Cameron vows to slash pay, perks and MPs

David Cameron laid down the gauntlet to Gordon Brown today by pledging to slash pay, perks and costs at Westminster.

The Tory leader set out plans to cut the number of MPs by 10 per cent, reduce ministerial salaries and do away with subsidised food and drink.

Although the £500 million annual bill for running Parliament was only a "pinprick" in terms of overall public spending, politicians had to give an example for the looming "age of austerity", Mr Cameron insisted.

"With the Conservatives, the gravy train will well and truly hit the buffers," he said.

The proposals came after Mr Cameron moved to kick Alan Duncan out of the Shadow Cabinet for claiming that MPs were being forced to survive "on rations" in the wake of the expenses scandal.

In a keynote speech in central London, Mr Cameron said he would cut the ministerial element of pay by 5 per cent after the election - equivalent to a £6,500 reduction on the Prime Minister's current £194,250 wage.

There would also be a freeze for the lifetime of the next Parliament, saving the taxpayer around £250,000 a year.

"It's only right, at a time when the country has to share in financial pain, that they make their sacrifice," Mr Cameron said.

Mr Cameron's intervention seemed designed to trump Gordon Brown, who last week signalled his willingness to take a pay cut amid the recession - but only if it was co-ordinated across parties.

The Conservative leader also confirmed that he wanted the number of MPs cut by 10 per cent, from 650 to 585. That would save an estimated £15.5 million a year.

Another sensitive area targeted by Mr Cameron was MPs' stomachs - and those of lower-paid researchers and staff.

"Walk into a bar in Parliament and you buy a pint of Fosters for £2.10," he said.

"That's a little over half as much as in a normal London pub. And in the restaurants on the parliamentary estate, you can treat yourself to a 'Lean salad of lemon and lime-marinated roasted tofu with baby spinach and rocket, home-roasted plum tomatoes and grilled ficelle crouton' for just £1.70.

"That's all thanks to you - taxpayers' cash subsidising a politician's food and drink."

He went on: "We all have to eat, we all sometimes want a drink, there's nothing about this job that forces us to eat or drink any more than if we did something else."

The parliamentary authorities would be asked to deliver a 10 per cent reduction in costs - saving £50 million annually.

Mr Cameron said ministerial cars were sometimes "vital", but the number should be reduced by a third.

"If there is something that really annoys people it's seeing politicians swanning around in chauffeur-driven cars like they're the Royal Family," Mr Cameron said.

"There is no need for 171 of these cars to be on hand for every government minister, whip - and indeed, myself."

Other measures planned by the Tories include slimming down the Electoral Commission, and stopping public sector bodies hiring consultants to lobby politicians.

But Mr Cameron's approach to cutting wider public spending was roundly mocked by the Liberal Democrats.

"The Liberal Democrats have proposed not renewing Trident, David Cameron wants to increase the price of salads," frontbencher Danny Alexander said. "While it's nice to finally have some concrete proposals from the Conservatives, at this rate it would take them several centuries to balance the books."