Worth their weight in gold?

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Molly Pollock looks at how MP’s earnings compare with the rest of us. Spoiler – They are all Tories who are actually earning their weight in gold from outside activities.

The basic annual salary for an MP from 1 April 2020 is £81,932. MPs also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London or their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.

Most MPs who are also ministers in the Government are paid an additional ministerial salary. Some MPs are paid more because of additional commitments eg the Speaker and Chairs of Parliamentary Committees.

Ministers who are Members of the House of Commons receive a Member’s salary and a ministerial salary.  Ministers who are Members of the House of Lords receive a ministerial salary but they cannot claim Lords Attendance Allowance.

According to the House of Commons Library website, at present ministers in both Houses do not receive their full ministerial salaries. Currently ministers in the House of Commons receive their MP’s salary and the following additional amounts as ministers:

Prime Minister:                                                  £75,440

Cabinet Minister                                                £67,505

Minister of State:                                               £31,680

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State:        £22,475

So even on the basic salary MPs are paid considerably more than the typical salary earned by other workers in the UK. This doesn’t stop some MPs demanding a significant pay rise in order that parliament can retain the brightest and best lest they flounce off to a better paid job in industry. Given recent events many would be happy to see this happen and for a new set of parliamentarians more focussed on their constituents to take over.

Scottish Parliament SPICe Briefing, Earnings in Scotland:2020

In many areas of Scotland, perhaps unsurprisingly some rural constituencies returning Tory MPs, typical earnings are much lower.

Scottish Parliament SPICe Briefing, Earnings in Scotland:2020

So MPs can hardly be considered poorly paid, though compared to high fliers in the financial sector and in multinational companies they may feel they lag behind. In Scotland, however, it is those working in the utilities secor that come off best.

Scottish Parliament SPICe Briefing, Earnings in Scotland:2020

What do we expect of our MPs?

According to an article in the Guardian “more than a quarter of Tory MPs have second jobs with firms whose activities range from gambling to private healthcare”, earning them more than £4m extra a year.” 90 out of 360 Tory MPs have extra jobs on top of their work in parliament, compared with 3 from Labour. These MPs are mainly older, 86% men, with the highest earners all former cabinet ministers. So the gravy train runs smoothly on.

Today on Twitter we can see the unedifying attempts of some Tory MPs to justify their second, third, fourth jobs, insisting wider experience makes them better MPs. But with some parliamentarians this experience must surely come at the expense of time spent representing and helping their constituents. Some MPs give an estimate of the time spent on their other paid employment.

Devon MP (and former Attorney General) Sir Geoffrey Cox revealed his £400,000 a year second job as a lawyer with international law firm Withers which is representing the British Virgin Islands government in a corruption case brought by the UK government. His pay for 41 hours a month as a international legal adviser works out at more than £800 an hour. Compare that to the £12.77 for a worker in the Scottish Borders. Different world!

During the pandemic Cox also voted by proxy in the House of Commons while he earned hundreds of thousands of pounds for legal work more than 4,000 miles away in the Caribbean.

The register of MP financial interests also lists Cox’s other earnings for legal services this year at more than £500,000. Amazing, but it appears the only breach of the parliamentary code may be that Cox did some of this work from his MP parliamentary office. Given the number of MPs who have other employment that begs the question of how many others are using offices paid for by the UK taxpayer (plus wining and dining associates from their other interests in Westminster bars and restaurants), to further their other paid employment and interests.

On Twitter voices are asking why, when these hours devoted to other employment are paid for by the taxpayer so that MPs can represent constituents’ interest on a full-time basis, we are allowing this.

Ian Dunt, author, political journalist, broadcaster and editor of Politics.co.uk said in a tweet:

I’ve spent several years now watching MPs vote for legislation without the slightest fu**ing idea what’s in it, so I’m not massively sympathetic to the argument that they have time for a second job.”

Financial shenanigan rumours

Recent claims of cash for questions or corruption levelled at the Westminster system were triggered by accusations against Owen Paterson – a Conservative MP, now resigned, who holds, alongside his parliamentary one, two private sector jobs paying more than £100,000 a year. According to Byline Times, “The parliamentary standards commissioner found Paterson guilty of an “egregious” breach of lobbying rules, in advocating on behalf of these companies, and handed down a 30-day suspension to the North Shropshire MP. The Prime Minister first attempted to overturn this suspension, before his plan unravelled – ultimately resulting in Paterson announcing his belated resignation from Parliament.”

In the wake of the Paterson affair rumours of financial shenanigans which have swirled around for years in the background of politics have now resurfaced with a vengeance. Peerages, it is said, can be bought for a £3m donation to the Conservative Party, and if the person concerned owns a nice wee holiday pad somewhere warm and secluded so much the better.

The cost of redecorating a flat and who paid for it caused headlines but now seems small beer in comparison to what is being splurged across social media about Geoffrey Cox, and numerous other Tory MPs. Serious questions are now being asked about MPs’ private interests, the awarding of Government contracts to family and friends, the buying of peerages, and top jobs used as rewards to supporters. The Westminster political system is rapidly descending into a sewer of corruption.

The article referred to previously in the Byline Times lays out a number of ways in which the Conservative Party raises money and rewards friends. Well worth a read.

Social media is awash with names and amounts, no longer the odd £5,000 but a tsunami of large amounts from donors who aren’t giving from the goodness of their hearts but who are anticipating a return for the goodness of their bank balances to then shunt the proceeds offshore.

If you have some time to spare a trawl through the Register of Members’ Financial Interests is very enlightening. Start with your own MP. Other names that have been mentioned as worth a view are Sir Geoffrey Cox QC, Theresa May, Sajid Javid, Sir John Redwood, Andrew Mitchell, Sir John Hayes, Stephen Hammond, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove. Make sure you have nothing sharp or heavy to hand as you read.

Are our MPs worth their weight in gold, or are the opportunities offered by a corrupt political system worth their weight in gold to some MPs?

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