An attempt by MPs to reform rules on taxpayer-funded severance payments for UK Government Ministers has failed despite local Llanelli MP, Nia Griffith, speaking in favour of the plan in the House of Commons and voting to end the scandal of short stay Ministers receiving thousands of pounds extra for a few weeks work.
Hundreds of Conservative MPs voted against the plan ensuring that the current rules will remain unchanged going into the general election, protecting unjustifiable payments for Ministers who find themselves out of power.
Since 1991, when John Major was the Prime Minister, any individual under the age of 65 who leaves their ministerial job has been entitled to a quarter of their final annual salary in severance pay, no matter how long they have been in post or the circumstances of their departure. At present, they are only required to repay the money if they return to a new job within three weeks.
It was recently revealed that, over the course of 2022/23, a total of £933,086 was handed out to 97 different ministers who quit their roles or got the sack during the year of chaos which saw three different Prime Ministers. As a result, dozens of Tory MPs were able to claim three months in severance despite serving for only a matter of weeks in their ministerial posts, and a number of others kept their full payouts even after returning to new jobs just a month or two later.
Amid the chaos, five former ministers had also been handed severance payments worth a total of more than £50,000 by mistake, having been aged over 65 at the time of their departure, including Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone.
The Labour Party this week put forward a motion which would have required the government to set aside Parliamentary time for a Bill to reform the severance rules.
Under the reforms proposed:
• Individuals would only be able to claim a quarter of their actual earnings as a minister over the previous twelve months, not a quarter of their final annual salary, preventing MPs who only served a few weeks on the front bench from claiming a full three months of salary.
• Individuals who return to a new job in government while still enjoying the benefit of their previous severance entitlement would be required to pay back the corresponding amount.
• Individuals who leave their jobs while under investigation for gross misconduct or
breaches of the ministerial code would not receive any severance payment at all unless and until they were cleared of those allegations by the relevant authority,
If reforms had been in place during 2022/23, the severance bill for that financial year would have been cut by £377,993, or just over 40 per cent of the total.
Rishi Sunak’s government whipped Conservative MPs to vote against Labour’s motion, ensuring that the proposed legislation cannot be presented to Parliament before the general election, but Labour has vowed that it will press ahead with the reforms if it wins the election later this year.
Llanelli MP, Dame Nia Griffith, who spoke in the debate in her role as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister said:
“Tory MPs had the chance to do the right thing and fix the rules on ministerial severance payments which their party has brought into disrepute.
With the chaos and churn of Ministers coming and going recently, the proposals would have closed loopholes to stop short-stay Ministers walking off with totally unjustifiable severance payments, as well as banning them for any minister found guilty of gross misconduct or breaches of the ministerial code. Shockingly, the Tories voted to block Labour’s reforms, showing they are more interested in lining their pockets than in finding savings for the taxpayer.
I remain fully committed to supporting these reforms, and I can confirm that if Labour are able to form a majority in Parliament later this year, we will ensure the system is changed for good.”