‘Impossible to understand’: Clegg attacks MP pay rise plan
The deputy prime minister has struck a tough note in his opposition to an expected proposal for an MPs' pay rise, saying it would be "impossible" for the public to understand.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is expected to recommend that MPs' £66,396 salary be raised to £75,000.
"The public would find it impossible to understand," Nick Clegg said, at the first of what is expected to become a monthly press conference.
"I wouldn't be able to support a recommend like that by Ipsa."
He continued: "Speaking for myself I would certainly seek to do whatever I can to make sure this position is not taken in the first place – although that's obviously out of my hands – and if it were taken, not to take the pay increase."
However, the deputy prime minister admitted he was powerless to stop Ipsa recommending a pay rise or preventing his MPs from accepting it.
"It's for individual MPs to decide," he said.
The government has no power to block the move and any attempt to put it to a vote would likely see MPs vote to support it.
Speaking to journalists in Pakistan, Cameron said the recommendation was "unthinkable".
He added: "Whatever Ipsa recommends we can't see the cost of politics or Westminster going up. We should see the cost of Westminster go down.
"Anything would be unthinkable unless the cost of politics was frozen and cut, so I'll wait and see what Ipsa have to say. What I said to Ipsa was that restraint is necessary."
It is not the first time he has used the formulation of 'the cost of politics' when answering questions about MPs' salaries.
The comment suggests the prime minister plans to find cuts elsewhere in Westminster expenditure so he can alleviate public anger by highlighting how overall spending on politics has stayed level. One option could be further reductions in MPs' pensions or their expenses regime.
A source close to Ed Miliband told the Daily Mail that there was weariness about allowing a pay rise amid continued financial belt tightening.
"We will view any rise for MPs in the light of the current climate of economic austerity," they said.
"It has to be seen in the context of the decision to limit public sector workers' pay increases to one per cent and the fact that some private sector workers have had their pay cut."
The 15% pay rise proposed by Ipsa would include much higher pension contributions from MPs.
The Commons voted against a one per cent pay rise in 2011 and agreed to extend a pay freeze last year.
But MPs' views are very different when they can express them anonymously.
An online survey for Ipsa in which respondents were not named saw 69% of MPs say they were underpaid.
The average recommendation for pay stood at £86,250.