Orders of the Day — Ministerial Salaries and Members' Pensions Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th December 1964.

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Photo of Mr Peter Doig Mr Peter Doig , Dundee West 12:00 am, 18th December 1964

So far, only one Member has spoken against this proposal, and therefore I intend to deal with the remarks of that Member only. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) made one statement with which I could agree, and only one—that his was a very difficult speech to make.

I have never heard so much hypocrisy in my life as I heard this afternoon from the hon. Member for Louth. First of all, he states that this is the wrong time to increase Ministers' and Members' salaries, because we are in a financial crisis. Has he forgotten that his party, under a former leader, Mr. Harold Macmillan, said that we had "never had it so good"? Why did they not increase these salaries then? The present Leader of the Opposition said, not so very long ago, that the economy had never been stronger. Why did he not increase them then? There seems to be a very good reason—that neither of them had the courage to increase salaries, to do what they thought was right. They had always, as they admitted, their eye on how this would influence votes. This was made clear over and over again.

The hon. Member for Louth went on to say that one of his difficulties was how he would explain this to pensioners. How could he explain to pensioners that they would only get £4 per week when Members and Ministers would get such substantial increases? Of course, if we link anyone's increase in pay—whether he be a bus driver, a doctor, a lawyer, a bricklayer or anyone else—to the increase in pensions, how many of them would be satisfied? If we go back for the span of my lifetime, we find that pensions have gone up their full amount, namely, £4 a week. The average wage in the year I was born was £1 per week, so that if other workers accepted this argument, their wage today would be £5 per week. An M.P.'s salary today would be £12 a week, to keep himself and his family in his constituency and to keep himself in London during the week, paying all the expenses.

This would have one result. The House of Commons would be composed entirely of Members like the hon. Member for Louth. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] I do not know whether many people would think that that was a good thing. I do not think that very many would. For any hon. Member to stand up and proclaim that this is the wrong time to give us a decent salary when he admits that he is quite independent of that salary altogether, to me, is sheer hypocrisy. What did he say? He said that if hon. Members had any sense they would get directorships. That is what he said.