Major's pay increase takes him to pounds 143,000

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The House of Commons will next week spurn a Government call for pay restraint, with a free vote that is confidently expected to carry a 26 per cent pay rise for MPs.

Backbench MPs will endorse a recommendation from the Senior Salaries Review Body, to be published today, that they receive a rise of more than pounds 170 a week, moving them up from pounds 34,085 to pounds 43,000, backdated to the start of this month.

As the Independent reported yesterday, some MPs will lose on the roundabouts what they win on the salary swings. The review body report calls for the high-rate mileage allowance of 74.1 pence for 2,300cc-plus cars to be cut to the existing lower rate of 47.2p a mile.

Some MPs were calculating that, once tax was taken into account, this change would wipe out the pay rise.

But John Major is expected to urge the House to set a public example and exercise restraint in its vote next week. The Prime Minister's office said last night that public sector pay policy was based on effort, merit and affordability.

Those criteria will certainly be applied by the Cabinet to the recommendation of the review body on their own salaries, which would rocket frompounds 69,651 to pounds 103,000, an increase of 48 per cent, to take effect after the election.

But even that figure was capped when it came to the office of Prime Minister, with the report urging that whoever wins the next election should take a rise of 70 per cent, from pounds 84,217 to pounds 143,000.

Other recommended rises include a move from pounds 69,651 to pounds 103,000 for the Speaker, and pounds 98,000, up nearly pounds 34,000, for the Leader of the Opposition.

The proposals brought instant condemnation from union leaders and left- wing MPs.

Barry Reamsbottom, general secretary of the Civil and Public Service Union, said: "I am not against MPs and ministers getting the rate for the job. But it is gross double standards if they don't apply the same principles to those they employ."

Chris Mullin, left-wing MP for Sunderland South, told the Independent that he would table amendments opposing an inflation- busting pay deal.

But those views left many Labour MPs spluttering with rage. Sir Terence Higgins, the senior Tory backbencher, said: "Over the last 30 years, there has been no real-terms increase in pay for MPs, and . . . Ministers' pay has halved." Sir Terence said the report represented a welcome attempt to restructure pay.

Slickers and slackers, page 20

Projected increases

Prime Minister: Now pounds 84,217, recommended pounds 143,000

Cabinet ministers: pounds 69,651, recommended pounds 103,000

The Speaker: pounds 69,651, recommended pounds 103,000

Cabinet ministers in the House of Lords:

pounds 57,161, recommended pounds 77,963

Leader of the Opposition:

pounds 64,167, recommended pounds 98,000

Ministers of State:pounds 56,785, recommended pounds 74,125

Junior ministers: pounds 49,283, recommended pounds 66,623

Backbench MPs: pounds 34,085, recommended pounds 43,000