How disappointing that The Independent is joining the predictable outcry on the subject of MPs’ salaries. It should be stressed that there is a substantial quid pro quo built into the proposal as a result of which MPs will lose other substantial benefits which, had they continued, would always have been opaque. A salary, on the other hand, is a known quantity.
It is obvious that MPs are underpaid in relation to almost every profession. One could provide endless examples such as teachers, doctors, local government officials, many of whom earn a great deal more than an MP. It is no good saying, on the one hand, that we must accept that, for example, bankers have to be given massive remuneration in order to keep them in the UK and at the same time argue that MPs should be paid on a very much lower scale on the grounds that they should undertake the job as a privilege.
The proposed annual salary, if implemented, would amount to a mere 10 per cent of the pension of a recently disgraced banker! Ridiculous, therefore, to jump on this latest bandwagon.
David Hindmarsh, Cambridge
One of the reasons given for the proposed increase in MPs’ pay is that it has fallen behind in comparison with other professions. There might or might not be some truth in this; it is difficult to find reliable data. However, MPs have not fallen behind the cost of living. In 1964, MPs received £3,250 a year; adjusted for inflation this is equivalent to £56,000 today. In 1980, they were paid £11,750; equivalent to £43,000 today. And in 1996, they got £34,000; equivalent to £54,000 now.
So, their current rate of £66,390 looks pretty good in historical terms. Where they have fallen behind, a little, is in comparison to 2006, when they were paid £59,686 a year; this is equivalent to £72,817 now. But the reason for their relative prosperity in 2006 is that between 1996 and 2006 MPs awarded themselves pay increases totalling 75 per cent; over the same period inflation was 30 per cent. So Ipsa is being selective in choosing a base for calculating a fair rate for MPs’ pay.
I suspect that many MPs, in addition to being aware that they are currently about as popular as herpes, and that a stonking pay increase will make them even less popular, are hoping to get the whole package thrown out. This might be because they have calculated that the reductions in allowances for meals, taxis and resettlement, and changes to pensions in the Ipsa package, will mean they will be worse off than they are now, even with the extra £7,000.
Perhaps the fairest way to calculate MPs’ pay is to tie it to the minimum wage. Currently the minimum wage on a 40-hour week gives £13,125. Five times that should be enough for what is essentially an unskilled job requiring no qualifications.
Steve Garrett, East Lydford, Somerset
I have great sympathy for the MPs and their feeling of powerlessness in being unable to refuse the pay rise which has been decided on their behalf.
For years my pay rises of less than 2 per cent have been imposed on me despite all my hard work and strongest objections. Now we are all in it together, I welcome MPs into the real world of pay negotiations.
Alan Priim, Kirkburton, West Yorkshire
Europe needs an immigration policy
Now we know you can buy your way into the UK by purchasing a passport from the Maltese government (report, 11 December).
We also know that the route into the UK for Moldovans is an easily acquired Romanian passport. Ditto for Bosnian Croats, via Zagreb. Then there is the amnesty granted by the Spanish government to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, the first step towards Spanish citizenship and the right to reside anywhere in the EU.
It’s time to choose how to regulate immigration. Either opt out of the EU accord on the free movement of peoples or seek an EU-wide policy on non-EU immigrants and amnesties.
Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
After my MP (a Conservative) said he was against more immigration from the EU and was in favour of a referendum, I wrote to him asking whether the Government had any reliable figures about the number of UK citizens living in other EU countries.
I asked what would happen if the UK should leave the EU: would all these people get a job back home, and would they be included in the referendum?
I got a rather vague reply from some government department which gave me the impression that they didn’t really know how many, or perhaps they just didn’t want us to know the answer. Too many Brits living in the EU? Neither was it clear whether UK citizens living in the EU would have any say in a future referendum.
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
Mandela: when violence is justified
Eric Oliver’s letter accusing Nelson Mandela of terrorism (11 December) does at least have an interesting issue at its heart: when is political violence justified ?
Many years ago, Dennis Healey was faced with this question from journalists on a visit to South Africa. How could he justify talking to the ANC, if he rejected the IRA? The reply was typically brief and to the point: “Because the IRA represent a minority of the population and they have the vote. The ANC represent the majority of the population and they are deprived of the vote.”
What actions, if any, does Mr Oliver think the ANC could and should have adopted in the 1960s and 1970s? And would he consider those who tried to murder Hitler in 1944 to be similarly beyond the pale?
Ned Holt, Reading
As a child, I knew i was different ...
Susan Boyle has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. I am particularly interested because, when I first saw her surprise the panel on The X Factor, I thought: “Oh, she has Asperger’s.”
It takes one to know one. When I was a child I knew I was different but didn’t understand how or why. I was very awkward, and as a teacher said to me once, “You are off-key”.
It was not until after my father’s death that I chatted with our GP and we agreed that he had classic symptoms of autism. No two autistic people are the same. Some are very clever, but others have all sorts of behavioural and other problems. I am one of the lucky ones like Susan where it has all turned out OK in the end.
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
Posing with a freshly shot African lion
Catrina Stewart (11 December) questions why the TV presenter Michelle Bachman was so severely criticised for posing with the body of a lion she had just shot.
While there are arguments about the management of the lion populations, I think she was so severely criticised because she seems to have taken pleasure and pride in killing such a substantial and much-admired creature. What is there to be proud of? The lion presumably did not stand a chance of surviving this encounter; she, I presume, was not in danger. So she can aim and shoot a modern rifle – so what?
Bob Morgan, Thatcham, West Berkshire
Nigella and the cult of celebrity
Why is it that journalists are so seduced by celebrity? So Nigella Lawson is “an extraordinary woman” (Letter from the Editor, 7 December). Really?
Miss Lawson was famous from birth because of her father. She is good at her job and is very beautiful. She has also suffered great tragedy in her life. This is similar to many thousands of other people, most of whom are less privileged and less wealthy.
In the face of adversity Miss Lawson has not shown heroic qualities. It’s good to show compassion for her but can you cut the silly adulation? Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary person. Likewise Aung San Suu Kyi and Doreen Lawrence. Nigella Lawson is a famous person. You should know the difference.
C Thompson, Batcombe, Somerset
Casualties of the ‘war on motorists’
Sean O’Grady, commenting on the abolition of the tax disc (6 December), refers to a “war on the motorist”. Is that the same war that has seen every recent fuel duty increase cancelled, cyclists harassed, speeding ignored and no action taken against cars parked on pavements? I dread to think how bad motorists’ behaviour will be when peace breaks out.
Rob Edwards, Harrogate
Do I have to start working again?
The Government, announcing a later pension age, declares that “people should spend on average no more than one third of their adult lives in retirement”. On calculating my own position, I find that I have already exceeded my permitted years by two. Will the Government please advise on my response to this alarming information?
David A Butler, Kennington, Oxfordshire