When our MPs, in contrast with their historical practice, make a deafening chorus against a proposal to give them a pay increase, it doesn’t take long to smell a rat!
For some years, they have lived off the benefit of Mrs Thatcher’s decision to keep their visible pay lower in real terms than in earlier years, whilst giving them loosely controlled access to over-generous allowances, which are less visible to taxpayers.
The result of that practice was the serious expenses scandal exposed not too long ago. Since then, the worst excesses have been reduced, but still leave unreasonable advantages around the non-salary elements of MPs’ benefits.
The present proposal is to restore the visible salary to a more reasonable level, whilst at the same time clarifying the distinction between salary and necessary expenses. There would also be a reduction in the number of items qualifying as legitimate expenses.
In addition, MPs’ pensions would be brought into line with pensions in other parts of the public service, and there would be a reduction in resettlement payments.
Finally, after the implementation of the new proposals in 2015, future adjustments of MPs’ pay would be automatically in line with the annual changes in average national pay.
In sum: What MPs get would become clearer and cleaner and more on the same terms as the rest of the population. The salary element would be at a decent level; in real terms much as it was in earlier times, though not as high as in several other countries. The murkiness and the furtive processes would be gone, and the net cost to the taxpayer would be small.
I’m all for it, though I can understand why quite a few MPs would not like the extra clarity and the smaller opportunity to work the system.
Look at all sides of it and it’s not at all as unrealistic as some MPs would wish you to believe.