Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Guide: Europe's MPs' pay packages

graph

MPs' pay continues to provoke controversy across Europe.

From moonlighting or employing a student son to buying nappies on a ministerial credit card, MPs are under constant scrutiny for what they earn and the perks they enjoy.

Here, BBC reporters give the view from five European countries - and the European Parliament.

FRANCE - HUGH SCHOFIELD

The 577 members of France's National Assembly get a monthly salary of 5,180 euros (£4,769) after social security deductions but before income tax.

On top of this, they receive an expenses allowance of 5,790 euros a month for lodging, travel and entertainment, as well as 8,950 euros for staff.

Deputies qualify for free first-class rail travel around the country, as well as 40 return flights a year between Paris and their constituencies.

The French National Assembly
Deputies continue to receive a salary even after they lose their seats

Deputies from overseas departments such as Martinique or Reunion get 26 return flights a year free.

Phone-calls and letters sent from the National Assembly are also free of charge.

None of this has been the cause of controversy in France. On the other hand, certain additional privileges have come under attack.

For example, it is a little-known fact that deputies qualify for housing loans at extremely low interest on amounts up to 76,000 euros (£69,968).

This was originally devised to help poor MPs from the provinces to find affordable lodging in Paris, but is now a generally-used perk.

In addition, deputies have their own social security system which works heavily in their favour.

MPS' PERKS AROUND EUROPE
Ultra-low interest housing loans: France
New kitchen allowance for second homes: UK
Annual rail card: Germany
Free flights to Rome: Italy
Rent-free second homes: Sweden

If an MP fails to find employment after losing their seat, he/she receives a full salary for the first six months, then a gradually declining proportion of the salary for a further two-and-a-half years.

The pension system is also rather special. During a deputy's first three mandates, each year's contribution counts twice. So, after 15 years, it is as if they have worked 30.

Certain minor perks are also much-prized. Deputies continue to be called Monsieur le député or Madame la députée for the rest of their lives, even after losing their seats.

They also have the right to continue frequenting the Assembly building, the Palais Bourbon, opening up a lucrative new profession for some ex-parliamentarians as lobbyists.

SWEDEN - JULIAN ISHERWOOD

In Sweden, members of parliament are as open to scrutiny as one would expect from a country that prides itself on being one of the world's most transparent democracies.

Under transparency laws, any Swedish citizen can acquire any information from any state agency without censure, unless the information regards secret documents involving other states.

The Swedish Riksdag (courtesy Melker Dahlstrand, Riksdag)
Second homes and travel expenses are provided by the parliament

It was under these laws that the then crown princess of the Social Democratic Party, Deputy Prime Minister Mona Sahlin, was forced in 1995 to relinquish her cabinet post following the discovery that she had used her ministerial credit card to buy nappies for her baby.

She has since been elected leader of the Social Democrats.

The already strict rules governing MP transparency were further strengthened as of March this year when it became mandatory for MPs to publish their ownership of domestic or foreign shares, including the names of the companies, on holdings of more than 82,000 Swedish Krona (7,491 euro, £6,897)

In order to avoid potential conflicts of interest, MPs must also publish their membership of company boards or any other official involvement in companies such as accounting services.

The Swedish Parliament or Riksdag does not provide staff for members, although it does provide some funding for staff at central offices of parties that are represented in parliament.

Election campaign costs for existing members of parliament are, however, tax deductible.

Monthly salaries for Swedish MPs are at a flat rate of 52,900 Krona (4,832 euro, £4,448) apart from the speaker of the House and the prime minister - both of whom receive a flat 126,000 Krona.

External income over and above members' salaries must be made public.

At the same time, travel and home office expenses are covered by parliament, although travel must be undertaken in the cheapest possible way, and must be booked through the parliamentary travel office.

Second homes in Stockholm for members who live outside the capital are provided rent-free by parliament, which owns some 250 apartments.

Those MPs who choose to live in apartments they have found themselves receive a flat 7,000 Krona (639 euro, £588) compensation, but cannot claim for improvements to that accommodation, whereas the state pays for repairs and improvements to state-owned apartments.

All members are provided with a parliamentary credit card, but cards are personal and paid by members themselves.

Official expenses paid using the card must be invoiced separately to Parliament.

ITALY - CHRISTIAN FRASER

Italy has the highest number of elected parliamentarians in Europe.

Without counting life senators, there is one parliamentarian for every 60,371 inhabitants, compared with one for 91,824 people in the UK, 112,502 in Germany and 560,747 in the United States.

Italy's Chamber of Deputies
A TV programme claimed fewer than 10% of staff were paid by the rules

Political journalists Gian Antonio Stella and Sergio Rizzo have exposed the excesses of the political class in a new book, The Caste: How Italian Politicians Have Become Untouchable.

Their figures are taken from the balance sheets of both houses of parliament.

Their book is an extraordinary insight into the corruption, inefficiency and greed that they argue permeates every level of Italian government.

The basic salary for senators is 5,235 euros (£4,813) a month, but on top of that they claim daily expenses, which on average amount to an extra 4,000 euros (£3,679) a month.

They receive free flight and train tickets to and from Rome and they are also allowed to claim further expenses for travelling by car.

When you factor in the average phone bill - 340 euros (£312) a month - the real monthly income, say the authors, is nearer to 12,000 euros (£11,026) a month.

The politicians are expected to pay their researchers out of this monthly income but research shows that on average secretaries and researchers are paid between 500 and 1500 euros a month - a fraction of the money that is claimed.

The satirical television programme "Le Iene", broadcast on Italia 1, reported that, in the lower house of parliament, out of 629 researchers and secretaries employed by deputies, only 54 were employed according to the rules.

All the others, said the programme, were paid in cash under the table.

The basic salary of an Italian MEP is 149,215 euros annually (£137,113), double the salaries of the Germans and the British, three times the salary of the Portuguese, and four times that of the Spanish.

Their travel expenses are calculated automatically on the most expensive air ticket to Brussels - without the need for any documentation.

Year on year, the expenses of the Italian parliament have grown.

La Caste estimates the running costs of Italy's presidential palace is now four times that of Buckingham Palace - and while German citizens pay a maximum of 89m euros per year for public funding of political parties, Italians pay 270m.

GERMANY - TRISTANA MOORE

A German MP receives a monthly salary of 7,339 euros gross (£6,740).

On top of that, an MP gets extra expenses amounting to 3,782 euros (£3,473), which cover living or entertainment costs and an annual rail card.

The MP also receives 13,660 euros (£12,547) to run the office in the parliament and in the constituency, which includes salaries for staff.

The parliamentary rules governing what German MPs have to declare are pretty strict. An MP is obliged to declare to the president of the German parliament:

  • The job he/she had before entering parliament
  • How much money he/she earns from any extra paid job carried out while being an MP which exceeds 1,000 euros

German MPs have to register any shareholdings and company directorships, as well as membership of any associations or organisations.

They also have to register any plans for the future, regarding activities they intend to pursue after their parliamentary career.

The MPs' interests are published on the Bundestag's website, so the public can access the information.

But there is less detailed information about the extra money earned by MPs. The extra cash earned is presented in three categories, ranging from level 1 (meaning extra income from 1,000 - 3,500 euros) to level 3 (more than 7,000 euros each month).

There are no official rules for second homes which MPs may have.

If they have a second residence, they are still liable to pay tax like everyone else.

As for extra allowances, like other members of the public, German MPs have to fill out an annual tax return, which would include any allowance.

UNITED KINGDOM - EMMA GRIFFITHS

MPs are paid an annual salary of £63,291 (68,554 euros) and receive allowances for the costs of running an office

MPs' expenses at Westminster have been published annually under nine main headings - including a second homes allowance, travel costs, staff pay and stationery.

In 2007 - the last year for which figures are available - claims ranged from the lowest of £44,551 (48,252 euros) to the highest of £185,421 (200,832). On average, each MP claimed £135,600 each (146,870 euros).

MPs who do not represent inner London constituencies are entitled to claim up to about £24,000 a year towards the cost of a second home, or rented property - usually claimed for a property near Westminster.

It allows claims for items like televisions, furniture, new kitchens and includes a £25-a-day "subsistence allowance", for food, coffees and other items on days of Parliamentary business. Receipts are not required on items worth less than £25.

MPs are given up to £90,505 a year to employ staff and there is no rule against employing family members although they are named and put on a register.

Travel expenses are broken down into different headings, such as car, rail and European travel, when the claims are published and are not limited.

MPs can claim business-class air fares and first-class rail travel for parliamentary business within the UK and up to three visits a year to European institutions, as well as up to 15 return journeys a year for spouses or children.

Other expenses claimed by MPs include a £2,812 London supplement for MPs representing inner London seats, a stationery allowance, an IT allowance of up to £3,000 and a £10,000-a-year communications allowance.

MPs who lose their seat or stand down at a general election are also entitled to a "resettlement allowance" worth between 50% and 100% of their annual salary.

In Scotland, MSPs get paid £55,381 (59,990 euros) - it is linked to Westminster MPs' salaries, if they get a rise, so do MSPs. Allowances are stricter and are due to tighten up further after the next election when MSPs will not be able to claim mortgage payments at all, only rent for a second home. At the moment the limit for accommodation allowances is £11,900 and you have to live a certain distance away from the Parliament to be able to claim it. MSPs also have to provide receipts for everything and these are all published quarterly. They can claim up to £56,000 a year for office and staff costs. Under the new scheme MSPs cannot claim for travel costs of relatives.

In Wales, assembly members get paid £50,692 (54,837 euros). Those who represent seats outside Cardiff can claim £13,000 a year for second homes - like Westminster MPs they can use it to claim for mortgage interest, rent or TVs and bathroom refurbishment. They can also claim up to £15,000 to maintain their constituency office and can employ up to three full time staff, whose salaries must be within set scales. They are entitled to travel claims throughout the UK when on assembly business. They can claim up to 12 single journeys a year for a partner or a child and up to 18 return journeys for staff. Members journeys are not capped.

In Northern Ireland, MLAs are paid £42,461 (46,048 euros) and do not get a second homes allowance. They can claim up to £72,000 a year for an office costs allowance to cover staffing, renting and equipment for their constituency bases, bills and stationery. They can also claim for some refreshments for visitors and TVs and radios for the constituency offices. They do not get a second homes allowance. They can also claim expenses for travel while on assembly duties. Like Westminster MPs those who step down or lose their seat are entitled to a "resettlement allowance" based on their length of service which amounts to between 50% and 100% of their salary.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT - BRIAN WHEELER

MEPs get paid the same as politicians in their national parliaments, which varies widely. In the case of British MEPs it is £63,000 a year. From July MEPs will have the option to have their salary paid in euros, which at the moment would give them a pay boost of up to £20,000.

It is not MEPs' salaries which normally cause controversy, but their allowances and perks.

Basic pension arrangements for MEPs and MPs are the same, but MEPs can also choose to contribute to an additional, and very generous, European Parliament pension scheme.

They get paid a 287 euros allowance, to pay for hotels, taxis and food for every day they work in the Parliament.

They are also reimbursed for weekly travel from Britain for the cost of an open economy ticket plus an allowance for distance travelled. This was worked out in an era before low-cost air travel and opponents say it can amount to a tax free bonus of £10,000 a year for each MEP.

The European Parliament also pays 190,000 euros a year towards staff costs. They are also entitled to £36,000 a year to run their offices in their home countries.



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific