MPs' Salaries Debate

Charles Walker takes part in a debate on MPs’ salaries where MPs vote not to accept the increase recommended by the Salaries Review Body.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): It is absolute agony that we are having this debate this evening after we have had such a fantastic and informed debate on Libya. It goes to prove that there is never, ever a good time to talk about MPs' pay and conditions.

However, the debate comes under the heading "Boring but important". Let us cast our minds back to May 2009, when this House and this democracy that we love so much went through a period of enormous upheaval. I remember that there were great protests outside Parliament-nothing to do with pay and expenses, but enormously voluminous protests. I used to stand in the yard listening to the protests and imagine what it must have been like at the Bastille 220 years earlier in 1789, with the hordes outside. I would close my eyes and think, "Will I get the piano wire or will I get the guillotine?" I think my constituents were rather wishing I would get both and they would both be very slow. It really was an appalling time for this country-this proud democracy brought low by something as innocuous as pay and expenses.

We all vowed in 2009 that we had learned our lessons. Indeed, in 2008 we had started the process of repair by, on 3 July, voting to remove responsibility for pay from our hands. The process of reform was in train. I took great relief, during the debates in 2008 and 2009, from the fact that at last we were not going to have these agonising evenings in the House, but here we are again, having another agonising evening.

We, as Members of Parliament, are brilliant at not only setting our own bear traps but then jumping into them. I feel that that is what we are doing tonight, because the motion has been introduced by the Executive. I know that MPs, both those who served from 2005 to 2010 and our new colleagues, are much chastened by what happened in 2009. We are reforming ourselves from within, and we are not actually as stupid as some people would have us believe. I have absolutely no desire or ambition to accept a 1% pay rise. All that I sincerely wish is that the Back Benchers of this place had been allowed to propose their own motion.

I understood that there was cross-party agreement between the Opposition, the party of government and our colleagues in government, the Liberal Democrats, and I thought there was a real desire and move for a Back-Bench motion that would allow us, as Back Benchers, to do the right thing by this country and our constituents by postponing the pay rise for two years. I am therefore saddened that the Executive have brought forward tonight's motion. Much play has been made of the new politics, which is not about expediency because expediency gets us into such trouble. The motion is expedient and it lays a future bear trap for us. I wish that we were not here, once again, discussing the tedious subject of our pay and conditions.

10.34 pm

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