A Cabinet minister was not entitled to £470,000 severance pay after two days on the job

5 August 2022
What was claimed

Michelle Donelan, who was education secretary for two days, is due £470,000 in severance pay.

Our verdict

This is false. She is entitled to £16,876 in severance pay, but has said she won’t be taking it. £470,000 is much more than all the recently resigning ministers, including the Prime Minister, are due in total.

A post on Facebook first published on 8 July reads: “MICHELLE DONELAN The two day education minister…. £470,000 severance pay…. JUSTIFY THAT!” and has over 350 shares.

It’s not the case that Michelle Donelan MP is entitled to or will be getting £470,000 in severance pay. 

Certain ministers and some others in government are entitled to severance pay equal to a quarter of their salary, and for cabinet ministers like her that amount is just under £17,000. The total amount of severance pay that ministers who resigned in early July, as well as the Prime Minister when he steps down, are entitled to is much less than £470,000. 

How much are resigning ministers due?

Michelle Donelan MP was Secretary of State for Education (which is a Cabinet position) for two days this year, from 5 July to 7 July.

As we’ve written before, ministers and certain other people holding various eligible paid positions in government and the opposition are entitled to a quarter of their salary in severance pay when they leave the job. This doesn’t include parliamentary private secretaries or trade envoys, who are unpaid. And it only applies to people who are under the age of 65, and who leave the job for any reason other than their death.

It doesn’t apply to people who hold one of the eligible positions again within three weeks (or within six weeks following the dissolution of Parliament for an election). 

However, as three weeks have passed since she resigned and Ms Donelan has not held another eligible position, she is eligible to receive the severance pay. For her, this would be a quarter of £67,505, so £16,876.25.

However, Ms Donelan has said she will not be taking the money. She said on 7 July that she would instead “be donating it in full to a local charity”.

Where does the £470,000 figure come from?

The Facebook post is a screenshot of a tweet with over 3,000 retweets. In a subsequent tweet from the same account, the original poster claimed instead that £470,000 was the total amount, saying: “LEST WE FORGET: Every minister who resigns is entitled to severance pay totalling £470,000…. Even those in post for less than two full days… (Michelle Donelan).” However, that is still false.

It’s not clear where this exact figure came from, but around the time of mass government resignations in early July, the Liberal Democrats calculated that Boris Johnson and the ministers who resigned before him would be entitled to a total of £423,995 in severance pay.

That figure was significantly too high, as it included several parliamentary private secretaries, who are unpaid, so don’t get severance pay when they leave. The Liberal Democrats then released another analysis saying the total cost would be around £245,000. As we wrote last month, that figure appears to be about right.

Image courtesy of Adi Ulici

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