Pay MPs the going rate – and ban the second ‘jobs’

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In the seemingly interminable bickering over how much our MPs should be paid, it is worth pondering George Hollingbery’s point in these pages today.

Like most of those members prepared to comment on this thorny topic, the Tory Meon Valley MP says he wants the cost of politics reduced, not increased.

But he then goes on to make a salient comment: ‘We have though, to look at the future carefully and recognise that there may come a time when the only people who will be able to get involved in public service will be those of independent means or those with union backing.’

It is not fashionable to say so, but MPs’ pay is comparable with a number of nonentity middle managers with whom you probably work.

And none of them is under the scrutiny that falls on an MP.

What we are talking about here is an expected recommendation from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority that the salary for a backbench MP should go up from £66,000 to more than £70,000 after the next election in 2015.

The problem is the timing. Let’s face it, there is never a good time for members of parliament to be given a pay rise.

But in the current climate, where many employees are looking at one per cent increases, if they are lucky, and most have had their pay frozen, it really sticks in the craw.

As Portsmouth South Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock says: ‘How can I ask people in the public sector to only take a one per cent rise or a zero per cent rise in their pay and then take one myself? It’s unacceptable.’

Portsmouth North’s Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative, is adamant that if she were forced to accept an increase she would not accept it, but give it to community projects in her constituency such as Wymering Manor and Hilsea Lido.

A grand gesture and one we shall watch with interest when, or if, the time comes.

Surely the answer to this perennial problem is to pay MPs properly with a law banning any payments for so-called ‘secondary interests’ and secondary jobs.