British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned a proposal by an independent government body to increase the salaries paid to Member of Parliament by 11 percent as “simply unacceptable” during a climate of budget austerity and salary freezes for other public sector workers.
Cameron also hinted that he may be prepared to shut down the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which called for MP’s annual take home pay to climb from £66,396 ($109,000) to £74,000 ($121,000) in 2015, at a total cost of £4.6 million, including extra national insurance contributions. “The idea of an 11 percent pay rise in one year at a time of pay restraint, I think, is simply unacceptable,” Cameron said in parliament. “IPSA [does] need to think again... No one wants to go back to MPs voting on their own pay but we’ve got to have a process and an outcome that can build public confidence. In my view I think all this should be accompanied with a cut in the cost of politics.”
Cameron added: “I think it would be wrong for MPs to get a pay rise at a time of public sector pay restraint. All three party leaders agree on that. We’ve all made this point to IPSA and I think we should be clear that what they’ve said is not a final recommendation.”
Indeed, the Guardian reported that British public sector workers like nurses, teachers and civil servants are currently restricted to pay increases of no more than 1 percent annually (and they, of course, have far lower base salaries than MPs). The leader of the Labour opposition, Ed Miliband, has also criticized the IPSA, citing that a pay hike now would not “command public confidence,” adding that many ordinary families in the UK are struggling with a "crisis in their living standards". “We should not let this hang around as an issue until after the general election, hanging over trust in politics,” Miliband said. “Can I urge [Cameron] to work with me to find a way, on a cross-party basis, of making IPSA think again and to stop this package happening.” Miliband added: "The reason why this is not the right time for this pay rise is because most people are going through the biggest cost-of-living crisis in a generation."
IPSA was established in 2009 during a period when it was revealed that some MPs were abusing their expense account privileges. IPSA has since been responsible for the regulation and payment of salaries and expenses to members of the House of Commons. By May 2011, IPSA was granted the task of determining MP salaries and overseeing their pension plans. IPSA will formally release its recommendations on MP compensation on Thursday. But, according to reports, MPs cannot block any pay increases, unless the IPSA entity itself is demolished.
Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury and Philip Hammond, the defense secretary, have also condemned any such salary hikes. Alexander even characterized a pay increase as "utterly incomprehensible".
The Guardian reported that the only lawmakers endorsing the proposed pay boosts are a number of Conservative backbenchers. Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative MP for Worthing West, said: "Each [party] leader will say this is the wrong amount at the wrong time. The fact is, it was the leaders who set up the IPSA system who are given the responsibility to set the level of pay and people can't interfere with it.” Bottomley added that the only way MPs could overturn this “is to defy their leaders and pass a law saying IPSA is abolished or it will be ignored. That's impractical given the public interest in setting up IPSA in the first place."
Incidentally, Prime Minister Cameron annual salary is £142,500, according to Daily Mail.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.