By Martin Kelly
A Labour MP has complained that he and other Westminster politicians have become “whipping boys” as public anger grows over the huge pay rise for MPs a House of Commons watchdog has recommended.
Glasgow West MP John Robertson insisted that the matter of MPs pay awards was outside the control of his parliamentary colleagues and said that critics of the system should not “keep changing the goalposts”.
Mr Robertson was speaking on BBC Radio Scotland when he was asked to comment on the growing anger over the level of the MPs’ pay increase recommended by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
Refusing to condemn the pay award, which will see MPs paid an extra £7500 per year, the Labour MP said:
“The problem is, I don’t have a say in it – this seems to have been missed.”
Referring to a decision by MPs to hand responsibility of pay awards to IPSA, Mr Robertson added: “We gave away those rights before the last election. IPSA are the ones who make the decision.
“We gave them that so we wouldn’t get ourselves into any bother and it just seems to me, no matter what we do or how we do it, we’re going to be the whipping boys for it.”
He later added: “We can’t keep changing the goalposts every time something goes against us.”
MPs handed responsibility for pay awards to the IPSA after the expenses scandal which saw many having to pay back thousands of pounds in public cash they had claimed.
After an investigation, Mr Robertson was ordered to pay back £2,975. The Labour MP had been paid a total of £1,750 in petty cash between April and November 2004 that was deemed not an allowable expense. He was also paid a total of £7,225 for cleaning costs (£2,350 in 2004-05; £2,350 in 2005-06 and £2,525 in 2006-07) which exceeded the £2,000 a year limit by a total of £1,225.
The complaint by Mr Robertson that MPs are “whipping boys” comes in the wake of growing public anger after the IPSA recommended a whopping 11% pay-rise for MPs, which will see their salary jump from £66,400 to £74,000. The cost of the pay award to the public purse would be £4.6m once national insurance contributions were factored in.
The potential salary increase has been condemned by leaders of all political parties.
First Minister Alex Salmond described the pay award as “ludicrous”.
He 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.”
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.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “I don’t think MPs should be getting a 10% pay rise when nurses and teachers are facing either pay freezes or very low increases and people in the private sector are facing similar circumstances,”
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said it was “about the worst time to advocate a double-digit pay increase for MPs”
However, suggestions that Holyrood MSPs will automatically benefit from any Westminster pay rise were challenged when it emerged that the Corporate Body of the Scottish Parliament and MSPs themselves would almost certainly have to sanction such a substantial pay award, something that is highly unlikely.
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