Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 5:05 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Women and Equalities), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 5:05, 6 Chwefror 2024

I am actually more concerned with redundancy payments, which this debate is about. The level of ministerial salaries is something that should be debated on its own, and should be the subject of regular review. What pains me is that I have constituents who, when they are made redundant and get the statutory minimum, have nothing to fall back on. When Ministers are sacked for incompetence, they still have the salary for the job they are actually sent here to do, which is to serve as a Member of Parliament. They have the privilege of serving as a Member of Parliament; they then get paid more for the extra privilege of being a Minister. I think a lot of the public watching this debate today will be asking, “They get a salary for being a Minister? They get redundancy payments for being a Minister?”

We need to think about this very seriously. We need to think about what our constituents will be thinking. I do not want to throw brickbats at individuals, but I will just take one example very briefly: when Elizabeth Truss resigned as Prime Minister, her golden goodbye was more than the minimum salary in this country. It would have gone a long way for a lot of families. We should be thinking about what those families think about that, not what we think about or whether the Labour party or the Conservative party is wrong, or the SNP—frankly, we should not take any lectures on financial probity from that party.

We should be thinking about what our constituents think. For many, it would have felt like a kick in the teeth. They could not pay their mortgage and they were struggling to pay for their children. They saw—this is not my judgment, but theirs—dozens of Conservative MPs raking in thousands of pounds in severance pay, completely down to the chaos that the Government caused during a cost of living crisis. To our constituents, it would have felt like taxpayers’ money was paying for the revolving door of Ministers. In their view—and mine—the Conservatives trashed the economy, but our constituents were paying for it.

That is why these payouts have to stop. I completely respect the Members who have paid them back—we should recognise that that was the right thing to do. They should be stopped because, as has been said several times today, the legislation was introduced in 1991. It could have taken no account of the sort of situation that we would see in 2022-23, because it is beyond anyone’s imagination that such a situation would have arisen—we did not take account of it when it happened. Today we have an opportunity to rectify that. We have an opportunity to say that there was a unique set of circumstances that the 1991 legislation did not foresee. We can have a review and we can look at it, but we need to recognise that when millions of families in this country were at their lowest point, they looked at the television and saw Ministers who had worked for a few days, and been sacked for incompetence or falling out with the boss, getting thousands of pounds more, when they got nothing.

The Liberal Democrats have proposals. There should be a major overhaul of ministerial severance pay. MPs who have resigned, for breaking the ministerial code in particular, should not be able to claim severance pay. Ministers should have to serve in post for a reasonable period of time, and payouts cannot be claimed if they are reappointed to the Government within a year. None of that is unreasonable. More than anything else, it would give us the opportunity to go out there and look our constituents in the face and say, “No, we are not in it to line our own pockets, we will not take anything that we don’t deserve, and we will not take for granted the privilege of being here and expect more than you think we deserve.”