Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 5:52 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 5:52, 6 Chwefror 2024

It might surprise the hon. Lady, but I am going to stick to the topic of this debate, which is severance pay.

Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury, I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Macclesfield (David Rutley) and for Hexham (Guy Opperman), and to Steve Barclay, who I understand gave back some ministerial severance pay upon taking up new ministerial posts, but it is a great pity that no other Members recognised how totally inappropriate it was to take 13 weeks’ severance pay for a post that they had held for a much shorter time than that, or to keep the full 13 weeks’ pay when they were reappointed in a shorter time than that. Today, they have the opportunity to vote to reform the system that their party has brought into disrepute.

Those in government have a duty to get value for money and to respect the hard-earned taxpayers’ money with which they are entrusted. Let us not forget the financial turmoil caused by the then Prime Minister, Elizabeth Truss, when she and her team pushed through the Budget in September 2022, ignoring expert advice and leaving people with hundreds of extra pounds to pay on their mortgages—and not just for a couple of months, but for years to come. From this Conservative Government, we have had not just higher mortgages but higher rents, rampant inflation, a real cost of living crisis causing people up and down the country to struggle to make ends meet, and, of course, hollowed-out public services that are scarcely able to meet demand.

When the ministerial severance payments scheme was set up back in 1991, no one would have imagined the absolute pantomime that we have seen over the past couple of years, with nearly 100 Ministers leaving office and taking with them some £993,000—nearly £1 million— of taxpayers’ hard-earned money in ministerial severance pay. Back in 1991, the expectation would have been that Ministers would be in post for a number of years, and that those leaving under the age of 65 would receive a quarter of their final annual salary—13 weeks’ pay—as severance pay.

However, let us fast-forward to the summer of 2022, when MPs were hastily appointed to fill gaps after the frenzied mass resignations from the Johnson Government, supporters of the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk were brought in to serve during her time at No. 10, and supporters of the current Prime Minister, who resigned from the ministerial jobs to put pressure on his predecessors, returned only a few weeks later when he became Prime Minister. We are not saying that the rules were broken, except in the cases of the handful of over-65s who were not entitled to severance pay. Under the existing rules, the rest of those Tory Ministers were legally entitled to three months of severance pay at their final salary level, no matter how long they had been in post, no matter how they came to lose their post and, in most cases, no matter how quickly they returned to the Front Bench afterwards. Those are the glaring loopholes that Labour’s proposed reforms seek to close.