MPs DESERVE THEIR 10% RISE…YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT!

JOHN MCGURK

It’s not just MPs’ pay that needs to be sorted out, it’s the whole business of Parliament which, frankly, is an anachronistic and ridiculous way to run a country.

The Palace of Westminster itself is mostly a rat-run of corridors and squalid offices where facilities are threadbare and where a visitor would be forgiven for thinking that the place is locked in a time warp and failing to bits.

All of our 650 heroes can’t even fit into the debating chamber at the same time but that doesn’t really matter because a fair number of them have second jobs or lucrative consultancies which means they can be too busy elsewhere and don’t bother attending.

Others are so rich that they’re there for the power and the status, not the money; if you are not inside the Westminster bubble then, sorry, but you don’t really matter

Despite the expenses scandal of five years ago, allowances remain very generous and include the cost of running an office, hiring staff, maintaining a constituency residence and, if necessary, accommodation in London and free business travel around the country.

You can eat and drink in some of the cheapest five-star dining clubs and bars in the country and, if you commit a crime, you can even remain a privileged life-member of the House of Lords where attendees don’t worry about elections and where some are only there because of their fathers.

Most of the time, ordinary MPs just need to sit and listen; sometimes they’ll have to take part in committees and they may have to stay up late into the night in order to vote, mostly under instruction.

Back in their constituencies, they are supposed to deal with correspondence, meet their electorate, listen to their grievances and visit places like community centres and schools where they will be treated like mini-royals.

For all of this, MPs are paid £67,060 but if IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) gets its way, they’ll soon get a 10% rise which will take their salaries to £74,000 although it’s being suggested that more pay reviews will take their pay to £86,000 by 2019.

So, on the face of it MPs look to be well rewarded for a job which needs no qualifications and no experience. In fact, they get two-and-a-half times the average national salary which has apparently only risen by 0.7% in the past year.

Significantly, opponents of the pay rise say this is not the time to consider MP’s pay while the country faces ever more deep and controversial austerity cuts to vital services which will hit the poor and the disabled.

Even parliamentarians themselves say they will refuse the rise and hand the money to charity but these are mainly embarrassed cabinet ministers who earn £135,000 and who have private wealth.

But the truth of the matter is that MPs have been underpaid for years, which is why they were actively encouraged to stuff their pockets with “eccies” as compensation while successive governments turned a blind eye.

Compared to bankers, doctors, civil servants, senior policemen, general practitioners, dentists and head teachers, ordinary MPs are lagging well behind while their job security is far more fragile.

Parliament should be able to attract the very best candidates. Alas, sometimes the very best will not be elected but unless those who do succeed are paid well enough, government will be undermined and democracy will suffer.

IPSA was created to ensure that an independent body would assess the position and recommend solutions and, crucially, to prevent MPs from setting their own salaries; it makes little sense to create an advisory body and then refuse to accept its findings.

Besides, there will never be a good time to reward MPs particularly since they are seen as grasping, greedy and indolent.

Perhaps, following the general election, this latest intake of MPs is of a higher quality than many of those from the recent past who were caught with their fingers in the till.

We must hope that they are all as diligent as the candidate a friend called a few days before May 7 to question him about his views.

After leaving a message on his telephone answering machine and not really expecting a response, he called back within a few hours and happily chatted away in a very friendly and helpful manner.

Impressed by this, my friend voted for him and, over the weekend, texted to congratulate him on his victory following his maiden speech.

His friendly reply and thanks came back within the hour.

Step forward Tommy Sheppard the SNP MP for Edinburgh East.

 

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