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Sir Patrick Cormack MP reckons MP's salaries should be doubled - albeit in return for the scrapping of second home allowances. He's now described the furore aroused by his comments as "hysteria", but Barbara Panvel thinks he's missing the point.

On Wednesday two submissions were made by MPs to the committee on standards in public life, which is holding an inquiry into MPs’ expenses.

The proposals were that the second-home allowance could be dismantled in return for a rise in salary from £64,766 to £130,000.

Three other statements made in relation to this have to be challenged:

One of the proposers said that scrapping allowances could restore confidence in parliament – but only a remarkable improvement in policy and practice could do that.

The other said that MPs’ pay had now fallen so low in both “absolute and relative terms’’ it was insufficient to support the lifestyle “to which most professional and business classes aspire”. If payment were by result, MPs' pay would be far lower.

Alistair Darling said it could not be justified during a recession: “At a time when everyone else is pulling in their belts . . . MPs cannot be treated any differently from anyone else,’’ he said. True - but that is not the point: handsome payment could only be justified when parliament is functioning well:

MPs should adopt the yardstick quoted this week by a Stirrer reader from Norfolk:

“When it shall be said . . . ‘My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive . . . ’ — when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.” Tom Paine: Rights of Man, p.250



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