I blogged back in February predicting a freeze in ministers’ pay – (‘I would be amazed if the PM doesn’t repeat this trick to convey the message: “We feel your pain”‘) – an event which finally happened yesterday.
But if the PM thinks this will take the heat off MPs he’s much mistaken.
1] Other MPs are still taking a 2.3 per cent pay rise. That may sound feeble but it’s still more than many other public sector workers are getting.
2] The MPs expenses story just keeps on rolling, with Jacqui Smith’s unfortunate video expenses claim only the first in a likely wave of detailed revelations. Commons’ authorities are trying to hunt down the person who is supposedly selling a disc with all the expenses to the press; asking price £300,000.
Some newspapers are failing to distinguish between expenses and staff pay, which makes up the bulk of allowances of up to £187,000 a year. (eg Daily Mirror: “They are all at it: Gravy train MPs rake in £144,1175 expenses each). Why ruin a good story with such nuances?
3] It’s emerged today that the taxpayer contribution to MPs rock-solid pensions has gone up as actuaries increase their life expectancy assumptions for honourable members.
Given the metaphorical lynch mob now surrounding the Commons the number-crunchers may be wrong.
The external body which monitors this stuff announced today that it would bring forward a broad investigation into MPs’ allowances. “It is now obvious that this piece of work needs to start as soon as possible,” said Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. “The situation has changed quite dramatically over the last few months”.
The committee is switching its attention from another review – into local authorities – and beginning its investigation now; instead of the autumn. Not hard to imagine that it was under pressure from Downing St to move faster.