Members (Resettlement Grant)

STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. – in the House of Commons at 9:17 pm on 22nd May 1991.

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Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee 9:17 pm, 22nd May 1991

I beg to move, That in the opinion of this House, on the dissolution of the present or any future Parliament—

  1. (1) A grant should be payable to any person who is a Member of this House immediately before the dissolution and at the general election consequent upon the dissolution either does not stand for election to this House or, if he does, is not elected.
  2. (2) The amount of the grant in the case of any such person should be equal to the relevant percentage of a year's salary at the highest rate payable to Members of this House immediately before the dissolution, the relevant percentage for this purpose being that shown in the following Table in relation to—
    1. (a) his age at the dissolution; and
    2. (b) the number of years for which he has served as a Member of this House before the dissolution.
gratitude to the chairman and members of the TSRB, both for the speed with which they responded and for the skill with which they have addressed the issue. I believe, therefore, that we have been able to meet very speedily the clear wishes of the House, as expressed both in an early-day motion and in the debate on 31 January. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford East 9:18 pm, 22nd May 1991

May I, on behalf of the Opposition, say that we support the motion and the decision of the Top Salaries Review Body. After extensive consultation, we believe that it has made a positive and reasonable proposal that will be in the interests of many Members of Parliament. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members that previous proposals covered deceased Members of Parliament and their families—younger Members of Parliament benefited from the changes that the Government introduced, with our support. This is a limited but positive step forward. On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome the proposals.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak 9:19 pm, 22nd May 1991

The Top Salaries Review Body arrives at some incredible proposals for hon. Members and I do not welcome the proposal for a grant in the same way as some people. I have managed to scratch a few bob together and at this stage I am not concerned about my interest in the matter.

A Member of Parliament who loses his seat, especially in his earlier years, faces real problems. Judges can retire on a full pension after 15 years because people think that they come to that job late in life. For the sake of the country, God forbid that we should get many 25-year-old hon. Members, who have done nothing before coming to this talking shop. Such people would have to be in the House for 33 years before qualifying for a full pension., and that is entirely wrong.

My argument follows the line of what an MP should do. The most unemployable person in the world is an ex-MP who entered the House at the age of 25 or 30 and lost his seat after 15 years. Give or take a few bob, he will receive £15,000 under the current resettlement process. I do not object to changing the system for the golden oldies. Someone of 70 who leaves this place full of years and honour and, I hope, full of pension will get exactly the same, £15,000, as someone under the age of 50.

A miner, an office worker or a worker in heavy steel can leave his job at 30 and become an MP. If he loses his seat he can go back to his former job and start again. When I was senior partner in my business 12 years ago I prided myself on the fact that I could do every job in my office. Now I am a consultant in that business and, because of mechanisation in the office, there is no way that I could run that business in the way that I did 12 years ago. Things move on and that applies to office and manual jobs.

An ex-Chancellor, an ex-Prime Minister or an ex-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry can sell our secrets and themselves for huge sums or they can sell their memoirs or get jobs in banks. They are all right, but the ordinary infantry, the Back Bencher, is what Parliament is all about. It is not about those who hold great office. They are part of the system, but the Back Bencher is part of the freedom of Parliament. If he has a family, a person of 50 is at the most expensive time of his life. He may still be paying off a mortgage or have kids at school and, even if they are not at fee-paying schools, we all know what children cost. He does not pay for a holiday just for Mutt and Jeff; he has to pay for four or five people. To lose one's seat at a time of such expenses is no laughing matter. [Interruption.] I welcome some of the proposed money going to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). I know that hon. Members are keen to get away, but this is a serious issue. I have no genuine interest to declare except that I want to encourage people to come to this place, not just to seek high office but to play the insecure role of Back Benchers. This is an insecure job and if anyone thinks that those who leave here are highly desirable, he does not know some hon. Members as I know them. Some have fallen on very difficult times and the idea that they must go to a charity commission, which, I have no doubt, looks upon them kindly, is wrong.

I am not saying that hon. Members should be paid much more per se, but if they stick to their guns and stick by an honourable attitude to the job of a Back-Bench Member of Parliament or if they lose their seat or feel honour-bound to leave the House, they should not find themselves in such a ghastly disadvantaged position.

I do not think that people would begrudge the idea that the younger Members of Parliament—those under 55—should be dealt with more fairly. I know that some people have done their best with this resolution, but what they have done is typical of the civil servant top salary review cosy position. They have considered what they thought right, but they should consider what a Member of Parliament's job is. Members of Parliament should possibly be honoured more in the leaving than when they are here.

Hon. Members are not always equal—some have safe seats where the votes are weighed, not counted, and some have seats with small majorities, so it is a roulette wheel. I urge the House to consider the type of people that we need. We need those who are willing to stand up for principles and to take enough risks to come here in the first place. The resolution does nothing towards that. It helps those who are older, which is a good thing, but it does damn all for the younger hon. Member. Although we honour those going into the sunset, the sunrise of Parliament lies with the young, not with the retiring.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Chair, Privileges Committee, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House Lords (Privy Council Office), Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office), Chair, Privileges Committee 9:26 pm, 22nd May 1991

The short answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) is that we are not making changes to the existing system of resettlement grants for those leaving at a general election and who are under 65 because no one suggested that in the debate on 31 January. There were no complaints at that time, but general approval of the system.

The early-day motion showed that the concern arose for those over 65 and for the anomalies. That is why that issue was put to the Top Salaries Review Body. In paragraphs 6 and 9 of its report it makes clear the reasons why it believes that a change should be made in the form of the resolution. As the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) said, it is a comparatively narrow point but one about which many hon. Members felt strongly. It is dealt with very well by the TSRB, and I commend the resolution to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That in the opinion of this House, on the dissolution of the present or any future Parliament—

  1. (1) A grant should be payable to any person who is a Member of this House immediately before the dissolution and at the general election consequent upon the dissolution either does not stand for election to this House or, if he does, is not elected.
  2. (2) The amount of the grant in the case of any such person should be equal to the relevant percentage of a year's salary at the highest rate payable to Members of this House immediately before the dissolution, the relevant percentage for this purpose being that shown in the following Table in relation to—
    1. (a) his age at the dissolution; and
    2. (b) the number of years for which he has served as a Member of this House before the dissolution.

Table
Percentages of Yearly Salary
Number of years of service
AgeUnder 10101112131415 or over
Under 5050505050505050
5050505254565860
5150525558626568
5250545863677276
5350566267737884
5450586572788592
55 to 64506068768492100
6550586572788592
6650566267737884
6750545863677276
6850525558626568
6950505254565860
70 or over50505050505050

(3) In calculating for the purposes of paragraph (2) the number of years for which a person has served as a Member of this House before the dissolution, there should be disregarded—

  1. (a) any fraction of a year for which he has so served; and
  2. (b) if a grant was payable to him under this Resolution or any of the former resettlement grant Resolutions on any previous occasion, any period of service which was taken into account or disregarded on that occasion;
and in this paragraph 'the former resettlement grant Resolutions' means the second Resolution of 20th December 1971, the fourth Resolution of 4th March 1980 and the third Resolution of 19th July 1983.