MPs demand 22 per cent pay rise ­ 'we deserve £72,000'

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MPs are facing a backlash this weekend amid reports that they are pressing for a 22 per cent pay rise. This would take the basic salary for an MP to £72,000, around what key public sector workers such as headteachers are paid.

The link between pay levels of MPs and such workers was recommended by the Senior Salaries Review Body but has never been implemented in full because of its political sensitivities. Senior Labour and Conservative backbenchers met secretly last week to discuss the widening gap between MPs' basic salary of £59,095 and the recommended level.

One of the MPs at the meeting denied that it was agreed to press for the full 22 per cent hike. Ann Clwyd, the chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, described the reports as "bullshit".

Nevertheless, other MPs were prepared to stick their heads above the parapet and argue their case. Anthony Steen, the Tory MP for Totnes, told The Mail on Sunday: "MPs should not be paid disadvantageously just because the Government will not let the review body pay us what it said we deserved. One of the reasons the Commons lacks quality MPs is because the pay is not enough to attract the best people. I have been here 30 years but I am paid the same as a newcomer.

"Most MPs are terrified to speak about this but think they should be paid commensurate with their responsibilities and duties as an MP. We are the legislators of the nation."

Gordon Brown weighed into the row, making clear he strongly disapproved. "Everyone in the public sector and private sector needs to show restraint and stay within the inflation rate, and that includes MPs," a source said.

Meanwhile the Chancellor will tomorrow hand the British film industry a multimillion-pound windfall in his mini-budget. Changes to the rules on film funding will mean producers, and not banks and film financiers, will receive millions of pounds in government funding direct. There will also be more cash to encourage foreign film companies to locate in Britain, and to do their post-production in UK studios, through changes to the tax credit regime.

British film is worth more than £3bn a year to the economy and the changes will give producers more freedom over spending. It will also plug loopholes that have allowed some film investors to avoid paying tax.

The pre-Budget report will also include help for young couples to buy homes and extra cash for technology and internet firms. The move is designed to boost British investment in technology and science in the face of competition from China and India.

The mini-budget comes as Tony Blair prepares for a reshuffle in which a number of key cabinet figures could be moved. Sources close to the Prime Minister said it may happen this week.