Once again I have had the luxury of replying to the indignant emails, complaining about the proposed 11% pay rise for MPs, by saying ‘not me guv’ and telling them to write to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) instead.
MPs used to vote on their own pay and allowances, which many people found shocking, but at least we were accountable to voters at elections, and had to bear in mind that we would have to look our constituents in the eye, and explain our actions. In the panic of the expenses scandal however, we handed over the determination of our remuneration to a completely independent body. The folly of this is now obvious. A truly independent body isn’t accountable to anyone, and so this has proved with IPSA. They have shown themselves to be serenely independent of, and impervious to, both public and political opinion.
IPSA have backed their proposals with a detailed study of the work that MPs do, and an international comparison of similar elected representatives. Whether IPSA’s conclusions are sound or not, is irrelevant, because their complete independence has shielded them from a political reality that is obvious to the rest of us: it’s the economy.
One of the principal roles of an elected representative (or, at least it certainly ought to be) is to set an example. At a time when we still have a substantial deficit in the public finances and are rightly imposing wage restraint on public sector workers, we cannot afford, either economically or politically, for our politicians to be paid more, whatever international comparisons there might be.
Ministers should not only share in the restraint being exercised by everyone else, they should be leading the way, and we have tried to do exactly that: We cut the pay for ministers by 5% after the 2010 election and then froze it for the 5 years of that parliament; last week I signed a disclaimer forgoing any rise in my ministerial salary during the lifetime of this parliament too.
Some constituents have written to me demanding that if the increase for MPs goes ahead, then I should reject it or give it to charity. There is a rub however. The increased pay proposal is cost neutral: the 11% pay increase is to be matched by reductions in allowances, pension benefits, and an increase in pension contributions. Are my correspondents suggesting that I take the hit on these, yet forego the matching increase? – And that’s on top of having cut and frozen my ministerial salary. It’s a big ask!
You can have your say by registering your opinion in the public consultation which ends 30th June. Responses should be emailed to email@example.com or sent to MPs’ Pay Consultation, Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, 4th Floor,
30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DU, but don’t write to me!