MPs spark angry reaction with call for 32% pay rise
Is a hike in pay for politicians necessary to retain talent or 'completely unpalatable'?
AS MANY Britons face pay freezes and benefit caps, MPs have sparked a furious reaction by privately calling for a massive pay rise. In a survey carried out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – a watchdog created in the aftermath of the expenses scandal – two-thirds of politicians said their current salary of £65,738 was too little. The average request was for an increase of 32 per cent to £86,250.
Tories said their salary should be £96,740, while Lib Dems thought the right amount was £78,361 and Labour MPs £77,322. More than a third of MPs also believed they should keep their generous final-salary pensions.
The findings have been met with fury by unions. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis told The Guardian that MPs were living in "cloud cuckoo land" if they thought they deserved to be paid almost a third more.
"No wonder this research is anonymous," he added. "It shows real contempt for the plight of families across the country struggling to make ends meet."
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said that hiking politician's wages at a time of pay freezes, benefit caps and necessary spending cuts would be "completely unpalatable to taxpayers". To do so would suggest that "there is one rule for MPs and another for the rest of the country", he said.
Owen Hathway, policy officer for teaching union NUT Wales, told the Western Mail that teachers across Wales would find the suggestion "totally beyond belief". He added: "It is unbelievable that the very MPs who have been arguing that teachers should take a pay cut are simultaneously proposing huge pay increases for themselves."
But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (pictured above) has defended calls for a pay rise. "Most of my colleagues on the government benches took a pay cut to be MPs," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. "Anyone who is earning good money in business, or in the public sector with a family – that's a very, very difficult decision."
Cash-strapped MPs found some sympathy from The Independent's Amol Rajan, who says: "It's true that people go into politics to serve the public rather than make a fortune. But to attract and retain top talent, we may have to pay a little more."
Rajan points out that MPs often commute across vast tracts of the country, putting in seven-day weeks and placing their families under unbearable strain. Paying them too little runs the risk of talented MPs turning to the private sector.
"Quality costs," he says. "We need brilliant MPs. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys."