Speakership: House Committee Report

– in the House of Lords at 3:08 pm on 2nd May 2006.

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Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords 3:08 pm, 2nd May 2006

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

This report concerns the Lord Speaker's salary and pension. On 31 January this year, the House approved the report of the second Select Committee on the Speakership. In paragraph 54 of the report, the committee recommended that the Senior Salaries Review Body should be invited to propose a salary and pension arrangement for the Lord Speaker which,

"would be appropriate vis-à-vis those of the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees".

The Senior Salaries Review Body considered the report of the Speakership Committee and the Hansard of the debate on it, as well as its previous recommendations concerning parliamentary salaries. It has proposed the following provisional arrangements, which it may revise during its next full review of parliamentary pay and allowances due in 2007 or after further reform of this House. First, it proposed an annual salary of £101,668, subject to annual uprating on 1 April, in line with the average movement of the mid-points of the senior Civil Service pay bands. This would give the Lord Speaker the same salary as a Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords. Secondly, it proposed a pension in accordance with the normal pension scheme provisions for Ministers, MPs and the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees in this House. In addition, the House Committee considered that the Lord Speaker should be entitled to claim the same expenses as other paid office holders in the House of Lords.

In the past, this House has accepted the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body on expenses and salaries for Members. Several members of the House Committee were concerned about the possible consequences of cherry picking between SSRB recommendations. However, as today's Order Paper shows, not every member of the House Committee agreed with the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations in this case. Nevertheless, the committee recognised that the final decision rests with your Lordships.

Finally, it may be helpful to say a word about the procedure to be followed on the three amendments tabled to my Motion. In a moment, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will move his Amendment No. 1, and the debate will then proceed in accordance with the outline speakers' list. A decision will then be taken on Amendment No. 1. If Amendment No. 1 is agreed to, it will still be possible for Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to be moved, but the Deputy Speaker will propose them in a different form so as to leave out the words last inserted. If Amendment No. 2 is agreed to, it would replace Amendment No. 1. Similarly, if either Amendment No. 1 or Amendment No. 2—or both—are agreed to, and Amendment No. 3 is agreed to, Amendment No. 3 would replace any earlier amendments.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 152).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert "except that the annual salary of the Lord Speaker should be the same as the annual salary of the Chairman of Committees (£79,382 at 1 April 2005)".

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, the amendment refers to a figure of £79,382, but including the allowances that are normally paid and are agreed in this case, the total would be £115,000, plus the pensions referred to. I should make it clear that I was one of the two Members of the House Committee who disagreed with the recommendations that have been put before your Lordships.

The committee's case and, as I understand it, the case of those who voted for it, as the Lord Chairman said, is that we never normally oppose the Senior Salaries Review Body's recommendations. Traditionally, that is absolutely true and I accept that the SSRB is usually very good in its recommendations. It carries out full research, checking nationally and internationally whether the figure recommended is appropriate. But in this case it was impossible to do that. This is a unique job; there is no other comparison to be made. So the SSRB made no case but simply repeated that the salary should be equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister in the House of Lords. That is a very strange recommendation, if I may say so. The report of the Senior Salaries Review Body was, as the Lord Chairman said, made on the basis of debates in your Lordships' House and of the Select Committee report. In other words, your Lordships are as well informed and able to make a decision on this as the SSRB.

The SSRB's recommendation should be looked at from a different standpoint. Whatever disagreements there may be about the whole question of the Speakership and the Speaker's salary, there is one point on which your Lordships are in unanimous agreement: we will remain a self-regulating House. In those circumstances, the position of the Speaker cannot be compared with a Speaker anywhere else, certainly not down the Corridor. The Speaker in the Commons has some real powers; the Speaker we would have, on the recommendations made and agreed by your Lordships, would be able to offer advice, which could be rejected by your Lordships. He or she would not even be able to give advice on the important time of Question Time—that has been specifically ruled out by your Lordships.

So we are told that the recommendation is that the new Speaker should sit up to three hours a day on the Woolsack or in the Chair. I accept that that is quite a burden, having listened from time to time to hours of debate in your Lordships' House, but to say that it warrants a Cabinet Minister's salary cannot be serious. It is ludicrous to suggest such a salary for that kind of job. It is not a serious job in that sense. It should have the dignity that the House wants, but does not involve a Cabinet Minister's responsibility.

If one rejects the idea of a Cabinet Minister's salary, one has to consider what salary should be paid for a job that would have some dignity and which we would care about. My amendment suggests that the salary should be the same as that of the Chairman of Committees, which would bring it to a total—including agreed allowances—of £115,039. Actually, the Chairman of Committees would continue to do a much bigger job in your Lordships' House. He would continue to chair many Select Committees and the new Speaker would chair only the House Committee. That being said, I recognise that many believe that my proposal puts too high a figure for the new Lord Speaker and I accept that. It is not possible to define an ideal figure in the circumstances because the job is unique. It should have some dignity attached to it, but the Select Committee on the Speakership recommended—and the SSRB also made the recommendation—that the Lord Speaker's salary should be based on the salary of a Cabinet Minister. That recommendation was made on page 15 of the first report of the Select Committee. The committee used only one word to justify the decision—it was not mentioned in our previous debates. It said that a Cabinet Minister's salary would be "appropriate". I hope that your Lordships will accept that it is anything but appropriate.

My proposal is not ideal but, given that the salary proposed is excessive, as I hope your Lordships will accept, it is a reasonable compromise which would provide the dignity that is required. I hope that there will not be any Dutch auction here because the matter is too serious. I am suggesting a serious compromise figure and I hope that that figure will be accepted by your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert "except that the annual salary of the Lord Speaker should be the same as the annual salary of the Chairman of Committees (£79,382 at 1 April 2005)".—(Lord Barnett.)

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative 3:15 pm, 2nd May 2006

My Lords, I feel very much the same as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, at least in principle. I had the honour to serve on the Speakership Select Committee under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, and it is true that we referred the question of salary in our final report to the SSRB. It is the SSRB's recommendation before your Lordships today, endorsed by the House Committee.

Like every noble Lord, I have the greatest admiration for the SSRB. As the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said, it faced some difficulty in this regard because the post that we have created is like no other. But it is a very modest post. The duties attached to our new Speaker will be very light indeed. It is a matter of opinion whether three hours on the Woolsack each day will be strenuous or otherwise, but the duties overall will not be very great. They will be largely of a representational nature and no less welcome for that. However, perhaps the SSRB failed to realise how modest the appointment actually is. Therefore I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Barnett is right to suggest that the salary ought to be significantly less than the one proposed.

I know there are noble Lords who believe that we should never overturn a proposal from the SSRB. I really do not agree. Although we regard its proposals with the greatest care and almost always accept them, it is not the case that we have never overturned one of its recommendations. I think there are one or two occasions in the past when we have chosen to do that, so there is no principle at stake when we seek to do so on this occasion.

I believe there is widespread agreement that the salary proposed is too great. The question before your Lordships is by how much it should be reduced below the figure from the SSRB proposed by the House Committee. Speaking for myself, I would prefer an even lower figure than that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. My noble friend Lord Ferrers, who will speak in a moment, has an even lower figure in mind. However, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is certainly moving along the right lines and I shall support him in the Lobbies.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, I shall speak to my amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, I think the salary recommended by the House Committee of £101,668 is excessive by all and any standards. To it are added expenses of about £34,000. The committee proposes that the salary for the new Lord Speaker should be, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, says, the same as that of a Cabinet Minister in the Lords. But why? The two offices are not remotely comparable. A Cabinet Minister carries heavy responsibilities; the Lord Speaker will have virtually none. And the proposed figures are only the start. Other expenses will be paid to the Lord Speaker, and a pension, all of which will be increased annually.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, on his eagle eye, and on proposing a lower figure, but for an ex-Chief Secretary of the Treasury he is remarkably generous. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne's figure is getting nearer the mark. The figure of £29,946 proposed by my amendment is the payment the present Lord Chancellor is entitled to receive for performing his duties as Speaker of the House of Lords, and I suggest that that should be the figure the new incumbent should also get.

I sometimes think that we have completely forgotten where we are coming from. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that he does not want to spend one and a half hours per week performing his duties as Speaker of your Lordships' House, for which he is entitled to receive £29,946. He said that he wants to spend his time doing other things, but he has never said what. Most people resign if they do not like the job they are doing. Not so the noble and learned Lord. Not only does he not want to do the job himself, but he ensures that no other Lord Chancellor will do it either—a fundamental change in the constitution for which the noble and learned Lord is wholly responsible. Yet he prides himself on being Secretary of State for the constitution, and presumably its guardian.

So we are forced into creating a new animal: a Lord Speaker. We all know that it is not going to be an improvement on what we have. I do not think that there is one person in your Lordships' House or elsewhere who thinks that our affairs will be better looked after under the new arrangements than they are at present. Then, having reluctantly accepted that we have to find a new person to fill the void created by the noble and learned Lord, we have to find something for him to do. It is unbelievable. People have hunted around trying to find jobs for the new Speaker to do. Will he be like a Commons Speaker? No. Will he deal with points of order? No. Will he control the House? Oh no. Will he tell obdurate noble Lords to sit down? No. What will he do? The answer is: mighty little, except sit, and be entertained by Liverpool City Council or whatever as some kind of House of Lords ambassador. That is a curious and unnecessary innovation.

If ever there was an example of deliberately creating a job, it is that of creating a new Lord Speaker for your Lordships' House. He is not wanted—there is nothing for him to do—but he is to be paid £135,000, including salary and expenses. It is not surprising that there are a lot of eager noble Lords queuing up with their eyes sparkling hoping to be successful in the Lord Speaker jackpot. It is absurd. It will do the House no good and it will do the country no good. I suggest to your Lordships that it is a waste of money. When some of your Lordships say, largely tongue in cheek, I am bound to say, that your Lordships should be an elected or partially elected Chamber, others will say that if a non-elected Chamber—and not all of us are unelected—can pay to one of its non-elected members a salary of that size perhaps it would be better if it were elected, but of course it would be worse.

One of the current buzzphrases seems to be "value for money", but I question whether noble Lords are providing value for money in the way in which they used to. When the set-piece debates were on Wednesday and the House sat at three o'clock on Thursday, the Chamber was full for the set-piece debates and it was full on Thursdays. Now hardly anyone attends the set-piece debates and the House is virtually empty at three o'clock on Thursdays. Everyone has buzzed off home. As a Lord-in-Waiting in the 1960s I remember frequently asking permission from the father of my noble friend Lord Goschen—I do not know whether he is in his place; perhaps he is not—who was then the Deputy Chief Whip, whether I could leave at a quarter to seven on a Thursday evening in order to catch a 7.30 train home. He usually graciously agreed. The daily attendance allowance then was £4/14s/6d. There were one or two life Peers then too. But now, together with an overnight allowance, it is £231, but we cannot be bothered to come to the House on a Thursday afternoon. I do not know whether that is value for money.

Now we have this other huge expenditure. In 1997—Her Majesty's Government always like to compare what happens now with 1997—that part of the Lord Chancellor's salary that referred to his being Speaker was £18,855 and the Lord Chancellors of the day carried out their office with dignity. Now, when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is entitled to £29,946, he says that he does not want to do the job. Instead, the public purse is to pay out £135,000 per annum for someone else to do it in his place. In the famous words of the late Lord Hailsham, I think that we have all gone stark, staring bonkers. It is certainly not value for money and it is certainly not in the public interest.

The noble and learned Lord the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs could do worse than look at what has happened to that part of the constitution which is carried on in this House since 1997 and to realise that under the aura and the influence of this Government it has not been an improvement. This is a pathetic and sorry saga. I suggest to your Lordships that if we are to have this constitutional upheaval the new Lord Speaker should receive the same salary as that to which the present Lord Chancellor is entitled.

Photo of Lord Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative

My Lords, after that emollient speech I do not want to sound too abrasive, but we should not forget why we are where we are. If we do not forget, perhaps nothing like this will happen again. Let us remember that it all began with the Prime Minister believing that he was entitled with a snap of his fingers to abolish an office older than Parliament itself and thus dispose of his former pupil master.

There were those who, to their lasting credit, were not prepared to go along with what the Prime Minister wanted. Unfortunately, some were. Because they were prepared to go along with that, the public are today being asked to fork out over £100,000 a year plus pension and expenses for a Lord Speaker, for whom there would have been no need whatever had the Prime Minister not decided to get rid of the office of Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg.

I find it deeply distasteful that people should have been scratching around trying to find work for a Speaker to disguise what, if not a non-job, is a job which took up an hour or two of the Lord Chancellor's time on only about 150 days a year. That is why I support with enthusiasm the amendment which would give the lowest salary to the incumbent. But the truth is that any of these amendments is better than the Motion in the name of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. It is outrageous that we should be invited to accept as proper a salary which really means—do not let us forget this—if you look at the hours that the Lord Chancellor sits on the Woolsack, £1,000 an hour plus expenses. That is what we are really talking about.

Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench 3:30 pm, 2nd May 2006

My Lords, the speeches we have heard—particularly that of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers—have made it plain where they are coming from. It is very interesting that they have been made by noble Lords who have throughout opposed wholeheartedly the abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor, which I also much regret. But they are, with respect, harking back to what has already been decided and forgetting what the House has already decided. We must not allow ourselves to join them in the mire of nostalgia where they are seeking to take us.

Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench

My Lords, one good answer to that question is: because the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, wants to be there; therefore, it must be the wrong place to be. The more important answer is that the House has already decided certain things. It has approved unanimously the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. It has approved methods of election and so on for the Speaker, and we have agreed, albeit reluctantly—I suspect the noble Earls and I share this reluctance—that because the Government have decided not to allow us a Lord Chancellor, we have got to go down this route. Also, we have approved a report which says what the new Lord Speaker shall do. Everybody so far has concentrated solely on his role in sitting on the Woolsack and has entirely forgotten what is in the report about his role in representing this House, both in this country and abroad.

Your Lordships spend a lot of your time—rightly—whingeing about the fact that this House is not properly appreciated and that its work is not properly understood by the rest of the country. I wholeheartedly agree with these whinges. But when somebody is to be given a role to try to remedy that and to go out and be an ambassador and explain what the House does and do it properly, are we really to send him out on a pittance which shows our contempt for the office he holds? If he is to do any good in this job, he must be a person for whom the House has shown respect and who is entitled to respect by others. If he is a £29,000-a year salaried clerk, who on earth can be expected to want to hear speeches by him explaining the role of this House?

The noble Earls and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, are, with respect, harking back and trying to undo what has already been decided. We are stuck with what has already been decided. Let us not spoil it for what is, with respect, a halfpennyworth of tar.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, the decision has been taken. We have had to live without the hereditary Peers and the House has not folded up and disappeared. For goodness' sake, if we are going to have this person, do not belittle them from the start. They simply must have dignity in the position which has been created. I certainly concur with what the last speaker said about them receiving, for instance, the American president or any president from a foreign country. It has been a most dignified affair until now, and I would hate to see the sort of scratching and biting that is going on—whether in the press or in this Chamber—belittling something that is going to happen and damn well ought to have been done with dignity. I beg of your Lordships not to reduce it to the amount of money proposed by my noble friend but to make it a reasonable sum. Who knows, perhaps he might get a dress allowance.

Photo of Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Lady Saltoun of Abernethy Crossbench

My Lords, two small matters have not yet been mentioned. One is that if the Lord Speaker is going to be a £29,000 salaried clerk, there may not be very many candidates for the job. The other point is that while he may have to sit on the Woolsack for only three hours every day, he will have to be here every sitting day, so he may find it very difficult to earn a living outside the Chamber. Both those points need to be kept in mind.

Photo of Lord Marsh Lord Marsh Crossbench

My Lords, one of the specific things about this House is its unbelievable ability to find difficulty in making up its mind. I speak as somebody who had the misfortune to be elected to the Select Committee to look at this matter under our chairman, who managed to make it work very well. I am appalled by the reactions of some people here. This is not a modest post, but if it does not have any value at all we might as well get rid of it very quickly. It is what your Lordships decided to investigate, however. I went along in a moment of madness, pressurised by the noble Lord the Convenor, and at the end of it—I was surprised because I thought we would never get to the end of it—we came back and had a debate in the House. The House was immediately determined that we should reform the committee and go through the same subject again with all the same witnesses. We are talking about the remuneration of a person who will, I hope, be the representative of the House of Lords. If people want to devalue that they can do so, but we are not terribly heavily regarded already. It is quite extraordinary that we come back to the House again to decide what to do.

The total staff costs of this building top £23 million per annum. The total cash requirement for running it is £80 million a year. The sum of £100,000 a year is not a great deal of money. The amendment moved by the noble Lord suggests that that amount is disgracefully large. That may be the case if one is hiring a chief executive officer of a small engineering company in the Midlands, but it is a bit out of date by today's standards. Given the amounts that we have behind us, we are wasting an awful lot of time talking about a level that is indefensible. The issue was pressured from the beginning by Members who came on to the Select Committee totally cynical from the outset. They have moved in the same way at each point, so that we are back here again. For us to go away now and say that we are going to start all over again, no doubt with a new Select Committee, would do this House no credit at all.

Photo of Lord Dean of Harptree Lord Dean of Harptree Conservative

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former Deputy Speaker in both Houses. Now that the House has decided on a new experiment to have a Lord Speaker in place of the Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack, it seems to me essential that the holder of that office should have the prestige and dignity that are in keeping with the importance that this House attaches to our Parliament as a whole and to our constitution as a whole. That is my fundamental point. I am sorry to find that I am in disagreement with a number of noble friends and others whose judgments I often respect.

The House has decided very clearly that it does not want a House of Commons-type speaker. We wish to preserve the long tradition of self-regulation on which this House prides itself. That inevitably means that the duties of the Speakers of the two Houses will be different. However, there are important state occasions on which the two Houses combine. One obvious example is the jubilees of Her Majesty the Queen, when many of us have assembled in Westminster Hall to present a Loyal Address to Her Majesty, to which she has been graciously pleased to come along and reply. Who gives the lead on those occasions? Not the Prime Minister of the day, but the Speaker of the House of Commons, who gives the lead to that House as its leader. I hope equally that, when we have our new Lord Speaker, he will do likewise. It is very important that the two posts should be equal. Our Lord Speaker should in no way be the little also-ran. The two should be equal in prestige and in the job that they do.

Another very important occasion is when we have visiting heads of state. We quite often invite them to address both Houses. This is done jointly; the two Houses combine. If the head of state is from a Commonwealth country, we assemble in Westminster Hall to hear their address. If the head of state is from a non-Commonwealth country, we assemble in the Royal Gallery. We do it together as two Houses. It seems to me of great importance that the Speaker of the House of Commons, representing the House of Commons, and the Lord Speaker, representing our House, should be equal and have an equally significant role.

It is for those reasons that it seems to me that our House Committee has got it right. If this were to come to a vote, I should vote in favour of the recommendations that our House Committee has put before us with regard to salary, pensions and allowances.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Labour 3:45 pm, 2nd May 2006

My Lords, essentially we have heard two arguments about why we should reject the House Committee's recommendation to us. One is that the SSRB has fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the job of a Speaker of this House. The other argument, which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, put forward, was basically that he did not want it in the first place and now he does not see why the taxpayer should have to pay for it. That argument has already been settled in the House. It is really the SSRB recommendation that we should concentrate on.

The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said that we never normally oppose SSRB recommendations. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that he has the greatest admiration for the SSRB. Both noble Lords then went on to qualify those statements. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that the post was like no other; the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, said the job was unique. Our House Committee—our elected committee—knew that the job was unique, yet it was perfectly prepared to send it to the SSRB. The SSRB is indeed a committee which we trust with our own allowances. This House is like no other. If we are prepared to overturn the SSRB recommendation on the basis of the unique role of this House, we might start questioning some of the other issues rather closer to home.

I do not think that these arguments stand up. Our committee knew what it was doing by sending the issue to the SSRB. The SSRB knew what it was doing in making the recommendation it did back to our committee, which accepted it. It has been through three decision points already and now comes to us again today.

This House is hugely undervalued. It is undervalued by another place. It is hugely undervalued in virtually every conversation I hear about it—in the media and elsewhere. If we undervalue it in the way that has been suggested by some noble Lords this afternoon, we will have only ourselves to blame if it goes on being undervalued in the way that so many of us object to.

Photo of The Earl of Onslow The Earl of Onslow Conservative

My Lords, recently there have been rumours that people have been waving cheques about for large amounts to get into this House and to draw a very small salary. The demand for membership to this House is quite high. Rumour even has it that the demand to place bottoms on the Woolsack is also quite high. Do we need to increase this salary?

The worth of Members in this House is shown in their ability, in what they say and in how they contribute to the debates here, rather than in the size of their allowance. It is right to draw attention, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers did, to the completely and utterly unnecessary gross amount of public money which has been spent by the noble and, in this case, the not very learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, on completely wrecking the High Court and the Lord Chancellorship. The cost of that is £10 million, although the court ran on £180,000 and his salary was £29,000. This was an utterly unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers' money for no improvement in justice, and no improvement in what is going to happen in your Lordships' House. I can therefore see no possible reason why taxpayers should fork out for us to be self-indulgent, and pay somebody a lot of money—as one of my noble friends said £1,000 an hour—for sitting in a chair. That is not what public money is for.

Photo of Viscount Tenby Viscount Tenby Crossbench

My Lords, I am one of those noble Lords who has supported the Motion. Anybody would think that the House Committee was staffed by Martians, who had absolutely no conception of what went on in this House. But they are representative of all of us and they have come up with this recommendation. From some of the comments that have been made, I sniff old battles being revisited. I really believe that. I am sorry if that is not true in the case of my noble friend Lord Barnett. That is technically not correct, but perhaps I may call him that as we have sat cheek-by-cheek, as it were, over the years.

It is a job that we can create. We have heard that the officeholder will sit for three hours every day, but that is the least important part of the job. He or she will be representing us across the world and—I regard this as the most important part—will be going around the United Kingdom talking to people of every age and every class about what this place is, trying to repair some of the damage that the ignorance has caused over the years. When I worked in marketing about 150 years ago, we had the phrase, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys", but I am not even sure that we are going to get very many monkeys at the sort of figures being talked about today. If this matter goes to a Division, I shall certainly vote in favour of the Motion.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, this is not an old battle—

Noble Lords:

Order!

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, before the noble Baroness brings the debate to a close, I wish to make a very short statement. This is not an old battle; it is a new one. The argument that the respect that we have for the Lord Speaker depends on the salary is completely at odds with a House which is paid nothing and demands respect for that. This battle is about whether we should be a paid House and about setting a marker as to what that pay should be.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to the arguments of those who have proposed amendments this afternoon—my noble friend Lord Barnett, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I have also listened very carefully to other noble Lords who have spoken. I am well aware that some in the House would prefer there not to be a Lord Speaker at all. That is of course a perfectly respectable position to hold, but it is not the decision that the House has taken, and I think it is time to allow the clear decision of the House to be implemented—and to be implemented graciously rather than grudgingly.

If the House of Lords matters, the new post of Lord Speaker, our presiding officer, matters as well, and it is important that we do not send the wrong signal about that today. I have sat through, and indeed replied to, a number of debates when noble Lords have argued about the important role played by this House and the importance of ensuring that the role and independence of this House is understood by the wider public. I see the Lord Speaker's role in public engagement, which has been mentioned by some noble Lords, as being a key element in the role of our presiding officer. In defending the self-regulatory nature of this House, noble Lords have, in moving their amendments, concentrated on the Speaker's role in the Chamber and have not commented on the wider role of the Speaker which was recommended by the Select Committee and which existed in the job description that was then sent to the SSRB. I shall come back to that point in a moment.

I urge the House to consider very carefully the implications of rejecting the SSRB's recommendation. The SSRB is independent of Parliament and we asked it to make a recommendation to the House. While it is open to the House to reject the recommendation, I think that, having looked at the research, it would be the first time that we had ever done so. I ask the House on what basis we would decide to pick and choose. What will the House do when we consider the uprating of allowances? Part of the function of the SSRB is to protect the House from any accusation of bias, and it is important that we remember that point. It is the function of the SSRB to determine appropriate salary arrangements. It made it clear that the proposals are provisional. I think it would be far better for the House to accept the advice that we have sought from the SSRB and then to review the arrangements, as suggested, during our next review of parliamentary pay and allowances.

It is regrettable that the differences that still exist in the House about a Lord Speaker are being reflected in a debate about the salary of the Lord Speaker. I remind the House that the job description which was sent to the SSRB mentions not only the role in the Chamber, but also the Lord Speaker's role as chairman of the House Committee and as a member of the Procedure Committee. The Lord Speaker would also take over the Chairman of Committees' formal responsibility for the security of the Lords' part of the parliamentary estate—not insignificant. The Lord Speaker would also have a strong representational role, acting as non-political spokesperson for the House at home and abroad and an important educational role, ensuring that the public understand the significance of the work of the House. I am very sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is so dismissive of that wider educational role. Having the public outside understand the very good work being done in this House, having a representative who can talk to young people about the nature of our parliamentary democracy and the role that this House plays in relation to that is an absolutely essential part of the role. I hope that the House will endorse the House Committee's recommendation.

Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the Opposition In the House of Lords, Parliament

My Lords, this is the latest in a series of debates on the role of the Lord Speaker and it is the latest in a series of debates putting into effect the implications of the report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, which has been agreed by the House and which I have no intention of seeking to reopen or to overturn.

This, of all matters, is a House matter. For my Benches, it will be an entirely free vote. But some of the confusion that is sometimes raised on the subject is because nowhere does there exist a single document that lays out all the changes that were implied by the Lloyd committee report. There are changes to procedure, staff, pay, pensions, accommodation and costume—for those who are interested in such matters. At least three committees of the House, with different memberships, have been involved on all those different aspects, yet nowhere can one find a comprehensive, single document to explain what all the changes will be—at least, not until they have all been debated and agreed in a piecemeal fashion. That it is one of the reasons why I, a member of the House Committee, supported the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, in the representations he made then, and why I shall be supporting him this afternoon if he presses the matter to a Division.

I was also much taken by the arguments made by my noble friends Lord Trefgarne and Lord Ferrers. I have one question to put to my noble friend Lord Ferrers before I decide whether to support him. Is the salary that he is recommending a salary in itself or is it a salary on top of the normal expenses paid to Back-Benchers? That could make a substantial difference and would demonstrate that the Lord Speaker was being treated in the same way as most Members of this House with an extra amount on top. No doubt he will find an opportunity to clarify that in due course.

I disagree with those who say that by supporting the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, we are attacking the SSRB. It is true that we normally accept the conclusions of the SSRB; that is because the SSRB undertakes an exhaustive study of what is required. On this occasion, it took no evidence from anyone—I am not aware that it discussed the salary with any Member of this House—and had no idea on which basis to proceed, which was why it fell back on the first report of the Lloyd committee. So on this occasion, I have no difficulty whatever in disagreeing with the recommendation of the SSRB.

Some noble Lords have talked about the prestige of the Speaker. I yield to no one in my desire for the Lord Speaker to receive the highest prestige, respect, status and dignity possible. The Speaker will be an important representative of this House. But prestige does not rely on big bucks. Indeed, that dignity could well be reduced by overpaying someone to sit on the Woolsack and do the job that has been recommended.

I cannot see that the role of Speaker equates at all to that of a Cabinet Minister in this House. They are clearly different jobs with different roles and responsibilities. The job of the noble Baroness, the Leader of the House, carries far greater prestige and authority than that of the Lord Speaker.

The Lord Chairman of Committees, in his introduction, said that in due course there will be a review of the said salary. I have never heard of a salary being reviewed downwards, so I expect that that will not happen. So should we not start off with a slightly lower salary and if, after a year or two, that is deemed to be insufficient, the review can take care of that?

I will be voting for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. I will do so gladly and I urge the House to do the same.

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 4:00 pm, 2nd May 2006

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has revealed, the two strongest votes in the House Committee against our recommendation were those of the noble Lords, Lord Barnett and Lord Strathclyde. As you can imagine, one takes on such a combination with some trepidation. For me, "Barnett and Strathclyde" has resonance from my youth of those contortionist acts that used to appear at the end of the Blackpool North Pier. True to form, they have both performed a little bit of contortion this afternoon.

My task is really to give a sense of leadership to my troops behind me, given that, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, this is a House matter and therefore a free vote. I remind Liberal Democrats that, unlike the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, we were enthusiastic supporters of the changes that have taken place as part of a broader and wider constitutional settlement. Indeed, not only did we advise that the Lord Chancellor should leave the Woolsack, we wanted a full-blown ministry of justice to take over some of the heavy responsibilities of the Home Office and give those matters more coherence. We are moving only a little way in the right direction at the moment.

I therefore hope that we on these Benches follow through the logic of what we have done so far, which is to reach a certain part of a new constitutional settlement. I remind my colleagues that the powers and responsibilities given to the new Lord Speaker are very close to those in the evidence that we gave to the committee. Although I know that there is a certain part of Liberal Democrat DNA that likes to be skittish about the leadership, I shall be going into the Lobby in support of the main Motion and against the amendments. We will be putting the Whip in with the Government Whip—

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, we are perfectly entitled to do so. Well we are putting two Whips in. Two Whips will spontaneously go in. As we have seen, much of the debate has in fact—

Photo of Lord Rees-Mogg Lord Rees-Mogg Crossbench

My Lords, will the noble Lord explain something to us which I find quite obscure? Although it is an issue for the House, does his party have a Whip on it or not?

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

My Lords, I shall be very clear; we have no Whip on this at all. But I have served on the House Committee and have taken decisions on which I would advise colleagues.

Sorry, I meant to say that we would put Tellers in—

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Leader, House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords

If they are needed, my Lords—after this show of eloquence, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, might withdraw. We have had the trip down memory lane, and now we are talking about how decisions are implemented. We need to pay tribute to the Leader of the House for the way in which she has led the way in defining this wider educational role for the Speaker, which was outlined in the original committee report and was very much echoed by the Hansard Society report under the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam.

I hope that we will support the House Committee. It seems odd that we are singling out this office in this curious way. I wonder what we would do in subsequent years; would we return to this issue when the salary was reviewed? I think it is sensible. Two committees have recommended going to the Senior Salaries Review Body, which has made a recommendation. I must say that the weakness of the other case is that we have had not one option but three options. The truth is that we could have had 30 options, because we all have different views—hence the commonsense suggestion that we should take the advice of the Senior Salaries Review Body.

It is always worth remembering that Washington offered to do the job for nothing when he became President but, when Congress saw his expenses, it decided that it was safer to pay a salary. What we have done and the way in which we have done it is the safest way forward for this House. Indeed, it gives dignity to the office, as a number of noble Lords have said.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, before the Chairman of Committees speaks, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde asked me a specific question and I wonder whether I might answer it. He asked whether my amendment referred simply to the salary or whether it included expenses. My amendment refers to the third point of the third item of the House Committee's first report of this Session, and would replace an, "annual salary of £101,668". My amendment would also include the reimbursement of the same expenses of paid office-holders in the House of Lords, which, as the Chairman will see in Appendix B, are calculated as 220 times the overnight subsistence.

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords

My Lords, I hope that we can now reach a conclusion in this debate. It has been a good debate, but I am afraid that I certainly do not intend to try to reply to every point made by every noble Lord. Three amendments are before the House. As I said at the beginning, each amendment can be taken in turn and if, for example, Amendment No. 2 were agreed to after Amendment No. 1 had been agreed to, Amendment No. 2 would replace Amendment No. 1. I hope that that is clear to noble Lords.

I must pick up one or two points that have been made. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, gave me a very hard time indeed; he said that my Motion was a disgrace. I merely remind him that it was approved by the vast majority of members of the House Committee, a committee that is appointed and elected by your Lordships' House as a whole and which I therefore hope has some authority in the House. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said—he was followed by many other noble Lords—the House has already approved the report of the committee of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd. We will get a Speaker. I know that some noble Lords still do not want one, but the House has agreed that already. The Lloyd report stated that we should refer this matter to the SSRB and we did so. That is what the SSRB came back with and that is why the Motion is before your Lordships today.

The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said that the House had not always agreed with every recommendation of the SSRB. That is not my information. I have no example of the House ever rejecting a recommendation from the SSRB or its predecessor, the TSRB—going back to 1971—and then approving a different sum from that which was recommended.

Photo of Lord Trefgarne Lord Trefgarne Conservative

My Lords, I am advised that we once rejected one of the recommendations of the SSRB. I will write to the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords

My Lords, is the noble Lord perhaps thinking of 1984, when the House amended a proposal put forward by the then Leader concerning car mileage? That proposal was not based on a recommendation of the Top Salaries Review Body. I look forward to receiving the noble Lord's evidence, but it may be a little late for the result of today's debate.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, complained that there was not yet a document which laid out the job description and terms and conditions of the job of the new Lord Speaker. Of course there is no such document, because we have not settled today's matter yet. Another meeting of the Procedure Committee tomorrow will deal with one or two other matters, but I can assure the noble Lord that there will indeed be a document which sets out the job description and the terms and conditions when all these matters have been settled. It will available after the next report of the Procedure Committee has been approved by the House.

I am not sure that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said as much, but his amendment is based on what the Lord Chancellor would be entitled to take as Speaker of this House. I should make it clear that the present Lord Chancellor does not take that amount of money as Speaker of this House; I understand that he does not even draw the full salary of Lord Chancellor to which he is entitled.

Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative

My Lords, I said that what matters is the amount that the noble and learned Lord was entitled to claim.

Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords

My Lords, that is what I said. I did not want the House to get the impression that he did claim that. That is all that I have to say in reply to this debate. I hope that I have answered any questions which were asked of me.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is giving leadership to his troops, as he put it, I feel much more optimistic about the chances of my amendment. Two main points have been made against it; first, that we should always support the SSRB and, secondly, that involving the wider role of the new Lord Speaker.

I always enjoy the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and his remarks today were no exception. However, amusing though he was, this is not an occasion for being amusing; it is a serious matter. I tried to be serious in the proposal which I put to your Lordships. Equally, it is not an occasion to attack either the Lord Chancellor in person or his role. That would be to fight an old battle.

I made it clear that while we would normally not oppose the SSRB—the Lord Chairman said that we had never done so—the SSRB had previously always done the research and given us national and international comparisons. On this occasion, it could not. It is a unique job. That is why it is perfectly reasonable to consider whether its recommendation should be accepted.

My noble friend Lady Symons seemed to be suggesting that if the recommendation comes from the House Committee or the SSRB, we should not discuss it at all and just accept it. That is the case that she seemed to be making. I see her shaking her head, so she was not making it.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, that was the impression that I had, and may have been the impression that the House had, so I hope the noble Baroness will not mind if I correct it.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Labour

My Lords, my point was that the noble Lord said that the reason that this was reviewable was because the job was unique. As I pointed out, the committee knew that the job was unique when it put it to the SSRB in the first place.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, the House Committee is not unique in that sense. It put forward recommendations, but the House of Lords itself has the right to reject them, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and I did in Committee. I do not accept the noble Baroness's case, but I am sure that she will make it again on another occasion—although not in your Lordships' House, because she does not seem to want to do that.

Again, there is a simple issue here. Do we agree with the House Committee and the recommendation of the Chairman of Committees that we should pay a Cabinet Minister's salary? I personally believe that to be excessive and no case has seriously been made for it. Or do we go for my amendment, which many think is too high, but which I think is a reasonable compromise?

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 108; Not-Contents, 162.

Division number 1 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Speakership: House Committee Report

Aye: 106 Members of the House of Lords

No: 160 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.]

On Question, Motion agreed to.