Downing St advisers earn more than cabinet ministers

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Indy Politics

Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell earn up to £131,000 a year - more than any cabinet minister - the Government said last night.

The bill for ministers' special advisers and spin doctors has trebled since Labour came to power and now costs the taxpayer £5.4m a year. The soaring bill has angered MPs who have questioned the need for so many special advisers, particularly in Downing Street, where there are 26.

The Prime Minister, in a written question, acknowledged that two of his special advisers, believed to be Mr Campbell, his director of communications and strategy, and Mr Powell, the chief of staff, were rewarded beyond the highest pay band of £94,326 and earned up to £131,008. A cabinet minister is paid £127,791.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, called yesterday for Mr Campbell to be sacked. The Conservatives also said the Prime Minister's decision to pay him more than senior members of the Cabinet "shows the respect the Government has for the democratic process".

David Davis, the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, said: "It also speaks volumes for the Government's priorities that expenditure on these special advisers has trebled since 1997. It is utterly wrong that the Government is spending £3.6m more on these spin doctors in a desperate attempt to gloss over their failure to deliver.

"The scandals over Jo Moore and the general behaviour of spin doctors - distorting the truth and destroying people's reputations - demonstrates that this is not only a waste of money but may very well be an inappropriate way to use taxpayer's cash."

The figures show that the Government now employs almost 70 special advisers, whose pay costs the taxpayer £5.4m. In 1997, when Labour came to power, the bill was £1.8m.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said yesterday that the figures were "further depressing evidence of the centralisation of power in No 10 and the bypassing of the elected House of Commons.

"But it's understandable that Alastair Campbell has had a significant pay increase. He is effectively Deputy Prime Minister and tells other ministers what to do and he also successfully deflected the Iraq flak away from Tony Blair."