Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Northern Ireland MPs vow not to take 'daft' £7k pay rise

Lady Sylvia Hermon, MP for North Down

Northern Ireland's MPs have vowed to refuse a proposed £7,600 pay rise from Westminster.

Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon (below) slated the planned hike as "daft, daft and very daft", while Margaret Ritchie branded it "utter madness".

The parliamentary watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), is expected to recommend a pay rise of £7,600 for each MP – boosting their basic salary to £74,000.

The proposed pay packet is around three times the average salary in Northern Ireland.

Ipsa does not require the agreement of Parliament to bring in the changes, which are set to take effect after the 2015 election.

The rise comes as part of a package of changes to MPs' salary and benefits which would see some allowances scrapped.

MPs currently earn a basic salary of £66,396, but Ipsa is expected to say on Thursday that their pay has fallen behind in recent years and a substantial "one-off" rise is justified.

Ms Ritchie said if she is selected by her party to run in 2015 and successfully retains her seat, she will not accept the raise.

Earlier this year in the Northern Ireland Assembly, SDLP MLAs refused an 11% pay rise of around £5,000 per year, which brought up MLAs' total pay to £48,000.

Ms Ritchie said: "Like our Assembly colleagues, we are totally opposed to such an increase at a time when government is forcing pay restraint on public sector staff and also those people who are without a job at the moment and are in receipt of benefits.

"It is totally inexplicable, incomprehensible and unacceptable that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is coming forward with such a recommendation knowing full well that people like us would not accept it.

"It is just utter madness. I would not be taking it."

DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell confirmed that the DUP will also refuse the pay rise.

Sinn Fein MPs take an average industrial wage, with the rest of their salary going to the party.

The pay rise plan for MPs, which would cost the public purse £4.6m, has also been opposed by the three main Westminster parties.

BACKGROUND

The independent body given responsibility for Westminster pay and perks in the wake of the expenses scandal is pressing ahead with plans to boost salaries by £7,600 to £74,000 after the 2015 general election. That is significantly lower than the £86,250 average figure MPs told the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority they deserved in a survey.

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