MPs attack 'lunacy' over pay increase vote in Commons

MPs have expressed frustration over the "lunacy" of Government efforts to block a 1 per cent increase in their salaries.

Leader of the House Sir George Young confirmed yesterday he wants to scrap the independently-set rise in light of the wider freeze in public sector pay.

The move will, however, require the Commons to pass a resolution because awards by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) have been automatically implemented since 2008, though many MPs have opted not to accept the money over the past two years because of the recession.

Downing Street said it was important everyone showed "restraint" on remuneration amid efforts to tackle the deficit but the decision could leave the coalition on a collision course with backbenchers who believe they are already underpaid on 65,738.

Many are also angry about curbs placed on their expenses in the wake of the scandal over abuses.

Tory Mark Field insisted it was "lunacy" for MPs to interfere with the SSRB's rulings – whether it ordered a pay rise or a pay cut.

"How are we going to regain the trust of the general public if once again we set our own salary rather than leaving it to the independent review body?" the Cities of London and Westminster MP said.

"That is the whole point of having an independent review. It is incredibly foolish what is being proposed. As MPs we should be steering well clear of the whole thing."

Mr Field said he doubted many other MPs would put their "heads above the parapet" and object publicly.

"No MP is going to get great plaudits for taking a pay rise," he added. "But if (the independent body) came out and said take a 3 per cent pay cut I would take that too. For us to involve ourselves in our salary setting again is just lunacy. It beggars belief. They are chasing two days of newspaper headlines."

A senior Labour backbencher, who did not want to be named, complained MPs were now paid half what other comparable elected representatives received. "It is a very modest pay rise and it should go through."

MPs gave up control over their pay rises in July 2008, when the SSRB was commissioned to calculate how much they should receive based on awards for a basket of other public sector workers.

The 1 per cent rise would have taken MPs' pay to 66,395 a year but Sir George confirmed in a written statement to the Commons he would act to stop it coming into force.

The resolution is expected to go before the Commons within weeks and it is understood coalition MPs will be pressed by whips to support the measure.