Swindon MP still reluctantly accepting pay hike as Prime Minister tells regulator to reconsider (From Swindon Advertiser)
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Swindon MP still reluctantly accepting pay hike as Prime Minister tells regulator to reconsider
3:05pm Thursday 12th December 2013 in News
SWINDON South MP Robert Buckland has reiterated he would "reluctantly" accept an 11 per cent pay rise after Prime Minister David Cameron urged the pay regulator to "think again" over plans for the hike.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said salaries would go up from the current level of £66,000 to £74,000 after the general election in 2015.
It insisted that pensions will be curbed and other benefits trimmed to ensure the overall changes are cost-neutral.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World At One, the local conservative MP admitted the increase would be "a very difficult pill to swallow" for voters facing a squeeze on their own incomes, but he would accept whatever increase (Ipsa) recommended.
Mr Buckland said: "As I believe in an independent regulator, I have to accept whatever they said. Let's say Ipsa had suggested a cut, I'd have had to have accepted that.
"I think it would be wrong for me personally to start trying to pre-empt or usurp what an independent regulator has said, so if I was re-elected, reluctantly, I think I would go along with the recommendation and perhaps adjust how I spent the money accordingly.
"All of us will give a proportion of what we earn to good causes and I think there's a case for MPs individually to look at how they spend any increase in income."
But the Prime Minister repeated his thinly veiled threat to the body that he would not "rule out... taking action " if it presses ahead with the proposed rise, which is due to be confirmed after the 2015 election.
Mr Cameron told BBC WM: "This isn't a final recommendation. They should think again and I very much hope they do. I don't rule out, and I don't think anyone rules out, taking action if they don't modify this proposal."
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have also spoken out against the proposed rise.
Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy insisted that the package put together by the regulator could not be "unpicked".
"This is a package, a package of reforms," he said in a round of broadcast interviews. "You cannot unpick it. You can't say that bit we like and that bit we do not."
Sir Ian said the research done by Ipsa indicated that the overall package had "significant support" from the public.
Asked about the political backlash against the changes, Sir Ian said: "Part of the package is the part that they don't like, but the package as a whole has significant support from the public, for example. The public is in favour of changing the pensions..."
He added: "The public is far more sophisticated than a lot of people think they are. When we have done our work - and we have done the research and we have asked people - when they appreciate that the package is a long-awaited package of reforms and it won't cost the taxpayer a penny more, then they are more inclined to agree with it."
Many MPs and candidates for 2015 have already said they will not accept the slated salary increase.
But Ipsa made clear that it will pay the sums into their bank accounts regardless.
"We understand that, in advance of the election, candidates are likely to come under pressure to refuse to accept the pay rise," the report said.
"Indeed, some MPs have already indicated that, should they be re-elected, they will not accept the full amount to which they are entitled.
"While the prospect of MPs taking less money from the taxpayer may be an attractive prospect to some members of the public, we do not believe that it would be acceptable, as it would result in a race to the bottom and favour those with personal wealth.
"In accordance with our legislation, we will pay all MPs their full salary each month, after appropriate deductions for tax, national insurance and pension contributions.
"We will not agree to any request from an MP for a reduction in their salary. However, just like any other citizen, should they wish to give away their salary themselves, they will be free to do so.
"No candidate should therefore feel obliged - or tempted - to make any promise about taking a reduced salary if elected. All candidates should be clear that such promises will have no effect on the arrangements operated by Ipsa."
Ministers have refused to take increases in their MP salary since 2010, but they have done so by cutting the ministerial element of their pay.
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