There is never a good time to talk about an increase in MPs' pay, and a deluge of criticism can be expected to greet proposals that could see parliamentarians' salaries rise by 40 per cent to almost £92,000 a year. How, sceptics will ask, can such a move be proposed at a time of austerity, with the stench of the Westminster expenses scandal still so strong in our nostrils?
In fact, the over-eager expenses claims point to quite the opposite conclusion. Indeed, after any number of politically motivated dodges, it is time for MPs' pay, pensions and resettlement payments when they leave Parliament to be considered in the round.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority's proposals are only suggestions, designed to stimulate public debate. But there is much merit in, say, pegging MPs' pay to an external yardstick to remove the political hoo-haa. And a multiple of the average national wage – though perhaps of three, rather than Ipsa's suggested four – is more sensible than a link to a professional comparator.
Not all the suggestions are sound. Regional pay, to reflect salaries in the constituency that a politician represents, makes little sense, given that most MPs are in the same place for much of the week. There are also disadvantages to pay that is varied according to an MP's length of time in the Commons. Tying salaries to income earned before entering Parliament would be indefensible.
That said, there is a good case for paying less to those MPs who maintain a second job. The 68 parliamentarians who earn more than £10,000 from other sources – and in particular the 18 with income of more than £100,000 from elsewhere – are unlikely to be devoting their full focus to Westminster. While there is much to be said for MPs with a wide experience of life, moonlighting is not the route.
More than anything, the question is one that needs serious thought. For all that it is tempting, knee-jerk indignation will not answer it.
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