles, we agree to the broad
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