MPs pay

Before the expenses row blew up I led a discussion on this website of how much MPs should be paid. Some of you thought MPs should be paid more. Some MPs themselves think the answer to the current mess is to pay them more by way of salary, cutting back on the expenses allowed. I would like to say why I think a pay rise would be quite wrong.

There is no shortage of people wanting to be MPs, so there is no overall recuitment case for lifting the pay.

Given the state of the public debt it is clear the overall public payroll has to be contained. MPs acting as Ministers would have no moral authority to demand pay sacrifices elsewhere, if they are putting their own pay up.

The current basic pay for an MP is only part of the pay of many MPs. All Ministers, government Whips,The Leader of the Opposition and Committee Chairmen enjoy second salaries for their second official jobs. Other MPs earn money from journalism, advisory positions, non executive directorships, legal and dental practise, public speaking and other activities. An MP has to be on call seven days a week, work at week-ends and in the evenings, but has flexibility over when to do the job and has much more spare time in the many weeks of the year when Parliament does not meet.

There are three types of people financially who take on an MP role. Some come from jobs that pay less. Clearly the MP pay level is no barrier to them. Some are independently wealthy, from inheritance or past financial success. They often want the privilege of representing people and the interest of the job. The third group are people who are following a more lucrative professional career who will make some kind of financial sacrifice. That is their choice. It would be very costly and wrong to set the salary of an MP at a level which meant lawyers, bankers, media figures and business executives no longer were paid less.

Some favour banning all second jobs for MPs, though I think they mean banning all private sector second jobs. That would have an impact on the type of people coming in, limiting it more to the first two groups. It would also mean fewer people in the Commons with a current knowledge of many walks of life based on contemporary experience. It would mean more career politicians, even keener to follow their party lines and to engage in the media/political spin game.

We need to get a grip on total public spending. That is why MPs are right to be cutting back the generous scope of the current expenses regime, and why Mr Cameron is right to call for fewer MPs. It is only when people think MPs are offering good value for money that Parliament will have the authority it needs to get value from the rest of public spending.

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65 Comments

  1. figurewizard
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Before an outraged electorate can contemplate increasing salaries for MPs they are first going to be demanding better MPs, which means a better Parliament. This is not just about expenses either because dissatisfaction has blossomed on other fronts since then. For far too long acoss all parties the majority of MPs have come to be seen by their constituents as nothing more than ineffective ciphers in the party machine. One headline this week referred to ‘a very British revolution’ but it is not in the the streets where this revolution is being sought; it’s Parliament itself that is has become the arena.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      It is difficult if not possible for the opposition to be effective when a Government abuses Parliamentary procedure to bypass or cut short proper debate or scrutinisation of legislation. John has on a number of occasions made comment on this. I believe that the electorate has got what it deserved by voting in this deceitful sham of a Government, and is only now waking up to the fact. To anyone with any understanding or who took time to really examine what was going on, it was not to difficult to see we had an ‘Emperor’s clothes economy’ built on asset price inflation driven by easy money and debt. This is nor a review mirror speaking, I sold out of property 4 years ago and went liquid because I saw what was going to happen. But of course like every other sensible saver I have been penalised to bail out the profilgate. The real lesson here is that it does no pay to be responsible, pay your way, save, invest in a pension, try and not use the state. THIS COUNTRY GAVE BACK ALL WHAT WE ACHIEVED SINCE ’79 AND MORE! An incoming Conservative government may have to be more radical than Maggie’s and actually achieve what she did not, which is to role back the State and encourage, nay force people to take responsability for their lives. This does not mean we should not help them transition (to use modern jargon) but in the end the welfare state has entrapped generations and has not either encouraged or enabled the less well off to better themselves. One nation Conservatives have also been complicit with New Labour in this, both the philosophy of redistribution and not being honest that the world is a competitive place has been a primary failure. We are not equal, but everyone has a talent and we all have something to give but we all have to be realistic and there is nothing wrong in encouraging and rewarding excellence, all anyone can expect is opportunity to achieve, not benefit from a dumbing down culture that we have had since the 60s.

  2. James Burdett
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Would it not also be worth looking at the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975. Do we really need to have 22 members of the government on a full Cabinet salary? Surely we could get rid of a couple of Cabinet salaries by knocking out the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretaries and rolling it up with the Local Government brief. Ok it probably isn’t going to save a huge amount but it would be a statement of intent.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      As a Welshman I feel some shame that we have a windbag assembly full of third-raters and a pointless minister in cabinet. Abolish them both!

  3. APL
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    JR: “There is no shortage of people wanting to be MPs, so there is no overall recuitment case for lifting the pay.”

    Agreed.

    JR: “I would like to say why I think a pay rise would be quite wrong.”

    It too would be ‘quite wrong’ to reward a group of people, who have spent the last ten years exploiting the tax payer. Many of the tactics employed in contravention of the parliamentary regulations set out in the Green book.

    It is no coincidence that the practices employed in Westminster under the Blair and Brown junta are similar if not identical to those employed in that festering sewer of corruption the European Parliament.

    A demonstration of Gresham’s law, the bad drives out the good.

  4. Sarah Harris
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Why are these comments enabled? I put comments on my MPs site and they were not allowed until I gave my postal address. When I enquired I was told: “However parliamentary rules require that you provide your postal address before your email can be further processed.”

    reply: This site does not operate under Parliamentary rules – I pay for it as a private site.

  5. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    No, Mr Cameron is NOT right to call for fewer MPs at this point.

    This is not to say that the present 646 is the optimum number of seats for effective representation of communities across the UK. Maybe that could be done with as few as 500 seats, or maybe ideally there should be 800.

    However that is a issue of quantity, a secondary issue, and almost entirely unrelated to the primary, most serious, in fact for our democracy deadly serious, issue of quality, and it is always wrong for any politician to attempt to divert attention from the main issue to a side issue.

    I suppose these two issues could be more closely linked, simply by “decimating” the present MPs in a process akin to the ancient Roman practice of executing one in ten soldiers in a cowardly or mutinous unit. However while the Romans made a random selection of those who were to die, in the case of MPs the worst 10% could be culled.

    Then, for example, Mr Cameron could send a letter like this to the electorate in Bracknell:

    “Dear Voters

    You will have heard that the representative your town sent to Parliament in 2005 has now agreed to stand down over his misuse of public money.

    As you exercised such poor judgement by electing this person, I have decided that in the future you will not be permitted to have your own representative in the House of Commons.

    Those of you who live in the western part of the present Bracknell constituency will instead be allocated to Mr Redwood of Wokingham, while those in the northern parts will be allocated to either Mrs May of Maidenhead or Mr Afriyie of Windsor, and so forth.

    You will be notified of the detailed arrangements in due course.

    Yours etc.”

    Of course that would be patently absurd: it would be one politician punishing the people of Bracknell for the sins of another politician, and moreover a politician who they had elected in good faith on the fulsome recommendation of the first politician’s own party.

    But that would also be the end result if a more sophisticated method was used to reduce the number of constituencies in response to the bad behaviour of MPs – it would amount to punishing the people for the sins of the politicians.

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      It would also loose the Tories a seat in Parliament.

      Cutting off your nose to spite your face ????

  6. John
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Another excellent article – wholly agreed with.

    I am constantly amazed by those who seem to be in favour of measures which lead even more to the debasing of political life in the UK by making politics a career choice rather than a vocation.

  7. Alan Wheatley
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I agree. I think the approach is to treat MPs in an equivalent way to the private sector: not “the same”, as the MP’s job is not quite the same. What I object to, and I believe many other likewise, is for MPs to arrange for themselves benefits not available to others, given that there are no commercial pressures and an infinite resource upon which to draw.

    Those who argue for expenses to be swept up into a higher salary seem to me to be in cloud cuckoo land. It makes sense for all MPs to be paid the same salary for representing their constituents as that aspect of the work is, or at least should be, broadly the same. Whether they choose to be busy or inactive in that role is up to them, and their constituents at election time. As JR quite rightly pointed out, there is not shortage of candidates wanting to become an MP, which, on the basis of supply and demand, would suggest a lower salary.

    On the other hand, legitimate expenses can vary from MP to MP. The large geographic variation is an obvious case in point. I would be relaxed about MPs being able to claim generous expenses to support their work, both in terms of staff and equipment. This should be public information, and the public can then make up their own minds as to the valve for money of these claims.

    A “stingy salary generous expenses” approach has the advantage that should an MP loose their seat the majority of the money they have been receiving disappears in step with the majority of their costs. I think it is worth bearing in mind that MPs can loose their job in a way quite unlike that in the private sector, and no matter how well they have been performing.

    I agree with JR on second, PRIVATE, jobs. Again, if constituents don’t like it they can act accordingly. It would, perhaps, be wise for those with other jobs outside parliament to make periodic reference to those jobs and the benefits they bring so constituents can be informed before coming to judgement.

    And then there is pensions, and so much more …….

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      An absurd arguement as there are not a shortage od candidates for many well remunerated profession or position including CEOs, COOs, CFOs -in fact I know I could have done better job than a Fair number of curent and recent Bank CEOs!

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        Then it would seem that you are missing your true, and well remunerated, vocation.

        I would have thought it was a well established commercial principle that you do not pay more than you have to. Of course, if you are a CEO, then you can pay yourself what you can get away with. Should we treat MPs like “employees” or “CEOs”?

  8. witteringsfromwitney
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood,

    An interesting post – as usual! However, I believe the problem goes far deeper than you state.

    I am a Carswell/Hannan disciple therefore why not endorse that route as it would bring true democracy back to this country. I would also add to that the idea proposed by UKIP and abolish MSPs and MAs and have the Scots and Welsh MPs deal with those matters, thus allowing English MPs to deal with English matters.

    Peter Lilley’s susggestion of cutting the number of MPs by 75 per cent would also bear consideration in view of the number of laws emanating from Brussels.

    Another burning question is the emasculation of local government and that is yet another important issue which needs to be addressed.

    Question if I may? Can you state whether you agree with your colleague Douglas Carswell and how much of The Plan do you endorse?

    reply: I agree with solving the English problem and with substantial devolution of power to people, free institutions and local government. I blogged on his Plan when he published.

    • adam
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Why is Daniel Hannan’s book so similar in appearance and title to Rahm Emanuel’s

  9. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I would also like to point out that the sums of money involved here are in reality trivial, compared to other costs imposed on the British taxpayer.

    If the average annual per capita cost of an MP was cut by as much as £100,000, that would still amount to a saving of only £66 million a year – which works out as about £1.40 per year, less than 3p per week, for each adult.

    I don’t know exactly what it would come to if there were 10% fewer MPs, in the very unlikely event that the remaining 90% didn’t quietly share out the savings among themselves, while at the same time pleading that with their increased workload they deserved to be paid more, so that the total cost went up rather than down.

    But according to this, which came up on a quick search:

    http://philtaylor.org.uk/?p=414

    “Judging by the House of Commons and Lords accounts our masters spent £322.6 million running the House of Commons last year (although this included an exceptional item of £129.3 million), £155.3 million on members’ pay, expenses, etc and £106.4 million for the House of Lords.”

    on which basis, Cameron’s proposed 10% reduction in the number of MPs couldn’t save more than about £16 million a year – about 35p per year, or less than 1p per week, for each adult.

    Now, to take an obvious example, compare that £66 million or £16 million a YEAR, with the £40 million we hand over to the EU each DAY.

    It’s not the money itself; it’s the fact that we should be able to trust MPs, and the present lot in general have shown us that we can’t trust them, and unless something is done about getting a better type of person elected then we still wouldn’t be able to trust them even if there were 10% fewer of them.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      I agree, most of th expenses are subsidising the huge increase in staff and ‘hangers on ‘, by that I mean the Lobbyists, and Palace of Westminster staff and all those advisers. If you did an audit of the necessary support staff you could cut the cost by half at least!

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Quite right. I am concerned, though, that the Sir Christopher Kelly’s committee, the recommendations of which all parties are saying they will accept, may in fact include an increase in salary for MPs. This would be a disastrous mistake and re-open the wound. I hope that you are giving “evidence” to keep them away from such a calamitous mistake.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Not necessarily – unlike John a number would not need a second job as more mature, late candidates would have worked elsewhere first. Thta is not to say MPs should have second jobs, as I agree outside experience is vital. Interesting to observe the limited experience of some of our top shadow team.

    • adam
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 1:29 am | Permalink

      bound to advocate adopting the EU system
      probably reducing the number of mps too.

  11. John Moss
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Current pay is fine. In addition they should get a, variable, Allowance calculated by reference to the cost of travel to and from their constituencies and the rent on a 2 bedroom flat.

    The Allowance should be taxable to the extent it is not spent, based on current HMRC rules that apply to all businesses. This solves many problems.

    A central London MP could use the Allowance to pay a higher mortgage, automatically providing them with “London Weighting”, but it would all be taxed.

    An MP from Wales, Scotland, Cornwall or other far flung constituency would have a higher travel allowance, but a lower rent allowance, probably using all of it, tax free, to cover their costs. If they chose to have a flat in London and a main home in constituency, then their allowance might not cover the full cost of a London flat, but they would, presumably, have a lower mortgage cost in constituency so could cross-subsidise this.
    jobs.

    Lastly, the whole lot, pay, staff and office costs and allowance should be wrapped up in a single “fee” and all MPs should become self-employed small businesses. Let them see what the rest of us have to cope with!

    And of course, the current pension scheme should be closed to everybody at the end of this Parliament, with any MP who wishes to continue in the next one taking a share of the accrued assets of the fund as it stands, net of the liabilities, so automatically dealing with the deficit which has developed. Any MP who wants to collect their final salary pension has the choice not to stand again.

    • John Moss
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Something odd happenned here.

      Where “jobs” appears all lonely in the middle of this post, it should have said that pay ought not to rise because then it would encourage back-benchers without other responsibilities to have other jobs, so maintianing their link to the “real world” outside Westminster.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

      John, 2 things – firstly, some MPs travel to London by car because of flexability, rather than by 1st class train, saving the th etax payer a fortune – an example I know of sdaves GBP 17/- a year but still got pilloried by the DT! Secondly, a good constituency MP will travel a significant mileage a year to functions etc – I know of examples when MPs can do circa 30/- plus miles a year in their role as MP, ‘wholly and exclusively’. In fact, under the current remuneration you are penalised and have to subsidise the system when you go over 10/- miles a year, so if you analyse it in the cold light of day it is not so clear as the DT or the populace at large make out! In the end there is no short cut, we should cut the availablilty of journos, hangers on and cut the huge increase in staff at Westminster, Nobody has asked how many people earn more than MPs in the Palace of Westminster? The results might both surprise you and the population at large! Sir Christopher Kelly earns more than MPs for doing a 3 day week and gets a pension better than they do! So lets get some sort of perspective!

      Reply: MPs cannot claim mileage for the political part of their jobs. If I go to a Conservative meeting I pay the travel.

      • Robert
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        You can claim quite legitimately if you go as the MP to a constituency event – opening a village fete, starting a charity walk etc. – of course you can’t if you are going to a local conservative fund raiser, that goes without saying!

      • John Moss
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Robert, A system where each MP was a small business would allow them to manage their costs within th eoverall fee. I am certainly not advocating a restriction to travelling by train.

        The main point is that this would make MPs subject to the same rules as everybody else and remove the current situation where they have voted themselves a set of rule which would be illegal for ordinary citizens.

  12. Brigham
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Unless there is a law that the Speaker should be an MP, I think the choice should be Elizabeth Filkin. The Parliamentry party thugs kicked her out when she blew the whistle on them, so I think she would have the right attitude to controlling MP’s in the chamber, and would sort out the fees office.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      I think that if MPs decided that their presiding officer need not be an MP, then the Queen would agree to that.

      I mention the Queen, because the election of Michael Martin started thus:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmhansrd/vo001023/debtext/01023-01.htm

      “The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have to inform the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the resignation of the right hon. Betty Boothroyd, lately Speaker of this House, gives leave to the House to proceed forthwith to the election of a new Speaker.”

      Personally I think that there may be a case for the Speaker and his three deputies to sit in the Commons “ex-officio” – ie, once they take on those offices, they resign as MPs and allow new representatives to be elected for their constituencies.

      I can just about see how a minister can still represent his constituents – although at one time it was the practice that on his first ministerial appointment an MP would resign his seat, and then offer himself as a candidate at the ensuing by-election – but as the Speaker and his deputies are supposed to be entirely impartial and non-partisan servants of the House it’s more difficult to see how they can simultaneously serve their constituencies.

  13. backofanenvelope
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The trouble with all these ideas is that they will run into “Do turkeys vote for Christmas” problem.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      In the USA there is a law which states that any difference in the working conditions of Congress shall not apply until after an election. In this way, the turkeys are, in fact, voting for the next lot of turkeys!

  14. upbeatskeptic
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    ‘Some come from jobs that pay less. Clearly the MP pay level is no barrier to them.’

    I only wish this were true. I am from humble origins in the North East, and whilst potential employment opportunities have arose in London, with a significant rise in pay from what I earn now, I am simply unable to afford to take them due to the associated living costs any move would incur (house prices being the primary factor). This can be true for those wishing to get into politics, too. Whilst it has become cliché now, and therefore dismissed all the more easily, it really is the case that a proportion of society are barred by the financial commitments required for becoming an MP, and so don’t even raise their sights toward the prospect of becoming one – from the initial selection process, to the necessity of trying to buy a home in a potential constituency, to then having to find secondary accomodation in London, with all the travel costs and living expenses that such things imply: all of these factors demands a certain level of pre-existing wealth in order merely to make oneself sutiable for selection. If expenses are to be retracted, and MP pay is to become stagnant, then this is something that needs to be recognised.

    Whilst c.£65k is an extraordinary amount of money, when one considers what further commitments are required, the pay level nonetheless can become a barrier – that is, just because a job pays more than your current employment doesn’t mean you can simply go ahead and jump in, and sometimes you have to address the possibility that the rate of pay doesn’t sufficiently cover the associated costs and thus requires financial sacrifices that you might simply be unable to make. In short, c.£65k is not alot when one is expected to live in two places at once, particularly when at least one of those locations is notoriously expensive.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      65k- is peanuts to be honest to people with talent, aspiration and drive and entrepenurial ability, seconfd year graduated get that at top investment banks, solicitors, accountants etc. I understand that money is certainly not everything but if the early 80s agreement , set by an external adjudictor was kept MP s would be paid in excess of 120/- . They now pay in 11.9% os salary into their gold plated final salary scheme, but what are the level of contributions of other civil service, national government or local government schemes? Umm —-, a much bigger lurks there I think, but what the hell I as a private tax-payer will have to pick up the tab like many others !

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

        Yes, if you enter London to make money, you make money.
        How about if you enter (as most MPs say they do) to “make a difference”?
        How about comparing that with other people who “make a difference”?
        Our Parish Priest?
        A State School Teacher who likes teaching and pastoral work instead of administration and promotion?
        A nurse who actually makes beds and does bedpans? (Not the ones in the suit).

  15. A. Sedgwick
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Regrettably I disagree with you. The water is muddied by the fact that many successful people in their 30s and 40s would no more put up with the constrictions of slow and archaic government than join the communist party, so the pay issue is probably secondary to the way our government doesn’t work well. Regardless a bad system is a bad system and should be changed to encourage these people to stand, which DC was saying on the AM show. There should be substantially fewer MPs, much better paid and any secondary income should be passed to the state. It is not uncommon for non executive directors to be required by their main employer to pass on the income to them – the state should be no different. One of your colleagues got himself in a real tangle on Questiontime recently when he disclosed his non exec income for 12 days work – it did not go down well. I suspect most of the prospective MP queue contains political activists, lawyers and under 30 year olds who have done nothing else.

    • Robert
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      I have never heard of non-exec directots passing on their income to their employer – the first time I have heard this in 30 years in finance!

  16. StevenL
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    “There is no shortage of people wanting to be MPs” (JR)

    Perhaps not, but given voter turnouts I’d suggest there is a shortage of people wanting to be MPs that people want to vote for.

  17. tIM
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I appreciate £16 million saving is pretty small chips compared to total government expenditure. But to save £16 million a year without impacting the quality of front line services is a start. Clearly when the government is in such poor fiscal shape – parliament should lead the way in doing more for less.

  18. Neil Craig
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    A subset of the 3rd group are those following a lucrative 2nd job whose jobworthiness is at least greatly enhanced by being an MP such as the supporter of Mr Martin who was revealed by Guido to be getting £36,000 a year for 30 days work from what looks not unlike a lobbyist. Nonetheless I strongly agree with you about the importance of 2nd jobs being allowed & politicians thus being something more than just professional politicians so I don’t know a perfect answer to this.

  19. subrosa
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I had a chat with some friends yesterday and we decided a pay scale similar to other public services would be the way to go. This morning I wrote a short post about it using military pay scales as an example:

    http://subrosa-blonde.blogspot.com/2009/05/mps-pay-solution.html

  20. Duncan
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m tired (been up all night) but I think I agree with the point I think you’re making that a pay rise would have to be matched by cuts elsewhere. People should be paid what they’re worth and it’s hard to argue that an MP is worth less than a teacher, doctor or BBC newsreader. If you reduce the number of MPs in total by 50/100 you can then afford to pay the remainder a little more. But then an MP should not have the holidays they enjoy at the moment. The idea that the government or parliament can go on holidays like school children is another legacy of self-regulation. The Prime Minister is in some ways the chief executive of the country and there should be a pay scale that recognises that. I’m a woolly-minded liberal and think that poverty creates crime. I also think underpaying MPs is more likely to lead to financial irregularities or conflicts of interest in their private employment. Is it really ethical for legislators to have second jobs? I don’t think so, I would rather have them paid more for doing the vitally important jobs of formulating policy and holding the government to account. Personally I would like to see the whole issue of public sector pay laid bare. I’m not sure the public would agree that 96k for a BBC newsreader is reasonable. If the conservatives ran on a platform of complete public sector pay transparency and reform I think it would very popular. I’m not sure I buy the argument that cutting the opportunities for second jobs would lead to weaker MPs. I’m too tired to figure out why but anyway, it would remove some conflicts of interests that inevitably arise because of them. So basically I agree, value for money. Cut a few MPs, cut some holidays, have a public debate about public sector pay, hopefully leading to reform, and then award yourselves the pay rise that you’re entitled to.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      Wake up – the recess is not a holiday but a more time to spend doing constituency tasks/ functions etc. Wake up shows how little you know about being an MP! Don’t just believe what tou read in the media, it can be and is a 7 day a week and 365 day job! I know because I have seen it in action as a child, teenager and adult! It is like many other public service jobs highly under-estimated, recess is not holiday. I hope you agree John!

      Reply: In recess I have my casework, my blog to write, and constituency visits, but I of course have less to do as there is no Parliament to attend.

      • Duncan
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        I’m awake now, thanks, good nights sleep last night. Just to take William Hague as an example, he’s managed to write two massive biographies have a number of directorships, does consultancy and makes speeches and he’s on the front bench. Most constituency work involves secretaries writing letters, important letters but neverthess. I think maybe they could work a little harder and read a few more IMF reports and scientific journals. It seems to me that too many MPs don’t actually know enough about policy. And I think the parliament holiday is pretty disgraceful. I get angry when I hear that parliament doesn’t have enough time to debate an issue. On a side note, Ed Milliband (the better Milliband for me) has written a fairly detail-free piece about reform in the Guardian. I agree with most of it but he talks about the language of the Commons. Now ‘the other place’ is silly but I thought much of the language is designed (and works) to keep things from getting too personal and emotional in debates. Far more important to get rid of the confrontational layout of the place I would have thought.

      • Duncan
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

        I tried to post an eloquent reply to this using William Hague as an example of an MP who seems to have a lot of time on his hands for other projects but it didn’t seem to come up. I can’t be bothered to write it again but trust me, you would have liked it…

      • subrosa
        Posted May 26, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        Robert, I think if you spent a month with our troops overseas you would then understand the meaning of working 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.

        Are you telling me don’t take holidays? I don’t believe that

  21. Matt
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I think that there is a good case for cutting the number of MP’s and paying the remaining MPs more. Just how many people consult their MP? – I have never met or written to my MP Peter Atkinson and I don’t know any of my relatives or friends who have.

    I do though, think that the opportunity has passed… with crippling levels of government borrowing and the huge interest bills that result, where the interest dwarfs many major government budgets, the effects will be felt in the near future.

    There is a need to drastically cut public expenditure. Mr Brown knows it but politically can do nothing about it, just push out unsubstantiated growth forecasts of such optimism that the recovery will enable the spending machine to go on. The opposition can’t really talk about it “Vote for us and if you’re a public sector worker, we may put you out of work” so the opposition mutter a lot of things about efficiency savings, looking at everything, any cuts will be Gordon Brown’s cuts and so on.

    It will take a lot more than efficiency savings to balance the books.

    I believe that it’s a real failure of the government that they are not pointing out what the alternatives are.
    Big spending cuts? Rampant inflation to wipe out the debt? More taxes?

    If I was Mr Brown I would fear being re elected, he won’t have anything to hide behind, rather like “I won’t issue a profits warning until the share issue is sown up.”

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      More fool you!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      On the back of an envelope: if each of 70,000 constituents has occasion to approach his MP just once during his adult life, the MP will receive about 100 approaches each month.

      Now multiply that by 8, or by 80*, and you can see why some MEPs deliberately try to avoid direct contact with their constituents – once that started, it would be endless and overwhelming.

      * There being 83 Westminster constituencies in the South East euro-region, returning 10 MEPs.

      If you’ve never needed to contact your MP (although you’ve put your comment on an MP’s blog), that’s good, and it will have left him with a little more time for his work at Westminster – keeping tabs on what the government is up to, and trying to stop bad or unnecessary legislation.

      When we leave the EU, as we must, MPs will have a greatly increased volume of detailed legislative work to deal with; and it’s not impossible that with a total of 646 there won’t always be enough opposition MPs to do that properly.

  22. Bernard Palmer
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Excerpt from ‘What is the Primary Fundament Right?’

    “Once a Capitalism Democracy government was in place a posted balance sheet of all government salaries and expenditures should be displayed daily on the Internet so everybody can see where their tax money is going. All salaries would be in line with comparable market rates except for elected officials who should probably only receive about 1% of that rate simply because their employment in government should be an honor for them to serve their people and not because it was the biggest ‘feed trough’ around. That requirement should help keep out the free loaders and improve the chances of successful business people getting into government.”

  23. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    80% of our Laws are made in Brussels, MP’s should be paid a pittance because all they do really is PRETEND they are making all the decisions.
    We need our sovereignty back, we didn’t elect these people to surrender our Sovereignty and subsume our Libertarian Laws into those of a Dictatorship.
    Not only have they allowd this to happen but they want us to pay them MORE so they can continue the process.

    Personally I think this country, if it is to be saved needs a military coup and a few trials held.
    How can it be that 80% of our Laws are dictated by a Foreign Power and yet apparently no Treason has taken place.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      Some MPs tried to prevent this, but the Tory establishment did not, John being an honourable exception along with the so-valled mavericks and nutters. Some Tory MPs have showed continuous and principled oppostion to Europe and the consequence of Major’s governments cations, but they just got pilloried! History might give them a kinder write up, don’t blame them support BOO!

  24. gordon-bennett
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I would like to suggest that we could improve the House of Commons by awarding extra votes to worthy people who will make better choices in their voting.

    EG 1 extra vote for each of the following qualifications:

    * lived/worked abroad for 2 or more years;
    * graduate of approved university in approved subject;
    * stable marriage for 15+ years;
    * taxable income over (say) 50,000 pa;
    * officially working for a CHRISTIAN church;
    * 1 extra vote in the gift of the monarch.

    Hat tip: Nevil Shute, “In The Wet”

    The idea is that you give more power to those people who already live in the image of the country in which you aspire to live.

    Once you get the House right then many current problems can be solved satisfactorily by having good representatives in Parliament.

  25. Josh
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I wonder John what you think about the rise of the career politician. Looking at most of the Conservative front bench:

    David Cameron Director of Carlton Communications
    William Hague Shell UK and McKinsey & Co Consultants
    George Osborne NHS and Selfridges
    Greg Clark Boston Consulting Group
    Kenneth Clarke Extensive business experience
    Alan Duncan Shell and an oil trader with Marc Rich & Co
    Liam Fox NHS and Civilian Army Medical Officer
    Mark Francois Lloyds Bank, consultant Market Access International
    Cheryl Gillan Fellowship with the RAF
    Michael Gove Journalist
    Chris Grayling European Marketing Director for Burson Marsteller
    Dominic Grieve Barrister
    Philip Hammond Extensive business experience
    Nick Herbert Chief Executive of Business for Sterling
    Jeremy Hunt Own educational publishing business, Hotcourses
    Andrew Lansley Civil servant Department of Trade & Industry
    Oliver Letwin Philosophy don, civil servant & bank director
    Francis Maude Extensive business experience
    Theresa May Senior Adviser on International Affairs at APACS
    Patrick McLoughlin Coal miner, councillor & Unionist
    Andrew Mitchell UN peacekeeper
    David Mundell BT as group legal adviser for Scotland
    Pauline Neville-Jones Career Diplomat
    Owen Paterson President of COTANCE, the European Tanners’ Confederation
    Eric Pickles Councillor, Consultant in Employment Practice
    Grant Shapps Own printing company
    Caroline Spelman Director of Spelman, Cormack and Associates
    Thomas Strathclyde Lloyd’s insurance broker
    Theresa Villiers Barrister, lecturer
    Sayeeda Warsi Solicitor
    David Willetts HM Treasury

    Compared to Labour;

    Gordon Brown – Lecturer
    Paul Murphy – Lecturer
    John Hutton – Lecturer
    Lord Mandelson – Career Politician
    David Miliband – Career Politician
    Jim Murphy – Career Politician
    Douglas Alexander – Career Politician
    Ed Miliband – Career Politician
    John Denham – Career Politician
    Jack Straw – Barrister
    Alistair Darling – Solicitor
    Hazel Blears – Solicitor
    Harriet Harman – Solicitor
    Geoff Hoon – Lecturer/Barrister
    James Purnell – Researcher
    Shaun Woodward – Researcher
    Andy Burnham – Researcher
    Yvette Cooper – Researcher
    Jacqui Smith – Teacher
    Alan Johnson – Postman
    Hilary Benn – Unionist
    Ed Balls – Journalist

    People like the Milibands, Purnells, Balls are making decisions that affect our lives yet they have no experience of how we live our lives. You had a very distinguished career before entering parliament, as a banker, analyist, academic and advisor. That is real world experience. Don’t you think we should have a parliament of people who have had real life experience. It seems the route to a Cabinet job is;

    1) University
    2) University political club
    3) A degree in PPE or Politics
    4) Join a left wing think tank
    5) Became parliamentary reseacher
    6) Become MP

    If we get rid of these type of people in the Commons, I will be happy to accept MP’s deserve a pay increase because the House needs to attract people like Dennis Skinner, David Davis, Brian Binley, you etc.

  26. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    What, exactly, do MPs actually do?

    OK a lot of rushing around, no doubt. I fancy there is quite a lot of “Mrs Bloggs’ hernia operation” as well in the MPs’ surgery. And I’ll bet there is a lot of “Look busy, the boss is coming” too.
    Whenever I turn on the Tele, however, the Chamber always seems to be empty except for Prime Minister’s Questions.
    You yourself say how little time there is for debate. And you also say how little time parliament sits during the year.

    What ought they to be doing?
    1. How about actually getting experts (like yourself), who know what they are on about, carefully scrutinising the flow of decrees coming out of Brussels? I suspect that the semi-professional politicians, who seem to get elected so easily, simply have no idea at all what is going on. But, boy, do they make excellent lobby fodder!
    2. How about MPs actually debating laws instead of three people practising public speaking in an echo chamber? Christopher Booker, in today’s Telegraph, gives an example of how Mr Miliband actually announced the half TRILLION cost of combating global warming on his website. This massive sum was never discussed, says Mr Booker, in parliament, because the figures were not released. What is parliament for if not to question stuff like this? And it is not the only example. Is it.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      What can I say, but if you want to spend a week with an active vibrant MP you need to! The reason the chamber is empty is that it is bypassed by this Government, Westminster Chamber and Bill/Select Committees is also where debate takes place. But the as I said there is not sufficient scutiny of legislation because of the use of various scams by our Government of the last 12 years. It woud be great to have 1/10th of the legislation we do, and get better thought through statutes and get less of the law of unintended consequences that we so often suffer from!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      For example, on Tuesday there was a half hour discusssion about the government’s insistence that over 70 late amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill should be passed with virtually no debate:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090519/debtext/90519-0004.htm

      Some very good points were made by Opposition MPs, and some Labour MPs even agreed with them, but what happened at the end?

      The mass of the Labour MPs did as they were told, and voted through the government’s programme motion, 278 – 212.

      Then yesterday I read:

      “Fury as Commons denied DNA vote”

      which is, presumably, one consequence of the Labour MPs slavishly voting through that programme motion.

      Huhne made an interesting point:

      “… whether the Government should bear sole responsibility for setting the business of the House through such programme motions. The measure was introduced during the first world war – at a time of national emergency – and has long outlived its usefulness. Few other legislatures allow the Executive to decide business in that way.”

      • alan jutson
        Posted May 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes whipped through again.

        Once again its the cardboard cut out’s of Westminster slavishly following the leaders request on voting.

        What an absolute farce.

        If these people do not have any consience, then they should not be in the job.

        What is the point of paying an MP if he just does as he is told on all voting matters.

        Cardboard cut outs could do the job at no cost.

        Good artical by Boris on this very subject in the Telegraph today.

  27. Brin E.
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    To me, it is not a matter of what MPs are earning, but more a question of whether they are reasonably qualified for the post. Too many have never done what their average constituent would consider to be a real job, having frequently graduated in Political Science (a misnomer in itself) and then moved onto political research, the local council or something similar. I would not vote for such a person, regardless of his party; I certainly wouldn’t vote for Cameron if he were standing in this constituency although I am broadly a Conservative supporter.
    Having ensured that we get properly qualified people who have already achieved something in life standing for parliament, I would pay them about the same as US Senators, who are expected to live in their State capital, and get very little in the way of additional expenses and certainly no second home allowance for living in Washington (according to the Telegraph!).
    Fortunately, my Conservative MP has not been mentioned so far in the expenses scandal and has done a real job and could do so again is necessary, and so he will continue to get my support unless it looks likely that UKIP will make a major breakthrough.

    • Robert
      Posted May 24, 2009 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      Qualificactions isarenot necessary , aaprt from having lived life somewhat outside the rarified atmosphere of Westminster!

  28. no one
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think pay is the only problem, although personally I’d pay MP’s more but put restrictions on them such as limit second jobs etc, and would impose expenses regime more in line with the real world of employers outside, and I’d stop them queue jumping public services like the nhs and sitting in first class train compartments – so that they understand how poor these services are for the rest of us
    The biggest problem with our pool of MP’s is that they are dominated by people from fairly small sectors of society, some of which you list
    Its an easy choice to take 5 years off being an MP if your a senior member of staff in local government – its low risk you can just about always get your old job back, and the same network supports both
    Easy if you’re a lawyer to keep that job ticking over and go back to it in earnest if you loose your seat
    Easy if you’re a professional trade union official, again easy to go back
    The biggest problem with the current system is for people in fast paced fast moving occupations 5 years away from the cut and thrust of their regular job in parliament would be career suicide, and people just don’t take the risk

  29. No-Name
    Posted May 24, 2009 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Re salaries.

    It was reported last year that the Chief Executive of Hants CC earns “between £190,000 and £199,000 a year”

    http://www.gethampshire.co.uk/news/s/2037138_county_chief_paid_more_than_prime_minister

    It’s hard to balance this with the pay of an MP, so it’s easy to understand why some have felt hard done to, although I can’t condone what’s been happening with these self-awarded tax free benefits.

    I think most public sector jobs, especially those at or near the top, command far too high a salary – especially in these straitened times, and all should be looked at. We, the taxpayer, simply can’t afford it any more.

    There is something called public service, and wanting to serve the community, too – it shouldn’t always be the case that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

    At the other end of the scale, and as an aside, it might be worth contrasting these high salaries with those of newly created (by this government) jobs, such as “classroom assistant” or LSA (previously Learning Support was always provided by fully qualified, specialist teachers) and “PCSO” – both designed, apparently, to “support” the trained and qualified fully professionals, to free them up to do their jobs properly. Both now have, in the eyes of the public, appeared to assume the main role and are almost interchangeable – but both are paid minimum wage.
    Reply: I agree. There are far too many highly paid posts in the public sector. We need fewer of them, and more sensible pay levels. I also agree some low paid jobs need better pay and enhanced duties.

  30. james harries
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    Careful, JR, the public might want to have some fun with this idea.

    What about a lottery for MPs pay? Each year, the names go into a hat and some lucky ones get paid as much as, say, a GP. Others get the going rate for the job. Others have to scrape by on say, a bus driver’s wage. A few (boo! hoo!) get nothing at all. Until next year, when the tombola turns again…

    Or pay them (say) a pound per person who voted for them…

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      I’ve seen it suggested that a significant part of each MP’s potential renumeration should be an annual performance-related bonus funded by a small voluntary element of the council tax raised across his constituency, with each council taxpayer being invited to award him the full amount, or only a fraction, or none at all.

      £1 per household average would come to about £40,000.

      I think this is a great idea in principle, but in practice the costs of implementing it might exceed the money raised.

  31. adam
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    no pledge to stop secretly funding quangos
    no pledge to cut MEPs
    no pledge to cut Eurocrats

    yet another attack on parliament.

    reply: I am all in favour of cutting the EU costs and bureaucracy, and the domestic quangocracy. I have ofteh proposed removing the unelected reigonal governments of England.

    • adam
      Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the reply
      I think that would be a good idea. Nobody seems to have noticed that they exist so i assume nobody will complain if they go away again.

  32. Political Ponderer
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    John

    You list three types of people who might become MPs: those taking a pay rise, those who are independently wealthy, and those who would take a pay cut.

    I think you have missed a fourth, and quite an important one (although you could argue the fourth is a subset of the third).

    What about bright young people who might expect to earn more later in life in an alternative career, but who are considering coming into politics? It is these people, perhaps just embarking on the property ladder (and probably nervous of the idea of having to do it twice at once!), perhaps on the bronk of starting a family, who will seriously think twice before committing themselves to becoming an MP.

    Consider a bright young Army officer, having served his country for perhaps five to ten years and is now somewhere around thirty years of age. He is married with no children yet. He is not wealthy, but he had a good education, had a superb military career, he is intelligent and will clearly be an asset to whichever employer he ends up with. He may have many reasons to wish to go into politics (anyone who has served over the past ten years would feel very strongly about many political issues). But he is also being tempted by past cooleagues who now work in industry, or in the bfinancial sector. Potentially high rewards are available.

    I’m not saying that we need sky high salaries to attract this hypothetical chap, indeed he already has a strong public service ethos.

    But he is likely to look at the long hours and time away fromhis family, at the expected derision in which he will be held as a MP, the loss of personal privacy, the uncertainty regarding how long his new career will last…and all for just over £60k per year.

    Less than professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, top journalists, senior managers/directors in private industry.

    Just a thought. We do want bright young things who would do well in any career not to be put off going into politics, don’t we?

  33. Political Ponderer
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Quick addendum.

    I just took a very quick peek at the ‘government’ section of the online Guardian jobs pages ( a cliche I know).

    There are plenty of local government jobs paying over £100k.

    One that stood out though, when I was looking for jobs paying a similar amount to MPs:

    Assistant Director of Parking Services LONDON BOROUGH OF EALING | Ealing | £62,538 – £66,441 pa inclusive

    I mean…come on! The Assistant Director of Arts, Heritage and Libraries earns the same amount.

    Then check this one out:

    Service Director for Engagement and Enrichment NOTTINGHAMSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL | Nottinghamshire | £78,301 – £87,038 p.a.

    What on earth does this person do, I wonder!

    If we are genuinely going to cut MPs pay (which cutting expenses without raising pay will effectively do, regardless of what you think abpout that), then there are plenty of other taxpayer funded jobs that need looking at too!

  34. Adrian Peirson
    Posted May 25, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to give the EU an excuse to close down Parliament but the more I think about it, what do we need it for, I’m quite sure our society would run a lot better without it, just repeal everything back to our Basic Constitution, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and Common Law, instruct the Police and courts to uphold those principles.
    If some company defrauds another, I’m quite sure it is deal with under our constituion, it doedn’t need state intervention, the courts can sort it out.

    Then we can all get on with our lives without having MP’s and Civil servants interfering and inventing reasons to fine us and deprive us of our hard earned.

    Modern day highwaymen the lot of them.

    err Present company excepted of course Mr Redwood.

    Yes we need a Small Govt, I’m quite sure the country would run a lot better if they put me in no 10, my election manifesto would be that I promise to stay in bed most of the day watching TV and NOT interfering in peoples lives.

    And i’d do that for half of Gordons Salary……Bargain.

    I promise to be the Laziest PM this country has ever seen.

    I see Alan Johnson is offering a referendum on electoral reform, has he just set himself and the Labour party up, after all, why not a referndum of the Lison ConstiTraityTution.

    But then, a referenedum on something that is illegal anyway, I don’t want a referendum, the EU is illegal, we should just tear up the Treaties, they have no legality.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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