Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 14:45 UK

Robinson rejects 'swish' pay tag

The first minister rejected 'swish family Robinson' claims

First Minister Peter Robinson has accused the Ulster Unionists of working for the Tories' "sleaze department" in a row over his pay and expenses.

He was responding to reports in the News of the World and the Daily Mail that he, and his MP wife, Iris were "the swish family Robinson" .

The papers claimed they were receiving £571,939.41 a year in various salaries and expenses.

The UUP recently entered into an election pact with the Conservatives.

The Mail detailed the couple's homes and Mrs Robinson's taste in cars.

Mr Robinson said he and his wife's expenses when treated separately were at the low end of local MPs and it was unfair to combine them.

He also said they could claim less but this would mean less services for their constituents, such as advice centres.

"We could reduce expenditure tomorrow if the people of east Belfast want to," he said.

"I do not believe that is in the interests of east Belfast. We have built up advice centres and I think it's right that politicians should be available to the constituents who elect them."

The First Minister said the "swish family Robinson" phrase had been bandied about by Ulster Unionists.

"It is very deliberately being put out by the Tories on behalf of Ulster Unionists," he said.

"We know the kind of people who propagate it.... doing the work of the sleaze department of the Tory party. "

Ulster Unionist David McNarry criticised the Robinsons but denied he was working for the Tory party.

"National papers are poking fun at two of our MPs for the amount of money they are taking home," he said.

"It is not good for Northern Ireland. Surely somebody must ask themselves, is it right that I do do it? If 500 MPs are not doing this, then why am I doing it?

"Do you need two housing allowances to go and live in the same place?"

He denied that he was working for the Tories, claiming this was "an outrage".

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