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Politics (Cost Reductions)

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 28 April 2011

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on the implications for the House of Commons of the Government’s programme for reducing the cost of politics. (52654)

The Leader of the House and I regularly discuss such issues with ministerial colleagues. Since the general election the Government have cut ministerial pay by 5%, steered through legislation that will reduce the size of the House of Commons, cut the cost of special advisers, and scrapped the use of dedicated ministerial cars in all but exceptional cases. The House has played its part, with Members agreeing to the freezing of their salaries, and the Commission is overseeing a programme to save at least 17% by 2014-15 while ensuring that the House remains able to scrutinise the Executive effectively.

I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for that answer, and particularly for his comment about ministerial cars. Like many other people, I believe that if we take care of the pennies, the pounds take care of themselves. Will the Deputy Leader of the House say a little more about the impact of the change in the ministerial cars system?

As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, on 24 May 2010 the Government announced that in all but exceptional cases Ministers would no longer have dedicated cars and drivers. That is not to say that no cars are ever used—there are times when Ministers require the use of a car—but I think I can modestly say that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I set something of an example in that we hardly, if ever, use ministerial cars: we prefer to use our bikes or walk.

If Members of Parliament base their staff in their constituencies they must pay rent, rates and telephone, heating, lighting and photocopying bills, but if they base their staff at the House of Commons, all those assets come as a free resource. Will the Deputy Leader of the House consult representatives of the other parties, and try to find a way in which to get rid of the perverse incentive to base staff in London, where they cost the public purse rather more?

I am always happy to discuss such matters with anyone, but that is now a matter for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. It is certainly not a matter for Government.