Politics.co.uk Blog

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Highlights: Tetchy MPs deny themselves a pay rise

One thing's for certain: they weren't especially happy about it. For 90 minutes late on Monday evening, the Commons debated whether or not to push ahead with a one per cent pay rise. In the end they backed the government's decision to vote for a pay freeze. But they didn't like it one bit.

Here are some choice snippets from the debate:

Sir George Young, leader of the House

Hon. Members must now decide whether their constituents would welcome Parliament exempting itself from that policy and thus insulating itself from decisions that are affecting households throughout the country, or whether, as I believe, the public expect their elected representatives to be in step with what is being required of other public servants. I believe that it is right for us, as Members of Parliament, to forgo the pay increase that the current formula would have produced.

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)

This government, like their predecessors, are poking their nose in where it does not belong.

Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab)

What he is doing tonight, of course, is renationalising the terms and conditions of MPs' salaries, which is going in exactly the wrong direction. Does he accept that this matter will go on and on, and that MPs will be undermined consistently by the media and the public until we have a wholly independent authority that does not come back to this House or to the Government for a final decision?

Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

It is absolute agony that we are having this debate this evening after we have had such a fantastic and informed debate on Libya. It goes to prove that there is never, ever a good time to talk about MPs' pay and conditions.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)

How can we earn public respect and work in the national interest to solve this country's acute economic problems and to reform public services, let alone to assert Britain's place in the world, which we debated earlier, when we have so abjectly and continually failed to sort out our immensely damaging internal difficulties?

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab)

To do what is proposed is to demean the House. If that means that the proposals have been drawn up in a short time scale, then what have the Leader of the House's office and his deputy been doing all this time, if they knew that it would come to this? It is an embarrassment; therefore, I am sorry to say that the Leader of the House and his deputy have been found at fault. If they had any sense, they would withdraw the motion and bring forward a correct motion before the end of the financial year.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes

The politics are that tonight we would have been given a 1% pay increase when we are asking other people earning more than £21,000 a year not to have that pay increase. However, the problem would not have existed if the government had always accepted that the independent pay review body should recommend salaries for us as public servants, as well as for ambulance workers, health workers and so on. In that respect I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and others. It really is not acceptable for us to set a rule one year and break it the next.

Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)

It would be impossible for the House to accept a pay increase in these circumstances. The recommendation for people in the national health service who earn below £21,000 a year is that they should receive an extra £250 in a year. For us to take 1% on our pay would not work in these circumstances.

David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con)

Constituents will not be fooled if we accept the 1% increase and say, "It was all because of an independent body-nothing to do with us, guv." They will realise that we put that body in place.

John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con)

Many of us in this place have believed for a long time that we should not decide our own salaries and pensions, and have abstained in debates on them. We thought in 2008 that we were ensuring that a third party would, in effect, decide; we are now yet again bringing the matter back in-house.

Deputy leader of the House David Heath

It is not a decision for government; it is a decision for the House. Members must make up their own minds, but in my view- and I do not think I am alone - it is a no-brainer.

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