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Special report: Will your MP take an 11% pay rise?
As the Chancellor announced austerity measures were set to continue in his Autumn Statement last week, MPs have been discussing whether to accept an inflation-busting 11% pay rise.
Senior politicians have criticised the recommendation by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) as they sought to avoid a damaging backlash from hard-pressed voters.
But, in an anonymous survey last year, the average figure given by MPs for the pay they deserve was £86,250 and a fifth of those questioned said they should get £95,000 or more.
The recommendation by Ipsa will see salaries for MPs rise by £7,600 to £74,000 after the 2015 general election.
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In Brighton and Hove, reaction to the increase has been mixed among the city’s Parliamentary representatives.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has been vociferous in her opposition to the increase and her position has not wavered.
She said: “Accepting a pay rise of 11%, particularly at a time when so many of our constituents are struggling to make ends meet, would be absolutely wrong.”
Her two neighbouring Conservative MPs also said they did not think the pay rise was warranted.
Mike Weatherley, Conservative MP for Hove, said: “Although the changes are ultimately being made for future Members of Parliament, I do not personally feel that a pay rise is necessary, especially in these tough economic times.
“I must say that I was quite surprised by the proposals. Nevertheless, Ipsa is independent for good reason and its chief executive will no doubt have to justify this decision over the coming months.”
Simon Kirby, Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “I have supported a pay freeze for MPs since 2010 and have not and will not take a pay rise in this Parliament.”
But Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative MP for Worthing West, said politicians should not feel under pressure to give away the additional cash.
He said: “We have not received the Ipsa report. As it happens, I do not think MPs should feel pressure to answer this kind of question nor should most of them feel the need to forgo the salary that should be set for the beginning of each Parliament and not changed before the following election.
“I have repaid my mortgage; I have a working wife; our children are off our hands; I do not need the full salary now – but when aged 37 with a wife and a third child just born, I faced leaving the Commons or going broke or crooked.”
Prominent frontbenchers from all three main parties said the move was unacceptable when most public sector workers were getting no more than 1% extra a year.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the public would find it “utterly incomprehensible” if Ipsa defied concerted calls from David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to show restraint.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond indicated that he would not accept the extra cash while armed forces pay was being pegged back, and suggested cabinet ministers would agree a united approach.
But Labour ex-cabinet minister Jack Straw defended the move – to be confirmed on Thursday – arguing the failure of MPs’ pay to keep pace with comparable public sector jobs was deterring talented people of “modest backgrounds” from standing.
In an effort to mitigate the rise, Ipsa is believed to have also drawn up a tougherthan- expected squeeze on pension schemes, forcing MPs to pay in more and the taxpayer less, on top of a crackdown on claims for dinner, taxis and tea and biscuits.
MPs were stripped of the power to set their own pay in the wake of the revelations of widespread abuses of taxpayer expenses, leaving them little or no room to block Ipsa’s proposals short of changing its role by law.
Ipsa’s research found two-thirds of MPs believe they are underpaid and the watchdog’s chairman Sir Ian Kennedy has insisted politicians’ pay must “catch up” after years of being suppressed.
The hefty rise is certain to play badly with voters at the general election however, with many candidates – especially those in marginal seats – feeling under pressure to say they will divert the cash from their pay packets to good causes.
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “That an 11% pay rise is even being proposed, when living standards for everyone else are falling and poverty is rife, shows a political class wildly out of touch.
“AnyMPthat thinks this increase would be anything other than a complete scandal should seriously consider their position.”
Former House of Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd said political leaders should accept Ipsa’s recommendation “as unpalatable as it may be”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour: “I know that (the pay rise) is distasteful to a lot of people, but at the same time they have cut downthe expenses and various other things. And if you give it to an independent tribunal then that has to be accepted.
“Parliament is between a rock and a hard place unfortunately on this.
“The taxpaying public aren’t going to like it, but I think they’re just going to have to take it on the chin.”
Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion
“Many people who are in work are looking forward to either no pay rise next year, or at best another below inflation increase, while many others are still without work.
“Things are particularly tough for public sector workers, who saw their pay drop by 0.8% in the year to August.
“MPs have to be in touch with the people they represent. That’s why I think an 11% pay rise sends out completely wrong message.
"I support the principle of an independent body to make decisions on MPs’ pay, but I had no idea the recommendation would be so out of touch with the economic reality for so many. I was one of the first MPs to come out and completely reject the hike recommended for 2015.
"The system won’t allow me not to take the pay increase, so if reelected I’d donate the extra money to a local charity.”
Francis Maude, Horsham
“All parties agreed in 2009 to set up Ipsa so that MPs would no longer have a say in setting
their pay and pensions. So this is not a decision for the Government or for MPs, it is solely for Ipsa.
“The Government made it clear in the consultation that Ipsa should take into account overall public service pay and pensions restraint when addressing the issue of MPs’ pay.
“We are disappointed that Ipsa has not done so. These recommendations are not final. There will be a further statutory review by IPSA after the election.
“We will continue to make the case that Ipsa should take into account overall public sector pay and pensions restraint, and that the cost of politics should go down and not up”.
Stephen Lloyd, Eastbourne
“I am extremely angry that the independent watchdog has chosen to raise MPs’ pay, when many people around the country have been feeling the pinch. Allegedly, this independent group was set up to ensure that MP’s salaries and benefits remain grounded in reality, but instead they have recommended we get a ludicrously over the top increase.
"This is irresponsible, and I do wonder whether the chief executive of Ipsa is trying to provoke the Great British public. I hope common sense will prevail after 2015, but can categorically state that if I have the privilege to be re-elected I will only accept a wage increase in line with average earning increases.
"Any remainder will be given to good causes, such as the Eastbourne Sunshine Carnival, and other local initiatives in my constituency.”
Sir Peter Bottomley, Worthing West
"Each party leader will say this is the wrong amount at the wrong time.
“The fact is, it was the leaders who set up the Ipsa system who are given the responsibility to set the level of pay and people can't interfere with it. The only way MPs could overturn this is to defy their leaders and pass a law saying Ipsa is abolished or it will be ignored.
“That's impractical given the public interest in setting up Ipsa in the first place.”
Mike Weatherley, Hove
“The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was set up in 2009 after the public made clear that a great number of expenses claims by Members of Parliament were totally unacceptable.
"Both the salaries and expenses of Parliamentarians are now decided independently as a way to ensure impartiality. I understand the plans will see a curb in the pensions, expenses and living costs for Parliamentarians alongside a salary increase.
Although the changes are ultimately being made for future Members of Parliament, I do not personally feel that a pay rise is necessary, especially in these tough economic times. I was quite surprised by the proposals.
"Nevertheless, Ipsa is independent for good reason and its chief executive will no doubt have to justify this decision over the coming months.”
Norman Baker, Lewes
“Before Ipsa was brought in I was at the forefront of those challenging the existing pay
and expenses arrangements for MPs, and at that time I argued it was completely inappropriate for MPs to decide their own pay and conditions, something the public strongly supported.
“Going forward I made it clear that I would support any decisions that Ipsa makes with regard to MPs’ salaries, whether that was for an increase, no change, or a decrease.”
Simon Kirby, Kemptown
“I have supported a pay freeze for MPs since 2010 and have not and will not take a pay rise
in this parliament.
“I believe that Ipsa should take into account overall public service pay and pensions restraint.
“It is incredibly frustrating and disappointing that Ipsa would ignore this.
“Since being elected I have always supported reducing the cost of politics, for instance by voting to reduce the number of MPs and I do not support the proposals to increase MPs pay at this time.”
Nicholas Soames, Mid Sussex
“I believe it is totally inappropriate at a time of considerable austerity and constraint to put forward a proposal along these lines.
“I believe the cost of politics should go down and that Parliament should set an example on the question of restraint and I will not therefore be taking the pay rise proposed if I am re-elected in 2015.”
Gregory Barker, Bexhill & Battle
“In the current financial climate this is a very irresponsible recommendation from Ipsa. This is not the last word and there will be a further statutory review by Ipsa after the election.
“The Government made it clear in the consultation that Ipsa should take into account overall public service pay and pensions restraint when addressing the issue of MPs’ pay. I am very disappointed that Ipsa has not done so.
“We will continue to make the case that Ipsa should take into account overall public sector pay and pensions restraint and that the cost of politics should go down and not up.”
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