‘No big pay rise for MSPs’ says Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond has dismissed talk of a bumper pay rise for MSPs. Picture: Jane Barlow
Alex Salmond has dismissed talk of a bumper pay rise for MSPs. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ALEX Salmond yesterday signalled that MSPs at Holyrood would not benefit from an inflation-busting pay rise like the one recommended for MPs at Westminster.

The First Minister reacted to a recommendation that MPs’ pay should be increased by £6,000 to £74,000 from 2015, saying such a rise was “ludicrous”.

The 11 per cent pay rise suggested by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was also condemned by UK political party leaders and some MPs.

The recommendation for a salary increase at Westminster raises the prospect of a rise at Holyrood, because the Scottish Parliament passed a resolution in 2002 linking MSPs’ pay to that of MPs. The link was set at MSPs getting 87.5 per cent of that received by their counterparts at Westminster. The current MSP’s salary is £58,097.

The Ipsa consultation on MPs’ pay will run until October when the body will make its final recommendations.

It will then be up to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB), the group of MSPs with responsibility for the way Holyrood runs, to consider Ipsa’s recommendations.

The SCPB will consult all political parties before making a recommendation, which would be voted on by parliament.

It is understood that the Scottish Government believes that there will be a way of ensuring that MSPs do not receive an inflation-busting rise.

Yesterday Mr Salmond said: “Pay for MPs – and MSPs – should not rise beyond the limits of the restraints currently placed on public sector pay.

“It is ludicrous to suggest that parliamentarians should be given anything beyond these norms, at a time when public sector workers are having to make do with much, much lower pay increases.”

As well as a pay rise for MPs, Ipsa recommended cuts to perks such as meal allowances and taxis, and a less generous pension scheme, as well as a trimming of the “golden goodbyes” paid to retiring MPs.

Ipsa insisted that the overall burden on the taxpayer will only go up by £500,000 when the package comes into force.

After the increase is implemented, wages will rise annually in line with average UK earnings, a mechanism the regulator hopes will ensure the situation is resolved for the long term.

The existing final salary pension scheme will be downgraded to career average – as happened across the rest of the public sector some years ago.

The old pre-2010 “resettlement grants” of up to £65,000 for departing MPs, even if they stood down voluntarily, will not be brought back.

In 2015, there will be interim arrangements of up to £33,000 for those who lose an election, but by 2020, defeated politicians will only be entitled to two weeks’ pay for every year of service if they are under 41, and three weeks if they are older – similar to redundancy terms in the rest of the public sector.

The £15 expenses available for dinner when the House sits beyond 7.30pm will be scrapped, and there will be tighter rules on using taxis and hotels.

Despite various politicians objecting to the proposal, MPs would be unable to formally block the rise because they handed power over salaries to the independent body in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The cost of politics should go down, not up. And MPs’ pay shouldn’t go up while public sector pay is, rightly, being constrained.”

The spokesman declined to comment on whether the Prime Minister would take the pay rise. Pressed on the question, the PM’s spokesman said: “It’s not a pay rise. It’s a proposal.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who said he will not take the increase, said it was “about the worst time to advocate a double-digit pay rise for MPs”, adding that the public would find it “incomprehensible”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he did not believe the rise should go ahead – and confirmed he would not take it if it did.

“I don’t think MPs should be getting a 10 per cent pay rise when nurses and teachers are facing either pay freezes or very low increases,” said Mr Miliband.

MP calls for a debate to ‘put fantasy proposal to bed’

THE government was yesterday urged to allow MPs to regain control over their pay and pensions as a row over independent recommendations for a big pay rise raged.

Labour MP Steve McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak) said it was vital to avert the “car crash” being staged by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

In proposals published for consultation today, Ipsa has suggested increasing MPs’ pay to £74,000 after the 2015 General Election and offsetting the cost by changing pensions and curbing perks including expenses for dinners, TV licences, taxis and “golden goodbyes”.

Speaking during the weekly business statement in the Commons, Mr McCabe joined a chorus of opposition members criticising the proposal and called for a debate to set the terms for how MPs’ pay is changed.

He said: “The whole country can see the Ipsa car crash unfolding and we all know the Prime Minister is going to be forced to intervene eventually.

“Why don’t we have a debate on what we need to do to amend the Ipsa rules and put this fantasy proposal to bed now?”

Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said: “I can only repeat – this House, it wasn’t a long time ago, just four years ago – passed legislation the effect of which was to create an independent body.

“I think many of the problems that are emerging from this are the simple fact people are not willing to let go. We don’t have a say about pay and our pensions now. We can express our view but we do not determine this thing.

“I think it would be immensely to the benefit of the House and the public debate if that were recognised by the public and the press.

“We do not have a say – Ipsa have a say. Go to them and express views to them, as we will do on a personal and a party basis.”