Orders of the Day — Schedule 1. — (Ministerial Salaries.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd January 1965.

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Photo of Mr Jack Diamond Mr Jack Diamond , Gloucester 12:00 am, 22nd January 1965

I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 16, to leave out lines 3 to 12 and to insert:

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State3,750
This is an improvement which the Government think ought to be added to the Bill, but it does not arise out of the Bill as originally presented. The effect is to remove a number of names and to take merely one generic title, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. By removing the various offices listed underneath, Home Office, Foreign Office, and so on, we produce flexibility. I say at once that we are on a slightly new point here, dealing with flexibility, but it is a wise point and I hope to satisfy the Committe that it is one which both sides should approve.

The present position is that, once a new Department is to be set up and the head of that Department is to be a Secretary of State, no difficulty arises and the Bill does not impinge upon that situation, but if one wants to have, as one obviously would, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary to go with the Secretary of State, there are certain limitations. The Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State can be only those named for the purposes of salary or increase in salary. If, therefore, the Amendment be accepted, one will add flexibility and remove an anomaly. One removes the anomaly that, within the limitations approved by the House, one is free to appoint Secretaries of State but one is not free to appoint Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State to go with those Secretaries of State.

It seems to me that this is a situation which the House would not have wanted. Either the House should say that Secretaries of State should not be appointed without much greater difficulty or should be named and be only those in offices prescribed in the Bill, or it should say, having approved legislation under which there is reasonable flexibility, that one can have a certain number more and it is right that a Secretary of State should be assisted by a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. The Amendment would have that simple effect, and I hope that the Committee will feel that it affords a reasonable improvement in the machinery of Government.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

This harmless-looking Amendment, which is almost like a drafting Amendment and which has been presented partly as an improvement in drafting, has considerable implications. It goes back to a Bill which we were discussing earlier this Session, dealing with how the Government should be composed. It goes back to the whole question of the number of placemen there should be on the Government side.

Of course, the main argument is against having a Government too large, but I should have thought that, within the total, there was no difficulty about having some flexibility, and to that extent I am prepared not to make difficulties for the hon. Gentleman on this Amendment. Nevertheless, the House should realise that, at least from the point of view of payment of salaries, it would enable any number of Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State to be paid.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

If that is not so, perhaps we may have the explanation straight away.

Photo of Mr Jack Diamond Mr Jack Diamond , Gloucester

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is fully seized of the point. He will recognise that I tried to make clear that this is nothing like a pure drafting Amendment and I tried to explain that it had its implications. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right when he says that, if there is any major objection, it is an objection not to this Amendment but to an earlier Bill. But the earlier Bill provided for a maximum number of Secretaries of State, and the Amendment does nothing to increase the number of Under-Secretaries of State. It means merely that one can have Under- Secretaries of State to go with the Secretaries of State provided for in that Bill, that is, limited in number but flexible in terms of the offices and responsibilities which they have.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

I recognise that the number of Secretaries of State laid down in the other Bill is limited, but is the number of Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State which any Secretary of State can have also limited?

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The hon. Gentleman nods, so I take it that it is. Therefore, we are clear about that.

I now come to a point which, in any event, had the Amendment not been tabled, I had intended to raise later. I think that this is the right moment to raise it. In moving the first Amendment this morning I mentioned the question of differentials. The Amendment says that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State shall be paid £3,750. But that is well under half the £8,500 which a Minister is to get. In the days when I first became a Parliamentary Secretary the salary for that post was only £1,500, and that was the salary also for a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. The Minister had £5,000.

Later, the salaries of the junior Ministers were increased by £1,000, bringing them to £2,500 and, therefore, the differential was not so bad because the junior Minister got 50 per cent. of what the Minister was getting. But we have slipped back again, and, in my opinion, the differentials are now wrong once more. I would ask the Chief Secretary whether before Report—I must point out that I speak only for myself and not for any of my hon. Friends—

Photo of Mr Fred Blackburn Mr Fred Blackburn , Stalybridge and Hyde

Has not the right hon. and learned Gentleman got his arithmetic wrong? To that salary one has to add the £1,250 of the Parliamentary salary. If one adds £1,250 to £3,750 one gets a salary of £5,000, which is more than half of what the Minister will get, which is £8,500 plus £1,250.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The hon. Gentleman is presumably talking about the position which will prevail in future and not the position at present. In either event, I should have thought that the right thing to do was to compare the Ministerial salaries, bearing in mind what was said by the Lawrence Committee about hon. Members having to have approximately enough to cover their necessary expenses whether they are Ministers or not in addition to such salaries as they may receive as Ministers or such further remuneration as Members of Parliament. Surely the right figures to compare are the £3,750 and the £8,500. Those are what I invite the Committee and the Government to compare.

I do not wish to make too much of this because, as I said, I speak only for myself. I may speak for some of my hon. Friends, but perhaps I do not speak for all of them. Speaking for myself, I should be grateful if the Chief Secretary would consider these differentials once more before Report, because if we are to attract the right men to undertake the important work of junior Ministers we must ensure they are fairly treated. It is a fact—it has been within the knowledge of Prime Ministers of all parties in the years since the war—that some excellent people have had to decline offer of appointment as Parliamentary Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State simply because the salary was far, far too low.

Unfortunately, we are dealing with an inflationary situation in even having the Bill before us, but as we are dealing with that situation we might, while we are about it, try to get the matter right and not allow mistakes of the past to be repeated. Speaking for myself, I think this is an important matter, and I hope that the Chief Secretary will be so good as to consider it.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present;

Committee counted, and 40 Members being present—

2.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jack Diamond Mr Jack Diamond , Gloucester

I am very conscious of the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. Just so that we may eliminate any misunderstanding about the relevant facts, I take it that he is telling me that, whereas the situation was that a Parliamentary Secretary got £2,500 and a senior Minister £5,000, it is now proposed that a Parliamentary Secretary should get £3,750 and a senior Minister £8,500, and that the mathematical relationship has altered.

Photo of Mr Jack Diamond Mr Jack Diamond , Gloucester

I take the point immediately. I will first explain why this has happened, and then give the right hon. and learned Gentleman an undertaking to look at the matter again. But if my first explanation is a satisfactory one, it will follow from that that the likelihood of a different conclusion coming out of a further review is somewhat small.

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman completely that the £1,250 ought to be removed from the calculations on both sides, because this amount is not paid to a Minister but is paid in respect of the function of a Member of Parliament. A Minister carries that function in respect of his constituency, and the sum is largely to cover the expenses that he incurs as a constituency Member, and it applies, therefore, whether he is a senior or a junior Minister. Therefore, the comparison which was twice—£5,000 to £2,500—is now more than twice.

The way that that has arisen is simple. The Lawrence Committee recommended £5,000 for a Parliamentary Secretary and £12,000 for a senior Minister. The reason why the differential has gone up lies in the Lawrence Committee's recommendations and not in the Government's conclusions. The Lawrence Committee recommended that what was in the ratio of 2:1 should now go up in the ratio of 12:5—instead of 10:5, now 2⅖1. It felt that this was necessary.

The Government took the view that those recommendations had a great deal to support them but that in the circumstances it was not necessary to do more than take one-half of the increases. I was very much concerned with the figures at the time and, therefore, I know precisely the kind of thinking that went on, and it was precisely to maintain the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has made that we decided to take half the increases instead of the absolute amount.

Therefore, if we take the same proportion of a low salary, we are left for the answer with a figure which in absolute terms is still, I recognise, not high in absolute terms. I do not think that anybody will criticise what the Government have done in comparative terms. We have taken one-half of the increases over the whole scale. In absolute terms it means that those at the bottom of the scale still remain very much at the bottom of the scale.

Even as a Treasury Minister I do not deny that it is possible to hold the view that £3,750 is, for these responsibilities and compared with what is available outside for people of comparable ability, much too low. I do not say that these are my views. I say that I do not deny that it is possible for someone to hold those views. I promise the right hon. and learned Gentleman to look at the matter again. I myself think it is far more important, notwithstanding the elements which I have recognised, when one has what is virtually an arbitration award to say "We accept this".

I know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say, that we have not accepted it, that we have halved the increases—

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

So the whole basis is wrong.

Photo of Mr Jack Diamond Mr Jack Diamond , Gloucester

I understand this very well, but I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that full consideration has been given to it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that we have not accepted it fully, but have accepted only half the increases to keep the proportions right. He says that those at the bottom of the scale are still very much there in absolute terms. But if we are to depart from the arbitration award in relation to those at the bottom of the scale and to increase the award, then, by the same logic, one must increase the whole way through the scale otherwise one is departing from the principle. This is no different from the kind of argument that must go on in an enormous number of union negotiations every week.

I think, therefore, that, although there is something to be said for the fact that, in absolute terms, £3,750 is a low figure, nevertheless, in present circumstances, it is right to abide by the view of the Lawrence Committee and keep the relativities which it recommended.

Photo of Mr David Renton Mr David Renton , Huntingdonshire

The Committee will be thankful to know that this is possibly my last intervention today and in making it may I say how much I appreciate the patience and courtesy of the Chief Secretary, who has been on the Front Bench continuously since five minutes past eleven and has had no refreshment at all. I think that the Prime Minister ought to acknowledge that the Chief Secretary has done some of his work for him here today.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is to look again at this important question of the salary of a Parliamentary Secretary. I hope that when he does so he will approach the matter somewhat differently from the way in which he expressed himself just now. I do not think that it is quite fair to place such a burden upon the Lawrence Committee in this matter, because it recommended that the salary should be £5,000—and in doing so, incidentally, ensured that the purchasing power of the salary should be reasonable. The hon. Gentleman will find that the purchasing power of £3,750 today is less than that of £1,500 when that figure was first introduced as the salary of a Parliamentary Secretary. There is another factor. Parliamentary Secretaries are, generally speaking, younger men with more children still to be educated than senior Ministers have. There is an important point in that.

This is not a matter that can be resolved by nicely balanced, extremely logical arguments about fractional or percentage increases or proportions, using the Lawrence Committee's original figures as the basis for them. This has to be justified on final outcome and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will ensure that, in his further consideration, the final outcome will be that the Parliamentary Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State will receive a realistically adequate salary which is not worse in differential when compared with the salaries Ministers are getting.

Photo of Mr Henry Hynd Mr Henry Hynd , Accrington

In calling the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) to speak, I should say that perhaps I have been too indulgent in allowing discussion about the rate of salaries on this Amendment. It has nothing to do with the Amendment really and I have allowed it in the hope that it will avoid discussion on the Schedule as a whole. If the hon. Member for Withington wishes to pursue this, I will allow his contribution, but after that I cannot allow more.

Photo of Sir Robert Cary Sir Robert Cary , Manchester, Withington

I was interested in what the Chief Secretary had to say because I had hoped that, in the streamlining of the Government, there would be two levels of salary, Ministers being at £12,000 and Parliamentary Secretaries at £6,000. Now we are to have this complicated scale, but the Chief Secretary is to look at this again between now and the Report stage. He pointed out that a Minister will receive £8,500 while a Parliamentary Secretary will receive £3,750. The contrast between the two is great, but I do not resent that so much as I resent the same figure of £8,500 being given to a Minister of State.

This means that a Minister of State in charge, for instance, of disarmament is being taken on a level with the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence, senior cabinet posts. There should be greater equality between Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries, and this should tend to be in favour of the Parliamentary Secretaries.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.