THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: News Letter’s support increasing Ulster MPs salaries in line with Westminster
From the Belfast News Letter, October 6, 1954
On this day in 1954 a News Letter editorial reflected on proposals to increase in the salaries of MPs who sat in Northern Ireland House of Commons.
The News Letter noted: “It is more than 30 years since the Parliament was established and in that time the work of its principal members has increased, and so has the prestige of the institution. What is now proposed for members of the Senate is a tardy act of justice.”
The News Letter’s editorial read: “When the Northern Ireland House of Commons set up a Select Committee last June to consider the revision of parliamentary salaries, it was following the example of the Parliament at Westminster, which had appointed a similar committee in the previous November.
“The Westminster committee recommended in the following February that the £l,000 salary of members of Parliament should be raised to £1,500, but in April Sir Winston Churchill declined to accept the proposal, and later announced the government’s decision to institute sessional allowance for MPs who choose to draw it, of £2 for every day on which Parliament sits, except Fridays.
“This decision in way binds the government at Stormont, but it is an example which it will have in mind when it proceeds to take a decision upon the Select Committee’s report.
“It is necessary to approach the somewhat controversial issue of payment of MPs with a mind divested of prejudice.
“Numerically, members Parliament are a small body, and the value of their work cannot be assessed by ordinary standards.
“For that and other reasons the electors are disposed to take a cynical, if not a harsh, view of the subject, but it is a matter in which the community must be fair.
“It owes a lot to its MPs, who are the guardians of the ordinary man’s rights and privileges.
“A point to be remembered is that when the United Kingdom first began to pay its members of Parliament - in 1911 - the sum of £400 a year was regarded as fair.
“The standard rate of income tax was then 1s 2d in the pound.
“In 1923 the salary payable to a member of the Northern Ireland House Commons was fixed at £200, and the question is how this compares with the £300 plus £200 expenses paid at present.
“If the altered value of money is taken into account, and also the increase in the rate of taxation, it is obvious that members have a very good claim to an increase.
“The Select Committee recommends an addition of £l00 to the salary and £200 to the expenses.
“Broadly, this seems reasonable, but we would have preferred to see a somewhat larger increase in salary and a smaller increase in expenses the economic and fiscal conditions today it is a temptation to swell expense accounts, but it is temptation upon which successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have frowned, and Parliament should be mindful of the force of example. To pay in expenses a sum equal to salary is to make a doubtful rule.
“The increases remuneration suggested for the Prime Minister, the other ministers and officers, seem, on the whole, to be proper, subject to adjustment of expenses.”
The editorial concluded: “It is more than 30 years since the Parliament was established and in that time the work of its principal members has increased, and so has the prestige of the institution. What is now proposed for members of the Senate is a tardy act of justice.”