Sebastian Payne

Briefing: a pay rise for MPs?

Briefing: a pay rise for MPs?
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What’s happening?

The rage continues today in advance of Ipsa's expected recommendation that MPs should get a 11 per cent pay rise to take their pay to £74,000 in the next Parliament. This follows a consultation paper Ipsa released in July, with five key recommendations:

  1. Increasing MPs' basic pay, and then linking their salaries to average earnings
  2. Overhauling the pensions scheme
  3. Discontinuing resettlement payments
  4. Further restrictions to expenses
  5. Improved communication to constituents on what MPs do
  6. Why shouldn't they get a raise?

    Public sector pay has been frozen for several years, and while the economy is in a state of cautious optimism, the public will think MPs are scratching their own backs. As the Daily Mirror said in a rambunctious splash today, it comes across as a troubling 'one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us' situation.

    What do MPs think about getting more money?

    It’s been a mixed reaction. Some, like the vice-chairman of the 1922 committee and Jack Straw, accept Ipsa's judgement and think there’s never a good time for a pay rise. Straw believes it could even be a way improving the calibre of MPs. Others, like Ed Miliband, think it will do further damage to the public’s perceptions of politicians.

    And the cabinet and Prime Minister?

    The defence secretary Philip Hammond has said (£) he will reject the raise (by giving the money to charity) and expects the rest of the Cabinet to follow suit. This morning, the Prime Minister’s spokesman confirmed David Cameron does not support the pay rise:

    'Any proposal will be reviewed before it is introduced in mid-2015. But you know the Prime Minister's long-standing position on this: the cost of politics should go down not up, he doesn't think that MPs' pay should go up while public sector pay is being restrained. We've made that very clear, that is the government's view and we will keep making those points but with regard to the Ipsa process, I've pointed you to the Ipsa process.'

    Can politicians do anything to stop it?

    Parliament has two choices: accept the pay rise or disband Ipsa. Following the MPs expenses scandal, Parliament handed over control of members' remuneration to this independent body to help restore trust in Parliament and stop these sorts of rows cropping up.

    But not everyone will grasp that MPs can’t control what the body decides. An Ipsa spokesman confirmed that our (sovereign) Parliament would have to pass primary legislation to take control of their own pay again, and thus being able to reject a pay rise. But doing that would make any future rises, regardless of economic conditions, even trickier.

    Not even something after the next election?

    The rise is due to come in May 2015 but Ipsa plans to conduct another review into pay at the start of the next Parliament anyway. In theory, this pay increase could be reversed then, although that seems unlikely.

    So, the pay rise definitely happening?

    Ipsa is refusing to confirm the rise until its final recommendations are announced on Thursday. But the unanimity of Fleet Street and expectations of MPs suggests it is likely to happen. When the announcement comes, we’ll have to see if MPs follow their party leaders by publicly rejecting the rise.