I was quoting the sentiments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South in his recent book, "Government and Parliament." He suggested there was a danger that we would become a monastic institution. I agree that that is a danger which we, as hon. Members of this House, must consider. By being full-time Members here we tend, perhaps, to live apart from the rest of the nation and, because of that, our experience becomes somewhat limited. But that argument can also apply the other way. There is always the danger that an hon. Member, by fulfilling his obligations, by fulfilling his responsibilities, will be denied opportunities to go abroad and to contribute to any of those valuable Parliamentary organisations which indirectly enrich our Parliamentary life.
An hon. Member should not have to rely on sponsored trips abroad. He should be able to use his leisure, if necessary, to enable him to understand world affairs so that he can make his contribution here in this Chamber. That argument can also apply the other way. I would agree with many hon. Members on both sides of the House that there is certainly the main question, should we have full-time politicians? That is a very real problem. I, personally, believe it to be rather academic because, whether we like it or not, many hon. Members on both sides of the House do a full-time job here.
As my hon. Friend says, they have to. If we look at the work of an hon. Member, we can see how the tempo has changed. The pressure of Parliamentary life is due to many factors—the polarisation of party politics, the Whip system, and the narrow balance of our political life in the country. Does this mean good government? Will such a system create a rigidity in our Parliamentary procedure? We see how the tempo has changed if we look at copies of HANSARD and compare the speeches made in this Chamber 50 years ago with those made today. In that early period there was the slow, measured, polished oratory compared with short speeches—made with staccato precision—today.
The changed tempo can be seen in the actual working of Parliament. It can be seen in the growth of legislation and the development of individual case work. Irrespective of political argument, the State interferes more than ever with the rights of citizens and, because of that, individual citizens call upon Members of Parliament to present their claims, if I may put it in those terms. We become the guardians of the citizens' rights and thus offer a check to bureaucracy.
Possibly case work can be overdone. There is a grave danger that Members of Parliament may become glorified citizens' advice bureaux. There is a danger that, instead of keeping abreast of political problems and legislation, hon. Members may become so involved in case work that an important side of their work is neglected. I still agree that case work is important especially if it helps Parliament directly to check bureaucracy. Whatever our political views or ideologies, we know that bureaucracy can exist in any system. Inevitably we must face the fact that the tempo of Parliament has changed and that the pressure on the individual Member has increased also.
This assembly does undoubtedly mirror the modern mechanical, machine age, the scientific age. In that respect many hon. Members, in order to keep the Parliamentary machine working efficiently, must of necessity do a full-time job. That is the dilemma; how much time shall we devote to it? It is a difficult choice which hon. Members have to make. As I mentioned earlier, in a personal note, I had a profession which I could not follow by being a Member of this House. That always will be the dilemma which faces many of us; shall we do less here and seek to earn a living outside by doing work which may interfere with our efficiency in the Chamber? I am not saying that in every case it does interfere. I believe the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey) rightly said that many hon. Members through their experience in business or professions outside enrich our Parliamentary life. But in some cases occupation outside could restrict the Parliamentary and political life of an hon. Member and the nation would have lost a very valuable servant.
I hope that we shall adopt the proposals of the Select Committee and allow hon. Members to make the choice. As has been stated today, even if the Report of the Select Committee is adopted, hon. Members will not be making money if they are doing a full-time job in this House. It will still be extremely difficult for hon. Members to fulfil all their duties and keep their normal family life going in the proper way. There will still be difficulties. Hon. Members are not pleading for some money which will give them riches, as some people think they are. That is not so. But it is important that hon. Members should be able to make a choice.
Lord Hailsham, who was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, gave some facts and figures which, I see, have been reproduced by the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) in an excellent little book on Parliament. They show that every other Member of this House at that period when we had that debate was either a company director, a trade union official or a lawyer. I agree with Lord Hailsham that it is bad that we should have so much representation from one section of the community. No Member should be prevented from making that essential decision through force of necessity. If he wishes to follow the honourable profession of a full-time politician by serving his constituents and the nation, he should be enabled to do so.
It has been said that Parliament is like a zoo—there is one of everything in it. The position is not quite like that, but I believe that the House of Commons should at least mirror the nation. We are a democracy, we can no longer go back to the system of Old Sarum and the pocket boroughs. We should see to it that our representatives do not suffer from nagging and gnawing poverty and insecurity which affects their efficiency as representatives of the nation.
This debate is important. It affects every one of us directly or indirectly. More than that, it affects the efficiency of the House of Commons and it really affects the future of democracy. I have been looking back at that classical writer on our Constitution, Walter Bagehot. whose opening words in his chapter on the House of Commons were:
The dignified aspect of the House of Commons is altogether secondary to its efficient use.
I hope that we shall bear that matter in mind because his words, although written in 1867, still apply today and have a bearing on this debate.
We are concerned really with the efficiency of Parliament. Bagehot mentioned five main functions of the House of Commons. They were as follows: first, the elective function. We are here to carry on the Queen's Government, to maintain a relationship between the Commons and the Executive. There is, too, the expressive function; we express the opinion of the British people on all matters which come before it. Thirdly, there is the teaching function. We are a council of men who come together, and we alter society for good or evil, for better or worse. The fourth main function is informing. As we know, it derives from that mediaeval conception of Parliament, whereby the Sovereign was informed of the grievances of Parliament; we inform the nation of the grievances. The last function is legislation. Today legislation is more important than ever and Bagehot's remarks applying with greater emphasis.
Despite all our great traditions, despite the great political machine which we have built up here in the House of Commons, despite all our rules of order and Parliamentary conventions, it is in the end the personnel which is important. We must, as Lord Hailsham said, and as many other writers have stated, mirror our society. Therefore, no section of the community should be placed in any difficulty in this respect.
I come to my last point. I have stressed the fact that we are living in a Parliamentary democracy. I believe that in our democracy public opinion is mature enough to appreciate this position. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we must be sensitive about public opinion, but I believe that we also have to lead. If we feel that the Select Committee has presented the facts and has arrived at right conclusions, and if we agree with those conclusions, we have a right to say so, just as, if we disagree, as no doubt some hon. Members will, we have a right to express an opposite point of view.
I honestly and sincerely believe that my constituents and the British people do not want their public representatives to be placed in any financial difficulties because of the circumstances of their position. I believe that the British public do not want Parliament or Government to be impeded because their public representatives, through financial difficulties, have to restrict their activities in the House of Commons. After all, this is a matter of tremendous importance.
I know that certain sections of the Press sometimes snipe at Parliament. One need not mention them in too much detail. I should like, however, to quote a rather interesting passage from the "Sunday Express" which appeared at the time when the last increase was given. It was stated, in a "Sunday Express" editorial:
This is a question of the dignity, honour and independence attaching to the office of a Member of Parliament. It concerns the recognition which the nation is prepared to give to the men and women who have been chosen by the people to represent them.…
And no M.P. should be afraid to vote for the rise in salary. This is no personal matter, but a measure which will enhance the prestige of the House and increase the usefulness of all Members to the community they serve, long after individuals have passed on—or have been given notice to quit by their constituents.
I sincerely hope that "Cross-Bencher," who sniped at my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) this week—he may snipe at me, I do not
know—will remember that editorial in his own paper. I hope that he will bear in mind that the efficiency of Parliament is of great concern. I should certainly like to invite him down here to talk to him about this matter. I should even be prepared to debate the issue in my constituency.
We must certainly give a lead to public opinion, and we must not insult the British public by assuming that they are immature. After all, Parliamentary democracy is on trial, as previous speakers—the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend—have said. Parliamentary democracy was able to resist totalitarian aggression in a great crisis. Undoubtedly there are still political zealots who would undermine the fabric of our Parliamentary system, who attack it and who would wish to bring into being a monolithic State.
Parliamentary Government is something which all of us have helped to build up in our own humble way, and is something which goes right back into British history. It is something which offers the nation now, in this modern world, a tremendous dynamic; it inspires the Commonwealth and peoples abroad, by our example, to defend and to develop Parliamentary democracy. I go further. I believe that Parliamentary democracy can also rot from within. It can be corrupted, and there are tendencies which illustrate this danger.
I tried to portray this in a humble contribution to the "Manchester Guardian" some time ago. I think in terms of the growth of specialisation, the role of the experts, the idea that we should leave it to some other person. I see that danger in our wider political life, and it can be a danger here. It emphasises that we have to be more active and vigilant as Members of Parliament because of the role of experts and because the specialisation of our own social and economic fabric has meant the growth of the centralisation of government and propaganda. I think of television, irrespective of whether it is private or public enterprise. It can be a tremendous menace to objective discussion and talk. This growth of centralisation, along with the personalisation of politics, is something which can corrupt even our own Parliamentary discussion and practice.
In that sense it is important that we should have an active, vigorous House of Commons which is able to do its job, which is able to fulfil that case work I have mentioned, a House of Commons which has built up in its Members the efficiency necessary for that essential Committee work which has increased through the spate of legislation. It is a House of Commons which always must be vigilant, and even more so today in our modern world.
For that reason, I hope that Members will carefully look at the Report of the Select Committee not in a party sense but as something which really affects the efficiency of a great institution—an institution which has a tremendous impact on world affairs outside this assembly. If we consider the Report in that spirit, eventually we shall reach a decision. If we believe that decision to be right, we should have the courage to say so in no party sense.
I have no doubt that if I had been a Member of the Select Committee I should have supported the recommendations which it produced upon the evidence put forward, but nothing that I have heard has changed my view that the most honest way to tackle this question is by a fiat-rate increase rather than by the other methods which have been suggested.
I wish to make one point which has not been touched upon very much. We have talked a good deal about the difficulties which some hon. Members suffer. I want to call attention to our future entrants. There is not the least doubt that the cream of the younger men from parties on both sides dare not enter the House. For instance, there is the younger man on the managerial side, in his thirties. I believe that we need men of that age in Parliament. Such men may be married and have a child, with perhaps another on the way, and they may be beginning to build up a career. Any man like that who wants to enter public life does not want to make a fortune out of it, but he does not want to sacrifice his wife and family to live in penury for 20 years or more. Fewer men of that type will enter the House unless we have a considerable change.
The same applies on the other side, with the rising young trade unionists who are just the type of men needed on the other side of the House—and on this side as well; I must not speak in any party sense. The young trade unionist has a decent job and is looked after well by his trade union. Trade unions look after their men a good deal better than do some public bodies. The rising young trade unionist has some degree of security. How can he come here to take a job which means that, at the end of it, if he is lucky enough to stay in the House for 20 years, he has either to hang on in ill-health in his old age without private means behind him. He can save nothing for his retirement, and then we get those tragedies which have appeared before the Committee of the Members' Fund.
If a trade unionist enters this House, on more occasions than not he has to resign from his job; and if he loses his seat he has to submit himself again to a ballot of the membership, against his successor.
I was assuming that he would resign his post, just as the young man in business, in many cases, would have to resign his job; and he might have less chance of getting it back than the trade unionist. Be that as it may, we have to look at the future of Parliament even more than at the troubles of existing Members.
I listened closely to what the Chancellor said about the proposed alternatives. While he was speaking, I had in my mind the whole time the question. "Will any of these alternatives encourage the type of younger men we want to see coming into the House on both sides in future years?" I cannot imagine that the subsistence plan would arouse the slightest enthusiasm in the heart of any man. I do not deny that this subsistence plan would be of some slight help to a certain number of the poorest Members of the House. It would be an undignified alleviation, but it would be an alleviation.
What man or woman, among the brilliant people whom we have on both sides, who would like to enter Parliament would come on the present £1,000 a year, and maybe a subsistence allowance, especially if he or she happens to live in London? Although I am not a London Member, I know that there is some difference between London and country Members, but I do not believe that any scheme that differs in its treatment as between hon. Members is likely to be acceptable. The London Member has certain advantages. On the other hand, the number of constituents who have to be looked after at all times is colossal. I must say that the subsistence scheme seems to be a bad one from the start.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that there would be unfortunate differences between provincial Members? Some provincial Members, like myself, live in London because we think that we can serve the House better by doing that. It would make an unfortunate differentiation between ourselves and other Members who prefer to live in the provinces.
I appreciate that. I am not attacking my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I am only too pleased that he has put forward these alternatives at all, but the more we look at the subsistence scheme the more impossible it will appear. My right hon. Friend's other alternatives were variations of an expense allowance in addition to the basic salary. Some of these variations would be worse than useless.
Suppose that we decide to be very careful not to upset the public but that, after all, there ought to be free telephone trunk calls, free secretarial expenses and perhaps even free meals, to some extent, in this House. That is not only undignified but something which does not help the poorest men in the House. It does not help the man who is trying to run two homes and a family on £1,000 a year if he can have a secretary out of a pool when, in any case, he would much sooner have the money than a secretary and do the work himself in order to keep his homes together.
One must face this plainly. A secretarial allowance would be convenient, but it would not be of much help to improve the conditions of the men I am thinking of most. There is one alternative which I do not much like because I should prefer a flat increase, but if the Government do not want a flat increase I think that it would be worth while to consider saying that we should treat the £1,000 a year frankly as a salary in future instead of as Members' remuneration, and that we should have, say, £500 as expenses if they can be claimed over and above that.
I do not say that that is ideal, but I think that it would work. It would mean that a man's £1,000 a year would be fully taxed, so far as he was taxable, and that he would be able to claim up to another £500 for expenses. That is something which is not entirely out of the picture, in comparison with the business world. It is possible. However, if we are prepared to do that, I do not know why we are not prepared to go out for a flat increase.
In his consideration of the £1,000 and the £500, has the hon. Member taken into account the fact that the Select Committee has already indicated that most hon. Members have, as a consequence of their duties, expenses amounting to far more than the £500 a year that he mentioned?
I had that in mind, but if one takes £750 as an average, as every hon. Members knows quite well, the people who charge the least expenses are the people who are hardest up. Do not let us forget that, as it is very easy to do so. As a matter of fact, if one has plenty of private means, one can have a large house instead of a modest flat and a full-time secretary instead of a part-time one; but I should have thought that £500 is probably a reasonable sum for the expenses of a Member of Parliament in pursuit of his general duties, and that it would not be too far out.
I should have preferred a flat increase, and I say quite frankly to my right hon. Friend that I believe that a number of my hon. Friends and the Government have been unduly scared by the reactions of popular opinion. I have been in this House quite a long time. I voted in favour of the increase from £400 to £600, because I thought it was right to do so, and I supported the increase from £600 to £1,000, and at present I enjoy the biggest majority in my whole Parliamentary history. I do not believe that the reaction of the public would be a very great one, but if we make it a General Election issue, we shall get every sort of bargain between people and every sort of pressure group.
May I ask my hon. Friend what justification he has for saying that in any section of my speech there was any hint of scare? Secondly, if he is so ready to attack, without very much examination, one suggestion to which it is good to get reactions immediately, I must remind him that I put forward other suggestions. I should also like to get further reactions on the first one, namely, an expenses allowance, to which he referred.
I should like to make it quite plain that if I gave the impression that my right hon. Friend was showing a spirit of scare in his speech, that was the last thing which I intended to do. What I meant to say, and what I thought I did say, because I am generally reasonably accurate, was that I thought that both the Government and a good many hon. Members of this House had been rather unduly, perhaps I should say, alarmed or troubled, by the original popular reaction. I would never accuse my right hon. Friend of being either scared or a scaremonger.
If my right hon. Friend asks me to refer to the two suggestions, I say, in regard to the first proposal—not the subsistence allowance, but the other one— that I think it is a possible alternative, because we have got very many interests in which a salary is paid and a reasonable amount is also allowed for expenses which must be tied up with the work involved. I think it could be done, but I think the expenses would have to be kept down to a reasonable limit, because I do not think we could have people saying that, because they could charge expenses above their basic salary, they were going to live at the Dorchester, instead of living where they are.
I think that is fair enough, and that it is a possible alternative, although I wonder why the Government think that perhaps the public would prefer it to the flat-rate increase. If the public do prefer it, to be quite frank with the House, I think we should be slightly better off if we could have a salary of £1,000 a year and £500 for expenses which we do incur.
Yes, that is so, but I do not want to be drawn into that argument. I think we should be wise to consider that. if the Government really feel that they prefer the first suggestion. It is an alternative which might meet the situation.
I am not very happy about the pensions scheme proposal. I think that a non-contributory pensions scheme is bound to bring unpleasant reactions, whatever the cause, but I think that, if we have an increase in salary, whether by means of the Chancellor's first suggestion or by means of a flat increase, it is worth considering, not merely with the Government Actuary, but perhaps with one of the big insurance companies in the City, whether some sort of insurance scheme could not have been devised on the basis of a contribution of £100 or £150 if we are to have approximately £1,500 a year, and that also the £78.000 now in the Members' Fund might well be used to cushion it for the older Members, who have little time in which to contribute towards it. Having said that, I would add that I believe we are now at the crossroads. I was brought up in the old order. The whole of my background and the whole of my public life is what people used to call the old order, and I am not ashamed of it, but I know that, in this modern world, the whole conception—[Interruption.]
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), as he has done in recent months, continually to interrupt speeches to which other hon. Members wish to listen?
Further to that point of order. May I say that I always have a great respect for the Chair and for this House, but I think that, on occasions, when an hon. Member is making a ridiculous speech, it is up to someone to say so frankly.
I deprecate, as I must always, excessive interruptions. Occasional interchanges are, I think, inseparable from the conduct of our debates, but hon. Members should confine them to the very minimum
I take no offence at what the hon. Member has said. I belong to the old order, but the whole Victorian conception of the work of Parliament, the hours of Parliament, the conditions of people who are elected to Parliament, have changed. I am not afraid of the new order, provided that we have the cream of the new order on both sides of the House, but if we stay where we are and do nothing, I prophesy that the Parliament that will be seen in 20 years, or in a decade, will be a Parliament of elderly men, of worn-out men, of incompetent men, and of men who are prepared to take a small salary here because they can get nothing anywhere else.
Worse than that, it may be a Parliament which will include the "spivs," the "smart Alecs" and the tax evaders, who will say, "Oh, yes; if I go to the House of Commons, I can get something on the side." I do not want that kind of House, and I am convinced that, if we act with some courage now, on the lines of one of the proposed alternatives, we can avoid that, and that we shall have a Parliament in future which will not be unworthy of the traditions of the past. The path of progress is so often the path of human understanding.
I want, at the outset, to support what the hon. Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) has just said about what, I believe, is the almost universal view of the House, that whatever is granted should be a flat-rate increase. We should not fiddle about with subsistence allowances and the rest. I will deal a little later in my speech with what the Chancellor said.
At the beginning, I would answer the Chancellor's question to the hon. Member for Garston by saying that the reason why I object to subsistence allowances is that they are of their nature riddled with difficulties, are most unattractive and are very often discriminatory. We want to avoid discrimination. When I read this Report, I said to myself "Thank goodness the Inland Revenue will not be concerned with what the Members' expenses are. They have decided that. Now we need not argue about it any more." I have dealt with a large variety of people who send in expenses accounts. It is an absolute nightmare to think of the Mother of Parliaments having to work out what hon. Members put in in the way of hotel vouchers, etc. It is outrageous that it should be suggested. I say that with the greatest friendliness to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should not like him to think that I was in any way aggressive. I understand how he is placed.
My hon. Friend who opened this debate said that if some outside body, and not a Select Committee of this House, had been put on to adjudicate what we should have, it was in his opinion more than likely—and I entirely agree—that it would have suggested that we should have a great deal more. I would not hesitate to accept that view. After all, the Members who are so well off that they do not need it need not feel that there is any obligation on them to take it. The Chancellor said that he knew people who did not take all their salary. If there are people like that, that is all right. They can be dealt with in that way.
Let me say something about what the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said. He was to a great extent under a delusion. Possibly he misread the early part of the Report without looking at Appendix VI. He fell foul of what, I think, a number of members of the general public have fallen foul of, in that he conceived the reason why the average expense is £750 is that many hon. Members put in a great deal more. If he studies the matter arithmetically he will see that that is impossible. In fact, if he looks at the Schedule he will see for himself that 66 per cent, of hon. Members put in £650-odd. It is not true that the £750 figure is swollen much by those who claim the full amount. Of course, it is increased from £650 to £750, I agree, but it is not true that it is appreciably swollen by the number of people who claim £1,000, which is a very small percentage of the House. I make that point to get on the record what the facts and figures are.
Some of us feel that the figure £750 is misleading because it implies that that is an average of the amount of the salary spent by hon. Members. It is quite clear that it is the result of spending money outside the House which enables that average to be reached.
That may be so. I do not dispute it. It is not true to say that a higher percentage of people put in the top figure, which was rather the impression which the hon. Member gave me. Before tackling the Chancellor, I want to say something about Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.
I have never been a Parliamentary Secretary, but I have been a Minister. I am delighted that the Select Committee has reported favourably on both. I hope that some of the idiocy which prevails in Treasury Regulations will be removed in the administration of expenses. I am not talking about personal expenses, but expenses in the conduct of the nation's business and in the best interests of the nation. I want to give examples of things that happened to me which I considered absolutely crazy. On one occasion we were engaged in building up a very considerable plant, which was one of top secret. Many millions of money were involved. We put in some very hard work and concentrated effort, and we managed to save about £1½million. I gave a little party to the people who were mainly responsible, and it cost £37 10s. I had to pay. I thought that was absurd. Any higher business executive would have charged that amount to his expenses account, but not a Minister of the Crown.
Same hon. Members may recall that I held three offices in a very short time. In one of them I had 12 regional offices. I am a great believer in the party spirit. Not having very much brains myself, I like to get other people to do things, and one way to do that is to "jolly" them along. The first time I saw that some of these officers were a little backward in coming forward I gave a party. I had to pay. It was not very much, and it is not that I minded paying; but it made me begin to reflect why some Ministers did not seem to get round in that way. Surely that is not in the best interests of the nation.
I assure the general public that Ministers do not career around in their motor cars from Timbuctoo to Land's End. I remember in my very early days being invited to a swell show at Sadler's Wells and to have supper on the stage afterwards with the present Queen. I naturally went in my Ministerial car. It was a very wet night. I do not mind saying that I took a very attractive lady with me. Two days later I got a bill for £2 15s. for using my official car "for wrong purposes." I am not complaining in any way, but it seemed to me that this arrangement was really cockeyed.
I have finished my plea that Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries should be encouraged to carry out their jobs. I say it in all seriousness. We do not want them to give unnecessary cocktail parties, but when they are dealing with people who are really doing important jobs, a bit of relaxation should not have to come out of a Minister's pocket. I hope that after this little bit of ventilation somebody in the back room will pay attention and will amend the regulations.
Now I come to the Chancellor. I always think that on these occasions first reactions are probably the most accurate. Therefore I will read to him what 1 put down as I listened to him speaking. I came here full of hope. I thought he was probably glad to be back and to have something cheerful to tell the House. This is what I wrote down about my reactions to his proposals: "Disappointing, niggling, unsatisfactory, discriminatory, in effect almost amounts to a means test, unacceptable." I am trying to help the Chancellor, because he knows how important first impressions are. I classify these proposals as typical back-room Treasury stuff, and the fact that the Chancellor has accepted this brief at all—I am being charitable to him—can only be explained by the fact that he has been so preoccupied with much more important affairs that he has not had time to give the matter the serious consideration that we all think it deserves.
I am not saying that the Select Committee's Report is necessarily perfect. I personally would admit that, so far as the pension scheme goes, the matter should perhaps be examined. There may be a case for making it partly contributory. What we want—and I am sure I am right, having talked to a large number of people about this matter in the past few weeks—is enough to live on with certainty, and not a lot of nonsensical argument about whether it has been spent or not. I dislike the Chancellor's proposals because I think they are terribly undignified. I do not see why Members of the Mother of Parliament should be worse treated than all the offspring in the various parts of the Dominions.
I want this put on record. I know these facts are in the Report of the Select Committee, but unfortunately the public do not read the Report. It seems absurd to me that the Chancellor should dare to propose what he has proposed, when a Member of Parliament in Canada gets £1,450 a year plus £725 a year tax-free, when a Member of Parliament in Australia gets £1,400 a year plus £320 to £720 tax-free and £2 10s. a day when in session, and a Member of Parliament in South Africa gets £1,400, £700 of which is tax-free.
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman to help him with his case? In Canada, in addition to the amount stated by the right hon. Gentleman, Members get free secretarial assistance and free travel right across Canada.
I am not asking for all that. I have not got a family, to start with. Let us be serious about this. I know that one sometimes tries to treat a serious subject in a spirit of levity, but this matter is troubling Members a great deal. Here we have our opposite numbers in Canada, Australia and South Africa far better off than we are, and, as the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Baxter) says, on top of the figures that I have quoted, they get free secretarial assistance, free travel and other allowances.
No, I have not come to that suggestion. I dislike the idea of subsistence allowances. I would not mind if the £2 10s. were not paid to Australian Members. I am not insisting on that. But I do not see why the Members of the Mother of Parliaments should be so ridiculously badly off compared with their opposite numbers overseas.
If I were asked my view about secretarial expenses, I would say that I have always wondered since I came into this House—not that I would have made any use of any secretarial assistance, because I am differently arranged—[Interruption.]—I mean that I have got other conveniences—why we cannot find a way of doing it without so much time being spent by Members writing letters. I am on a Select Committee, so that occasionally I have to come here in the mornings, during what are regarded by many people as forbidden hours, and I am horrified to see so many Members of Parliament sitting in the Library and elsewhere pushing pens. Of course, they must deal with their constituencies, but they would be able to do so in half the time if the secretarial arrangements were right, so that they could devote more time to the much more important work of this House and to studying the affairs of the day, reading the newspapers and so on.
The Chancellor asked me about one of his proposals. I will tell him why I think it is wrong, quite apart from the main principle about the subsistence allowance. As 1 said earlier, I thought when I read the Report, "Thank goodness the Inland Revenue have dealt with this thing. They have said that the average expense of a Member of Parliament is accepted by Inland Revenue at £750 a year." What is the use of messing around with sums varying from £100 to £500 which do not half meet the point? It does not seem to me to be the right way to deal with this matter.
No, I do not think I suggested anything of the kind. I certainly accept the £1,500 proposal; I think a case has been made out for it. The Inland Revenue have declared that £750 is necessary on the average to a Member of Parliament in the shape of expenses to enable him to carry on his affairs as a Member. If the public could only have this explained to them and if the newspapers would headline it in my way—if only I had a newspaper—there would not be a soul in this country who did not understand the matter.
Many Members are left with £250 a year on which to keep themselves and their families. No person to whom I have spoken would think that a Member was adequately provided for on £250 a year. We ought to make the people understand that fact. It is nothing whatever to do with the cost of living. It is the actual expenses outside living that amount to £750 a year, and in the present situation all that is left to many Members of Parliament is £250 a year to keep himself and his family. The poorest paid worker in the organisation with which I deal would not complain if the matter were explained to him in that way. Unfortunately, it has never been put to people in that way. If people understood that being a Member of Parliament was the worst paid job in the world, there would be less difficulty about it.
I appeal to the Chancellor's sentiment. I do this in great seriousness. Just imagine it being possible for a Select Committee of this House to be able to report this state of affairs to which some of the Members of Parliament have been driven: some have sold or mortgaged their homes; the savings of others which they had before entering Parliament are now exhausted and debts are accumulating; others have sacrificed pension rights which they had established in companies or firms in whose employ they were before entering Parliament; others are not able to afford lunch or dinner in the dining room of the House of Commons, and use only the Tea Room. Gracious goodness me, if the great British public read that and raise one finger in protest against the main proposals of the Select Committee, all I can say is "God help them."
What I ask the Chancellor to do, when he has had time to give the matter the thought which we think it deserves, is to come forward in an unniggardly, non-discriminatory way with a scheme which will allow us to hold up our heads in pride because we belong to the finest House of Commons in the world.
It is a great honour to follow the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), but I feel that it will become apparent to the House that I cannot indulge in "slap and tickle" in the way he can. I think it only fair to warn hon. Members of that at the outset.
I speak as one who during the last General Election announced that if I was elected to this House I would take a cut of 10 per cent, in my Parliamentary remuneration. Fortunately for myself, I was wise enough to say that that would last only during the period of the country's financial emergency. When Her Majesty's Government came forward with a proposal to give the judges a lax-free allowance of £1,000 a year, I thought that the emergency had come to an end. Accordingly after the lapse of two and a quarter years I resumed my £1,000 a year remuneration. I shall not detain the House by explaining the reasons which decided me to take a cut, but at the time I took my decision I was not under any illusion that a sum of £900 was anything like adequate for the expenses necessarily incurred by an hon. Member of this House in carrying out his Parliamentary duties.
It has been widely said during this debate that the public should be educated about some of the costs incurred by hon. Members. I myself represent one of the largest constituencies in the country and it is far away from London. It may surprise hon. Members to know—it certainly surprised me when I worked it out—that in a year my car is either driven by myself or by others for something like 18,000 miles. The cost of that alone amounts to a total of something like £600 and after that has been deducted from one's Parliamentary remuneration, it means that one is left with £7 or £8 a week to cover all the other many necessary expenses which are incurred.
Even though 18,000 miles a year may sound an immense distance to cover, the fact remains that the electors in many parts of my constituency still do not see me from one year's end to another. I do not say that they are any worse off on that account, but one cannot get round these immense constituencies unless one is constantly on the go, and it costs me something over £600 a year in order to cover my vast area. There must be many other hon. Members in the same position. I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to agree by and large to the recommendations contained in the Report of the Select Committee.
There is one point which I wish to take up. I agree with the Chancellor when he says that a non-contributory pension would be difficult to defend and I think that some modification of the pension scheme would be advisable. I am fortunate in that I have no commitment in the way of a family, and personally I am slightly better off than some other hon. Members, although I do not pay Surtax. But I think something ought to be done fairly soon in this matter, because there must be many hon. Members who are now suffering very acutely.
I wish to point out, as has already been mentioned, that assuming that the Government carried into effect the recommendations of the Select Committee, hon. Members would not be forced to avail themselves of the extra remuneration if their conscience did not allow them to do so, whatever amount might be granted. I myself, by a stroke of the pen, took a cut of 10 per cent, in my salary for two years and it is easy for any hon. Member to go to the Fees Office and to say that he wishes to reduce his salary by a specific amount.
Personally speaking, my conscience would not allow me to take any form of increased remuneration during the lifetime of this Parliament. I consider that I offered myself to the electorate well knowing more or less what the conditions would be and therefore I should abide by the conditions regarding remuneration as they were when I entered this House. However, that does not prevent other hon. Members, if their conscience allows them to do so, from availing themselves of any increase which may be thought desirable. I repeat that if an increase does come about, it is up to individual hon. Members to decide for themselves whether they will avail themselves of such increase or not.
I wish to follow the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) in his statement that he offered his services at a 10 per cent, reduction of the present salary. That was fair enough. But he did not tell the electorate that he intended to live on the amount which was left. It is the amount on which we have to live that forms the subject matter of this debate. As time goes on the hon. Member will learn that even on the amount of his private income, plus the £900 left after he accepted a 10 per cent, cut, he will be strained to do the job as his constituents will demand that it shall be done.
I wish to make a confession. I am one of those who did not make a return to the Committee when it asked for information on this question. It may rightly be asked, "Why not?" Well, I was rather proud about the thing, and I thought that the evidence was such that the Government surely would have sufficient knowledge of what was going on to make it unnecessary for any hon. Member to produce evidence to bring about an increase in salary.
I could have added to the story told by those who had been hardly put to. I make no apology for speaking as one of the ordinary working Members of this House. Before I came to the House I had a job which was probably more highly paid than any other working man Member in this House. I came into this House from an extremely highly paid industry with my eyes open. Some hon. Members opposite—not many, but some —may say, "Why did you do it?" There are still people in this country—and, please God, there will continue to be— who desire to serve their fellow men despite the effect it may have upon their personal income and home. It was a desire to serve my fellow men which prompted me to leave what is probably one of the highest paid jobs in the steel industry in this country and come to this House for £600 a year.
Financially, I was sadly disillusioned. It worked out at a payment of £11 12s. a week to live in London and do what was right and proper at home. I say to the Chancellor that there is not an hon. Member of this House, whether he lives in London or the provinces, who can put his hand on his heart and honestly say that £1,000 a year enables him to do all the things that we as Members of the House of Commons demand should constitute the standard of living which we want for all British people.
I claim no credit for it, but I happen to be a staunch teetotaller. I do not smoke. My family are grown up and married and off my hands. In that respect I am in a fortunate position. I have no young children to support. My children are on their own feet, so to speak. Yet I can assure the House that despite that, I cannot carry on. The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) knows the job which I formerly did and the standards which are aspired to and attained in that industry. I have gone to the trouble of letting him see my banking account for a considerable period of time. If any hon. Member opposite is opposed to the proposals of the Select Committee, and I do not think there are many who are, I am willing to let them see my pass-book and my financial dealings to prove what I am saying.
That little house has gone. The £500 in War Savings has gone. I do not moan. I am not complaining about it. All I am saying is that it cannot go on like that, otherwise we shall put ourselves into the position of having to offer ourselves to some of the things that we oppose.
It is suggested that hon. Members should find alternative work. I do not know of a steel works within 80 or 90 miles of London where I could offer my services at week-ends or for a few hours during the day. Indeed, having regard to the type of argument that I used to advance at the Dispatch Box, I do not suppose that a works would look too kindly on an application if I made one. But I do not know. I will say this about the steel employers of this country. If I went to my old employers, to the chairman of the board of directors, and put my cards and financial situation on the table, he would do something to see that things did not continue like this.
What the hon. Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) has said is true. If this situation is not altered, this House, this Government and this country will deteriorate. Do not let us make any mistake about it. This is a time when the most sincere and most able brains ought to be gathered on the Floor of the House for our collective benefit industrially, economically and socially and from the point of view of military security. At a time when the best is demanded, we are encouraging the worst by doing nothing about the future of Members.
The trade union question has been stressed. I make no bones about it. My trade union is regarded as a non-political trade union. It is not particularly concerned with political activities, although the members know how to vote at election times, which is very important. Most trade unions today have a waiting list of Parliamentary candidates. We cannot find many men in my industry who have the necessary brains and ability to do this job. [Interruption.]It may be "My God‡" My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan) keeps on making statements. He may not like the things that I am talking about, but they happen to be the facts. In that industry there are not many men who are particularly anxious to come to this House. [Interruption.]Might I appeal to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington to keep order. It may well be that he is not anxious to listen to what I have to say, but he has a positive and obvious remedy if he does not wish to do so.
The position is that not many people aspire to be put on the Parliamentary panels. Why is that? It is because the brains and ability that they have can be much better employed at even ordinary levels in the workshops in that great industry. It may be suggested by some that we do not want them here, but I think that most hon. Members and most of the Government will agree that we ought to encourage the best types of men and brains to come here.
What is it that the Select Committee are asking? It is that the job shall be so financed as to make it possible for people to enter the House and feel secure in carrying out their duties as Members. Is that asking too much of a nation such as ours? I am sure it is not.
There is the idea that the electorate will be upset. The average wage in the steel industry is just under £12 a week. Can it truthfully be said that anyone can do our job in London, and do it correctly, with a part-time secretary, meeting expenses in connection with filing, keeping records and postage, having a small flat and doing things in a reasonable way, and have left an equivalent of that average wage of £12 a week? If any hon. Member can tell me that that is possible, if he will see me afterwards I will give him what I have left in the bank for the information. In fact, I will sign him on as a part-time director of my affairs to save me losing the remainder of the savings which I gathered together when I was in the industry.
Unless the Government do something, the situation can lend itself to some exploitation, even by the trade unions. It is not the first time that I have said things with which my colleagues do not agree, but I am not worried about that. I am convinced that the situation lends itself to exploitation by some of the unions themselves. There are degrees of political standing in the various unions. There are unions who would wish to have increased representation here. There are those who would be prepared to spend more than a fair and reasonable amount in order to get increased representation. In other words, there would be competition in buying seats, and that could lend itself to a state of affairs which no real democrat would wish to see in this House. I say to the Government, quite seriously, that unless something is done to give equity of opportunity for every trade unionist and, indeed, for every aspirant to the great honour of representing a constituency, the situation may be serious.
I represent a constituency in which I was born. This is a little emotional, but it is true. I can go down the side streets there and people say to me, "You do not need to come and canvass us. We knew your parents." That sort of thing makes us proud to be Members of this great assembly representing good people in a decent way. It is for the purposes of maintaining that standard that I make my plea. I do not make it as someone who is unduly worried. As I have said, I was able to put a bit by, and that has helped me out. However, on behalf of those who are not so fortunately placed, and those who want to follow us, and so that there shall be a higher and better standard in the House to enable us to maintain the dignity, the decency and the good name of British democracy in the Mother of Parliaments, I make my plea to the House, and in particular to the Chancellor, that the Government should do what it ought to do.
This is a difficult enough debate in which to intervene after the remarkable speeches which have been made. It is all the more difficult for one to intervene when it is known that one's views are necessarily more personal than party and that I am one of the lucky ones, as the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) described them, and hold the view that the recommendation of the Select Committee ought not to be implemented now. The House is usually generous—I have never received anything but generous treatment—and I hope that hon. Members will believe that I am trying to distinguish between objective opinion and personal bias. I hope I need say no more than that.
I wish to express a point of view which has not yet been put in the debate. I know for a fact that it is shared by many of my constituents. I believe it is the origin of the Chancellor's approach. I believe that some of these ideas coincide with the thoughts that lay behind the Government's approach today.
I thought it was a little unfair of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) to talk about the "proposals" of the Chancellor. The Chancellor said quite plainly, as I hope he will bear me out, if he is able to listen—I hope I may have his attention for one moment.
I have not missed a single word of my hon. Friend's speech. Our object is to try to get the reaction of the House. As my hon. Friend is about to defend me, I shall be only too delighted to listen to what he has to say.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will believe me when I say that my shaft was intended for his neighbour and not for himself.
It seemed to me very unfair to describe the information which he gave us as "proposals." I think I interpret him correctly when I say that he wished the House to be in possession of all available information so that collective opinions might thereafter follow based on information and not on superficial knowledge. I did not understand that proposals of any kind had come from the Government Front Bench.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is correct in his interpretation. I might say that, being a very old hand, I expected people to read into what I said all sorts of things which were not there. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth taking the risk because this is an open debate.
I want to make it plain that I accept the evidence of hardship given by hon. Members on both sides of the House. That point need not be laboured. But there is widespread hardship in many households outside the House which is at least as great as that to which hon. Members have alluded. We should all be well advised to approach the question rather from the point of view of the future of Parliament than of the present position of Members who may or may not be here after the next General Election. Most speakers have, in fact, adopted that approach.
Something has to be done. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) said that this situation cannot go on, and I accept that. But what we are really considering is whether, in the middle of 1954, the recommendations of the Select Committee should be implemented. I submit that there are cogent arguments for saying that this is not the time for them to be implemented, and I believe that it is because of some of those arguments that the Government have made their statement that there are other claims upon public resources which, from a human point of view, are at least as urgent as those of which we are speaking today.
Hon. Members have said, "We hear that story every time the subject of Members' salaries comes up. There will always be claims, and if that is to be the paramount argument nothing will ever be done to improve our position." Ever since the war, until the last two years, we have had inflation of a virulent kind. We have been climbing up and up, trying to keep pace with the conditions of life. Latterly, we have seen much evidence to suggest that we have reached a position of stability, and only at such a time is it possible to sort out social priorities. We all know that the cost of doing anything for Members is trifling, but the repercussions of so doing may be widespread, and it is these repercussions, which people believe to be important, which have prompted the Government to say, "Not now; other people first." If we accept the fact that we are reaching a period of somewhat stable conditions we should deal first with the most urgent claims, both from a public and a human point of view, and not put ourselves at the head of the queue, however cogent the arguments may be for saying that this position cannot continue.
Will the hon. Member tell me of any body of people in this country, other than Members of Parliament, which has not had some amelioration of its conditions or improvement in its salaries, wages, professional earnings or pensions since 1946, and how many people have to meet the costs and expenses incurred by Members of Parliament. If the hon. Member wishes, he can include such people as local government officers or military pensioners. Can he tell me of any class of people which has not had some amelioration in its conditions since 1946?
The hon. Member is asking that our so-called occupation shall, be compared with that of other classes of people to whom he has referred. The Select Committee's recommendation, which I imagine he supports, is that Members of Parliament shall be singled out to have made good to them the depreciation in the buying power of money which has occurred since 1946. I think I remember the Select Committee's Report sufficiently well to say that it calculates that a fraction under £1,500 is the present-day value of the £1,000 a year when it was first introduced. It was for that reason that it sought to justify the figure of £1,500. In other words, it said that if people wanted Members of Parliament to be in a position comparable to that in which they were when the £1,000 was given, £1,500 was the appropriate figure.
Very often the facts can only be interpreted as justifying the recommendations. As the right hon. and learned Member was Chairman of the Select Committee, I naturally accept what he says, but he must permit me to put an interpretation upon the Report which he did not put upon it.
The hon. Member has said that Members of Parliament should not put themselves at the head of the queue. All I am trying to point out to him is that every person in the country except Members of Parliament has had an amelioration of his conditions since 1946. I ask him to quote anyone else who has not.
There are scores of people living on pensions and fixed incomes who have not had any amelioration since 1946. They may not be in employment, but there are scores who have had no improvement in their position, because the cost of living has been rising all the time.
I believe that it was because of the repercussions which would follow a substantial increase in our salaries, comparable to the depreciation in the buying power of money, that prompted the Government to take the view that this is not the psychological moment to carry out the Select Committee's recommendations. They have therefore put forward other schemes to deal with the position. I want to make it clear that I do not like their alternatives. I believe they amount to doing the right thing in the wrong way, the right thing being to make up our minds that this situation cannot continue.
The question of when it is right and proper for the conditions of service in this House to be improved need have no bearing upon a General Election, or upon the arguments which parties may advance. It is purely a matter of timing. Some time ago all hon. Members accepted the principle of equal pay, and so far as I am aware this had no effect upon the arguments advanced at the last Election and I do not see why this question should do so at the next Election. The argument for improving the position of Members is justifiable, but this is not the time to do it. It is upon those grounds that I believe that we should foe justified in declining to accept the Select Committee's findings at this stage.
The need to do something to make sure that Parliamentary democracy works is a justification for setting up the Select Committee, but it has no bearing on the question whether we should do something in 1954, any more than it had any bearing when hon. Members opposite had it within their power to do the same thing towards the end of their term of office. Parliamentary democracy is a very long-term affair, and to say that this moment of time is the vital and imperative moment when this sort of thing must be done, otherwise democracy will crumble, is to lose all sense of perspective. I agree that the position cannot go on much longer, but this is not the moment to act, and I believe that there are many other hon. Members who think that other claims should come before ours.
I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) did not emulate the generous approach of his colleague, the hon. Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes). There is an old saying, "They laugh at scars who never felt a wound," and, by Jove, it is true in connection with this matter. The British people are beginning to look upon the ducking and diving which has surrounded this question with growing amusement, tinged with contempt. It is not their wish that Members of Parliament should suffer penury in the discharge of their duties.
I am very disappointed that the Government have not taken the bull by the horns and accepted that part of the Select Committee's recommendations that advocates a plain, fiat salary of £1,500 a year. I cannot myself subscribe to the idea of non-contributory pensions. Neither am I in favour of any of those suggestions that have been made today. I accept the bona fides of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we appreciate the agreeable way in which he put forward his suggestions, which I shall not call proposals; but this is only playing with the problem, and it is inexcusable.
There is very serious hardship among some of my Parliamentary brethren. I intervene in the debate as one who has activities and interests outside this House of an intellectually satisfying and financially rewarding character. It was because of my knowledge that some of my colleagues are having a very bad time that I felt compelled, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to catch your eye and to speak in fairness to them. There are at this moment county council physical jerks organisers who are getting more money than we are. Purchasing agents of mental institutions are getting more money than we are. This will not do.
The Government should have the courage of their convictions. They know that this hardship exists and they know what the inevitable consequences will be. What is the amount of money involved? Three-fiftieths of id. of every £ this House levied in taxation last year. It is really not good enough for the Government to play about with this issue in the manner they are doing. The Prime Minister is the man to settle this. The Prime Minister's position in this country is unique. By his indomitable courage and matchless oratory in what was probably the darkest hour of British history, he has not only won for himself an historical future but carved for himself an enduring place in the respect and affection of his contemporaries. He could settle this matter. He has only to get up at that Box or go to the microphone and say, "The need here is great not only in terms of human hardship but in terms of the future of the House."
It has been said in the debate already that the quality of Members of Parliament is bound to decline if this parsimonious treatment of Members is continued. I do not want to stress the humanitarian aspects of the matter too much. I would rather that some of my colleagues who have experience of them related what is happening to them and their wives and children. I can only assume that it is modesty that keeps them glued to their seats.
But what is the position? It is just as important that the quality of those who sit on the Opposition Front Bench should be high as it is that that of those on the Treasury Bench should be high. I think it is important that the men who sit on the Opposition Front Bench should be men of intellect, experi ence and integrity. When a man, on the transference of political power, walks out of the Government but remains a Member of Parliament, he is dropped from £5,000 to £1,000 a year, a savage, cruel, almost barbarous cut that should not be perpetrated any longer. The Government really should grasp this nettle, if it is a nettle, although I do not think that the electoral consequences would be detrimental to a Conservative Government.
As my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) has just asked, what other section of the community has had no cost-of-living bonus since 1946? The argument is, "This is not the time. We know we ought to have this increase, but this is not the moment." When will it be the moment? We are not supposed to tag along like tin cans tied to electoral posteriors. We are supposed to give a lead. We are the nation's leaders, and the function of leadership is leading, giving a sense of inspiration and purpose which make ordinary people extraordinary. That is our job, and we shall be lacking in courage if we do not do it. I accuse the Government of lack of courage in not saying these things.
If this is not done, what is to happen? Inevitably the House will be peopled by the wealthy, independent of their Parliamentary salaries, and by others who are financed by outside organisations. Will that be a welcome development? Will it not be that such Members will inevitably tend to think in terms of the interests of the financing organisations first, before their duties as Members of Parliament? I say that this is a very grave risk indeed. The whole strength of our democracy, that has to maintain itself in the face of great threats in the world, is that this House is truly representative of every income group and section of the nation. The greatness of the House does not lie in the wisdom to be found here. It lies in the fact that the House is representative of every nook and cranny of the Kingdom and every section of the population.
Some of the letters that I have read in the Press will not bear examination. They talk about Parliament being a part-time occupation. Members of Parliament cannot dodge in and out of employment like cuckoos in a cuckoo clock, getting a job for a week at Easter or Whitsuntide, and a bit longer in the Summer Recess. This is a full-time occupation, and it is going to stay a full-time job, because I doubt very much, barring a war or an earthquake or something of like exceptional character, whether either party will have a majority sufficiently large to enable any considerable number of Members to be away at any one time. Probably 50 or 75 will be the largest majority in the next 10 or 20 years, so that, if something very exceptional and unfortunate does not happen, Members of Parliament will inevitably be glued to the House.
So we are going to be professionals, whether that is a good thing or not. There is a lot to be said for professional politicians, and I speak as an amateur. I would remind the House of W. G. Grace, G. O. Smith and Archie Maclaren. There have been some good amateurs. Of course, amateurs are sometimes a bit costly. I think there is a lot to be said for the professionals, and when I look across the Atlantic at the Government of business men, I think there is a lot to be said for the professional politician. I therefore believe that it is necessary for us to take into account that service in the House will very largely be of a full-time character.
I want to associate myself with the remarks which have been made about the need to attract young people into the House. This House is getting a bit old, and the second haif of the 20th century will bring new problems for which we want new men with new ideas. How shall we get them here on the present pitiful salary? Salary? In my time certain words seem to have changed their meaning. One is "democracy" and another is "income." How can anybody describe this £1,000 as income? The Select Committee said that £750 of it goes in expenses. Who can live on a fiver a week?
The alternatives which the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested might easily lead to malpractices. At any rate, there would be a temptation if we had to come here to clock in. Members of Parliament clocking in? What is to stop us from clocking in and then clearing off again? Who knows whether I am in Wednesbury or in London? This suggestion will not do. Much the cleanest and straightest thing to do is for the Government to say to the country, "This £1,000 a year is totally inadequate for Members to do the job properly, to live decently, to maintain their families in Sunderland, or Newcastle, or Cardiff or wherever they are, and at the same time to perform Parliamentary duties in London, which means staying at a hotel, or at any rate somewhere, for four nights a week. These people need £1,500, and we should give it to them." When I went to stay at my hotel in 1945 it was 17s. 6d. for bed and breakfast. Now it is 32s. 6d. If I had not been fortunate to have these other activities of which I have spoken, I should have had to clear out to some dosshouse in Camden Town.
I have not been very proud of the benches opposite this afternoon. Hon. Members opposite are dodging the column. They have simply been looking for excuses. Peter Wentworth, about 360 years ago, said we came into this place not to be time-servers but to serve God and the people. I quote that from memory. He said we came not to be time-servers and rumour feeders. But if men see their only road for economic advancement as political advancement, will they not be compelled to be time-servers?
I am all in favour of the party system, which is the best system which mankind has yet evolved for the conduct of its affairs. I think it needs a few heretics, and I could name one, but modesty prevents me from doing so. A lot of the things which we contribute to the debates on the Floor of the House are previously discussed in Committee Room 14. Both parties have their meetings upstairs, and often the real battle takes place at those meetings because then, away from the public gaze, we can get out our daggers and broken bottles without inhibition.
It is very important that these debates upstairs should be vigorous. But how can they be vigorous if men see political advancement as the only way to satisfy their economic needs—in other words, an assurance that they will be in the next Labour or Tory Administration? Will not these men temporise? These men would have to think through their stomachs, and to think through the stomachs of their families—families with perhaps three or four children. These things have to be taken into account, because they play a very important part. I want to see this House vigorous and I want to see a good deal of independence and freedom of expression within both parties.
Does the House know that two of the country's delegates to the Council of Europe at Strasbourg in recent years could not have gone had I not lent them the money? That is true. Both of them paid it back. But what a thing to happen—that men should be reduced to this level.
Referring to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), I would not agree that the trade unions will take all the seats in the House, but in any event I am not afraid of the trade unions. I am afraid of other, less respectable organisations getting hold of people, putting their names on their notepaper and making them dummy directors, giving them £200 or £500 a year, as the case may be. There will be a strong temptation for men faced with domestic responsibilities, heavy expenses in London and heavy expenses at their homes in the provinces, to succumb to blandishments of this kind; and that is what I want to guard against.
The humanitarian aspects of this matter are very great, and I understand them, but there is something here even more important, and that is the quality of the people we shall get in the House. I therefore say to the Government, "Have done with this ducking and diving. It is unseemly. There will be no loss of votes. The people of this country do not want their legislators on the cheap. The British people are as smart as paint; they know the temptations to which men are subjected when they are reduced to penury, because many of them have themselves experienced penury."
I therefore tell the Government that I do not lake the suggestions which have been made from the benches opposite. They are an evasion. They are trying to give the same thing without appearing to give it. I say to the Government, "Have the courage of your convictions and do the right thing by the House of Commons, by the men who serve in it now and the men who will be coming after the next General Election. By doing so you will incur no electoral odium—because I fear that that is the animating thought in your mind."
The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) suggested that the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were considering the matter from the point of view of electoral odium, but electoral odium does not enter into it at all. He also accused my right hon. Friend of lacking courage. But by far the easiest thing for my right hon. Friend to do would have been for him to say, "This is what you have asked for. I will give it." It is because my right hon. Friend is a man of courage and realises that there are far greater implications behind this matter than the actual sum involved that he has taken the line which he has adopted today.
A far bigger issue is involved than the amount of money which might be paid to hon. Members. We are being asked to increase the emoluments or the expenses of Members at a time when the nation is just coming through an economic crisis, at a time when we have old-age pensioners on 32s. 6d. a week, and when it is of vital importance for the future health and prosperity of the nation that the over-pressing burden of taxation should be reduced.
This is the time at which we—the Mother of Parliaments—the leaders of the nation, are being asked to increase our own expenses allowance or to increase our own emoluments. The repercussions of that throughout the country from the point of view of other people who are on fixed incomes and who are in greater need than Members of Parliament will be enormous. People in the lower income groups are very hard up against it at the present moment, and I feel that the Chancellor would have every cause to complain if he felt so inclined at the inconsistency of—
I think that the hon. Gentleman is dealing with a crucial point in the eyes of himself and his hon. Friends. That is the question of time. What has happened since the time when the Select Committee was created? After all, the Government took the initiative in proposing a Select Committee, and the House set it up.
That surely was the time when the decision ought to have been taken. The Government could then have taken the view that the time was not opportune. That has now gone by default.
The Government were asked to set up a Select Committee. [Interruption.] I want to make my own speech in my own way. Other hon. Members who take a different view have not been interrupted by those of us who profoundly disagree with them, and I hope that they will extend the same courtesy to us.
I feel that at this moment it is vital for the future of this country that the example of economy should be set. If the example to be set in this Mother of Parliaments is to be one of raising our own salaries or giving ourselves a bigger allowance for expenses, the consequences throughout the country will be disastrous. The Chancellor has brought this country round from an economic point of view. One has only to look at the increasing value of the £ on the black market abroad and the greater freedom of choice which is available at the present moment, to see the results of some of the steps which my right hon. Friend has taken. If we applaud my right hon. Friend for doing what he has done, it is not right that we should at the same time urge him to do the very opposite in raising our own salaries, and set the pace for fresh demands.
There is one special case to which I want to refer, that of the junior Ministers. I believe it is so cast-iron that something really must be done. Junior Ministers are not allowed to earn anything in any other way.
Junior Ministers are deprived of their other earnings. Furthermore, they cannot set their expenses—and they have just the same expenses as we back benchers—against the £1,000 Member's salary; they can only set them against £500. To allow a position of that kind to continue seems to me to be the height of absurdity.
There seem to me to have been two major causes beyond the control of the Select Committee which weakened the case that they put forward. In saying this, I would emphasise that I am in no way criticising the Committee. The first weakness in the case is that the evidence brought before the Committee could not be the subject of cross-examination. The series of figures submitted may well have referred to different things or different circumstances as far as different Members were concerned. By the nature of the Committee, it was impossible to probe the figures as thoroughly as one would like to do and as one would have been able to do in evidence before a court of law.
The other weakness is that average figures were inevitably produced. The figures for a Member in London are totally different from those of a Member in a constituency outside London. The circumstances of their respective expenses do not correspond. To average the figures and say that the average expenses of a Member of Parliament are £750 a year is largely meaningless, because of these different circumstances. In that way one can, perhaps, read too much into the Report of the Select Committee.
We have heard a great deal about hardship, and I have no doubt that there is hardship amongst many of our colleagues. That hardship can be brought to an immediate end by the Member concerned. Every one of us knows perfectly well that at least half a dozen other people would like to take his place. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheapjack."] If any Member feels that the people who are anxious to come here in his place are worse than he is, that is a presumption which few of us feel.
I am not one who complains at the hardship. If I felt like that, I would take the necessary action. It is extremely important that we should look at this from the point of view of what the future of this place will be. There are two things that we can do. Either we can increase our salaries or give ourselves increased expenses, in which case there is a danger of this place attracting more professional politicians than it has; or we can encourage people to develop outside interests, which would keep them in touch with what is going on in the outside world.
There is a grave danger of this House getting out of touch with the conditions in the world today. I recognise as well as anybody that there is a problem, and I believe that the real solution is to modify the procedure of the House so as to make it possible for people to do outside work and to keep in touch with events.
Before I came to this House, I was an industrial officer and I had to work in six counties. One day I would be in Newcastle, the next day in South-port, another in Manchester, and another in Wigan. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that I could follow that work here? It would be physically impossible.
I am not suggesting that the hon. Member could follow that particular work, but I feel that the proportion of those Members who have outside interests and connections and are in touch with the day-to-day happenings of the world outside should be maintained, and we should not allow the House to become composed entirely of professional politicians. I am perfectly certain that the trade union movement is looking for young and promising people who will be able to uphold the banner of trade unionism. The Press are looking for people able to write, and there are many other directions in which outside contacts can be maintained. The value of the person with those contacts to this House is very great.
I have given way several times and I have suffered a certain amount of interruption. I do not think I should give way again.
I believe it is not beyond the ingenuity of this House to devise a procedure which will enable the best brains to keep in touch with the normal course of life outside this place and at the same time give their services here. It means a modification of the procedure of the House, but I am quite sure that a Committee could produce a scheme that would get over that difficulty.
A strong case has been made out for increased financial help, but in view of all the circumstances I believe the greatest service we could render to the nation in this matter would be to recognise that though that case has been made out the best method of dealing with it would be for us for the time being to forego it.
I hope the House will forgive me for intervening in this debate, but I want to say that the view that has been taken by my colleagues and myself is that we were asked by the House to undertake a task and we did our best to carry out that work. We have produced the Report, and it is for the House to express its views upon it. I rise tonight not to advocate this Report in any shape or form, but I think it might be of assistance to hon. Members if I explained a few matters which have arisen during the course of this debate.
In the first place, may I thank all those who have spoken for the very kind references made to my colleagues and myself. I should like to say at once that anyone who had the honour and privilege of presiding over the Committee day after day, as I had, would realise that one could not have better, more conscientious or more hard-working colleagues. They were drawn from both sides of the House and represented all shades of opinion. I am deeply grateful to them for all the work they did, and for the tremendous assistance they were to me in drafting this Report.
We were asked to find out the facts about three matters: One was the Members' Fund, the second was the position of Members today with regard to their expenses, and the third was what was the position in the other countries, either Commonwealth or foreign? I think there was a misconception in the minds of some hon. Members, not merely confined to those who are not on the Government Front Bench, that all we were asked to do was to ascertain the facts and present those to the House. But that is not so. When we are instructed by the House to find facts, we are also under the Standing Orders of the House expected to make our recommendations, and that is why we made them.
There can be not the slightest doubt that on the facts as they came before us the amount that has been paid to hon. Members, and is being paid today, is insufficient. There could be not the slightest doubt about that. I want also to say this, that nearly 400 Members were good enough to take me into their confidence and put their financial position as plainly as they could before me. I am glad to say that even I do not know which individual Member submitted any particular case. Each one of them had a code number. The code number was known to the clerk and I could ask him for any assistance, but I do not know the name of a single Member who sent information. So far as my colleagues were concerned, they did not even know the code number, they had only the excerpts from the particulars sent in.
The description of what we found on reading all those reports has been set out by us in paragraph 27. Reference has been made to it already, but I want to refer once more to what we set out there, namely—
In their answers to the questionnaire, a considerable number of Members have made it clear, beyond any doubt, that they cannot, on the £1,000, afford the expenses which they deem necessary for carrying out their Parliamentary duties efficiently and, at the same time, maintain a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their families.
That is a general, true description from the facts as they were presented to us. We then go on to give certain instances, with which I need not trouble the House, because hon. Members can read them for themselves. However, I think I am entitled to use this description, the financial condition, and the worries in which some hon. Members find themselves today in meeting their responsibilities to their families can only be described by the use of one word, grim.
Then, having found that as a fact, what recommendation were we to make? What then lay before us? Not merely the present condition of hon. Members of the House but, as has been pointed out by Member after Member, what kind of House would we have in the future; who would be tempted to come here when the facts were such as we had found them? This is not only the Mother of Parliaments, this also should be the pattern of Parliaments, and it ought to be attracting men of the highest quality from all walks of life. We set out in paragraph 54 what we felt was required.
In the considered judgment of Your Committee, the payment made to Members
of Parliament should be of such an amount as to enable men and women from all walks of life to enter this field of public service without finding the financial sacrifice for themselves and their families too great Your Committee believe that the enduring strength and authority of Parliament depends upon the quality of its Members. Qualities of temperament, character, ability and experience are needed. The House of Commons must also be representative of the people, and should not be drawn from certain sections only; the field of choice should be wide. Few would support the idea of a House of Commons composed principally of full-time politicians in the sense of men and women cut off from any practical share in the work of the nation.
Then comes the following:
It would be no less damaging to the country if the House were to become a place where Members could not give of their best because of a dominating need to escape from financial pressure.
That describes the attitude, the approach and the opinions of my colleagues and myself. We did our very best to describe what we felt was necessary in order to attract, as we say, the finest men from all walks of life to represent the country.
As one hon. Member has already said very rightly, and we were very conscious of it, democracy is on the defensive. To my mind it has been more on the defensive during my time than it had been for a very considerable time. When I was young I thought that the battle of democracy had been won, but we have had to see democracy fighting through two world wars in order to maintain the independence of the people who are represented in democratic countries. Therefore, the highest quality is needed among Members of Parliament.
That being so, we then had to consider how adequate was this £1,000, which is not remuneration, not a salary and not a recompense. We had in our minds the whole time the words with which recommendations were made to the House on this subject as long ago as 1911, when conditions were very different, by Mr. David Lloyd George who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must point out that conditions then were different not merely because of the difference in money values. As I said in an intervention earlier today, we merely mentioned those figures because there was the fact, but the composition of the House at that time was entirely different from its composition today. Nevertheless, it was felt at that time that an allowance or a grant should be made in order that people might be enabled to come into the House.
I want to refer here to one or two leading articles in "The Times." I must say here and now that I felt on reading them and on considering them with great care, as naturally one would do, that the writer or the two writers, if there were two, had not read the Report and had just come to a conclusion on certain matters in the Report which they glanced at and then written the articles. They pointed out the danger that may arise from the wrong person coming into this House, whatever that may mean. To us the real damage might be done in quite the other way, in that men or women who ought to be in the House might be kept out because of the present circumstances.
The next question that we had to consider was what became of the £1,000. We found that in 1946 or 1947 the expenses of a Member of Parliament, as allowed by the Inland Revenue, came to about £500, which is 50 per cent, of the allowance that was granted. Incidentally, one must point out, first, that the Inland Revenue very rightly treat Members of Parliament strictly. Secondly, the only expenses that the Inland Revenue will allow are those which are wholly and exclusively and necessarily spent in the performance of Parliamentary duty. If the expenses do not come within that definition the Inland Revenue will not allow them. Now we are told that the average had gone up from £500 to £750. There is this also to be pointed out, that that £750 did not comprise all the expenses that Members of Parliament had incurred in what the individual Member of Parliament regarded as necessary for the purposes of his duty, for example, expenses of entertaining in this House.
I shall have to come back to this because of the suggestions made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so I may mention here that while individuals vary they also vary very much because of the differences in constituencies. The London Member will have the advantage of free telephone calls. The country Member does not have that advantage, but the London Member—as we saw from the evidence put before us by the London Member—has to do vastly more entertaining than the Member from the Provinces. Every hon. Member who is married knows this, and even those who are not married know of it, because they have to send someone else to an engagement in their place. Especially has that been so in the last two Parliaments in which the majority has been so narrow and the Whips so strict.
It may very well be that an hon. Member has an important engagement in his constituency which has been arranged days or weeks beforehand but he cannot go to it. What does he do? He turns to the one upon whom he can always depend—he asks his wife to go. If he went himself he would have his free ticket, but he has to pay for his wife's ticket and to pay for everything with regard to that function. What is more, that is not allowed by the Inland Revenue authorities as an expense, so the £750 does not really cover all the expenses which a Member has to undertake. It only covers what the Inland Revenue regards as expenses "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" spent in maintaining his position as a Member of Parliament.
All kinds of suggestions were put before us, and we have set them out fully. They included the same suggestions as have been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today. We considered them, not at one meeting, but at several meetings. We went through them and some appealed to us very strongly. We have set out what they were, but we came to the conclusion, as I have pointed out, that constituencies differ. The position in an urban constituency is very different from that in a large rural area. The position in a London constituency is different from that in a Scottish or a Welsh one. Individual tastes and individual management are entirely different.
Having gone through all that, we said that there was only one thing for it, that was to make a straightforward, simple rise of £500. We should let the hon. Member himself or herself spend that in the way the Member decides is the best way. He or she knows far better than anyone else how to husband the small resources with which he or she has to carry on this very important, this highly honourable, privileged position of representing the people and maintaining a position which will command respect amongst them. That is our explanation why we make this straightforward, simple suggestion, leaving it to hon. Members to deal with the matter themselves.
I am surprised at the reference by the Chancellor to the Members' Fund. I was instrumental in persuading other hon. Members and the Government of the day, when Mr. Baldwin was Prime Minister, to start that Fund. It was as far as we could get in those days, and I have been one of the trustees ever since that time. It is the most pathetic Committee on which I have ever served. Old Members of this House, men whom I have known and respected, and who have carried on because of their pride and position, pass away, and we receive the sad news of their death. Then it may be three or four months later there comes an application for assistance from the widow which is subjected to the most rigorous means test.
All we could give in those days was £250 for a man who had broken down in health and £150 to his widow on his death. Deducted from that was any bit of other income they had. That was the position then. We came to the House and said that we have had some very hard cases and we asked for a little more latitude to deal with them. The House altered the position and we have carried on since.
There was a movement to ask the Government to set up this very Committee. We as trustees went to see the Prime Minister with regard to the condition of that Fund. It is true that we have today in the Fund a sum amounting to £78,400. But we pointed out in the statement which we laid before the Prime Minister that as soon as a General Election came, speaking from experience of previous elections, the chances were that the expenditure involved in making these small grants would be greater than the income.
We also felt, and this too was included in the statement to the Prime Minister, that the amounts we were paying to these people were insufficient. We suggested raising them by the small sum of £50 for men and £25 for their widows. At once, to use the usual words we found ourselves "in the red." The expenditure exceeded the income. Naturally my colleagues and I considered the position was quite unsuited to meet the case of men or women who had served this House faithfully over a number of years.
As the House knows, ultimately we decided—and I might mention that we were moderate and restrained in our action—that after 15 years' service a Member might receive a pension of £500. The chances were that in 15 years he would have had to fight at least four elections. After 10 years he might receive £350, and again he would probably have had to fight at least three elections.
Then we argued that leaving it baldly in that way would not meet the case we had in mind of a man who had served this House and reached an age when it would be impossible for him to get another post or to earn his living in another way. During his years in this House he would not have been able to put by any savings— how could he? In many cases, as we knew from the evidence before us, men had sacrificed the pension they would have received had they not become Members of this House.
We said, "Very well, we will lay down these terribly stringent conditions. A man may come here at 21 and may then serve for 19 years, but he does not count for pension for the whole of that time. He will begin to count for pension only after he has passed 40. Even then he will not get the pension unless he serves for 10 years. If he leaves the House at 55 or is broken down by that time, he cannot get anything until he reaches 65." Is that not moderate? That is not being generous. Those are the conditions that we laid down.
We then said, "What is to happen to the man who breaks down?" Let us take the case of a young man who comes in at 21 and is here until he is 42 or 43 and then breaks down. I have known it happen. We said, "There is the Members' Fund. We will use that." We said that we would ask the House to raise the Parliamentary allowance from £1,000 to £1,500 and we hoped the House would agree to double the contribution which is made, increasing it from £1 a month to £2 a month.
Besides the case of the man who has broken down, there is the case of the man of 55 who has now left the House, having served his 15 years from 40 to 55, and is not allowed a penny piece. Where is he to get a position at 55? Until the pension arrives at 65, there is the Members' Fund. I must confess that I was rather surprised that that was the position. We have made it as clear as we can in the Report.
Ought the pension to be contributory? I think that everyone would like to make it contributory. That is the regular thing. In nearly every case of a pensionable post, whether it is the Civil Service, ordinary public service or a company, the pension is contributory.
I am sorry. I agree. However, is there any position in any walk of life comparable to our position here? A man comes in here at any age —he may be young, he may be middle-aged, or he may be old—and nobody knows how long he will remain here. He may be here a very short time. He may be fortunate, like myself, in that I have been here for 25 years. Nevertheless, at any moment one's constituents can change their minds. Believing in democracy, as I do, I should certainly say, "I agree with you. I cannot complain." Could anything be made to work on such a basis?
Suppose a Member comes here for five years and pays his contributions for five years, and is then thrown out. He may then say, "I never want to see that place again." In all other cases, he is entitled to ask for the return of the money which he has contributed. Yet it may be that five years later he changes his mind and comes back to the House. He will then have to find the money again and pay it back to start the pension scheme operating again for him. This sort of thing is almost impossible to work out.
We found that it was necessary today to allow Members, so that they might meet their expenses as Members of Parliament, a sufficient sum so that they would be enabled to continue the work of the House without the financial pressure upon them being too great, and we decided that it would be necessary to give them £1,500 per year. If there has to be a contribution, then that £1,500, as I am sure all of us would agree, would have to be raised, and that is why we link the two together. If a contribution has to be made, then every Member of this House would have to reconsider, or would wish to reconsider, the figure of £1,500.
Why did we not do that at that time? Not only did we feel that it was almost impossible to work it on a contributory basis, but we felt that it would be more honest to the public and the House and to everybody else to make it non-contributory, because, otherwise, we would be pretending that we were paying it out of our own pockets when the money came from the Treasury before we could pay it out. It was a much more straightforward system than any contributory one. These are the explanations of the matters into which we were asked to inquire, and these are the reasons why we made our recommendations.
There is only one final point. The attention of the House has already been drawn to what is happening in other Parliaments, both in the Commonwealth and in foreign countries. We have set them up, but what I am perfectly sure both sides of the House would agree we all desire, and what is essential for democracy, is that the representatives who come to this House should be of the best of their kind, ready to serve their country devotedly in every way, and without having, all the time, the fear of being in financial difficulties.
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, may I point out to him that, although he made reference to the Members' Fund and pointed out the sums that would be paid to former Members or their widows, I do not think he made it clear that, in many cases affecting this side of the House, the Members' Fund gave nothing at all until the Member concerned had been a Member for 10 years?
I assumed that the hon. and learned Gentleman would know that. There is also this further point. Under the new proposal, we ask for a certain amount of latitude so that a Member need not have been here for 10 years, but that we can make a grant if he has not been here for that period.
I feel I should be expressing the feelings of all of us in all quarters of the House if I were to begin by expressing to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) the thanks of the whole House, to him and his Committee, not only in regard to its Report, but because this Report, in his case, is the culmination of work which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done quietly and unobtrusively in regard to the Members' Fund.
I should like to turn now to the arguments addressed to the House by the hon. Members for Dover (Mr. Arbuthnot) and Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) and the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air Commodore Harvey), because they were the three hon. Members who opposed root and branch the proposals of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Committee.
Like the hon. Member for Dover, I am one of those people who are at times part-time. I am, like him, a part-time worker. I have an opportunity, as many of us have, of earning an income independently of the House, but I think the hon. Gentleman would agree with me that, every time we do that, we always have at the back of our minds the fact that, when we are away from this House, there is somebody else who is here doing our job. It is all very well to say that Members ought to be half-time, but Members can only be half-time when other Members are double-time, and, not only that, but they are the Members who are put to extra expense.
If I am pursuing my career at the Bar, I cannot be serving on a Standing Committee upstairs, but there is somebody else-who, perhaps, has to come up from his constituency in order so to do. There is somebody who is not able to have a meal at home, but has to buy a meal out, and, therefore, every one of us who has the advantage of being part-time ought to reflect to himself that he is only doing so at the expense of his fellow Members.
The hon. Member for Dover referred to various professions which could be followed on a half-time basis. I agree. He mentioned journalism. One can be a Member of this House and write a column for a national newspaper, but that is not the same as having representative journalists in the House. The representative journalist is a reporter on a country newspaper or a sub-editor. We have only the specialist sort of journalist. Exactly the same can be said of other professions. We cannot have a representative lawyer in this House. We can have a practising barrister, but we cannot have a country solicitor.
The same is true on the trade union side. Most unions do not allow a national officer to be a Member of this House, but it is possible for that to happen; but if the trade union officer is on a district basis, he cannot be here. He cannot be a shop steward and be here at the same time. The doctor or specialist in this House cannot have the intimate connection that a doctor has with everyday attendance at his surgery or practice, say, in the North of England. If the House is to be representative of the professions on a part-time basis it can be so only in that way. We cannot say that the House is representative simply because we have a few specialist lawyers, a few specialist doctors, and a few specialist trade union officials here.
Three quite different points of view have been expressed in the debate. The first, and the majority view, was expressed by those who are supporting the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Committee in their Report. The second, which was almost solely advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was that some alteration in the remuneration of Members was necessary but could be done in a different way. The third point of view, quite a different one, was expressed by the hon. Member for Dover, the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield and the hon. Member for Aylesbury. It was that the Committee's Report was good but that this was an inopportune time to put it into effect. From those three points of view the House has ultimately to make up its mind.
I think the hon. Member for Aylesbury answered his own speech before he made it, because in an interruption he said that the Members who spent £750 were only those who were not living on their salaries. Does anybody suggest that that is not a necessary and proper expenditure for a Member of Parliament? What the hon. Gentleman was saying in effect was that only hon. Members fortunate enough to have outside sources of income could do their jobs properly.
The hon. Member for Dover answered his own argument as he went along. The strongest argument that he put forward against what he was advocating was what he said in favour of the junior Ministers. I entirely agree with every word he said in regard to them, but if one is to have Parliamentary democracy, a junior Minister in a Committee must be faced by a Member of the Opposition who is equally well briefed and who has made just as profound a study of the Bill as has the junior Minister in charge. The Member of the Opposition has not the Civil Service behind him, so he has to give his time only in the Committee but in preparing his material. How can we have democracy if we say that a junior Minister must receive a larger sum than at present, while the man who opposes him and has to produce balanced arguments against him can get on well enough on his present salary?
The hon. Member for Dover went on to say that there was a simple way out, and that Members ought to resign if they could not afford to live on their salaries. That is a simple way out for us all, and it is true that none of us is here because he is compelled to be here; there is always somebody to take our place, and we cannot complain in the same way as other people. But I do not think that the hon. Member for Dover saw where his argument was leading. He was saying to the electors, "You shall only elect somebody who can support himself in Parliament out of his private means. Choose him from the Labour Party or from the Conservatives, but you must choose him from a certain social class in society." That really is not a very valid argument.
His other argument was that the position of old-age pensioners should be dealt with before we dealt with Members' salaries, and that the people would not understand our action if we dealt with the one thing before the other. What we are really concerned with is the efficiency of the Parliamentary machine. There cannot be justice for old-age pensioners or anybody else if we so arrange Parliament that it is entirely unrepresentative of the people. The danger of the present position is that the sumptuary test proposed by the hon. Member will come into operation, and Members will resign if they cannot afford to live on their salaries. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who are not contesting the next Election, possibly for those very reasons, and if the process continues we shall ultimately have a House chosen from people who, just because of that element of wealth, may not be the most suitable persons who view these problems as sympathetically as they should.
In my constituency I made no concealment of the fact that I occasionally do some legal work and make some money outside Parliament. I have had many letters from individual old-age pensioners, and, so far as I can recall, practically every one of those letters has contained a stamped and addressed envelope. The old-age pensioners, at least, appreciate the position of Members of Parliament. It has always struck me that it is the people who are the least well off who appreciate more than anyone else the difficulties and troubles of those who try to represent them.
I want to deal very shortly with the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He began by saying that an argument had been put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield that this was not the time to raise salaries.
It was not only for that reason that I quoted my hon. and gallant Friend. It was also because I happen to be well aware of the views of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I do not want to exaggerate or under-rate their arguments, but I pride myself on knowing what they think.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and to the Chancellor for intervening. The House appreciates the courage of the hon. Member for Dover in expressing an unpopular point of view with a force and vigour which should have been adopted by others who take the same view; it would have given a more rounded view of the opinion of the House if they had done so. But it is a most mistaken argument. I do not suggest that the Chancellor is cowardly. I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Garston (Sir V. Raikes) was right when he said that this was a cowardly type of approach for Parliament to take.
What we are concerned with is getting an efficient Parliamentary machine. A shipping company that is in financial difficulties does not decide that it will not employ any officers in its vessels. We, for our part, want Committees such as the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee to be properly manned. Increasing Parliamentary salaries has not corrupted the Commonwealth. The world situation is the same the world over. We do not assume that the Parliament of Canada is undermined or corrupted because it has doubled a salary that was already in excess of ours of what ours would be even with the proposed addition. I hope the Chancellor will not be over-affected by that argument.
The Chancellor wants to do something, but something different from what the Select Committee proposes. He said first that he did not believe in the pensions scheme proposed by the Select Committee. Of all the most pressing problems of Members, surely the first is that of the Member who is old and has to retire. Nothing can be worse for democracy than that a Member hangs on to his position when he is no longer able to occupy it. Nothing is worse for a political party in a constituency or for the electors in a constituency than to have to say, "We will put up with our Member, although we know he is no longer capable of doing the job, because he has served us well for 20 years and we are not going to let him down now." That is very often what constituencies do say, and it is, from the democratic point of view, entirely wrong, and it is entirely wrong that this House should be so ungenerous to those who have so often contributed to the public weal.
Therefore, the only question with which we are concerned is what is the adequate sum for a pension for a Member who has retired. Surely the sum which the right hon. Gentleman has proposed is generally agreeable as a proper sum for a pension. How can that possibly be got out of any scheme of the Members' Pension Fund? So I hope that even if this proposal is not adopted in exactly the form in which it is proposed, the House will not abandon the idea of a pension for Members. It is entirely wrong that Members should die within the precincts of the House through dragging themselves to duties which everybody knows they are no longer able to fulfil.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward various plans for expense accounts. I would say most seriously to him that there is a very grave danger that the Executive are taking on themselves to say what are the proper expenses for a Member to incur, to say how he should behave himself. He may employ a secretary or write a letter himself, but he may not incur expense on something else. To some extent the Inland Revenue Department already says this. One cannot, for example, as I found in an interesting case, claim Income Tax relief if one has to buy an Act of Parliament which is already out of date and which one cannot obtain from the Vote Office. I put one down in my expenses account to see what would happen. It was disallowed. Therefore, there are already, from the Inland Revenue point of view, all sorts of things that are absolutely necessary to Parliamentary life for which one is not entitled to charge.
Some Members may feel that their duties are best done if they visit continually their constituencies. That is a charge that the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is proper to allow. Other hon. Members, like myself, may feel rather ill-informed on industrial matters and that they ought to go to look at some factories. Is the expense of that to be an expense that the right hon. Gentleman will not allow? Suppose he himself has to go abroad. He may have an engagement in his constituency, and so he says to a colleague, "Fulfil it for me and spend the week-end speaking in my constituency." Will his colleague be allowed to charge that to his expense account or will the expenses be limited only for those Members who can afford voluntarily to go to their own areas? The Chancellor and I both know the chances of elections in Essex.
This is a larger problem, and we should not look at it in this detailed way. Many political parties live and have their being through propaganda and through discussion, and that is the only way in which democracy can work. Many hon. Members on this side of the House, and I am sure many hon. Members opposite, go to speak in areas which are hopeless from their own electoral point of view, They may go to start a local political party somewhere. Those are occasions on which an hon. Member cannot say, in claiming expenses, "Four or five people came to see me. That is a very good meeting for a start. We have never had more than two before. My expenses for going to the meeting were £7 18s. 4d." Those are expenses which fall naturally on hon. Members and which cannot be charged against Income Tax, but the political life of this country would be much poorer if hon. Members did not indulge in those activities.
There are some hon. Members, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who are more in demand outside their constituencies than are other hon. Members, and they may very properly, from a general political point of view, undertake a tour of the country. What is said to them? What if they cannot charge, whereas the man who goes and lives in his constituency can clock up £2 a night?
Those are a few examples. The Chancellor was fair to the House, and we all thank him for putting his ideas before us, but we have had only a few moments in which to consider them. The right hon. Gentleman says that London Members have not the same expenses as other Members, but half the expenses of a Member of Parliament are not of the sort which can be put down for Income Tax purposes, nor are they susceptible or understandable to the people in the world at large.
There are some hon. Members, for example, who occasionally make very long speeches and keep the House sitting late hours. One never knows, but on some such occasion there may be a Division and the result could be fatal to the position of the Government. Are the Government to fall or not according to how many Members can afford the taxi fare home? I live within a reasonable distance and it costs me about 4s. by taxi to go home. In a case of that sort, does one go to the Fees Office and say, "I was staying to speak on something or other and had to take a taxi home"? Or will that expense not be allowed?
This whole business of turning the Fees Office into a kind of arbiter of the conduct of Members of Parliament in the fulfilment of their duties is not only unworkable but is most undignified.
This has been a useful debate, because if there is any question misunderstood in the country, or which appears to be misunderstood, it is the question of Members' expense allowances. We must remember that whatever we do will result in a change. If we decide to do nothing, then we decide to alter the composition of Parliament. if we decide to do nothing, a great many hon. Members on both sides of the House will find it impossible to continue in Parliament. We shall have altered, perhaps for good, the whole conception of the nature of the British Parliament.
The British Parliament originally—and this is perhaps the reason for the difference between the rates of salaries paid in the Dominion Parliaments and the British Parliament—was a club. The Dominion Parliaments were always places where people worked seriously at the job of governing the country. For that reason they approached things from a different basis.
If we now decide not to make a change, we shall change the whole nature of Parliament in this country. It will not be possible to get people to come forward, and we may have a situation in which the trade unions will feel more obliged to provide support for their Members—and I do not think that is a good thing.
We shall have a situation in which everyone who comes into the House will have to decide whether he will have to accept some other job which is only offered to him because he is a Member of Parliament. It is all very well for Members to discuss the possibility of altering Parliamentary procedure, but the pressure on Members does not come only from Parliamentary procedure, it comes because they have resting on their shoulders far greater responsibility than ever rested on the shoulders of Members of Parliament before. If this House is to carry out its duties it can do so only if Members have at least the money to write to their constituents, at least the stamp with which to reply to a letter from somebody who is not a constituent, and at least the opportunity of seeing the country which they represent.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has been somewhat critical of the situation put forward by the Chancellor, as, indeed, was the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) earlier on. The right hon. Member told us that he had written down certain observations at the time the Chancellor was making his suggestions, and the words he put down were certainly rather harsh. At the time that the right hon. Member for Ipswich was writing down his words, I was writing down mine. I wrote as follows: "Logical, sensible, something that the public can understand."
May I take the last first—something the public can understand. I think that is a point in which I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Ipswich and the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch, because I do not think that the public really understand how Members of Parliament are remunerated. I know that at the time when the Report on Members' remuneration and expenses was published there were leading articles in the newspapers and people writing to the "Financial Times" or the "Sunday Times," and the impression I got, many of my constituents got and the general public got was that a Member of Parliament took £1,000 a year remuneration or salary.
There was no idea that from that salary a large amount of expenses fell to be deducted. It is not understood generally in the country that one-quarter of the Members of Parliament do not receive any net salary at all because their expenditure is in excess of their net salary, as the Select Committee has shown. Indeed, the statistical results of the investigation carried out by the Committee showed that the net salary received by a Member of Parliament was in the order of £250 a year and not £1,000. I think that that is the first really important piece of education which should be given to the public.
I believe that the Chancellor, in putting forward his suggestions, has made a most important departure in principle from what has happened before. Always before a Member of Parliament has been considered in terms of whether he has an allowance, a fee or a salary of so much, and expenses must be taken out of that fee, salary or allowance.
The suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if I understand it aright, is that Members should in future be paid a salary or remuneration for the work they do, whatever that may be. Obviously, there are differences of opinion as to the kind of salary that ought to be paid to a Member of Parliament for the duties that he fulfils. But, over and above that, my right hon. Friend has suggested that there should be a reimbursement of expenses.
I cannot understand why that should not be regarded as a sensible, logical suggestion. It is what already happens to millions of our fellow citizens. A man in a factory makes something and then is required to assemble it in another part of the country. In addition to his rates of pay, he is reimbursed his travelling expenses to the places where he has to put the job together and he gets a form of allowance, either subsistence allowance or reimbursement; the allowances vary in different ways. It is the same in the Civil Service and in the Fighting Forces. It is the same throughout industry and, generally speaking, that is the sort of principle that is adopted throughout the country—payment for a job of work, reimbursement of expenses. For many years I have wondered why Members of Parliament should be treated differently and not receive remuneration and reimbursement for expenses on the same basis as everybody else.
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch drew attention to some of the difficulties that would be created if the suggestions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were put into effect. The hon. and learned Member said that they were unworkable and undignified. But the kind of details and facts which he put forward in argument are happening in their tens of thousands every day with inspectors of taxes by people who claim expenses. The expenses may have been permitted by the firms employing those who claim them, but either the firms or the individuals themselves must justify them to the inspectors of taxes as being expenses properly incurred in the discharge of their duties.
Precisely. The hon. Member says that we are doing the same. I do not understand, therefore, why the point should be made from the benches opposite that my right hon. Friend's proposals are unworkable and undignified.
Suppose that the hon. Member is on, say, the national executive of an association such as the United Nations Union, or something of that sort. If there is a meeting of that body, would the hon. Member feel that it was a proper expense that ought to be paid by him as a Member of Parliament? Is that the sort of thing for which he should draw reimbursement from the Fees Office?
Suppose that the hon. Member happens to be a recorder who is interested in prisons and visits a prison in the north of England or in Scotland. Does the hon. Member suggest that he would be entitled to be given his railway fare and hotel expenses?
Those are all the kind of matters which would have to be discussed and for which, no doubt, precedents would be established. Obviously, some of the suggestions to be put forward would be try-ons and would not be allowed, but no doubt others, by discussion and agreement—there is machinery for the purpose—would become recognised and allowed. At present there are certain allowable expenses which we claim, secretarial, postage, travelling within a constituency, and so on. I do not see why the kind of reimbursement suggested by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which is what we are doing now, is either unworkable or undignified.
I do not think that the Select Committee's proposal to increase a Member's salary to £1,500 can be considered to be satisfactory. The proposal of my right hon. Friend is more satisfactory, because expenses in a constituency vary from year to year. That being so, why should the net salary of a Member of Parliament vary from year to year? The expenses of individual constituencies vary enormously. One of my hon. Friends earlier spoke of incurring something like £600 in travelling around a large agricultural constituency. In travelling within my compact constituency of St. Marylebone, I incur perhaps only a quarter of that expenditure.
I fail to see why, because various Members have different requirements in their constituents and different duties to discharge, if the costs to one Member in discharging certain duties are five or six times greater than to another Member, they should all come off the same net salary.
Is it suggested that expenses of Members, irrespective of the amount, shall be allowed by the Inland Revenue? If an hon. Member stays at the Savoy Hotel, for instance, and incurs expenses of £3,000 a year, would the hon. Member agree that those expenses should be allowed?
The hon. Member has been extremely fair in giving way, and we appreciate it. What happens in the case of this description? Certain hon. Members will be travelling to the North tonight and their sleeper accommodation will be paid for by the taxpayer. I can go to my flat tonight and stay there for some time, catching the 1.20 train to the North. Is it the suggestion by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the taxpayer should pay for my sleeper and my train fare plus the two guineas expenses for being in London the same night? That is the sort of exploitation which could take place.
I agree, but certain adjustments will have to be made. What I am suggesting is that any inequalities of the proposed system are smaller than the inequalities existing at the present time. I think the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is an excellent one. Expenses will be allowed to enable a Member of Parliament to carry out his duties in his constituency, and while there will be reimbursements of expenses of that kind, there must be certain limits and standards laid down which are not necessary at the moment because the maximum a Member of Parliament can claim now is the extent of his salary of £1,000 a year. I commend to the House the suggestion thrown out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as something worthy of consideration when the whole of this matter comes under review.
I should like to conclude by saying that the Committee has made out a case for something to be done to improve the position of Members of Parliament. That is admitted on all sides of the House, and I do not want to weary the House by repeating arguments in that connection. All I want to add is that if agreement is reached for something to be done, whether on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend or in some other way, then the decision should be made in this Parliament but should not be brought into effect until the next Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] There will then be no question of electioneering or of a General Election, but it will be known that this step has been taken in this Parliament and the Members who are elected to the next Parliament will know the exact conditions under which they enter Parliament.
We all know that the hon. Member is one of the finest employers in engineering in the country and that he deals handsomely with the trade unions. Is he suggesting that if his trade union employees present a case to him for increased wages which he accepts that he would say to them, "I agree with everything you say, but I cannot bring it into operation until some time in the future because it will be more opportune then"?
The point put forward by the hon. Member is not comparable with the position of Members of Parliament. We were elected to the House on certain terms and conditions. When we were returned here we all knew the terms and conditions of our election and the electorate knew them. Therefore, for the reasons so ably given by speakers on both sides of the House, I think that we should implement this suggestion in the next Parliament.
I agree with other speakers that Under-Secretaries should be dealt with generously immediately—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—and that they should receive in addition to their Parliamentary salary and expenses a salary for their Ministerial duties.
I have listened to most of this debate and have been glad to hear the general agreement that something must be done in relation to the expenses and salaries of Members of Parliament. The hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) began by saying that his constituents did not understand how the remuneration of Members was allocated, but I am sure they will have greater difficulty in following the explanation of the hon. Gentleman of how expenses can be determined under the allowance proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
If anything has come out of this debate, it is that there should be a straight increase in salary of £500, because any subterfuge that is attempted means that we shall be creating more inequalities and injustices than would occur by a straight increase. We have been told time and again that a straight increase of £500 would go to people who did not require it. But surely the Chancellor would give with the one hand and take back with the other, because tax would be deducted in the ordinary way, and the right hon. Gentleman would get at least half of what was allocated to hon. Members from those who did not require it.
I came to this House 24 years ago and I have not run around urging increases in salary because, during the earlier part of my life, I lived on a modest income. When I was in the I.L.P. group, we lived on a very small wage. I remember some of my experiences in looking for a cheap room. Once I had a room in Westminster behind the Abbey. I remember waking up one morning at 6.30. There was a faulty gas tap in the room and I was almost gassed, but I managed to get to the window and fling it up.
Then I went to another part of London in search of a cheap room, because I had to maintain a growing family in Glasgow. This one was in a small hotel. I awakened at 3 o'clock in the morning and found that the bed in which I was sleeping was full of bugs. I had to get up and strip myself. I rang the bell but could not get any response, so I left a note in the room with eight dead bugs on top of it, left the hotel in the night, and went in search of another in which to sleep.
So I think that a Member of Parliament living away from home is entitled to a good, comfortable room in an hotel. Later on, I went to one which could not be called a classy hotel, although I would put it down as one of the best in London. It was the Cumberland. Before the war bed and breakfast there cost 9s. 6d.; today it costs 35s. If I stay there for three nights now, and have wireless in my room and incur various expenses, tips and so forth, I cannot spend less than £6. Then I have my food to find and the ordinary expenses of transport, and so forth.
I do not smoke or drink, and as a result my requirements are very modest, but it costs me £10 per week when the House is sitting. After my expenses have been paid, and I allocate some money to the divisional party, I have about £6 15s. or £7 to give to my wife, and that also has to help to keep me in out-of-pocket expenses at home, in going to the pictures and so on.
Surely, it is not intended that Members of Parliament should have to come to the House as if to an evangelical meeting to give testimony in order to convince the Government that there is a case for them. I had other resources for a time, though I have not got them now, and I am having to nibble slowly at the money that I put away. It is taking more than my modest income to keep me at present, and many other hon. Members are in the same position.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not put forward any proposals but analysed various proposals that could be made. One related to a £2 allowance. I visited Australia 18 months ago and I lived for a week in Canberra. To understand the Australian system in the Federal Parliament one has to understand the way in which the town of Canberra is constructed. There is no real living accommodation in Canberra and therefore some of the Members of the Senate and of the Federal Parliament, embracing all the six states, live in hotels or in Government hostels or bungalows and pay 9s. 6d. a night for bed and breakfast. A Member of the Federal Parliament receives £1,750 a year and in addition has £400 to £900 a year, according to the size of the division, to maintain his division. On top of that, he has £2 10s. every day that Parliament sits to pay for his 9s. 6d. bed and breakfast and to feed himself during the day. Those are the arrangements in a small part of the world which has only a few million population.
Here in this Parliament we spend £1,750 million a year on rearmament in order, if necessary, to maintain British democracy. We think that it is a great thing and ought to be defended. I agree with that, but part of the defence of democracy is to see that those who are Members of a democratic House have the opportunity to live in a decent manner and to do the job with which Parliament entrusts them. I urge the Chancellor, therefore, to consider this as an issue of a straight increase of £500.
I repeat the view that I have taken all along that there should have been a contributory pensions scheme with each Member paying £5 a month. I believe that a grand case has been made out for a scheme. I have never been afraid in this House or on the platforms in the country to defend any claims that I would make myself. I do not believe that it is my duty to come here to defend every civil servant, every judge and every person in the country who wants an increase in pay and then to be ashamed to press my own claim when the time arrives.
Unfortunately, we have to decide. It would have been better if an outside body had been asked to decide, but since the duty devolves upon us we should take our courage in our hands and decide this issue. The British public are more generous than some small-minded people in this country believe. Those who criticise and attack are the type of people who are always out to attack every section of the community who receive increases, and there has been envy and jealousy. I appeal to the Chancellor to support this plea.
It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.