I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend Section 1(7) of the Social Security Act 1973 so that those holding elective office revert to being classed as self-employed.
Order. Will hon. Members who wish to withdraw please do so quietly and conduct their conversations outside the Chamber?
We have been concerned today with matters of the remuneration of those in the public eye. It is perhaps fitting that we should now look again at the status in employment terms of hon. Members and elected councillors.After the immediate post-war social security legislation, Members of Parliament were regarded as being self-employed. We remained so until the Social Security Act 1973, when we changed our status to that of being employed—employed by whom, I know not. We should have been more vigilant at that time to look after our non-dependent status, and should not have passed that part of the Act. My purpose is to reverse it. As employed persons, we shall pay a national insurance contribution of about £197 a year. If we were to revert to being self-employed, we should pay a contribution at a flat rate under Class 2 of about £125 and a further contribution of £163 under Class 4, making £288 in total. My suggestion will certainly cost us more money. However, if the House seeks to place upon the self-employed the burdens placed upon them by the recent Act, which have been much resented, the first thing we should seek to do is to saddle ourselves with similar burdens. We should not try to evade the consequences of the increase in the self-employed's contribution. We should not get out of paying it by remaining employed. I admit that there was some coincidence in the matter, in that the previous Government introduced the Social Security Act 1973 and the present Government increased the contributions of the self-employed. I make no party accusation. I merely say that the coincidence of circumstances is such that it is offensive to those outside who are called upon to pay the new contributions, and that it ill-behoves us to accept that situation. Secondly, those of us who have employments outside the House as well—I declare an interest, as one of them—will be called upon to pay extra contributions by virtue of those other employments. We shall be paying the maximum of £288. Therefore, the Bill will make no difference to those with other employments besides membership of the House. The only people whom it will affect financially will be those who have no other employment, who will be called upon to pay an increased contribution. I do not know whether there is any intention to vote against my motion. If there is a Division, hon. Members should bear in mind that they will have to explain to their constituents how they could vote to resist paying more from their salaries to put themselves on a level with others outside the House whom we have called upon to pay higher contributions. But that is not the main burden of my argument in favour of this short Bill. My main point is that, as hon. Members, we cannot be employed by anyone, and should not demean ourselves with the implied employed or dependent status in the expression "employed". I do not know who is supposed to employ a Member of Parliament under the 1973 Act. If it be the Crown, it is odd that we should recently have been discussing whether we should increase the emoluments of the Crown. If it be the Government, it is all the worse. The Leader of the House has demonstrated his abilities as an employer in relation to the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse). I should hate to be dependent upon him or any executive for my employment. I go further, and suggest that the position of being employed is in contravention of our duties to hold no office of profit under the Crown. I even doubt whether it is right for us to be Members while we remain employed. Therefore, it seems to me right that we should change the situation before April, so that we then cease to be employed and revert to the status of self-employed which we had always had. That would be in accord with the traditions of this honourable House and more nearly in tune with the feelings of the public, when those who have been classified as self-employed have been called upon to pay bigger social security contributions. I ask the House not only to give me leave to bring in the Bill but to give it a speedy passage. If the House accepts that it should be introduced, it is incumbent upon hon. Members to give me time to pass the Bill through all its stages before the beginning of April. Otherwise, the House will be seeking to evade the issue, meeting me on the matter of principle which I have just advanced but hoping that the Bill will never find its way on to the statute book simply because of the inactivity of the governing party. If leave is given to bring in the Bill, there will be an onus on the Government to make sure that this small but important measure reaches the statute book in time to prevent our remaining "employed"
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nicholas Ridley, Mr. Peter Rees, Mr. Norman Lamont and Mr. Eldon Griffiths.
Social Security Act 1973 (Amendment)
Mr. Nicholas Ridley accordingly presented a Bill to amend Section 1(7) of the Social Security Act 1973 so that those holding elective office revert to being classed as self-employed: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 84.]