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December 13, 2013 / politicsbitesize

Pay increase for MPs

ParliamentFor once the general public may have to feel sorry for its politicians as the row over the proposed pay rise for MPs came to a head.  This week, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) recommended that the pay of MPs rise by 11%.  The independent watchdog has confirmed that it plans to increase salaries from around £66,000 to £74,000 in 2015.

However, it is the decision on whether to accept the pay rise or not that is causing the most consternation in the Commons.  On Tuesday, the Prime Minister insisted that there was no need to make an immediate decision about accepting the inflation-busting hike. But this attempt to kick the issue into the long grass was seized upon by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who recognised that only the rejection of the proposal would show politicians in a good light.

By Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron had changed his tune.  He told the House that accepting an £8,000 pay rise was ‘simply unacceptable’ at a time of austerity and pay restraint for other public sector workers:  ‘I think it would be wrong for MPs to get a big pay rise at a time of public sector pay restraint. All three party leaders agree on that, we have all made that point to IPSA. I think we should be clear that what they have said is not a final recommendation.’

The Prime Minister then went on to intimate that he would be prepared to dissolve IPSA if it did not abandon its plan. A move such as this would require legislation to remove powers from the watchdog, which was set up in the aftermath of the 2009 expenses scandal in order to fix MPs’ pay and expenses.  To disband such an influential regulator could prove to be controversial, not least because the power to vote on their own salaries would be handed back to MPs.

IPSA’s chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy, defended its decision by explaining that, ‘we are sweeping away the out-of-date and overly generous benefits, and introducing a one-off uplift in pay … We have designed these reforms so they do not cost the taxpayer a penny more. When taken with the tens of millions we have saved by reforming the business cost and expenses regime, we have saved the taxpayer over £35m with the changes we have introduced since 2010.

But despite this explanation from IPSA, David Cameron was steadfast in joining the call for the pay rise to be abandoned.  In an open letter to the PM, Ed Miliband claims that the public is calling for the issue to be resolved before the next general election.  It is this mounting pressure from the leader of the opposition and others that is putting Mr Cameron in an awkward position. In order to resolve the issue, further consultation with IPSA and the public must be sought.

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