pounds 8m in pay-offs for redundant MPs

Hague collected pounds 11,000 in redundancy - but gave it back when elected Tory leader
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The Independent Online
Former MPs who left Parliament at the election pocketed a total of around pounds 7m in redundancy payments, and defeated ministers received a further pounds 1m, according to official figures.

All but one of the 247 MPs who retired or were defeated have picked up their redundancy cheques which range between pounds 43,860, a year's salary and half that amount, pounds 21,930.

According to the answer to a question by Viscount Exmouth in the House of Lords last week, 245 MPs have so far collected the money. Another, Sir Nicholas Baker, died during the election campaign. A vast majority of those leaving were Tories with 72 who retired and 127 who lost, while 36 Labour MPs also retired. Twelve MPs from the smaller parties also retired or were defeated.

Under the rules established in 1991, MPs receive a minimum of half a year's salary which is paid to all those who have served under 10 years. There is an incentive to retire between 55 and 64 as only MPs of that age and who have served more than 15 years get the full pay-off. Older MPs get less and those over 70 only receive 50 per cent however long they have served.

Ministers are entitled to a quarter of their ministerial salary, which ranges from pounds 100,000 to pounds 23,623 (or pounds 20,029 for whips) when they lose office in addition to their MP's pay off. According to the information given to Viscount Exmouth, some ministers are not entitled to a ministerial pay-off depending on their age, whether they have got another eligible post, or their previous office. Therefore 11 former ministers out of around 80 - John Major, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, Viscount Cranbourne, Earl Ferrers, Lord Strathclyde, Viscount Long, Baroness Trumpington, Sir Patrick Mayhew, Alastair Goodlad, Andrew Mackay and Bowen Wells - did not qualify.

Although William Hague is now the leader of the opposition, an official salaried post, because he took up the job more than three weeks after the election, he picked up just under pounds 11,000 - but returned the money. If he had got the job within three weeks of the general election, he would not have been entitled to any redundancy payment.

From the experience of many former MPs so far, they will need their redundancy money. Many still do not have jobs and the prospects, particularly for those who spent years of anonymity on the backbenches is not good.

The stars, of course, are doing fine and many are turning to the media for the income. Edwina Currie published one bonkbuster and has a contract for a second book. In July she is due to present a two hour current affairs programme on Radio 5 Live on Sunday mornings and a daily Channel 5 programme Espresso, a consumer affairs light entertainment programme.

Although Michael Portillo may have more long-term political ambitions, in the short term he is due to be presenting an item on a BBC television programme about one of his favourite country houses. And Kenneth Clarke, although still an MP may be missing his ministerial salary after two decades and has done some commentating for Sky News.

Many ex-MPs are doing "bits and pieces" such as John Bowis, the former health minister who says that he is working in the health field: "some work pays, some is just for expenses". He is also doing voluntary work in health "just to keep myself busy".

Others are taking it easily. Dame Angela Rumbold's secretary said that "she does not need to do much." However, several other MPs spoken to were reluctant to say what they were doing and in many cases it seemed because they were on the dole. But being Tories, they did not admit it.