Monday, December 24, 2007

MP's Pay (2)

Having dashed off my post this morning before taking The Great Wise-One out to finish the Christmas shopping, I'll now expand with some of my thoughts on MP's pay and allowances, which I have had for some time. These should address the issues raised by DK and Mark in their comments to my fist post.

MP's Salary

Firstly, I understand, and have sympathy with, the argument that if so many people want the job then why pay anything? My position is that short of true anarchy* we do need to attract talented and committed MP's who have to live and raise families. So lets come up with a formula that is transparent and takes away the unedifying spectacle of them voting their own salaries.

I favour paying MP's a salary commensurate with their jobs before they become an MP because that is what they have shown to be worth in an open market and what they have become accustomed to living on. I don't want the salary to be a bar to people's aspirations to becoming an MP, nor should the job be taken on purely for financial reward. I accept that those with extraordinarily high salaries may prove an embarrassment, so maybe a cap at, say, £200k per annum.

As for those on low salaries, that is what they are used to living on so I don't see why they need more. However, if this is seen as a barrier to entry then I will accept a minimum salary of, say, the national median salary, in the interests of creating a diverse parliament.

The exceptions I make are those who have been researchers (see below) and worked in think tanks and within political parties. They will start on the national median salary.

In all cases the salary will be based on the last 2 years earnings so it can't be skewed just before they leave their last position.

MP's Work Place Running Costs

Every constituency will have an MP's office on the high street of it largest town (by population). This office will be where MP's run their surgeries and carry out their constituency duties. It will be forbidden for party literature to be displayed in the constituency office, to remind MP's they represent all their constituents and not their party. It will also be forbidden for party political work or discussions to take place on the premises.

The running costs will be paid by the state and each MP will be entitled to one secretary and one, apolitical, researcher. Both of these will be state employees and not selected by the MP, indeed they will hold their positions whenever an MP changes. The secretary will be paid the equivalent of the local rates for secretaries to a General Manager and the researcher the same as, say, a senior librarian. Neither of these will be allowed to work on party political issues.

For larger constituencies the MP can either have satellite office or a mobile office, however with today's communications video links to outlying communities should be encouraged.

This office will be designated the MP's place of work for tax and travel purposes, all expenses will be calculated from this location. Any constituency travel will be expensed from the constituency office. (Note: this is the same as for employees in private industry)

If an MP chooses not to live in the constituency he they will not be entitled to any expenses to get to the office.

Any political office with political researchers that MPs require must be paid for by their party or through private donations, which have been openly declared.

Travel to Westminster

Like anyone else, MP will have to travel on business, in this case to Westminster. MP's in and around London, say within 2 hours rail travel from the station nearest to the constituency office, will be given an annual travel card. They will get a daily allowance of, say, £5 plus dinner allowance in the House of Commons's. (That's what they would be getting if working in the private sector)

MP's further away will be entitled to stay overnight in London. A central booking agency will book them in to a 4 star hotel and they will be entitled to B&B. They can also claim any meals eaten in the House of Commons, on production of receipt. Alcohol cannot be claimed, other than 1 glass of wine with dinner.

MP's without travel cards travelling to London can claim mileage between their office and the nearest mainline station and then the rail fare to London. If the rail journey is longer than 4 hours MP's will be permitted to travel Business Class and claim for light refreshment, on production of a valid receipt.

There will be no housing or other allowances to allow MP's to live in London as I expect them to live in their constituencies and school their children there.

Offices in Westminster

Whilst in Westminster MP's will share a pooled resource of secretarial services. With modern communications they can be easily in contact with their constituency offices and if letters need signing and posting this can be done through the pool of secretaries.

Political researches, advisers and party apparatchiks will only be allowed to use Westminster facilities if they pay a rent for the office space based on open market rates.

Ministers and PM

They will receive pay rises to cover the extra responsibility. Lets say today's salary structure isn't too far out for ministers because its based on Civil Servant's pay scales, although I do think these are somewhat generous.

We also need to reduce the number of ministers, but that's another issue to be dealt with separately.

As always the devil will be in the detail, but with these principles, and private industry practices as a guideline, the details that should take too long to address.

*a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society.


Mark Wadsworth said...

All fine in principle, but unenforceable in practice. How about expenses to be paid by the MP's party funds?

The Great Simpleton said...


Once an MP has been elected he is the reperesentating all his constiuents and not just the party. Well that the ideal we need to get back to and why I advopcate the secretary, researcher and travel to Westmnster being paid centrally.

Mark Wadsworth said...

True. It's tricky, isn't it?