Over the last two years, we have held two full rounds of formal public consultation; received hundreds of responses from the public; taken part in dozens of radio phone-in programmes around the country; held focus groups in different regions; reviewed research and conducted some of our own; and discussed the questions on social media.
And, on Thursday, we will publish our findings. The package we will announce will be exactly that: a package. It will be about more than pay.
One of the strands of research we pursued was a survey of public opinion about the package we put out for consultation in the summer. As a reminder, that package included a one-off pay rise, thereafter linking MPs’ pay to average earnings; reforming MPs’ pensions; scrapping the outdated resettlement payments worth tens of thousands; further tightening up the expenses rules; and calling on MPs to complete an annual account of their work to help their constituents understand what it is MPs actually do.
In some ways, the research results were unsurprising: in general, when viewing each element of the package in isolation, people supported the recommendations which take money away from MPs, and didn’t support the recommendation to increase MPs’ pay.
When asked to weigh the recommendations as a whole - as a complete package - the public view is more sophisticated than many commentators have given them credit for in the past few days.
Taking the package together, our research suggests that, if the reformed package costs more overall, 58% thought it too generous and 30% thought it about right or not generous enough.
But, when presented with a similar package which does not cost the taxpayer any extra, public opinion is almost split down the middle: 45% say it would be too generous, and 43% say it is about right or not generous enough.
This shows us something important: this is an issue where the public has a more nuanced, and split, opinion than the reactive howls of ‘outrage’ from some commentators and politicians..
We have taken the time to ask people about their opinions in detail, and we have received them in kind.
We also know that when you engage the public in a detailed consideration of the issues, as we have, they will take the time to give the kind of thoughtful and considered response this issue deserves.
The package we will announce on Thursday will, taken as a whole, not cost the taxpayer a penny more. That message has not been heard in the hubbub of the last few days. Once it is, I am hopeful that our reforms will receive the same thoughtful response that we found in our polling. And that some commentators will pause before making sweeping assumptions about what the public think without asking them.
ComRes September Report