Minister quits because £120,000 salary is not enough to support his family
A Government minister has quit politics claiming he cannot live in London on his salary and expenses of nearly £120,000.
Mark Simmonds said he was quitting as a Foreign Office minister and was standing down as an MP because he was unwilling to carry on staying in hotels while his family were hundreds of miles away in Lincolnshire.
Mr Simmonds is the second minister to quit the department in less than a week, after Baroness Warsi quit over the Government’s policy towards Gaza.
Labour said the double resignation had left the Foreign Office rudderless just as humanitarian catastrophes were unfolding in Gaza and Iraq.
The former Africa minister said he was leaving the Foreign Office and standing down as an MP because the “intolerable“ pressure on his family life. He is being replaced by James Duddridge, a former Government whip.
The unexpected resignation surprised many in Westminster coming months after Mr Simmonds had told his constituents in Boston and Skegness that he would stand for re-election. However, the minister insisted there was "nothing sinister" behind the announcement.
Mr Simmonds actually agreed to quit with David Cameron at last month’s Cabinet reshuffle. However it was delayed until Monday to allow him to chair a United Nations meeting on the Congo in New York last week.
There were claims that Mr Simmonds had resigned fearing a tough fight from the UK Independence Party at May's election, despite a 12,000 majority in 2010, although this was firmly denied by Mr Simmonds.
Mr Simmonds is paid £89,435 a year as a minister and MP and is entitled to £27,875 a year to rent and pay for a flat with him and his family.
However he said this did not “stretch“ far enough and so he stayed in hotels during the week when he was in London. His wife is also paid up to £25,000 a year to act as his office manager.
In an interview with The Telegraph he said: “I have to stay in a different hotel room every week and any parent would hate that – and I do.
“The accommodation allowance needs to provide for families – and it doesn’t. When my children are on holiday they can’t come and stay with me in London - I can’t see them.“
“It has a really negative impact on the quality of life. I am not the only one who feels like this, but I am the only one at the moment who is doing anything about it.“
He said the new expenses system – which was reformed after the 2009 scandal which was exposed by the Telegraph - was putting people off from becoming MPs.
He said: “The pendulum has swung too far back the other way. It is almost impossible for an MP and a government minister with children to have a normal family life and that can only be a deterrent to people wanting to come into Parliament.“
Half as many people were applying to be MPs today compared in 2001, he said, adding that “the negative impact on family life is a significant part of that“.
He added: “If you want to attract normal people into Parliament to reflect the views of the population you have to got to put in place the support mechanisms to deliver that. I don’t believe those support mechanisms are in place and that is why I am going.“
Mr Simmonds later told the BBC he was standing down over the fear that he would not see his three children, who are aged 15, 13 and 12, grow up.
He said: “My children are growing up, my eldest daughter will be 21 by the time the 2020 election comes by and I don’t want her to turn around and say ‘I never saw my father, my daddy in that time’.“