The facts around former PMs’ £115,000 annual ‘allowance’

21 October 2022
What was claimed

Former prime ministers receive £115,000 a year for life.

Our verdict

Former prime ministers are entitled to claim up to £115,000 a year after they leave office, but this is for expenses associated with continuing public duties, rather than a salary.

Following the resignation of Liz Truss, many people are sharing claims on social media that she will receive an allowance or a “salary” of £115,000 for life as a former prime minister.

It is true that all former prime ministers are entitled to claim up to £115,000 a year for expenses they incur while fulfilling public duties associated with being a former prime minister. But it is not correct to describe this as a “salary” or a “pension”, and to say that former prime ministers simply “get” this money, as some have, could fail to make this distinction clear.

The scheme is called the Public Duty Costs Allowance (PDCA). We have written about it before in a fact check about ministers’ severance pay.

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What is the PDCA?

The PDCA was set up after Baroness Thatcher left office, and is intended “to assist former Prime Ministers still active in public life”.

The guidance says: “Payments are made only to meet the actual cost of continuing to fulfil public duties.

“The costs are a reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office costs and secretarial costs arising from their special position in public life. The allowance is not paid to support private or parliamentary duties. The PDCA is in addition to any constituency office which they may maintain as a Member of Parliament.”

Most former prime ministers claim the full amount, or close to it, in the accounts that are published each year.

In 2020/21, which is the most recent year we have accounts for, Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron all claimed more than £110,000, while Theresa May claimed about £58,000.

Data on total payments under the PDCA to all former prime ministers have also been published in the past.

It is not clear from the guidance exactly what kind of public duties, and what kind of costs, are reimbursed with the PDCA.

In answer to a parliamentary question last year, Julia Lopez, then parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, said: “The costs are a reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office and secretarial costs.

“These costs can include diary support, Met Police protection on public visits, correspondence, staffing at public visits, support to charitable work, social media platforms and managing and maintaining ex-PMs office (staff, payroll, admin).”

But when Full Fact asked the Cabinet Office about some reports that former prime ministers continue to receive security after they leave office, which reportedly includes a chauffeur-driven car, it told us that protection is a separate issue from the PCDA, and is provided by the Metropolitan Police according to the level of risk.

This seems at odds with Ms Lopez’s earlier comments that protection can be paid for out of PCDA funds. The Home Office subsequently told us: “It is our long-standing policy not to provide detailed information on [protective security] arrangements, as doing so could compromise their integrity and affect individuals’ security.”

Additionally, former prime ministers can also claim an additional amount to contribute towards their staff pension costs. This is limited to a maximum of 10% of the PDCA.

What’s been claimed about the scheme?

In the aftermath of Ms Truss’s resignation, the scheme has variously been described as a pension, a salary, a grant and severance pay.

On 21 October, a tweet from Sky News (later deleted) said: “Liz Truss told to forgo £115,000 lifetime salary”, and the payment was initially described as a salary in the linked article (although it was changed to “allowance” shortly after Full Fact contacted Sky News).

On ITV’s This Morning [10:10] programme 17 October, the former MP Gyles Brandreth said “if Liz Truss does go after five weeks, she’s got £115,000 for life”.

And a tweet from the Guardian on 21 October described it as a “£115,000 annual grant”.

Many people on Facebook have described the payment as a “pension”.

So did the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey. When asked about the £115,000 payment on LBC radio on the morning of 21 October, he said: “Most people have to work at least 35 years to get a full state pension. I think working 45 days shouldn’t give you a pension that is many, many times what ordinary people out there get after a lifetime of work.”

ITV News also confused the payment with ministers’ entitlement to severance pay in an article later the same day. 

Is Liz Truss eligible to get it?

We’ve seen some speculation on social media that the payment may only be available to people who have been prime minister for at least two months, and so Ms Truss would not be eligible.

We can find no evidence to support this. The guidance document on the government’s website mentions no minimum time in office, and says: “All former Prime Ministers are eligible to draw on the PDCA.”

Full Fact contacted the Cabinet Office, which confirmed that “all former Prime Ministers” are eligible for the PDCA.

What pension does an ex-PM get?

Since 2015, when the parliamentary pension system was reformed, there has been no special pension for prime ministers.

Instead, like other ministers, they are now automatically enrolled in the Ministerial Pension Scheme when they are appointed to the job. As MPs, they are also enrolled in the MPs’ Pension Scheme when elected to the House of Commons.

Both schemes provide a pension when someone retires altogether, not when they stop being a minister or an MP. It is possible to opt out of them, or to make additional payments above the standard amount.

Ms Truss has been an MP since 2010 and a minister since 2012, so she will have been contributing to both pension schemes for a number of years, in both the old and the new systems, unless she opted out.

The value of the standard contribution she makes each month depends on the salary she receives. This will have risen when she became Prime Minister, which pays a slightly higher salary than her previous job as foreign secretary. Although ultimately this will have very little effect on the final size of her pension, since she will have received a Prime Minister’s salary for less than two months.

Ms Truss is currently 47, so she may not retire for about another 20 years. It is impossible to know how much money she will receive from her pension, which depends both on her past and future contributions, and any other pension arrangements she may make.

It is certainly not true that ex-PMs automatically receive a pension worth £115,000 a year.

What about the pay-off?

All former ministers, including the Prime Minister, are entitled to a one-off severance payment of one quarter of their annual salary when they leave the job for any reason other than their death—as long as they don’t take another paying job in government within three weeks.

We have written about this in detail in another fact check.

For Ms Truss, the severance payment will be £18,860 (which is a quarter of the Prime Minister’s salary of £75,440), instead of the £16,876.25 she was already entitled to in her previous job as foreign secretary.

She will continue to receive an MP’s salary of £84,144 if she returns to the backbenches.

Update 26 October 2022

This article has been updated with additional information about the pension scheme, security provision and severance pay of former prime ministers.

We took a stand for good information.

As detailed in our fact check, Sky News has amended its article. 

Sky News also deleted its tweet.

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