Restricting MPs’ pay and perks could put people off entering Parliament because it is an “extremely expensive business”, according to a West Midlands MP.
Sir Patrick Cormack (Con Staffordshire South) spoke out after Conservative frontbencher Alan Duncan complained that MPs were being forced to live “on rations” in the wake of the expenses scandal.
Mr Duncan was forced to apologise, after warning that no-one who was capable of being successful in other careers would want to enter Parliament.
Sir Patrick described his comments as “unwise”, but said he also had concerns about the way MPs were being treated.
He said: “What we do not want in this country is a Parliament of political anoraks and extremely rich people. The fact is that being a Member of Parliament is an extremely expensive business.
“One is expected to give liberally to all manner of charities, to attend all manner of events, constantly to be putting one’s hand into one’s pocket.
“One has to recognise that and it is expensive being a Member of Parliament. It is a public service, it is a vocation and you don’t go in it for the money.”
But Sir Patrick acknowledged that an MP’s £64,766 salary was “a great deal of money to a great many people”.
Conservative leader David Cameron publicly slapped down Mr Duncan, the Shadow Leader of the House, but indicated he would keep his shadow cabinet job. Mr Cameron said: “Alan made a bad mistake and he has acknowledged that, he has apologised and withdrawn the remarks. He’s withdrawn those remarks he shouldn’t have made, and I think we should leave it at that.”
But Business Secretary Lord Mandelson accused Mr Duncan of “whingeing” and being two-faced, saying: “It’s ridiculous for any Member of Parliament, but particularly a multimillionaire, to start telling the rest of the country and whingeing about salaries MPs receive.”
Mr Duncan’s comments were covertly filmed by campaigner Heydon Prowse of the Don’t Panic magazine and website after he was invited to the Commons by the MP. He was recorded saying: “No-one who has done anything in the outside world, or is capable of doing such a thing, will ever come into this place ever again, the way we are going.”