Michael Portillo backs Peter Bottomley over MPs pay on GMB

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Broadcaster and former MP Michael Portillo has supported under-fire veteran Tory Sir Peter Bottomley after he spoke of the “grim” struggle of living on an MP’s £81,932 salary.

Bottomley, 77, the Commons Father of the House, who represents Worthing West, said many of his colleagues were finding their situation “desperately difficult”.

The comments come in the same week that a £20-a-week increase to universal credit (UC), brought in to help people on low incomes struggling through the Covid pandemic, was withdrawn.

Mr Portillo, speaking on Good Morning Britain on Thursday morning, said MPs get the same amount of money whatever age they are.

“So if you went into the House of Commons at 26 and you get £82,000 you think, ‘this is fantastic’ because you were stacking shelves the week before, or whatever. But when you are, and I think Peter is, over 70 and you’ve all those years of seniority and you are making £82,000 pounds.

“Whereas if you’ve been in the private sector with his sort of qualifications you would be making much more. 

“So I think there is a bit of a point there.”

It was put to Mr Portillo that perhaps it was instead a case of another Tory MP being out of touch and he was asked whether it was a case of MPs needing to work outside their role to get more money. However, he said MPs had been dissuaded from doing so.

Sir Peter Bottomley (REUTERS)
Sir Peter Bottomley (REUTERS)

“More and more MPs who had something else to do, maybe they were barristers in their spare time or whatever, were told ‘oh, you mustn't do that you are being paid by the public purse. You must spend all your time being an MP. Well if you are going to say that then you have got to pay salaries that are competitive.”

Sir Peter believes MPs should be paid the same amount as GPs – whose average salary in England is £100,700. The average UK wage is £31,461.

He told the New Statesman: “I take the view that being an MP is the greatest honour you could have, but a general practitioner in politics ought to be paid roughly the same as a general practitioner in medicine.

“Doctors are paid far too little nowadays.

“But if they would get roughly £100,000 a year, the equivalent for an MP to get the same standard of living would be £110-£115,000 a year – it’s never the right time, but if your MP isn’t worth the money, it’s better to change the MP than to change the money.”

Although Sir Peter - who has been in the Commons since 1975 and is its longest serving MP - said he is currently not struggling financially, he believes the situation is “desperate” for newer colleagues.

He added: “I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.”

Watch: Why can't governments just print more money?

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