Downing Street played down a suggestion today that Gordon Brown was planning to offer MPs a pay rise to buy off a backbench rebellion over their expected loss of income from expenses.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Brown would pay for an increase in MPs' basic salary by cutting ministers' wages, as he seeks to avoid a Commons mutiny over next month's report on expenses by Sir Christopher Kelly.
Sir Christopher is widely expected to recommend scaling back the expenses which MPs can claim, as well as barring them from employing members of their own families.
Responding to the Telegraph report, a Downing Street source said last night: "We do not recognise the suggestion that the Prime Minister is advocating any specific proposals.
"He is eagerly awaiting the results of Sir Christopher Kelly's independent review, which will provide the basis for any future decisions."
An MP's basic salary is currently £64,766, while the 98 members of the Government earn between £96,000 and £197,000.
According to the paper, Mr Brown's plan could see all 646 MPs receive a £3,000 wage increase at no extra cost to the taxpayer, by cutting ministers' salaries by £20,000 each.
Many MPs are furious that the audit of their expense claims over the past five years by Sir Thomas Legg has resulted in demands for thousands of pounds to be repaid. They believe the Legg review was unfair because it imposed backdated caps on the amount that could be claimed for cleaning and gardening at second homes.
Some of the MPs who have given evidence to Sir Christopher are understood to have argued they should be granted a substantial pay rise to compensate them for any loss in income from expenses and allowances.