MPs are damned if they decide their own pay, and damned if someone else decide it too?
In 2009, after the expenses scandal, MPs decided, not unreasonably, that it was no longer possible for them to decide their own salaries and expenses. Instead the whole subject was outsourced to the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). The Independent Authority has run a much tighter regime on expenses. But it has also looked once again at the issue of salaries. Though Ipsa?s final conclusions have not yet been published. It seems that it is to propose a substantial pay rise of about 15 per cent, taking an MP?s salary to about ?75,000 from after the next general election in 2015.
Westminster on Monday was awash with MPs insisting that they would not accept any such award. This is not surprising. With large swaths of public sector pay either frozen or held to a 1 per cent cash rise ceiling up to 2016, MPs would be extremely reckless to risk voting for a 15 per cent rise?MPs are damned if they decide their own pay and damned if someone else decide it too?
Yet political pragmatism about hostile public opinion is not the only reason for holding back. Yes, parliament is important, and it is also desirable for politics to reacquire respect. Yet it is also a mistake to waste much sympathy on MPs over pay. Britain has too many legislators. MPs have passed up the chance to cut their own numbers or reform the House of Lords.