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Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, perhaps I can help my noble friend. I understand that Mr Braithwaite is picking up £70,000 for the job.

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I wish to concentrate on this item selected by my noble friend, because this Michael Braithwaite investigation follows a similar exercise in the House of Commons. His report on the Commons was debated there on 20th January. Introducing the report on behalf of the House of Commons Commission, Mr Archy Kirkwood gave enormous detail about Mr Braithwaite's work, for which he received £77,000 on that occasion. To assist the process, 105 people were interviewed, many on two or more occasions, and information was gathered from 14 overseas countries. Mr Kirkwood did not say whether there were fact-finding missions, but an enormous amount of work was done.

Imagine my surprise when I read through the debate and found a contribution from the honourable Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme, who said:


    "the thing that concerns me about the report is its lack of clarity on what is happening to ordinary staff here".--[Official Report, Commons, 20/1/00; col. 1083.]

I must stress that point, because conflicts could arise. With a lot of young, zealous Members in the other place and a changing situation in your Lordships' House, there is a growing demand for resources for Members in either place. An Early Day Motion in the other place calling for an extra £20,000 on the office costs allowance has already attracted 124 signatures.

I am afraid that the constant pressure for more resources for Members of both Houses may lead to a temptation to find savings in the ordinary staff who service us here. I do not regard them as ordinary--I am using the phrase of my honourable friend from Newcastle-under-Lyme. They are very faithful, very experienced and very reliable. More than anything, when we have security problems, we can trust them. Anything that could set us against them must be thought about very carefully. I have heard rumours that there are attempts to cut the overtime rate of the catering staff in the other place. A big operation is going on among the security staff, with young people being recruited to replace old, experienced staff. We may be getting into a situation of penny wise, pound foolish.

The Committee should have had a word with the House formally before undertaking such a massive operation. Following my noble friend's remarks, I wonder whether it is too late to allow the House to discuss the matter, or whether we are faced with a fait accompli.

Lord Boardman: My Lords, the motor allowances increases in paragraph 3 are said to be in line with the retail prices index. What index was used for their calculation--the figure applied by the Government for pensions or the one used for petrol prices?

Lord Monson: My Lords, consultants never come cheap. How many days will Mr Braithwaite be working in return for his £70,000?

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3.15 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, who, not for the first time, has rendered great service to your Lordships' House by drawing our attention to the shortcomings in the report. I associate myself with every word that he said.

In particular, I should like to ask the Chairman of Committees a little more about paragraph 4 of the report, which relates to Mr Braithwaite and the management consultancy. I must pick my words with some care, as I am all too well aware that the leader of my party was once a management consultant. I yield to no one in my admiration for the leader of my party.

Why was Mr Braithwaite appointed and at whose suggestion? What ills endemic in your Lordships' House are his attentions designed to put right? What are his riding instructions? How much is he going to be paid? Why is it so important that we should spend the large sums of money that I assume are involved in getting his views? Is it true that the suggestion of appointing a management consultant came from another place? If so, why have the authorities of this House undertaken to follow that suggestion without further consultation with your Lordships' House?

I am concerned about management consultants. I remember my American employer in California many years ago telling me that there were only two reasons that enterprises consulted management consultants: one was because the management did not know what to do and the second was because there was an argument that the managing director--or president, in American terms--wished to resolve without an internal quarrel. Do either of those conditions apply in your Lordships' House?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I shall deal first with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. In doing so, I shall refer to other noble Lords who have spoken. If it is the wish of your Lordships that more information should be given, I am certainly prepared to view that request with sympathy. On the whole, I attempt to put forward less written material rather than more because, as I have said on previous occasions, I do not wish to overburden your Lordships. However, if your Lordships want more, you are entitled to have more. I also remind your Lordships that the minutes of Committees are available in the Library and can be consulted there.

I can ensure that the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is provided with fuller details on the first item without burdening your Lordships now. We always intend to recruit the high quality staff from whom your Lordships' House has traditionally benefited. But recently there have not always been as many high quality applicants as on previous occasions and it was felt that this means of accelerating recruitment in certain instances would add to the incentive for those who might be available to be appointed to your Lordships' House.

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The increases in the reimbursement allowances follow the lines of previous years. The usual formula has been used. I readily concede, particularly this week, when we have heard something about bicycling, that the rewards in the bicycling allowances are not excessive. In fact, your Lordships may be interested to have a little more information on that point than is in the report; that is, the amount has gone up by 0.2p per mile from 6.5p to 6.7p per mile. That is a rise of approximately 3 per cent which is slightly more than the petrol allowance. I know that this week a number of your Lordships have joined in the cycle ride from the office of the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, at the Department of Transport in Victoria Street to your Lordships' House. So there is something of a reward there.

As regards the allowances not mentioned in the report, as the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, will remember, those go up in August and are effective from that time. So that matter will be dealt with again in accordance with the normal procedure which is followed.

The noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, raised the question of the proposed appointment of the management consultant, Mr Michael Braithwaite. Perhaps I may make a few remarks about that appointment. In the first place, your Lordships' committees, particularly the Offices Committee and its two sub-committees, were persuaded that there was a need to examine various options by which the House could make decisions on domestic matters. That has not been looked into since the reforms following the inquiry carried out by Sir Robin Ibbs in 1991-92.

I make this point--and your Lordships' Offices Committee was persuaded of this too--that sometimes there is advantage in having a qualified person from outside look at our management structures. That was done by Sir Robin Ibbs at the beginning of the last decade. As many of your Lordships will know, he was a highly qualified person. As a result of his inquiry, reforms were not only introduced in another place but were also introduced in your Lordships' House in relation to the financial management of your Lordships' affairs.

It is true to say that it was felt generally at that time that there had been advantage in having an independent mind to look at that matter.

Lord Ampthill: My Lords, I succeeded soon after the Ibbs report on the House of Commons. I have a belief that I was appointed Chairman of Committees for the sole reason that we did not think that we needed an Ibbs report but that we could manage to find somebody, and it happened to fall upon me--for goodness knows what reason--to take on the job which the noble Lord now fulfils. We did not need Ibbs here. Our affairs were in far better shape than the affairs of the House of Commons. I merely make the point that there surely is enough talent sitting on the Benches in this House, not to mention sitting at the Table and among all the other learned Clerks who look

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after us so well, for it to be totally unnecessary to bring in somebody who will not have a clue about how well we conduct our affairs compared with the other place.

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, it is indeed the case that there is a great deal of talent in your Lordships' House already. I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, about that. Also, I pay tribute to him on the way in which he carried out his duties as Chairman of Committees when he occupied that post.

However, I remind the noble Lord that, in relation to the Ibbs inquiry, Deborah Williams was, at that time, appointed by your Lordships' House to assist with advising on the financial management of your Lordships' House. So that assistance was here at that time.

Of course, there is ample talent in your Lordships' House. If I can say so without too much immodesty, even I am not bereft of the occasional idea to put forward to your Lordships. There is no doubt about the range of talent and that we know a great deal about our own affairs, sufficient to put forward many ideas.

But I emphasise--and I feel this quite strongly--that from time to time there is advantage in drawing upon the experience, knowledge and inquiring mind of somebody from outside. This will be the first time in some 10 years that we have done that.


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