Allowances - Motion

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 12:00 pm ar 27 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord True Lord True Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 12:00, 27 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. In my opening remarks, I expressed gratitude to the chairs of the various groups. I should have explicitly included the convenor, but I was including the Cross-Bench group as well. Mature, sensible discussions have contributed to this.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for what he said. I must not go back over old times, but the reality is that the current scheme came out of what was an emergency brake on a system that was being abused. We were trekking down a road which led the other place into considerable disrepute at that time, and there was widespread agreement in the House that we should move to a simple, transparent and accountable system. With the test of time and having spoken to the noble Lord and to others, I think it was right to undertake these conversations and this review. As the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said—I am grateful to them—we have arrived at a scheme which, although not perfect, is direct, transparent and clear.

My noble friend Lord Balfe spoke of loopholes. Being an expert, he will no doubt advise the finance department if he detects any. I have written to him privately about his VAT question but, since he raised it in the Chamber, I will give him the same reply. What he suggests would not necessarily achieve the desired result because there may be commercial premises that are below the VAT threshold and therefore not registered. There are far more likely to be Airbnb operations which cross the £85,000 threshold and charge VAT. This is a complexity that may not create a clear line between different types of property. There is broader guidance about this system; it is not too complex.

With respect, I do not fully agree with my noble friend that this is how Civil Service rules work. From an initial search, this does not appear to be the case in every department. In the Cabinet Office, for example, civil servants need to go through an approved agent to secure hotels.

I return to the fundamental point: this is proportionate and clear, and it is also testable. We will have a review and if it is misused, that will be seen and the House will wish to address it.

My noble friend Lady Fraser asked why we are treated differently from the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, gave the answer. Being a Member of your Lordships’ House is entirely different from being a Member of the other place; their range of duties, responsibilities and offices is completely different.

My feeling, the feeling of the commission and the feeling of the Back-Bench groups was that while this may not please everybody, as I said in my opening remarks, we need to reflect on the context that we are in. There is a point at which we need to enhance participation in the House, to get more Peers being better able to come from outside London to take part. I repeat that this is a proportionate, reasonable, clear and transparent system, which will be reviewed and tested.

Motion agreed.