Major orders inquiry into MPs' salaries

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Indy Politics
PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES

Political Correspondent

Substantial pay rises for MPs and ministers could be set in train by the summer recess in the wake of John Major's decision to ask the Senior Salaries Review Body to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into salaries and allowances.

The fast-track review will heighten expectations among some MPs that they could be taken into a new pay league - the review body covers only Civil Service grades above Grade 5, worth about pounds 10,000 a year more than the Grade 6 to which members' salaries were previously linked.

The announcement was made yesterday in a written parliamentary answer by Tony Newton, Leader of the Commons, in advance of tomorrow's disclosure of next year's pay awards for more than 1.3 million public sector workers. They are expected to receive no more than 4 per cent.

The body, which recommends pay levels for judges, senior civil servants and military top brass, will examine members' salaries of pounds 34,085-a-year and pounds 42,754 office costs allowances. Severance pay, pensions and allowances for motor car mileage and maintaining homes in London will also come under scrutiny. The exercise will also tackle complaints that ministers and other office holders are particularly badly treated because pounds 10,000 of their MP's salary is docked.

Peers' expenses allowances, and secretarial allowances for ministers and paid office- holders in the House of Lords, will also be examined.

The move comes barely a week after more than 300 MPs signed a Commons motion urging the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life to investigate their pay.

While there were controversial suggestions by a handful of members that it should be doubled, MPs were united in their demands for an independent body to fix their pay.

The review body has been asked to devise a linkage for annual uprating without the need for a parliamentary decision.

It will be open to the body to consult with Lord Nolan's committee on the impact on pay of the new curbs on paid outside interests approved by MPs last year. The Government is not expected to present formal "evidence", but it will provide information and assistance. The Prime Minister has asked Sir Michael Perry, the body's chairman and head of Unilever, to aim to make recommendations by the end of June.

Alf Morris, Labour MP for Manchester Wythenshawe and a sponsor of last week's motion, said he welcomed the move but insisted: "Nobody I know has asked for a doubling of MPs' pay. What unites us all is to make it clear that MPs' pay should no longer be decided by MPs themselves - an unwholesome, invidious and wrong system."

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