The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has said MPs should not receive a pay rise in April, given the severe cost of living squeeze facing the public in the coming months.
MPs’ basic pay was frozen at £81,932 last year by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), the watchdog that sets parliamentary salaries, but it is yet to make a recommendation for 2022-23.
Starmer told broadcasters: “I think that MPs do not need a pay rise and we should all be saying that we don’t need that pay rise and it shouldn’t go ahead.
“The mechanism is independent but I think it’s for me, as leader of the opposition, to say that I do not think we should have that pay rise.”
Earlier, the prime minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson would expect Ipsa to show “restraint”, when setting pay for this year.
“We would expect restraint on this, given current circumstances,” he said.
The cost of living has shot up the political agenda in recent weeks, with domestic energy prices set to rise sharply, and the national insurance increase due to take effect in April. Economy-wide inflation hit 5.1% in November.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a cabinet minister, has called privately for the tax increase to be reversed, given the tough economic backdrop – but the proceeds are already earmarked to fund the extensive NHS backlog and tackle the crisis in social care.
Johnson met the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on Sunday to discuss possible measures for alleviating the squeeze on households – though the government has also continued to point to the existing measures in place, including the warm homes discount scheme.
Johnson suggested at prime minister’s questions last week that the warm homes discount amounted to £140 a week for eligible households. It is in fact £140 a year.
Ipsa was set up in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, to remove political influence from decisions about pay and expenses for elected representatives.
It usually recommends that MPs’ pay increases in line with an official measure of public sector pay growth known as KAC9; but it decided that was unrepresentative because of the distortions created by the Covid pandemic, and held pay fixed for 2021-22.
After a consultation last year, Ipsa then announced that for the financial years beginning 2022, 2023 and 2024 it would continue to set the rate itself, because the after-effects of the pandemic meant official data would continue to be a “less reliable guide than usual to the underlying rate of wage growth”.
Annual public sector pay growth in the three months to October was 2.7%, according to the Office for National Statistics.