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Watchdog could ditch £3,000 pay rise for MPs after PM condemnation

The MPs’ pay watchdog could ditch a mooted £3,000 hike after condemnation from Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is understood to be looking at options including a temporarily freeze or a smaller increase, following an outcry from politicians across parties. 

MPs handed responsibility for setting their salaries to Ipsa in the wake of the credit crunch.

The watchdog has been using the increase in average weekly public sector wages that is published in December to set the figure for politicians.

Unless the number drops dramatically, MPs could get a 4.1 per cent increase from April, potentially taking their pay to around £85,000. 

But Downing Street waded into the row yesterday amid concerns at the idea of politicians getting more money while the wider public sector faces a freeze and coronavirus hammers the economy.

MPs handed responsibility for setting their salaries to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority in the wake of the credit crunch. Pictured, the Commons during PMQs last week

Boris Johnson insisted yesterday that MPs should not get a pay rise in the spring as No10 hinted it could block the Commons watchdog's plans

Boris Johnson insisted yesterday that MPs should not get a pay rise in the spring as No10 hinted it could block the Commons watchdog’s plans

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘Given the circumstances the PM doesn’t believe that MPs should be receiving a pay rise.’ 

They pointed to the ‘stress’ placed on the economy by the pandemic, and fears over a looming wave of lay-offs. 

Asked whether the government could legislate to prevent an increase, the spokesman said: ‘That will be a question for when Ipsa set out what their final agreed position is on MPs’ pay rises.’ 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also voiced opposition, telling LBC radio last month: ‘We shouldn’t have it.’ 

MailOnline understands that the Ipsa board is set to take a final decision on whether to change the system early next month, before the publication of the ONS figures that salaries are pegged to. 

However, they are said to be ‘well aware’ of the messages being sent by senior politicians, and the expectation is they will change their stance if a wider public sector freeze is imposed.  

Public sector pay has been surging this year, while private sector incomes have been smashed by lockdowns. 

The Bank of England has warned that a million more people could be unemployed by the middle of next year. 

Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a public sector freeze for non-NHS workers later this week, a prospect that has already sparked strike threats.  

They are expected to consider other options such as a temporary freeze, or using a lower figure. The watchdog previously indicated it was not minded to change the arrangements, but sources pointed out that a broader public sector freeze could change the situation.

In bruising clashes with Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain earlier, Mr Hancock was repeatedly pressed over whether he will take the money in spite of a wider public sector freeze and the prospect of layoffs.

Morgan demanded that Mr Hancock ruled out ‘taking a penny’ after the government’s dire performance during pandemic, pointing out that ministers in New Zealand had volunteered for cuts.

But the Cabinet minister insisted he would not commit before Mr Sunak reveals his spending review this week, and argued that an independent body sets salaries for MPs.

At one point Mr Hancock, who smirked awkwardly through much of the encounter, said he was not answering on principle, adding: ‘You can’t knock me off the perch.’ 

Morgan shot back: ‘You are not a parrot. You are the health secretary.’  

Mr Sunak refused to be drawn on the rules for MPs yesterday, telling Times Radio: ‘Ipsa set the pay. It’s not for me individually, in that sense, to do that. Ipsa should set pay policy for MPs as they are independently mandated to do.’ 

During the interview on GMB this morning, Morgan asked Mr Hancock whether he recognised that refusing the pay rise was the ‘right thing to do’ given the ‘woeful’ handling of the crisis.

‘If you are offered a pay rise, will you accept it?’ he said. ‘Either you think you deserve one or you don’t.’ 

In bruising clashes with Piers Morgan on ITV's Good Morning Britain yesterday, Matt Hancock was repeatedly pressed over whether he will take the money in spite of a wider public sector freeze and the prospect of layoffs

In bruising clashes with Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain yesterday, Matt Hancock was repeatedly pressed over whether he will take the money in spite of a wider public sector freeze and the prospect of layoffs

Mr Hancock said: ‘I will answer this question when firstly the pay policy has been set out by the Chancellor…’

But the presenter retorted: ‘It doesn’t matter what the pay policy is.’

But Morgan said MPs should ‘lead from the front’. ‘Why do you have to wait and see? … this is not a difficult question.’ 

Mr Hancock said ‘a final decision has not been taken’, but suggested he was ‘quite prepared to do my bit’.

He added: ‘I am a stickler for not pre-judging things.’

But the presenter said: ‘I have given you an open goal. Hit the damn football.’

Mr Hancock,  struggled: ‘The reason I am not answering the question, tempting as it is, is because I think things should be done in the proper way.

‘You can’t knock me off the perch.’

Morgan said: ‘You are not a parrot. You are the health secretary.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk