Miscellaneous

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 4:54 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland 4:54, 6 Chwefror 2024

It has been an absolutely fascinating debate, and I am grateful to Emily Thornberry for proposing this motion, because it has given us an opportunity to explore what responsible government really is. I will tell the House what it is not: it is not about creating one-paragraph legislation to get a soundbite on this evening’s news. One need only listen to the debate that we have had to see how the current drafting of the motion is totally inappropriate. It makes only one recommendation. It states that retiring Ministers should

“receive an amount equal to one-quarter of their earnings over the previous 12 months as a Minister, minus any period covered by a previous severance entitlement, where that is lower than an amount equal to one-quarter of the annual salary paid to that Minister before their departure”,

but that applies only to those under the age of 65. However, in this relatively empty Chamber we have heard several suggestions as to why that is inappropriate—whether it does not go far enough or it is missing important additions.

This is a serious issue and an area that could do with review. My right hon. Friend Esther McVey suggested from the Front Bench that the Government are open to reviewing it, but this is absolutely not the right way to do it, as this debate has demonstrated, and we need only look at the contribution from Lloyd Russell-Moyle. He fairly raised the issue of the prime ministerial pension or severance payment, which continues beyond the moment of retirement. It is not just a one-off payment, but continues for the rest of his or her life, as I understand it. That is a perfectly proper area for review, although it is not mentioned in this motion.

Bill Esterson made the very good point—I intervened on him at the time—that the entitlement comes from day one. Is that reasonable? My hon. Friend James Sunderland recognised that there is a contradiction. Those under the age of 65 are entitled to these severance payments, but times have moved on; we work much later, and the retirement age is rising to 67 and then to 68. There was an article in The Times just yesterday suggesting that in future years it might rise to 71, yet the legislation has this arbitrary figure of 65—why? That is a perfectly reasonable area to explore as part of a wider review of a piece of legislation that is perhaps coming towards the end of its natural life and needs to be reviewed. This motion, however, is not the way to do it.

Labour Members cobbled together this drafting last night when they were thinking, “What’s a good wheeze that we can have to create a soundbite or a bit of a line in our social media content this evening, saying ‘Conservatives vote against…’?” That is not legislation, and in my submission it is particularly inappropriate to use the exceptional mechanism of disapplying Standing Order No. 14 to achieve it. There are many benefits to Brexit, but one of the costs is the adoption of this mechanism to interrupt the workings of Parliament by disapplying Standing Order No. 14. If that disapplication is acceptable in any situation, it is in exceptional and urgent situations, not to get a soundbite for the evening news.