Members' Expenses

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th May 1946.

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Photo of Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield Flight Lieut Wavell Wakefield , St Marylebone 12:00 am, 29th May 1946

Very well, then, one of the first things we did before the first year of Parliament was out was to increase our own salaries. I know that hon. Members have made the point that it is only Members of this House who can increase their own salaries. Of course it is. But do not let us increase our salaries. Let us talk about an increase for the next Parliament in which we do not know whether we will be sitting. If we do that we will maintain the honour, prestige and dignity of Parliament in a way which we are not now doing. Would an increase in our salaries be consistent with some of the things which are happening today, such as were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Pres-cott) who referred to the fact that officers' and widows' pensions, etc., have not been increased? There is feeling in the country about this. I have two sons-in-law, both in the Services. One is in the Royal Navy and the other is in the Army. As a result of recent so-called increases, which to them, because of their ranks, were not increases, they said to me, " We see you are greatly to increase your pay while ours has been decreased."These are important points which we in this House should not overlook.

The Chancellor has said how important it is to maintain the standard of living and to avoid inflation. One of the ways of creating inflation is for wages and salaries to continue to increase. Is it not right that we should give a lead in this matter? How can we give a lead when we increase our own salaries? It will be within the recollection of many hon. Members that in the financial crisis of 1931 this House reduced Members emoluments to £ 360. That ought not to be forgotten, and I suggest that rather than increase our emoluments, we ought to consider reducing them as a lead to the rest of the country. I know that hardship exists among certain Members, and because I am not affected in the same degree, it is difficult and embarrassing for me to move this Amendment. It is not a happy or a pleasant task, but because it is not happy or pleasant we should not shirk doing it. I do not know whether it is possible during this Parliament for some scheme to be arranged whereby hon. Members who are in difficulties can be helped from the Pension Fund which, I understand, is in very great funds. With increased salaries in the next Parliament we could always contribute more if need be. I throw out that suggestion as one way in which that difficulty might be overcome.

I understand there are certain objections to this Amendment. The first is that we cannot commit the next Parliament. If that is a technical objection my Amendment can easily be altered to apply to the last day of this Parliament. I do not think that is a valid objection. Another objection is that unless salaries are increased, new candidates of the required caliber will not be able to come forward. Surely, that is not so, because new candidates will know that in the new Parliament they will receive £ 1,000 a year. Another objection is that expenses are now very much greater than they were. I do not think that that is so since the General Election. We all entered as candidates at the last Election knowing what our emoluments were to be and being, as Members of Parliament, responsible individuals, also knowing what our liabilities were likely to be. Surely it will not be suggested that anybody will lightheartedly take up the responsibilities and duties of a Member of Parliament without, first of all, considering what he or she is to get and what the expenses may be? There has been no considerable increase in ex- penses during the last 12 months, and so I cannot see the validity of that objection.

Again, there has been the objection that hon. Members cannot do their duties efficiently at the present rate of emoluments. Well, coal miners, dockyard workers and many other people also think that they cannot do their duties efficiently, and want an increase in wages. So I do not see that there is any validity in that objection. It has also been suggested, that if we vote for this Amendment we are in duty bound not to take any increased salary. Well, suppose some of us in this House disagreed with the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Suppose the Chancellor decided that he was going to reduce the tax on beer and some of us, while delighted from a personal point of view, nevertheless, from the national point of view thought his decision was wrong. Should we take advantage of the reduction in the tax on beer? Of course, we should.