There have been a lot of screaming headlines over the last 24 hours – all focused on a recommended pay rise for MPs.
Well, it is true that we are recommending a pay rise, but that is not the whole truth.
Take a step back and look at the facts. Ipsa was tasked with cleaning up expenses and with reviewing and revising how we pay MPs.
We’ve done the first part over the last three years and now we have turned our mind to the second. Once you begin to look at MPs’ remuneration, you can’t help but be struck at the peculiar benefits which have grown up over time.
Successive governments failed to address MPs’ pay in a transparent way. Resettlement payments emerged – worth up to a year’s salary. And MPs’ pensions evolved into something quite unsustainable.
And of course, up until 2009, there was also the whispered encouragement that MPs could top up their salary through allowances. We’ve already brought this final one to a juddering halt. But we also need to strip back these other peculiarities. And at the same time we need to tackle the question of MPs’ pay head on, no longer relying on supplements of one sort or another to make up for the fact that their pay has fallen behind in recent years. That is not just our view, but the view of successive reviews in recent years.
And so we are recommending a package of reforms. Getting rid of the “golden parachutes”, bringing pensions into line with the rest of the public sector, further tightening of the expenses regime and, yes, a pay rise of about £6,300.
Not now, I hear you say. But the time is never good to tackle this question. Look at the experience of the last 30 years, which teaches us that this issue will never be politically convenient – or popular. And so we are addressing the question now, but doing so in a way which is mindful of the economic context and mindful of the pressures on taxpayers.
Taken together, the changes we’ve introduced to MPs’ costs and expenses and to their pay and pensions will save the taxpayer some £7m a year.
We’ve cleaned up the system, introduced unprecedented transparency, and now we’re recommending reforming and opening up MPs’ pay and benefits – removing their peculiar perks. And we’re doing all this with a healthy saving for the taxpayer.
And beyond that, we are proposing to MPs that they introduce an annual report – in a standard format, to help explain their activity to their constituents. Because it is clear from our research that many voters do not understand what MPs do in their constituencies and especially what they do at Westminster.
That has to be good news for the taxpayer. For MPs. And for our democracy.