Twitter, predictably, has been somewhat stimulated today following the news from IPSA that our MPs have been given a pay rise of 10%. The rise takes our elected representatives’ pay up to £74,000 a year, although IPSA argues that it is a regrading rather than an increase.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance have condemned the increase, with chief executive Jonathan Isaby telling the Guardian that the rise was “totally inappropriate” and warned that the public would direct their anger at MPs. Since the expenses scandal of 2009, MPs have not voted on their own pay and the decision has been made by IPSA.
IPSA chief executive Sir Ian Kennedy defended the rise on the grounds that following this one-off rise, MPs pay will now be linked to public sector pay. He said: “We have made the necessary break with the past. We have created a new and transparent scheme of business costs and expenses, introduced a less generous pension scheme, where taxpayers contribute less and MPs make a higher contribution, and scrapped large resettlement payments.
“Over the last parliament, MPs’ pay increased by 2%, compared to 5% in the public sector and 10% in the whole economy. It is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.”
Not all MPs support the rise, which has come about after Prime Minister David Cameron, who had originally opposed the rise, accepted the decision of IPSA, perhaps mindful of his government’s slender majority and fearful of angering his backbenchers.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper slammed the pay increase, labelling it “crazy” and “completely unfair” and pledging to donate her salary increase to charitable causes. Fellow Labour leadership contenders Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall echoed her thoughts, while Justice Secretary Michael Gove will likely be reminded of comments he made previously saying that IPSA could “stick” their rise.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman today refused to confirm whether or not Cameron would be following Ms Cooper’s lead in donating her salary increase to charity, stating that it was a “private” matter and citing his consistent opposition to it.
Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, several MPs are in favour of the rise. Conservative MPs Rory Stewart, Mark Field and Tobias Ellwood and Labour MP Keith Vaz all came out in favour of the rise but have been the only MPs to do so publicly.
It is worth remembering today that although MPs have not voted to give themselves a pay rise, they had an opportunity in October 2014 to make themselves more accountable to the public in the form of the Real Recall Bill put forward into the House by Tory MP Zac Goldsmith. The Bill attracted cross-party support from Labour’s Dianne Abbott to the Lib Dems’ Tim Farron, but was comprehensively voted down by 340 votes to 166.
It is worth reflecting on that particular Bill and noting the names of MPs who today are altruistically pledging to donate their salary increase to charitable causes. Barely a year ago voted against empowering voters to be able to sack MPs who serve their own interests rather than those of their constituents.