Why increase MPs' pay?
"Impossible." "Unthinkable." "You can't have one rule for other people and another rule for MPs."
These are all words used by Westminster's party leaders to describe the idea of MPs receiving a pay rise much higher than those who elect them.
However, under a law passed after the MPs expenses crisis they no longer vote on their own pay or allowances and there is no proposal to reverse that.
Today the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has proposed that MPs salary should be £74,000 in 2015 - an increase of 11% compared with today.
They're also proposing ending final salary pensions, significant cut backs to payments for those MPs who retire or lose their seats and a squeeze on expenses, including scrapping the dinner allowance, taxis home (other than for travel after 11pm) and money to pay for tea and biscuits for visitors. The overall package will still cost more than it does now although Ipsa says it's made huge savings already in their short life
I've just interviewed the chairman of Ipsa Ian Kennedy about how he justifies his proposals:
Ian Kennedy: "Why do it now? There is never a good time, that's the reason it has never been done and that's the reason that we are in the mess that we're in."
Me: "You must know that millions of people will say that our pay is frozen or shrinking in real terms, you simply can't think of doing it now they say?"
IK: "Well, they will and MPs' pay is currently frozen also - what we are charged by parliament to do is to look at this whole system of remuneration and say 'how we can get it right for the future' not just to deal with immediate political hiccups - there will always be those. It is getting it right for a generation, solving it, grasping the nettle and we say pay, pension, remuneration, resettlement and so on, taken together need to be addressed and addressed now."
Me: "If the public say no to you in the consultation, if political leaders say no to you, will you listen?"
IK: "Well, of course we will listen. What we will do having listened is for us."
Me: "If party leaders say this is impossible or unthinkable, some say it is obscene, do you think that they are misjudging the public?"
IK: "No, I say here we go again because we have heard it so many times as the reason why we shouldn't do anything, and that became a running sore in British political life - MPs deciding, politicians deciding their own pay?"
Me: "What would the downside of saying not now, not the right time?"
IK: "We're going to leave the generous pensions in place, we're going to leave the golden goodbyes in place, we're not going to change some of the expenses, we're not going to recommend an annual report that MPs should render to their electorate, those are all part of the package, they are important, they should be implemented and they go along with the recommendation of our pay."