The £551k paid to the Lib Dems’ 16 departing MPs

by Stephen Tall on June 8, 2010

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has published today figures showing how much money was paid to MPs who departed the House of Commons, either voluntarily or through defeat, at the general election a month ago.

As its report notes, departing MPs are entitled to a one-off Resettlement Grant of 50-100 percent of their annual salary, dependent on their age and length of service, the first £30,000 of which is tax-free and is in addition to their parliamentary pension.

It’s something of a relic of a system. For a start I would have thought any form of payment based on age is verging on the illegal under equalities legislation – especially with some younger MPs receiving less money than older colleagues despite having served as MPs for longer.

Nor does there seem any justification for paying MPs who choose voluntarily to stand down from Parliament: that is their choice, and it is hard to see why the taxpayer should pick up the tab, especially as many will have lined up new (and in many cases more lucrative) work in readiness for their retirement.

I can understand and support the principle that MPs who are defeated should receive a payment in order to help them plan what they do next – the equivalent of a redundancy payment paid in both public and private sectors to individuals who finish their employment unexpectedly.

Unsurprisingly, given its world-view, the Taxpayers’ Alliance regards this as a rip-off:

When a MP wins an election, he or she enters a contract with a term of up to five years. If they then go on to lose the election this is not the equivalent of redundancy – it is the end of their contract.

The practical effect of such a decision, however, would be MPs in marginal seats spending their (potentially) last year focused almost as much on lining up a new job as on focusing on their parliamantary work. And I don’t see how that helps deliver value-for-money. As so often, the Taxpayers’ Alliance sees only numbers when other people see humans.

Sixteen Lib Dem MPs left the Commons on 7th May – here’s the list, together with the resettlement grants they were awarded, compiled from the Taxpayers’ Alliance figures. You can view the spreadsheet by clicking here, and read it below:

Lib Dem MPs Resettlement Grants
(Any corrections needed to the above, please .)