Westcountry MPs could soon face a hit in the pocket as a pay and pensions review by the parliamentary watchdog gets under way today.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is reportedly ready to issue a consultation on a range of options over how much politicians should be paid and whether gold-plated pension deals should be curbed. Politicians who have second jobs and full-time colleagues could see salaries reduced.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat for St Ives, West Cornwall said "bad press" had helped to cast doubt in the public mind on how much MPs were paid.
He said: "I work an 80–85 hour week as an MP and simply don't know where colleagues with second jobs find the time.
"I'm not exceptional in the number of hours I work – that's pretty normal for full-on MPs. I don't know whether those with second jobs cut corners or use their wealth to pay staff to undertake their work.
"I think parliamentarians are pretty much under the cosh with bad press and the public think we should do it for free. We will simply have to abide by what Ipsa decide – they seem to take more notice of the public and press than they do of us." One of the highest outside earners in the Westcountry is Geoffrey Cox, Tory MP for Torridge and West Devon, who declares more than £190,000 as a lawyer. Mr Cox could not be contacted last night for comment on the proposal that his MP salary could be cut.
MPs earn a basic salary of £65,738 a year. In addition, they can claim allowances to cover the cost of running an office and employing staff as well as maintaining a constituency residence and, in some cases, London accommodation.
Some MPs argue they deserve a pay rise but Sir Ian Kennedy, Ipsa chairman warned they were doing too little to show voters what they were doing to justify their taxpayer-funded remuneration packages.
In an interview with the Sunday Times he indicated a need to scale the present £13.6 million-a-year pension scheme which was "expensive to the taxpayer and out of kilter with the modern idea of where public sector pensions should be".
That could mean the end of a final-salary system that allows MPs to build up a £30,000 pension after 20 years and raising the age at which it can be claimed beyond 65.
Ipsa's research suggests that MPs pay is low in comparison with other developed countries' legislators.