Yes. I try to discharge my duties as a Back-Bench MP, as I see them—in a sense, I write my own job description—to the best of my ability. I believe that I work as hard and have as many difficulties, although they are different difficulties, as the Under-Secretary of State for paperclips and statutes, who would be paid under our system. The exception, paradoxically, consists of the Deputy Leader of the House and a few others. I was a trade union official and I believe in the rate for the job, and I am astounded that there are folk who are prepared to be Ministers without pay when others get it, but that is a matter for them. I want to stop the rot, the stealth and the salami-slicing whereby we are gradually raising the proportion of MPs who are paid more than others. I urge Members to reflect on that.
I hope that Rosemary McKenna does not take it personally, but I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee of Selection already has the higher emoluments. I am open to correction on that point, but I cannot remember one hell of a row on the Committee of Selection and I am not sure that it sits for a very long time. I use that to buttress my case: there is no coherent logic to the question of payments. That is why we have to stop it now. A prudent and fair system might be for the appropriate Committees to reflect on this matter in time for the next Parliament, so that some sensible and fair decisions can be made.
I remember when we were discussing the principle behind these payments a year and a half ago, Sir Nicholas Winterton, who is not in his place, asked where else people did not get increments for their length of service. A case could probably be made for the length of service as a criterion—I want to make it quite clear that I am not advocating that, but we need to consider these issues. The chairmanships of Committees are, at present, largely within the patronage of the political party managements. Mr. Swire does a fine job on our arts committee, and the role is not highly contested—in fact, nobody is more suitably qualified than he is by virtue of his previous employment and experience—but he has, nevertheless, been anointed by the movers and shakers in this House. The Deputy Leader of the House screws up his face at that, but I am being polite. There are movers and shakers in this House, and they are largely made up from those on the Front Benches.
The chairmanships of so many Committees are filled by people who hitherto were Ministers. It is a way of letting them down gently. We were told by many hon. Members that there needed to be an alternative career structure—I do not like the term—so that instead of becoming Ministers Members could aspire to be parliamentarians and Chairs of Select Committees and other Committees. That was going to be the alternative to people always wanting to be Ministers. There is no demonstration that that is happening. Indeed, the present incumbent of the very important post in the Committee on Members' Allowances is an ex-Minister. That is unhealthy. I am not prepared to acquiesce by my silence. It is unfair to Members and to the public, and it is time that we drew a line under this and got things right for the next Parliament.
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