Parliament

– in the House of Commons at 7:56 pm on 24th November 1994.

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Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 7:56 pm, 24th November 1994

I beg to move, That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 21st November, be approved. As you will appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in a sense, the debate is simply consequential on the debate that we had, in November 1993, on the pay of Members of Parliament. It reflects no new decision, no new policy, but simply what was then announced as the basis on which the pay of Minister and others covered by the order would be settled from January 1995 and each year thereafter.

I went over the background in considerable detail last November, and I shall recall it only briefly today. There are three elements in that background. First, hon. Members, and of course Ministers, had accepted a freeze in their pay in January 1993, when they would normally have expected to receive the same 3.9 per cent. as had been agreed for the relevant civil service grades from August 1992.

Secondly, the actual linking mechanism for relating hon. Members' pay to that of civil servants in effect had ceased to be workable because of the move to performance-related pay in the civil service.

Thirdly, in asking hon. Members to accept the 1993 freeze, I had undertaken both to re-establish a workable link and to ensure that Members' pay levels would not be reduced permanently by comparison with those civil service links.

Thus a year ago I proposed, and the House agreed by a large majority, a new resolution which did two things. One was, as promised, to re-establish a workable linkage defined as the average pay increase each year for civil service grades 5 to 7. The other was to ask for yet further restraint. That is an important point as, by then under such a link, hon. Members were due both the 3.9 per cent. civil service increase of August 1992 and the 1.5 per cent. civil service increase of August 1993.

The House was asked, and agreed, to take 2.7 per cent. of those combined amounts in January 1994 and to defer the other 2.7 per cent. to January 1995, at which point hon. Members would also receive whatever increase had been agreed for the civil servants from August 1994, which turned out to be 2 per cent.

The resolution passed in November 1993 to establish those arrangements, which is what will lead to the Members' pay increase of 4.7 per cent. in January 1995, could not in itself provide for Ministers pay as well: that has required this order. The primary legislation does not allow it to be dealt with in that way. It requires this order. I said at the time, and I quote from the Official Report, leaving out only a few words for the sake of clarity: I should make it clear to the House that the Government think that the right course henceforth is for the salaries of Ministers … to be dealt with on exactly the same basis as Members".—[Official Report, 3 November 1993; Vol. 231, c. 459.]

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

I wonder whether the Leader of the House has had a chance for mature reflection on whether the "benefits" that the gesture brought have turned out to be worth the hassle.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Perhaps the cautious thing for me to say is that I shall continue to reflect on that and that I shall be willing to listen to anything that the hon. Gentleman might wish to observe on the point.

The proposal on linkage between Members and civil servants and between Ministers and Members and, therefore, Ministers and civil servants was neither queried nor opposed. It was, I think, regarded as entirely sensible by the great majority of people present or who thought about it. I am grateful to have that confirmed by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) from the Opposition Front Bench. As I have already said, the order now before the House simply implements what I said a year ago.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

One of the things that sticks in the gullet of people outside this place is that since last November the Government decided to tell signal workers in the summer of this year that they could not engage in a catching-up process. Yet that is what the Leader of the House wants to do for Ministers. People cannot stomach the idea that signal workers could not engage in a catching-up process to get more than 5.7 per cent. The Government told British Rail not to pay them. To request a catching-up process for Ministers when others were prevented from engaging in the same process is to have double standards.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is not true, for a reason which I shall come to in a few moments. To describe what we are doing as a catching-up process in the sense that the hon. Gentleman means, certainly under the terms on which the original freeze was accepted, is not accurate.

The points that I was about to come to are also the key points in respect of Members' pay. The key points are the same for both Ministers' and Members' pay because they have been tied together. There are four points. The pay settlement for January 1995 is 2 per cent., reflecting what was agreed for civil servants from August 1994. The other 2.7 per cent. is a delayed payment—some of it delayed from as long ago as January 1993, two years ago, as it were—reflecting earlier civil service settlements.

The next two points are perhaps the key points for the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Over the three years involved, the pay of Members of Parliament and Ministers has been restrained to exactly the same extent as that of civil servants, but—I come to the crunch in relation to the hon. Gentleman's point—because their payments have been delayed, in part by up to two years, Members of Parliament and Ministers have lost, permanently, some £2,000 and £4,000 respectively by comparison with their civil service links. That is a permanent loss. It is not something that has been made up. It is money that has gone for good. The rates are going back to what they would have been by comparison with the civil service, but there has been a substantial, actual, financial loss along the way. That cannot be described as a catching-up process, as the hon. Member for Bolsover has described it.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

For three months in the summer of this year, when the Government were holding back their wages and telling British Rail not to pay them, signal workers said that they had lost wages over a considerable period because they had lost money in comparison to other grades in the railway industry and outside. All they were saying is what the Leader of the House is now saying on behalf of Ministers. Signal workers said, "We want the money because otherwise we will lose it for ever." They have not got it.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have already made it clear that there is a significant difference. If I remember rightly—I have not checked the figure—the basic pay award to the signalmen in the settlement was 2.5 per cent., which is rather more than the settlement for this year for Members of Parliament and Ministers.

Before I conclude, I should of course make it clear that, although I have referred to Ministers' pay for reasons of simplicity, the order covers not only Ministers but the Opposition Leaders in both Houses, three Opposition Whips in the Commons, the Opposition Chief Whip in the Lords and Madam Speaker. Ah, Madam Speaker, you are here. I am glad to point out that there is a pay increase here. The same increase is also paid in the Commons to the Chairman of Ways and Means, and to the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, who has just left the Chair, and to the Chairman and the Principal Deputy Chairmen of Committees in the other place.

The arrangements for those in the other place are, however, slightly different, because they do not receive a reduced parliamentary salary as those of us in the Commons do. They will receive an increase equivalent to the aggregate cash increase received by their Commons counterparts.

Madam Speaker, just as I continue to believe that the arrangements for Members' pay agreed last year were sensible and right, so I believe that this proposal to determine Ministers' pay on exactly the same basis is one which the House should endorse.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr 8:05 pm, 24th November 1994

I have no interest to declare in the order and nothing that I say will affect your position, Madam Speaker, because I think you should be paid more. I think you are so popular outside the House that if there were a referendum you would be elected the nation's first president. That is the nature of the stature that you have gained as our Speaker.

I agreed with virtually everything that the Leader of the House said. We have arrived at a barmy position. We are here debating something that was decided a long time ago. When it was decided then, the Government and, I suppose, the House, got bad publicity. We will get it again for doing the same thing. So we have arrived at an inexcusable position. I do not know why we have not amended the main legislation and done something along the lines that we talked about earlier this evening in respect of the corner-cutting of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 so that we could get rid of this demeaning debate—not bury it. We have dispensed with such debates for many of the general arrangements for Members of Parliament, I do not know. I am surprised that the Leader of the House has not had an opportunity to deal with it.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I want to find out whether there is an offer here. It is not that I have legislation in mind, but I should like to know what the position is. If we introduced primary legislation on the matter, would we have the co-operation of the Opposition in putting it through speedily?

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

We would use our best endeavours to make sensible arrangements for payments to Members of the House, whether they are in Government or on the Back Benches. If the Leader of the House could get Jopling organised well before the House rises for Christmas, we might consider the position. It is not our job to negotiate across the Dispatch Box, but the Leader of the House gets the message.

Matters are made worse for the Government when clearly they plant stories in newspapers, such as that in The Sunday Times of 13 November, which had the headline: Cabinet split over move to cut large pay rises for ministers. The only reason why such a headline arrives in a newspaper is that members of the Cabinet have briefed the press. The Government bring it upon themselves. It is not my hon. Friends or anyone else who cause the difficulty. The Sunday Times reported something that made me think, "There is no new decision there." The House debated the issue last November, as the Leader of the House rightly said, but members of the Cabinet had obviously been on the telephone causing trouble for someone.

I have been a Member of Parliament for 20 years as both a Government and an Opposition Back Bencher. So I know that it is difficult to write job descriptions for Ministers. I do not know what they do. My constituents often wonder what they do. They see what you do, Madam Speaker, keeping us in order on a daily basis, but they do not know what Ministers do.

A couple of days ago there was an analysis in The Guardian of the salaries of people doing different jobs. It listed the job and the age of the person doing it. Ministers are usually middle-aged. It listed the salaries. The ministerial salary is between £19,000 and £55,000. The next point concerned what the job entailed. For Ministers, it is obviously doing what Tory central office says or what the Maples memorandum dictates. Qualifications came next on the list. For Ministers, it is either none or an ability to say yes.

The next point concerns pay rises. I do not want to go into the background dealt with by the Leader of the House. What he said was correct. I did not notice a single person outside the House during the period when we were on a pay freeze saying, "Look what an example Members of Parliament have set," and calling upon his members or employers to do the same. I see no reason why people should, but that does not behove us to say, "Look what we are doing. Follow our example." We know that will not be done. We must have a more mature and civilised way of settling pay in Britain, not just for Members of Parliament, but for health visitors, home helps, gatekeepers, cleaners and managing directors. We need a more civilised arrangement spread, throughout society, than we have. The pecking order fixed at certain levels years ago should not remain immutable forever.

The next thing that The Guardian touched on was prospects of poachability. If we have a general election before Christmas, Ministers may be out of office by 22 December, which is the first available working Thursday that can be used if they fail next week. They are all pretty tainted, so I do not give much for their prospects of poachability once they are ex-Ministers.

The final question asked whether employers were worth their pay. For Ministers, I would say on productivity no, on responsibility yes. That is where I draw the distinction. The productivity of Ministers has been pathetic. There are too many of them. They have got rid of much of their responsibility for looking after public money—£46 billion looked after by non-elected quangos. Ministers are no longer responsible for that, they simply pass our letters on to the chief executives of the quangos and we cannot get genuine accountability for the quangos. But, on their ultimate responsibility, the answer must be yes. The Government must have a real problem because they now have to employ part-time dentists as Ministers to make up the numbers.

This is my first day in the House this week, and I make no apology for that. I came here today via my constituency and the remarkable Dudley, West constituency. I have taken some time this week to listen to the good people of Dudley, West. I have talked to them about the business of the House and what has happened in the past 15 years. I have listened to their worries for the future for their families. I told them that, on Thursday, I would be coming to the House for a debate on Ministers' salaries and I asked them what they thought about that.

I offer the Leader of the House a few choice comments from the Tory voters in Dudley, West. They say that Ministers have been in power for too long; they are complacent; they have lost a sense of direction; they have failed to fulfil their promises; they are clumsy at implementing policy; they shoot themselves in the foot. We pay them £19,000 to £55,000 for that. Those are exactly the phrases that John Maples heard from Tory voters, which he published in his memo. They are exactly the kind of things that Tory voters in Dudley, West are saying and something should be done about it.

We could call for fewer Ministers to share out the kitty on a more even basis. We could call for more Ministers to contribute from their salaries, as I call on all Members to do, to the give-as-you-earn charity pay-roll scheme operated by the Fees Office. When I checked two years ago, some 55 Members were contributing, and I declare an interest as one of them. When I checked this week, the figure was only 43 out of 651. I am not saying that the other hon. Members are not giving to charity, but we are trying to encourage millions of people in Britain to give to charity through their employer. The legislation making that possible was agreed on a cross-party basis and Members of the House are setting a pathetic example in respect of that.

I do not say that I do not intend to vote myself if there is a vote, although I see no need for one, but I remind Conservative Members, in case any of them are minded to seek to make divisions on the Opposition Benches, that by and large people of my ilk do not spend their time in industry seeking to remove from other people their existing pay. I can remember during my service in the House one occasion when Conservative Members of Parliament ganged up and voted to reduce the salary of a Labour Member of Parliament, and they carried the vote. They carried the vote to reduce the salary of Eric Varley by £1,000 in about 1978. Labour Members returned the following day and the matter was redressed. Conservative Members did not waste any time in saying that the salary of a Labour Member of Parliament should be voted down. It is true that he happened to be a member of the Cabinet. He was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. It was their attempt to have a go at him, and they used the means of reducing a Member's salary to do so. I hope that Conservative Members will never think of doing that again.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing 8:15 pm, 24th November 1994

There can be no doubt that this is a sensitive issue, perhaps even more sensitive than that of the pay of Members of Parliament. It is not surprising that that is so because the absolute level of pay in this case seems to many of our constituents, particularly pensioners, to be something of which they could only dream. It follows necessarily that there is never a good moment to increase Ministers' pay. None the less, for reasons that I shall put forward, I believe that it is extremely important that we should do so.

If there is one lesson that we have to learn from recent experience, it is the fact that if Members and Ministers take a pay freeze, it is unlikely to receive a line of publicity in any national paper. The idea that any wage negotiator, trade union or otherwise, will make the slightest difference to their wage claim as a result of that is utterly unrealistic.

However, when the adjustment is made to compensate for the freeze, there will undoubtedly be massive publicity of a kind to which I shall refer in a moment. The effect on pay settlements and on union leaders rushing round saying that they must have a similar increase is great. The whole thing is asymmetrical and the net effect of the freeze and what we are proposing this evening is, if anything, to encourage rather than discourage wage settlements outside. That is the simple point that I want to make. We should resume the link because we must have some way of showing that we wish not to decide our own pay but to relate it to what is happening outside.

I want briefly to say a word or two about the increase in ministerial pay in relation to inflation, civil servants, Members of Parliament and the population as a whole. First, with regard to inflation, headlines last week declared, "Pay increases for Members of Parliament well above the rate of inflation." They compared the increase to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred, part of which is anyway a deferred payment from an earlier period, with the current level of inflation. That is clearly rubbish. It must be compared with the date of the previous increase and, in this case, the date of the pay freeze and allowing for the subsequent staging of the increase. If one does that, far from being well above the level of inflation, it is near enough in line with inflation, but, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, with an important qualification.

That brings me to the question of the pay increase in relation to civil servants and, in particular, those with whom ministerial pay has, in a sense, been compared. If one does that, because of the time lags in the ministerial pay increases compared with those of the civil servants, it is not the case that they have caught up. The reality is, as my right hon. Friend said, that Cabinet Ministers have lost £4,000 in hard cash once and for all. That will never be made up. Therefore, even in that respect the link has not been made.

The pay of Ministers has increased even more slowly than that of ordinary Members of Parliament and the differential has been constantly narrowing. In those terms, the Prime Minister's salary has increased less than that of members of the Cabinet, the Financial Secretary and Under-Secretaries of State.

With respect to the Leader of the Opposition, I regret that he followed the example of the former Prime Minister when she was in office, in not taking the whole increase. That is a bad example to follow. I am glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to accept the additional pay that he receives as Leader of the Opposition. However, it seems a subtle distinction to take that increase but not the rise that was anyway deferred from a previous decision.

The squeezing of differentials has seriously affected those further down the scale. It will be increasingly difficult to attract high-quality recruits to ministerial office. The decision of the Leader of the Opposition not to take his increase squeezes the differentials further and provides less headroom. Anyone who has worked in industry, as I have, knows that it is dangerous not to have the headroom to be able to give appropriate increases to people further down the line.

It has been suggested that ministerial pay should be linked with productivity, and a number of my constituents say that the pay of Members of Parliament should relate to inflation. The startling inflation figure of only 7.8 per cent. over the past three years compares with 56 per cent. inflation under three years of Labour Government. The present Government can take credit for that, and might even argue for a reasonable pay increase for reducing inflation to its present level, which is of vital importance to my constituents. In productivity terms, the increase can be justified.

Figures that I received from the Library today take a serious and analytical view of certain statistics. There are some minor footnotes and qualifications, but the figures that I want to quote will not seriously mislead the House. I will, as I did in the debate on the pay of Members of Parliament, compare the position since I entered the House 30 years ago, in 1964, with the present.

Allowing for changes in the retail prices index and at 1994 prices, the real income of the Prime Minister has fallen 59 per cent. The income of Cabinet Ministers has fallen 60 per cent. and that of Under-Secretaries of State, 39 per cent. Members of Parliament are, in real terms, just about back where they were when I entered the House.

Throughout the intervening period, the real pay of Members of Parliament and, to a far greater extent, of Ministers has fallen way below the 1964 figure. In the country as a whole, average real incomes have increased nearly 80 per cent. Over a longer period, which is a reasonable way to view the matter, the income of a Cabinet Minister has fallen 60 per cent. while average real incomes have increased 80 per cent. To take the productivity argument, Ministers of whichever party has been in power—although most improvements have taken place under a Conservative Government—could justify an increase in ministerial pay. Differentials have been enormously eroded.

I am seriously concerned about recruitment to the House and to ministerial office. When I entered the House during the Macmillan period, it was generally recognised that no one could afford to become an Under-Secretary of State at the pay rates then prevailing unless he had a substantial income. That precluded a large number of candidates or reduced new Ministers to utter penury. It is important to attract the right people to the House—and to your own office, Madam Speaker. We shall not do so if we continue to take the attitude to pay that we have in the past, particularly under the previous Prime Minister. I remember negotiations between the Prime Minister, Government representatives and Mr. Du Cann—then chairman of the 1922 Committee. Time and time again, we have failed to agree a reasonable level of pay.

The question can become mixed up with the issue of outside interests, and I dare say that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will mention that. To question whether or not a person is a full-time Member of Parliament is grossly misleading. It would not be unreasonable to estimate that a full-time job occupies 40 hours per week. Most hon. Members work far in excess of 40 hours.

It is nonsense also that Ministers do not receive their full parliamentary salary. When I served as Financial Secretary, I did not accomplish my constituency work less well or any better than I do now. I slept rather less than I do now, although I do not sleep that much now. We should question the historical justification, which goes back to Domesday, for Ministers not receiving their full parliamentary salary. The whole issue must be examined, perhaps in the context of the Nolan committee. I am not in favour of hon. Members working full time in the sense that they have no outside interests, but we must review our whole pay structure and at some stage take a brave approach.

I understand the point about railwaymen made earlier by the hon. Member for Bolsover, but I suspect that their pay increases have not, in real terms, been vastly different from those of other workers and that their pay has increased substantially. If one takes a reasonable time scale, Ministers and Members of Parliament have made considerable voluntary decisions that have seriously undermined their real pay position in relation to other employees.

It is not a question of supply and demand—arguing that there are dozens of candidates for every general election and that, as supply exceeds demand, pay should be reduced. Any first year economics student could tell us that supply in relation to quality is what matters.

I support the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and I hope that the House will agree to them. I trust that we will give thought also to the long-term strategy that we should adopt with regard to the pay of Members of Parliament. I do not expect to get enthusiastic headlines for my speech, but I have tried to demonstrate the right thing to do.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock 8:28 pm, 24th November 1994

We would not be having this debate were it not for the stupidity of the Government and their colleagues a little while ago in supporting the moratorium on ministerial pay. I suspect that, privately, the Leader of the House wishes that he could look the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), who is notable by his absence tonight, in the eye. I suspect that when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was the principal architect of the embarrassment now faced by the Government. As an Opposition Member, it is not my job to minimise the embarrassment of Ministers on the Treasury Bench, so I shall comment on their stewardship of this matter and say how I think pay for Ministers of the Crown should be guided.

Like other hon. Members, may I say that you, Madam Speaker, your three deputies and the deputy Opposition Chief Whip are exceptions to that rule, as your salaries pale into insignificance when we consider your real worth. Nevertheless, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is important to bear in mind the fact that, although the Leader of the House is right to say that that moratorium exists, we must be sensitive to how these matters are seen outside the House, where people legitimately contrast with their own experience the fact that this pay award is way above the rate of inflation. Some people have had no pay award for 12 or 24 months and thousands have had pay cuts. They wonder why Ministers of the Crown should enjoy a catching up when their families and loved ones must tighten their belts. We cannot escape the fact that that is the experience of many of our constituents.

As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said yesterday, it is time that we were more conscious of how we are perceived outside the House. This week we had the backdrop of the Maples memorandum. I do not wish to go into Mr. Maples' analysis of the Government, but his term "yobbo" was important. What does it signal to the public when a vice-chairman of the Conservative party refers to some of his own kith and kin as "yobbos" and, in the same week, an attempt is made to increase the salaries of those whom they support?

Some 24 hours ago, another vice-chairman of the Conservative party spoke in a most unhelpful and unfriendly manner to our European neighbours. His comments were deeply offensive and an awful lot of Conservative supporters feel they were not to be expected from someone who supports and sustains the Government. Inevitably, that rubs off on the Ministers whom he backs.

I am conscious of the fact that our employees in the House are to have a pay award of some 2.2 per cent. this year. Although I do not want to get bogged down in percentages, we must be sensitive to the fact that many servants here work very hard and will inevitably go home to their spouses and discuss the award for Ministers on which we are voting tonight. When they contrast it with their pay award they will not be happy, and rightly so.

If the order goes through tonight, Cabinet Ministers will, from the triggering date of 1 January, enjoy an increase in pay of £3,070 per annum, which is a substantial sum at a time when the Government expect people to restrain their pay claims. The Government try to dodge that matter, but they are showing about the same restraint in terms of salaries of Ministers as are directors of privatised companies. Contrast that with the actions of Jack Kennedy, who intervened forcefully against the president of United States Steel in one of his most important domestic statements, when he said that those people were selfishly putting their interests first when restraint was being demanded of workers elsewhere. I wish that the Prime Minister would emulate Jack Kennedy in terms of his position on both private pay awards for top directors in industry and Cabinet members.

Some important events happen when we are in recess. One that would have been probed much more had we not been in recess is the permitting—admittedly, under the rules—of a junior Minister of the Environment to continue to some extent his professional practice of dentistry. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister did not say, "Look, you takes your choice. I'd be delighted to have you in my Government but you must give it a full-time commitment."

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Indeed. That did not happen and even if the Prime Minister had good reason to allow the hon. Gentleman to continue to be in the Government—I read in the press that it was to keep up his skills—we must all make difficult choices when we enter public office. If one accepts ministerial office, it must be given 100 per cent. commitment and everything must be put aside. I regret that that did not happen in his case.

I was interested in what the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) said on this and earlier occasions. However, I disagree with him about the differentials between the pay of Members of Parliament and Ministers. I may be in a minority of one, but I do not believe that Ministers of the Crown, perhaps with the exception of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, should receive more money than ordinary hon. Members. The system whereby Ministers receive a much higher salary means that Back-Bench Members who take seriously their role of checking, probing, cajoling and criticising the Executive are considered less important, less skilled and less diligent than Treasury Ministers.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Is the hon. Gentleman arguing for significant increases in the salaries.of Members of Parliament? That would be an interesting point.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

I am talking in terms of principle. Members' salaries should be harmonised with those of Ministers. I am not discussing the level of salaries. I am content with my salary, but I am not happy with the resources that I receive to fulfil my role as a Member of Parliament. That is another debate and, although I am prepared to go into it, I suspect that I would tax your patience, Madam Deputy Speaker

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Gentleman continually demotes me. He is bound to reduce my salary.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

I apologise, Madam Speaker.

The question of resources will never go away. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House are eating into their salaries to provide a full service to their constituents. It is not a party point. Salaries should be ring fenced and we should have adequate resources, including a constituency office. Many hon. Members currently use the Conservative, Labour or Liberal party offices in their constituencies. Unfortunately, the dear old Thurrock Labour party does not even own a pencil, so I have to rent one, which is eating into the office costs allowance of my salary. If resources for hon. Members were properly ring fenced, my salary would be more than sufficient.

May I return to the thrust of my argument? Ministerial and Members' salaries should be one and the same because the job of probing and criticising the Government is extremely important. Many members of the public would consider my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) good value as he makes at least as important a contribution as the vast majority of Treasury Ministers. I endorse that view. To be generous, I could cite the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) as another example of a Back-Bench Member who gives good combative value for money and who cannot be bought by the system.

We should therefore think in terms of parity of treatment for people who enter public life, which would reduce the desire to be in office in order to be on the pay roll. There is sufficient incentive and desire to be a Minister apart from the salary. If we are honest, we will admit that the vast majority of those who enter the House want to reach ministerial office. That should be sufficient incentive in itself. Perhaps some—such as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover—are an exception to the rule. I feel, however, that there should be no financial incentive.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

How does my hon. Friend know that he is right about that?

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

I have a high regard for my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, and I suspect that he would act in the way that I have suggested.

As for the history of ministerial salaries, it was realised early in our political development that Ministers of the Crown had to be employed full time. Salaries and other emoluments were provided accordingly, at a time when it was accepted that ordinary Members of Parliament were part-time workers: the vast majority had other incomes. Even at the time when the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) entered the House, the current extensive Committee structure did not exist. I do not.criticise the right hon. Gentleman's contemporaries in any.way, but in those days the role of Parliament was rnuch smaller in terms of the time demanded. Since then, things have moved on.

In an earlier debate, the right hon. Member for Worthing wondered whether Select Committee Chairmen should receive a higher salary. He decided that they should not—rightly, in my view—but I do not see why hon. Members with an obviously full commitment to Parliament should survive on the salary of an ordinary Member of Parliament while Ministers received additional emoluments.

I feel that, considering the current reputation of the House, it is time for us to avoid in future the nonsense of moratoriums and freezes, which obviously cause embarrassment. The Government must recognise that they are embarrassed, given the background of "yobbo" memorandums, their desire for wage restraint on the part of others and—unhappily—the low esteem in which, to some extent, the House is now held. Unless the order is withdrawn, the House should divide to demonstrate that some of us are not prepared to alleviate that embarrassment tonight.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton 8:41 pm, 24th November 1994

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), and intend to deal with some of his comments.

I feel strongly about this issue. I also feel strongly that there are times when—in the best interests of Parliament and the people whom it serves—it is best to resist the temptation to swing along with popular opinion, given the current state of that opinion. It is a bit like believing in anti-cyclical investment: "In a recession, invest; in the frenzy of a boom, rein in." Sometimes the same applies to politics, and I believe that it applies to the issue that we are discussing. When the mood is against us, we should hold our ground; when we think that everyone loves us, we should beware of hubris.

As a champion of a number of unpopular causes, I know very well that any proposal to raise a Minister's salary will not meet with universal applause at the moment. Nevertheless, I wish to defend the proposed increase. Although it is against the fashion, I think that, when sense is restored, a broader base of opinion will be prepared to admit that it is really in agreement with tonight's proposal. In the present climate, it is almost impossible to conduct a reasoned national debate about the pay of Members of Parliament or Ministers; those in favour of any increase risk vilification.

Given the current press reports, anyone outside the House would be forgiven for thinking that Ministers are due to receive massive increases, way ahead of comparable awards elsewhere in the public sector. They are not: let us be clear about the facts. The first fact is that, in 1993, the pay of all Members of Parliament and Ministers was frozen. If anyone asked for a declaration of principle to be expressed in hard cash, that would be it. The pay freeze did not provoke great headlines or great expressions of gratitude, and neither should be asked for or expected; but, because of that freeze, and because of the delay in linking Ministers' pay with.civil.service.grades,Ministers.have.forgone—lost, never received, permanently missed out on—up to £4,000.

Because the former link with civil servants' pay had been undermined by changes in civil service pay arrangements, the House passed a motion that tried to re-establish a workable link for the pay of Members of Parliament with the average annual increase in salary for civil service grades 5 to 7 as a result of their pay settlement. It also provided for the resultant 1993 and 1994 increases for Members of Parliament to be staged, with 2.7 per cent. in January 1994 and 2.7 per cent. delayed until January 1995—when Members of Parliament would also be entitled to whatever increase was agreed for the 1994 civil service settlement. That settlement has turned out to be 2 per cent.

Although that motion could not determine the amount of Ministers' pay, it was made clear at the time that Her Majesty's Government believed that the right course henceforth is for the salaries of Ministers … to be dealt with on exactly the same basis as Members".—[Official Report, 3 November 1993; Vol. 231, c. 459.] The order that we are discussing simply implements the policy set out last November. The key points that we are now discussing are exactly the same as those relating to the increase in the pay of Members of Parliament.

The root of the problem, and the discontent, is that, for purposes of easy comparison, no market can be freely left to set the salary of a Minister. It is essentially a pretty arbitrary exercise, ranging from the contention of some that they should be paid nothing to that of others who think that they should be very highly paid. When the spectrum ranges from zero to infinity, there is room for quite a few suggestions about who should be paid what.

The House of Commons cannot be compared with a private firm. When a concern is someone's property—when their own risk and money are involved—they can pay themselves what they like: on that basis thousands of people are being paid tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of pounds, and it is none of our business to object. In the public sector, however, people have a rough idea of what is the fair rate for a job by comparing it with the private sector or by bargaining.

Some fall between the two—this is relevant to what was said earlier by the hon. Member for Thurrock—such as, I admit, a former nationalised industry, such as British Gas, in transition to a competitive position in private enterprise. Such industries have their own methods. If we accept that, in such cases, share options are unreasonable because in a monopolistic company there is little prospect of shares falling, it must be right for British Gas executives to be paid a single open salary—as they have been. Those fully defensible changes in salary structure,.however, fell on deaf ears, and few have pointed out that.if the managers were poorly paid we should all probably pay more for our gas.

The problem is that there is no market to set the salary of a Minister. Some may say that that does not matter: my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) pointed out that there is no shortage of people ready to do the job. I caution against that view, however. I have not been in the House for long, but I can already cite a handful of hon. Members who have declined to become Ministers or asked not to remain in ministerial posts, simply because of the pay.

Most, of course, would do the job at almost any price. Politics is unique: if it is in the head and the heart, one does the job. We all know that, but if he has to worry about money, even a Minister of the highest calibre may do the job less well. Either as Back Benchers or as Ministers, some will find themselves earning more in the House than they would outside; some—rather more, I suspect—find themselves working for less.

Some Back Benchers have outside interests and some do not, but, in the main, Ministers have none. They receive the official salary and that is it. In Britain I do not know anyone who has chosen to go into politics for the money. People here certainly do not go into politics to make money, but they do in other countries, and look what is happening to them. Most Ministers leave office considerably poorer than when they went in and that is a highly unsatisfactory way to produce the best possible culture for government.

What should we do? We should base salaries on a publicly acceptable link, and stick with that for ever and a day. Every time we do that, something goes wrong and we break the link. It is always a mistake to do so. We get no thanks for the gesture and it serves no constructive purpose. All we do is guarantee that greater problems will accumulate for the future.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Whose idea was it? Mr. Duncan: I shall come to that.

It is sensible to restore the link for which the House has already implicitly voted. We broke the link because the nature of civil service pay bargaining at the time did not allow us to stick with it.

I think that Ministers are grossly underpaid. Remuneration for our Ministers compares badly with that in other countries. In Singapore, which is much smaller but economically more successful, Lee Kuan Yew makes a point of impressing on his growing country that Members of Parliament there should be paid about the same as senior partners in an accountancy firm or a firm of solicitors or the same as senior managers in a bank or something like that. He believes that that is good for democracy.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing pointed out that Ministers' pay has not kept up with earnings elsewhere or with inflation. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Lord President for answering a written question that I tabled yesterday. It points out that the differential between that which is earned by a Cabinet Minister and that earned by a Back Bencher in 1965 is now dramatically different from the differential that reigns today. If that same differential were to be in place, a Cabinet Minister would be paid well over £100,000 and the Prime Minister would be paid in excess of £150,000.

The salaries today are low compared with what could be earned in the commercial sector by most of those who hold a ministerial job.

Photo of Mr David Nicholson Mr David Nicholson , Taunton

Will my hon. Friend address the relationship between ministerial pay and pay in the higher echelons of the civil service, particularly the pay of permanent secretaries? It is unsatisfactory that Ministers should be paid substantially less than those at the top of the civil service.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

That is a helpful point which further illustrates my argument. The remuneration of a Back Bencher compares poorly with that of many who work within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. We humble Back Benchers are paid less than the deputy chef. I imagine that there are some servants of the House—I do not begrudge them a penny of what they earn—who are paid more than many a Minister of the Crown.

Our Ministers are entrusted with enormous budgets. They shoulder heavy duties and responsibilities, more than many in commerce. In the world of commodities, I used to buy and sell. We could churn away in the market and, in an oil boom, we would find out at the end of the year that we had traded a volume perhaps in excess of £4 billion. That is an enormous volume but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security makes that amount look pretty paltry. He is in charge of £86 billion and I think that even the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) would admit that my right hon. Friend is in charge of delivering that amount to those who need it most. It matters how he does his job. For that significant duty we pay him less than £70,000 a year. There are 30-year-olds in the City earning more than that. It would not be impossible to find an adviser to a Cabinet Minister who is earning considerably more than the Secretary of State to whom he is answerable.

Those who parade their conscience by opposing the order do so to cement—so they think—some sort of identity with those who earn less and who resent a Minister earning more. They can claim compassion, as I would have it, on the cheap. They can enjoy a minute of applause and an echo of shared resentment. Such ephemeral posturing does not get us far. It serves no lasting purpose except to diminish further those who express the view and to encourage more to express unmerited discontent about Parliament and its work. At the end of the day, it makes everyone a loser and draws us all downwards.

I hope that, from now on, we can have a more enlightened approach to this issue. Let me immediately contribute to that enlightened approach by saying something that I believe to be true. Although the Leader of the Opposition has his car and his Short money, he is under-resourced. For the good of parliamentary democracy, I would give the Leader of the Opposition and his office far more than they receive at present.

Every hon. Member knows that there is never a good time to increase the pay of Members of Parliament by so much as a ha'penny, regardless of the rate of inflation or the circumstances of the rest of the community. Those in the news media, who earn far more than any of us, will be loud in their condemnation … so will many members of the general public who do not earn as much … I believe in a fair rate for the job. I do not abandon that principle solely for Members of Parliament or other public servants … I believe that a fair rate for the job should be paid irrespective of a person's other circumstances."—[Official Report, 3 November 1993; Vol. 231, c. 462.] I am amused to see the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) shaking his head. I have cited word for word the statement made by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) when she spoke in this debate last year. We learnt of the right hon. Lady's principles in that debate and I am afraid that they now conflict with the attitude of her party's leader, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair).

The Leader of the Opposition has said that he will not take the increase. He hardly needs to, having just received a rise on becoming Leader. His office has briefed the press to advise that he also thinks that, in principle, the increase for Ministers is wrong. There seems to be a conflict there. I must ask the Labour party whether the right hon. Member for Derby, South has jettisoned her principles, whether the Leader of the Opposition has decided to indulge in an opportunistic stunt or both.

I fear that the Leader of the Opposition has made that decision, which is a pity. He has one policy and no one can deny that the mood suits his purpose or that he is doing well out of it. That policy is to feed discontent and then to milk it for all it is worth. He is choosing to seize on grievance and to cash in on the politics of what I call the lowest common denominator. I urge him to forsake that policy in public to the House and to the press, in this case and in all others. All hon. Members should support the increase. Let us hope that both parties will approach this parliamentary matter with maturity and enlightenment today and in the future.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 8:59 pm, 24th November 1994

I cannot follow the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan), who may be trying to get a job. I have heard people make speeches like that before and in the next reshuffle they finish up as a Treasury spokesmen. We shall have to wait and see.

The furore over Mr. Brown and Mr. Giordano at British Gas has taken the heat out of the debate. Last weekend, the 4.7 per cent. pay increase for Ministers and the £3,000 increase for the Prime Minister were the issues. Twenty-four hours later, Mr. Brown came on to the scene with a £475,000 salary—so exit Members of Parliament from the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) will admit that the anticipation with which he was looking forward to this debate rapidly melted away. However, some issues remain.

The Government are always on about performance-related pay for workers—the real wealth creators in our society. I cannot stand that policy. When I hear the Government telling all and sundry to accept individual payments and regional pay systems, all with a view to reducing the amount of money that workers receive and to breaking the back of the trade union movement, which is organising to raise pay and conditions, I cannot stand it.

I oppose not so much the 4.7 per cent. increase as the fact that workers in all sectors of industry and those in other professions such as nursing are being told that they must have performance-related pay. That is why there is so much controversy outside the House. The pay freeze causes difficulties. Workers cannot reconcile the fact that, somehow or other, they have to pull their socks up and tighten their belts every time, with the fact that Ministers and Members of Parliament, on some golden day, get their pay increased after a pay freeze. By and large, workers never catch up after a pay freeze. That is why I made my earlier comments to the Leader of the House.

The signal workers' attempt to catch up with money that they had lost, relative to other grades in the rail industry and elsewhere, is characteristic of the debate. The Government said that they could not have the money and fought them for three months, along with British Rail. That is why I feel intolerant towards the idea of extra pay for Ministers.

I used to work with miners. I do not know whether many people are aware of the fact that the National Union of Mineworkers has not negotiated a single pay increase since the strike. There has been a total pay freeze for many years, so it is not difficult to understand people's opinions when they read headlines about Ministers having a catching-up process and a 4.7 per cent. increase.

I do not go for this percentage business. A 4.7 per cent. increase for someone on £40,000, £50,000 or £60,000 a year is very different from a 2 per cent. increase for a nurse on £200 a week or less. A 4.7 per cent. increase involves real money. When the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) talks about percentages, he fails to recognise that the percentage increase for Ministers, although it may have fallen relative to increases for other professionals, means that they get considerably more money.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My hon. Friend is right. The hon. Member for Worthing said that the increase was relatively small, but £3,000 is as much as some pensioners have to live on. That sticks in the gullets of a lot of people.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the difference between absolute and percentage levels, but my point was that ministerial pay has been cut by 58 per cent. in real terms.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

But that is not understood by people outside. Pensioners who have lost money see Ministers getting an extra £3,000 a year while they have to get by for a whole year on that kind of money. What about the minimum wage? How often have I heard Tory Members—one after the other, parrot fashion—attacking us because we are trying to get about £4 an hour for people on poverty wages? They then have the audacity to say that a 4.7 per cent. increase and £3,000 extra is chicken feed. That is the background to the debate; it is not about us talking as a gentlemen's club, but about people outside making comparisons.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

No, I shall not give way. Two or three hon. Members have been here for the whole debate and are still waiting to speak. To give way to the hon. Gentleman would be unfair to them.

The motion will undoubtedly be passed, despite a vote, but I do not want to hear the Government say that nurses, local government workers and fire fighters will have to sup the mop in the next few months. Many people are waiting in the pay queue and they are due for an increase shortly. The Government should take note of some of them as they are in the public sector, but my guess is that the Government will tell them that they cannot have an increase greater than the rate of inflation—some will get less or even face a pay freeze.

I do not want to hear that argument from Tories who then say that they themselves have fallen behind and are simply catching up. That is what puts people's backs up. Yes, there will be a vote; but the chances are that, because of Mr. Brown and Mr. Giordano, some of our supporters have been lost.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire 9:06 pm, 24th November 1994

As usual, my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) made an excellent contribution. He has followed the issue for many years. He rightly said that there is never a right time to examine ministerial pay or, for that matter, Members of Parliament's pay.

I understand what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said about percentage increases, but it is worth noting that the percentage increase awarded to the Prime Minister from 1979 to 1995 has been 107 per cent. while the increase that he—the hon. Member for Bolsover—has received as a Member of Parliament has been 251 per cent. I do not dismiss what the hon. Gentleman said, but we have to consider ministerial pay in the larger context. I hope that the Lord President will pursue a little further what he said in an intervention on the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), who made a very reasoned speech. If one looks back over the years, it is possible to find reasoned speeches made by Opposition Members on this subject. When the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was shadow Leader of the House he said: Of course, by any outside comparisons, Ministers of the Crown are underpaid. I say that in an objective sense, not in support of Ministers in the present Government."—[Official Report, 10 December 1991; Vol. 200, c. 824.] The notion has been long accepted.

I cannot understand why Ministers receive a reduced parliamentary salary. It is nonsense to say that they do less in their constituencies than Members of Parliament. I know that the time is not right to change that, but it is time that we at least considered doing so.

We should also examine the pay of some other office holders in the House who I do not believe are adequately recognised. It seems strange that, because of the usual channels, the Opposition Chief Whip and two of his deputies should be recognised and yet, from what the Leader of the House has told us on many occasions, it also seems that the usual channels involve the shadow Leader of the House. She has been involved in discussions on the Jopling proposals.

Perhaps, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) said, the matter should be considered by Nolan and the contribution made by people who have responsibilities—other than ministerial responsibilities—should be recognised in some sort of salary payment. I see that the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) is saying that he, too, is involved.

Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Perry Barr mentioned the new Select Committees and said that the Members concerned will have extra responsibilities. It is true that some Members have more responsibilities and the matter should be considered on a far wider scale. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing said, the Nolan Committee could consider the matter.

It is astounding that the Solicitor-General is paid more than the Patronage Secretary. The Prime Minister is the second highest paid member of the Cabinet—the Lord Chancellor is paid considerably more. There are a number of nonsenses and they should be dealt with. I hope that at some stage the time will be right to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) mentioned the number of people in this place who are paid more than Members of Parliament. An interesting written answer in column 191 of yesterday's Hansard shows that 101 people employed here are paid more than Members. We should deal with that problem.

In some respects, I even agree with the hon. Member for Bolsover—two Derbyshire Members agreeing is most worrying—and it is probably the only issue on which we have agreed. We should consider the salaries of people with public responsibility on the various boards that have been set up. Some are paid far more than local councillors. We should consider that in more reasoned times. Perhaps the Nolan Committee would be the right means of doing so.

We have seen some examples of gesture politics recently. Last weekend, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would not take his percentage increase. That is hardly surprising. On 1 July, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) was paid about £31,687. According to the latest figures, he is now being paid about £61,349. It is easy to give up a 4 per cent. pay increase when one has recently received a 100 per cent. increase. I might have taken a little more notice if he had said that he would not take any increase, rather than trying to get some cheap, quick headlines, which he did.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to say at some stage that the whole issue will be referred to the Top Salaries Review Body or to the Nolan Committee.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North 9:12 pm, 24th November 1994

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly at the end of this debate. It is always difficult speaking at the end and I can assure the Leader of the House and my hon. Friends on the Front Bench that I have one eye on the clock and will stop at exactly 9.20 pm, which will no doubt be a relief to everyone in the House.

On a serious note, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) that this is a sensitive issue. Factory closures have recently been announced in Norwich, North. That is a very serious matter as some people will become unemployed and will go on to low incomes. As other hon. Members who represent East Anglia know, my constituency is in an area of low wages. I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, therefore, in saying that the issue is sensitive to people outside this place.

In the remainder of my speech I shall speak in support of the order. From listening to the debate, it has become clear that the House supports it. Although the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is not listening at the moment, I must say that his speech almost convinced me that he was secretly in favour of the order, especially following the controversy about British Gas, to which I may refer again in a moment.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

I may have got it wrong. Certainly,.the hon. Gentleman's opposition was nothing like as enthusiastic as I had expected—

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

I have no personal axe to grind in this matter. It is fairly well known that my time in the House is limited.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

I hope so. I think that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has missed my point, but I shall not pursue that.

I well recall that in the 1980s I took a position that was not entirely shared by some of my hon. Friends and opposed the review of top salaries. I remind hon. Members that I believe that it is incumbent on people on high salaries to set an example from the top. I have riot departed from that view. I believe that it is important that people on high salaries are conscious of the effect of pay awards on those on lower pay. I have not changed my mind on that matter.

Nevertheless, I still feel that it is right to support the order. The hon. Member for Bolsover referred to the chief executive of British Gas. I put on record my own view which, I suspect, is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House, even if not by all my hon. Friends. I believe that it is incumbent on senior captains of industry, even though there are no restraints on them as we have here, to set an example and to bear in mind their public responsibilities. Although it is not relevant to this debate, I join those, such as the hon. Member for Bolsover and some of my colleagues, who feel that the pay rise of the chairman of British Gas was an unfortunate example to set. I hope that lessons have been learnt from it.

I am in favour of a link not with captains of industry but with public and civil servants. I agree with my hon. Friends who have spoken of links with civil service pay, and about looking at the professions and other people who serve the public outside. It is wrong to look at captains of industry; it is right to look at civil servants. I go along with those who suggest that it may be a little odd that Cabinet Ministers are paid less than permanent secretaries. We should look at doctors, at editors, at teachers and at professionals generally when we make comparisons with Ministers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton.(Mr. Duncan) spoke about the salaries earned by editors.It is most unfortunate that our national newspapers are writing in such a derogatory way not about my party but about Parliament in general. I asked myself why I wanted to speak at all in this debate. The main reason—I agree, therefore, with comments from hon. Members on both sides—is the way in which this Parliament, and this is not a party point, and what goes on.here are being distorted by the press. That is another reason why I want to make a few remarks in support of the order.

I do not believe that this is the right time to talk about the pay of Members of Parliament, although a number of hon. Members have done so. After all, the issue of the pay of Members of Parliament is linked with other issues, such as whether they should receive pay from outside. The pay of Members of Parliament will be debated fully on other occasions. Ministers, of course, are constrained in the pay that they can get from outside. This is, as other hon. Members have said, a serious issue.

I remind the House that I do not support the order because I believe that there should be unrestrained pay increases at the top. I am in favour of restraint and I am in favour of an example being set, but I believe, as my hon. Friends and others have said clearly in the debate tonight, that Ministers' pay is low at present by any comparison.

A number of colleagues have referred to pay in the House. I hope that you, Madam Speaker, will not rule me out of order for concluding my remarks in the following way. I shall not refer to your salary again. That has been done already this evening. The Clerk of the House of Commons—I think that this is last year's figure—earns £95,051 a year. A Principal Clerk, junior to the Clerk, earns £64,283 a year. My final example, because we all know these figures, is that the Director of Catering Services earns £57,612 a year.

I rest my case. Ministers are not well paid by any standards. They work hard and ridiculously long hours, which is not good for Government, but that is another point. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be delighted, therefore, that I shall support a pay increase for him. I am delighted to support the motion.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 9:20 pm, 24th November 1994

I am particularly grateful for the last point since, by the time I have finished this speech, in the past 24 hours I shall have made a total of five or six speeches, one statement and answered a lot of questions, so I have kept reasonably busy. [Interruption.] It links with what I was going to say. I shall comment briefly on each of the speeches, as far as I can. I did not in any way begrudge the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) his bit of knockabout and I was grateful for the serious support that he gave to the basic argument.

I am marginally less grateful, I must say, to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), who I hope may not be as pleased with his speech when he thinks about it as he appeared to be at the time. [Laughter.] No, I have a serious point to make. He appeared to be denouncing the notion that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Sir P. Beresford) could do anything to keep in his hand and his professional skills. In other words, the demand was that my hon. Friend should destroy his professional skills, or risk doing so.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

At the same time, the hon. Gentleman was saying that my hon. Friend should not have any pay increase at all in comparison to a Member of Parliament. There were two parts to his argument: Ministers were to be paid no more than Members of Parliament and that my hon. Friend should not even be allowed to practise his professional skill. I ask him to think about that. Apart from that, I do not begrudge him his knockabout either.

I do not even begrudge the viewpoint of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), which he expressed with some vigour. I do not share his point of view, but I understand why he makes it. Indeed, I found the first part of his remarks about what had happened on another front quite engaging.

It would be very grudging indeed not to express my gratitude for the fact that nearly all of my right hon. and hon. Friends urged that should there be a bigger pay increase than I had thought remotely practicable to propose. Indeed, they put forward an impressive range of arguments for precisely such a pay increase. The point with which I am most readily able to agree, because it is exactly what I am proposing—this is not to imply that I dismiss any of the other points as there were some good points on which I hope others outside will reflect when they comment on our affairs—was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan): that we need to fix a link and stick with it. That is, of course, the basis of what was done in November last year and what is being proposed now. I am grateful once again to have the support of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen on that.

The only other point that I shall make is directed to almost all Conservative Members, to some of those on the Opposition Benches implicitly and to some of those who asked me questions in discussion and interviews on the matter outside the House. People say—some of my hon. Friends were edging towards this—that the entire matter should be put to some great and good independent review body. Indeed, for all I know, the Nolan committee may decide to make some observations on it. One of the great ironies of the suggestion that it should go to an independent body, such as the senior salaries review body, is that not a person in this House does not know that, if it did, the recommendation that it would make would exceed by a huge amount what I have thought it right to put before the House. Every time that Members' pay and allowances—certainly in my political lifetime here and before—have been put to some great and good body, recommendations have come forward so large that the Government of the time have not felt able to recommend them to the House. Most notably, I recently made a recommendation to the House on Members' pay and allowances that was so much lower than the proposal of the senior salaries review body that the House voted to reject my advice because it believed that Members deserved more.

The key point, as everyone in the House knows, is that an independent body would recommend far more than I have thought it right to propose. I hope that others outside the House will reflect on that fact. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 179,Noes 13.

Division No. 4][21.24 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Aitken, Rt Hon JonathanCurry, David (Skipton & Ripen)
Alexander, RichardDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Amess, DavidDeva, Nirj Joseph
Ancram, MichaelDicks, Terry
Arbuthnot, JamesDixon, Don
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Atkins, RobertDuncan, Alan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Eggar, Tim
Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Valley)Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Baldry.TonyEvans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Bates, MichaelEvans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bellingham, HenryEvennett, David
Body, Sir RichardFaber, David
Bonsor, Sir NicholasForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Booth, HartleyFreeman, Rt Hon Roger
Boswell, TimFrench, Douglas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Gale, Roger
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaGallie, Phil
Bowden, Sir AndrewGarnier, Edward
Bowis, JohnGillan, Cheryl
Brandreth, GylesGoodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bright, Sir GrahamGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Browning, Mrs. AngelaGorman, Mrs Teresa
Burt, AlistairGrant, Sir A (Cambs SW)
Butler, PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Cash, WilliamGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Chapman, SydneyHague, William
Clappison, JamesHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)Harris, David
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHawkins, Nick
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHayes, Jerry
Coe, SebastianHeald, Oliver
Colvin, MichaelHendry, Charles
Conway, DerekHiggins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnHoram, John
Cormack, PatrickHoward, Rt Hon Michael
Couchman, JamesHowarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Hoyle, DougRedwood, Rt Hon John
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)Rendel, David
Hunt, Fit Hon David (Wirral W)Richards, Rod
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Jack, MichaelRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Janner, GrevilleRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Jenkin, BernardRyder, Rt Hon Richard
Johnston, Sir RussellSackville, Tom
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
King, Rt Hon TomShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kirkhope, TimothyShersby, Michael
Kirkwood, ArchySims, Roger
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Soames, Nicholas
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Spencer, Sir Derek
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Spink, Dr Robert
Lait, Mrs JacquiSpring, Richard
Lang, Rt Hon IanSproat, Iain
Lawrence, Sir IvanSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Stephen, Michael
Lidington, DavidStem, Michael
Lightbown, DavidStewart, Allan
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterStreeter, Gary
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasTaylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, AndrewTemple-Morris, Peter
Maclean, DavidThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maitland, Lady OlgaTredinnick, David
Mans, KeithTrend, Michael
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Trotter, Neville
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
McLoughlin, PatrickWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Merchant, PiersWaller, Gary
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Ward, John
Moate, Sir RogerWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesWaterson, Nigel
Monro, Sir Hector Watts, John
Moss, MalcolmWells, Bowen
Needham, Rt Hon RichardWhitney, Ray
Nelson, AnthonyWhittingdale, John
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWiddecombe, Ann
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Norris, SteveWilletts, David
Oppenheim, PhillipWolfson, Mark
Ottaway, RichardWood, Timothy
Page, RichardYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Paice, James
Pickles, EricTellers for the Ayes:
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelMr. Simon Burns and
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Dr. Liam Fox.
NOES
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Parry, Robert
Carttiss, MichaelShore, Rt Hon Peter
Chidgey, DavidSkinner, Dennis
Chidgey, DavidSpearing, Nigel
Chisholm, MalcolmWelsh, Andrew
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyTellers for the Noes:
Mackinlay, AndrewMr. Harry Barnes and
Mullin, ChrisMr. D.N. Campbell-Savours.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the draft Ministerial and other Salaries Order 1994, which was laid before this House on 21st November, be approved.