Coffey warns over MPs’s pay row

SUFFOLK MP Dr Therese Coffey has claimed the parliamentary watchdog could run into tough opposition if there is any attempt to cut the pay of members with extra jobs.

She argued that many other people have more than one job – including firefighters and postal workers – and they were not expected to lose part of their salary.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is today issuing a consultation on a range of options over how much national politicians should be paid.

But its chair Sir Ian Kennedy warned MPs who want a pay rise that they were doing too little at present to show voters what they were doing to justify their taxpayer-funded packages.

Among ideas up for discussion are varying pay by the region represented and penalising those who have second jobs.

IPSA’s consultation document suggests only 68 of 650 MPs have outside earnings – with just 10-14 of those earning large sums – but any such move would be highly controversial.

“MPs could say ‘I intend to be a full-time or a part-time MP’,” Sir Ian said – although he said it would be for the House of Commons ultimately to decide on such a question.

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However Dr Coffey said the proposals were likely to run into major opposition at Westminster.

She said: “Most of the MPs with substantial outside earnings are long-serving members with wide experience, including government office.

“They are able to fit in other work with their role as an MP and there are many other people, like firefighters and postal workers, who are able to do second jobs in addition to their main work.”

One MP who earned substantial sums from outside work is South Suffolk member Tim Yeo who declared external earnings of just over �200,000 from directorships and other work.

MPs earn salaries of �65,500 a year. Junior ministers (including Dr Dan Poulter and Matthew Hancock) earn an extra �31,500 bringing their total salaries up to �97,000 a year, while Mr Yeo earns an extra �14,000 on top of his parliamentary salary as chairman of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change committee.

Dr Coffey said IPSA would also run into opposition to the suggestion of paying different salaries to those representing different parts of the country.

She said: “Most MPs spend about 150 days of the year in Westminster anyway – especially government MPs who have to be on hand to take part in votes.

“I think this suggestion shows that there are some people in IPSA who do not really understand how parliament operates.”

Labour’s David Ellesmere, Ipswich Borough Council leader, is hoping to join the ranks of MPs at the next general election.

He felt it was right to reduce the parliamentary salaries of those who spent a large amount of their time on outside work.

He said: “Most people who vote for MPs see that as a full-time job that has a reasonable salary. If people are spending a lot of their work time on other things it is not unreasonable to reduce the amount they get as an MP.”

However he did not back moves to introduce regional pay: “I do not think that is right – whether for MPs or for those working in the NHS,” he added.

n Should the pay of MPs with substantial outside jobs be cut? Write to Letters to the Editor, East Anglian Daily Times, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail