Money for hot air or a fair award to MPs with a big pay rise?

MP John Hayes.
MP John Hayes.
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Doctors, civil servants and other public sector workers can expect a one per cent pay rise from the Government in each of the next four years.

But just a week after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne broke the bad news in his 2015 Budget Statement, MPs were told to collect a 10.34 per cent pay rise this year.

Dan Wilshire, the Green Party candidate at May's election.

Dan Wilshire, the Green Party candidate at May's election.

Even better for the 650 men and women voted in after May 7’s general election is the fact that it has been backdated to the first day after they were elected, or re-elected, as MPs.

Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) whose recommendation for a near £7,000 pay rise was accepted on Thursday, said: “Pay has been an issue which has been ducked for decades, with independent reports and recommendations from experts ignored and MPs’ salaries supplemented by an opaque and discredited system of allowances.

“We have made the necessary break with the past, having created a new and transparent scheme of business costs and expenses, introduced a less generous pension scheme where taxpayers contribute less and MPs make a higher contribution and scrapped large resettlement payments.

“In making this decision, we are very aware of the strongly held views of many members of the public and by some MPs themselves.

MPs to get a 10.34 per cent pay rise.

MPs to get a 10.34 per cent pay rise.

“We have listened to those views and made an important change to the way in which pay will be adjusted annually by, instead of linking MPs’ pay to wages in the whole economy, it will be linked to public sector pay.

“But it is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.”

The job of an MP is to represent the interests and concerns of his or her constituents in the House of Commons by proposing new laws and asking government ministers about such issues.

But whether an MP’s work in Parliament, their constituency and political party is worth £74,000 a year, at a time of national austerity, is the subject of heated debate.

South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes, also Minister of State for Security in the current Conservative Government, said: “I think it would be quite wrong for MPs to vote on their own pay and I think it needs to be done independently on the basis of public consultation that has been done by IPSA.

“When I became a (Government) Minister in 2010, I voluntarily took a five per cent pay cut from 2010 to 2020, freezing my ministerial pay for ten years.

“On the subject of the 10 per cent pay rise for MPs, it is well-known that I support a range of local charities and good causes – but that remains a private matter.”

Mr Hayes and fellow Government Minister Nick Boles MP, whose Grantham and Stamford constituency includes Bourne, both earn £98,740 a year, according to figures from the House of Commons Information Office.

Speaking in 2013 Mr Boles, Minister of State for Skills, at the Department for Business, said: “If an MP’s pay rise is imposed, I’ll give to local charities anything above the average wage rise at the time.

“The IPSA plan is wrong when people are struggling.”

The dilemma of MPs pay is a new one for Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman whose constituency includes Bicker, Fosdyke, Kirton, Swineshead and Wyberton.

Mr Warman said: “It is right that MPs’ pay is set independently and that IPSA looked at other professions, drew comparisons and came up with a number.

“I also think it’s right that any changes to MPs’ pay is pegged to public sector pay rises.

“But we are never going to get away from the fact that this is a very financially constrained time and raising MPs’ pay is never going to be an easy thing to do.”

Mr Warman rightly pointed out that as part of the deal, other benefits for MPs such as such as expenses, pensions and severance payments will be cut, making the pay increase exercise “cost-neutral” to the taxpayer.

But Dan Wilshire, who stood in the general election as the Green Party candidate for South Holland and the Deepings, said: “I think it’s just foolish for MPs to have a huge pay rise when everyone else is having their pay squeezed.

“Why do MPs deserve it more than doctors, nurses and everyone else in the public sector?”

• The four candidates who stood against John Hayes MP in May’s general election for the right to represent South Holland and the Deepings were poles apart in their political views.

But the 10 per cent pay rise, branded as “foolish and out of place” by Green Party candidate Dan Wilshire, has also been condemned by UKIP’s David Parsons, Liberal Democrat George Smid and Labour’s Matthew Mahabadi.

Mr Parsons said: “A 10 per cent increase for MPs is clearly grotesque but the principle of an independent body to recommend MPs salary levels is correct.

“In a sense, MPs are in a crisis of their own making and IPSA clearly needs a more representative membership.”

Mr Smid added: “Paying MPs more and reducing welfare for everyone else is a case of pay at the top while squeezing the masses.”

Meanwhile, Mr Mahabadi said: “This is a complicated debate and it isn’t one that has a simplistic answer.

“On the one hand, it is obvious that this pay rise will lead to a very unsympathetic public response.

“But on the other hand, we don’t want millionaires who treat an MP’s pay like loose change.”