Page last updated at 13:12 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 14:12 UK

Call for end to 'double jobbing'

PUP leader Dawn Purvis addressed the committee

A watchdog body conducting an inquiry into MPs' expenses has heard a call for a ban on double jobbing.

Progressive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis told the Committee on Standards in Public Life there needed to be greater transparency around expenses.

Ms Purvis also told the inquiry, public confidence in political institutions in Northern Ireland had "haemorrhaged" because of the row over MP's expenses.

"We have a real need to build public confidence in democracy," she said.

She has proposed a private member's bill in the assembly which she hopes will bring added accountability to members.

The committee, which is chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, will hear evidence from the Progressive Unionists, the Ulster Unionists, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

However, the DUP has chosen to give evidence at a separate hearing in London.

In a letter to the committee, DUP leader Peter Robinson argued that Sinn Fein MPs who do not take their seats should not receive any money, including expenses.

He also pledged that no DUP MPs will hold double mandates by the 2015 assembly election.

Revelations about MPs' claims such as moat-cleaning and duck houses for second homes drew attention to the inquiry.

The SDLP MP for South Belfast, Alasdair McDonnell, said "honest and fair" recommendations were needed.

"I believe things have fallen apart in the House of Commons over the last number of years," he said.

"The expenses system has been abused, that is now crystal clear, we don't want that because those of us that are honest, above board find ourselves contaminated.

"So we're hoping Sir Christopher Kelly will run with very clear black and white recommendations arising out of his inquiry."

'Clauses'

The Belfast Telegraph newspaper's investigations correspondent, David Gordon, will also be giving evidence in a personal capacity.

Writing in the paper, he said there should not be any "devolution get-out clauses" and that Northern Ireland had been left behind in how frameworks for public life had developed.

"We still have total secrecy over donations to our political parties even though those parties are now in power in Stormont," he said.

Sir Christoper Kelly said the Sinn Fein issue "raised questions well beyond the standards issues" and that while he could comment on the standards aspect "political issues are for politicians to decide".

He said he believed that an increasing number of MPs now "got it" about the expenses situation.

"I think transparency is the thing that will bring about the greatest change," he said.

"One of the issues we'll be looking at is the extent to which that principle was followed through in the most recent set of published receipts."

In their submission, the SDLP made a range of proposals including the suggestion that MPs should be able to employ only one member of their family.



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