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

Very well. He said, "If hon. Members had any brains they would get themselves directorships." Of course, we all know from bitter experience, particularly those of us on this side of the House, that one does not get a directorship because one has brains. How many people know, on the day they are born, that they will be directors? Quite a number, and the hon. Member for Louth was probably one of them. There is very little or anything which one can do about it. Brains and directorships do not go hand in hand. There is one thing that does go hand in hand with directorships, and that is financial success. I have never heard of directors applying for National Assistance. I have never heard of directors signing on at the labour exchange. Maybe one or two have done so. I do not know.

Let us have a look at what has been said by two ex-Members of this House from the same party as the hon. Member for Louth. Sir Ted Leather wrote a letter to The Times on 25th November, in which he stated that we should accept these proposals in their entirety as the proper rate for the job. He gave a very lengthy statement, but the interesting part of it is where he says that there are only about 150 Members who spend less than £1,000 per annum of their salaries on doing their duties. I must confess that I am one of these 150. I could not afford to spend £1,000 on my duties, because I have no other source of income.

. Let us take another, very similar to the hon. Member for Louth—Sir Gerald Nabarro. He wrote to the Daily Telegraph on 1st December, 1963, and gave a copy of his Parliamentary Income Tax expenses. It totals up to £1,950—£200 more than his entire Parliamentary salary. Of course, he gets no rebate on the other £200. He state quite definitely that these expenses are incurred: wholly, necessarily and exclusively in connection with my Parliamentary and constituency work. He goes on to say that these figures exclude necessary expenses not admissible for tax purposes. I take it from this that he was being much more honest than the hon. Member for Louth and would agree with these salary increases, even though he was not one who depended on his Parliamentary salary.

The other question which the hon. Member for Louth asked was, how would he explain this increase to the old-age pensioners of his constituency? After all, he is a coward at heart; fear is at the back of this. How is he to go back to his constituency and explain accepting this when he knows that pensioners will get only £4 a week? This £4 a week is more than his party were prepared to give them, so it might be difficult for him, I agree. On this side of the House, we have no difficulty about this, because, in spite of the financial crisis, we do the things which we believe to be right. One of these things was to increase Members' and Ministers' salaries. Another, and a more important, one was to give increases to old-age pensioners. We did it in spite of the financial crisis.

I shall have no difficulty in explaining the increase in Members' salaries to old-age pensioners in my constituency because hon. Members have gone for seven years without an increase. Who else has ever done that? Some Cabinet Ministers have gone for 130 years without an increase. Where else has anything like that happened? It may be that their salaries were too high in the first place. That is quite possible, because I imagine that at that time the House of Commons was composed mainly of people like the hon. Member for Louth. As one of my hon. Friends comments, at least they probably would have taken the same attitude.

In any event, there is no difficulty in explaining this to pensioners because we have given the second largest increase, just as we gave the largest, which has ever been given to pensioners. We have gone out of our way to give a £4 Christmas bonus to those on National Assistance. We have done many other things. There is no time to elaborate on them today because once again, as always seems to happen when I speak in the House, I have to be brief, despite the fact that I am one of the briefest speakers in the House. We have done many things which I do not intend to elaborate.

It is deplorable that the hon. Member for Louth should make these remarks knowing, as he does, that there is hardship among certain hon. Members. Let us consider the type of risk which an hon. Member such as myself takes when he stands for Parliament. I had a fairly good job before I came here. I stood in a constituency where the majority at the time was less than 1,000. I came into the House at a by-election knowing that there must be a General Election within a year. I was risking my entire financial future, because at my time of life it is not easy to pick up another job. I knew all the risks and I took them with my eyes wide open.

Many things may happen to hon. Members which people like the hon. Member for Louth would never think about. We have late night sittings. When we have a late night sitting it costs me 8s. to go home in a taxi. The alternative is a very long walk. If one lives in a place where one has only bed and breakfast, and the House sits until 5 a.m., one still has to be up by 8 a.m. I am back in the Palace of Westminster by 9 a.m. because I have no secretary and I have to answer my mail before noon if I am to pay attention to business in the House afterwards. Sometimes we have Standing Committees in the morning, and we go right on again until two o'clock the next morning. That is after only two hours in one's bed—and then one is back here again.

Who would stand for conditions of this kind unless he were interested in the job which he was doing? There is only one reason why I am here, and it is that I have spent all my life trying to improve conditions for working class people such as myself. Until I came here I did it in my spare time for nothing. This is the first time that I have been paid for carrying out my hobby, as it were—and it is not particularly generous pay. After only one year in the House my bank balance is lower than it was when I came here. I am a very frugal person. I do all my own clerical work. I do not spend money on drinking, or smoking, or on anything like that. I am not extravagant in any way at all. And yet I have found it impossible to save money during the year I have been here on the old Parliamentary salary. People who consider these facts will not vote against this Motion.