Golden handshakes for Theresa May’s ministers cost taxpayers nearly £850k
Taxpayers paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds in golden handshakes during the chaotic Theresa May premiership — including to Boris Johnson and many of his new top team.
According to analysis by the Politico website, more than £360,000 was paid out in severance to MPs and peers serving in government. The sums paid to advisers who also lost their jobs at the same time brings the total cost to nearly £850,000.
Almost £850,000 was paid out to ministers who quit their jobs, were fired or who lost their seats at the 2017 snap general election, along with their numerous advisers.
According to analysis of departmental figures, 40 ministers who departed government were paid at least £361,463 during the tumultuous three years May was in power.
That includes eight secretaries of state such as Boris Johnson (now the prime minister), Dominic Raab (now foreign secretary) and Esther McVey (now a minister of state), who all resigned in protest last year over Brexit.
In total, 18 ministers who were eligible for severance pay quit or were sacked over the government’s approach to Brexit, leading to payouts totalling £164,300. Meanwhile, four members of the House of Lords who served as ministers resigned, getting more than £71,000 between them.
The Cabinet Office paid out almost £310,000 to 14 special advisers in the 2017-2018 financial year alone.
Johnson and Raab got almost £17,000 each, a quarter of their annual salary, as did Damian Green, May’s de facto deputy, who was sacked in December 2017 over “inaccurate and misleading statements” about porn on his computer, and Amber Rudd, who resigned in April last year over the Windrush scandal.
Priti Patel, who was sacked in November 2017 after holding secret meetings with Israeli officials while on holiday, also took home the payout (Patel was made home secretary by Johnson), as did Justine Greening, who refused to be moved from the education brief in a Cabinet reshuffle in January 2018.
The overall number is likely to be higher, as Gavin Williamson, who was sacked as defense secretary over a security breach row in May, and Andrea Leadsom, who quit as Commons leader over Brexit the same month, are also entitled to the cash, but reports confirming whether or not they took it are yet to be published.
Rarely has failure been so richly rewarded as it was in Theresa May’s government
Many of those who departed during the past three years have now returned to government after Johnson became prime minister — and Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jo Platt urged them to pay the cash back. Plat stated:
“Rarely has failure been so richly rewarded as it was in Theresa May’s government, In no other walk of life would people be rewarded for breaking the rules, resigning for personal ambition or getting sacked for incompetence and repeated failure.
“The fact that so many of these people are back in the Cabinet less than a year after receiving handsome payouts stinks. It’s one rule for the Tories and another for everyone else. Every one of these ministers should pay back every penny they took from the public purse.”
Perks of the job
Government rules set out that ministers are entitled to up to a quarter of their annual salary tax-free when they leave government, provided they are not reappointed within three weeks. Depending on the length of their service, advisers are entitled to up to six months’ pay when they leave, but can also have money clawed back if they return.
A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said: “Severance payments for ministers are set out in law and for special advisers are a contractual entitlement.
“The special adviser contract sets out when they are payable, including when their minister leaves office and when there is a general election. If a special adviser is re-employed following either event their severance payment must be repaid.”
Society pays a heavy price for government failure