by Angus Macdonald MERSEYSIDE Catholic MPs, led by Labour's Joe Benton, are calling on their fellow Members of Parliament to set an example to the nation and turn down any pay increases that are not matched by increases in state benefits.
The move is intended as a protest against the huge pay increases for senior government staff that were recommended last week by the Top Salaries Review Body.
Mr Benton, Labour MP for Bootle, has tabled an early day motion which "deplores any excessive salary increases for judges and civil servants" and describes any increase "in excess of that which Her Majesty's government saw fit to grant to pensioners and recipients of sickness and unemployment benefits" as "wholly immoral".
His action was backed by nine other Merseyside Labour MPs, including Catholics Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley South), Bob Parry (Riverside), and Peter Kilfoyle (Walton). The motion calls on MPs to accept the same pro rata
increase as those on state benefits.
MPs were awarded a 6.5 per cent increase in January, while the April rise for pensioners was only 4.1 per cent.
Mr Benton said this week: "MPs must give a lead and award themselves only the rises they expect the rest of the country to live on," He said he decided to take action after news that the Top Salaries Review Body was about to recommend increases of up to 30 per cent for Whitehall mandarins, judges and generals to bring them into line with salaries in the private sector.
"I've seen people on the lowest levels of income get pitiful increases and it seems wholly unjustified to see top people getting astronomical rises," said Mr Benton.
Eddie O'Hara, Labour MP for Knowsley South, and one of the nine original backers of the motion, told the Catholic Herald: "We were incensed by the report, and felt that some statement was needed."
Parliamentary sources have
suggested that a proposal to increase MPs office allowances may he introduced at the same time as pay increases for top people in order to smooth its passage. "If that link does exist, I'll be absolutely outraged." said Mr Benton this week.
So far 28 more MPs have signed up for the early day motion, including Catholic Herald columnist John Battle and Labour MPs Lawrence Cunliffe and Tony Lloyd.
MPs currently earn £30,854 a year.