Ministers say hello to the 'golden goodbye'

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The Independent Online
Fifty former Tory ministers - one in five of whom quit in disgrace - have shared tax-free redundancy payments over the past five years totalling more than pounds 250,000. The "golden goodbyes", ranging from pounds 3,000 to pounds 13,000, were paid for loss of office, whether the ministers were forced to resign or not.

Details of the lucrative endings of so many political careers will be published by the Labour Party tomorrow, despite government refusals to disclose which minister got how much.

Ian McCartney MP, Labour's employment spokesman, has drawn up a dossier, "Golden Goodbyes", with the aid of House of Commons researchers, after Public Service Minister Roger Freeman declined to give the size of individual pay-offs.

The dossier will reveal that Timothy Yeo, the former Minister of State at the Environment Department, got pounds 5,276 from the taxpayer in February 1994. Mr Yeo was forced to quit over a scandal involving his fathering of a child by his lover.

David Mellor, the Heritage Secretary who had to go over his involvement with actress Antonia de Sancha, picked up pounds 8,048. Rod Richards, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Welsh Office, who was alleged to have had an affair with a public relations woman, made do with pounds 3,800.

Since July last year, severance pay for ministers has been increased to a quarter of their annual salary, making it less of a financial hardship to return to the back benches, where they receive a backbench MP's salary of pounds 43,000. The scheme does not differentiate between those who were sacked, those who quit in protest over government policy - such as David Heathcoat-Amory, the former Paymaster General - or those whose conduct compelled resignation, as with the next Paymaster General, David Willetts, who left over his involvement in the political spin-off of the Commons cash-for-questions affair.

The list of who got what reads like a roll-call of Conservative political hopefuls and has-beens. John Redwood was compensated for giving up the Welsh Office to challenge John Major for the party leadership in July 1995. Nicholas Scott, ousted from his safe seat in Kensington and Chelsea after being found face down in the street during the Tory party conference last autumn, got severance pay in July 1994 for losing his job as Minister of State at the Department of Social Security. Norman Lamont got his pay- off after being sacked as Chancellor a year after "Black Wednesday."

Mr McCartney added: "People in industry who get sacked for misconduct do not get compensated.Why are ministers treated differently? Then there is the hypocrisy of it. These are the same ministers who rail against a minimum wage, while receiving more secret hand-outs than families in Britain have to live on for a whole year."

There is no record of any Tory minister refusing to accept the "golden goodbye", and only two examples of the money not being paid: to Douglas Hurd, when he ceased to be Foreign Secretary, and to Sir Hector Munro, who left the Scottish Office, both in 1995. They were over the legal retirement age of 65, and therefore did not qualify.