Raise MPs' salaries

Let's be honest, our current set of MPs includes a mere handful who inspire. Perhaps a pay rise might entice a better sort

Is money the only way to attract the best?
Alexandra Swann
On 6 February 2013 09:03

MPs currently earn £65,738 each year. MEPs earn a similar amount but with a far more generous allowance system which I suppose is acceptable given that the European Parliament dictates around 80 percent of our laws. Well, it isn’t, but that’s an argument for another day.

Recently there has been outrage among commentators, trade union bosses – who do outrage on par with Owen Jones who is, of course, equally outraged – and various public sector nobodies because the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has revealed that MPs would quite like a 32 percent pay rise.

In fact, IPSA’s anonymous survey found that 69 percent of MPs believe they are underpaid and, to be perfectly honest, they have my greatest sympathies.

When the national average earnings sits at around £26,500 per annum, an entry level midwife earns between £21,176 and £27,265, and public sector salaries are capped, it is hard, both morally and politically, to argue that now is the time to increase the amount we pay our elected representatives, particularly by the 32 percent suggested that would take their annual pay to just over £86,000.

Despite these facts, which say something rather terrible about the state of both our economy and how we value our health professionals, and the national trend for MP bashing, I still believe £65k is too low.

Having worked for a few MPs, I’ve seen first-hand the hours required, the stress involved, and the toll of being away from one’s family – whether because a debate hasn’t finished until 3am or because your constituency is half way across the country. MPs are regularly expected to attend weekend constituency engagements and to top it off theirs is a profession that is rivalled only by banking for the open public disdain directed towards them.

Consider the fact that they represent tens of thousands of constituents, manage two offices, and usually take a serious pay cut from their former professions, and the arguments for a pay increase add up.

If we want to reduce the number of overpaid public servants first we should look to council officials; in Surrey alone there are 23 officials earning over £100,000 per year – far more than an MP – and the Runnymede Director of Administration and Leisure is currently earning £280,432 per year, twice the salary of the Prime Minister

In all aspects of life you tend to get what you pay for. While it is lovely to think that the honour of public service is enough to entice our country’s best and brightest away from far more lucrative professions, they too have the same considerations of mortgages, looking after their families, and perhaps school fees to consider.

Raising MPs’ salaries will cost the country very little; there are only 650 of them. Yes, times are hard and a salary hike when public sector wages and benefits remain capped may be politically unpalatable. But this is the beauty of the IPSA; for the first time, it won’t be the MPs themselves voting for their own pay rise. (Although it may well signal the first time anyone thanks the IPSA, who have imposed a phenomenally costly, complicated, and time consuming system that is the bane of most Parliamentary Researchers’ lives, for anything.)

If MPs salaries remain frozen, and an increase is dismissed, there is a genuine risk, as suggested by Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, that only those with independent personal wealth, like our Prime Minister and most of the Cabinet, or career politicians with little private sector experience, will delve into politics.

Our MPs already earn a pittance in comparison to many of their worldwide counterparts (not to mention thousands of EU bureaucrats) and let's be honest, our current set includes a mere handful who inspire. Perhaps a pay rise might entice a better sort.

Alexandra Swann is a freelance journalist and prominent member of UKIP since leaving the Conservative Party last year. She is a self-described anarcho-capitalist and considers taxation to be state sponsored theft

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