Then & now

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Making allowances

10 August, 1911: A Bill on MPs' pay is debated in the House of Commons (members received no pay or allowances at the time). Proposing the Bill for the Liberal government, David Lloyd George said:

'This is the only parliament in the world where no contribution is made to the expenses incurred by any Member in the discharge of his duty.

'Where is the disgrace of making payment for faithful and honest service? Where does it degrade public life? How does it degrade public life? . . . Why should the making of laws be necessarily a gratuitous service?

'When we offer pounds 400 a year as payment to Members of Parliament it is not a recognition of the magnitude of the service, it is not a remuneration, it is not a recompense, it is not even a salary. It is just an allowance, and I think the minimum allowance, to enable men to come here . . .'

Opposing the Bill, Mr Arthur Lee, said:

'Such payment would be an indefensible violation of the principle of gratuitous public service, would involve the taxpayers in heavy and unnecessary expense, and would encourage a demand on the part of members of local bodies to be paid for their services, and further because, in the opinion of this House, there would be a peculiar impropriety in Members of Parliament voting salaries to themselves.'

The motion was carried by 265 votes to 173.

14 July, 1992: The House of Commons votes (by 324 to 197) to increase the package of allowances paid to MPs by 38 per cent, to pounds 39,960. The vote was the first defeat for John Major in this Parliament.

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