Putting MPs on zero hours contracts is an idea which has a certain mischievous appeal. That it should come from the Conservative Spectator magazine owned, along with the Daily Telegraph, by the Barclay brothers is a surprise.
Of course, they would not be called “zero hours” which Ian Duncan Smith told Sky News this morning should be rebranded as “flexible hours contracts”. They are good for your “work life balance”, the Work and Pensions secretary is reported as saying by The Independent.
Journalist Ross Clark expands on the idea in the Spectator’s Coffee House blog under the headline. “It’s time to put all our MPs on “flexible hours contracts“.
IDS would have a much easier job of convincing the electorate on this had he gone further and recommended that one particular group of workers was switched to the contracts: MPs. I am not trying to belittle the job of being a parliamentarian, nor try to assert that it is on a skill level with shelf-stacking. Scrutinising legislation is a skilled activity which deserves to be paid well. A rate of £100 an hour would be appropriate, I think.
But being an MP is clearly not a full-time job. How could it be when 100 or so of them combine being MPs with ministerial jobs and many others continue to work on outside careers? There is a fairly obvious answer: only to employ MPs when they are required: when there is business to debate in the House of Commons or legislation to scrutinise on one of the committees.
Sounds like a good idea but getting the necessary legislation through the house would be a lot harder than the protracted business of forming a government we are expecting after the election.
But perhaps the bill could be introduced in the House of Lords whose members are already only paid when they turn up. Lords who get a ministerial salary are not allowed to claim the daily attendance allowance according to the Parliament website.