§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
I hope that noble Lords will not find this and the following Motions controversial. These Motions cover all of the recommendations about Members' allowances which were made in the report of the independent Senior Salaries Review Body, published on 21 October. The SSRB adopted the principle that Members of this House should not be out of pocket as a result of carrying out parliamentary duties. It proposed increases to a number of allowances and one reduction.
The first Motion for consideration proposes an increase to the office costs allowance to a maximum of £65 a day. That would be payable on the days a Member carries out official parliamentary duties as well as for a maximum of a further 40 days where expenses have been incurred.
The Motion also proposes an increase to day and overnight subsistence. The day subsistence allowance is to cover meals, refreshments and incidental travel costs, including car parking. Evidence to the SSRB suggested that the current rate was not sufficient as such costs have increased significantly above the rate of inflation. The SSRB recommended that this allowance should be increased to a maximum of £75 per day.
The cost of accommodation and hotels in London has also increased significantly, so the SSRB recommended increasing the maximum for the night subsistence allowance to £150.
Noble Lords who have a second home in London can claim night subsistence allowance for each night when they use that home before or after each session of this House that they attend. The basis of the current allowance is attendance at the House. Noble Lords who are absent from the House on official parliamentary business, such as Select Committee visits, have not been able to claim the overnight subsistence allowance. The SSRB has recommended that noble Lords in this position should be able to claim up to two-thirds of the night subsistence allowance when absent from the House on official parliamentary business.
929 The second Motion relates to travel expenses for spouses and children. The SSRB has recommended that noble Lords should be able to claim reimbursement for up to six visits a year by either spouses, or children up to the age of 18, to Parliament.
I turn now to the Motion that deals with recommendations about car, motorcycle and bicycle expenses. The SSRB noted that the rates of motor mileage allowance for noble Lords are very generous—57.6 pence per mile for the first 20,000 miles and 26.6 pence thereafter. That is significantly higher than the Inland Revenue approved rates of 40 pence per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25 pence per mile thereafter. These rates were set in their present form in 1996 and have been uprated on 1 April each year by the retail price index. The SSRB takes the view that the current rates are unjustifiable and should be reduced.
The review body also recommends that the bicycle allowance, should be increased to the Inland Review approved rate. That would go up from 7.5 pence a mile to 20 pence per mile. It also proposes a motorcycle allowance at the Inland Revenue approved rate of 24 pence per mile.
The recommendations are entirely a matter for noble Lords. I commend the Motion to the House.
Moved to resolve, That this House approves the following proposals with respect to expenses incurred by Members of this House—
1 (1) For the purposes of paragraph (1) of the Resolution of 20 July 1994 (office costs allowance), the appropriate amount for expenses incurred in the period beginning with 10 November 2004 and ending with 31 July 2005 should be £65.
(2) Paragraph (3)(b) of the 1994 Resolution (maximum daily amount for subsequent years) should apply as if that were the appropriate amount for expenses incurred in the year preceding 1 August 2005.
2 (1) In determining in accordance with paragraph (2) of the Resolution of 25 July 1991 the limit on the expenses which a Lord may recover under paragraph (1)(a) of that Resolution (day subsistence for attendance at sittings), the maximum daily amount for a day in the period beginning with 10 November 2004 and ending with 31 July 2005 should be £75.
(2) Paragraph (7)(b) of the 1994 Resolution (maximum daily amount for subsequent years) should apply as if £75 were the maximum daily amount for a day in the year preceding 1 August 2005.
3 (1) In determining, in accordance with paragraph (4) of the 1991 Resolution, the limit on the expenses which a Lord may recover under paragraph (1)(b) of that Resolution (night subsistence for attendance at sittings), the maximum daily amount for a day in the period beginning with 10 November 2004 and ending with 31 July 2005 should be £150.
(2) Paragraph (8)(b) of the 1994 Resolution (maximum daily amount for subsequent years) should apply as if £150 were the maximum daily amount for a day in the year preceding 1 August 2005.
930 4 (1) Members of this House, except any Lord who receives a salary under the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 and the Chairman and Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, shall be entitled to recover (in addition to the costs of travel for which other provision is made) expenses certified by them as expenses incurred on or after 10 November 2004 in staying overnight away from their only or main residence where it is necessary to do so for the purpose of attendance on visits away from the House—
(2) The amount which a Lord may recover under sub-paragraph (1) shall not exceed, for each day of attendance on such a visit, two-thirds of the maximum daily amount for the day which a Lord may recover under paragraph (1)(b) of the 1991 Resolution.
- (a) as a member of a Committee of this House, other than a judicial Committee, or
- (b) as a member of an official delegation, or
- (c) as a representative of the House.
(3) A Lord may not recover expenses incurred under sub-paragraph (1) above and under paragraph (1)(b) of the 1991 Resolution in respect of the same day of attendance.—(Baroness Amos.)
§ Lord Lyell
My Lords, perhaps I may take one minute of noble Lords' time. In her opening speech, the noble Baroness was kind enough to say that noble Lords should not be "out of pocket". The last point she referred to was the motoring allowances. I heard murmurs of assent from behind her. The figures have been bandied about, certainly in the newspaper that is prevalent in my neck of the woods—or part of it—the Press and Journal in Aberdeen and the fact that people use what are called gas-guzzling cars. I happen to live 17 miles from the nearest railway station. If I use a taxi I am £16 out of pocket on each taxi ride that I make—perhaps twice a week. Looking around the Chamber I see one of my neighbours whom I know lives 70 miles from a station. She will be considerably more out of pocket than me. If I go to the airport, the round journey is 70 miles and I am an extra £30 out of pocket.
The other allowances announced are extremely generous. As one of your Lordships who filled in allowances for three guineas a day in 1962, I am immensely grateful to noble Lords who have carried out the work and to the noble Baroness for presenting the allowances. Perhaps she will bear in mind that those of us from rural Scotland and perhaps other areas, are slightly penalised by the very last item in her address. She invited us to look at the tax form—I have it here. I notice it refers to 40 pence, but in most cases it refers to employees, which we are not, and in most cases employees have fuel costs. In my case I think it is about 3 pence a mile. The noble Baroness hopes that we will not be out of pocket, but some of us in rural areas—I look at the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, and others—might be. Overall, we are very grateful for what she has done and I thank her.
§ Lord Woolmer of Leeds
My Lords, perhaps I can draw to the attention of the House a matter that I drew to the attention of the Senior Salaries Review Body, 931 which was not mentioned in its report and is not dealt with here. That is travelling expenses for noble Lords who have a partner of many years standing, but who, for various reasons, may not be formally married. I know Members of the House who are in that position. The family homes can be several hundreds of miles from here and they are in the ridiculous position of the partners not being able to travel with the assistance that is clearly intended to support spouses.
In this modern age, I believe that the partner of a noble Lord could be included. The way in which the Motion is framed could mean that a child of such a partnership would be entitled to travel with assistance, but not the partner who is the mother. I simply raise this matter to draw it to the attention of noble Lords. It is not a matter in which I have a particular interest, but I know Members for whom it is a problem. I cannot believe that that is what the House would wish. I hope that others listening to this may feel able, on another occasion, to raise the matter again. It is a travesty for someone who lives hundreds of miles away. I am pleased that a child can now receive support, but regret that a partner of many years standing is not able to benefit.
§ Baroness Amos
My Lords, I say to noble Lords who have spoken in relation to the issue of motor mileage allowance and those who live in rural areas that I entirely understand the point. It is something that we will clearly have to keep under review and perhaps take up with the SSRB in future years.
On the point of the eligibility of partners, I entirely recognise the concerns raised. The matter has been raised with me over the past couple of weeks. My understanding is that the children of unmarried partners would be entitled to the provision, but not the partners themselves. I am taking the matter further. However, at this point in time that remains the position. I commend the proposals to the House.
Perhaps I may seek the indulgence of the House for a moment. I had hoped that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, would have said something on this item. This may well be one of the last occasions when the noble Baroness speaks in the House as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Benches. I want to pay tribute to the noble Baroness. She is one of the figures in the House who has managed to combine acute intellectual power with an ability to present complicated ideas in a way that is easily understood. It is a rarity and a skill, of which I am very jealous.
The noble Baroness used this skill to great effect as a Cabinet Minister and has continued to do so in her present role. The noble Baroness's qualities are greatly admired not only in this House but also outside. Last night—and I do not know whether she has been made aware of this—Jonathan Dimbleby said that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was the politician he would most like to be marooned with on a desert island. I have not had an opportunity to ask the noble Baroness if she and Jonathan Dimbleby share a taste in music.
932 I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that we have all benefited from the noble Baroness's contributions from the Front Bench. I know that we all hope that she will continue to contribute to our debates. I should like to say a personal thank you to the noble Baroness for the support she has given me in the time that I have been Leader of the House.
§ Baroness Williams of Crosby
My Lords, perhaps I may just say that the Leader of the House is characteristically most gracious and generous. I had not expected that bouquet; otherwise I would have addressed myself towards Lords' expenses. She may care to know that the former president of my party, my noble friend Lord Dholakia, has also named me as his companion on a desert island. I can see that when I go to a desert island I shall have an extremely exciting time. I thank very much the Leader of the House.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, lest it be thought that we on these Benches do not appreciate the enormously tremendous work that the noble Baroness has done, I also pay tribute to her.
However, I had rather assumed that between now and the end of the Session the noble Baroness would have plenty to say on important pieces of legislation and that this may just be the start of a week of tributes to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams.
§ Lord Williamson of Horton
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. If there were not a convention in the House that I had to describe her as a noble Baroness, I would describe her as "Shirley". But I would like to say we have all greatly appreciated the way in which she has spoken and commanded the attention of the House over a long period. She will recall that I am the only Member of the House who briefed her when she was Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection on the subject of the margins for the creamers that you put into your coffee. Since then I have had a high admiration for her attention to detail and her extremely important contribution to parliamentary democracy.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.