Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider whether the salaries of any of the Ministers are relatively inadequate and should be increased; and, if so, to what extent.—[Colonel Gibbs.]
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I strongly object to a committee being set up to consider whether Ministers' salaries should be fixed. If a committee was to be set up to see whether we could save any money, either by doing away with some of the superfluous Ministries or by decreasing some of the salaries and so make a commencement of national economy, I should be in favour of it. If the House agrees to this Motion in the terms in which it is submitted the Committee is only authorised to see whether the salaries of Ministers should be increased. First of all there are any number of hon. Members who would be only too glad to take positions now occupied by various Ministers at the salaries which those various Ministers are receiving. In fact, I am not sure, if the positions were put up to be aplied for, that there would not be a considerable number who would be very glad to take them at considerably less salary, and therefore the contention that it is necessary to increase salaries or to set up this Committee to see whether the salaries should not be increased on the ground that it is impossible to get Ministers to conduct the business at the present salary falls to the ground. Then there is the very important question of national economy. It is absolutely necessary, to my mind, that if we are not going to become a bankrupt country we have got to economise. It is absolutely essential. I have said this over and over again in the last three or four years. I have considerable financial experience 1466 in the City, and I am as certain as I could be certain of anything—as certain as that I am alive at present—that unless we mend our ways we shall certainly within a few years become a bankrupt country. It is no use denying the fact. It is evident to everyone who has had any financial experience. What is it the Government are going to do? We have asked them over and over again to endeavour to reduce expenditure. Now they are asking us to set up a Committee to increase their own salaries. That will be followed by a Committee to increase the salaries of Members, and so the thing will go on until there will be no more money to go round and the country will become bankrupt. I earnestly hope the Leader of the House will recognise that this is not the time to propose an increase in the salaries of Ministers, and that he will consent to defer the Betting up of this Committee.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I also object to this Committee being set up at this present time. No doubt it is contemplated that the sums of money involved will not be very large, but on the other hand, is it necessary to increase the salaries in any degree? No ease has been made out that it is not possible to find capable Ministers to accept the salaries which have hitherto been voted by Parliament. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbnry), whose views on the need of economy are well known, has drawn attention to the general situation. It is undoubtedly unfortunate that at a time when Ministers are urging everyone in the country to be economical they should set up a committee to increase some of their own salaries. It may be said the Committee has only got to inquire, but the terms of reference are unusually mandatory because they are debarred from inquiring whether any of the salaries might be adjusted and whether there might be a 1467 grading of salaries so that the total sum might not be increased, and the only thing which the Committee may consider is whether the salaries are relatively inadequate and whether any of them should be increased. That appears to me to be a very unfortunate wording of the terms of reference. At present this tendency among Ministers, and unfortunately among Members of the House, to spend more on themselves is extraordinarily unfortunate. What position could Ministers possibly take up towards an increase of Members' salaries if they take steps to increase their own salaries? I do not dwell on the fact that people outside the House will consider that some Ministers are already overpaid. That no doubt will be said freely in certain organs of the Press and will receive a large measure of assent in various quarters outside. This is a most dangerous subject to deal with at present and the action of the Government is tactless. I therefore hope they will not proceed in setting up the Committee, but will defer further consideration of the subject to some future occasion.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I beg to move, to leave out the words, "whether the salaries of any of the Ministers are relatively inadequate and should be increased, and, if so, to what extent," and to insert thereof the words, "what the remuneration of Ministers should be."
I suggest that the terms of reference are rather offensive to a House of Commons that thinks it is in favour of economy. The Committee is merely instructed to inquire whether salaries should be increased. At present it is rather unnecessarily insulting the sentiment in favour of economy which the House has always expressed but very seldom acted upon.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House) made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.
§ Lord H. CECIL
So it is now. "Whether the salaries of any of the 1468 Ministers are relatively inadequate and should be increased." They can consider any number of Ministers. It may be relatively to the pay of a private soldier or anything else. I do not think that makes the slightest difference. There is this additional point, that my own conviction has been for a great many years that the salaries of Ministers ought to be smaller, but they ought to have a pension, and I think the case for that is very strong indeed now that it is increasingly likely that men with very small private means may hold office, and they may be put in a very difficult, and I should have thought a false position. If they resign their office, which it may be their duty to do because of disagreement with their colleagues, they drop at once from a substantial income to no income at all. It would be better to pay them a considerably smaller salary, and assure them a moderate proportion of the salary as a perpetual pension. In that case you might make for the independence of Ministers, which is one of the most important constitutional safeguards we have.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I beg to second the Amendment. I had intended to move another. The reason I support the Amendment is not that I am afraid of investigating this question because somebody outside may criticise me for dealing with it. The question of Ministers' salaries ought to be dealt with. The original reason for the appointment of the Select Committee was the inadequate remuneration paid to the Secretary for Scotland. It would not be in order for me to deal with the case of the Secretary for Scotland, as compared with other officers, but there is no doubt that the Secretary for Scotland is inadequately remunerated. The difficulty that I should find if I were a Member of the Select Committee, with this reference, would be the time we should take, and the difficulty we should have in discovering what is meant by the words "relatively inadequate." Suppose we were presented with this problem, that we were to determine whether the salary paid to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Health for Scotland, which is £1,200 a year, was relatively inadequate compared with the salary paid to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, which is £1,500 a year. I presume that we should take evidence as to the amount of work done by both these Ministers and the 1469 importances of their work to the State. That would require a great deal of investigation.
There are four categories of Ministers. There is what we generally term the Ministers of Cabinet rank, who receive a salary of £5,000. There is another group of Ministers at the heads of different Departments, such as the Education Department, whose salaries range from £2,000 to £2,500. Then there is a third category of Under-Secretaries, whose salaries are £1,500, whereas the salaries of Parliamentary Secretaries, who do the same work as the Undersecretaries, range inside of £1,200. I think the Leader of the House might agree to alter the reference, because it does not follow that the recommendations of the Committee need be adopted. It may quite easily be that with the altered reference a different scheme could be submitted. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Noble Lord in regard to the question of pensions. The question of pensions ought to be considered. The position of the Prime Minister ought to be more adequately protected. When you have, as we have in this country, public men serving the State for years, and giving up the possibility of making private incomes as a result of their service, it is derogatory to the dignity of this House that the Prime Minister, whoever he may be in the future, should be left to the exigencies of fortune. That is wrong, and I strongly hold that any public man who reaches the position of Prime Minister ought to be protected when, owing to the exigencies of party, he becomes an ex-Prime Minister. Therefore, I am not sure that the Leader of the House might not get a great deal of material which would be very useful on this subject, which has never been gone into. I could conceive myself on this Committee making recommendations which would result in economy. There are three posts in the Ministry now in which the Ministers have no departmental work to talk about. The Lord Privy Seal is a sinecure, so far as departmental work is concerned. It is a good thing that we have a post of this kind to which the Leader of the House can be attached, in order to free him from departmental work. There is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and there is another sinecure, the Lord President of the Council. What I complain about is that in addition to these posts, which are sinecures, and in which the 1470 Ministers do no departmental work, the Government have now appointed another Minister, without Portfolio, at a salary of £5,000. I would make these sinecure offices do some work, always excepting the Leader of the House. I say that, not because it is my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) who is the Leader of the House, but because that position is held by the Leader of the House, and the Leader of the House ought not to be worried with departmental work. The other posts ought to carry departmental work. I can quite easily conceive that, with an alteration in the terms of reference, you might get a wealth of material and a number of conclusions that would place these positions on a far better basis than at the present time.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I have no objection whatever to accepting the reference in this form if there is a general desire for it. As I explained to my Noble Friend, the reason why we put the reference in this form is very obvious. There are certain Ministers who are receiving salaries approaching that of the ordinary salaries of Cabinet Ministers, £5000. Representations are being made that, in view of the cost of living, these salaries should be increased. I was anxious that the reference should make it plain that we did not desire that question to be raised, and that it was only to relate to these smaller salaries. In regard to the general question, perhaps the best time to discuss it is when this Committee has reported. I would like to put before the House the light in which this question appears to me. It seems to me rather strange that the two hon. Members who have opposed the appointment of the Committee are business men. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) is chairman of one of the big railways. If his idea of economy is that, because the railways are in a bad financial position, and that they find it difficult to get along, the best way to economise is to pay salaries which will not attract the best men, then I am rather sorry for his shareholders.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I said that we could get as good men as Ministers for the same salaries that you are now paying, or even less.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As regards Ministers, we all agree about that, at different times. I should be greatly surprised if my right hon. Friend has not found it 1471 necessary largely to increase the salaries of the head men, or some of them, in the railways. I am sure of this, that one form of spending money which pays best in all businesses is to make sure that you pay a salary which will secure the best men that are available. I admit that, with regard to Ministers, salary is not the chief inducement. I am not speaking personally in any sense at all, but I could name half a dozen of my colleagues who, without any doubt, could make double or treble the Balary they get as Ministers.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Quite apart from any sense of duty, there are advantages in being Ministers, from the standpoint of power and position, and these ought to be taken into account. Consider the matter from another point of view. While that is all true, I am certain that nothing could be worse for the business of the State than that Ministers in responsible positions should have a salary which makes it necessary constantly to worry about their expenditure, and sometimes find it necessary to increase their income in other directions. I agree, with what was said by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) about the Secretary for Scotland. That is a very good illustration. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Munro) was formerly Lord Advocate at a salary of £5,000, and he accepted the Office of Secretary for Scotland, the salary of which is only £2,000, at the very earnest request of the Prmie Minister, backed by myself. For that Office, at least, it is quite absurd that the salary should be so small. I will give the House another illustration. There is one of the Ministers, with a small salary, who was actually selected by the Prime Minister, after consultation with me, for one of the big offices, at a salary of £5,000. The Prime Minister was going to offer it to him the very next day. Then we began to think, and came to the conclusion that this Minister was so valuable in the office he held that it would really be a loss to the State to change him. That is very unfair. I am quite sure the House will pay attention to the recommendations made by the Committee. We have referred this matter to a Committee to try to avoid something of the prejudice which is expressed outside that we are arranging our own salaries. That is not true, because the men who control the 1472 Cabinet—and this is true of every Cabinet—are not affected by this. It is because we really believe it to be in the public interest. In regard to the sinecure officers referred to, and I am grateful for what my hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) said about me. I have a much easier time now than when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House, but if I do not wholly earn my salary it is not because I have not plenty to do.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Take another sinecure office. The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Balfour) has been Prime Minister, and he has had an immense amount of experience. His value to the Government, apart from any stress of work, is extraordinarily great. In addition, he is now fulfilling constantly duties on Committees, and things of that kind, and although he would deprecate the idea that he should got more than the ordinary salary of Lord President of the Council, I am sure that he is doing work as good and as arduous as that which is being done by many Ministers in the fully paid offices. The idea of economy which takes the form that any expenditure of money is waste is one of the most stupid things one could imagine. The idea that all expenditure means waste is absurd. Let everything be examined on its merits.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to the railways, may I inform him that so far as I know, and I believe I am correct, no single Chairman of a railway has had his fees increased or has asked for any increase, and no single director has had an increase or asked for an increase.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I should have been surprised if they had, but that is not the point. It is the general managers and engineers, the men who are actually doing the work, to whom I referred. My right hon. Friend knows that it was not of chairmen and directors of railways that I was thinking when I made those observations.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
There is one other aspect of this matter, on the question of appearances. There never was a time when the country more strongly demanded economy. We have been proud 1473 of the fact that Ministers' salaries have not been increased, and now Ministers come forward, without a single Member of this House having suggested it, and propose that a Committee should be appointed to investigate this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] This Committee is the twelfth Order on the Paper. We do not usually expect to deal with the twelfth Order, and a great many hon. Members have gone away, not thinking that this would be reached. This is the wrong time for raising this question, because it will be considered at a time when the cost of living is very high, and we are quite certain that once those salaries are increased they will never be reduced. I never heard yet of a Ministerial salary being reduced. As to the composition of the Committee, nearly all its fifteen members are budding Ministers of the future. A large number of the salaries which are to be considered are the salaries of the Members of the House of Lords, and yet this is a purely House of Commons Committee. Personally, I should be much more satisfied if no Committee were set up at this moment. It would make a bad impression in the country at a time when the whole country is asking for economy.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the two Front Benches are probably agreed on this little transaction. My experience in this House, which is now nearly as long as that of the Lord Privy Seal, has taught me to be very suspicious about any deal that the two Front Benches are prepared to work. It is something proposed by the "ins" which is supported by the "outs" because they know it will suit them when they get in. That is the real explanation of this benevolent friendliness, and these smiling faces which I see on the Front Opposition Bench are an indication of what they hope for when another General Election takes place, I rose specially to congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on the frankness with which he explained the character of the present Government. It is because they do not pay enough money to get decent men in the Government that they have the Government as bad as it is. I should like to know whether Ministers are going to confine themselves to the duties for which they are to be paid those salaries? I agree with the Lord Privy Seal that the Ministers ought to be 1474 beyond any temptation to indulge in flutters on the Stock Exchange. No Minister, from the Prime Minister down, ought to be tempted to do so or to make money other than by means of his office. But every Sunday when I take up a newspaper I find Cabinet Ministers cutting in on the work of journalists, who have to earn their living as journalists, contributing articles for which they obtain enormous rewards. I believe that it is not an unusual thing for certain members of the Government to get a hundred guineas—[An HON. MEMBER: "TWO hundred guineas!"]—for an article in a Sunday morning paper. The articles are no good. It is not the articles that the newspaper proprietors pay for. It is the name at the top of the articles. The articles are not worth anything. One of the poorest contributions I have seen from the Ministerial Bench came the other day from the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is sitting beside the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
That was because it was so bad that nobody would pay for it. It was a very laboured effort to prove that this was a Government of economy which was carrying out economies in all directions. Yet the hon. and gallant Gentleman to-night is found supporting the proposal to spend more money on increasing the salary of his colleagues, and, I suppose, his own. There are two classes in the Government—those who have got plenty of money, and do not need an increase of salary, and those who have not got any money and would like to get the biggest salaries possible. That is human nature. We need not waste any sympathy on the first class. The Lord Privy Seal could struggle along and make ends moot even if he did not get any salary at all. As for those who do need the money urgently, I can only say that as Ministers they are receiving bigger incomes than they ever had before they became Ministers, and they ought to be very well satisfied. I have never believed in self-sacrifice and patriotism on the part of Members of the Government. I never saw any Member of the Government willing to make financial sacrifices.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I shall be glad to see some example. I know that in a few cases they have sacrificed directorships of limited liability companies, but otherwise I do not think that any such sacrifice has been made. This is the sort of proposal that the country will not like. There are many other classes in the community who stand in just as much need of consideration as Members of the Government—for instance, Civil Service pensioners. Many of these people are living and bringing up families, and their pensions are £50 or £60 a, year, which is worth £20 or £30 a year in old money. Yet the Government has been deaf to every appeal to consider the position of these pensioners and how they are affected by the present cost of living. These people do not understand why men with a salary of £5,000 should get an increase and they with their £50 should be left without any. There are some things that even this House of Commons will not swallow without examining very carefully. One of them, I believe, is the proposal to increase the already sufficiently high salaries of Ministers. If I am still a Member of this House when this proposition comes up, I will take a very keen interest in it, and will want a much better reason than the statement that if you cannot pay good salaries you cannot get a good government. I admit that the Lord Privy Seal has proved this proposition with regard to the Government of which he is a Member, but I do not think he has proved it with regard to past Governments or future Governments or during future years when the Members of a Government will not be determined entirely as to their character and capacity by the salaries which will be paid.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
It is always possible, when you fix a salary for a Minister, for someone with a smaller salary to say, "Because I am poorer than that Minister you are overpaying him." My hon. and gallant Friend (Commander Bellairs) said that this proposal would not find support, and he suggested that the Committee was composed of budding Ministers. I am not a budding candidate for Ministerial office. I look upon this question with perfect impartiality, but I am quite convinced that as a matter of business something should be done. I would have been very glad if it had been proposed to go back to something like the arrangement which was 1476 made in the last Ministry, where salaries were pooled and an equal salary was assigned to each. I think that probably the total of the amounts is adequate, but that there might be a levelling all over which would not increase expenditure. That was found to be an expedient arrangement in the late Ministry, but it is not a business proposition to have a different rate of salary paid arbitrarily and for no reason to different Cabinet Ministers. The salary for the Secretary of Scotland is not a high one. The Secretary for Scotland has made great sacrifices, in the public interest, at the request of the Prime Minister. He sacrificed not only a large professional income, but a salary of £5,000 a year as Lord Advocate, in the interests of his country, in order to take up more responsible work as Secretary for Scotland at a salary of £2,000 a year.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
I quite agree with regard to the Secretary for Scotland, but his case is no reason for increasing the salary of everybody else.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
It is a reason for levelling salaries. No one would say that the President, of the Board of Education, with the enormous Department and its far-reaching interests which he controls, ought to be paid less than the Minister without Portfolio or the President of the Board of Trade. To defer the appointment of a Minister to a better-paid post because he is so useful in his existing position is not just. The opposition to this proposal is not unanimous. I confidently support this proposal. I think the nation as a whole will think that business will be best managed by a proper adjustment of salaries, whatever figures may be decided on.
§ It being a Quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.