MPs heed call for pay rise restraint

MPs tonight accepted the inevitable and bowed to Government demands for restraint in awarding themselves a 2.25% pay rise for this year.

Graham Dines

MPs tonight accepted the inevitable and bowed to Government demands for restraint in awarding themselves a 2.25% pay rise for this year.

The decision was taken without a vote after a backbench move to raise salaries by up to 2.3% this year and about 4.7% next year was rejected by 196 votes to 155, majority 41.

A move to boost salaries with £650 a year "catch-up" payments over the next three years was also rejected by 224 to 123, majority 101.

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It will be the last time MPs debate and vote on their own pay rise after they agreed to link future increases to those given to other public sector workers like doctors and teachers.

Essex North Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin was one of the backbench rebels, refusing to heed the call by Gordon Brown and David Cameron for restraint and instead voted for the recommendation of the independent commission on MPs' pays headed Sir John Baker.

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“If you set up and independent commission to make a recommendation then you should go with that recommendation,” said Mr Jenkin.

“I don't think that MPs' pay increases ever go down well with the rest of the country. Most members of the public probably think our pay should be cut.

“I was deputy chairman of candidates for the conservative party and most of the people coming forward to try and become MPs are going to accept a very large reduction in their income and standard of living in order to become MPs and there is a limit to how much you an ask people to make sacrifices simply to become an MP.”

Commons leader Harriet Commons hoped that MPs would be able now to get on with their work “free from the innuendo and misrepresentations about pay, which have hung over this House too long.”

Ministerial salary increases have already been scrapped in a bid to set an example at a time of inflationary pressures, stoked by big rises in fuel and food costs.

Ms Harman said that as MPs were paid from the public purse “we should show the same discipline in our pay increases as we expect from the public sector.

“And, for the future . . . .like everyone else (we) should not decide on our own pay and should not vote on our own pay increases.”

Bury St Edmunds Tory MP David Ruffley abstained from voting.

He said: “I think it quite wrong in this day and age that MPs vote on their own pay and conditions.

“The public does not like MPs voting in this way so I decided to abstain on principle. My view is that MPs pay and conditions should be set by a single body that sets the pay and conditions of the military and judges. “This should be an independent pay body which parliament has to follow.”

Colchester Liberal Democrat Bob Russell voted for the lower increase, but said extra money was needed by MPs to pay for extra staff. “Our workload is just burgeoning. Increasingly, members of the public are going to their MPs to help with their difficulties and it is causing my staff to work longer than their contracted hours.

“I can understand why some MPs demand extra money - they are used to high salaries in the city and other professions and they deserve similar pay for serving the public.”

Mr Russell said he used all of his staffing allowance to pay his employees, but would only be claiming about half the maximum he was entitled to for the cost of having a house in London.

Labour's Chris Mole said he voted for restraint in pay. The Ipswich MP said: “It is appropriate for MPs to set an example, especially when workers in the public sector are having their pay rises restrained.”

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