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Lord Hughes: I, too, agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, that members of the Scottish parliament should be allowed to decide these matters for themselves. Two interpretations can be put on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. He expects that the first thing members of the Scottish parliament will do is to be greedy and seek to pay themselves more. Today I looked to see what Members of the House of Commons receive. Including pay and allowances, it is of the order of £100,000 a year. I am certain that if members of the Scottish parliament propose to pay themselves more than that they will last only one term in the parliament.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: The pay of the Scottish parliament is important and should be decided by its members themselves. They should consider the workload. A great many people who are busy and distinguished in their own professions will be able to stand for Parliament and take part in work three days a week. Executive members should be paid more. It is very important that we do not close the door to the many people of distinction and ability who would like to play a part in Edinburgh and who would be excluded if it was to be made a full-time job. That should be considered. I would like to hear the views of the Government, although I believe this should be left to the Scottish parliament.
Lord Hardie: I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Gray of Contin and Lord Steel of Aikwood, to my noble friend Lord Hughes, and, I think, to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, for their support of the Government's opposition to these amendments.
The point has been made forcefully by other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Hughes, that the position is that, unlike at Westminster, the salaries of the members of the Scottish parliament and members of
Moreover, the Senior Salaries Review Board will make recommendations on the initial salary levels to the Secretary of State. It is hoped that after that initial setting of the salary the parliament will continue to consult that independent body before setting its future salary levels. As noble Lords have pointed out, these amendments would unduly fetter the discretion of members of the Scottish parliament. The members of that parliament will be answerable to the people who elected them. In those circumstances I envisage that the members will be responsible enough to set their own salaries and allowances at levels within appropriate parameters. Members of the parliament will be acutely aware that, at whatever level they set their salaries or allowances, the expenditure will have to be met from the budget.
The Government very much hope that the Scottish parliament will continue to take independent advice from bodies such as the Senior Salaries Review Board. We do not think that it is appropriate to require it to do so in the Bill. I would urge noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.
As to the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, this would give power to the Secretary of State to set levels of remuneration before the first determination of the parliament. With respect to the noble Earl, this is an unnecessary amendment and, for that reason, the Government do not accept it.
The Committee will not be surprised to hear that we have given this matter some considerable thought. Clause 115(3) of the Bill confers a power by subordinate legislation to make provision for transitory or transitional purposes in connection with the coming into force of any provision of the Bill. This will enable the Secretary of State to set the initial salary and allowances levels for both members of the Scottish parliament and members of the executive until such time as the parliament can make its own determination.
The Committee will be aware that the Government have given a commitment in the White Paper produced last summer that the Senior Salaries Review Board would be invited to make independent recommendations about the levels of remuneration. I hope that that answers the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. I am unable to give more detail other than that it is being considered by the board.
The body has considerable experience and we would expect the first part of the report to come out next month. If the noble Lord can wait for that long he will no doubt find out what its recommendation is. The final stage of the report we expect to receive early next year. That relates to office costs, allowances and remunerations for members of the executive and other possible post-holders such as the presiding officer. The Government are aware of the need to have remuneration levels in place in time for the parliament's first sitting until it is able to make its own arrangements.
Amendment No. 288ZA is similar to Amendments Nos. 287G, 287H, 287J, 287ZZA and 287ZB, which I have already covered. This amendment deals specifically with the pension provisions for members of the Scottish parliament. The principle is the same and should be a matter for the parliament to decide.
We cannot accept the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. The parliament will be answerable to the electorate and we are confident that its members, when elected, will make every effort to ensure that appropriate information is publicised as widely as possible. It is not appropriate for us to impose conditions or to say what publications should be used to give effect to the publicity. I am confident that the parliament will publicise these matters.
As to office-holders--the presiding officer, the deputies and members of the SPCB--we again oppose that. These office-holders are likely to receive additional remuneration for carrying out duties while the parliament is sitting and it is only fair that they should continue to receive a similar amount during the period after the end of a session and prior to the commencement of the next session. The Senior Salaries Review Board will be looking at the level of payment to these office-holders in addition to their normal recompense as members of the Scottish parliament.
As to the point the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, raised in relation to the consultative steering group of my friend Mr. McLeish, I understand that it is making good progress in considering standing orders but salaries of MSPs are not within its remit. This would be a matter for the Senior Salaries Review Board to advise upon. With that explanation, I would invite noble Lords to withdraw their amendments.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I can certainly recognise when I am being fired upon from all sides and when it is perhaps best to withdraw tactically for the moment. The Minister's answer to my question about what evidence the Government had presented to the senior salaries review board was quite staggering given that this is a Government who tell us about open government and freedom of information Acts. I am not sure that that sits consistently with the answer "Yes, we have said something to it but we are not telling you". But I shall leave that to one side.
The idea that the parliament should be left free to decide its own salaries and expenses is all very well. I do not have any great complaint about that. But I do wonder whether the Government will continue with that devolutionary aspect of these considerations and give local government the power to decide its own allowances and expenses. After all, councillors are answerable to the electorate. If they pay themselves too many expenses or allowances, the electorate can hold them to account. It seems to me that what is sauce for the Scottish parliament's goose is sauce for the local government gander. If I were a local government councillor I would already be beating a path to St. Andrew's House clutching the words of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate and saying, "If it's okay for you lot, then why not for us as well?" However, I shall leave it like that for today.
I hope the parliament will be wise. I do not have the same great confidence that the members will all be turfed out if they pay themselves great salaries. If they all agree to pay themselves great salaries, for whom will the electorate turf them out? All the parties will have agreed to the great salaries. I cannot say that this has applied to the other place, which has got itself into awful confusion over salaries over many years, to my detriment in the past and perhaps in the future when I come to collect my pension. There is no great evidence that the electorate take electoral retribution on MPs who increase their salaries. So I do not have a great deal of confidence about that aspect of the Scottish parliament. With that, and looking to the Government's evidence to the Senior Salaries Review Board being allowed out of the secrecy which surrounds the whole Government, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Monson: The Bill provides for two categories of MSP. The first category is conventional constituency members who will have all the normal onerous constituency duties and surgeries. Many of the constituencies will be large and will have the same massive and ever-growing volume of correspondence that MPs at Westminster must contend with. By contrast, in the second category there will be regional members with no constituency obligations--not unlike your Lordships in a sense. Even though, like your Lordships, they will have a certain amount of correspondence to cope with, it will not come anywhere near that of the constituency
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