Parties consider MP salary increase plans

Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

As MPs faced a public backlash over a proposed 10 per cent pay increase, the News Letter asked the Northern Ireland parties represented at Westminster whether they were in favour of the new £74,000 salary.

The controversial pay rise comes at a time of public sector pay freezes, with the taxpayer being hit with a £4.6 million bill for the increase.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is opposed to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) proposal, but his spokeswoman says he will not forgo it if it happens.

Mr Cameron has previously described the increase, which was first suggested in 2013, as “simply unacceptable” while the rest of the public sector was being restricted to one per cent.

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A spokesman for the UUP said: “The Ulster Unionist party will consider Ipsa’s proposals in full and consult with our MPs.”

The SDLP said it remains opposed to the substantial increase, branding it “wrong and inappropriate at a time of austerity” when some others in the public sector did not receive any pay rise.

MP Mark Durkan wrote to George Osborne in November last year to recommend that if Ipsa insists on increasing the MPs’ salaries, then the Chancellor should introduce a tax code to enable the Treasury to claim the increase back.

Mr Durkan said: “Like others among us, you have recognised that it would be invidious for MPs to enjoy an 11 per cent pay rise at a time when parliament is imposing serious pay constraints on those delivering key public service.

“However, not wishing to injure the statutory independent authority of IPSA or create adverse precedent should not be an excuse for collective acquiescence in an exceptional pay award.

“A designated parliamentary restraint tax code provision could be used to remove any sense of an undue bonus coming to MPs courtesy of the very system created to deal with the ‘expenses scandal’.”

Mr Durkan added: “The SDLP continues to urge Ipsa during the final stages of its consultation to consider public opinion on this matter and not go ahead with implementing a pay rise.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman told the News Letter: “We do not receive Westminster salaries.”

The new proposals, expected to be implemented at the end of this month, will result in the existing final salary pension scheme for MPs being downgraded to career average – as happened across the rest of the public sector some years ago.

At time of going to press the DUP had not responded to a request for comment.