Monday, April 07, 2008

Set up a Royal Commission on MPs' and Councillors' pay

The constant stream of stories about what MPs are paid and can claim on expenses, and how this might change, is bringing both parliament and all MPs, including those who are reasonable in what they claim, into disrepute.

Both the Conservative and Labour leaderships have accepted that MPs should no longer be in a position to vote on their own salaries. It is time the government stopped dithering and acted on this. And they should deal with the equivalent situation for councillors at the same time.

There should be a Royal Commission to set the remuneration for both MPs and councillors. Something similar should be put in place for the devolved bodies after consultation in the constituent nations of the UK.

To ensure that Commission members do not have any axe to grind, and cannot easily be influenced by the government, its members should not be serving MPs or councillors, should serve for one, reasonably long term after which they should not be eligible for re-appointment: they would also have to agree not to stand for election as MPs or councillors for at least ten years. (The first set of commissioners would have to have terms of different lengths so that they don't all change over at the same time.) Their own remuneration should be set in advance.

The sooner this is set up, the sooner all the issues which have been the subject of debate can be subject to independent scrutiny.

However much you pay politicians there will be some, mostly actual or aspiring politicians themselves, who argue that it is not enough, and others who think it is too much. But at least let it be set in a transparent way by someone other than the MPs and councillors themselves.

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