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.

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An Irish Sea border – and 3 other tricky options for Northern Ireland after Brexit

There is no easy option for Northern Ireland after Brexit. 

Deciding on post-Brexit border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is becoming an issue for which the phrase "the devil is in the detail" could have been coined. Finding a satisfactory solution that delivers a border flexible enough not to damage international trade and commerce and doesn’t undermine the spirit, or the letter, of the Good Friday Agreement settlement is foxing Whitehall’s brightest.

The dial seemed to have settled on David Davis’s suggestion that there could be a "digital border" with security cameras and pre-registered cargo as a preferred alternative to a "hard border" replete with checkpoints and watchtowers.

However the Brexit secretary’s suggestion has been scotched by the new Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, who says electronic solutions are "not going to work". Today’s Times quotes him saying that "any barrier or border on the island of Ireland in my view risks undermining a very hard-won peace process" and that there is a need to ensure the "free movement of people and goods and services and livelihoods".

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has made dealing with the Irish border question one of his top three priorities before discussions on trade deals can begin. British ministers are going to have to make-up their minds which one of four unpalatable options they are going to choose:

1. Hard border

The first is to ignore Dublin (and just about everybody in Northern Ireland for that matter) and institute a hard border along the 310-mile demarcation between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Given it takes in fields, rivers and forests it’s pretty unenforceable without a Trump-style wall. More practically, it would devastate trade and free movement. Metaphorically, it would be a powerful symbol of division and entirely contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. The Police Federation in Northern Ireland has also warned it would make police officers "sitting ducks for terrorists". Moreover, the Irish government will never agree to this course. With the EU in their corner, there is effectively zero chance of this happening.

2. Northern EU-land

The second option is to actually keep Northern Ireland inside the EU: offering it so-called "special status". This would avoid the difficulty of enforcing the border and even accord with the wishes of 56 per cent of the Northern Irish electorate who voted to Remain in the EU. Crucially, it would see Northern Ireland able to retain the £600m a year it currently receives from the EU. This is pushed by Sinn Fein and does have a powerful logic, but it would be a massive embarrassment for the British Government and lead to Scotland (and possibly London?) demanding similar treatment.

3. Natural assets

The third option is that suggested by the Irish government in the Times story today, namely a soft border with customs and passport controls at embarkation points on the island of Ireland, using the Irish Sea as a hard border (or certainly a wet one). This option is in play, if for no other reason than the Irish government is suggesting it. Again, unionists will be unhappy as it requires Britain to treat the island of Ireland as a single entity with border and possibly customs checks at ports and airports. There is a neat administrate logic to it, but it means people travelling from Northern Ireland to "mainland" Britain would need to show their passports, which will enrage unionists as it effectively makes them foreigners.

4. Irish reunification

Unpalatable as that would be for unionists, the fourth option is simply to recognise that Northern Ireland is now utterly anomalous and start a proper conversation about Irish reunification as a means to address the border issue once and for all. This would see both governments acting as persuaders to try and build consent and accelerate trends to reunify the island constitutionally. This would involve twin referendums in both Northern Ireland and the Republic (a measure allowed for in the Good Friday Agreement). Given Philip Hammond is warning that transitional arrangements could last three years, this might occur after Brexit in 2019, perhaps as late as the early 2020s, with interim arrangements in the meantime. Demographic trends pointing to a Catholic-nationalist majority in Northern Ireland would, in all likelihood require a referendum by then anyway. The opportunity here is to make necessity the mother of invention, using Brexit to bring Northern Ireland’s constitutional status to a head and deal decisively with the matter once and for all.

In short, ministers have no easy options, however time is now a factor and they will soon have to draw the line on, well, drawing the line.

Kevin Meagher is a former special adviser at the Northern Ireland Office and author of "A United Ireland: Why unification is inevitable and how it will come about"

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut and a former special adviser at the Northern Ireland office.