MPs’ PAY SETTLEMENT – 21 March 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: The right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) was doing so well until he reached his peroration.

This is a classic case of an immovable object meeting an irresistible force. If there is a vote tonight, I shall go with the irresistible force, namely what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (James Arbuthnot), the Chairman of the Defence Committee. It is absolutely inconceivable that Members of Parliament should be given a pay rise at a time when the pay of other public servants, particularly members of the Armed Forces, is being frozen. That will determine my vote tonight.

Bob Russell: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: I will a little later, if the hon. Gentleman will be patient. I do not wish to be derailed from the other half of the equation, which is that the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark is also absolutely right. It is nonsensical to say that a process will become independent – because interfering with it has led to desperately dire consequences in the past – and then to tear up that principle at the first opportunity.

I have only one positive suggestion to make, but I think that it is worth trying. I am not sure whether the Leader of the House will respond to suggestions; but, if he does, I hope he will consider this one. I am sure that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority consists of very capable people, but we have heard from no less an authority than the Prime Minister that it may not be there forever, and we would not wish to give this very important task to a body that may not be with us indefinitely.

I have a rather simple suggestion. Why cannot the pay of hon. Members be linked once and for all to an agreed level of civil servant, whatever that level may be, so that if they get a pay freeze, we get a pay freeze? [Interruption] I hear whispers around the Chamber that we have done that already, but we evidently have not done it efficiently enough if the result is, as the Leader of the House has explained, that their pay is being frozen while ours is not. I simply say that we should be linked once and for all to an agreed rate of civil service pay that cannot be interfered with – so that, when the Government impose a pay freeze on public employees for right and proper reasons, we will be affected by it, and when they do not we will not. It is as simple as that and I cannot see the problem.