Are changes to MPs terms and conditions ill conceived?

If the latest news reports are to be believed, then MPs will no longer be able to claim for mortgage payments on second homes, and even worse (for them) is that if they live within an hour of London they won’t be able to claim anything for a second home. Added to that – they won’t be allowed to employ family members.

So what do I think? Well as someone who commutes from Nottinghamshire – where a 6:24 am train means I can get to Parliament at 8:15am, long before many MPs roll up may I add, I have to say I don’t have much sympathy for MPs who will say this isn’t fair. If I can commute, and so does my wife, who works next to Waterloo, then so can many MPs. We each pay over £8,000 for our season ticket – which certainly isn’t value for money – though I suspect if more MPs did this we may get better informed public transport decisions.

On the subject of MPs employing family members I do have mixed feeling. I remember when I wrote to about 50 MPs after the 2001 election as someone in full time employment in the political arena, as someone not straight out of University, offering help for free, I received a total of 3 positive responses. It is notoriously hard to get a job in politics, and there is seemingly many MPs who hire family members, so I’m not sure proper rules on open competition were followed.

It is of course interesting to see my former opponent John Mann on all the news channels backing these measures. I guess he too will feel the brunt, as my understanding is that he has employed his wife Ms Joanna White in his constituency office for a number of years. Should he and others be able to do so? Well if they do a good job I have never really had an issue with it. Why? Well I truly believe that the vast majority of staff (relatives included) are extremely hard working and work many more hours than they are paid for.

I know of one person I only spoke to this week who goes into work on Sunday, and if you added the hours they work above their contracted hours they would be owed 9 months off for time in lieu.

It is one thing to try to standardise jobs in Parliament, and I will be interesting to see what is happening to plans to make all staff employees of the House rather than employees of MPs themselves. If that move goes through I can see no way that MPs will not be able to have relatives working for them – as they will be contracted not be MPs but by the House itself and under employment law how on earth could they make them redundant just for being married to what would then effectively be another employee of the House.

Frankly the move to make all MPs staff employees of the House is opening up a huge Pandoras box, and frankly given the House Authorities couldn’t manage the system of expenses (for it was them who signed the claims off) what is the likelihood that they are fit for purpose in managing thousands of more staff?

So yes, make them commute if they have to. Yes take a make sure in future jobs are advertised, but moves to remove family members currently employed especially if they will no longer be directly employed by the MP themselves could end up costing the taxpayer dearly in claims for unfair dismissal that I am sure will arise.

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7 Responses to Are changes to MPs terms and conditions ill conceived?

  1. keynesianism says:

    So there are many MP's who employ members of their family, but are MP’s getting good value for money? I personally doubt if they know because it is unlikely that they interviewed any other person for the job.

    In my view claiming for mortgage repayments on a second home which wasn’t really needed, and employing your wife/husband at the taxpayer’s expense are 2 cheeks of the same backside. “Custy” as good old Del boy would have called it. I agree with the policies, I fact I would go further and reclaim mortgage payments and capital gains tax from those who clearly took advantage. It is an insult to hard working people like yourself who regularly spend hours each week commuting in order to do a job and earn a living

    I now think the general public is beginning to get the picture of life as an MP: Subsidised canteen, jobs for the family, very generous pension, paid for house, capital gains tax avoidance etc. etc. Of course we haven’t even begun to explore the myriad of other wages that some Mp’s earn via consultancy roles, directorships etc.

    I’m surprised you appear to have gone soft on MP’s employing family members. See it for what it is or was…. a good little number!

    Naturally it will not be long before MP’s start telling us that their wages need to go up significantly in order to restore comparability with other professions and to compensate for the loss of perks ( of course they will not mention the latter).

  2. editor says:

    Would you apply the same rules to every public sector worker? So for example if a head of department happened in a school happened to be married to a teacher who was more junior they should be forced to leave?

    We could also apply the same criticism of MPs to senior Council Staff. Flexi time. Over generous pension. Subsidised canteen…. and guess what.. a basic salary bigger than a Member of Parliament. I would suggest some attention should be paid here? But then it doesn't make good copy for newspapers.

  3. Keynesianism says:

    How can you compare teaching with the situation enjoyed by MP's? The head of department would not be their employer, would not pay their wages, and would have no say in appointing them. ( I could not sit on an interview panel if my wife was a candidate). As for senior council staff of course I would apply the same rules and yes I would support an investigation and action here too if necessary. No sensible person could deny that many MP's have been on to a good thing at the taxpayers expense. Is there any point in talking about their basic salary? Remuneration is what we are talking about. P.S. I see you are already dropping hints about the relative pay of MP's!

  4. editor says:

    Many MPs have been on a good thing. Many have also takenpay cuts to do the job. But of course we could move to a system where it is either the very rich who do it as some sort of hobby – or those who are not capable of earning ay more in what some would regard a "proper job". Just playing devils advocate there of course.

    Th argument comes down to public money vs private doesn't it. If I employ my wife it would be no ones business as I run my own company. If the taxpayer foots the bill then it is our business. But where does it stop? I pay plenty of tax so do I get to examine the expeneses of every public sector employee? If so then a few freedom of information requests will be going into Councils, the BBC, the NHS and so on.

    Of course there is a move to make all employees directly employed by the House of Commons as opposed to by MPs. If that happens and they try to remove family members then they will lose employment tribunals.

    Of course we never hear about the thousands of under paid people who work in politics – many who actually do jobs for no pay whatsoever.

    So here is the question – what do you think an MP should get paid? Should a dentist whose main income comes from the NHS get more than the Prime Minister?

  5. Keynesianism says:

    As a public sector employee you can examine my expenses at ant time. For the last 24 years they have totalled about fifty quid, which amounts to petrol allowances for transporting myself and others to a course. I’m sure there are tens of thousands of other public sector employees just like me. I have nothing to fear from the publication of my expenses and would not oppose having them published alongside those of all other public sector employees.

    I would suggest an independent pay review body be set up to review and determine MP’s wages. As for admin/secretarial staff I would support the notion of direct employment with the House of Commons, funded by taxpayers. MP’s wives/husbands etc could of course apply for the vacant positions but in a competitive situation alongside other candidates.

    Many people think the recession has ended but the reality is that the fun has yet to start; years of austerity are to follow. MP’s must get their house in order fast if their calls for belt tightening are to carry any weight at all amongst the electorate.

  6. editor says:

    I am also sure organisations like the BBC refused to publsh their expenses just as expenses of senior staff in the NHS and local councils have also failed to publish. The same arguments apply their too. It's our taxes paying for it – so if we are having a pop at MPs lets also look at other bodie using public money. Don't get me started on Quangos!

    MPs staff working for House Authorities would suit me down to teh ground. I would then know if it was ever a career I wanted t pursue my hours would be alot less than what people who do it currently work.

    Oh – but surely it isn't just MPs who need to tighten their belts. Surely eveyone living of the teet of the taxpayer must also tighten their belts?

    If oil companies making billions are shedding staff surely the whole of the public sector – and not just 600 or so MPs need to look at their own professions.

    Of course I thought we would have been out of recession now – that's if you believe Brown… but oh no, just France Germany the US.. with the UK still in the doldrums!

  7. Keynesianism says:

    Like I said, the expenses of public sector employees should be published. I have a pop at MP's because a few of them actually run the country and make decisions that we all have to endure. Quite frankly they have been doing a poor job, luckily for them they weren't on performance related pay.
    Undoubtedly there will be considerable belt tightening across all sectors but hopefully not with the smallest shoulders carrying the heaviest weights. For example any pay restraints (public sector or otherwise) should not be based on percentage pay rise ceilings, which are regressive.
    As for the recession, the ONS will undoubtedly revise their recent growth statistics shortly and the gloom may well be lifted a little as David Smith (Sunday Times) pointed out on Sunday. That’s not to say that we still don’t have problems. What I really would like to hear is exactly how the conservatives intend to tackle the budget deficit. The measures announced in the recent party conference amounted to a spit of rain in the desert.

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