Boris Johnson has vowed to freeze the pay of his top team but has refused to speak out amid fury over MPs’ £3,300 inflation-busting pay hike.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said on Tuesday that ministers’ salaries would not rise this year as the Covid pandemic hits the economy and workers.
But he refused to be drawn on growing unease in Westminster and among the public over MPs’ pay.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which is separate from both parliament and government, has decided that MPs should have a £3,300 pay rise.
It would mean their wage would rise from £81,932 to more than £85,000, while many across the country face joblessness and hardship.
The move has angered the public, who have pointed out MPs will also be getting a greater bump than doctors and nurses on the Covid frontline.
Under Johnson’s new plan for ministers, a secretary of state will get no pay rise and, the spokesperson said, be paid £4,168 less than they are statutorily entitled to.
It will mean government frontbenchers have not seen a bump in pay since George Osborne embarked upon a programme of austerity in 2010 – but as MPs they will still pocket the extra £3,300 ordered by IPSA.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has said MPs don’t deserve the rise and the money should instead go to key workers.
He told LBC last week: “This year of all years we shouldn’t have it.
Keir Starmer tells LBC MPs "shouldn't have" the £3,300 pay rise recommended by an independent body.
The Labour leader says "this year of all years that money should be spent on key workers."#CallKeir | https://t.co/32BwCXc2iM pic.twitter.com/THrR21lcok
— LBC (@LBC) October 12, 2020
“That money, if it’s available, should be spent on key workers – those who have been on the front line through this pandemic.”
He added there should be a debate, saying: “I suspect there are lots of MPs that feel it just isn’t right.”
He said the decision had been “parcelled out to an independent body so MPs don’t decide for themselves what they get paid, but that’s mitigation, it’s not an excuse”.
But the PM’s spokesperson said: “The government is only responsible for ministerial salaries. Ipsa, which is independent of both government and parliament, has responsibility for determining MPs’ salaries.
“What I can say to you today is that the prime minister has decided that at a time of significant pressure on public finances, it is only right that ministerial salaries should be frozen.
“This means that Commons ministerial salaries have now remained frozen since 2010 and Lords ministerial salaries will remain frozen at 2019/20 levels.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.