Unpaid ministers

Lord Norton

There is a statutory limit on the number of ministers who can sit in the House of Commons, whether paid or unpaid, and a statutory limit on the number of ministers who can receive a ministerial salary.  As a result, this Government, like its predecessor, has appointed a number of unpaid ministers, especially in the Lords.  This provides the context for an exchange in Question Time yesterday when Foreign Office minister, Lord Howell of Guildford, was replying to questions:

“Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I commend the Minister for dealing with three out of four of today’s Questions in such detail. Will he confirm that he will still receive only his basic salary and not a performance bonus? Is that not an example to others?

Lord Howell of Guildford: I cannot confirm that because I do not receive a salary.”

18 comments for “Unpaid ministers

  1. tory boy
    01/02/2012 at 10:24 am

    Is there a list which can be given of those ministers who are unpaid?

  2. maude elwes
    01/02/2012 at 12:05 pm

    I believe, this thread is a facecard for unpaid interns. It is to make an effort at justifying unpaid students who are so desperate for work they will perform without stipend. They are treated as flunkies by those who exploit them, as they promise a benefit from being their fags at a later date. The mantra goes, this makes it easier for you to get a paying job in some business connected to us.

    And as for the unpaid Minister, well, he is not unpaid at all. Is he? He benefits in all sorts of ways by his connection to and association with those in high places.

    Like the intern, he can expect a pay off of an executive directorship of some kind. Or, the old boys brigade lark.

    He wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. Altruism is not the game in that place. Besides, what of expenses?

    This is all very Eton and very prevalent throughout British and American society. Remember Lewinsky under the desk in the Oval office. She was an unpaid intern.


    This trick is all very well if you come from a middle or upper class family, as Mum and Dad can afford to support you whilst you are at it. But it is almost impossible for those who start life in a Council Estate.

    • Gareth Howell
      02/02/2012 at 9:32 am

      I spring to the defence of my political opponent and close kinsman, Lord David Howell,
      to remind you that he has a special interest in supporting the cause of George Osborne, and his wife Frances Howell Osborne, David’s exceptionally talented top selling book author

      The only thing that has not been mentioned is
      the possibility of his claiming large sums in attending the HofL. Blagger has an opinion of the integrity of that list, but the list-keepers probably record that he merely claims £300 from time to time, or even £150.

      Would Lady Blagger say it is entirely possible that he claims £300 per day, and that it is not recorded properly, but that when he says he does not claim a salary, he is entirely correct in saying so?

      Even then, there are those amongst us, myself included at my desk here, who enjoy the intelligent stimulation of political thought, or any thought, for the sake of a clear mind at all times.

      David Howell is 75, and some of his despatch box pronouncements are not that fast, or witty. Does he attend cabinet meeting as FO minister in the HofL and does he have a desk in the FO? Does he atteend senior FO meetings as HoL minister?I am sure he does; an offer of such a desk is made to lesser mortals than he.

      His opinion about the public administration of Foreign Affairs may be considered valuable, by them.

      They are opinions with which I do not concur!

  3. Senex
    01/02/2012 at 12:05 pm

    Unpaid is good! An interesting use of the word ‘Salary’ in the exchange; salary infers a master servant relationship, to be in the employment of another.

    For Ministers and MPs to be taxed there seems to be a lack of employment status because they are neither employed nor self-employed. However, from a meaning of earnings perspective they are in receipt of an emolument under Section 7(3) (a) and Section 62 ITEPA 2003 but only in conjunction with an employment.

    The nub is that Ministers and MPs apparently pay tax and NI without any legal obligation to do so. It is entirely voluntary it seems, and neither house would be willing to seek clarification through the courts on this.

    Their Parliamentary earnings are therefore unaccountable under law?

    The Bill of Rights 1689 says:

    “By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament”

    Parliament may have granted these emoluments without ‘pretence of prerogative’ but it has granted the emoluments without any legal status for the purpose of establishing the manner of employment. The emoluments could therefore be regarded as a ‘pretence of prerogative’ and against the interests of the people. Neither house would willingly seek clarification on this through the courts?

    Another issue is the ability of these emoluments to be used for profit. Both Ministers and MPs may use these emoluments to fund business activities that establish them as employed or self-employed within the terms of established tax law.

    This again amounts to a ‘pretence of prerogative’ because others receiving such emoluments without employment status under Social Security law are denied the opportunity to profit because the emoluments are reduced pro-rata by family by the income earned.

    A constitutional change would be most welcome and one that states: anybody receiving an emolument from the state without employment status should see that emolument reduced by proportion if they are in receipt of other additional monies not supplied by the state.

    Nobody should profit at the taxpayers expense, rich or poor?

    Ref: EIM00520 – Employment income: meaning of earnings:
    non-cash earnings: earnings for NIC purposes
    Section 7(3)(a) and Section 62 ITEPA 2003
    Employment status: Employed or self-employed?
    Bill of Rights [1689]

    • ladytizzy
      01/02/2012 at 3:14 pm

      Senex, I see your EIM00520 and raise you an EIM00600.

      • Senex
        02/02/2012 at 3:21 pm

        Perhaps Tizzy it would be Parliaments call?

        The Commons has gone to great lengths in both primary and secondary legislation to establish the nature of employment for taxation purposes. Before New Labour came to power the Judiciary would have found the law to be too vague to arrive with any confidence at a judgement.

        The Judiciary would now be bound to say that the nature of ‘employment’ for MPs and Ministers is a pretence for the purposes of paying tax and therefore unlawful? On this basis MPs and Ministers could raise a class action against the state for the return of taxes going back six years or more.

        If Parliament has seen fit to deceive in this manner people might ask “have we been deceived too by paying taxes where none was due” or is it the prerogative of a dictator to say “Do as I say not what I do”? We imprisoned the Monarchy for abuse of its power. Has nothing changed that we have replaced one for another?

        • ladytizzy
          03/02/2012 at 1:54 am

          Regardless of employment status, income tax is not a permanent tax, and has to be reapplied for each year. Since MPs vote for it every year, I suspect a class action wouldn’t get off the ground.

          I vaguely remember asking here (probably close to this site’s birth) whether MPs should be employed by their constituents. Then I thought it through.

  4. Lord Blagger
    01/02/2012 at 1:37 pm

    Take a look at the end of the last pension’s bill.

    Tucked away at the end is a law that say that MPs expenses are exempt from income tax, and exempt from any investigation by HMRC (to prevent them being done for expenses that aren’t wholly and necessary for the job).

    Straight up, legal fraud.

    • maude elwes
      02/02/2012 at 12:28 pm


      And why are we letting them get away with it? Can anyone tell me?

      This morning I read that ‘Lords’ are removing the right of those who have been sentenced to jail for a ‘year’ or more, to be barred from sitting in the chamber. But, they will not have their title removed as a result of their criminality.

      So, we, the people of this country, are to continue to accept being demeaned by having ‘criminal Lordships’ and those who spend less than twelve months in the can, still able to pass laws we, the people, have to abide by.

      This whole thing is a farce and the only way to be free of it is by elections of those in those seats by the people. And that must be for a limited time, for they will dodge around that as well.

      The reason they refuse to do the ‘right thing’ by the people, is because they know ‘most of them’ are unelectable by the public.

      • Lord Blagger
        02/02/2012 at 4:08 pm

        This morning I read that ‘Lords’ are removing the right of those who have been sentenced to jail for a ‘year’ or more, to be barred from sitting in the chamber. But, they will not have their title removed as a result of their criminality.


        I’ve just proposed the text of the bill to deal with this on another comment. When it gets passed the moderation, you can have a look at it.

  5. MilesJSD
    02/02/2012 at 11:22 am

    Viewing “the Field”, I with my contributions including to-and-through the Lords of the Blog am an
    “unpaid minister-of-democratisation, of individual-human-development, and of participatory good-communication & honest-argumentation”;

    the key Matter is that I have income from different other sources totalling one-and-a-half human-livings (£300 per week)

    so thre key point here would be
    “how many human-livings is every body else, and in point here the “unpaid ministers”
    beeing-given/taking” ?

  6. Gareth Howell
    02/02/2012 at 2:43 pm

    The nub is that Ministers and MPs apparently pay tax and NI without any legal obligation to do so. It is entirely voluntary it seems, and neither house would be willing to seek clarification through the courts on this.

    Their Parliamentary earnings are therefore unaccountable under law?

    It is arguable and cooperative, rather than capitalistic. If you are paid as a director of a business by way of attendance fee, and expenses, are you then a mere employee, and not a director at all, if you pay NI and tax?
    The tax inspector usually takes YOUR view nd proceeds accordingly, but he does take the view and not let it lie in limbo.

    After all, you are the boss, or one of the many.

  7. Lord Blagger
    02/02/2012 at 4:44 pm

    Forfeiture of title of peer.

    (1)Her Majesty may appoint a committee of Her Privy Council, of which two members at least shall be members of the Judicial Committee, to enquire
    into and report the names of any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer who have brought their peerage into disrepute.
    (2)The Committee shall have power to take evidence on oath and to administer an oath for the purpose, and may, if they think fit,
    act upon any evidence given either orally or by affidavit based on information and belief, the grounds of which are stated.
    (3)Such report shall be laid upon the table of both Houses of Parliament for the space of forty days, and, if by that time there has
    not been passed in either House a motion disapproving of the report, it shall be taken as final and presented to Her Majesty.
    (4)Where the name of any peer is included in the report, then from and after the date of the presentation of the report to Her Majesty—
    (a)The name of such person, if he or she be a peer, shall be struck out of the Peerage Roll, and all rights of such peer to receive a
    writ of summons and to sit in the House of Lords or to take part in the election of representative peers shall cease and determine:
    (b)All privileges and all rights to any dignity or title,
    whether in respect of a peerage or under any Royal Warrant or Letters Patent, shall cease and determine.

    Based on the The 1917 Deprivation of Titles Act, so with legal precedent.

    Since Michael Pownall signed a secrecy order on what peers were up to on the grounds that it would bring the lords into disrepute, and by signing that order, in a very Kafkaesque way, it makes it a fact that can’t be challenged, quite a few peers are for the chop.

    • maude elwes
      09/02/2012 at 9:18 am


      Definitely the right direction.

      However, I do feel that this is only the beginning. Too many ‘Lords’ altogether. Especially those kicked upstairs from the green room who could not longer be considered electable. Hence the tax payer funding them for life, when rid is what we want.

      Added to that is the ‘current appointments’ to this upper chamber and the kind of people selected to decide on what they think is the way the country should go. What depth and scrutiny is given to these people when the main objective is ‘political correctness’ and the right sex, race and lifestyle, is more important than caliber and suitability for the role, which takes second, third or fourth place. Come to that, any place at all is all too obscure.

      • Lord Blagger
        09/02/2012 at 10:47 am

        Yep. And even more obscure recently.

        With Lord Norton ready my emails to other people, and the Clerk of Parliament working overtime writing secrecy certificates to hide what peers have been up to.

        Now, just what is it that the Lords want to hide?

        What privileges and rights of theirs do they want to protect?

  8. MilesJSD
    03/02/2012 at 10:56 pm

    What’s so wrong with viewing all Income as coming from one’s Workplace(s) as a worker

    and all personal-expenditure as taking place in the Lifeplace, as a ‘one-human-being-&-consumer’ ?
    (Gareth Howell ? perhaps itching to ditch all that mind-dysfunctional stuff we’re still being ‘fed’
    about “taxes”, “NationalInsurance”,
    and a Worker being “an employee” but a Director not being “an employee (therefore a director not being a worker” ?)

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