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House Of Commons Members' Fund

Volume 131: debated on Friday 15 April 1988

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2.39 pm

I beg to move,

That in pursuance of the provisions of Section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948 and of Section 2 of the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 the maximum annual amounts of the periodical payments which may he made out of the House of Commons Members' Fund under the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, as amended, and the annual rate of any payments made under Section 1 of the said Act of 1981 shall be varied as from 1st April 1988 as follows:

(a) for paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the said Act of 1939, as amended, there shall be substituted the following paragraph:

1. The annual amount of any periodical payment made to any person by virtue of his past membership of the House of Commons shall not exceed £2,556 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £4,703 per annum whichever is the less; Provided that if, having regard to length of service and need, the Trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £4,929 or such sum as, in their opinion, will bring his income up to £7,076 per annum, whichever is the less:

(b) for paragraph 2 of that Schedule there shall be substituted the following paragraph:

2. The annual amount of any periodical payment to any person by virtue of her being a widow of a past Member of the House of Commons shall not exceed £1,281 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring her income up to £3,428 per annum, whichever is the less: Provided that if, having regard to her husband's length of service or to her need, the Trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £2,463 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring her income up to £4,610 per annum, whichever is the less:

(c) in paragraph 2A of that Schedule for the words 'the annual amount of any periodical payment' to the end of the paragraph, there shall be substituted the words:

`the annual amount of any periodical payment made to any such widower shall not exceed £1,281 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £3,428 per annum, whichever is the less:

Provided that if, having regard to his wife's length of service or to his needs, the Trustees think fit, they make a larger payment not exceeding £2,463 or such sum as in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £4,610 per annum, whichever is the less:

(d) in Section 2(1) of the said Act of 1981, for the words from the beginning to the end of paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the words:

`the annual rate of any payments made under Section 1 shall be—

(a) £1,488 if the payments are made to a past Member; and

(b) £744 if the payments are made to the widow or widower of a past Member."

With this it will be convenient to take the second motion on this subject.

That the whole or any part of the sums deducted or set aside in the current year from the salaries of Members of Parliament under Section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, and the whole or any part of the contribution determined by the Treasury for the current year under Section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1957, as amended by the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981, be appropriated for the purpose of Section 4 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948, as amended by Section 12 of the Parliamentary Pensions etc. Act 1984.

The motions stand in my name as chairman of the managing trustees of the House of Commons Members' Fund and those of right hon. and hon. Members, who share with me the responsibility, as fellow trustees, for administering the fund.

The purpose of the first resolution is to provide for an increase in the present levels of grants and payments which may be made under the Members' Fund legislation. These were last revised in April 1987 and we propose to increase them, from 1 April 1988, by approximately 4·2 per cent. in line with the increases approved from this month for public service and state retirement pensions.

Unlike those of us who now have superannuation benefits as of right, former colleagues who left the House before 1964, and their widows and widowers, have no pension entitlement. They are a dwindling number and many of them live in straitened circumstances, not least some of those who are now of advanced years and their dependents, but the help which my fellow trustees and I are able to provide from the Members' Fund is extremely modest.

One of our problems is that the whereabouts of our former colleagues, or their widows or widowers, is not always known to us. I shall be most grateful, therefore, if right hon. and hon. Members could get in touch with me if they become aware of any former Members or their dependants who need help. I make that appeal especially to our new colleagues if they know of cases in their constituencies.

I need not detain the House at length today, since the provisions for which the trustees seek approval are set out in detail in the resolutions on the Order Paper. These can be briefly summarised as follows. Paragraph (a) deals with the provision for grants to ex-Members. Here it is proposed to increase the basic annual grant to £2,556, subject to an income limit, including the grant, of £4,703. In the case of ex-Members with longer service who need help from the fund, the grant may be increased to a maximum of £4,929, subject to an income limit of £7,076.

Paragraphs (b) and (c) deal with provision for grants to the widows and widowers of ex-Members. It is proposed to increase the basic annual grant to £1,281, subject to an income limit, including the grant, of £3,428. Similarly, in the case of widows or widowers of ex-Members who had longer service and need help from the fund, the grant may be increased to a maximum of £2,463, subject to an income limit of £4,610.

Paragraph (d) refers to the "as of right payments" from the Members' Fund to ex-Members who had 10 years' service before October 1964, and to widows and widowers of such Members, provided for by the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981. It is proposed to increase these annual payments to £1,488 in the case of ex-Members and to £744 in the case of widows or widowers. The additional annual cost of the above increases is estimated to amount to £5,300.

Obviously, every hon. Member is interested in the Members' Fund because we all pay into it. What is the current income of the fund?

It is £204,600, including hon. Members' contributions at £24 per annum, the grant in aid and gross income from investments. If there is any further information that my hon. Friend, or indeed any other hon. Member would like me to provide, I shall be glad to help if they will write to me.

The second motion relates to section 4 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948 which authorises the trustees of the Members' fund to make
"such periodical or other payments as they think fit"
to ex-Members, or the widows, widowers or children of ex-Members, for
"the purpose of alleviating special hardship

This section of the Act, together with section 1 of the 1957 Act, as amended by section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 and by the Parliamentary Pensions etc. Act 1984, provides that this House may in any year by resolution direct that there shall be appropriated, for the purpose of the section, the whole or any part of the current year's contributions of Members plus the whole or any part of £22,000 of the current year's contribution by the Treasury.

Members' contributions amount to approximately £15,600 per annum and with £22,000 of the Treasury grant, give a total of £37,600 per annum. As of now, eight grantees receive payments totalling £10,230 per annum under this section and the moneys to be appropriated are needed both to continue these payments and to fund any further cases which may arise.

Finally, I wish to record our warm appreciation to Mr. J. L. G. Dobson, Mr. F. W. Brewer and their colleagues in the Fees Office for their skilled and unstinting help to the trustees and for their humane concern for those whom we seek to serve. I commend the motions to the House.

2.46 pm

I said earlier that there is an obvious interest in this matter for Members of Parliament because we all contribute to the fund to help those people in need. It is necessary, on behalf of Members and the people who benefit from the fund, to thank those who work hard, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and his colleagues. I thank also the fund's administrators—the people who do not sit in this place—who work very hard too. That work is in the interests of all of us.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That in pursuance of the provisions of Section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948 and of Section 2 of the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981 the maximum annual amounts of the periodical payments which may be made out of the House of Commons Members' Fund under the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, as amended, and the annual rate of any payments made under Section 1 of the said Act of 1981 shall be varied as from 1st April 1988 as follows:
(a) for paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the said Act of 1939, as amended, there shall he substituted the following paragraph:
1. The annual amount of any periodical payment made to any person by virtue of his past membership of the House of Commons shall not exceed £2,556 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £4,703 per annum whichever is the less:
Provided that if, having regard to length of service and need, the Trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment

not exceeding £4,929 or such sum as, in their opinion, will bring his income up to £7,076 per annum, whichever is the less:
(b) for paragraph 2 of that Schedule there shall be substituted the following paragraph:
2. The annual amount of any periodical payment to any person by virtue of her being a widow of a past Member of the House of Commons shall not exceed £1,281 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring her income up to £3,428 per annum, whichever is the less:
Provided that if, having regard to her husband's length of service or to her need, the Trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £2,463 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring her income up to £4,610 per annum, whichever is the less:
(c) in paragraph 2A of that Schedule for the words 'the annual amount of any periodical payment' to the end of the paragraph, there shall be substituted the words:
'the annual amount of any periodical payment made to any such widower shall not exceed £1,281 or such sum as, in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £3,428 per annum, whichever is the less:
Provided that if, having regard to his wife's length of service or to his needs, the Trustees think fit, they may make a larger payment not exceeding £2,463 or such sum as in the opinion of the Trustees, will bring his income up to £4,610 per annum, whichever is the less:
(d) in Section 2(1) of the said Act of 1981, for the words from the beginning to the end of paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the words:
'the annual rate of any payments made under Section 1 shall be—
(a) £1,488 if the payments are made to a past Member; and
(b) £744 if the payments are made to the widow or widower of a past Member.'

Resolved,

That the whole or any part of the sums deducted or set aside in the current year from the salaries of Members of Parliament under Section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1939, and the whole or any part of the contribution determined by the Treasury for the current year under Section 1 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1957, as amended by the House of Commons Members' Fund and Parliamentary Pensions Act 1981, be appropriated for the purposes of Section 4 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act 1948, as amended by Section 12 of the Parliamentary Pensions etc. Act 1984.— [Mr. Alfred Morris.]

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Bearing in mind the information given by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) about objections to private Members' Bills, may I ask that you direct that the Conservative Members concerned inform me in writing as to the reasons for objecting to those Bills?

There is no Standing Order by which I can direct any hon. Member to do any such thing.