Its painful to say, but MPs deserve a pay rise

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has made proposals for an 11% pay rise in MPs salaries rising from £66,000 to £74,000 a year. The general public, who have seen little in the way of pay increases and have listened to politicians’ calls for the need for pay restraint in the public sector, are understandably outraged and all the main leaders have been vocal in condemning the proposals.

It’s not hard to understand why there is so much criticism of the proposals. Public opinion of MPs has never been lower with declining voter turnout and a fall in membership of the main parties. Politicians’ reputations have been further damaged by recent public scandals, most notably the expenses scandal that affected all parties and gave the public the impression that all MPs were untrustworthy and out for what they could get.
Whilst the have been some scandals it would be wrong to paint all MPs with the same brush. Most politicians enter politics to do a public service and improve the lives of others, although they will disagree on the best way to achieve this. It’s a job with long hours, late night voting in parliament and lots of travelling between constituency offices and parliament, making balancing a family and work life difficult. Furthermore they face a hostile media who are always looking to criticise them.

There are therefore many good arguments for the need for increased pay. It should firstly be remembered that these proposals were set up by an independent body. Previously politicians were able to vote themselves an increase which invariably came under much criticism, so responsibility was passed to an independent body that, after reviewing the evidence makes recommendations. It seems MPs can’t win. They can’t set their own pay or when they let others decide the appropriate level they can’t refuse.

And whilst £74,000 a year would seem high to many members of the public, it’s not that high compared to other professions such as headmasters, GPs or police commissioners. The MPs expense scandal was the result of the inability to increase salaries, resulting in MPs finding other ways to top up their salaries without giving themselves pay rises. Also many MPs could make more money outside of parliament. If the constant criticism of MPs pay leaves it falling further behind it will make it more difficult to attract talented people into politics and reduce the calibre of politicians.

So why it may be galling for many people who have seen years of stagnating wages to see such large pay increases, it’s important that there is a more grown up debate on this issue to ensure a fair pay and reward for MPs.