'Cheated' MPs' anger over pay

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The Independent Online
COLIN BROWN

Chief Political Correspondent

Tory MPs complained last night they felt "cheated" over a Government attempt to limit MPs' annual pay increase to 2.7 per cent, about pounds 17 extra per week.

Some are outraged that senior civil servants, to whom their pay is linked, will be eligible for an extra 2 per cent in performance-related bonuses denied to MPs. Members will be told about their rise by the Leader of the House, Tony Newton.

The linkage between MPs and a senior grade of the civil service was an attempt to defuse the controversy over them voting pay rises for themselves.

But MPs thought they would get the pay rise which the civil servants secured, not part of it.

Jerry Hayes, the Tory MP for Harlow, said: "The Government is going to be under pressure to keep to the spirit of the formula that MPs voted on."

The attacks on "sleaze" among Tory MPs and the Nolan Committee recommendations to force members to declare their earnings from private consultancies left many feeling belligerent about their low public esteem.

"We might as well take the money and run," said one Tory MP, who predicted that there would be an attempt by MPs to amend the system in the autumn, which could force a vote.

The rise means that an MP's salary will rise by pounds 896 a year from pounds 33,189 to pounds 34,085.

The 2.7 per cent increase will lift John Major's salary by pounds 2,214 from pounds 82,003 to pounds 84,217.

Tony Blair, as leader of the opposition, will see his salary rise from pounds 64,207 to pounds 65,940, but last year he decided to forego his increase. Cabinet ministers' salaries will rise from pounds 67,819 to pounds 69,650, an increase of pounds 1,831.

Other Tories said Labour MPs would be more upset by the real terms pay cut. "Tory MPs have their consultancies to supplement their earnings and can afford to be magnanimous," said one MP. "Most Labour MPs have to rely solely on their earnings as MPs. They are going to feel very fed up."

John Butcher, a former minister, said there would be a row over MPs' pay until remuneration was properly addressed.

Many MPs believe they are underpaid compared to managers in the private sector.

The forthcoming general election is also raising questions about job security for many Tory MPs, who are contemplating their chances of finding work in the private sector if they are left without a seat.

The threat of defeat may also make them want to get as much as possible in their annual pay rise, because it could affect the pay out for their redundancy.

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