MPs handed April Fools' Day increase

Members of the Government are to have their ministerial salaries frozen this year and those of them who are MPs will also forego the £1,500 rise in their parliamentary pay to which they are entitled, Downing Street said today.

It was announced today that MPs will receive a pay rise of 2.33 per cent from April 1, bringing their salary - before allowances - up from £63,291 to £64,766.

But Downing Street moved quickly to say that ministers will not benefit from the rise, which comes at a time when the Government's preferred CPI index of inflation stands at zero.

Gordon Brown's spokesman told reporters: "The Prime Minister does feel that at this time when many families and businesses are facing difficult times economically, it is important that Government ministers take a lead.

"That is why, in consultation with his Cabinet colleagues, this has been announced today."

The spokesman said that all Cabinet ministers who were consulted on the freeze agreed to it on behalf of themselves and their departmental colleagues.

David Cameron will reject increases to his salary as Leader of the Opposition and as an MP for 2009-10, a spokeswoman said today.

The Tories would also impose a pay freeze for ministers in 2010-11 if they were in Government.

It is not yet known how much money ministers have given up, as their ministerial pay rise is linked to the figure for senior civil servants, which has not yet been released.

New rules introduced last year linked MPs' pay rises to those of a range of public sector workers. MPs also gave up the right to vote on their own increase, and the figure put forward by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) will automatically take effect.

The SSRB calculated the 2.33 per cent by taking an average from a basket of 15 different groups of public sector workers, ranging from judges and senior military officers to teachers, NHS workers and local council employees.

The Westminster salary rise comes at a time when many private sector workers are facing pay freezes or even reductions in the face of the economic recession.

While inflation on the CPI index, which includes mortgages, fell to zero last month, the alternative Retail Prices Index (RPI) jumped to 3.2 per cent.

MPs' basic pay is topped up by expenses and allowances worth up to around £180,000 a year to pay for their offices, staff and travel and the cost of spending time away from home while working at Westminster.

An inquiry has been ordered into MPs' pay and expenses following a series of controversies, including allegations relating to claims for second home allowances from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Employment Minister Tony McNulty.

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