Are MPs underpaid? The key numbers

MPs' current salary of £66,396 puts them in the top 5 per cent of earners but they are paid significantly less than parliamentarians in other countries.

In a proposal seemingly drawn from the Louis XVI school of public relations, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) will recommend today that MPs receive a pay rise of around 11 per cent (£8,604) to £75,000 after 2015. The increase will be tempered by the replacement of MPs' final salary pension scheme with one based on a career average, cuts to evening meal allowances (a payment of up to £15 when the Commons sits beyond 7:30pm) and transport expenses, and lower "resttlement grants" or "golden goodbyes" (currently worth up to £33,000) for MPs who retire or lose their seat, but will still represent a net gain. 

While few are likely to publicly defend the salary increase, at a time when public sector pay rises have been capped at 1 per cent until 2015-16 (following a two-year pay freeze), most MPs do believe they are underpaid. A survey of 100 MPs conducted by YouGov on IPSA's behalf found that 69 per cent thought they were underpaid, with an average salary of £86,250 proposed. On average, Tory MPs proposed a salary of £96,740, the Lib Dems £78,361 and Labour £77,322. A fifth suggested that they should be paid £95,000 or more. But are they right to believe they get a raw deal? Here are some of the key metrics for answering that question. 

Do they earn more than the average wage?

Yes, the median full-time salary is £26,500, so MPs' current pay of £66,396 puts them comfortably in the top 5 per cent of earners. 

Are they paid less than other major professions?

Yes, council chief executives (£134,528), GPs (£88,920), senior civil servants (£88,000), army colonels (£85,359), headteachers (£78,298) and police chief superintendents (£72,649) all earn significantly more. 

Do they earn less now than in the past?

No, by historical standards, the current regime is generous. In 1979, MPs were paid £9,450, the equivalent of £40,490 in real terms. Their pay has since risen by more than 50 per cent, compared to an average increase of 37 per cent.

Are they poorly paid for the hours they work?

Here, MPs are on a stronger footing. A survey by The Hansard Society found that new MPs work an average of 69 hours a week, excluding travel, with constituency casework representing the largest share of their time (28 per cent), followed by constituency meetings and events (21 per cent) and debates in the Commons Chamber (21 per cent).

The poll also found that more than half (56 per cent) took a salary cut on entering parliament. 

Are they paid less than parliamentarians in other countries?

In short, yes. 

Japan £165,945

Australia £120,875

Italy £112,898

US £108,032

Canada £99,322

EU MEPs £75,114

Ireland £74,495

Germany £73,953

UK £66,396

France £53,186

Spain £27,130

Do the public think they should be paid more?

Unsurprisingly, they do not. A YouGov survey found that 17 per cent believe MPs should receive the proposed pay rise of around £10,000, with 68 per cent opposed.

Fifty per cent believe thay are paid too much already, 35 per cent that their pay is "about right" and 9 per cent that they are paid too little. 

Some of the 232 new MPs pose after the 2010 general election in Westminster Hall. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.