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The following is a speech Jon Trickett MP gave in a general committee meeting to debate an amendment to a bill that got passed in 1975 about Ministerial salaries, and whether it is effectively being followed to save funds for the budget:
“It is surely correct that we bear down on the costs of all public services and at all times. We believe that there are many as yet unfulfilled needs in our country and given the fact that resources are always limited, then every single penny must count.
If waste can be identified and then eliminated or if a public service can be made more efficient then resources can be freed up to meet other unmet needs.
This principle must surely apply above all to the costs of politics at a time of the greatest fiscal stringency. It was welcome therefore that the Government some time ago agreed to cut the costs of ministerial salaries. This order is in effect a tidying up matter which will produce further savings because the effect of setting the lower ministerial and opposition salaries into statute will then mean that the pension contributions will be brought into line.
This will have a twin effect. In the first place it will ensure that there is a saving to the public purse of the additional pension payments which add up to £100,000. In the second place it will avoid the charge of hypocrisy being made against leading politicians who might otherwise be accused of appearing to reduce their salaries whilst covertly hiking up their pensions. This is especially appropriate at the present time given the intransigent comments made by Government ministers in recent days in connection with pensions for low paid public employees.
In the light of what I have said the committee will conclude that we have no problem at all in supporting the order.
There are however one matter which I would wish to make enquiries about.
This relates to the overall cost of remunerating senior ministers.
I do this in the context of Para 7.1. In the first sentence the report clearly states that ‘On entering Office and in line with the Coalition Government’s policy, Ministers and the 6 Opposition Office Holders waived part of the amount of the Ministerial salary to which they were entitled under the 1975 Act and instead agreed to accept a total remuneration (Ministerial salary and MP Salary taken together) that was 5% less’ than previously.
I have doubts that this is a strictly accurate statement. The report as we have just heard uses the phrase ‘total remuneration’.
Now in the private sector this phrase would include all fringe benefits to which an employee is entitled. If this same principle is applied to for example, it is hard to see how one could not define his total remuneration in such a way as to exclude his use of his car and, the Downing Street flat, or Chequers in addition to the costs of attendant staff.
Now the Government has resisted all parliamentary questions which I have submitted in an effort to ascertain these costs in order that we can put a value to this phrase ‘total remuneration’ which is contained in para 7.1. of the explanatory notes.
In spite of this refusal but with the help of the Commons Library I am in a position to say that the total remuneration package which is received by the Prime Minister has a value of up to £1 million per annum. Indeed I understand that the PM may pay tax on some of these facilities thereby clearly demonstrating that they do indeed form a part of his remuneration package. Some may feel that a remuneration package of this size fits uneasily alongside the fact that I understand that there are staff working in Downing St whose remuneration is less than £17000 pa. Given Mr Cameron’s commitment that no one in thepublic sector should receive more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid.
However, I do not raise the cost of the total remuneration in order to make a critique of any of these facilities since the Prime Minister as the leader of our country clearly must have access to that which is best inour country and also appropriate levels of security. All of which cost money.
I wish to put a simple question to the minister (and he may not be able to answer this morning and so I would welcome a written reply). The explanatory memorandum claims a 5% saving on the PM’s remuneration package but focuses narrowly on his ministerial salary. Has the same 5% saving been applied to the costs of Chequers, the Downing St Flat and the PM’s other facilities which I believe are arguably a part of his remuneration? And given the fact that a similar position applies to other senior ministers such as the Foreign secretary, can the minister indicate to me what situation applies to their facilities also?
The Opposition will continue to support sensible efficiency measures in the public services and this Order clearly has merit of reducing the costs of politics.”
In response, Francis Maude MP said he would do his best to endeavour to send Jon a written answer.
This story was published in the papers here :http://tinyurl.com/63z46n5
Prime Minister David Cameron and one of his senior Ministers Francis Maude were visibly uncomfortable this morning during the Cabinet Office questions this morning, when MP Jon Trickett told accused them of wasting money in “tarting up” their offices.
At a time when key workers such as nurses, soldiers or policemen are being made redundant, Mr Trickett argued that every item of waste should be eliminated. The Labour Party supports all reasonable savings in backroom functions, and indeed have proposed over £15 billion of efficiencies.
However, it seems that the definition of efficient varies between the parties. Jon stood up in the House of Commons to demand that the Government should stop wasting money:
“How can [Cameron] justify the announcement on the No 10 transparency website that since November he has wasted over £5 million tarting up his offices which includes over £680,000 spent refurbishing Downing Street at a time when his colleagues are laying off crucial front line staff like nurses, soldiers, and policemen? Will he publish a line by line analysis of how he spent this money?”
Additionally, Jon submitted several questions about specific transactions from the Government transparency website regarding purchases that were simply marked as “refurbishment”, “accommodation works”, or “building renovations” both to 70 Whitehall and 10 Downing Street. Mr Maude’s response was totally evasive: “I will reply to the honourable Member as soon as possible”.
Talk about efficiency rings hollow when the Coalition cannot even manage to answer parliamentary questions properly.
To watch Jon in action skip to 21.45 on the video below:
To see more questions Jon has asked during the current session, click
Want to see how the government is spending public funds? Check out the transparency website here!