Comment: Sorry Mr Hammond, MPs don’t deserve a pay rise
By Eleanor McGrath
It emerged over the weekend that transport minister Stephen Hammond thinks MPs deserve a pay rise of 60%.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to The Sun on Sunday he responded to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) review into MPs' pay with a call for their salaries to be increased to over £100,000.
The first time MPs received a salary was in 1911 when they each received £400 a year – equivalent to about £39,000 in today's terms. This was an important step forward as it meant that a political career was no longer the preserve of the wealthy, allowing people from different backgrounds to enter this important field.
Today, each MP gets a salary of £65,738, which is almost three times the national average of £26,500. In a paper the TaxPayers' Alliance published in 2009 we found that in the general context of UK earnings, individual MPs are actually among the top three per cent of highest earners in terms of income. In other words, 97% of the people they represent are earning less than they are.
For some MPs entering the House of Commons, it does mean taking a pay cut. However, for many others taking their seats in Westminster, it will mean the highest salary they've ever received.
And in dealing with the subject of MPs' pay, it's important that we remember how bad things are economically. This will be the fifth year running we have had a deficit of more than £120 billion. We are still in the midst of a deep financial crisis and families, councils and central government alike are all having to tighten their belts and find savings.
At a time when many people's salaries are being frozen, to increase politicians' pay would suggest that there is one rule for them and another for the rest of us.
Indeed, during the course of its review, IPSA commissioned numerous pieces of research from opinion pollster ComRes to establish the general public's views about MPs' pay. After two full surveys of more than 2,000 people, four focus groups and two citizens' juries, no less, ComRes concluded:
"Most people think that an MP's salary is broadly fair once they have reflected on the nature of the work and comparative pay scales of other public sector workers – initially most people tend to assume that MPs earn more than they should. However, having discussed the roles and responsibilities of MPs and looked at the salary in a wider context, people think that £65,738 is a fair salary if they fulfil their duties… There is very little appetite for increasing the pay of MPs."
Quite how much taxpayers' money was spent on that project is unknown, but its conclusions are absolutely right.
With our politicians rightly trying to keep public spending down, it is essential that they show the same commitment in terms of running their own affairs. There can therefore be absolutely no justification for increasing MPs' salaries in the way that Mr Hammond desires.
Given that more than six candidates on average contested every seat at the last general election, there's clearly no shortage of people willing to put themselves forward for the job.
So Mr Hammond and his colleagues should accept that the current pay level for MPs is about right and that future raises be pegged to changes in average public sector pay.
Eleanor McGrath is campaign manager of TaxPayers' Alliance and works with the campaign and research team to help get the TPA's message out to the public by promoting the organisation's campaigns and liaising with the media.
The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.