Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Thursday, 4 February 2010

Double payments to end for NI MPs who are MLAs

Commons debate
Most Stormont assembly members are also MPs

The government has introduced plans that will prevent politicians from earning salaries at both Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Peers accepted amendments to the NI Assembly Members Bill aimed at cutting down on "double jobbing".

MPs who are Assembly members currently get their full Westminster salary and a third of their Stormont salary.

The amendments mean politicians can still sit in both parliaments but will only be paid for their roles as MPs.

Of Northern Ireland's 18 MPs, 16 also serve as Assembly members.

The government's move followed pressure from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

So many MLAs are also MPs they can't concentrate their minds on the job in hand
Lord Smith of Clifton

In November, Assembly members failed to agree on an Ulster Unionist motion to end double-jobbing by 2011.

Instead, they passed the DUP's amendment by 34 votes to 23 to phase out the practice by 2015.

Speaking during the report stage debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday, Conservative Lord Glentoran said that "however dedicated they may be", it was very hard to serve in both places.

Lords Leader Baroness Royall said she hoped the provision would be a "catalyst" for politicians to decide whether they wanted to sit in Westminster or in the assembly.

Liberal Democrat Lord Smith of Clifton, pointing to the current uncertainty over the assembly, said: "So many MLAs are also MPs they can't concentrate their minds on the job in hand."

Former Commons Speaker Lord Martin of Springburn, a crossbench peer, said that he supported the amendments but pointed to the "beneficial" aspects of MPs with a dual mandate being able to convey arguments raised in the Commons to the Assembly and vice versa.

The government amendments were agreed without a vote. The Bill, which has cross-party support, allows the Northern Ireland Assembly to delegate powers to set the salaries and allowances of its 108 members to an outside body.

About two-thirds of the 108-strong Assembly also sit as local councillors.

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