Ministers and Members (Remuneration)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1964.

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Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton 12:00 am, 16th November 1964

With permission, I should like to make a statement. The House will recall that on 19th December, 1963, my predecessor announced that a Committee would be set up under Sir Geoffrey Lawrence To review, and to recommend what changes are desirable in, the remuneration of Mr. Speaker, Ministers of the Crown and Members of the House of Commons and also the allowance for Members of the House of Lords, having regard to their responsibilities, to the place of Parliament in the national life and to the changes which have taken place since the existing emoluments were fixed, in general standards of remuneration, and to the increases in expenses borne by Members of both Houses in the discharge of their duties. and to report to the Government which would be formed after the General Election. It was understood between the parties that the Report would provide a basis for immediate action, as soon as the Government and Parliament had had time to study the recommendations.

As announced in the Gracious Speech, we have received the Report of the Committee. A copy has been sent to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the text is being made available as a Command Paper today. I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking Sir Geoffrey Lawrence and his colleagues for the thoroughness with which they have carried out their task.

The Government accept the recommendations of the Report as they affect the salaries and allowances of Members of both Houses, and will take appropriate steps to implement them. In outline these recommendations are: that the gross payments of members of this House should be increased to £3,250 a year, inclusive of what the Committee called the "exceptionally heavy expenses" which Members incur in the discharge of their duties and which the Committee put at £1,250 a year. The whole amount of course will be subject to tax, allowance only being made for proved parliamentary expenses.

We further accept the Committee's recommendation that the car allowance for members of both Houses should be 4½d. a mile; and that the allowance for members of the House of Lords should be 4½ guineas for each day's attendance. The Resolution of this House to give effect to increases in remuneration for Members and to provide for the increased attendance allowances for the other House will propose, as was envisaged last year, that they should be made retrospective to the first day of this Parliament.

The Government also accept that there should be a contributory pensions scheme for Members of this House, requiring an annual contribution by each Member assessed by the Committee at £150, and are studying the Report's detailed recommendations.

With regard to the salaries of Ministers and others, while the Government do not dissent from the Committee's approach to the problem of recognising suitably the responsibilities that fall on Ministers, many of whose salaries have remained unaltered since 1831, they do not consider that in present economic circumstances it would be appropriate for ministerial salaries to be raised to the level recommended by the Committee. They propose that the increases should be reduced to half the amount of the increases proposed by the Committee, and that the new salaries should not take effect until 1st April, 1965. The decision to take only half of the recommended increases would apply right through the range of Ministers, and would affect equally the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

The Government further consider that with the extremely onerous duties falling in any modern Parliament on the Opposition Chief Whip, he, too, should receive a salary from public funds.

Legislation will be introduced in due course to deal with a pensions scheme for Members, revised Ministerial salaries, the payment to the Opposition Chief Whip and changes in the remuneration of Mr. Speaker.