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Tories propose amendments to legislation to end "double-jobbing" by Northern Ireland's politicians

PATERSON OWEN NW Last month I noted how the Queen's Speech had failed to include any plans to implement the Kelly recommendation that MPs should not be allowed to hold a dual mandate and sit concurrently in a devolved legislature.

I also pointed out that the major beneficiaries of the current arrangements which allow so called "double-jobbing" were the DUP's nine MPs and Sinn Fein's five MPs - all of whom also sit in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and get an additional chunk of salary and allowances for their trouble, of course.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson and shadow Northern Ireland minister in the Lords, Lord Glentoran, have taken the view for some time that double-jobbing by Ulster's MPs should be brought to an end - and anyone elected under the Conservative and Unionist banner at the general election in Northern Ireland will be expected to be a full-time MP.

But now Lord Glentoran has tabled amendments to the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill, which would, if passed, prevent an MLA being paid, receiving allowances and taking a pension if he or she is also an MP or MEP. The amendments would also remove the Assembly's right to make decisions on MLAs' salaries, allowances and pensions.

Owen Paterson, explained the move thus:

"The Conservatives were the first party in Northern Ireland to call for an end to double-jobbing in Northern Ireland. Voters want full-time MLAs, MPs and MEPs and rightly believe they currently get a raw deal when some of their elected politicians split their time between Stormont and Westminster.

"We have introduced amendments to legislation that are aimed at ending double-jobbing by Northern Ireland politicians at Stormont and Westminster. They are also intended to ensure that all decisions on MLAs' salaries, allowances and pensions are made by a third party, as at Westminster. We believe the current situation is wrong and should end."

Having indicated that they want to see the Kelly recommendations implemented, it will be interesting to see if the Government back these amendments which would attempt to put some of them into law. If Labour fail to back them, it will only heighten speculation that some kind of deal has been done with the DUP and Sinn Fein on the issue.

Jonathan Isaby


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