Salary row over two-seat MPs

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MEMBERS OF the new Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly who also sit in Westminster will be able to draw two salaries, under plans which will infuriate English MPs.

The Government confirmed last night that the 21 politicians with a double mandate will be eligible for a third of their salary in Scotland or Wales, on top of the money they receive for their work in the House of Commons. They will also be allowed to claim two sets of office allowances and grants to pay for staff costs.

The decision is set to cost the tax payer up to pounds 3m in the remaining time before the next general election when the MPs who stood in Scotland and Wales are expected to stand down in Westminster.

It will also fuel resentment in the Commons by creating a two- tier system of richer and poorer MPs. An MP who also sits in the Scottish Parliament will be eligible for a top-up salary worth around pounds 13,000 a year and an MP with a seat in the Welsh Assembly could earn an extra pounds 11,000 in addition to the pounds 45,066 Commons wage.

English politicians will argue that the Scottish and Welsh representatives should not be paid twice because they cannot work in two places at once. Some have already been pushing for an English Parliament, arguing that they should have their own assembly if Scottish and Welsh politicians are allowed to vote in London.

MSPs will also be able to claim allowances worth up to pounds 46,000 a year to pay for their staff and offices in Edinburgh, and members of the Welsh Assembly could get grants as high as pounds 34,000, on top of the pounds 49,000 claimable in the House of Commons. The politicians could also be subsidised for transport and accommodation - MSPs who live beyond commuting distance to Holyrood will be eligible for a grant of pounds 9,000 to pay for a second home in Edinburgh.

Ministers are aware that the salaries issue is likely to be contentious. The Scottish and Welsh Offices said that Donald Dewar and Alun Michael, the heads of the two ruling bodies, had decided not to claim their MPs' salary on top of their ministerial wage. They were wary of turning public opinion against devolution.

But many other Members intend to accept the extra salary. There are 14 Westminster MPs elected to the Scottish Parliament and 7 to the Welsh Assembly.