Plans to give our elected representatives an inflation-busting pay rise from 2015 has got some people riled.
Confirmation from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) today that it would raise the salary of MPs by 11 per cent to bring the role in line with a range of other public sector professions has been met with some alarm.
But maybe such alarm is unwarranted and the cries of injustice over the salary rises unfair.
The proposals will take effect in 2015 and will see salaries for parliamentarians rise by £7,600 to £74,000. The changes also see final salary pensions – which are gradually being phased out across the public sector– become career average pensions.
Are MPs worth this increase? There are five reasons why they might be and why we should not always get caught up in the hysteria spouted by the press and politicians.
First, MPs often move into politics, on the whole, from another generally well-paid profession. Any potential salary drop (especially for those with big mortgages to pay) will mean they are turned off politics because they will end up losing money. Surely this isn’t good. Don’t we want to attract the best people to the job of making crucial decisions which affect us every day? Let’s make sure we can get them to become MPs in the first place.
Second, from my experience as a former newspaper reporter of talking to MPs, a good proportion hold director positions in external companies for which they are paid for. Such ‘topping-up’ of salaries has been criticised many times over the last few years. An increased salary could help persuade MPs to concentrate solely on their political career and not be tempted by additional offers.
Third, the changes to pensions. Rather than MPs continuing to have a final salary scheme (a pension whereby employers promise a specified monthly benefit on retirement) they will now move to career average pensions. Unlike some other professions though, MPs cannot express dissatisfaction about such changes through industrial action. As a form of mitigation (many probably believed they would receive a final salary scheme throughout their political career) putting this money back into their salary would help. Especially now the expenses can’t be used to cover things including evening meals, tea and biscuits and TV licenses – something MPs would need for those late evening votes in parliament.
Fourth, MPs constantly give out to the community whether this be in the form of attending charity events, opening a new hospital unit, going to church to support a community-wide initiative, appearing at carol services, or mobilising campaigns on issues including trafficking and fairtrade. It’s certainly not an easy life. And in today’s news cycle it’s almost impossible to get away from it all and not be contactable. They can also be recalled to parliament during a parliamentary recess, as happened during the summer over the government’s response to the Syria crisis. All this means they can end up spending lots of time away from their families who often live miles away from London.
Last, we don’t want people coming into politics for money (David Cameron has always talked about cutting the cost of politics) but surely the remuneration package for MPs has to rank alongside other professionals who have reached their pinnacle – whether this be a company director, chief executive or legal professional?
The IPSA chief executive Andrew McDonald has said the proposals “taken as a whole would not cost the taxpayer a penny more” than the current system, a message he believed had “not been heard in the hubbub of the last few days”.
It also says its two-year research has shown public support is split on the issue.
Let’s stop and consider these things before joining the howls of outrage.
(image via Parliament website)