Cameron and Clegg join Brown to reject rise

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Conservative leader David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg today announced they were matching Gordon Brown and turning down the £1,000 pay rise on offer to MPs.

All Government ministers, two other senior Conservative MPs and Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable will also voluntarily forego the 1.5% rise, which will bring MPs' basic salaries to £65,737.

The increase sparked fury from unions at a time when millions of workers across the private and public sectors are facing pay freezes or even cuts.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of public sector union Unison, said: "It does not seem right that MPs can get a 1.5% pay increase, worth £1,000 a year on basic pay, when low-paid workers such as teaching assistants, school dinner ladies, social care workers, road sweepers will get nothing, because their pay is being frozen."

One Conservative backbencher said MPs would struggle to do their job without the extra cash because of "eccentric" restrictions on allowances being introduced in the wake of Sir Christopher Kelly's inquiry into expenses.

North Thanet MP Roger Gale said he would donate his pay rise to charity, but added: "Many MPs, particularly those with young families and including those who will be elected at the forthcoming general election, are going to face very straitened circumstances.

"As a result of the more eccentric of the Kelly proposals - which in my view have demonstrated a lamentable lack of understanding of the demands placed upon today's Members of Parliament - a lot of new MPs are going to find it hard to find the resources to do the job in the way that the public have come to expect."

The 1.5% rise was recommended by the Senior Salaries Review Body and will come into effect automatically on April 1, as MPs have given up the right to vote on their own pay.

Downing Street moved quickly last night to state that ministers would not take the extra money due to MPs and had also agreed to freeze ministerial salaries.

A spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister is clear that we need to strengthen public confidence in the political system and reduce the cost of politics."

Today, a Conservative spokesman said: "We are matching the Government's commitment exactly. Members of the Conservative Party who receive ministerial salaries will have both the ministerial and MP elements of their salaries frozen."

As well as Mr Cameron, opposition chief whip Patrick McLoughlin and deputy chief whip Andrew Robathan receive ministerial pay.

Tory leader in the Lords Lord Strathclyde is also foregoing a rise in his ministerial salary.

Conservatives are committed to an immediate 5% cut in ministers' salaries, followed by a five-year freeze, if they win power.

A Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said that Mr Clegg and Mr Cable - who receive only the basic MP's salary - would forego the pay rise, but it would be up to individual Lib Dem MPs to decide if they want to follow suit.

SSRB chairman Bill Cockburn wrote to Commons Speaker John Bercow at the end of last month to inform him of the rise, which was set in line with the median increase of a basket of settlements for 15 other groups of public sector workers.

Doctors and dentists, senior NHS managers, the judiciary and the senior Civil Service were all handed increases of 1.5% last year.

Chancellor Alistair Darling announced a one-year pay freeze for the most senior civil servants, NHS managers, GPs and chief executives of quangos last autumn.

The Tories have also said they will impose a one-year pay freeze for all public servants earning more than £18,000 if they come to power.