Following IPSA’s decision following their statutory review of MPs’ pay, North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis, has set out her views below:
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was established in response to the MP expenses scandal; MPs have absolutely no control over their pay level so I’m afraid any decision surrounding pay levels is entirely a matter for IPSA. By law, the increase must apply to all MPs; it will be applied through the usual monthly payroll process which is administered by IPSA.
I have thought very carefully about whether to say that I will give the pay rise to charity. For short term political gain, this might be the right thing to do. However, I do not think that how much of my earnings I give to charity, not listing which charities I support, is something I want to make public. This is not a precedent I wish to set.
I am a strong supporter and great believer in the charitable and voluntary sector. Indeed, it is undoubtedly volunteering which has let me to think I can make a difference and stand for Parliament. I have always been involved in raising money for charities, as are both my parents. Around fifteen years ago, I took the decision while on a fair civil service salary, that I should contribute more if I gave time as well as money. I decided to give Thursdays to a variety of charitable causes, mostly local ones.
I kept a list of charities who had asked me to help, and I tried to get to them in turn. I think it is important that less popular charities should get time and attention too, so I was happy to be involved with organisations such as Oxford Urology and Fine Cell Work, a charity which helps Prisoners. I had my own criteria for choosing, which I feel after much thought, I don’t want to make public; I wouldn’t want others to make assumptions as to why I did help, for example Leonard Cheshire, but not the wonderful Katharine House Hospice.
Of particular importance to me were setting up and chairing the Benefactors’ Board for Children’s Services across our local hospital Trust, and acting as a Trustee for NorPIP. I discovered that I loved fundraising. I don’t think it is appropriate to share my personal annual fundraising target; this is a matter for me. However, it may assist you to know that I remain the Chair of the Dorchester Abbey Christmas Concert, for children’s services, which raises around £50,000. This is just one of the many events in which I have been involved over the years, and in which, time permitting, I will of course stay involved.
Of course, charitable giving works both ways. I enjoy immensely a variety of other voluntary activities, such as reading in schools, running a children’s book club (which I did for several years in our village hall), acting as a church warden and leading Sunday School; I have gained a great deal from these experiences and am grateful for this. I think it is really important to give time. For example, I loved cooking supper for BYHP earlier this year. Buying the food was of course a charitable donation, but it was the time I spent cooking and chatting with the young people which meant most to all of us. Not strictly charitable, but definitely voluntary, are the events I host for my village at home three times a year. These, like all fetes and community celebrations, are about so much more than money.
Now that I am the Member of Parliament, I can no longer give a whole day or two a week to voluntary work. However, I will remain involved with the Children’s Services charity I started, and I still enjoy attending at the very least one charitable event each weekend.
I’m also enjoying putting people in touch with each other: to date I have found a new trustee for Banbury Museum, three school governors and suggested new patrons for several organisations. If anyone you know is looking to give some time, then do let me know if you can’t find anything suitable.
I am sorry not to give you a 140 character response suitable for Twitter; I have thought about your question in some detail and I’m afraid I am not keen to answer it in those terms.
Charitable giving is very important to me, but I do take the view that the level of commitment at any one time is a personal matter and goes beyond giving a monetary donation on a monthly basis.
Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire