Thursday, 11 July 2013

Should MP's get a ten percent pay rise?

It was decided, a few years ago, that is was a stupid idea for MPs to be able to say how much they should be paid. Since nobody else in the country really got to choose how much they were paid, it made sense that MPs shouldn't either.

So, in what was seen as an incredible move forward for parliament, the power over salaries was handed over to ISPA, an independent, transparent group. No longer was parliament a potentially corrupt place, and everything was ok.

Except, like a lot of things that are meant to be a quick fix, it is now ISPA that is the target of public fury. They have suggested that lawmakers get a raise of about 10%, a frankly incredible figure. Even the MPs themselves have jumped on the bandwagon in condemning the decision, and some have even said they are not going to accept the changes.

It is easy to see why there has been such a reaction. While a country faces pay freezes and a lack of job opportunities, the people in charge are in line for a large amount of money, come 2015. The fact that MPs are going to get a pay rise that exceeds anything that most people would hope seems like a sign that the people in charge don't really care about the people they are responsible for, even though it wasn't even their decision.

In fact, you could say it harms an MPs position as a representative of the people within their constituency, since they will be get a considerably unrepresentative pay rise. It seems bizarre that the decision to give this much has been taken.

There are a few ways that this has tried to be justified. The first explanation is that MPs need to be given a pay that is appropriate for their position, and groups such as head teachers and some civil servants already get paid much more than MPs. While this excuse does have some validation, it is still going to be of little comfort to most people.

The second justification is, however, worthy of looking twice at. This pay rise is not the only thing that has been proposed, but also that expenses be cut. This is interesting, since it seems to tackle the idea that a lack if pay rises for MPs in the past has led to abuse of the expenses system. By raising pay, but cutting expenses, this is meant to be a rebalancing of the system.

This means that there will be less of an opportunity for MPs to basically insult the public by taking advantage of the expenses system. It adds a little transparency to the system, and makes it so MPs are actually getting nearer what we think they are getting. This might actually be as much a step forward for honesty as it is for lawmakers' pockets.

This is a public relations for parliament, and is still a blatant pay rise in the face of the austerity that the rest of the country is facing. Yet, it is good that expenses are being reigned in, although I am not sure that justifies a rise of 10%. There would have to be a huge expenses cut for that to be ok.

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