Labour insists junior ministers' salaries have not increased

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi is however claiming that whereas during the 2008-2012 legislature, parliamentary secretaries were paid a salary of €40,000, they are today paid roughly €60,000 

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has claimed that parliamentary secretaries have been given a pay rise by 'stealth'
Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi has claimed that parliamentary secretaries have been given a pay rise by 'stealth'

The Labour Party has accused Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi of lying over his insistence that government parliamentary secretaries have been given a pay-rise by stealth.

In a statement on Sunday, Labour said that Azzopardi had made a number of contradictory declarations regarding junior ministers’ pay package, and was only persisting with his claims to make up for the fact that he had been proven wrong yesterday.

On Friday, Azzopardi lashed out at the government over media reports claiming that parliamentary secretaries had had their salary “doubled by stealth”.

“[Salaries were doubled by stealth] from 2017 (€33,895) to 2018 (€60,796). Shame on all those who cried blue murder during a PN led administration for the honorarium increase. Shame on all those who cried foul pre-2013 from the MP honorarium to be added to the PS’s salary and now have had their silence bought,” Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi was referred to public outcry over revelations back in December 2010 that the Prime Minister, ministers and parliamentary secretaries had agreed to no longer forfeit their parliamentary honoraria. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries were paid 70% of an MP’s honoraria, in addition to their salary.

In a reaction, the government yesterday said the claim was “completely false” and that parliamentary secretaries’ salaries were “exactly the same” as they were in 2013. It said that reports claiming an increase had compared salaries from half of 2017 to those for the whole of 2018.

But Azzopardi has continued to insist that there had in fact been an increase.

“Joseph Muscat must explain one thing, for the time being: how did the salary of his parliamentary secretaries in 2018 reach €60,000, when that was the exact same amount of income a parliamentary secretary in 2008 which included their salary and honoraria for being an MP,” he wrote in a post on Sunday.

Uncertainty over ministers’ official salary

It is unclear what MPs, ministers and parliamentary secretaries earn currently, however a 2011 investigation by the National Audit Office into the honoraria controversy lists a parliamentary secretary’s salary as being 105% of a Scale 1 salary, along with a number of other perks and allowances.

In 2018, a Scale 1 salary amounted to €44,782, which would make up a total salary for a parliamentary secretary somewhere in the region of €60,000 when taking allowances into account.

A look at the declared income by parliamentary secretaries for 2018 shows that the all parliamentary secretaries bar Aaron Farrugia, declared an income of roughly €60,000, with many declaring that the income was for their role was for their role of parliamentary secretary.

Income reported in MPs declaration of assets varies according to the manner in which it has been reported as not all MPs give a breakdown of their income, nor do they specify whether the amount listed is inclusive of all allowances.

Income declared by parliamentary secretaries for the year 2014 ranged from €47,758 (Chris Agius) to €61,990 (Jose Herrera).

Similar declarations for the year 2011, under the previous Nationalist administration show Clyde Puli, Mario Galea and Jason Azzopardi himself declaring an income in the region of €65,000.

Azzopardi can’t explain €82,000 declaration

In its statement, the Labour Party published Azzopardi's declaration of assets from 2010 – the year it was revealed that cabinet members did not forfeit their honorarium – showing that the then parliamentary secretary had earned €82,000 for this role. Azzopardi and his colleagues had given each other and extra €22,000, Labour said.

“The only difference after the change in government in 2013 was that this increase was reduced, with parliamentary secretaries today earning much less than the person trying to create a new lie,” the PL said.

Asked for a reaction, Azzopardi noted that all parliamentary secretaries had declared the same income that year.

“That was the only year in which that income was declared by all the parliamentary secretaries between 2008 and 2012. I have no access to any documentation to explain its breakdown, except to state that it was not due to the payment of the honorarium, which started being paid in May 2008 and duly declared by all parliamentary secretaries in their declaration of assets,” Azzopardi said.

He insisted that all other declaration of assets submitted during that legislature indicate that he had earned €65,000 from both the honorarium and salary of a parliamentary secretary.

Azzopardi said that while it was true that parliamentary secretaries were declaring an income of roughly €60,000 both in 2011 and in 2018, the fact that cabinet members stopped receiving the honoraria meant that the declared income for 2018 should have been in the region of €45,000.

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