What should we pay MPs?

There is a big gap between what the public (and press) think about MPs’ pay and expenses, and what many MPs think. A lot of constituents think £60,000 is a good salary, and are concerned about some of the claims MPs have put in under the second homes allowance and travel budgets. Some in the press and public think the second home allowance is wrong in principle. A lot of MPs think they are paid relatively little compared to similar people in the public and private sectors, and point to long hours, the being constantly on call, and the strong accountability which having to argue your case to keep your job every four or five years naturally generates.

So let me tell you the trade union case for the MPs, so you can get angry and tell me how the pay and the expenses of all MPs needs to be cut down to a smaller size.

During a Parliamentary week an MP’s day might begin with a working breakfast, followed by a morning of emails and letters. The MP might attend the chamber for questions and debate in the afternoon, might attend committees and other meetings in the early evening, have a working dinner in the House, and be allowed home after 10.15 pm and a vote on a Monday and Tuesday. So the week may start with two 14 hour working days. On Wednesday the Parliamentary day usually finishes around 7.15pm, but there might be evening dinners or meetings to attend. On Thursday proceedings end at 6.000pm ,allowing many to travel back to the constituency on the Thursday evening to be in situ for morning meetings on the Friday. Any hard working MP would regard a 40 or 45 hour Parliamentary week as a rare pleasure, and some claim to work 70 hours. Sensible MPs do not regard Saturdays and Sundays as days off as a matter of course, as there are civic services, party events and community events to attend. So, some MPs say, on the basis of hours worked and commitment they deserve a decent salary.

The system both expects that in a Parliamentary week an MP will work more than the usual 40 hour week, and that it is possible for many MPs to do a second job as well. About 100 MPs have second jobs as Ministers. They are paid extra, and have to fit in Ministerial meetings, running the civil service office, Ministerial visits and the other extra features of Ministerial life. Other MPs have second jobs as Chairmen of Select Committees, or of other committees of the House, for which they are also paid an extra salary. Fitting in the Ministerial job is of course much easier during the weeks when Parliament is not in session.

MPs point out that they do have a job which requires regular attendances both in the constituency and in Westminster. For some it is simply impossible for them to travel daily to and from Westminster. For others it could be done but it would mean two to four hours travel taking away time from doing the job itself, and might become impossible on nights when the House sits later than 10 pm to do the journey by public transport.

There have been several attempts to get away from the position where MPs have to settle their own pay. External experts have decided who is most comparable to MPs, and have proposed linking MPs pay to these external references. It used to be a senior grade in the civil service. That grade then became too well paid for the political reality, so a group of comparators from public and private sectors was chosen. They too are now paid much more than MPs. Some MPs think they should be assessed like a GP, or a senior executive of a principal Council, or the Head of a large school – the sort of people they have regular dealings with. That would mean a large pay increase, which is the last thing the public thinks appropriate.

Mps also have to perform a private unpaid role as senior politicians. We cannot claim any of the allowances for our work in elections, or in support of other candidates. Anything we wish to write and send that has political content has to be paid for from party sources. Any travel we undertake in our political capacity we pay for ourselves or seek party assistance.

All MPs (including me) think it bizarre that we are said to claim a six figure sum in “expenses” when the largest item is staff salaries to pay for secretaries and case workers necessary to carry out our proper duties. I know of no other group of senior employees who are thought to benefit personally from the salaries of their staff.

Reform is in the air, but MPs are very boxed in. As one who understands only too well how the public feel about the current arrangements for pay and expenses, I realise there needs to be more accountability, and MPs have to take only those expenses which they can fully justify as essential to carrying out their functions well. Some MPs think the housing allowance should be abolished and pay increased to reflect that. There is never a good time to hike MP’s pay, but this is clearly a very bad time when everyone else is accepting low rises (as MPs have just done) and are feeling under great pressure. Some MPs think that lowering the level of expense that requires a receipt combined with more audit will be sufficient. This does not tackle the sense by many that the legal allowances are too generously defined in some cases.

I would be interested to know what you think about a) What is the correct rate of pay for an MP and b) what items should an MP be able to claim on expenses? Do you think it reasonable that MPs should be assisted with second home costs, given the two centre nature of the job?

I think there are too many MPs and there is too big a support bureaucracy. I would economise over time by dealing with that.

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41 Comments

  1. Posted February 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I can't disagree with you. The amount that MPs cost as part of the national budget is so small as not to be worth discussing. There is an argument for underpaying them to deter anybody from getting involved purely for the money, on the other hand there is a traditional argument for not paying peanuts.

    The main problem seems to be extra payments. MPs expenses are clearly designed as an under the table reward & the amount of money available from directorships, consultancies & post retiral junkets round the US cannot fail to be an incentive against the public interest.

    I would approve of a smaller number of politicians with a higher pay but no expense fiddles. Would quite like performance bonuses in years when the economy grows or crime diminishes.

    When Lee Kuan Yew was confronted about being the highest paid Asian leader, despite running the smallest country he pointed out that while highest paid he was "not the richest". Not a bad example.

  2. Posted February 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    £80,000 and full disclosure of expenses.

  3. Posted February 29, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I believe it was Enoch Powell who talked about the importance of members of parliament having real experience of the wider world before becoming MP's. One of the reasons why MP's demand more is that they haven't made any real money or progress, particularly if they are the focus-group-to-safe-labour-seat types.
    And whilst it's true that diligent MP's are indeed hard working, far too many of the government's back benches are crowded with dilettantes.
    But your point about expenses is quite true. It is absurd to pay secretaries via expenses. It would be easy enough to make them direct employees of the House of Commons and draw a salary accordingly.
    Whilst the salary is to be honest, modest, there never seems to be a shortage of applicants for the jobs, which indicates to me that the market is working well enough.
    One fundamental point however, MP's should treat themselves in the same way everyone else is treated for tax purposes.

  4. Iain
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    £60k doesn't sound enough to pay people who should be our legislators, but the allowances are too excessive, so the allowances should be rolled up into the basic salary, though the question then arises are our MP's our legislators anymore, and should they be getting a legislators salary ? For while the rest of us have to take on more responsibilities to get an advance in pay, MP's in their alternative universe in Westminster are seeking greater pay for wielding less power, and falling over themselves to handover as much sovereignty to Brussels as they possibly can, meanwhile making work for themselves by becoming social workers.

    So yes pay our legislators more, I wouldn’t question £100,000 salary, but only as our legislators, if they had over their responsibilities to other bodies, then they shouldn’t be surprise to see this reduced role reflected in their pay packets, as such with some 70% of our laws now reportedly made in Brussels that would see the MP’s salaries cut to £30k. This I feel would be the perfect counter balancing force to MP’s disenfranchising the electorate by signing away our sovereignty that they had no right to, and not only would we see no more sovereignty given away, we would see a load of sovereignty repatriated as suddenly all the blocks to repatriating powers would melt away.

  5. Elizabeth Elliot-Pyl
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I think one thing that would help would be to have a block of flats near the House of Commons, paid for by the tax payer, with flats 'lent' to MPs that needed them, for the duration of their tenure. When they ceased being MPs, the flat would pass to another. Any profits from the increase in house prices would belong to the taxpayer.
    What REALLY annoys hard-working people is for MPs being given help to buy accomodation in London, and then pocketing the profit themselves when they come to sell up.
    As for the shenanigans that goes on with some MPs claiming their London base as their 'second' home when their children are at the local school near the 'second' home; and MP couples claiming DOUBLE allowances on the same home (no names, no pack drill) it makes hard-working people spit teeth.
    And how can someone claim some 17000 pounds for REPAIRS to their home?????

  6. Tim Skinner
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Well, the Lords are not salaried, and many regard their Parliamentary scrutiny, and independence from the executive, as generally superior to that of MPs.

    The country might regard MPs as worth paying for if so many of them were not simply careerist lobby fodder. Also perhaps if they had not rendered themselves helpless and irrelevant in so many areas by passing powers and responsibilities to various quangos and the EU.

    If MPs were not salaried perhaps they could be funded by other means, for example voluntary local subscriptions from their constituents?

    But in any case, I would have no great problem with MPs supporting themselves: it would imply having a personal independence and standing they presently lack.

  7. Posted February 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Comparisons are always odious, and misleading – if you want to earn pots of dosh, go into the City and don't try to become an MP. The Treasury mantra for public pay is "how much to attract and retain". Since there is huge competition to be MPs, despite all the drawbacks you have set out Mr R, the pay should logically be zero. We have seen the same problem with local councillors, as soon as they are paid and given expenses the charlatans and spivs move in. It is a sad fact of human nature that the more they have the more they want. However, because I am a compassionate man, I would pay them the average national wage, provided they paid the average tax. Perhaps then we would see a less cavalier attitude to public expenditure among our politicians.

  8. Freeborn John
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    MPs probably deserve more than £60k. That said long hours, travel and lost private time spent working at home or at check-in & baggage reclaim are the norm these days and I don’t think an MP has it all that bad in comparison. I work for a company that regularly features in the Sunday Times list of best places to work in the UK (even at the top) and no-one here has had any annual pay rise since the technology downturn 7 years ago. I wonder how many employed by the state would put up with that? One difference with an MP is that he/she may be out of work after 5 years, so their pay perhaps should be higher to compensate for the inherent insecurity. Alternatively some payments to ousted MPs akin to those that football teams get when they drop out of the Premiership might be in order.

    The real problem here is that MPs are in a weak position to ask for more because they are rather friendless. Their low esteem is related to the supine way they behave, for example in pushing through measures such as the Lisbon treaty (or Maastricht treaty) which they know full-well to be unpopular with their electorate. That such things happen is more a reflection of the degraded system within which they operate. i.e. the once glorious bicameral legislature that used to hold the executive power of the monarch in check but which has been reduced to a de-facto single chamber controlled by the cabinet. Under the current system all that is required of many MPs is to march into the lobby they are told to while mumbling inanities such as ‘the constitutional concept has been abandoned’. If we could have real constitutional change to separate an elected executive from a legislature not whipped into blind acquiescence then the public would begin to regard MPs as their champions and feel them worth paying highly for.

  9. Richard Fletcher
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    It's a mistake to think that everyone has a problem with the amount that MPs get paid. I have always been of the view that it is in my (and everyone else’s) interests that MPs are able to effectively carry out their duties and that money should not be a limiting factor. If salaries are proportional to responsibility, then I think that there is definitely a case for an increase on the basic rate.

    However, I do object to the idea of MPs being allowed to operate an expenses system that is not only open to abuse, but less exacting than those typically found in the private sector. An increase in transparency may help the public understand the need for certain things to be covered by expenses, whilst also helping chip away at the (hopefully) misconceived image of MPs taking advantage of the system 'just because they can'.

    Perhaps once the element of secrecy is taken away, a stronger case can be put forward to the public, and they would be far more open to the suggestion of increased pay.

  10. Jefford
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Probably about £65000 pa + expenses on a public scale – accessible to all on the internet .
    The eopen ended perks game is no longer acceptable |(or concealable )
    +
    say £ 20,000 for maintaining a place in London for those MP's based outside inner London
    +
    ( you are not going to like this John ) and end to the existing pension scheme and all MP pensions to be on the same basis as most of the population ie personal pensions and contributions limited

  11. Posted February 29, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Another interesting post. I believe that a flat salary with no additional under the counter expenses might be a little more appropriate. I apologise but I also believe there are far too many of you (MPs). From my vantage point here in the US (as a UK expatriate) , it is hard to overlook the fact that the UK has more than 650 members of parliament for an area roughly the size of New York state. I think
    this is exessive given the number of senators and congressmen here in the US. I iimagine that the UK has more mps and civil servants per head of population than virtually anywhere else.

    I used to find it horrifying when living in the UK that the labour government had managed to employ almost 500,000 extra civil servants since they came to power – at least that is what was reported in the press. This agrees directly with your point about support infrastructure. The whole system is too unwieldy and expensive, and given the vested interests of the MPs themselves who after all wish to retain their jobs, it is hard to see how the system could ever be changed.

    It is interesting to read the points on workload. There is a widespread perception that mps do very little work. This is not helped by the empty chambers in the evening that can be seen where one wonders where everyone else is.
    However, one point that did strike me on the workload was really how much of it was necesary. As we all know, work grows to fill the time available, and I'm sure that a lot of the 'work' could be done by a streamlined civil service.

    I personally would therefore remove a lot of the MP workload into the civil service, reduce the number of MPs numbers considerably, and pay the rest a flat rate salary. I would also be temped to introduce performance related pay based on measured goals of the countries performance – employment, crime, education but I would ensure that these figures were reported by independent agencies because I believe that as a whole, most of the MPs are a sorry dishonest lot. (Followed by negative comments on John Prescott -ed)
    Rather than discussing the relative merits of salaries I think the country would be better served considering the merits of the people they pay them to.

  12. newmania
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I am not concerned about MP`s pay .I am concerned about what they do to mine and in view of the vast amounts promised to be sprayed at the NHS it would appear , nothing good .
    Frankly I was arther hoping to find the freshly sliced and diced corpse of Andrew Lansley on these pages .
    The silence is deafening …..I dont know Mr. R promises of vast amounts for the public sector and gimmicky guff about the probity of MPs ( the least of our real worries) its all getting a bit Blairy.

    Reply: The BBC/LAbour stunt re a big increase to 11% of GNP on health was simply not true, so there was no need to blog about it.

  13. Deborah
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    I think the issue is really about transparency.

    Obviously the MPs salary, at £60,000, is not sufficient. However, the large expense allowances (with few questions asked) for this, that and the other certainly do add up. Some may be perfectly justified, some may not be. The system relies on MPs being "honourable gentlemen" but some have abused that trust .If the public cannot see what is happening, they will assume the worst.

    It would be better to increase the basic salary by a reasonable amount so that MPs are less tempted to use the low basic salary as an excuse to justify fiddling the expense system.

    Then, expenses should be allowed for receipted items which could ordinarily be set against tax – those incurred wholly, necessarily and exclusively for the purpose of the job. This might need some further defining, but I'm sure HMIT could help.
    Expense claims should be open and transparent. It is public money.

    As for second homes, the system should follow the norm in the private sector. A company that required frequent travel between two locations would usually make arrangements with local hotels etc for reduced rates, or buy it's own "management centre" as accommodation. It would not reimburse fictitious mortgage expenses. Neither would it pay mortgage expenses whilst providing grace and favour accommodation.

    I expect there is scope to reduce the support bureaucracy.

  14. Mike H
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Prospective MPs can plainly see what the job is like before they get into it, so the demands of the job should not be a surprise. If they can't stand the heat, etc… MPs may well work hard and do a difficult, stressful job at some cost to their family life. But that is true for millions of people working in the UK – MPs are no different to anyone else in that respect. My working week averaged a good 55-60 hours over the last ten years of my working life and I had plenty of experience of what it is like to work over 100 hours in a week. My pay was nowhere near the earnings of an MP. OK, I didn't have to re-interview for my job every few years, but none of us has any real job security these days. You get to keep your job by ensuring you give damn good value to your employer – and sometimes even that is not enough.
    As far as the second homes issue goes, it's perfectly sensible that MPs who can't reasonably commute to London should have a London base. But why should it be an expensive house or flat. And why should the MP gain out of the capital appreciation of that asset while the taxpayer pays for his or her mortgage? When most of us are 'away on business' we have to stay in hotels (often not particularly plush ones, at that). Either the taxpayer should eventually benefit from any capital gain in an MPs second home, or perhaps there should be a dedicated 'MP hotel' established in London at the taxpayers expense and just do away with all these privately owned second homes altogether.
    Expenses should be paid exactly as they are in the private sector. My expenses all had to be backed-up by receipts and had to conform with the current expenses policy. They had to be signed-off by my manager before payment and, even then, were subject to scrutiny by my department head and the FD or MD. They were all logged and reported on a computer system, so anomalous spending by a department or an individual was quickly spotted and investigated. MPs should be no different in this respect. At the moment, rather than been the employees of 'parliament plc' (a wholly owned subsidiary of taxpayer plc), they are more like individual subsidiary companies with all the problems of staffing, supplies, etc. It would seem sensible to me for MPs to be proper employees of parliament plc and be provided with paper, pens, computers, desks, secretaries, telephones and all the other stuff that employees normally have provided by their employer. That would free them to be MPs for more of their time, rather than office managers.
    Now is not the time to be discussing MPs salary. Collectively they have totally, and I mean totally, lost the trust of the electorate. Restore that trust, start to serve the electorate, start to listen to the electorate, start to do what the electorate want, and maybe people would be receptive to a claim for a better pay package.
    For the moment it should stay at 60K. We all have to earn our pay rises – it's time our MPs did likewise.

  15. John Brenner
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Your acticle makes good sense.

    I suggest that an easy and non-controversial way to set MP pay would be to link it as a fixed ratio to UK per capita GDP. There would be occasional controversy to alter it, with many years of automatic adjustment in between.

    To increase the ratio (ie, to increase MPs' share of the UK cake relative to Mr. average), the elected MPs would have to explain and justify this to the electorate.

    Democracy! MPs should welcome it, and the public should be highly suspicious if they do not.

  16. mikestallard
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    The problem is that MPs are getting really unpopular in a greedy, envious Socialist country. They are seen as out of touch, they do not know the price of milk, how dangerous the streets are and how inflation is ruining our lives.
    Hence the meanness.
    Also, when the EU is simply in control of all policy (or seen to be so), why pay them anything at all?

  17. Chuck Unsworth
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I don't see why MPs should be paid a salary at all. It's probably fair to pay declared and fully accounted expenses. If we really must pay for these people perhaps we should be paying an hourly rate. Seems to me that £60,000 per year is not at all bad.
    After all, what do these people do to serve the nation over and above such people as nursing staff, ambulance and fire personnel or soldiers? Bring in lots of new and utterly useless legislation? Wow!

  18. Posted February 29, 2008 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Reply: The BBC/LAbour stunt re a big increase to 11% of GNP on health was simply not true, so there was no need to blog about it.

    Given the considerable dismay in some quarters another view would be that this was the very reason to clear up this little matter( of £28 billion). Still if it is not true that is a relief

  19. Posted February 29, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    MPs get paid quite enough, far more than most of their constituents. They have most generous benefits, expenses and pension schemes.

    What is unpopular is that they continue to increase their own salaries above inflation, while holding public sector workers pay down. They seem to have lost touch with the ordinary people who see owning two houses, and enough cash for lots of holidays and a new car whenever they feel like it, as far above themselves

  20. Iain
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Tim Skinner: An interesting points of view has just been air on MP's pay, it was interesting to note that your suggestion of MP's being paid locally was how it used to be done between the 13th-17th centauries, a method of remuneration which makes for a very potent level of direct accountability, and would be a very useful means to shore up the backbone of MP’s and so weaken the corrupting hand of the party whips and so weaken the power of the Executive over Parliament restoring the House of Commons function of holding the Executive to account.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/views/a_point

  21. [[NAME EDITED]]
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Pay them nothing.

  22. Dominic
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    It's simple. In the 1970s, MPs were paid the same as academics. A typical academic will work from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, perhaps do one complete day's work every weekend, and take perhaps one week's holiday a year (or nothing: Christmas is spent marking). Except at Oxbridge, no meals are taken at work; there is no time for lunch anyway (teaching continues throughout the lunch hour because of the lack of teaching accommodation resulting from the rise in student numbers). Normally no expenses are paid. Those who attend conferences (not a majority) pay for themselves. The most senior people in the profession are professors, people with international reputations who have been operating at the highest level for many years. On any reckoning, professors are far more distinguished people than MPs. They are paid £49,607. It would probably be better to peg an MP's salary to that of a senior lecturer — someone nearly at the top of the profession, and again with an international reputation in their field — and give them a salary of £42,791 to £48,161. Academics are greedy, of course, and want more. But they have always been told by politicians that they can't have it: after all, there is no shortage of well qualified people (people who have trained for an absolute minimum of six years: first class Honours degree and PhD) applying for the positions on offer. But the same applies in the case of MPs: there is no shortage of people standing for election. So let MPs' salaries be adjusted to somewhere in the region of £42,791 to £48,161. And remove all the allowances and perks. And make them clean their own offices, as many academics have to. That would only be fair. If they decide they don't want to do the job, there is someone else who will.

  23. Bazman
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Why not abolish pay from the public purse to be replaced with entirely private funding and sponsorship. Or if you are rich enough, just buy a seat! Now that parliament is televised the MP's could have the names of the companies, unions and pressure groups on their suits. Size of the logo determined by how much is paid. Top hats will become fashionable again due to space and size
    Declaring of any gifts or vested interests would be unnecessary as it would be taken as read.
    Hundred grand a year. Plus expenses. No funny business.

  24. Gricer
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Simple………….
    Get the job properly assesed for content, responsibility, decision making etc., as most private industry jobs are. My guess is that this would give a salary of 80-85K, but then deduct at least 5K, probably 10K because of the absurdly generous pension arrangements.
    After that, all expenses are subject to precisely the same rules and treatment by R&C as they are for the rest of us, expenditure allowable only when exclusively …..etc., and all requiring receipts.
    Cheap meals and booze in the House, etc., treated as benefit in kind and subject to taxation just as benefits are to the rest of us.

    That should bring them all back to the real world. If they don't like it, there is a queue waiting on the rank who will.

  25. steves
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    The problem you are raising is one that as been caused by the ever centralising hand of big government. The problem is that each successive government as taken more and more power out of the hands of the people themselves to run their own lives, local democracy and are trying to run everything themselves. They then paint themselves as overworked, hive off decisions to unelected quangos. create more work for themselves when their work is passed to the EU

    Being an MP should be a part time, poorly paid second job then career busy bodies (politicians) aren't created. If more people with real life experience instead of politics/quangos/ngo stafferes were involved we would get better decisions.

    The only trade that should be barred is the legal profession, who are the real beneficiaies of the blairite revolution

    Pay mps attendance allowances only, when they are in chamber, or available at surgery

  26. Chas
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I think that MPs should have offices (with attendant staff and running costs) provided by parliament. They should be able to claim certain travelling expenses, but not housing costs. And I think that, next to the candidate's name and party on the ballot paper at the election, the prospective MP should put whatever monetary amount he thinks he should be paid if elected. Then it will be for the voters to decide. If they like their candidate very much and think he is worth £200,000, then he should be paid that. If they would rather elect someone who doesn't want (or need) more than £25,000, then that will do too. I say, let the market decide.

  27. apl
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    JR: ¨I would be interested to know what you think about a) What is the correct rate of pay for an MP¨

    No salary, recipited expenses, and vastly less hours.

    In fact there should be vastly less leglislation. All that rubbish coming from Brussels should simply stop.

    We should have a five year parliament where the sole objective would be to review the last sixty years leglislation with the aim of repealing most of it.

    An MP´s ought to have a proper job out side parliament, which would give individual MP´s some experience of life that many of the rest of us have.

    They might operate on a similar basis to the Territorial Army, recalled to important debates, which observing attendence in the Commons don´t seem to happen very often.

    The rest of the time the dramatically reduced civil service should be responsible for the day to day running of government. The cabinet should be reduced to about ten ministers. A smaller number might draw a salary. Say the Prime minister and Chancellor maybe the defence secretary too. Any expenses for these should also be fully recipted.

    We need to curtail the ability of the executive to sway and influence MPs with the prospect of graft and gifts. Thus the number of ministerial posts should be reduced. We need independent people in parliament not sheep.

    JR: ¨b) what items should an MP be able to claim on expenses? Do you think it reasonable that MPs should be assisted with second home costs, given the two centre nature of the job?¨

    Yes it is reasonable to assist an MP with a second home. What is not reasonable is that when the MP sells the second home he keeps the profit. The proceeds of such sales should be returned to the Treasuary.

    MPs who represent London constituents should not be eligable for second home allowance. For such there might be G&F appartments provided, perhaps in the old county hall.

  28. David Eyles
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I reckon £60,000 is a tad small as a basic salary and I would be in favour of raising it to about £80,000 – provided the expenses are drastically reduced. There is no reason why MPs should be responsible for paying their own staff – the source of the recent abuse. I have no objection to wives/girlfriends/sons/daughters working for an MP as long as they are paid commensurate with their abilities and output. Hiring and firing should be carried out by a central agency, thus checking that work gets done. Staff costs should be paid directly by the taxpayer, thus removing the ability to fiddle large sums into the family coffers for no work.

    Housing is another thorny issue. The idea of a central block of flats occupied entirely by MPs and paid for by the taxpayer smacks of gated communities isolated from the very people they represent – and increases the possibility of unwholesome fraternisation between career politicians. So I would suggest that out-of-town MPs are given a maximum fixed allowance to rent their London accommodation at the actual rent that they pay, not to buy it. They have to buy their first homes in or near their constituencies and can make whatever they like out of their investment, same as the rest of us. London MPs or those within an hour commuting distance of Westminster, should not be given the housing allowance.

  29. Andrew S
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Even if the total annual spend on MPs pay and expenses is between 80 and 120 million excluding pensions then it's acceptable.
    MPs should have to detail all expenses with receipts, just like businesses have to. Let them be subject to reporting and audit just like business expenses.
    By all means reduce the number of MPs but it will be relatively peanuts saved on the overall cost. To cut by 100 or more would raise real questions about representation. And all the infighting over who loses seats, the LibDems with PR, the North-South divide etc.
    100K plus proper expenses, london living allowances, pension contribution, and support staff. But make these extras subject to proper scrutiny, no more conway style dodges. If you provide a clear remuneration package then only the bad apples will try to fiddle.
    No problem with outside jobs for non Ministers – rewarding those who want to work hard is a fundamental principle.

  30. michael dearden
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be fair to say that a good number of MPs do not have the intellectual ability to hold down a good job in the private sector and would be hard pushed to earn what they are presently paid. Those that are not intellectually challenged probably hold down lucrative directorships or something similar in the private sector that more than compensates them for what they consider a low salary. If MPs feel undervalued I suggest that all of them face a far more rigorous selection process that looks not only at their scholastic achievements but also ascertain whether they have the slightest amount of common sense (very few do). Most certainly thee are far too many in the houses of Parliament, cull the ignorant and bigoted and you would probably end up with about half the number you have now and even that is more than enough to run this country.

  31. bill ewington
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately only a minority of MP's work hard simply because they care for the country they serve.
    This beggars the question that the position of MP is a service to ones country and not just another (well paid) job with plenty of tax free purks and other privilages that go with the position?
    There are many MP's that would otherwise be unemployable in society let alone have a title that sets them on a pedastall. However most MPs have "the gift of the gab" that convince the people that vote them into the job, that they really do care about society. Sadly there are many MPs that view the position as a "gravy train" to take whatever they can whilst they can. They seem to think because the job is only for a fixed term they need to squeeze whatever they can out of the system within the limited time they have.
    This is how the General Public view politicians and the fact that they have priviliges that are not allowable to those in the private sector only adds to the publics feeling of frustration with MPs.
    As such MPs are viewed as selfserving parasites and it is unfortunate for those in Parliament that genuinly desire to serve society are tared with the same brush.
    Long gone are the days where MPs were people that had a conviction to improve their country and sacrificed an alternative career in order to fulfill that committment.
    The only way now in which to sort the "wheat" from the "chaff" is to take away the lavish lifestyle MPs enjoy and let them earn the respect that only a very small number deserve.

  32. Mike H
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Every day we listen to the spin, deceit, obfuscation and downright lies from politicians.

    The days of believing in the honour, personal integrity and trustworthiness of politicians as a breed are long gone. I wonder if collectively they have enough concern for their steeply declining public image to ever do anything about recovering the situation.

    Politicians who, only a few decades ago, would have quickly apologised, resigned and permanently disappeared into political obscurity after a relatively minor misdemeanour, today are reinstated in no time at all, or pop up with a lucrative job in Europe. That's when, of course, they have the decency to resign in the first place – something of a rarity nowadays.

    In addition, many politicians seem to inhabit an alternate universe within the 'Westminster bubble' where they appear totally disconnected from the realities of living in this 21st century version of the UK. They are content to work away to protect their privileged position in 'the bubble' while effectively ignoring many of the major issues that face this country.

    It is no wonder that politicians are generally viewed with utter contempt and disgust by much of the electorate.

  33. Bazman
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    Stretching the imagination to believe that the majority of MP's are on a mission to improve the lives of the British population.
    People of these talents don't work for free though, and why shouldn't MP's get a decent wage? Why not build a block of flats near Parliament as suggested by Elizabeth Elliot-Pyle and other anti-scam measures? Get a bit of public school discipline into the system, which no doubt most understand. Cut their hair? Many would cut their legs off to be an MP.

  34. turboprop
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    John,

    A good blog as you do spell out the long hours the average MP earns works.

    However, you left out several really important points which you should have put in – such as the large number of weeks holidays you ‘can’ enjoy (should you wish to), the lack of oversight from a boss/employer, the ability to largely come and go as you please (subject to votes), book deals, income from broadcasting/journalism, the ability to earn large sums of money in consultancies from the private sector, the gold plated and very generous pension allowances, and the ability to step into a well paid job should you lose an election or step down – and the rather comfortable ‘parachute payment’ when you do.

    In short, once you are elected, you work long hours, but no-one really has oversight over you, and you can do pretty much what you want.

    For example, what about the Shadow Cabinet member who enjoys extra-parliamentary roles with a bank and a management consultancy? I know for a fact he does several hours work a day with the bank and is handsomely rewarded for his efforts (well in excess of his Parliamentary salary). I know he works long hours, but he isn’t exactly setting the media world ablaze – and is a fairly average kind of ShadCab member. But if he is spending a large amount of his working day concentrating on the commercial interests of a bank and a corporate, he clearly cannot be rushed of his feet as either an MP or a shadow cabinet member! It is individuals such as this which rather undermine your pleading that the lot of an MP is not a happy one.

    So, whilst you work hard for sure, let’s not forget the above points, which the public are fully aware of. It is not acknowledging this which undermine the pleadings of the political class and make the public cynical.

    You also raise the point others do not have their staff salaries considered perks – very true, but I don’t know of many others who can employ their spouses/child/lovers and pay them handsomely at the tax payers expense. Also, I know of no other field where you can claim such large sums without proper oversight (no receipt for things under £250 – I am an employer and I would sack anyone who tried to claim £250 of my money without a receipt) or for things which other people would simply have to fund out of their salary! And let’s not forget the subsidised meals and the endless hospitality of journalists and special interest groups, overseas travel and freedom to employ pretty American interns!

    In short – being an MP might not be great in the here and now, but on the whole, there are no shortage of applicants – so it cannot be too bad now can it!

    However, these points aside, I accept that MPs are not paid a great deal of money. But perception is a huge issue. Where I was born and grew up, a salary of £60,000 is a huge amount of money, and many of those I knew as a youngster can only dream of what it would be like to earn such massive sums. However, where I now live, the opposite situation is true – people wonder how on earth an MP can survive on so little, and more understanding.

    At the end of the day, being an MP is a privilege. An MP is serving the public – not the other way around. Whilst we want to encourage high quality candidates, and we need a package which is sufficient to achieve this, people should not go into politics as a means of rewarding themselves financially. I suspect that a lot of the more hopeless members of the 97 intake – those who have always lived at the expense of the tax payer, or who have never worked in the private sector, employed, created or built anything – enjoyed a huge increase in their monthly take-home. This is symptomatic with the left, who view the public purse as something they have ownership over, and fewer issues with rewarding themselves handsomely for their ‘job’. Those on the right understand that being an MP is not a ‘job’ but a vocation, a privilege and that the taxpayer is funding them. Hopefully therefore, those on the right will see it as their job to champion the tax payer and ensure best value for money. My concern is though that MPs across the divide will club together to look after each other – and themselves!

    I think the answer is a wide ranging reform.

    I think an MP should be paid about £90,000 a year, but should be prevented from having paid outside employment. The Parliamentary week should have more ‘normal’ working hours (say 9-6 at most), but with no more than eight weeks a year ‘holiday’, giving MPs more debating time through the year! MPs should not control budgets for staffing, and all expenses should only be claimable with a receipt. The housing allowance should be removed, and the extra costs associated with running a home in London run off against the high salary. MPs should not claim for meals (what’s wrong with a packed lunch like others have), and the travel allowances need to be cut back on. MPs should declare in the RoMI any close relative they employ, with details of how much they are paid. Payments should come direct from the fees office.

    REPLY I AGREE THAT BEING AN MP IS A PRIVILEGE AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE THE PUBLIC. THE BLOG WAS TO SET OUT THE CASE AS MANY MPS SEE IT. I QUITE UNDERSTAND THE FEELINGS OF PEOPLE ABOUT THE LEVEL FO PAY AND PERKS AND AM NOT MYSELF PROPOSING AN INCREASE.

  35. John
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    John

    An interesting blog post. My personal view is that MPs should have a higher salary, that should automatically increase in line with average earnings in the economy only, but much less ability to claim expenses.

    On staff, there should be a pool of civil servant administrators that are allocated to MPs. This is the same way that support is provided in the private sector. Others have made sensible suggestions on accommodation – there should certainly not be the ability for private gain.

    Oh – and finally – Westminster should take a lesson from the Scottish Parliament. Every receipt for an expenses claim can be scrutinised, and there are good search facilities: http://mspallowances.scottish.parliament.uk/MSPAl

  36. Atlas shrugged
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    John

    I have a very very good plan which would solve all our problems in one, but I simply just know you are not going to like it one tiny little bit.

    Like a typical politician you are looking at this issue from the wrong end of the proverbial telescope.

    You are supposed to be a conservative are you not?

    Therefore you should know that when there is a disconnect between the customer and the supplier then shit happens to a greater or lesser extent.

    This disconnect could not be more wide then between the constituency MP and the members of said constituency that selected and greatly helped get him his job.

    If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. This statement is generally true but not always to say the least.

    But what if a monkey is all that the customer wants or all that the job post EU requires?

    What if the wages and expenses are not indeed anything like peanuts but the employer still gets a monkey?

    So here is an idea that is democratic, fair, conservative, as cheap as chips, and could increase rather then decrease MPs wages but most likely will not. Which is most surly why no politicians including yourself will like one word of it. But here gos anyway.

    MPs wages terms and conditions, should be set in advance of any general or by-election decided in agreement with, the respective constituency party. A small standard national subsidy, say of £30.000 per year payed by the state the rest make up out of local constituency funds. With no limit to how much is payable.

    See I knew you would not like it.

    But could you come up with even one GOOD reason why, apart from entirely selfish ones?

    I for one would be very happy indeed to contribute an extra £50 per year to party funds. Just to listen to my local prospective MP beg for his supper at least once a parliament and justify his performance. Like I have to myself every day in private business.

    If by any chance you do think this is a good idea would you please suggest it to DC. It would be a massive vote winner and the most popular idea with constituency members imaginable. It would also put the fear of GOD up the Labour soon to be opposition.

    REPLY; SUCH A SYSTEM COULD SUIT MANY MPS VERY WELL, AS IT COULD LEAD TO A SUBSTANTIAL INCREASE IN PAY. THE PROBLEM WITH IT WOULD BE THAT IT CREATES THE SPONSORED MP – WOULD BE ABLE TO WEAR T SHIRTS IN THE CHAMBER ADVERTISING THE COMMERCIAL INETRESTS WHO HAD BACKED OUR LOCAL PARTY WITH THE CASH? I WOULD NOT WANT TO GO THAT WAY BECAUSE IT WOULD UNDERMINE WHAT INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGEMENT IS LEFT IN OUR SYSTEM AND WOULD INCREASE THE NUMBER OF SLEAZE CASES.

  37. Andrew S
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    John, the point in your blog about the workload of a hard working MP could also be used to argue against a significant reduction in the total number. Less MPs and the same number of constituents infers more constituency work per MP. So MPs could end up having to prioritise constituents issues. Unless the size of the electorate somehow reduced or opted out.
    So I think the pay issue should be kept separate from the Commons headcount issue which is a bigger question altogether.

    EU related bureaucracy on the other hand should be continously pegged back.

  38. Atlas shrugged
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    John

    Surly its not beyond the wits of politicians to think of perfectly acceptable way of avoiding the types of problems you mention.

    For example the candidate would have to be elected as they are now by the local constituency anyway. If they did not want a candidate simply on the make thats their choice. If they did then that is also their choice. This used to be called democracy.

    You could also bring in other restrictions like a maximum payment for example of $50 per voting member to go towards the MPs wages.

    I ask you to think again most if not all of you objections are quite frankly silly and very easily avoidable. I did not claim I could set out what would indeed have to be a whole complicated ACT OF PARLIAMENT in one single short paragraph.

    It is the idea that is the point.

    Give the idea to one of your people and see if a system could be formulated that would have the desired effect. Avoiding the things you mention. But remember the responsibility is with the local constituency to get it right in the end. It is their constituency and it will also be their money. You trust us to deliver the propaganda to the right door. Why do you not trust us to select and deselect and pay for whoever we wish?

  39. Posted March 3, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Given that many MP's are pretty much prisoners of the whips, and that selection and de-selection is the gift of the party, this does cause a disconnect between MP's and people. How would you feel about a system of US style primaries whereby constituents got to pick the candidate as well as the MP, thereby weakening central party power?

    Fine by me. The Conservative party has held some open primaries to select Parliamentary candidates.

  40. john gardiner
    Posted March 11, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    A few correspondants have hit the nail on the head.Quite simply,it is a breathtaking piece of arrogance [and self delusion if believed] that MP's are deemed capable,by some God given right,of earning X amount at some mythical 'level' in the real world of employment.Not only that,I suspect half of our MP's would actually have been sacked,and had charges laid against them,for the never ending instances of incompetence and fiddling be it expenses/mortgages/nepotism etc etc.
    People do not trust politicians and over the years have been proven correct in holding this view.Parliament is seen as a Club where 'the boys',first and foremost,look after themselves.

  41. Chris Brown
    Posted May 8, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Salary insufficient? Hardly….If MPs are so badly-paid, how come tso many ofd them turn out to be millionaires when their estates are declared for probate? Many MPs have suggested that their slaries are 'obviously' too low becuase they onlly get a lkittle more than double the the national 'average' salary, however the 'average' salary of c. 28000-30000 is more than double what MOST people earn – that is £200-300 per week. Many MOs claim that they would be better paid if they worked outside Parliamnet, but what exactly would they be doing? Many of them do have sinecure jobs in commerce (in addition to being MPS) but they get offered those position because they are MPs. not on account of any talent. Like GPs, MPs are simply paid far too much. If we were well-goverened they might have qa case for getting such enormous salaries (though not the scrutiny-free allowances), but the sad fact is that both parties have ruled very badly for generations. The argument that they have high-risk occupations is not suppotable. |Most MPs have fiarly safe seats, but in any case, becausemost voters do not really understand the electoral system, the chances of being elected or re-elected are much more dependent on the popularity of the parties than of the individual MP. The Commons is full of peole who who would not get a job anywhere else, indeed it includes an increasing number who havfe never actually had a job at all, but have always been on the Westminster gravy train.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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