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MPs lined up on Sunday to condemn plans by an independent body to grant them an 11-percent pay rise, embarrassed at how such largesse will be perceived at a time of deep public spending cuts.
Government ministers have said they would not accept the extra cash.
But they have little power over the issue, after members of parliament (MPs) delegated salary decisions to a body of unelected officials in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is expected to recommend this week that MPs’ pay rises from £66,396 to £74,000 a year after the 2015 election.
Research by the watchdog earlier this year found that 69 percent of MPs believe they are underpaid and on average, they suggested a salary of £86,250.
But Danny Alexander, the second most senior minister in the Treasury, on Sunday denounced the proposed 11-percent increase as “wholly inappropriate”.
“Most people will find it utterly incomprehensible that at a time of pay restraint for the public sector, at a time of further squeezes on government spending, that Ipsa should be recommending (that),” he told BBC television.
“I think it would be wholly inappropriate for MPs to get such a large pay rise at a time when every other public sector worker sees their pay rises capped at one percent.
“I have said in the past that of course, personally, I wouldn’t accept it.”
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond echoed this message, saying that while there were good arguments for a pay increase — notably to attract professionals into parliament — this was “not the moment”.
The coalition has since 2010 been implementing an austerity programme to help reduce the deficit, and the spending cuts are not expected to ease for several years to come.
“So long as I’m the defence secretary presiding over a situation where the troops that serve our country so brilliantly are facing a one-percent pay rise, I won’t be taking a pay increase,” Hammond told BBC radio.
Prime Minister David Cameron has stopped short of pledging to reject the cash but his spokesman urged restraint from Ipsa.
“We believe that the cost of politics should be going down, not up,” the spokesman said.