The recommended rises for MPs' pay by the Senior Salaries Review Body, disclosed in the Independent on Sunday, threaten to boomerang on John Major. He backed moves to refer the issue of MPs' pay to the body in the hope of defusing it.
But its recommendations are likely to cause a public outcry, and leave the Government in a dilemma in the run-up to the general election. Ministers are also likely to distance themselves from the recommendations, leaving it to MPs themselves to decide whether to accept the proposals in full.
There could be a series of votes on the issue before the summer recess at the end of July. Tory MPs are keen to increase their salaries, because they fear the tough new rules on public standards, following the Nolan report, will limit the scope for them to supplement their official salaries with private earnings outside Westminster.
Mr Major is blamed by some Tory MPs for wrecking their private incomes, by setting up the Nolan committee. Some left-wing Labour MPs have opposed increases in salaries for MPs, and may vote against any further rises, but the numbers could be increased if MPs are embarrassed by the size of the rise so close to the election.
It could also enhance their pensions if they lose their seats at the election. That would be seen as feather-bedding for the future, rather than getting a fair rate for the job.
However, some senior backbenchers believe MPs remain underpaid. Frank Field, the Labour chairman of the Commons Social Security Select Committee, said that MPs should be paid two rates, with a lower rate for those who take outside work.
Sir Edward Heath, the former prime minister, said in a GMTV interview yesterday that MPs should get pounds 100,000 a year, but the number of MPs should be halved to about 325.Reuse content