One of the political landmines for the new government is pay for members of the House of Commons. MPs who were only elected last month are set to receive a 10 per cent pay rise worth £7,000 within months, which will be backdated to the day after the General Election.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), Parliament’s expenses watchdog is planning a review of MP’s pay in the next few weeks, which will report in the autumn. That review is likely to confirm their findings from 2013 that MPs’ pay should increase from £67,060 to £74,000 a year.
The news which originally infuriated David Cameron back in 2013 when he described the proposal as “unacceptable” seems to not be as unacceptable any longer. This is despite some of his backbenchers, Cabinet Ministers and political opponents all coming out against the proposed pay rise. He even headed off the news by announcing a freeze on ministerial pay. (We’ll just ignore the fact the PM’s increased ministers, and therefore the number of payable salaries, to the point where they can’t all fit around the Cabinet table)
So are MPs Value for Money and Worthy of a Pay Rise?
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "To press ahead with a 10 per cent pay rise is not only putting two fingers up at voters, but it starkly contradicts the pay restraint required elsewhere in the public sector if the government is to balance the nation's books.
This inefficient bureaucratic monster of a quango has repeatedly failed to deliver taxpayer value and if primary legislation is required to overturn its pronouncement on MPs' pay and reform its processes, then it should be introduced in the Queen's speech."
IPSA has a statutory duty to review MPs’ pay in the first year of each Parliament and it is planning to carry out a public consultation on the December 2013 recommendation. It said: “In December 2013 we reached a decision that, there should be a package of changes, including pension reform, ending resettlement payments and increasing MP’s pay to £74,000. The overall package will add no extra cost to the taxpayer. The pay rise was not implemented immediately. Any subsequent pay rise would be back-dated to 8 May 2015. IPSA was created by law to determine MPs’ pay independent of Parliament and government.”
So there we have it, the Taxpayers Alliance says no and IPSA say yes with a strong statement that they’re in charge.
Of all the MPs I know, and have known, it seems to me that pay and conditions are not that bad and the expenses scandal of 2009 demonstrated that their salary is just part of the pay and perks.
We know that a MPs salary is £67,000 a year. On top of that they get some generous allowances including over £100,000 a year for staffing and office expenses. MPs staff do most of their work such as following constituency casework, writing letters and answering emails, drafting press releases, speeches and research.
So apart from speaking in the House on the odd occasions, voting how you’re told to and attending the odd committee here and there, all within that back breaking three day Westminster week, there’s not much more to it. Oh, what about their constituency role I hear you say and their other parliamentary duties. Well, yes, of course there is the obligatory attendance at constituency coffee mornings and summer galas and the now popular street stalls and surgeries. And the other parliamentary duties – those dreadful fact finding missions to the Caribbean and the capitals of Europe and Asia. Truly taxing I’m sure.
All this is before we look at their pensions, allowances for second homes and ‘capacity’ to have second jobs, fees for appearing on the taxpayer funded BBC and lucrative directorships.
Just Say No
All told Members of the House of Commons don’t do too bad. Your basic package with staff, second homes, subsidised food and drink, transport costs, pension and salary equates to around £220,000 a year ten times the average earnings for an ordinary voter. And with 20 paid holiday weeks a year let’s face it there are worst jobs out there.
But wait, I have reassuring news for all those MPs who don’t want to take any more money from the public purse. There is no reason why you should hide behind the ‘it’s an independent body mate, so not our fault’ line, because in a time of austerity and cuts the precedent has been set. And it’s a good one.
Our serving members of the armed forces and key public sector workers like the police, NHS professionals and teachers have been repeatedly denied even a 1% pay rise despite recommendations by their own independent, often government appointed, versions of IPSA.
Some MPs will have the audacity to refuse to implement those pay review recommendations ‘because we’re making tough choices for the long term economic plan’ but froth at the mouth to accept their own.
I believe MPs are more than well paid for the job they do and the time they put in. An almost 11% pay rise is a disgrace. It should be rejected by the MPs themselves and pressure brought to bear by members of the public.