HC Deb 09 May 1983 vol 42 cc624-5
27. Mr. Dormand

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on the Government's proposals on the report of the Top Salaries Review Body.

Mr. Biffen

As I explained to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), in my written reply of 4 May, the Government have received the review body's report and are now considering it.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there should be the greatest urgency in improving some aspects of hon. Members' conditions, not least severance and pension arrangements? Is he aware of the cynicism of some hon. Members about the lack of commitment by the Government to implement recommendations that have been arrived at after hard work and detailed investigation by an independent body? Will he use his influence to see that recommendations are agreed? In view of the urgency of these matters, will he arrange for a debate on the report this week?

Mr. Biffen

The value of the work that is undertaken by the Top Salaries Review Body is generally recognised throughout the House, particularly in the light of those factors mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, including pension arrangements. Those will all be matters for the House to consider at one time or another, but sheer practical, hard common sense compels me to say that it is unlikely that there will be a debate upon the report this week.

Sir Peter Emery

Will my right hon. Friend try to obtain an agreement on the report between the Government and the Opposition before the House is dissolved so that a commitment is made by this Parliament and we do not have to raise the matter for debate and new commitment in the new Parliament?

Mr. Biffen

I think that the House will appreciate it if I am candid about this. I simply do not see how time can be made available during the next three or four days for the resolution of what is a contentious and complex problem.

Mr. John Silkin

Does the Leader of the House share my view that no hon. Member should be prejudiced by the fact that there is likely to be a dissolution of Parliament? If so, should not the right hon. Gentleman accept the advice of his hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and perhaps allow some discussions through the usual channels to see whether we can come to some agreement before the next Parliament?

Mr. Biffen

Those matters are ultimately for the authority of Parliament and not for an agreement between the unsual channels. [Interruption.] Yes, that would set aside the ultimate authority of Parliament. I am certain that when the recommendations are studied there will be anxiety on whatever issue Parliament has to take a view upon. Nothing will be done to prejudice the position of people now serving in this Parliament.

Mr. Silkin

I am glad to have the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that nobody will be prejudiced by the dissolution of Parliament. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lead that he and I may give to our right hon. and hon. Friends will have some degree of persuasiveness, even though it may not be conclusive?

Mr. Biffen

Of course I accept that point.

Sir Kenneth Lewis

On what basis can putting Members of Parliament into the category of those receiving top salaries be justified?

Mr. Biffen

It was originally the decision of the House that these matters should be considered by the Top Salaries Review Body. Whether that is a matter that falls under the trade descriptions legislation is another question. It is not my fault; it is a decision of the House.