Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Wednesday he would advocate cutting the salaries of lawmakers by more than 10 percent.
Noda’s remarks came in a one-on-one Diet debate with opposition leaders held for the first time in the current Diet session.
When asked by New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi if he sides with the idea that lawmaker salaries should be cut, Noda said, “I clearly say I agree.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Upper House passed a bill to reduce national civil servants’ salaries by an average of 7.8 percent for two years as part of efforts to finance the restoration of the Tohoku region. The bill, which is expected to save about ¥580 billion, also imposes pay cuts on Cabinet ministers, including Noda, but not on rank and file Diet members.
Now that civil servants’ pay will be cut, “it is natural (to discuss) what we’re going to do with lawmakers’ salaries” Noda said.
“Salaries of top government officials will be cut by at least 10 percent. We should aim for even higher reductions,” he said.
The lawmaker pay reduction was touched upon in January by Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada on an NHK talk show. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, however, opposed the cut at the time.
But the DPJ now seems more amenable to the pay cut, since it failed to get the opposition camp to agree on cutting 80 seats from the 480-member Lower House as a way to curb public expenditures and thus hopefully sell voters on plans to double the 5 percent consumption tax to fund a reformed social security system.
At a press conference Monday, DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi hinted the ruling bloc may pitch the plan to cut Diet members’ pay.
Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki on Wednesday meanwhile criticized Noda for failing to detail the DPJ’s planned social security system reforms.
He also urged Noda to solidify the DPJ’s position before asking the opposition camp to join talks on such reforms, because disgraced ex-DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa openly opposes any sales tax hike.
Noda stressed the DPJ-led government will stick to its plan to submit a bill late this month to raise the tax even if some in the party oppose any hike. “Once we’ve reached our decision after following formal procedures, we’ll do our best to (back the plan).”
Wednesday’s faceoff was Noda’s first one-on-one debate with opposition party leaders in the Diet session that started in January, but was the second time since he took office in September.