British MP on €130k sorry for ‘watching the pennies’ gaffe
A British Government minister has apologised for saying he had to “watch the pennies” on his Stg£90,000 (€130,000) salary. Tobias Ellwood, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, had been criticised after saying a pay rise for MPs was “well overdue”.
The Conservative MP for Bournemouth East had written to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) to “speak for the silent majority” of MPs who are not independently wealthy.
The former soldier, who on top of his basic £67,000 salary also earns around £20,000 for his ministerial role, said he would be earning far more if he had stayed in the Armed Forces.
In the letter, he wrote: “I know I speak for the silent majority (who are not millionaires) to say this increase is well overdue.
“I never expected to be watching the pennies at my age and yet this what I now have to do.”
The letter was made public when Ipsa, the House of Commons expenses watchdog, approved a 10pc pay rise for MPs this week.
In the statement, Mr Ellwood said he recognised his comments on his “confidential submission” were “inappropriate and insensitive” and an “error of judgment”.
“Constituents’ comments have been a stark personal reminder of the challenges everyone is facing and I am the wiser for it,” he said.
“I apologise for the offence I’ve caused.”
Mr Ellwood said the letter was a “private” attempt to express genuine concerns over MPs pay, describing the pay structures as a “shambles” and “remain lower than the salaries of comparable public sector jobs”.
He said: “We need to attract the best from all walks of life to ensure that parliament is as representative as possible of our society in terms of its diversity.
“Given the toxic history of the topic, most people avoid any comment on MPs’ pay.
“If we genuinely want good people from all backgrounds to consider stepping into public service and standing for parliament, then we cannot shy away from the awkward issue of assessing what that basic figure should be and, in doing so, attempt to draw a line under this long-running debate.”
Mr Ellwood concluded: “I end where I began by saying I am sorry my private comments have caused offence.
“My private attempt to highlight the changing make-up of parliament was flawed and has sadly underlined the perception that MPs are out of touch.
“That is something I very much regret.”