Tory MPs seek to double their money

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Political Correspondent

Only 15 per cent of MPs are content with their pounds 34,085-a-year salaries, and many Tory members think their pay should be almost doubled, independent research has found.

A poll by the Harris Political Research Unit for the Parliamentary Monitor, revealed that 68 per cent of Conservative MPs think their annual pay should be more than pounds 55,000, as against 71 per cent of Labour MPs who think it should be less.

Eighty-three per cent of MPs across the parties would like to be paid more, with the two most popular bands being pounds 55,000 to pounds 70,000, backed by 36 per cent, and pounds 40,000 to pounds 50,000, with 32 per cent support.

The findings from the 160-member survey confirm the expected demand for a quid pro quo after the Commons voted last year to adopt the Nolan committee recommendation to disclose income from consultancy work related to an MP's parliamentary position.

While a member's salary is augmented by allowances for office costs and travel, many Tories have come to depend financially on their "second jobs". But the obligation to disclose, and the decision by some PR consultancies to stop using MPs as consultants because of allegations of sleaze, have jeopardised prospects for earning the extra cash.

According to the Harris poll, Tony Newton, the leader of the Commons, is considering ways of changing the structure which determines MPs' pay. While Tory MPs tend to seek larger salaries than their Labour counterparts, a number of MPs of all parties believe members are paid less than for comparable outside jobs, forcing those with heavy financial commitments to seek outside work.

Gerry Bermingham, Labour MP for St Helens South, has written to Tony Blair, the Labour leader, urging him to support a fully independent review body to fix pay levels.

MPs also think that ministers, at pounds 42,834 to pounds 55,329 for members of the Cabinet on top of a reduced parliamentary salary, are not paid enough. Eight out of 10 MPs, and more than 90 per cent of Tory members, think that the ministerial remuneration is "inadequate".

Iain Duncan Smith, the MP for Chingford and a member of the newly-created Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, backed an independent review to replace the position where MPs "scrubbed around for ghastly consultancies".

He said: "I always said that if Nolan went ahead and basically banned people having strings of consultancies ... members of Parliament would have to be paid more. A large chunk of MPs [take] serious cuts in salary when they come here, but consultancies are now becoming untenable. I find the life of an MP a financial disaster and I am not untypical."