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Watchdog firm on 10% rise for MPs

The head of the Commons expenses watchdog has insisted a controversial 10% pay rise for MPs should go ahead next year.

Marcial Boo, chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, said the economy was recovering and politicians should not be paid a "miserly amount".

There was an outcry when Ipsa announced the increase from £67,000 to £74,000 last year, with David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg arguing it was unacceptable at a time when public sector rises were capped at 1%.

But in his first interview since assuming the role, Mr Boo told the Sunday Telegraph he agreed that MPs were underpaid.

"All the evidence points towards MPs' salaries having fallen behind," he said.

Some viewed the £74,000 figure as "at the low end" and failure to pay "fair" rates would make it harder to recruit good candidates for Parliament in future.

"This is an important job, the job of an MP," Mr Boo said. "They are there to represent us all, to form laws, to send young people to war. It is not an easy thing to do. We want to have good people doing the job and they need to be paid fairly.

"Now, that's not paid in excess but it's not being paid a miserly amount either ...

"It's our job to reach the judgment of what the right amount is. There are lots and lots of professionals in public life and in the private sector who earn a lot more than that - so it is not an excessive amount of money at all."

MPs are already due a 1% increase to £67,731 next April, and under Ipsa's plan is will rise again a month later to £74,000.

The watchdog has said it will conduct one further review of the pay rise after the election - as it is legally obliged to do - but Mr Boo made clear its conclusions were unlikely to shift.

"We were allowing for any change in economic circumstances," he said. "At that time we had only just emerged from recession, it wasn't quite clear we were going to have the growth that we have got now as a country, so we left the option open to change the position.

"As of now, September, it doesn't look like there is any major economic factor that would change the determination that we reached in 2013."

He added: "Parliament as a whole has created an independent body to set MPs' pay. We have gone through the process in a really rigorous way. It is not an arbitrary figure that we have come up with.

"Obviously, it is for parliament to decide whether they want to take back responsibility for setting their own pay. I don't believe that's right.

"I think we are in a better position as a country now when we have an independent, transparent regulator that is tasked with determining MPs' remuneration.

"This is the number that we've come up with and we talked both to the public and to MPs about it. But if Parliament wants to change its mind and to change our remit then that's clearly for them."

Mr Boo - whose own £120,000 salary is £10,000 more than that of his predecessor - insisted a change in the law would be needed to prevent Ipsa following through on its proposals.

Another potential block to the pay rise was removed over the summer, when Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy was reappointed for another 18 months - meaning he will remain in post after the general election.

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