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

As I have said, I am going to speak to the topic on the Order Paper, and I am not going to be distracted by any other topic.

If Labour’s proposed reforms had been in place in 2022, that would have saved the taxpayer some 40% of those payouts, or some £377,000. During the Tory turmoil of the past couple of years, some Ministers have received more in severance pay than in actual pay. For example, Ministers who only served for a matter of weeks—perhaps only eight or nine weeks—have been entitled to walk away with 13 weeks’ severance pay. That is clearly totally absurd and unacceptable. Labour is proposing a pro rata system, whereby those Ministers who serve for less than a full year should only receive in severance pay a quarter of what they have actually earned. In other words, if a Minister had been in post for eight months, they would be entitled to two months’ severance pay; if they had been in post for eight weeks, they would be entitled to two weeks’ severance pay.

Likewise, we propose to strengthen the rules concerning Ministers who are reappointed. Under the existing rules, ministerial severance pay is only withheld if the departing Minister takes up another post within three weeks of quitting, which covers a normal reshuffle situation. However, with the revolving door we have seen, some Ministers have returned after more than three weeks but less than 13 weeks and yet kept their full severance pay, which is in accordance with the current rules. That is another loophole that our proposals seek to close: individuals who return to the Front Bench while still benefiting from severance pay would have that pay clawed back. For example, if a Minister were entitled to eight weeks’ severance pay but took up another ministerial post after five weeks, they should clearly forgo the remaining three weeks’ severance pay, as they would of course be receiving their new ministerial salary.

Thirdly, we propose that individuals who leave their jobs while under investigation for gross misconduct or breaches of the ministerial code would not receive any severance pay unless and until they were cleared of those allegations by the relevant authority. We would therefore not be in the situation where the disgraced former Member for Tamworth, who should never have been appointed in the first place, has been able to walk away with full ministerial severance pay.

Likewise, under the current rules, the shameful behaviour of the former Member for Wellingborough was no bar to his taking severance pay. However, as he is over 65, he should never have had that payout in the first place. In fact, nearly £50,000 has been wrongly paid out to former Ministers who were over 65 at the time they left their posts. One would hope that the handful of individuals involved would pay back that severance pay immediately, as I believe the former Member for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, has promised to do. Perhaps in his closing remarks, the Minister could update us on whether Ms Dorries has indeed repaid that money, and also on what progress has been made in clawing back the severance payments that were wrongly made to other Ministers over the age of 65. Make no mistake: ordinary citizens owing money to HMRC or the Department for Work and Pensions would certainly be expected to repay it in a timely fashion. Furthermore, I ask the Minister to address the content of each of our proposals and say whether or not this Government will support them, and if not, why not.

I appeal to Conservative Members to do the decent thing and support Labour’s reforms, and to support bringing forward the necessary legislation in the next fortnight, as set out in our motion on the Order Paper. If they do not support our reforms, we will have to conclude that they are more interested in lining their own pockets than protecting taxpayers’ money. I commend the motion to the House.