House of Commons Members' Fund

– in the House of Commons at 11:32 pm on 17th December 1984.

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Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 11:32 pm, 17th December 1984

I beg to move, That the whole or any part of the sums deducted or set aside in the current year from the salaries of Members of Parliament under section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, and the whole or any part of the contribution determined by the Treasury for the current year under section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1957, as amended by the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981, be appropriated for the purposes of section 4 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948, as amended by section 12 of the Parliamentary Pensions etc Act 1984. It will probably be convenient to discuss with it the second motion, That in pursuance of the provisions of section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948 and of section 2 of the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 the maximum annual amounts of the periodical payments which may be made out of the House of Commons Members' Fund under the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, as amended and the annual rate of any payments made under section 1 of the said Act of 1981 shall be varied as from 1st December 1984 as follows:(a) for paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the said Act of 1939, as amended, there shall be substituted the following paragraph:1. The annual amount of any periodical payment made to any person by virtue of his past membership of the House of Commons shall not exceed £2,199 or such sum as, in the opinion of the trustees, will bring his income up to £4,067 per annum whichever is the less:Provided that if, having regard to length of service and need, the trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £4,245 or such sum as, in their opinion, will bring his income up to £6,113 per annum whichever is the less:(b) for paragraph 2 of that Schedule there shall be substituted the following paragraph:2. The annual amount of any periodical payment to any person by virtue of her being a widow of a past Member of the House of Commons shall not exceed £1,101 or such sum as, in the opinion of the trustees, will bring her income up to £2,969 per annum, whichever is the less:Provided that if, having regard to her husband's length of service or to her need, the trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £2,118 or such sum as, in the opinion of the trustees,, will bring her income up to £3,986 per annum, whichever is the less:(c) in paragraph 2A of that Schedule for the words 'the annual amount of any periodical payment' to the end of the paragraph, there shall be substituted the words:'the annual amount of any periodical payment made to any such widower shall not exceed £1,101 or such sum as, in the opinion of the trustees, will bring his income up to £2,969 per annum, whichever is the less:Provided that if, having regard to his wife's length of service or to his needs the trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £2,118 or such sum as, in the opinion of the trustees, will bring his income up to £3,986 per annum, whichever is the less:(d) in section 2(1) of the said Act of 1981, for the words from the beginning to the end of paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the words:'the annual rate of any payments made under section 1 shall be—

  1. (a) £1,282 if the payments are made to a past Member; and
  2. (b) £641 if the payments are made to the widow or widower of a past Member'.
The motions stand in my name and those of hon. Members on both sides of the House who share with me, as trustees, the responsibility of administering the House of Commons Members' Fund.

Right hon. and hon. Members enjoy today pension rights under the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund, but, as the House knows, this has not always been so. Our colleagues who left the House before 1964 have no pensions in respect of their service in the House, and many now live in considerably reduced and often straitened circumstances. This applies especially to former Members who are now of advanced years and, even more so, to many widows and widowers. The Members' Fund has existed since 1939 to provide assistance to former Members an their dependants, but the help which my fellow trustees and I are able to provide from the Members' Fund is modest in the extreme. We are deeply conscious of the need to improve their position and are giving urgent consideration to what steps might be taken to make this possible.

A further problem is that the needs of our former colleagues, and of widows or widowers, is not always known to us. I shall be most grateful, therefore, if hon. Members will let me know, as chairman of the trustees, of any case of which they become aware of a former Member or his or her dependants who are in need of help. I strongly urge any hon. Member who knows of a case of hardship to let us see if we can help.

In the meantime, we are now increasing the present levels of grants and payments which may be made under the Members' Fund legislation in line with recent increases approved for public service and national insurance retirement pensions. This is the purpose of the motions. I hope that they will receive the unanimous support of the House, for I can assure right hon. and hon. Members that the experience of the trustees has made us realise how much further provision is needed and also how very much it will be welcomed by those who will benefit.

I need not detain the House at length in moving the motions, since the provisions for which we seek approval are set out in detail in the motions on the Order Paper. Paragraph 1(a) sets out the new provisions for grants to ex-Members. At present, the Trustees are authorised to make grants to ex-Members of up to £2,091, provided that the total income of the applicant, including the grant, does not exceed £3,868. The grant is now raised to £2,199, and the income limit goes up to £4,067. To that is added the provision by which the trustees will be authorised to make larger payments, having due regard to length of service and need, of a grant of up to £4,245 provided that the income of the applicant, together with the grant, does not exceed £6,113.

Grants to widows are set out under paragraph (b). At present the grant to a widow of an ex-Member is £1,047 provided that her income, including the grant, does not exceed £2,824. That grant is raised to £1,101 and the income limit goes to £2,969. There follows the provision by which, having regard to her husband's length of service, or to need, the trustees will be enabled to make grants of up to £2,118 provided that the widow's income with the grant does not exceed £3,986.

Grants to widowers are set out under paragraph (c). The provisions here are similar to those for widows under paragraph (b). In subparagraph (d) we refer to the "as of right" payments from the Members' Fund to former Members who had 10 years' service before October 1964, and to widows and widowers of such Members, provided for by the House of Commons Members' fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981, which came into force on 19 March 1981. That provision seeks to increase the payments, at present at the rate of £1,218 per annum to former Members, to £1,282 per annum, and the payments to widows or widowers from £609 per annum to £641 per annum.

Those new provisions will all be retrospectively effective from 1 December 1984. They provide for increases of approximately 5·1 per cent. across the board, in line with the provisions contained in the Pensions Increase (Review) Order 1984. The additional expenditure arising is £7,200.

It is impossible on this occasion for us not to be reminded of the tragic loss of the late Member for Enfield, Southgate, who so cruelly lost his life two months ago. Sir Anthony Berry was appointed by this House as a trustee of the Members' fund in July last year and at once played a full and active part in all our work. He was most anxious to ensure that everything possible was done to help his former colleagues. He had a most genuine and humane concern for everyone who needed the help we could give. We honour his memory and shall sorely miss him.

Photo of Mr Albert McQuarrie Mr Albert McQuarrie , Banff and Buchan 11:37 pm, 17th December 1984

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) on moving the motion. I am sure that the House will welcome the fact that the Committee in its wisdom has decided to look after the interests of former Members and their widows and widowers who find themselves in pecuniary circumstances not of their own making. I sincerely hope that the House will join with the right hon. Gentleman and pass the resolution unanimously.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the whole or any part of the sums deducted or set aside in the current year from the salaries of Members of Parliament under section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, and the whole or any part of the contribution determined by the Treasury for the current year under section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1957, as amended by the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981, be appropriated for the purposes of section 4 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948, as amended by section 12 of the Parliamentary Pensions etc. Act 1984.