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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Blair warns against MP pay rises
Houses of Parliament
The costs of the Commons have risen in recent years
Tony Blair is trying to head off major rises in pay for MPs and ministers.

He says politicians' salaries should no longer be linked to the pay packets of senior civil servants.

The prime minister has written with his concerns to the Senior Salaries Review Board, which advises on political pay. MPs have the final say in a vote.

Mr Blair says the way MPs' salaries are calculated should change now that higher pay offers are used to recruit senior civil servants.

His appeal comes after Chancellor Gordon Brown called for public sector pay restraint.

MPs' salaries are due to rise in November from 58,686 to 60,277.

The House of Commons voted through the 2% staged pay rise for MPs in May.

Their pay has been linked to the salaries of senior civil servants since 1996, as well as being reviewed every three years.

Inflation fears

Mr Blair has written to John Baker, chairman of the review board, to argue for the system to change.

In the letter, he says he wants "an appropriate approach to the annual increase in parliamentary salaries ... to replace the current automatic link to the senior civil service, given the changing recruitment and retention strategy for senior staff".

The chancellor recently came under fire from trade unions after suggesting public sector pay rises should be capped at 2% to fight inflation.

In his letter, Mr Blair says: "You will be aware of recent statements by the chancellor and the chief secretary to the Treasury on public sector pay restraint and the underlying rate of inflation.

"I am sure the review body will wish to take account of this important context in its deliberations."

'Grotesque'

Mr Blair also asks the review board to look at "severance pay" for ministers.

Cabinet ministers are entitled to a quarter of their 75,651 salaries when they leave office. All severance payments below 30,000 are tax-free.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has said it is "grotesque" that outgoing ministers can take severance pay even if they return to government only months later, as happened with David Blunkett.

Mr Blair also wants the "benefits and funding of the parliamentary contributory pension fund" reviewed, as well as allowances for MPs and peers.

In addition, he wants the board to look at allowing MPs' unmarried partners to be able to claim travel costs - something currently open only to husbands and wives.

And the review should also examine whether MPs get enough money to run computer systems in Parliament and their constituencies, he argues.

The letter was revealed in a written ministerial statement by Commons Leader Jack Straw.

MPs have until December to give the board their comments on the next pay review.




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