The Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has agreed that 191 public servants can earn more than the Prime Minister David Cameron, who gets a salary of £142,500.

The government had announced that it would have to vet any public servant that wanted to earn more than the PM and the task was given to Alexander, who said: “In May 2010 it was announced that the chief secretary to the Treasury would be required to sign-off the salaries of any individuals earning over a full-time equivalent of £142,500 in areas under ministerial control. As of April 17 2012, I have been asked to approve the remuneration of 191 individuals.”

He went on: “I usually approve salaries at a range, prior to advertisement. The Treasury does not hold information about the date on which the final appointments were approved, or whether the final appointments were made on a full or part-time basis, and therefore whether salaries were pro rata or not.”

In response to a written question from Labour’s Rosie Cooper, Alexander said: “I now personally sign off any new pay above £142,000, the equivalent of the Prime Minister. This is a vital deterrent to ever higher pay at the top of the public sector. In central government alone, the number of people paid over £150,000 dropped by 55 since May last year and where applications do come in, I can and do reject them if I think they are too high.

“Since May 2010 in 83 like-for-like cases which sought my approval, pay was lowered in 45 cases, frozen in a further 23, saving more than £1m a year for the taxpayer. This includes a £100,000 cut in the pay for the new chief executive of Royal Mail.”