Five arguments against paying MPs lots of money

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is likely to recommend on Friday that MPs receive an inflation-busting pay increase of £10,000.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is likely to recommend on Friday that MPs receive an inflation-busting pay increase of £10,000.

The independent body, which ironically was set up so that MPs were not voting to increase their own pay, is expected to propose that MPs’ salaries rise from their current level of £65,738 to around £75,000. IPSA head Ian Kennedy is thought to prefer an even greater rise to £85,000.

Understandably many people are going to be incensed by this.

Update —————- As expected, the IPSA has today (11 July) recommended a pay rise for MPs of £8,000, taking their total pay to £74,000.

Here are five reasons why awarding MPs a pay rise is wrong.

1) People often argue that paying MPs more attracts the best people to serve the country, and to an extent this is probably true. It would be counterproductive, after all, to make a job in parliament prohibitive to those without vast reserves of cash.

But surely paying MPs too much could also mean more people looking to enter parliament for reasons of self-interest.

When people argue that “the best people will go elsewhere because the money is better”, I want to reply that they can’t, then, really be the best people, for if they care so much about making pots of money (as opposed to serving the country) they probably aren’t the sorts of representatives we want.

2) MPs are already paid nearly three times the average UK full time salary. There are no fixed hours, you get a long summer break and you can retire at a time of your own choosing. You are also in most instances – unless you do something particularly egregious – guaranteed tenure for four to five years, something increasingly rare in our ‘flexible’ economy.

As someone who has worked in a number of poorly paid, insecure jobs in the past, I’m not sure I wish to play the world’s smallest violin on behalf of our MPs.

3) Most people are seeing their living standards squeezed and public sector workers have just seen annual pay rises limited to 1 per cent. The boring cliche has it that we’re “all in it together”. If MPs get a bumper pay rise, we obviously aren’t.

4) As an MP you are perfectly entitled to work as many hours as you like in a second job. Moonlighting, in other words. There are already questions over whether this should be allowed to continue (I believe it should not, for the reasons Mark Ferguson sets out in this excellent post at Labour List), but while it is going on (according to recent analysis, Conservative MPs declared more than £4.3m in earnings from outside directorships or jobs, versus £2.4m for Labour) MPs do not need a pay rise.

As for the argument that MPs only have second jobs because they aren’t paid enough, see point two.

5) A very large salary ensures that the travails of everyday life which most people have to contend with are all the more incomprehensible to our MPs.

When socialists used to promise that if elected they would only draw the wage of an average worker, they weren’t merely striking a pose. The more money you have the more you can insulate yourself from social problems like crime, inequality and exploitation. The class system still exists, and people tend to want to look after people most like themselves.

Why suppose this would be any different for our MPs?

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23 Responses to “Five arguments against paying MPs lots of money”

  1. John Ellison

    How can IPSA possibly be independent? It’s part of the state sector, just like MPs. Only those in the private sector can be truly independent. As for the current lot of MPs being the best we can find to serve the country (however you define ‘country’), it just shows how standards throughout life have fallen over the last few decades. If I were running a business, and they applied for jobs there, most of them would get nowhere near an interview, never mind being hired by me.

  2. LB

    Pretty good arguments.

    1. How many Labour MPs practice what they preach e.g. Average wages. Skinner perhaps, except he has massive expenses. Window dressing.

    2. Bring in the right of recall. Then we can get the troughers

    3. The lords – We’ve no control what so ever.

    4. The biggie

    The more money you have the more you can insulate yourself from social problems like crime, inequality and exploitation.

    However, you carry on insisting that we tax the poor. You take money they contribute for their pension, and spend it. For a median wage earner, that’s a loss of 475,000 pounds.

    Now if they had been forced to invest that money, they would have been insulated from social problems like crime, inequaltiy, and exploitation.

    You’ve just exploited them, and since you won’t put the pensions on the accounts you’ve defrauded them of 475K. See sections 1-5, 2006 fraud act for the details.

  3. JR

    Fair arguments, but there needs to be more of a solution put forward than has been done so far, by anyone. The current pay issue is not sustainable,

    MPs need to be in touch with the issues faced by voters. They
    also understand that at a time of public pay restraint, it is essential not to
    be seen as a special case. The response of many MPs, at least publicly, emphasises
    the damage that will be done by significant pay increases. It is also important
    to look at why we are where we are.

    Expenses were introduced, and abused, in part because pay had
    previously been kept at levels seen as unreasonable by many MPs. Party leaders
    have said that significant increases are unreasonable, but privately
    many MPs will support an increase.

    Do they have a right to feel hard done to? Probably not,
    especially given the current state of pay in the UK. MPs already know the danger
    here. However, we must also remember why MPs are paid at all – to ensure that
    those from any background can represent their community, rather than just those
    with money.

    Banning or limiting second jobs is a much stronger response to concerns about conflicts of interest than having a long running argument about paying public servants.

    If people with power are not paid in a transparent and accountable
    way they will not be trusted. If they are not paid in line with their
    responsibility, time commitments and public exposure, they may look elsewhere
    for money anyway. This is much less likely to be transparent and will be more of a conflict of interest than being paid for the job they are supposed to be doing.

  4. Blueblanket

    650 people can be MPs at a time. Each seat is typically contested at election time by between three and six candidates, occasionally as many as 15 or 22. And those are just the ones who successfully get through their party’s selection process.

    Surely the laws of supply and demand should apply here? With such a glut of candidates, we should actually be able to reduce MP salaries until equilibrium is reached.

    I’m not convinced there would be any shortage of people willing to do the job for free, but to avoid it becoming – sorry, that should be remaining – a rich boys’ hobby, some sort of basic stipend would be required. This could be set at JSA/workfare level, to reflect the fact that MPs are glorified community service volunteers, with additional necessary expenses such as travel (properly monitored and itemised of course) reimbursed in arrears or paid direct by the House authorities. An official parliamentary hotel could also be booked or built in Westminster to accommodate members from outside London free of charge, obviating the possibility of any of the publicly-funded property speculation we’ve seen in recent years.

    Why should running the country be a moneyspinner? Make it a vocation and see who wants to do the job for its own sake.

  5. JR

    Interesting perspective – but isn’t that a version what we have already?

    It seems that you are just arguing that the stipend should be lower, and that out of London MPs should be quartered together.

    Given what you state – one might assume that the ‘rich boys’ who do it as a hobby will shun the communal barracks and buy their own flats, avoiding the hardship you seem to be advocating.

    I am not sure that this would be seen as fair. MPs from across the country should be allowed the same privacy to work so that North West / East constituencies are as well represented in Parliament as those from London, or by rich boys with private London houses.

    This will be especially important if payment for the job is nominal.

    I would recommend including some sort of mortgage allowance into your scheme so that different areas of the country are not disadvantage. This should possibly include expenses for furniture etc…

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