Skip to main content

Members' Expenses

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 14 April 1954

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I will, with permission, make a further statement.

The Government have given preliminary consideration to the Report of the Select Committee on Members' Expenses. The House will wish me to express on its behalf our gratitude to our colleagues on that Committee for their careful work.

The remuneration of Members of Parliament is not a matter on which the Government can or should take undivided responsibility. It is essentially a House of Commons matter, in which a wide measure of agreement between the parties is desirable, for it is the well-being and reputation of the House of Commons as a whole which are involved. It is also important to take account of informed public opinion, and for that reason hon. Members will naturally wish to proceed with all due care.

A unanimous report by a Select Committee commands respect, but I must inform the House that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, it would not be right in present circumstances to proceed in the particular manner recommended by the Select Committee, namely, to increase the Parliamentary salary from £1,000 to £1,500 and to institute a non-contributory pension scheme.

There is no doubt, however, that a number of hon. Members are oppressed by serious difficulties because heavy and necessary expenses absorb so much of the Parliamentary salary.

The House might wish to consider alternative methods of dealing with this problem. If the Opposition feel that a debate would be of value, perhaps they will discuss the provision of a Supply Day through the usual channels.

I should like to join with the Prime Minister in thanking our colleagues for the very great care and the very skilful way in which they have dealt with a complicated matter. I am quite sure that the House would wish to show all respect to the unanimous conclusions of one of its own Committees. I note that the preliminary consideration of the Government is that they do not feel inclined to accept those conclusions, and I am quite sure that the Government will wish to have the opportunity of stating very fully to the House their reasons why they cannot accept them.

I note, too, that the Prime Minister says that this is "essentially a House of Commons matter," and I think we all agree on that. He will, wish, therefore, I am sure, that there should be a free discussion in which all Members of the House of Commons will be able to give their views. I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that what he wants is to collect the voices, but I am afraid I cannot agree with him that this is a matter in which the Opposition should give a Supply Day, for I should have thought that it was only due to the Report of a Committee of this House that the Government should provide an opportunity, when we return after Easter, for a very full discussion in the House. I have no doubt that if there is any question of a vote, in view of what has been said in the statement, the Government will want a free vote of the House to guide them.

It seems to me in this matter, at the stage which we have reached in the Session and having regard to all the pressure of business, that the least the Opposition can do is to facilitate the discussion which they desire. If that is the attitude of the party opposite, it may save a great deal of trouble.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that this Committee was set up by the House of Commons, not by the Opposition. The Opposition's Supply Days are essentially for dealing with Government business. The right hon. Gentleman has expressly explained this as being not a matter of Government business but a matter for the House of Commons. It is surely up to the Leader of the House, who has responsibility to the House besides being a member of the Government, to see that the House of Commons discusses a matter which, as the Prime Minister has rightly said, is a House of Commons matter—the Report of its own Committee.

Ballot For Notices Of Motions

No-Par-Value Shares

I beg to give notice that on Friday, 30th April, I shall call attention to the Report on Shares of No-Par-Value, and move a Resolution.

Home Timber (Market)

I beg to give notice that on Friday, 30th April, I shall call attention to the deteriorating market for home timber and the ill effect which an uncertain market is bound to have on the future planting programme, and move a Resolution.

Financial System

I beg to give notice that on Friday, 30th April, I shall call attention to the financial system, and move a Resolution.