Former ministers share pounds 500,000 `goodbye' cash

More than 70 Tory former ministers who have resigned or been sacked since the 1992 general election have shared pounds 467,000 in tax-free "golden goodbyes", Labour claimed yesterday.

John Redwood, who resigned as Secretary of State for Wales to fight John Major for the Tory party leadership on a platform of backing spending cuts, collected pounds 8,658 as his severance payment. Former Chancellor Norman Lamont, another supporter of public-spending cuts, also received more than pounds 8,000, according to Labour's dossier.

Ian McCartney, Labour's employment spokesman, said he obtained the severance payment figures after research by the House of Commons library.

He contrasted these payments with the Government's opposition to Labour's plans for a national minimum wage. "Former ministers who attack protection for the low paid have been happy to walk off with tax-free cheques for up to pounds 8,000 - more than the 2 million people earning less than pounds 3 an hour get in a year," Mr McCartney said.

Under the current rules, ministers receive one-quarter of their ministerial salary when they leave office, regardless of whether they resign or were sacked. Mr McCartney said: "It seems that whatever the reason for their exit from office, former Tory ministers have had no scruples about accepting a `golden goodbye' at the taxpayer's expense."