Voters will find it “impossible to understand” if MPs are awarded a bumper pay rise, Nick Clegg has warned.
The Deputy Prime Minister said he would not accept an award well in excess of the pay increases for other public sector workers.
His warning came amid reports that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is considering giving MPs a pay rise of about £7,500, taking Westminster salaries to £75,000.
Speaking at the first of his planned monthly Whitehall news conferences, Mr Clegg made clear that such a rise would be unacceptable to voters.
“My own view is that the public would find it impossible to understand – particularly as [there are] millions of people in the public sector whose pay is only increasing by 1 per cent – that their parliamentary representatives at a time like this would be receiving pay increases far in excess of that 1 per cent increase,” he said.
“Speaking for myself, I would certainly seek to do whatever I can to make sure that either this decision is not taken in the first place – but that’s out of my hands – but, secondly, if it were to be taken, not to take that pay increase.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has already urged Ipsa to “show restraint” warning it would be “unthinkable” to make Westminster more expensive to the taxpayer, while Labour leader Ed Miliband has also signalled his opposition to such a large increase.
Sources have indicated the regulator would suggest raising MPs’ pay to £75,000 a year, in a series of increases starting in 2015, coupled with much higher pension contributions.
Mr Cameron said he did not know what the independent body would recommend.
But he added: “Whatever Ipsa recommends we can’t see the cost of politics or Westminster going up.
“We should see the cost of Westminster go down.”
He added: “Anything would be unthinkable unless the cost of politics was frozen and cut, so I’ll wait and see what Ipsa have to say.
“What I said to Ipsa was that restraint is necessary.”
The Prime Minister’s plans to cut costs by reducing the number of MPs by 50 to 600 were ruined when the Liberal Democrats turned against them after Tory opposition blocked reform of the Lords.
Mr Cameron said: “I famously had a plan for reducing the House of Commons which was nearly there.
“Actually, the House of Commons voted for it. I’m the first Prime Minister who achieved this feat of getting the House of Commons to reduce their number.
“For one reason or another that fell apart.”
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said it would be for the next parliament to decide on the Ipsa recommendations but that the Tory manifesto would “more than likely say that in the next parliament the costs of politics should fall”.
He repeatedly declined to say whether he would personally refuse a large rise, telling BBC News: “I am clear that, in times of austerity, everybody should be a part of that and I am also clear, on behalf of the Conservative Party, that in the next parliament – and these recommendations which have not even come out yet are about the next parliament in 2015 – that we would not want to see the cost of politics rise.”
A Downing Street spokesman declined to say whether the Prime Minister would accept any increase in his MP’s salary recommended by Ipsa.