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MPs pay, leaders plot?

28 December 2013 14:35

342389_UK-Parliament

Will all three party leaders try to get out of their hole on the 11-percent MPs’ pay rise with a Parliamentary device?

I hear there is a plan for a simple, one-line Bill to be rushed through the Commons either before Christmas or just after it. It would amend the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 and clearly state that any and all issues relating to MPs’ pay would be “postponed until 2015/6”.

Ed Miliband is looking for cross-party agreement on the whole issue and Nick Clegg is understood to be as equally fixed on a consensual solution. No. 10 keeps repeating that the threatened pay rise “doesn’t arise” because there will be a review in 2015.

Backbenchers in all three parties suspect a concrete deal is being done right now between Miliband and Clegg and (like Leveson) Cam will agree to it too.

The usual jousting aside, Miliband was offering an olive branch to Cam at PMQs today and the PM may well take it. “My door is always open.” as he said.

The Labour leader has already surprised his backbenchers by vowing that a Labour Government would block the pay rise, but it looks like he wants to get it done this side of the general election – and his counterparts may go for it, with all of them claiming credit.

Of course, it’s far from clear whether a one-line bill amending the Act would then undermine other statutory functions of the Act. It’s a Parliamentary draftsman’s nightmare in some senses, given the sweeping powers for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) in the legislation.

But if the bill does get through the House, backbenchers may feel they are being bounced into voting for something they privately don’t want.

Key sections of the 1922 Committee and the Public Law Project (PLP) are united on the feeling that millionaire Cabinet ministers (and all 3 party leaders are paper millionaires) are trying to force less well off colleagues into blocking the pay rise. (Some Tories still mutter about the PM’s own “kangaroo court” on expenses failed to reprimand him over his own Wisteria spending).

Many backbenchers believe they are simply catching up on lost time and point out that pension contributions are being hiked and the overall IPSA package will save the taxpayer money. Many MPs believe this is also an issue of principle, and a question of Parliament standing up to the Executive.

Any blocking move by the party leaders could lead to a mass resignation from the IPSA board, so there’s a lot in play here. One to watch.

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