Now that the fashionable thing for all MPs to do is to announce that they won’t be ‘taking’ the 10 per cent pay rise planned by IPSA, the government has decided to write a letter opposing the extra £7,000, just in case anyone might accuse any MPs of having their snouts in the trough.
Chris Grayling argues in his letter (below) that ‘we continue to believe that despite the welcome signs of progress, the continuing structural deficit shows the job is far from done'.
This is quite a compelling argument, particularly given the ongoing public sector pay restraint.
But regardless of whether you think MPs should get a pay rise or not, there is something rather ridiculous about Parliament setting up a body to take a politically sensitive decision out of politics by setting up an independent regulator that takes binding decisions on their pay, and then getting very upset when the regulator does take that decision on their pay.
The race by anyone standing for election for anything to say they’ll ‘hand back’ the extra dosh (which is impossible) has inserted the politics right back into the issue of MPs’ pay. Which rather makes you wonder why they don’t just take the decision themselves after making reasoned arguments about it on the floor of the Commons and by holding a vote.
Currently there is an unofficial ‘vote’ taking place where MP after MP announces he or she won’t take the pay rise, thereby creating a list similar to those that appear in Hansard of those who are in favour of the extra money and those who are not. And few are bold enough to say that they think the former, even if they do, which just shows how little confidence our MPs have in themselves, even though they have been elected - and are being paid - to take decisions.
Chris Grayling's letter to Sir Ian Kennedy, IPSA Chair:
STATUTORY REVIEW OF MPs’ PAY
4th June 2015
Dear Sir Ian,
Thank you for your letter of 2 June, informing me of the launch of IPSA's statutory review of MPs' Pay.
A comprehensive response to your original consultation on the issue of MPs' pay was submitted by the Coalition Government during the last Parliament. The Government opposed the suggestion that there should be a pay rise of this nature at that time, and the view of the Government remains that a pay rise of this nature at this time is not appropriate.
You will be aware that as part of the Government's commitment to cutting the cost of politics, the Prime Minister has announced that we have frozen ministerial pay for a further five years saving an estimated £4million. While the Government notes the welcome economic indicators since December 2013, highlighted in Paragraph 29 of your consultation, we continue to believe that despite the welcome signs of progress, the continuing structural deficit shows the job is far from done. The Government has an ongoing commitment to responsible fiscal policy and returning the public finances to a sustainable position.
With Best wishes,