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Top Salaries Review Body

Volume 884: debated on Monday 13 January 1975

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10.6 p.m.

I must state the position as stated by my predecessor on 14th February 1964:

"My predecessors and I have always deprecated the introduction of subjects in an Adjournment debate unless due notice has been given to the Minister concerned. The reason is really, that, apart from the House of Commons point of view, an ex parte statement without reply is not a very valuable Parliamentary proceeding".—[Official Report, 14th February 1964; Vol. 689, c. 799.]
That is the position of the Chair.

I am most grateful. Mr. Speaker. I shall not take up much of the time of the House, fortunate though it is that we should have 25 minutes available for debate. I appreciate that it would be useless to pursue a debate, as it were, in vacuo. However, I want to make this point.

I stand here, as it were, in the reverse position of a Written Answer to a Question, in that I am making a point without the Government being able to make a reply. That is most unfair. That is why I shall not proceed beyond a minute or so on the matter of top salaries. When a Written Answer which contains an important policy statement is made, hon. Members of this House are denied an opportunity of questioning and debating the point, just as the Government are tonight.

I gave notice of my desire to raise this matter on the Adjournment when the earlier debate looked like collapsing. With the assistance of two members of the full-time staff of the Whips' Office, I have sought a Minister to reply. However, I recognise that there are grave difficulties, during the course of an evening, when Ministers have many other duties to perform, in getting one to come here at comparatively short notice.

Therefore, recognising your injunction, Mr. Speaker, I should like briefly to urge on the Government that when the Top Salaries Review Body reports, the matter should be brought before the House and should not be accepted by means of a Written Answer.

The increases noted and accepted by means of Written Answer, given, be it noted, on the last day of Parliament before the Christmas Recess when there was no possible opportunity of raising the matter—this is the first opportunity that I have had—were larger than many people in my constituency earn as full-time annual salaries. The acceptance of the review body's report caused a good deal of consternation throughout the country, particularly in view of the background of the social contract. Therefore, I appeal to my two hon. Friends from the Whips' Office, to whom I am grateful for remaining, to bring these remarks to the notice of the Government. I shall seek further opportunities of raising this issue when the Government are in a position to reply.

It would be fruitless to pursue this matter now, but I would emphasise that if the Government make a decision like this members of the Parliamentary Labour Party have to face the country bound by it. When such decisions are made by means of a Written Answer, we cannot seek the reasons and do not regard ourselves as having to follow meekly behind. We have a duty to be involved, and we seek this participation. I am grateful for the tolerance of the House in listening to these few remarks.

10.10 p.m.

First of all, I would say that the Government are represented on the Front Bench, despite the absence of the Opposition. At a late hour this evening, I was informed that this matter could arise. We have duly attempted, at short notice, to get a Minister to reply. My hon. Friend has placed on record what he wanted to say and I will ensure that my right hon. Friend's attention is drawn to his observations.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at eleven minutes past Ten o'clock.