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Speaker of house kicks off parliamentary privilege debate

José Bono begins testing waters for colleagues willingness to forego pension top-ups

The speaker of the Spanish lower house, José Bono, and his counterpart in the Senate, Javier Rojo, on Tuesday began testing the waters about parliamentarians' willingness to forego top-ups to their state pensions under certain circumstances.

Rojo and Bono also kicked off the debate on overhauling the current system of conflicts of interests and of rules requiring senators and deputies to make their assets public. Congress was due Tuesday to vote on a bill put forward by the United Left (IU) and ICV Catalan green-left groups on tightening up rules governing conflicts of interest.

After sending a letter to all of the party speakers in the lower house on the initiative and asking for their responses within 15 days, Bono told reporters that what was at stake was an issue that concerned the "honorability" of deputies. Rojo sent a similar letter to senators.

Congress and Senate fork out about 1 million euros a year on pension top-ups for former deputies and senators, 81 of which are currently in receipt of such supplements.

Retired parliamentary representatives with more than 11 years in either house are entitled to a top-up that guarantees them the maximum state pension, which is 2,466 euros a month. Workers have to have paid social security contributions for 35 years and at the top rate for the last 15 years to get the maximum pensions. The average pension is 875 euros a month.