So what about that pay rise for MPs, then?


A few weeks ago, a constituent contacted me asking why I was seeking a £10,000 pay rise for MPs. My answer was simple: I had not done so and I am not doing so.  MP’s do not set our own pay.  MPs’ salaries are decided by a body which is completely independent of Parliament called IPSA – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

Indeed, IPSA was set up in the first place because, after the expenses scandal of a few years ago, there was general agreement that MPs should never again vote to set our own pay rates or expenses rules.

Now, however, IPSA has created its own storm by proposing that the pay of backbench MPs like me should rise from the current level of £66,396 to £74,000.Under IPSA’s proposals this pay rise would not take place until 2015 – after the next general election.

They have also put forward the pay increase as part of a package which includes cuts to MPs pensions and redundancy payments, and restrictions on expenses. I think it is important people can see IPSA’s proposals in full so everyone can make up their own mind about them. So here is a link to IPSA’s report.

So what do I think about it? First, when people are feeling the pinch in the way people in Birmingham are feeling it right now, it’s not the right time for IPSA to bring in a pay rise like this.  MPs’ pay must reflect wider economic circumstances and what is happening in the rest of the public sector. It must be consistent with what is happening to nurses, teachers and others in the public sector as well as conditions in the private sector. We must show that we “get” what people are saying to us and that we don’t consider ourselves to be “a breed apart” from the people we represent.

But IPSA is not proposing that this package is brought in now. They have launched a public consultation before they make any final decision is made on pay increases or cuts to pensions and so on.  This means everyone – inside and outside Parliament – now has until October to tell IPSA what they think of the package.  IPSA then aims to respond to this consultation by the end of the year.

So anything IPSA decides would still not be implemented until 2015. Even then, IPSA will review its decision – in the first year of the new Parliament.  That makes sense. A lot can happen in two to three years so let’s see where the economy is then.  It will help IPSA to take account of the situation at that time.

Whenever it happens, though, sooner or later as a country we have to make a judgement about what kind of salary level MPs should get. What other jobs should MP’s salaries be comparable with – head teachers? middle ranking military officers?  or something else? Should IPSA be trying to make these comparisons anyway? These are just some of the questions IPSA should be asking.

As part of this it’s really important that constituents in Birmingham Northfield have their say too. What does irritate me though, are those MPs (or in some cases aspiring MPs) who preach what MPs should be paid from the comfortable positions of having second jobs or considerable family wealth themselves.

Being an MP is more than full time in the usual sense of the term. You work most weekends, as well as most weekday evenings. You are rarely off-duty.  It’s a privilege to do the job and it is also hard work. Knowing that makes it clear to me that  whatever the pay level IPSA finally sets at, it should be the fair and reasonable rate for the job – whatever background you come from.  It should not be the rate for a part-time hobby or a top-up for the wealthy.

So please respond to IPSA’s consultation. You can find out how to by clicking here.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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