§ 3.5 p.m.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a Statement about the expenses allowance for Members of your Lordships' House.
In January 1975 the Top Salaries Review Body under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, were invited by the Prime Minister to undertake a review of the remuneration and pensions of Ministers of the Crown and Members of Parliament and of the Peers' expenses allowance. The final part of the Review Body's report, which deals with the Peers' expenses allowance, is published today (Cmnd. 6749) and copies are available in the Printed Paper Office.
I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and the Review Body members for carrying out their task assiduously and with great insight. The Government welcome their analysis of this difficult problem, and I will summarise their recommendations for your Lordships. I regret, however, that until pay policy permits, the Government must defer detailed consideration of these recommendations.
Since the Peers' expenses allowance was first introduced in 1957, its coverage has never been clearly defined. The Review Body seek to remedy this, and conclude that a clear specification is needed of the items of expenditure that can properly be claimed in attending the House. They recommend that expenditure should be divided into four elements, each with its own separate limit. The first covers night subsistence for those Peers who necessarily have to use overnight accommodation away from their only or main residence, and for this purpose a limit of £11 a night is recommended. Secondly, a limit of £6.50 is recommended for day subsistence to cover meals and incidental travel. The third element is for reimbursement of secretarial expenses within a cumulative limit of £4 a day. Lastly, postage and certain other additional expenses would be met within a cumulative limit of £3 a day. A minority of the Review Body would prefer to see these last two limits combined into a single grouping.
These daily limits together total £24.50; but only those Peers who have to incur 390 overnight accommodation expenses in London in order to attend the House would be eligible to claim against the overnight allowance of £11. Other Peers would be restricted to the three other allowances with limits totalling £13.50.
I ought perhaps also to draw your Lordships' attention to certain of the Review Body's remarks in their concluding paragraph. They said:We have observed during the course of this review that an impression exists outside Parliament —and, indeed, that it has been fostered over the years—that the Peers' expenses allowance is a daily attendance fee that Peers can claim as of right by attending the House of Lords. The impression is false, but it has persisted in spite of periodic restatements of the facts…The allowance has always been a maximum daily amount against which Peers can claim reimbursement of at least some of the expenses that they have actually incurred in attending Parliamentary business.Although detailed consideration of the report has to be deferred, the Government recognise that the current limit of £13.50, which was fixed in June 1975, is now clearly inadequate to cover the expenses of those Peers who have to occupy overnight accommodation in London in order to attend the House. I therefore intend to table a Motion which would enable such Peers, and them alone, to claim expenses allowance up to a limit of £16.50 a day. This increase of £3 a day would be consistent with pay policy, as it broadly reflects the rise in costs since the limit of the allowance was last revised.
Peers who have no need to incur overnight accommodation expenses in London in order to attend the House will remain subject to the present daily maximum of £13.50. Any increases above that amount would in any event exceed the Review Body's recommendations. A resolution to give effect to the £3 increase will be taken on Thursday, 24th March. If this is agreed to, the proposed increase will have effect from that date. My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 3.10 p.m.
My Lords, I join with the Leader of the House in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and his colleagues, among them three Members of your Lordships' House, for the report. I must say that I have never been a supporter of the system whereby your Lordships have to claim expense 391 allowances. I think that it leads to anomalies, difficulties and embarrassment, and I think that view is shared by quite a number of your Lordships. The difficulty is to think of anything more suitable. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, and his colleagues tried to do so, but they have not come up with anything. In any event, all these difficulties may disappear, since if, at the next Election, which may be sooner rather than later, noble Lords opposite win, there will, as I understand it, be no House of Lords to have an expenses allowance. If, on the other hand, I have my way, it will be quite easy to pay the House, since we shall have a reformed House. Nevertheless, in the meantime, it seems to me that the Government could do little else but what they have done, since they quite clearly could not breach their own pay policy. No doubt when the Leader of the House introduces his Motion we shall have an opportunity to debate the whole subject; so I will not take the matter any further this afternoon.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, the noble Lord made a political comment, but I understand that. I am confident that I will be here, probably dealing with this matter, and that is very important. I agree that a reformed House would enable us to have a completely fresh look at whether or not we should have a salaried element here. But that is another matter. I believe that we should look at this when our colleagues have read the report itself.
§ Lord AMULREE
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Byers, I wish to thank the Leader of the House for the Statement he has made. I am very pleased to read from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, that he tried to make something of the attendance allowance, but it has never been quite clear what it is about. I should like to have longer time to consider the Boyle Report. We look forward to considering the Motion when the noble Lord the Leader of the House presents it.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. This is a difficult task for any Leader of the House. I was new to this matter, and with my predecessor and my noble friend the Chief 392 Whip I have been looking at it very carefully. But as I have said, I think that Members should examine the report. Some of our colleagues sat on the Boyle Committee, and we will have a resolution on Thursday.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, with regard to the reference to the abolition of the House of Lords, would Peers, if they were regarded as redundant, be able to claim a redundancy payment?
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, when we consider this matter on 24th March would it be possible to include the question of postage costs? I am not suggesting extra pay. I agree with my noble friend that not much more can be done than is now suggested; but noble Lords sometimes find that the absence of free postage to cover their Parliamentary work is perhaps unfair, and possibly this question could be included in our consideration of the Motion.