Politicians – how should they be paid? And what do they do?

(65 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 19-Jul-13 09:56:13

Hi there

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), the new organisation which sets MPs' pay, conditions and expenses, is running a public consultation on their recommended new approach for paying MPs. They are keen to hear your views on their recommendations.

According to IPSA, their recommended package has these five main parts:

1) A salary of £74,000 a year, and movement in line with national average wages so that politicians' pay is tied to the fortunes of all workers. If national wages rise, MPs' wages rise. If national wages fall, MPs' wages fall.
2) MPs' pensions cut back into line with the rest of the public sector, rather than the more generous pension MPs receive today.
3) Redundancy payments cut back into line with the rest of the public sector. In 2010, every MP who left parliament was entitled to a payment worth up to a full year's salary ? around £65,000. IPSA is recommending that only MPs who fight for re-election and lose should be entitled to a payment, and it should be heavily reduced, so it is in line with other redundancy packages.
4) Expenses cut and brought into line with other modern professionals. No more claiming for evening meals, hospitality, or TV licences.
5) Annual reports so that constituents know what MPs do. Research shows most people don't know what their MP does. IPSA believes that regular reporting and accountability are a part of modern professionalism, and should be brought in for MPs. Are there specific things you would you like to know about what your MP does?

The new package will start after the 2015 election and, alongside the changes already made to MPs' expenses, IPSA says it will save the taxpayer £7m a year.

IPSA is keen to know what you think of this proposed package and what you would like MPs to include in an annual report. You can read the full consultation document here (pdf), and submit your response by filling out this quick survey, writing them an email or adding your views to this thread.

IPSA will analyse all the responses they receive to the consultation and make a final decision in autumn this year.

Thanks,
MNHQ

ButThereAgain Fri 19-Jul-13 11:10:53

Not sure that tinkering with salaries is going to do much to improve the calibre and honesty of MPs -- I'm sure I'd manage not to be a lobbying crook or an expenses crook on far, far less of an incentive than £74k. Other important public servants work incredibly hard and with real commitment on half that salary, especially those whose jobs require no formal training at all!

I think that their declining quality and integrity has a lot to do with the disappearance of a traditional party structure. The Labour Party in particular used to be a genuine mass movement (albeit one that was imperfectly democratic!), a mechanism for both a manifesto and a set of potential MPs and leaders to emerge via some sort of grassroots-upwards movement.

Now it is much more heavily controlled from the top, by individuals who are motivated much more powerfully by electoral imperatives than by any party principles set in stone, and who therefore hold themselves accountable only to the media, since it is the media image of their party that overwhelmingly determines their fate. The grassroots have no weight, no power to determine party ethos or principle, and so the MPs that emerge are acculturated only into a managerialist focus-group culture that seeks election for its own sake.

The weakness in party structure is compounded by the horrible, necrotic weakness in parliament. Too much power for the executive, plus an electoral system so rotten that gives no real authority or self-respect to its beneficiaries, isn't conducive to the production of principled MPs.

We are starting to see the emergence of a political class that is quite openly corrupt. The excuses given for backtracking on minimum alcohol pricing and plain cigarette packaging were so flimsy that it looked like the government can't even be bothered to pretend that it is anything other than a channel for commercial interests. Similarly the handing over of the UK blood service to a UK private equity fund.

We need a full-scale constitutional rewrite, not a pay restructure.

ButThereAgain Fri 19-Jul-13 11:37:18

BTW, regarding accountability, I always wonder whether the proliferation in the recent decade or so of consultations like this one is anything other than a floundering recognition that the electoral system and the party system are now failing in their basic function of shaping and legitimating the actions of govt and the legislature.

Politics at the level of parliament and central govt now has such a very poor mandate from the people that it has to manufacture little consultative exercises that provide tiny faux-mandates for particular decisions. That is true of a range of consultative exercises but it is particularly true of those that reach out via places like Mumsnet which of course can't generate representative responses but which can generate a relatively high-profile for the consultation and so generate the appearance of seeking and obtaining some sort of mass authority for decisions that no longer have the traditional mandate supplied by a tolerably well-functioning electoral system.

lljkk Fri 19-Jul-13 12:24:57

I like & approve of the proposed £74k package with the reductions in other areas. I presume that expenses to travel to constituencies will still be covered adequately?

mrscog Fri 19-Jul-13 13:47:48

I agree with proposals 1,2 and 3.

However I disagree with number 4. There may still be some work to be done on tightening up expenses but if I was expected to stay away from home overnight due to work I would get a meal allowance and a hotel room which would most likely have a TV, I suppose the meal thing is different as they do have a property with a kitchen - maybe this could be the marker. For MPs who choose a low key hotel for 4 nights a week maybe they could get a meal allowance, if they have a property with a kitchen then no.

At some point we have to accept that most MPs need two homes and we need to decide whehter their main home is in their constitency or London. As most of their working week is in London, maybe it would be better if any London residence was considered their main home, then expenses would be claimed on a small property within their consituency.

Being an MP is a shit job. There, I said it. Both Dh and I were interested in doing it, but you're looking at a 60 hour week in Westminster and stopping away from your family. Then at weekends when most Mon-Fri workers are relaxing you're expected to hobnob around at boring school fetes, and massage the ego of your local helpers in your local party. For anyone with a family, I can't see how it's worth it for less than 100K.

culturemulcher Fri 19-Jul-13 14:26:06

In a rush, but I do want to comment.

I think £74K is okay - even on the low side - if and only if it's their only job.

I firmly believe, though, that MPs should not be allowed to have any other job. Aside from the inevitable taint of undue influence, isn't running the country enough work?

ButThereAgain Fri 19-Jul-13 17:44:40

Agree mrscog that it is a shit job. But I think it will become a shitter job if we respond to its unappealingness by upping the salary. What kind of MPs will we get if we seek to attract people with the promise of an astonishingly high salary in return for taking on a rather hamstrung, compromised role? I think that might entrench a rather venal approach to the job. Better to make the job more appealing by means of electoral and parliamentary and party reform.

At the moment the only development which might seem to feed MPs self-respect a little bit is the select committee system, which increasingly has the role of scrutinising all and sundry in a very high-profile way. But that seems to have developed in such an ad hoc manner, without much conscious public oversight, and so with failings all of its own. It is alarming really how completely ill-equipped our system is for planned and principled constitutional evolution. Witness the complete debacle over the alternative vote referendum.

Of the proposals above, I think (5) is the most depressing. The whole cycle of submitting oneself for re-election every five years is meant to be one of accountability via report and scrutiny. That is failing, partly because of severe disillusionment with and disengagement from politics on the part of the electorate. Is that likely to be counteracted by some obscure bureaucratic replica of reporting and scrutiny?

Jux Fri 19-Jul-13 17:55:12

Politics should not be an attractive career; it should not be a career at all really, but if it is, it should most definitely be a second career.

Spend time working your way up (or not!) in some other field first. I do think that is one of the most important things. We have been forced to accept the idea that we need politicians who look good on camera. We don't. So my second criteria would be that they must be fairly unattractive, and aged no less than 60, and have a proven track record of probity.

So, on to your questions.

74K is a ridiculous amount imo, particularly when there are so many people struggling to buy enough food for their family each week., and so few jobs around for those who are supposed to be coming off benefits or whose benefits are being cut, to start earning. (Dennis Skinner reputedly took a miner's wage while he was an MP. TBH, I think that MPs should be paid 10% above minimum wage - and with this lot I think that's more than they're worth.) However, I suppose if you take a middle ranking blue collar worker's wages, then that would not be an unreasonable sum for an MP. I agree that if national wages fall, MPs' wages fall, and vice versa.

I agree in principal with 2, 3, 4 and 5.

The media is far too involved in the personality in politics. I would like to see politics graduates writing essays - 1 sheet of A4 only - on each of the issues. One sheet giving background, one sheet outlining possible options, one sheet outlining pros for each course of action, one sheet outlining cons for each possible course of action. These should be published in national newspapers so we are kept informed dispassionately. The papers can collect further questions, requests for elucidation etc from their readers, and otherwise become the sleb gossip sheets they really are but would like to pretend they are not.

Package sounds great.

However MPs are drawn from a small pool of people who come up via the main political party ranks - not the average man on the street. They are career politicians, there to make a name for themselves, not to serve the people. The whole system of political party whips demonstrates that - they are basically told to vote on party lines or else on some issues - that's hardly representing their constituency. So change that please, although not the role of IPSAS.

The part of proposal I object to is linking payrises to the national wage. They are public sector workers and should be subject to the same pay rises as they impose on the rest of the public sector. Linking it to the national wage allows for it to be higher as public sector wage rises are usually low if they exisit at all.

I have had no pay rise for 4 years, followed by a 2.5% cut, and finally a 1% rise. Imcremental progression was frozen a couple of years ago (to coincide with a 'promotion'I received which is name only as I have to stay at the bottom of the scale). I am not by the way, saying that this isn't something that has to happen but it rankles that it is okay to tell workers earning £14k that they have to suck it up for the good of the nation but then not lead by example.

lljkk Fri 19-Jul-13 20:53:42

Are you saying that politics isn't a profession like any, that takes time to become good at? And not all of them are career politicians. I am guessing about 40% have at least 10 years of work experience outside politics before giving it a go.

BigW Fri 19-Jul-13 21:03:51

I think that increased transparency around MP pay is vital if we are to regain trust in Westminster. This is an important first step.

I also think that MPs do an incredibly important and demanding job, more so than most people (and media) give them credit for. If we want the best and the brightest representing us, then we need pay to compete with the private sector.

I am passionately in favour of increased pay for MPs, but I think the public need something in return. The proposals outlined above only give a nod to increased transparency. I want to see a more open candidate selection process so we are genuinely represented by the best and not the cronyism that exists currently.

I think that the recent scandals surrounding lobbying are in fact more of an issue for MPs. Any pay rise should be dependent on a wholesale review of standards in public life.

So, I guess if I had to put it into one sentence I would say an emphatic yes, but like those of us in the private sector, they need to earn it.

No. Politicians become adept at self interest and to far removed from normality - look at how distrusted they are? I put it at least partly down to being a career politician.

At least 40%? Really?!

kotinka Fri 19-Jul-13 22:52:35

I agree with the IPSA proposals, it sounds very fair. A base wage of 74k is fair, it's a generous wage.

BIWI Fri 19-Jul-13 23:15:51

Politics should not be an attractive career; it should not be a career at all really, but if it is, it should most definitely be a second career.

Spend time working your way up (or not!) in some other field first. I do think that is one of the most important things. We have been forced to accept the idea that we need politicians who look good on camera. We don't. So my second criteria would be that they must be fairly unattractive, and aged no less than 60, and have a proven track record of probity.

Whilst I think our politicians would gain valuable experience working in other fields before they move into politics, I think these are stupid statements to make.

Politics have to be attractive. People should move into politics if they have a passion for it. If they don't have a passion for it, then they aren't fighting for the people whom they claim to represent.

And suggesting that politics only recruit ugly and old people is horribly offensive.

BIWI Fri 19-Jul-13 23:19:25

The one thing I would like to see is that our MPs can't hold other jobs/positions that pay them. Therefore, I'd like them to be paid a realistic salary (even though I suspect that this level of salary is really going to piss off the electorate). But no more positions on boards of companies as non-executive directors, etc.

If you are an MP, then you should be paid a decent salary by the Government to do that job, and you should commit to that job only. And not work for anyone else, because that way conflicts of interest will surely lie.

kotinka Sat 20-Jul-13 00:04:57

BIWI, I like your suggestions, what makes a realistic salary to you? Im thinking average wage x 2.

Fanjango Sat 20-Jul-13 00:28:26

MPs are paid enough already, the majority of the country earn far less. A member of parliament is a representative, not a god, they should be paid if they actually bother to turn up . Many MPs don't bother with parliament much if the time, yes some are doing constituency work but realistically many are paid without any regard to the hours put in, in some cases very little. Second jobs a no-no. Being a representative to the constituents is a full time post, not a well paid hobby!
A quick aside...
If Gove thinks its okay to say kids don't need a long break for summer maybe he would also accept the removal of the exceptionally long breaks MPs enjoy! Just a thought wink

HongkongDreamer Sat 20-Jul-13 08:26:03

They shouldnt be getting pay rises while everyone else like nurses etc get pay freezes, would love to c them trying to work in a hosp. They are not in touch with the real world at all, and dont deserve to get as much as 74,000 yo be honest

HongkongDreamer Sat 20-Jul-13 08:27:39

Agree with 2,3,4,5 though.

HongkongDreamer Sat 20-Jul-13 08:29:50

And it shouldnt rise above 74,000 even if other wages increase.

ButThereAgain Sat 20-Jul-13 08:56:17

If we need a £74k salary to attract the "best people," how do we get excellent nurses, teachers, university lecturers, and a whole range of skilled and conscientious blue-collar workers on salaries of half that? I'm worried that the assumption is that the "best people" are those who, if they didn't become MPs, would seek to be CEOs, bankers, corporate lawyers, etc. Rather than nurses, teachers, lecturers, blue-collar workers. What does that say about the project of getting MPs who are representative of the people? What does it say about the degree of respect Westminster has for the mass of people who work at ordinary salaries?

skrumle Sat 20-Jul-13 09:09:29

i agree with points 1-5, although i do have similar concern about tying to average wage - a small percentage of people on very high salaries could significantly skew that, although i'm assuming that's been used rather than public sector because of the dropping down as well as rising element.

i think one of our issues is not enough variety in MPs so the thought of limiting it to people over 60 is laughable to me - how is that connecting with the rest of society? people aged 18-25 hardly vote as it is - what incentive is there if they are told they don't really count and their age group cannot be represented?

i also don't agree with no second jobs, being a politician is a pretty unstable "career" so if someone wants to continue working a day a week in their existing career/own business then fair enough IMO.

ButThereAgain - headteachers in large-ish schools currently earn more than unpromoted MPs. The proposed salary may be massively above what my husband and i earn but it is not a ridiculously high one by any means...

ButThereAgain Sat 20-Jul-13 09:27:12

No, though it's probably something like 80-90th percentile or some such. It's not the salary itself but the justification of in in terms of "attracting the right kind of people" that seems suspect.

I do think there should be an absolute ban on second jobs. Agree it is an unstable career, though. Perhaps a means-tested support package for MPs who lose an election would be a more democratic way of compensating this instability, so that the job is as available to ordinary people who don't have much of a cushion as it is to the wealthy.

FamiliesShareGerms Sat 20-Jul-13 09:56:46

I should start by declaring that I am a civil servant of the grade that MPs salaries used to be linked to. My salary is roughly what MPs get currently paid, but I have been on a pay freeze for a number of years (in effect a pay cut) and my pension contributions have shot up (especially as I am doing what appeared to be the prudent thing and buying added years). I am about £400 a month worse off than two years ago. I accept that I am still well paid, and there are plenty of people in a far worse position.

But - I think there is an easy solution to the questions on what to do re MPs expenses, and that is to mirror the rules already in place for civil servants as far as practicable.

It is legitimate for MPs with constituencies outside the SE to have two residences, for example, but we should pay their rent not their mortage on the second home, so that the MP doesn't benefit unduly in the long term by acquiring another capital asset purely by dint of their job (or, more radically, a Parliamentary body could buy the houses and seek to make profit for the public purse).

Redundancy is a little different, given that a perfectly good and able MP can be booted out by their consituency making a point about national politics (eg how many Labour MPs suffered from the decision to go to war in Iraq?), and the proposal to treat MPs who fight and lose a contest differently from others seems complicated and likely to lead to perverse outcomes. A simple 6 months salary as a redundancy Package would still be generous but a significant saving on the current position.

Annual reports - absolutely. And some kind of accountability from each political party for what their members have been up to. But this report has to somehow get across that not being in the Commons is not the same as not turning up to work - MPs do so much more than debating in the chamber.

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