Senior Tories call for massive pay rises for MPs

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Indy Politics

The row over MPs' expenses was reignited today after two senior Tories called for MPs to be given massive pay rises.

Sir Patrick Cormack, who was a candidate for Commons Speaker, said their salaries should be doubled - from £64,766 to more than £130,000 - in return for scrapping their controversial second homes allowances.

Fellow grandee Douglas Hogg - whose schedule of expenses famously included the cost of clearing the moat at his country home - also called for MPs to be given six-figure salaries with "appropriate expenses".

He said their pay had now fallen so low in both "absolute and relative terms" it was insufficient to support the lifestyle "to which most professional and business classes aspire".

Chancellor Alistair Darling - standing in for Gordon Brown while he is on holiday - said that such demands could not possibly be justified at a time when ordinary people were struggling.

"At a time when everyone else is pulling in their belts, at a time when people are worried about their jobs, some people are going part-time, MPs cannot be treated any differently from anyone else," he said.

The comments by the two MPs threaten once again to embarrass Tory leader David Cameron after he was forced last week to reprimand senior frontbencher Alan Duncan for suggesting MPs were living on rations in the wake of the expenses scandal.

Sir Patrick and Mr Hogg made their comments in submissions to the Committee on Standards in Public Life - which is holding an inquiry into the system of MPs expenses which have now been posted on the committee's website.

In his submission, Sir Patrick argues such a big pay rise may be seen as "politically unacceptable" but argues that it would be the best way to clean up the system.

"I have reluctantly become convinced over the last few weeks that the most effective way of restoring public confidence in Parliament is for there to be a significant increase in Members' salaries and an abolition of all allowances, save for the allowance to pay for staff and a constituency office," he said.

"In order to ensure that Members could perform their parliamentary and constituency duties effectively, and have where necessary a second home, the salary of Members would have to be doubled at least and this might, yet again, be deemed politically unacceptable, and there are, of course, pension implications."

Mr Hogg - who is standing down at the next election - points out that there are now more than 80 employees of Parliament who are paid more than MPs, who now receive less than GPs, dentists, district judges and army brigadiers.

"The salary of MPs is now so low in both absolute and relative terms as to deter members of professional and business classes from entering Parliament," he said.

"A parliamentary salary does not support the lifestyle to which most professional and business classes aspire.

"My own conclusion is that in order not to deter the professional and business classes from coming into the House of Commons, MPs should be paid a salary of around £100,000 together with the appropriate expenses."

In a statement, Sir Patrick said he accepted that it was not a "propitious time" for such a big pay rise and had urged the committee to consider a number of alternative recommendations.

"Foremost among these was that the second home should always be rented and generally in London," he said.

However senior Liberal Democrat Edward Davey said that it was "outrageous and offensive" for such a senior MP as Sir Patrick to propose a doubling of their pay.

"He must be living on Planet Zog to think that doubling MPs' salaries would restore faith in Parliament," he told London's Evening Standard newspaper.