MPs' pay facts

Date published: 5 December 2022

MPs' pay facts

For most of Parliament’s history, MPs weren’t paid and instead relied on private income or the patronage of local landowners to be able to afford to be an MP. Many MPs bought their seats or inherited them from aristocratic families.

In 1911 MPs received a salary for the first time to try and improve accessibility for candidates who did not have the funds to carry out the role unpaid. In 1911 the annual salary was £400 compared to the average wage at the time of £70.

MPs’ salaries increased steadily to £4,500 by 1971. From 1971 to 2010, MPs’ salaries were based on senior civil service bands and were reviewed by the Senior Salaries Review body at the beginning of each parliament.

Free rail travel for MPs to commute between their constituency and Westminster began in 1924, and from 1969 MPs were allowed to claim for office and research expenses. This was followed by a second home allowance, pension scheme, and communications allowance in 2007.

Expenses scandal

The system for setting and administering MPs’ pay changed completely following the expenses scandal.

The scandal was not directly related to pay but the system of MPs deciding their own pay meant many did not vote in favour of a pay rise as they felt it would be deeply unpopular with voters. This meant MPs’ pay was artificially low for such a responsible and high-profile position. This arguably led to claims being submitted under the notion that reimbursement for certain living costs became part of MPs’ remuneration.

In response to the expenses scandal, Parliament quickly passed the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. The Act gave responsibility for setting, administering and regulating MPs’ pay and business costs to a new public body, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

While we have some discretion over how we operate, there are several legislative instructions we must follow.

Discretion to pay MPs

We don’t have discretion over whether an MP gets paid.

Section 5 of the Act states that MPs are to receive a salary for the "relevant period" which is from the day after they are elected to Parliament until it is dissolved or they cease to be an MP for any reason.

This means – apart from a few specific exceptions – MPs will be paid by us each month for as long as they are an MP.

MPs’ choice to be paid

Just as we don’t have discretion about paying MPs’ salaries, MPs don’t have a choice about receiving them either.

MPs are required to register their bank details with us when they are elected, and we pay their salaries directly.

By law, once we set MPs’ pay, this will be paid to them and there is no option for MPs to refuse it.

Exception one – Parliamentary Oath

One of the few conditions on MPs’ pay is that they have been sworn into Parliament by taking an oath of allegiance to the Crown.

Until they have taken the oath, they can’t take their seat, speak in debates or vote in Parliament.

There are a small number of MPs who refuse to take the oath and never take their seats in Parliament and these MPs do not receive a salary from us.

Exception two – Suspension

The other exception is where an MP is subject to "disciplinary powers of the House of Commons", such as a suspension.

If an MP is suspended from the House, they will lose their pay for however many days the suspension lasts.

MPs can be suspended by the Speaker of the House of Commons for disorderly conduct, or on recommendation from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for breaching the House of Commons Code of Conduct.

If an MP is suspended for more than 10 days, a recall petition will be triggered under the Recall of MPs Act 2015.

Voters in the constituency then have six weeks to sign the petition in person, by post, or by proxy. If 10% or more of constituents sign the recall petition, the MP must vacate their seat and a by-election is called.

The recall process can also be triggered if an MP receives a custodial sentence of less than one year or they receive a conviction for providing a false or misleading business cost claim. If an MP receives a custodial sentence of more than one year, a by-election will automatically be called.

Adhering to the rules on MPs' pay

At IPSA, our role is to administer MPs’ pay fairly and transparently while complying with the rules set out in our governing legislation. We, therefore, pay salaries to all MPs who meet the required conditions.

You can find out more about how we make determinations for the amount of pay MPs receive in our blogs How does IPSA decide MPs’ pay, and MPs don’t decide their own pay, we do.