New Clause 7 — Variation in limit of number of holders of Ministerial offices

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 25th October 2010.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne 7:15 pm, 25th October 2010

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to correct me. It is the ministerial code, which is similar to the civil service code.

Those on the Front Bench might well argue that they have made progress in reducing the cost of the ministerial payroll. They will argue-it is a bit of a red herring-that on taking the seals of office, Ministers took a 5% pay cut. In reality, they did not take a pay cut, because they went from being in opposition to being in government and took a 25 to 50% pay rise. It just was not as large a pay rise as it could have been.

The savings to the ministerial payroll are about £500,000, not an insignificant sum. Lord Turnbull said to the Public Administration Committee that the average cost of maintaining a Minister, with private offices, cars and private secretaries, is £500,000 per Minister. By reducing the ministerial payroll by eight in 2015, we will save the taxpayer a further £4 million. While we are at it, we might like to consider the 10 unpaid Ministers we have across the two Houses, because if we got rid of them we could save another £5 million. However, that is an argument for another time and another place.

Mr Streeter, you know better than anyone that we live in an age of austerity. Things are changing. We are dismissing senior permanent secretaries from across the civil service. We are removing chief executives of councils and their directors. We are attacking senior and middle management across the country, yet there is one group of senior management that is completely immune to these cuts and that is the ministerial corps. Yes, we are all in it together, but not quite if one is a Minister. I do not think that any good argument could be presented from the Front Bench for not reducing the ministerial head count.

I am an enormous fan of the coalition and the Prime Minister, and I think that the coalition is what the country needs at this time. Both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have talked about new politics, a new way of doing things and a new optimism. New clause 7 is the litmus test for new politics, because I do not understand how we can have new politics and oppose reducing the Government's patronage at the same time. I hope that Front Benchers can respond to that point.

To colleagues who are, perhaps, being leaned on by the Whips, I say that this is our chance to take ownership of new politics, which cannot be driven by Front Benchers and the Executive because the Executive are all about taking and retaining power and extending the tentacles of patronage even further. We as Back Benchers will take ownership of new politics tonight; we will do the heavy lifting for the Executive. By going into the Lobby and supporting new clause 7, we will be able to look our constituents in the eye when we go for reselection after the boundary review or the general election and say, "I was different." When they challenge us with that worn cliché, "You're just the same as the rest of them. You're only in it for yourself," we can say, "You are wrong. I was one of those Members of Parliament in 2010 who voted to reduce the number of Ministers."

I have spoken for too long. In conclusion, new clause 7 is the very essence of new politics. The House and my colleagues have the chance to do the right thing tonight and I hope that they take that chance, because they will be respected for it if they do.