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Junior Ministers' Remuneration

Volume 414: debated on Tuesday 11 November 1980

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2.49 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are now in a position to announce the improvements to be made in the remuneration of junior Ministers in this House.

My Lords, as the Prime Minister recognised in her Statement to another place on 7th July, which I repeated in your Lordships' House later on the same day, the fact that junior Ministers in the House of Lords receive no salary in respect of their parliamentary duties is a very real problem. The Government are still considering what steps might be taken to resolve this.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he can give any indication as to the likely timing of a possible future Statement and whether he accepts that the position of certain junior Ministers in the House—perhaps particularly the Lords in Waiting—is, in both relative and absolute terms, most unfortunate?

Yes, my Lords, there is no doubt about that, and indeed it was that fact which prompted the Prime Minister to make the Statement to which I have just referred. As to the timing, it is a complicated and somewhat detailed matter, more complicated than it looks on the surface, as we have found when we came to look into it—and no doubt others have found the same thing before. All I can assure my noble friend is that there will be another announcement as soon as possible, as soon as we have reached a conclusion.

My Lords, may we take it that the Government's general policy of not more than 6 per cent. in the public sector will apply in this case?

My Lords, one of the problems, quite evidently, in a matter of this kind is the general economic position of the country. Inevitably, this has to be taken into account by Her Majesty's Government, but I would not like to go further than that in answering the noble Lord's question.

My Lords, while recognising that this is a slightly broader question, may I ask whether the position of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition will be considered when the Government are considering this particular question?

My Lords, I do not quite know to which particular people on the Opposition Front Bench my noble friend is referring.

My Lords, I rather think that the noble Lord has shot my fox. I was going to ask the noble Lord this: While acknowledging that it is never the right time to raise the salaries of anybody in the public service, especially in this House, may I ask whether he would remember the church mice, the unpaid Whips on the Opposition side? With my thanks to the noble Lord, may I just put that in his mind?

Yes, my Lords, the noble Baroness has certainly put it in my mind. In order not to raise any false hopes, I think I should say to the noble Baroness that the people who are being considered are the equivalent in this House of those who get paid other than parliamentary salaries in another place.

My Lords, while not overlooking the feelings and claims of Opposition Whips, may I ask whether my noble friend would bear in mind the great distinction between them and Lords in Waiting and other junior Ministers, in as much as the latter category are debarred under the rules from earning a living in any other way?

My Lords, this is absolutely true. One category is prohibited from earning a living outside; others, we might say, are inhibited from earning a living outside. As my noble friend rightly says, there is a difference between the two, and, as I said, those whose pay is under some scrutiny at the moment are those in this House who have their equivalents in another place who are being paid beyond the parliamentary salary.

My Lords, does not this evident justice highlight the need for some kind of incomes policy which has been thought out?