Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 5 November 2009

MPs would be mad to try and get a £15,000 pay rise

This morning's Telegraph reports that senior MPs are lobbying for a £15,000 pay rise for MPs. They seem to think that in the wake of the Kelly report on expenses, they should be compensated for the loss/reduction of some of their perks with a salary increase.

They clearly do not get it. The public are disgusted with the behaviour of some MPs regarding expenses and the mood is such that any attempt to try and push through a substantial salary increase like this will go down like the proverbial cup of cold sick.

There also seems to be a suggestion (from Sir Stuart Bell MP, a member of the Estimates Committee) that expenses should be merged with salary: that in the longer term we can marry pay structures with allowances in such a way that the dreadful allowance system is abolished for all time.

I do think we should look at pay in relation to allowances and put ourselves in a situation where MPs will live on their pay and not have to claim any allowances at all, other than travel.

I don't really understand how this can work. Different MPs live different distances from London resulting in varying degrees of travel necessitated and also have wildly different family sizes and hence accommodation needs. How could one set salary level for all MPs work in this context?

It seems that MPs have undergone a collective nervous breakdown when it comes to this subject. They seem to be so traumatised by the expenses scandal that they are no longer looking at the subject rationally. I can how Bell's suggestion might superficially seem to get around the problem but it is very flawed and smacks of a knee-jerk reaction to try and make the nasty situation go away.

There would have been no problem if the expenses and allowances had been reasonable in the first place. Kelly' recommendations from yesterday try to address this. MPs should accept his recommendations in full (not cherry pick the bits they like) and also accept the fact that substantial pay rises are off the table.


Optimistic Cynic said...

One answer to MPs salaries is to get each candidate to calculate total required remuneration and put it on the ballot paper (to be paid by constituents).

As it would be based on the constituency, it would resolve the question of what expenses to pay. 3 candidates for the Highlands would want flights, 3 candidates for Camden wouldn't. At the margins (say Reading or Newbury distance), you would see someone prepared to do it by train each day being able to offer a cheaper price than someone having a house.

And of course, like any service, people would balance that price against the service they thought they would get. An independent candidate with little ability may put down a total price of £25,000/annum, but people would be prepared to pay more as they may have little confidence in them.

There would be no pay rises. The amount would be the total amount for the term of the parliament and include all staff costs, all travelling costs... everything. If an MP wants more, they would have to call a by-election where new contractual amounts would be declared.


Brian E. said...

When I joined the Civil Service some 40 years ago, it was made clear that on my initial posting it was my responsibility to pay for my costs of getting to work, and that if the post offered was some distance away, any removal costs would be my responsibility. Reasonable travel costs would be paid if I had to travel away from my normal place of duty, and hotel costs if I could not reasonably return home the same day.
A decision needs to be made as to whether a members "place of work" is Westminster or his constituency, whichever is chosen, he should bear the costs of getting there. Travel to the other place would then be in accordance with the civil service rules.