In the wake of the Expenses Scandal that saw numerous politicians rapped or even jailed for over exaggerating their expenses claims the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s (Ipsa) was set up to ensure that a more rigorous and legal system was put in place. This group is also in charge of politician’s wages and are due to announce their latest findings and recommendations.
Nick Clegg has already said that he wouldn’t accept a pay rise but I think he’s jumping the gun here – maybe there is a case for paying them more to ensure they stay on the right side of the law and also do the job to the best of their abilities.
The first thing I would say is that the suggested figure of £75,000 a year is not as ridiculous as it might first appear. These are the people who have to make the life and death decisions on our behalf – in fact I’d suggest that we could even push it up to £100,000 but there must be some conditions that apply.
Firstly they should not be on any boards or have a second job, their only income and focus must be the job that they have been elected to do. That is the simplest option and the one that many are coming round to. That way there can be no conflict of interests with awarding contracts to companies. Also they must attend a certain percentage of debates and votes to maintain their wage otherwise it should be docked and claims made for expenses must be limited to £20,000 a year maximum.
If you consider what many in the city, in business and even in the civil service earn it is strange that we limit the wages of those that vote and speak on our behalf. While I understand that should be because they want to do the job we have to be realistic that it is still a job and one that needs a decent level of pay to attract the best people to the job. And as responsibility grows then the wage should grow with it; ministers need to be seen as qualified for the post and not just a lucky dip from your mates.
If we truly want the best representatives of our communities we are going to have to pay for it – by all means let’s reduce the amount of MPs to make it more affordable. In the age of austerity such a high pay rise will be unpopular but must be considered. The other consideration is that we, the electorate, should be able to recall the MP if they fail to represent us in a fair, considered and accurate way. While there are mechanisms in place they need to be simplified and enforced.
As much as I deride our current crop of MPs to ignore the problem will only add to the issues we find ourselves in. Would you rather a qualified economist earned £200k being our chancellor or keep paying Gideon £140k to do a mediocre job? Should we really pay the Prime Minister of this country less than the winner of an afternoon game show can walk away with? While unpopular could it be the solution to the sub-standard politicians we are suffering just now?
As long as we had more accountability and a guarantee that the MPs and Ministers were only focussed on the one job wouldn’t we all be better off?