asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent representations he has received from hon. and right hon. Members about the level of secretarial and research allowances; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what recent representations he has received from hon. and right hon. Members about staffing facilities; and if he will make a statement.
I have received a number of representations from right hon. and hon. Members about this matter, including several parliamentary questions.
Is the Leader of the House aware that 202 Members of Parliament, from both sides of the House, have signed a motion showing general dissatisfaction with the present system? Most hon. Members underpay their staff if they employ more than one. Will the right hon. Gentleman receive an all-party deputation to discuss this matter further?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his parsimony and puritanism in these matters are making this legislature the laughing stock of the Western world? Why does he side with the Executive in seeking to turn Members of this legislature into a squalid version of Ruritania?
The hon. Gentleman has a good turn of phrase in personalising all these great matters. It is not my parsimony but a vote of the House, by 95 to 52, which set the present scales for the secretarial and research allowance.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are those who consider the allowances to be perfectly adequate—[Interruption.]
Order. Every point of view is expressed in the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are those in this House who believe that to ask for more is a load of pretentious nonsense?
I note what my hon. Friend says, and I look forward to the possibility that, in her generosity, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) will ask him to join her delegation.
Does my right hon. Friend consider that he should also give weight to the 450 right hon. and hon. Members who have not signed the motion to which the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) referred? Has he also considered that the excessive number of written questions now appearing on the Order Paper indicates an excessive number of research assistants already?
My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but I must also have regard to the fact that the present level was determined by a vote of the House about 12 months ago. In any case, we have a provision for its review in due course.