MPs should get more – but not yet
This is not going to be a popular statement, but MPs probably are slightly underpaid. Yes, they receive a lot more than the national average – £65,738 to be exact. However, they generally work long hours in a high pressure environment under intense scrutiny. Many public and private sector staff with similar levels of responsibility are paid a great deal more.
And it should be remembered that they spend much of their working lives in London where the cost of living is higher.
However, the time for any salary increase is not now, in the middle of an economic slump, when public sector wages and benefit payments are being capped. Nor must it happen until the economy has improved and times are less austere.
We should point out at this stage that there are no plans for an immediate salary hike. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) proposes that MPs' wages should rise by one per cent this year and the same again in 2014 – in line with public sector pay.
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And the majority of the 100 MPs who took part in an anonymous survey carried out as part of the IPSA report, agreed that this was the correct level of increase. This suggests that most of them agree now is not the right time for a big rise.
What is fuelling public anger is that this same survey also showed many MPs who were questioned felt that their salaries should ultimately be a lot higher. The average figure from all the responses came out at £86,250.
It is difficult to imagine that an increase which would amount to 31 per cent is ever going to be acceptable to the public whatever the economic circumstances.
IPSA's report says that the next stage is to come up with a remuneration package for MPs which "rewards them adequately".
That package will be the subject of further consultation "as public confidence in the new system is vital". It would probably be implemented after the next general election in 2015.
As we said at the outset of this column, there is a case for a reasonable step up in pay. However, it should not happen until the economy improves and, even then, it should not be so much as to be widely perceived as excessive.
That is a difficult balancing act to achieve but it is important to do so if the new system is to stand any chance of winning public confidence.