Pay rise for parliamentarians angers austerity-hit Britain

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2013 9:43 AM

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's members of parliament will get a 9 percent pay rise under a proposal announced on Thursday that outraged a public struggling with wage freezes, high living costs and a government austerity drive.

The proposal - which, ironically, was made by a panel created to mend parliament's image after an expenses scandal - is uncomfortable for David Cameron, a prime minister seen by many as part of an out-of-touch elite, adrift from the worries of most voters.

Tabled by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), created to distance lawmakers from the pay and expenses system, the proposal cannot be blocked by members of parliament (MPs), even if they were to oppose it.

Cameron's spokesman said the prime minister "doesn't think MPs' pay should be going up when public sector pay is being rightly constrained".

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the plan, to increase MPs' annual pay to 74,000 pounds ($110,600) from 66,396 pounds, was "incomprehensible".

The proposal is way above the 2.7 percent inflation rate and comes at a time of job losses, public sector cuts and low wage growth following a deep recession.

"Everyone has to be treated as fairly and equally as possible in the public sector," Clegg told LBC radio.

Public support for parliament was dented by the 2009 scandal when politicians were exposed boosting their income by claiming expenses for everything from pornographic films and dog food to tennis court repairs.

The public has until October 20 to respond to the proposal before the IPSA makes a final decision on what it said it was a package to end years of "fixes, fudges and failures" over MPs' pay.

If no changes are made to the plan, MPs' pay will rise in 2015, the year of the next election. They will lose some perks, including money for evening meals and late night taxis home.

Public workers, unions and campaigners were appalled.

"The idea of hiking MPs' pay when everyone else has been suffering such a squeeze on their earnings is totally unpalatable," said Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes.

Unions said pay freezes or rises capped at 1 percent were widespread since the coalition government came to power in 2010.

"The very idea that MPs should enjoy an exemption and take a 9 percent increase will rightly cause outrage amongst workers up and down the country," said Dave Prentis, head of Unison, Britain's biggest trade union.

Debate over how much MPs should be paid has raged since they first received an annual salary, of 400 pounds, in 1911. That was meant to open politics to people without independent wealth.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)