Senior Tories today slammed ‘out of touch’ MP Sir Peter Bottomley as he defended calling politicians’ £82,000 salary ‘grim’ and ‘desperately difficult’ to live on – with one senior Government source suggesting he apply to be a HGV driver.
The Conservative politician said hiking wages to £110,000 would attract ‘good’ candidates into the job, because doctors and other highly qualified professionals earn more and have to take a pay cut to enter parliament.
He previously said he was not sure how MPs ‘managed’ on their current salary – despite it being around £50,000-a-year higher than the UK average.
The Worthing West representative, whose wife Virginia is a Tory peer and former minister, was slapped down by a senior Government source today.
They told MailOnline: ‘Maybe he should become an HGV driver. MPs do an important job and are suitably paid for doing so. To suggest they’re not paid enough is totally out of touch with reality and does not reflect Conservative views or values.’
It comes as HGV drivers in the UK are being offered hugely inflated salaries because the shortage is leading to gaps on supermarket shelves and empty fuel forecourts.
The 77-year-old, who holds the title of ‘Father of the House of Commons’ as the current longest serving MP, today defended the comments he made in an interview with the New Statesmen.
Sir Peter sparked outrage when his interview came out just as the £20 Universal Credit uplift was scrapped. The MP told radio station LBC he was not told when his comments would be published.
He said those who make money as ‘a good teacher, a good social worker or a good trade union official’ would be ‘significantly worse off’ if they went into politics.
Raising pay, he continued to argue, would therefore ‘attract into the field of competition good people, not just those who are prepared to do it for nothing, not just those who can afford to do it for nothing, but the people in between’.
Tory stalwart Sir Peter Bottomley (pictured) says he is not sure how MPs ‘manage’ on the current salary – which is around £50,000-a-year higher than the UK average
The 77-year-old, who holds the title of ‘Father of the House of Commons’ as the current longest serving MP, today defended the comments he made in an interview with the New Statesmen. Pictured, MPs inside the House of Commons
Defending his comments today, Sir Peter told LBC: ‘In a debate in the House of Commons in 1977 Enoch Powell interrupted me, but I was making the point that you could have a Parliament full of church mice and you could have a Parliament full of independently wealthy, but what about the people in the middle?
‘What about the person who’s deputy head of a large, comprehensive school? What about the person who has been a Royal Naval captain? What about the person who may be your solicitor, your accountant?’
‘The real point is, do you want to say that the deputy general secretary of the College of Nursing should be able to come to Parliament without a major sacrifice? Should your GP switch to Parliament, without a major sacrifice?
What are MPs entitled to?
– A basic salary of £81,932-a-year (as of April 2021)
– An increased salary for appointments such as ministerial roles
– Expenses to cover the cost of work-related expenditure
– MPs are entitled to claim £9,000-a-year for postage and stationery
– They also receive allowances towards having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency.
– MPs can also claim back travel costs between Parliament and their constituency
– They also receive a pension which is either 1/40th or 1/50th of their final pensionable salary for each year
‘The answer, in my view, clearly is yes.’
He said he was not campaigning for an immediate payrise, but for the subject to be broached at the next general election.
‘Should there be a pay increase now? The answer is no, and I’m on the record repeatedly saying never change the pay of MPs in between elections. Set the pay at a general election, and stick to that until you have another general election.’
Sir Peter told the radio station that the number of MPs could be cut by 10 per cent to cover any increase in pay.
He previously told the New Statesman: ‘I take the view that being an MP is the greatest honour you could have, but a general practitioner in politics ought to be paid roughly the same as a general practitioner in medicine.
‘Doctors are paid far too little nowadays. But if they would get roughly £100,000 a year, the equivalent for an MP to get the same standard of living would be £110-£115,000 a year.
‘It’s never the right time, but if your MP isn’t worth the money, it’s better to change the MP than to change the money.’
Although he said he currently is not struggling financially, he said he believes the situation is ‘desperately difficult’ for his newer colleagues.
He added: ‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’
Each of the UK’s 650 MPs are paid a standard salary of £81,932-a-year. Those who hold roles such as in the cabinet are paid a higher salary, including the Prime Minister, who earns £157,372.
The salary is set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
On top of this, MPs are given expenses to cover work-related costs. These include office running costs, staffing costs and reimbursing staff for travel expenses.
MPs are entitled to claim £9,000-a-year for postage and stationery and receive allowances towards having somewhere to live in London and in their constituency, and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.
They also receive a pension which is either 1/40th or 1/50th of their final pensionable salary for each year, depending on their preference.
Meanwhile, the average Briton earned £31,461 for the tax year ending 5 April 2020 – up 3.6 per cent on the previous year.
The average GP salary is around £98,000-a-year. GPs need a 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council, as well as a 2-year foundation course of general training and a 3-year specialist training course in general practice.
The Worthing West representative, whose wife Virginia is a Tory peer and former minister, was slapped down by a senior Government source who suggested he become a HGV driver if he’s looking for a higher salary (file image)
MPs do not require any qualifications, though many MPs have university degrees and other qualifications acquired in careers before entering politics.
Sir Peter, for example, studied economics at Cambridge University before being elected as the Conservative MP for Woolwich West in 1975.
He held the seat, later changed to Eltham, until 1997, before being elected to the West Worthing seat – which he still holds today.
Sir Peter is married to Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, Virginia Bottomley, who served as Secretary of State for National Heritage in John Major’s Government.
Shadow child poverty secretary Wes Streeting told the BBC’s Radio 5 Live on Thursday that he was ‘genuinely infuriated’ by the comments.
The Ilford North Labour MP said: ‘Yesterday the Government implemented its £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit, which is going to clobber five million people, millions of whom are in work, on low pay, really struggling to get by.
‘The charities are warning that 200,000 children are going to be plunged into poverty so excuse me for not asking your listeners to kind of get the world’s smallest violin out for MPs.
‘We are perfectly well paid, and unfortunately too many MPs on the Conservative side, at the same time as whingeing about very high – relatively high – levels of pay that MPs get in this country, at the same time they are clobbering people who are losing over £1,000 a year, which is 10% of their income in some cases.’
He added: ‘This is my problem with the Tories – it’s not that they’re evil, bad people who go into work every day thinking “How can we plunge more kids into poverty?” but, as Peter Bottomley’s comments show, they just don’t know what life is like for a hell of a lot of people in this country and they make policies that are actively hurting people who are going out, working hard, trying to make the best for their family and are really struggling.’
Sir Peter’s comments come as the Universal Credit uplift ended yesterday, despite calls for it to be extended.
The £20-a-week uplift was put in to help families struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.
It means couples over 25 who claim Universal Credit from this month will be given £509.91-a-month – the equivalent of around £6,000-a-year. Those under 25 and single people receive less still.
People can claim more money on top of the standard allowance if eligible.
Universal Credit £20-a-week uplift that was brought in to help struggling families in the Covid pandemic is withdrawn
The £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit introduced to help people during the pandemic was withdrawn yesterday.
The Government says the uplift was always intended as a temporary measure, despite widespread criticism of the decision not to continue with it beyond October 6.
Campaigners have hit out at the move, claiming hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty once the uplift is withdrawn.
Save the Children, one in a long line of charities, think tanks and unions opposed to the decision, has said that one child every second will be affected.
From October 6, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money.
It comes after it was revealed a report published earlier this year found that Universal Credit can serve as a ‘disincentive’ to work because some only end up £3.29 an hour better off than if they choose to live on benefits.
The report, by Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, said that once the expense of childcare, transport, work clothes and lunches are taken into account, there would be little to show for it, according to the Telegraph.
The benefits cut will be staggered over 31 days as families receive payments on different dates, Save the Children said.
Just over 3.5 million children in the UK are living in households that receive UC payments, according to Government figures.
This equates to 1.3 children being hit by the cut every second on average over the 31-day period from October 13, Save the Children said.
Gwen Hines, Save the Children’s chief executive, said children’s futures depended on the Government reinstating the lifeline.
She said: ‘Over the next month, every second that passes will see another child pushed towards poverty.
‘People we work with tell us they’ve been relying on this £20 lifeline to buy essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children.
‘Without it, tens of thousands more children are facing a cold and hungry winter.’
She added that it was ‘astonishing’ that the cut was going ahead, as families struggle with inflation, rising energy prices, fuel shortages and promised tax increases.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We’ve always been clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary.
‘It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
‘Universal Credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the Government should focus on our Plan for Jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.’