Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties

Schedule 2 – in the House of Commons at 10:20 pm on 21st June 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 10:20 pm, 21st June 1988

I have selected amendments (d) and (e), in the name of the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), and amendment (h), in the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King). I suggest

That, in the opinion of this House, as from 11th June 1987, the provisions of this Resolution should have effect, instead of those of the Resolution of 20th March 1975 (as amended), in relation to the giving of financial assistance to any Opposition party in this House, to assist that party in carrying out its Parliamentary business:—

1.—(1) Financial assistance shall be available under this paragraph to a party at any time if at that time one of the following conditions is satisfied with respect to the party, that is to say—

  1. (a) there are at that time at least two Members of this House who are members of the party and who were elected at the previous General Election after contesting it as candidates for the party; or
  2. (b) there is at that time one such Member who was so elected and the aggregate of the votes cast in favour of all the party's candidates at that Election was at least 150,000

(2) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may be given under this paragraph to any party in respect of the expenses incurred by it in any year shall be the aggregate of—

  1. (a) £2,550 for each seat won by its candidates at that Election; and
  2. (b) £5·10 for every 200 votes cast for its candidates at that Election

(3) No financial assistance is available under this paragraph in respect of—

  1. (a) expenses incurred on or after 1st January 1988 by the Liberal Alliance or the SDP Alliance; or
  2. (b) expenses incurred by the SLD or the SDP at any time before the next General Election after the passing of this Resolution

(4) In this Resolution—

  • "the SLD" means the Social and Liberal Democrats;
  • "the SDP" means the party known as the SDP at the date on which this Resolution is passed;
  • "the Liberal Alliance" means the party which contested the 1987 General Election as the "Liberal/Alliance"; and
  • "the SDP Alliance" means the party which contested that Election as the "SDP/Alliance"

2.—(1) Financial assistance shall he available under this paragraph to the SLD and the SDP in respect of expenses incurred by them on or after 1st January 1988 and before the next General Election after that date

(2) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may be given under this paragraph to the SLD in respect of expenses incurred in any year shall be the aggregate of—

  1. (a) an amount calculated in accordance with paragraph 1(2) above by reference to the seats won by and votes cast for the Liberal Alliance's candidates at the 1987 General Election; and
  2. (b) two-fifths of an amount so calculated by reference to the seats won by and votes cast for the SDP Alliance's candidates at that Election

(3) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may he given under this paragraph to the SDP in respect of expenses incurred in any year shall he three-fifths of the amount calculated as mentioned in sub-paragraph (2)(b) above

(4) The maximum amount of financial assistance available to the SLD apart from this sub-paragraph in respect of expenses incurred in the year beginning 1st January 1988 shall be reduced by the amount of the financial assistance given to the Liberal Alliance before the passing of this Resolution in respect of expenses so incurred

(5) Financial assistance for the SDP shall be determined as if at all times on and after 1st January 1988 and before the passing of this Resolution its representation in this House had consisted of those Members who are members of that party at the date on which this Resolution is passed

3.—(1) Any claims for financial assistance under this Resolution are to be made to the Accounting Officer of the House; and a party claiming such assistance shall—

  1. (a) furnish that Officer with a statement of the facts on which the claim is based;
  2. (b) certify to that Officer that the expenses in respect of which the assistance is claimed have been incurred exclusively in relation to the party's Parliamentary business; and
  3. (c) as soon as practicable after each 31st December following the passing of this Resolution, furnish that Officer with the certificate of an independent professional auditor to the effect that all expenses in respect of which the party claimed financial assistance during the twelve months ending with that date were incurred as mentioned in paragraph (b) above

(2) Sub-paragraph (1)(c) above shall not apply in relation to financial assistance given on or after 1st January 1988 in respect of expenses incurred before that date by the Liberal Alliance or the SDP Alliance

to the House that we proceed with the debate and I shall call upon the hon. Members to move their amendments at the end

4.—(1) In the case of any year in which there is a General Election—

  1. (a) the period ending immediately before the day of the Election, and
  2. (b) the period beginning with that day,

shall be treated for the purposes of this Resolution as separate years, but the maximum amount of financial assistance available to any party in respect of any period so treated shall be reduced correspondingly

(2) In this Resolution "year" means a year beginning with 1st January

5. The cost of providing financial assistance shall be borne on the House of Commons: members' salaries etc. Vote

The House will know from what I said last week that, for some time, I have regarded the passage of this motion as a task involving some difficulties. Certainly, bringing proposals on this matter before the House has, in the past, been a thankless task for my predecessors. Not only that, but it has been an issue arousing very varied opposition. It is hard to think of many subjects which would unite my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) all in the same Lobby, as this scheme for financial assistance did on its introduction in 1975. I hope that it will be helpful to the House if I deal briefly with the scheme's history before turning to my conclusions of the review of the arrangements and the motion before us

The scheme was put forward by the then Leader of the House, Mr. Edward Short, now Lord Glenamara. It is after him that it takes the name by which it is usually known. It was originally intended to form part of a larger programme designed to strengthen parliamentary institutions. This particular element was to provide financial assistance to Opposition parties in carrying out their essential parliamentary duties at Westminster. The assistance was not intended to cover all expenses incurred by the Opposition in performing their parliamentary duties, but to be a contribution to them

The formula determining the maximum amount that each party would be eligible to claim annually was based on the results of the preceding general election. Originally, this provided for £500 for each seat won by the party concerned, and £1 for every 200 votes cast for it. The minimum qualification for an Opposition party was that it should have either two Members elected at the preceding general election, or one such Member and at least 150,000 votes in total at that election. Originally, there was also a maximum entitlement on the basis that, in Lord Glenamara's words, the responsibilities of a principal Opposition party are not necessarily greater because it has, say, 250 rather than 200 Members."—[Official Report, 20 March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 1871.]

Since the scheme was set up, the amounts in the formula and the maximum have been increased four times, most recently in 1985. At the beginning of this Parliament they stood at three times their 1975 level—£1,500 for each seat won at the preceding general election and £3 for every 200 votes gained. The maximum to which the principal Opposition party was entitled stood at £450,000. Throughout, the increases in amounts payable seem to have been determined in something of an ad hoc way, and have not been justified on the basis of any precise linkage to, say, the retail price index. Like so much else at Westminster, it seems to have been more of an art than a science. I began my overall review of the scheme after last year's general election.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

My right hon. Friend is going into the details of the measure. Could he say a little bit about the principles before he goes on with the detail? My right hon. Friend, I am sure like everybody else in the House, is in favour of a strong, effective and able Opposition. Could my right hon. Friend tell the House whether the Opposition that this House had before the Short money was introduced were more effective and stronger and better than the Opposition that we have today?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The Opposition immediately before the Short money was introduced were led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I am a little surprised by my hon. Friend's question about whether that Opposition was better than the present one. It is not necessarily a great condemnation of the present Opposition to say that they are infinitely less superior than the Opposition at that time. The object of this financial assistance is to improve the workings of the Opposition. Perhaps my hon. Friend and I can agree that there is room for improvement

Photo of Mr Terry Dicks Mr Terry Dicks , Hayes and Harlington

My right hon. Friend said that this money is to give the Opposition a chance to perform better their essential parliamentary duties. Can the provision of a Mafia for the Leader of the Opposition's office to prevent Back Benchers getting to him be looked upon as being essential parliamentary duties?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The motion before the House is to provide the money. Within certain limits it is up to the Opposition to decide how best to spend it to improve their performance in Parliament. I cannot go too far in that direction, but I shall tell the House how I intend to tighten the accountability for that money and the way in which it should be spent. The judgment about spending will essentially be for the Opposition parties to make

As I was saying, I began my overall review of the scheme after the general election last year. But while that was continuing, the House agreed one change to the arrangements—the removal of the maximum payable to any one Opposition party. The formula as applied to the 1987 general election would have entitled the Labour party to claim about £494,000 annually, while the maximum restricted it to £450,000. When the House had last approved the arrangements, it had set the maximum just above the total amount to which the formula would then entitle the main Opposition party. My motion sought to maintain that position, which enabled all Opposition parties to claim the full amount available to them under the formula, and that was what the House approved in November last year

The review has gone wider than a simple uprating of the formula, and has included the position of Opposition parties in the House of Lords, the provision of certain staff and office equipment to the main Opposition party, and arrangements for accountability. And, as the hon. Member for Bolsover pointed out last summer, we have had to consider in particular the arrangements for Members who stood for the alliance parties at the last general election. The main conclusions of my review were set out in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) on 24 May, but I will remind the House of them briefly now. I reached them only after consultation with as many Opposition parties as possible

I do not recommend altering the current arrangement for the employment of four officially paid staff in the official Opposition Whips' Office. It seems to me in the interests of the House as a whole that the main Opposition party should have the organisation to be able to respond flexibly to changes which the Government may make in the business of the House. The arrangement whereby certain office equipment, postal facilities and stationery are provided for the official Opposition from departmental Votes would, however, be brought to an end. This predated the Short money scheme and it seems to me that it should properly be turned into a cash benefit and included within it. Certain changes to the accounting procedures have also been proposed: I draw the House's attention to paragraph 3 of the motion. The House will wish to note that in future an independently certified statement should be made annually on behalf of each entitled party that the amounts claimed have been expended in accordance with the resolution of the House

This tightening-up of accountability seems to me particularly desirable because of the considerable increases which I am proposing in the amounts in the formula determining the maximum each party may claim. As the House will see from the motion, they would entitle an opposition party to £2,550 for each seat won at the preceding general election, and £5·10 for every 200 votes gained. The new, higher formula will be retrospective to the beginning of this Parliament, and the Opposition will be able to make further claims for this period, provided that they certify that their claims are for expenses incurred on parliamentary duties at Westminster, as the terms of the resolution allow. It is not my intention to hold a further review in this Parliament

In cash terms, the proposed increases represent a rise of 70 per cent. But it is not as straightforward as that. In determining the amount of the increase we have had regard not only to the increase in costs, particularly staff costs, since the last increase in the amounts available, and the prospective increase in costs for the remainder of this Parliament. We have taken account also of two further elements. The first I have referred to—the ending of the provision of office equipment and certain other facilities to the official Opposition, and its incorporation, as a cash benefit, into the scheme. That enables the minor parties to benefit also in this regard, on a pro rata basis

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

If my hon. Friend intends not to make any further adjustment during the life of this Parliament, how will he take into account further permutations of the Liberals, the Democrats, the SDP and whatever they may call themselves during the next three or four years?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I shall come to that in the course of my speech, but perhaps I can give my hon. Friend a foretaste of what I intend to do: absolutely nothing

Secondly, we have had regard to the Top Salaries Review Body report No. 24 on parliamentary allowances which makes recommendations about the introduction of a scheme for financal assistance to Opposition parties in the other place. While we have not followed its suggestion of a separate "Short money" scheme, but have instead included it within the existing arrangements, in setting the new amounts we have allowed a substantial element to be allocated for the work in the other place. The exact amount so allocated will, of course, be a matter for each party. I believe that this flexible approach will allow the best use to be made of the money

The very complexity of paragraph 2 of the motion dealing with the arrangements for the erstwhile alliance parties is itself an indication of the difficulty that there has been in seeking an equitable conclusion. Under the strict terms of the 1975 resolution, the SLD is not entitled to any financial assistance, since it is not a party which stood as such at the preceding general election. There is sufficient doubt about the position of their former alliance colleagues, led by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), for financial assistance not to have been available to them since the beginning of this year. In the past, hon. Members' changes of party affiliations have not affected the amounts of Short money available to each Opposition party to claim, and the motion would provide for this to be so in the future, which is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes. However, I believe that it would be inequitable not to make an exception in this case and for this Parliament only —[HoN. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If my hon. Friends will allow me, that is what I am hoping to justify. I will do my best

The motion provides, essentially, for the SLD to be eligible for the amount to which the Liberal-alliance party would have been entitled under the new formula together with two fifths of the amount to which the SDP-alliance would have been entitled. The remaining three fifths of the SDP-alliance entitlement under the formula goes to the right hon. Member for Devonport and his two colleagues. I hope that the whole House will agree—even if the two parties most closely concerned may not—that what I have proposed is a reasonable compromise

I shall return to the amendments which you, Mr. Speaker, have selected when the House has had the benefit of hearing from my hon. Friends the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King). But, however persuasive their arguments, I do not believe that I shall be advising the House to accept the amendments. Those in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire would reduce substantially the increase in financial assistance which I have proposed. Given the factors which I have indicated that I had taken into account in determining the increaseincluding the position of the Opposition parties in another place and the ending of certain benefits in kind —I do not believe that the smaller increase which my hon. Friend is proposing would be appropriate

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend because I was frightened that he was going to sit down. Before he sits down, will my right hon. Friend tell the House precisely how much, for example, the Labour party will get under these proposals and how much it would have got before the proposals?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Yes. I came prepared for that question. Under the existing arrangements the Labour party is entitled to £493,900 and under the proposals in the motion it is entitled to £839,700. As I have stated, the basis is not strictly comparable—[Interruption]

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, whether my hon. Friends think that I have given the Labour party too much or too little

My hon. Friend the Member for Northfield would subject the arrangements for financial assistance to annual renewal. I think, however, that it is only reasonable that Opposition parties should be able to plan on the basis of more than one year ahead. [Interruption.] I should have thought that many years ahead would be more sensible. Furthermore, I believe that such a change would only make it more likely that further increases in financial assistance would come to be expected on an annual basis as the resolution was renewed, whereas I hope and intend that the proposals that I have brought before the House will last for the duration of this Parliament

As I suggested a few minutes ago, the Leader of the House rarely finds his proposals on Short money greeted with widespread enthusiasm, and I appreciate that the same will probably be true tonight. Nevertheless, I believe that it is a fair settlement which reflects the significance which I, as Leader of the House, attach to helping Opposition parties at Westminster with the facilities to carry out efficiently their proper parliamentary work. Though it will not, and cannot, do the job of the Opposition, this contribution to their opportunity to perform effectively is an important element of parliamentary life. I commend the motion to the House

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire 10:50 pm, 21st June 1988

As always, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has done his very best to do justice to this difficult subject. However, his presentation to the House and attempt to justify the grotesque figure put before us tonight lacked any mention or assessment of the value of the contribution made by the Opposition parties to the work of Parliament. In suggesting to the House that that is crucial in our assessment of the figures, I want to refer to the original proposals made by Mr. Edward Short, as he then was, in March 1975, when he said: financial assistance should be made available to Opposition parties to assist them in their parliamentary work here at Westminster, and I emphasise that it is here at Westminster only."—[Official Report, 20 March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 1869–70.] That gives the House the clue and important key to how to go about assessing whether the Opposition parties are justified in expecting the sort of money that we have been told about by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House tonight

It is worth bearing in mind—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred to this briefly—that when the motion was before the House originally not only were three present members of the Cabinet against the resolution—and I will spare their blushes and not name them now—but Opposition Members were also against the resolution. The hon. Members for Preston (Mrs. Wise), for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), for Barking (Ms. Richardson), the right hon Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) were all against the resolution in its original form. I will be very interested to see whether they vote against my right hon. Friend's proposals tonight and whether others will join them in reflecting on the honest position that they took when the roles were reversed and the Labour party was in government and the Conservative party was in opposition. However, that remains to be seen. We all wait to see with great interest what happens

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

I declare that I am no relation of Edward Short

Before the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) referred to the voting last time, he referred to the performance of the Opposition. Perhaps we should take into account the performance of all hon. Members in relation to their salaries, given that a large percentage of Conservative Members have other jobs and clearly are not spending time in this House working for their constituents. Should not their salaries take that into account?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

The hon. Lady anticipates me. I will come to that in a moment. I am sure that the House will want to know something about the contribution that hon. Members make to the workings of the House. Their constituents will want to know that as well. In the motion we are talking about the taxpayer being asked to make a major contribution towards the cost of running the House. In a moment I will refer to how that may be assessed

We should dispose of one possible way to assess the value of the moneys, and that is by the number of Members in each party. For example, in 1975, when the resolution was first suggested, the Labour party had 319 Members; in 1985, when the resolution was reviewed, the Labour party had 209; and in 1988 it had 299 Members. It is obvious from those figures that we are not necessarily considering the number of Members as the criterion, because it could be said that, if a party succeeds in gaining more seats in an election, that would give it an increase in its financial allocation under the existing formula and there might be no need to review it. The Labour party might be quite happy with that if it was not so greedy and grasping about the money that it asks for tonight

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) raised the question of the participation of members of the Opposition in the workings of the House. I have already said that the original deviser of the scheme, Edward Short, said that Westminster must judge the activities of those who attempt to justify the money

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

When the hon. Gentleman is considering performance in the House, will he take into account the fact that, from the serried ranks of the Tory Members, the Government cannot raise five Members to serve on the Scottish Select Committee?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I do not think that I will consider that factor, but I will offer to the House some interesting figures, which are available in the Library, of an analysis of voting by hon. Members in the most recent period available—from January to March—which was carried out by an independent source. It rated Members in descending order depending on the percentage of times that they had voted in Divisions. In the top 10, nine Members were Conservative and one was Labour; in the top 20, 18 were Conservative and two were Labour; in the top 50, 43 were Conservative and only seven were Labour; and in the top 100, 79 were Conservative and 21 were Labour

A number of matters are apparent from those independently produced figures. First, the contribution made to the work of the House is disproportionately in favour of the Conservative Members, and it is quite obvious that the Opposition contribute little. What is interesting—and I am sure that my hon. Friends have noticed this already—is that I have not yet mentioned any of the minority parties. It will not surprise anyone that the first Liberal to appear on the list of honour comes in at No. 280—[Interruption.] I must concede that a Plaid Cymru Member appears at No. 380. Of the 10 Members who have performed least well, seven come from Northern Ireland and one is a Liberal

Photo of Mr Harold McCusker Mr Harold McCusker , Upper Bann

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that I would be proud if I were last on the list, because for 15 years I have come to the House every week and asked it to cover Northern Ireland matters as it covers matters relating to other parts of the United Kingdom? The House refuses to cover Northern Ireland properly. When it does, I shall vote and participate fully

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I am sure that the House will be honoured —[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer that."] I am sure that the House will be honoured by the appearance of the hon. Gentleman to plead his case for money for his party, on which we are voting tonight

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not giving way

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

You protest too much, Mr. Speaker

We have now put our finger on a very sensitive point, because we have known for a long time—the figures I have given confirm it—that the Opposition parties do not make a contribution to the working of the House. How my right hon. Friend will——

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Hon. Members may have an opportunity to make their contributions in a moment

Photo of John Taylor John Taylor , Strangford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. There may be a point of disagreement, but not I think a point of order

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The information being given to the House by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) about Northern Ireland Members is incorrect. When Northern Ireland Members were here all through the night, their votes were not recorded

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. That is definitely a point of argument

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

All that I can say is that that was a genuinely Irish point of order—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In case—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] In case hon. Members may think—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Now settle down, settle down

In case hon. Members think that this is all too theoretical, I shall give a specific example from last Thursday night, when the Opposition chose to keep the House up until a late hour. Not only was that a frivolous waste of taxpayers' money, but even worse, when it came to the vote at 2 o'clock on Friday morning, 114 Conservative Members did their duty, but fewer than 20 Labour Members did theirs

If my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House thinks that that is a reasonable basis on which to shower money upon the Opposition parties, I regret that he will not have my support—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman said a moment ago that hon. Members should settle down, and I agree with him

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

I shall make only one more point because many of my hon. Friends wish to make different points. It is obvious that the basis on which the claim before the House has been founded is erroneous. I have tried to show that if we assess the contribution made by the Opposition parties, there is no basis for increasing the amount given to them

My amendments seek to take the figure that was set in 1985 and, very generously, index it by the full retail prices index improvement of 16 per cent. since then. That is the basis of the figures offered in my amendments, and which I hope the House will consider and vote in favour of. The public will be quite unable to understand the extent of the increase that we are being asked to approve in the light of what I have told the House about the true performance and commitment of members of the Opposition parties in the work of the House

I hope that all my colleagues will think most carefully before they are seduced by the arguments of my right hon. Friend, who tried to put them as fairly as only he could do, but who was really batting on a quite impossible wicket in suggesting that the Opposition parties deserve the enormous increase set out in the motion. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept that even on the basis of recent performance, or of performance over a sustained period, we cannot justify anything more than the generous increase offered in my amendments. I hope that, on that basis, hon. Members will follow me into the Lobby and vote in favour of my amendments

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party 11:04 pm, 21st June 1988

I think that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) has more than a little cheek. [Interruption.] I am told that he used to be in the Common Market where there were barrowloads of money and he used to be the barrow boy who was wheeling it. [Interruption.] I think that he has some cheek to tell us about parliamentary performance

The hon. Gentleman talked about 20 of us keeping 140 Conservative Members up all night. Why were there 140? There were 140 because the Government need at least 100 to close a debate. On Thursday night, when I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite made it to the post, we had another what is loosely called filibuster, but it was all straight and above board. He did not turn up for work

The hon. Gentleman could have been on a bisque—a French word for playing truant—which the Tories use regularly. If you, Mr. Speaker, went out of the main entrance to the Chamber—I know you do not because you have to stick to your own little spot—on occasions you would find a notice on the door of the Tory Whips' Office saying, "No bisque today". When the hon. Gentleman does turn up, he has obviously seen the notice

There will be other occasions when 20 Opposition Members will keep more than 100 Conservative Members here—just as there were such occasions when the Conservative party was in opposition before 1979. There is the question of using personnel in a sensible way, so there are occasions like the other night

The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) has a point. That night, about 30 of us tried to get in 52 Divisions. We were helping the hon. Members from Northern Ireland. The Deputy Speaker—it was not you, Mr. Speaker—stopped us working properly. He introduced Standing Order No. 39 and had us jumping up and down every two minutes

Voting is not a very good way of measuring things here. I think that it ought to be the best measurement. After 18 years it would be easy for me to say that, but there are other ways of measuring parliamentary performance. I say that from a position of strength. There are hon. Members who work on Standing Committees and that is not measured in the Sunday Times. There are other contributions to a parliamentary performance, there are other ways in which we are prevented from carrying out our parliamentary duties

As is well known, one in eight Tory Back Benchers is connected with the Lloyd's insurance market. I am sure that that will prevent them from turning up for work occasionally, unless there is a notice on the door, "No bisque today". Seventy Tory Back Benchers have connections with firms that make money in the dark alleyways of South Africa. I am not going to read them out, but I am sure that when they have directorships in company boardrooms they will run to the Tory Chief Whip—when he is not engaged in blackmailing tactics against the Opposition—to get some time off

There are other things that we should measure when discussing Short money. I speak as one who, at the time, gave evidence against it. The Government have other forms of money. For instance, the Prime Minister is spending more than £5 million of taxpayers' money to staff her office and provide other facilities at No. 10 Downing street. When the previous Prime Minister left in 1979 he spent £1·25 million per annum. Notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister is very concerned about spending taxpayers' money—she is always telling us that the Government have no money; it all belongs to the taxpayer —the moment she moved into No. 10 she increased that sum to £2 million, then £3 million, then £4 million and in the last count for which we have figures it is now more than £5 million. If the National Health Service had been given extra cash, based on the same proportionate increase, we would have £28 billion for the NHS and there would not be a waiting list. That is what the Government do with taxpayers' money. The Government have chauffeur-driven cars. All Governments have chauffeur-driven cars; I am not making a party political point. That is part of the Government's way of doing things, but it does not apply to most Opposition Members

By and large, bearing in mind the benefits that Tory Members gain—[Interruption.] The barrow boy is going to see whether there is a bisque tomorrow. Bearing in mind that the Tories took advantage of this scheme, which was introduced by Lord Glenamara—then Ted Short—they have a cheek to argue as they have done when attacking the Labour Front Bench for receiving the money

We are debating this matter today rather than in the immediate aftermath of the last general election, not because of the official Opposition but because of the Liberals and the Social Democrats. It has nothing to do with the Labour party, as is well known. The Leader of the House has faced a dilemma. He did not tell the Liberals and the SDP to merge, but the moment they started talking, he knew that he had a problem

In case the Leader of the House had not thought about it, I reminded him in the middle of August. I asked, "Are you aware that mergers are taking place?" There was a group, the provos, led by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), that said that it would not merge. It struck me immediately that the Leader of the House would have a problem with the Short money. How would he decide? In the last general election on 11 June 1987, there was not a vote for the SLD—the salads. In all the election addresses there was no reference to the fact that, when they were elected, they would form a new party and split away

The Leader of the House did not know how to divide the money. He wanted to be fair not only to his Back Benchers but to the Liberals and the Social Democrats, but he did not know how. He has been puzzling ever since. He has come up with a solution but, frankly, he could have done with Pythagoras. It is not the brightest solution of all time. The right hon. Gentleman is asking us to pass retrospective legislation. He wants us to say that we do not know that the Liberals and the SDP have merged. He wants us to put a blindfold on and say that there are not two parties—one down one end of the Bench and one at the other end. He wants us to admit that the right hon. Member for Devonport, who has gone for a personality transplant where is he?—does not exist and has never been leader or joint leader. The Leader of the House wants us to wipe all that out of our memory, but I cannot. It is ultra vires. If this matter went before a local authority—except Westminster—councillors would be surcharged if they passed it

We now have to refer to the Liberal alliance and the SDP alliance—for money, not for anything else. There is one point that has caused a problem: the group must be called the SLD. But some of the Liberals do not like that. Some of them say, "I am a Liberal" and put it on ballot papers in local government elections; some people say, "I am a Social Democrat" and put that on the ballot papers. I did a count in the last local government elections in May and found that there were seven different varieties. It will soon be called the Heinz party! The Tory Government have named them, so when they stand in the next election —I hope that they are listening—they will have to take this title, or they will be in trouble

We have a dog's dinner here. The Leader of the House has tried to make a seven-course dinner out of a pan of boiling water and he has failed

Photo of Mr Roger King Mr Roger King , Birmingham, Northfield 11:15 pm, 21st June 1988

Amendment (h) deals with the establishment of an annual review of this resolution. Oddly enough, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) endorsed my reasons for thinking that we should have an annual review. Such a review is essential because it is appropriate for the House to have a stocktaking of the political parties and what they stand for each and every year so that the outside world—and, above all, hon. Members—know exactly who stands for what and what is who. As things stand at the moment, it is a great problem for us all

The main Opposition party, the Labour party, is no more or less than a brand name. It is a loose mishmash of warring factions, struggling with leadership bids and seeking to define its policies. No one realy knows what it stands for. It is as silly to say that the Labour party stands for Labour views as it is to say that British-American Tobacco simply stands for tobacco. The Labour party is a pot-pourri of policies that no one can really understand. It is split in its leadership and its policies

We would best serve the House by debating the resolution each year, the better to understand the political views represented in the House. At the moment they are certainly not clear. We have a number of political beasts on the Opposition Benches, and they need to be defined. If we are passing such sums over to Her Majesty's Opposition, we need to know what the Opposition stand for. An annual stocktaking would polarise attitudes on the Opposition Benches, redefine to the electorate exactly what the Opposition stand for and produce, out of muddle and confusion, a degree of clarity. If the Opposition cannot provide that clarity, they will not get the money; it is as simple as that

In addition to the official Opposition we have a plethora of other political parties. The motion lists the various names—something for which I am most grateful as a glossary of terms is long overdue. In considering these middle-of-the-road outfits, we cannot be absolutely sure that the definitions in the resolution will hold good indefinitely—or at least until we come to debate the resolution again. Suppose that we have another change and the SLD is in the middle of a leadership election. Suppose that the new management wants to rename the party "The Ashdown Bombers" or "The Democratic Chapter". If we debate such resolutions annually, we can examine and approve the names of parties and recognise them as official parties each year, instead of the reclothing of old ideas in new brand names occurring constantly throughout our parliamentary life

The tiniest party of all is still known as the SDP, but its members are generally referred to as the "Owenites". Nowhere in the motion does the term "Owenites" appear. That is a shame because it warrants public emphasis and representation. That is what the party is all about. It is led by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and undoubtedly it will continue to be led by him

An annual review would go a long towards establishing whether that party has turned up its toes politically and faded away from the scene or whether it still exists. If we hand over the money, there is no guarantee that that political party will not pack up and go home the next day, clutching the purse to its heart. One third of it is not here, so an annual review would help to overcome that problem. Such a review would help to establish whether a political party that we have named today is still alive in 12 months' time. It would afford this House an opportunity to tell the outside world that that political party is still alive and kicking and in business

An annual review would enable the House to determine, among other things, the validity of political parties. They need some financial assistance. I do not agree with the main thrust of the motion, but to give them a blank cheque indefinitely, without it being renewed on an annual basis, would be against the public interest

I listened with interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) who commented on the Opposition's work rate. In my view, there is one person and one person alone who should receive most of the Opposition funding, the hon. Member for Bolsover. He should have the right to disburse it according to the performance, in his eyes, of many of his colleagues on his side of the House. I believe that he would end up a very rich man—or his constituents would end up rich

The review that I have proposed would create the sort of discipline that we need. It would create a sensible approach to the debates that we must have. We disburse taxpayers' money, and they are entitled to know that it is spent wisely

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House put forward one major argument against my amendment, which I had not fully appreciated when I tabled it. He said that if we have annual reviews there will be annual increases because the Opposition parties will argue that the subvention that they receive should be increased. That is an extremely valid argument

My argument has equal merit. We should debate the matter every year. However, my right hon. Friend has persuaded me that it may prove to be disadvantageous for the House to carry out such an exercise. I do not therefore intend to press my amendment to a Division. However, I believe that in the short term it would have been of benefit to have an annual review so that the House would know what are the policies of the Opposition parties, who is leading them and whether those political parties are still alive.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down 11:22 pm, 21st June 1988

This seems to be an occasion for Opposition party bashing, but the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has demolished the biased arguments that have been advanced. All the Opposition parties in this House have received financial assistance. The arguments are hypocritical because the day will come when the Conservative party will be in opposition and when it will be looking for this money

I can speak with a degree of sincerity about this matter because I am the only hon. Member who does not receive, and who has never received, a penny of the Short money. Not since it was established 13 years ago have I received a penny of it, and I shall not receive a penny of it after the motion has been approved. Therefore, I have every reason to complain, if any hon. Member has, about the scheme

The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), in his speech, attacked seven Unionists for their poor attendance in Divisions. I hope that he will confirm that I am not included among them and that my record is extremely good

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Search the bottom of the list as I might for the hon. Gentleman's name, I could not find it there

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

If the hon. Gentleman looks higher up the list he will not find it there, either. My name is well up in that list

Is it right that I should be excluded from the scheme? Only one other hon. Gentleman is excluded, and he is the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams), who does not take his seat in the House. I am the only qualifying hon. Member of all 650 who is excluded. Is that fair and equitable? The Leader of the House said that the scheme was equitable, but it cannot be so if it deliberately excludes even one hon. Member

Several hon. Members have pointed out that the purpose of the scheme is to assist Opposition Members in their work and parliamentary performance. If so, no Opposition Member should be excluded from its benefits. Opening the debate, the Leader of the House quoted with approval the words of Lord Glenamara, when he said that the onus on a party with just two Members was as great as the onus on a party with 200 Members. That sentiment should include myself, as the representative of my party in this Chamber

One complaint made against the scheme is that the taxpayer, whether he likes it or not, must contribute through his taxes to the Opposition parties. Not only must my constituents in North Down contribute against their will to Opposition parties in this Parliament, but their representative is also shamefully denied the right to participate in the scheme. I am sure that hon. Members in all quarters of the House recognise that an injustice is being done to the people of my constituency, to my party, and to myself

I am totally dedicated to the parliamentary system. I am here throughout the week, every week, as hon. Members in all quarters of the House know. I have demonstrated my commitment time after time, yet many distinguished and well-known hon. Members are not often here. They benefit from a scheme instituted to help their performance in Parliament, the benefit of which is denied me

It is necessary that Opposition parties should receive financial assistance towards their work. The Government party has the full might of the Whitehall machinery behind it, and something must be done to provide a proper balance. The money itself cannot provide a full balance but it can go some way towards doing so. I believe in the principle of that money being paid, because a strong Opposition is essential to any democracy. It is left to me, as I am excluded from the scheme, to abstain—because I cannot support a scheme that is patently inequitable. Therefore, my name will not be on the Division record— but I hope it will not be said that I was absent tonight

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle 11:28 pm, 21st June 1988

I agree with the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) that Opposition parties need some financial support. Some harsh words have been said today, but mine will not be harsh. They will be in support of the Social Democrats. No one else seems to be speaking for them, so I felt that I should do so

The Leader of the House is a kindly and solicitous man, but the burden he has had to carry in sorting out this dispute between the two centre parties must have been very wearisome indeed. After all, it seems that when it comes to giving money to their erstwhile friends, the spirit of the members of the new model Liberal party is in inverse proportion to the spirit of togetherness which they proclaim to be the apogee of what nationhood is all about. How mean they have been. I should have thought that the fair, sensible, liberal, middle, statesmanlike way would have been for the House to decide that the loot should be split between the Social and Liberal Democrats and the SDP split down the middle; the judgment of Solomon

After all, this time last year the SDP was in existence; it had a constitution, a leader and aims and principles. One year later that party is still in existence. It has the same constitution, the majority of its Members of Parliament are the same and its leader is the same. [Interruption.] I do not agree with those who say it does not have aims and principles. That is why I am speaking on its behalf

But what of the new Social and Liberal Democrats—the successors of those sour-faced types of the last century, many of whom supported Gladstone's party, who proclaimed their Christian principles inside the Church and, as soon as it came to spending their own money outside, were mean?

I should be interested to know whether there is anything in the rumour circulating in the corridors of the House that the Social and Liberal Democrats want to grab no less than nineteen twenty-seconds of this Short money —the overwhelming majority of it. In other words, they want to base what they get solely on the number of seats, despite the fact that over the years they have benefited so much from this money being allocated in terms not just of seats but of votes cast

Why should the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) alone be deprived of the £5·10 for every 200 votes being given to every other Opposition party? What perfidy has he committed that the Leader of the House should deny him the money that he is due? Has he changed his party? Has he produced a dead parrot manifesto? Has he stormed out of merger negotiations in tears? No. He stands like a rock againt hypocrisy and cant. Yet he alone is deprived of what he is due. Is he to be punished just because, like Banquo clanking his chains, he is the spectre of the new centre party? The fair and honourable course would have been to have split the money—half for the Social and Liberal Democrats and half for the SDP

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:37 pm, 21st June 1988

I have been advised that perhaps I should not be my usual affable self and that I should certainly be careful not to upset the Government too much lest they vote the motion down. Indeed, I wondered whether I should do what we read in Oliver Twist: A council was held: lots were cast who should walk up to the master after supper that evening, and ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist. Tonight it falls to me to ask for more, and I have some support from the Top Salaries Review Body

An alternative approach would be to say: Although the House has enjoyed this debate, I have been rather depressed by it because it has been characterised by a degree of hypocrisy and humbug which I cannot remember having been equalled.—[Official Report, 13 February 1978; Vol. 944, c. 198.] That was said by Mr. Francis Pym, then Shadow Leader of the House, when we were debating the Opposition parties' financial assistance. But that sentiment on his part would not be true tonight, in view of the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who shot hypocrisy out of the water

In 1975, the then Labour Government put to the House a motion to provide funds for the parliamentary work of Opposition parties. That provided £150,000 a year for the Tory party and a lot less for the other parties. The proposal was carried by 142 votes to 47, and the Tory party took the money every subsequent year it was in opposition

Tonight we are asked to support a Government motion to increase the maximum sum for this Parliament to £839,000. Naturally we support the increase, which follows the recommendation last year of the Top Salaries Review Body that money for Opposition parties should be reviewed in the light of the substantial increases in secretarial allowances for individual Members and what the review body referred to as the relatively modest increase in Short money since its inception

Even when the new maximum is approved, it will represent only a fivefold increase in the Short money sum of f 150,000 set in 1975. That compares unfavourably with the increase in the Members' maximum secretarial allowance over the same period which has been increased sevenfold from £2,910 in 1975 to £21,302 in 1987–88. Over the same period the total sum paid out to Members for secretarial allowances by the Fees Office has increased eightfold from £1,636,000 in 1975 to £13,780,000 in 1987–88. If the Short money had been increased proportionately, the proposal before us would be for £1,263,000, not £839,000. So the Short money actually falls short of the increase in Members' secretarial spending by £424,000. I do not know whether any Tory Members have failed to take up the increase in secretarial allowances

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

Is it not the case that one of the reasons Opposition parties required the extra money was that secretarial allowances were so pitifully low that it was necessary for the Opposition to employ additional research assistants? Now that we have a sensible allowance for secretarial expenses, surely we should be reducing the Short money, not increasing it

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

If that is the quality of logic which is being employed on the Tory side tonight, it must compare with the speeches on the propriety of the matter in 1980 when the House was graced by speeches from the Tory side by Mr. Keith Best and the then hon. Member for Basildon, Mr. Harvey Proctor, who told the House that it was improper for the Opposition to get the money. The propriety which they showed that night is reflected in the logic shown by the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce)

If we look for another comparison, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has rightly mentioned the Prime Minister's Office. I try to be fair to the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend talked only about the increase in expenditure in the Prime Minister's Office since she came to power. To be fair, we should consider the increase which has taken place since 1975. However, we cannot go back to 1975 because the figures do not exist; we can only go back as far as 1976 when the spending on the Prime Minister's Office was £934,000. The figure for this year is £4,774,000, a ninefold increase. If we had a ninefold increase in the Short money, it would be £1,393,000. I should make it clear to my hon. Friends that I have played no part in negotiating the sum we are discussing tonight

Some people have been opposed in principle to public funds being allocated to Opposition parties. I do riot share that view, but at least it is tolerable. Tonight, and in one or two recent debates, we have seen that a new breed of Tories has decided in its wisdom that it will judge whether the Opposition deserve the money. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that the spectator sees most of the game, but it has never been claimed that Government supporters are best placed to judge the Opposition and we reject that proposition tonight

For one thing, most people would find it hard to regard Government supporters as neutral. If they were neutral, the Tory Chief Whip would want to know why. For another thing, it is rather peculiar to work out how they would judge the effectiveness. The duty of the Opposition is to oppose, but being opposed is not an enjoyable process and the more vigorous the opposition, the less pleasant the process, yet we are asked to believe that effective opposition is warmly appreciated by the Government

Let us envisage the scene at the Department of Health and Social Security after health and social services questions. Does anyone really believe that the Secretary of State arrives back at his Private Office and says, "Oh, Robin Cook ran us ragged today. I really think that the Opposition deserve that money". Last week, did the Tory Chief Whip go back to No. 12 Downing street and say, "By Jove, Labour kept us up all night. I think we ought to pay them the Short money immediately". That is a preposterous concept and we entirely reject it

I shall deal briefly with the red herring thrown in by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) He suggested that Government Members voted more heavily than Opposition Members in this Parliament. If he had not just looked at the figures in the Sunday Times, he would have discovered that there is a whole series that runs back for decades. In every Parliament, Government Members vote more often than Opposition Members for the very reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, that we would be as daft as brushes if we stopped up all night in the same numbers as Government Members when we can keep the Government up by just having 20 hon. Members here

Opposition Members welcome the motion tonight, not just because of the money, but because, at long last, the Leader of the House has discharged his obligation to put the motion before the House, to speak in favour of it and to vote in favour of it. We hope, therefore, that this is the last that we shall hear of any suggestion from Conservative Members on the Front or Back Benches that they will decide on the effectiveness of the Opposition. We can never have a situation where the money for the Opposition depends upon the grace and favour of the Government. The proposition was never put forward by Lord Glenamara, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan or anyone else and it should not be put forward by any Government, either now or in the future

Photo of Mr David Martin Mr David Martin , Portsmouth South 11:43 pm, 21st June 1988

I urge my hon. Friends not to vote to cut off or cut down the funding for the Labour party in this House because to many of us, in so far as it keeps the Labour party's antiques road show in being, it is a great help. We have been in office for nine years on the strength of it and less than £1 million a year appears to me to be money well spent, far more so in promoting, as it unfailingly does, the merits of a Conservative Government year after year. The expenditure is far more worthwhile than all the glossy literature from the Department of Trade and Industry and all that produced by Conservative Central Office at its most inspiring

With our majority, we must not be unfair to the Opposition. We must take serious note of their many problems because the shadow Leader of the House has very little freedom of action when the leader of the Labour party is in the process, as he is, of bartering the party's policies, in defence of which many Labour Members are bravely prepared to die at yet another general election. The party's former leader, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot)—the biographer of Byron—could tell Opposition Members a thing or two from his research. He could tell them about the problems of the shadow Leader of the House because his hero, Bryon, wrote, in "The Isle of Greece"—this is very germane: Trust not for freedom to the Franks— They have a king who buys and sells; In native swords and native ranks The only hope of courage dwells We must be charitable and make sure that at this delicate time they get their money. The Leader of the Opposition and his deputy are being pursued for their places at the top. We must not oppose the motion but must raise our sights to the wider benefits of giving them their money

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Woolwich 11:45 pm, 21st June 1988

In view of the no doubt helpfully intended comments of the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), I had better make absolutely clear the attitude of the SDP to the settlement before the House. The Leader of the House clearly had an extremely difficult task in trying to resolve what to do about the money to which the two former alliance parties were entitled. If anybody doubts that, he should look at the motion. Three quarters of it is devoted to that issue and that makes it clear that that was the most difficult task to sort out

I disagree with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on one point. I would argue that the motion clearly recognises that the merger has taken place. Unfortunately for those who wanted there to be only one party after the merger, there are two and they are not exactly the same as the two that were there before the merger. I must say to the hon. Member for Bolsover that I have no idea what my former colleagues in the SLD think about being described in the motion as the Social and Liberal Democrats. I have absolutely no problems about being described as a member of the SDP. I have been an SDP Member of Parliament since 1981, and that is what I shall stay

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

The hon. Gentleman says that he has been an SDP Member of Parliament since 1981. Can he tell us how often in his long career he has been elected on the exclusive ticket of the SDP?

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Woolwich

I was elected as an SDP Member of Parliament in two general elections in 1983 and 1987. I am always described in my local papers as SDP and there is no argument about that

The Leader of the House is logical in going for the distribution of the money in accordance with the division of the former SDP Members of Parliament. He is dividing the resources that would have gone to the SDP in the proportion of three to two. That has always seemed to us to be a fair and reasonable solution to the problem. Since the whole purpose of the money is to support Members of Parliament, it seems entirely logical that the money should be divided on the basis of the way in which Members of Parliament divided. We could hardly resile from that approach since it is one that we put forward on many occasions in negotiations with our former colleagues, in discussions with the House authorities and in many other places. It seems to be a fair, reasonable and logical solution to the problem, and we support it

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon 11:48 pm, 21st June 1988

I sense that the House wishes to decide on this matter. I said earlier that I would have something to say about the amendments moved by my hon. Friends. I am lost for words to try to persuade my hon. Friends not to support the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth). My hon. Friend seemed to make his judgment on what he perceived the Opposition to be worth and his argument was overwhelming. My judgment was not made on that basis but on what I think the Opposition need to help them to carry out their parliamentary duties

My proposals are for maxima, but if the Opposition have listened to the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire and do not think that they are worth the money, perhaps he will shame them into not drawing all of it. That is a matter for the Opposition and not for me

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) supported the general thrust of my argument and that he will not press his amendment. My worry about his amendment was mainly that I do not think that I could stand the tension of a debate such as this every year. The highlight of the evening was the speech by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I shall tell my wife about that speech when I get home which I hope will be fairly soon. I urge the House to accept the motion

Amendment proposed: (d), in line 17, leave out `£2,550' and insert `£1,740'.—[Mr. Forth.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 11, Noes 284

Division No. 373][11.49 pm
AYES
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Shaw, David (Dover)
Bright, GrahamWatts, John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Conway, DerekTellers for the Ayes:
Davis, David (Boothferry)Mr. Eric Forth and Mr. Edward Leigh.
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeAmess, David
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Anderson, Donald
Alton, DavidArbuthnot, James
Archer, Rt Hon PeterFoulkes, George
Armstrong, HilaryFraser, John
Atkins, RobertFreeman, Roger
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Fyfe, Maria
Baldry, TonyGalbraith, Sam
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Garel-Jones, Tristan
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Barron, KevinGeorge, Bruce
Batiste, SpencerGodman, Dr Norman A.
Battle, JohnGolding, Mrs Llin
Beckett, MargaretGraham, Thomas
Beggs, RoyGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Bell, StuartGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bermingham, GeraldGrist, Ian
Blunkett, DavidGrocott, Bruce
Boateng, PaulGround, Patrick
Boscawen, Hon RobertGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Boswell, TimHanley, Jeremy
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaHardy, Peter
Boyes, RolandHarman, Ms Harriet
Bradley, KeithHarris, David
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHaselhurst, Alan
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Hawkins, Christopher
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Hayward, Robert
Buchan, NormanHeathcoat-Amory, David
Buck, Sir AntonyHenderson, Doug
Buckley, George J.Hind, Kenneth
Butcher, JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Butterfill, JohnHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Caborn, RichardHolland, Stuart
Callaghan, JimHome Robertson, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Howard, Michael
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Carrington, MatthewHowells, Geraint
Cartwright, JohnHoyle, Doug
Chope, ChristopherHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Cope, Rt Hon JohnHunter, Andrew
Couchman, JamesHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cryer, BobIllsley, Eric
Cunliffe, LawrenceIngram, Adam
Currie, Mrs EdwinaJack, Michael
Dalyell, TamJackson, Robert
Darling, AlistairJones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Kennedy, Charles
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Key, Robert
Day, StephenKing, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dewar, DonaldKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Dixon, DonKirkwood, Archy
Dobson, FrankKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Doran, FrankKnowles, Michael
Dorrell, StephenLamond, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dutfy, A. E. P.Lang, Ian
Dunn, BobLawrence, Ivan
Durant, TonyLeadbitter, Ted
Eadie, AlexanderLee, John (Pendle)
Eastham, KenLeighton, Ron
Eggar, TimLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Evans, John (St Helens N)Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Lewis, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Lightbown, David
Fallon, MichaelLilley, Peter
Fatchett, DerekLivsey, Richard
Faulds, AndrewLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Favell, TonyLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Fearn, RonaldLofthouse, Geoffrey
Flynn, PaulLyell, Sir Nicholas
Forman, NigelMcAvoy, Thomas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)McCartney, Ian
Foster, DerekMacGregor, Rt Hon John
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Maclean, DavidRuddock, Joan
Maclennan, RobertRumbold, Mrs Angela
McLoughlin, PatrickRyder, Richard
Major, Rt Hon JohnSackville, Hon Tom
Malins, HumfreySainsbury, Hon Tim
Maples, JohnSalmond, Alex
Marek, Dr JohnShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Short, Clare
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Skinner, Dennis
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Martlew, EricSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mawhinney, Dr BrianSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Maxton, JohnSoames, Hon Nicholas
Meacher, MichaelSoley, Clive
Meale, AlanSpearing, Nigel
Michael, AlunSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Steel, Rt Hon David
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Steinberg, Gerry
Millan, Rt Hon BruceStern, Michael
Miller, Sir HalStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Stott, Roger
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Sumberg, David
Moate, RogerTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Moonie, Dr LewisTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Moore, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Morgan, RhodriTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mowlam, MarjorieThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Moynihan, Hon ColinThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mullin, ChrisTrippier, David
Needham, RichardTurner, Dennis
Neubert, MichaelTwinn, Dr Ian
Newton, Rt Hon TonyVaz, Keith
Nicholls, PatrickWaddington, Rt Hon David
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
O'Brien, WilliamWaldegrave, Hon William
Neill, MartinWallace, James
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWalley, Joan
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWard, John
Parry, RobertWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Patnick, IrvineWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patten, Chris (Bath)Wareing, Robert N.
Pike, Peter L.Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Portillo, MichaelWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Wheeler, John
Primarolo, DawnWiddecombe, Ann
Quin, Ms JoyceWigley, Dafydd
Randall, StuartWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Redmond, MartinWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rhodes James, RobertWilson, Brian
Richardson, JoWinnick, David
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWise, Mrs Audrey
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmWood, Timothy
Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Worthington, Tony
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Roe, Mrs MarionTellers for the Noes:
Rogers, AllanMr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Frank Cook.
Rooker, Jeff

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to

Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, as from 11th June 1987, the provisions of this Resolution should have effect, instead of those of the Resolution of 20th March 1975 (as amended), in relation to the giving of financial assistance to any Opposition party in this House, to assist that party in carrying out its Parliamentary business:—1.—(1) Financial assistance shall be available under this paragraph to a party at any time if at that time one of the following conditions is satisfied with respect to the party., that is to say—

  1. (a) there are at that time at least two Members of this House who are members of the party and who were elected at the previous General Election after contesting it as candidates for the party; or
  2. (b) there is at that time one such Member who was so elected and the aggregate of the votes cast in favour of all the party's candidates at that Election was at least 150,000

(2) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may be given under this paragraph to any party in respect of the expenses incurred by it in any year shall be the aggregate of—

  1. (a) £2,550 for each seat won by its candidates at the Election; and
  2. (b) £5·10 for every 200 votes cast for its candidates at that Election

(3) No financial assistance is available under this paragraph in respect of

  1. (a) expenses incurred on or after 1st January 1988 by the Liberal Alliance or the SDP Alliance; or
  2. (b) expenses incurred by the SLD or the SDP at any time before the next General Election after the passing of this Resolution

(4) In this Resolution—

  • "the SLD" means the Social and Liberal Democrats;
  • "the SDP" means the part known as the SDP at the date on which this Resolution is passed;
  • "the Liberal Alliance" means the party which contested the 1987 General Election as the "Liberal/Alliance"; and
  • "the SDP Alliance" means the party which contested that Election as the "SDP/Alliance"

2.—(1) Financial assistance shall be available under this paragraph to the SLD and the SDP in respect of expenses incurred by them on or after 1st January 1988 and before the next General Election after that date

(2) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may be given under this paragraph to the SLD in respect of expenses incurred in any year shall be the aggregate of—

  1. (a) an amount calculated in accordance with paragraph 1(2) above by reference to the seats won by and votes cast for the Liberal Alliance's candidates at the 1987 General Election; and
  2. (b) two-fifths of an amount so calculated by reference to the seats won by the and votes cast for the SDP Alliance's candidates at that Election

(3) The maximum amount of financial assistance which may be given under this paragraph to the SDP in respect of expenses incurred in any year shall be three-fifths of the amount calculated as mentioned in sub-paragraph (2)(b) above

(4) The maximum amount of financial assistance available to the SLD from this sub-paragraph in respect of expenses incurred in the year beginning 1st January 1988 shall be reduced by the amount of the financial assistance given to the Liberal Alliance before the passing of this Resolution in respect of expenses so incurred

(5) Financial assistance for the SDP shall be determined as if at all times on and after 1st January 1988 and before the passing of this Resolution its representation in this House had consisted of those Members who are members of that party at the date on which this Resolution is passed

3.—(l) Any claims for financial assistance under this Resolution are to be made to the Accounting Officer of the House; and a party claiming such assistance shall—

  1. (a) furnish that Officer with a statement of the facts on which the claim is based;
  2. (b) certify to that Officer that the expenses in respect of which the assistance is claimed have been incurred exclusively in relation to the party's Parliamentary business; and
  3. (c) as soon as practicable after each 31st December following the passing of this Resolution, furnish that Officer with the certificate of an independent professional auditor to the effect that all expenses in respect of which the party claimed financial assistance during the twelve months ending with that date were incurred as mentioned in paragraph (b) above

(2) Sub-paragraph (1)(c) above shall not apply in relation to financial assistance given on or after 1st January 1988 in respect of expenses incurred before that date by the Liberal Alliance or the SDP Alliance

4.—(1) In the case of any year in which there is a General Election—

  1. (a) the period ending immediately before the date of the Election, and
  2. (b) the period beginning with that day,
shall be treated for the purposes of this Resolution as separate years, but the maximum amount of financial assistance available to any party in respect of any period so treated shall be reduced correspondingly

(2) In this Resolution "year" means a year beginning with 1st January

5. The cost of providing financial assistance shall be borne on the House of Commons: members' salaries etc. Vote