Page last updated at 20:40 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Commons debates NI double-jobbing legislation

Commons debate
Most Stormont assembly members are also MPs

Politicians should not earn salaries at both the Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster, the government has said.

Under the Bill introduced by NIO minister Paul Goggins, politicians could sit in both parliaments but would only be paid a salary as an MP.

The Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill also allows the Stormont Assembly to delegate control of its salaries and allowances to an independent body.

The Bill received cross-party support in the House of Lords last month.

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

Of the 18 MPs elected at the last general election in Northern Ireland, 16 have also served as Assembly members.

Opening the second reading debate in the Commons, Mr Goggins said: "The consensus view in the House of Lords, and I hope and expect in this place too, is that where somebody claims the salary of an MP, they should get no salary as a member of the Assembly."

He said Northern Ireland MPs would continue to receive allowances in relation to both functions because "their constituents shouldn't suffer at all in terms of loss of service".

Mr Goggins said that unlike Scotland and Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly was currently the only devolved administration that could not delegate the power to set salaries.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson said it was a move "in the right direction" but MPs should not be able to sit in devolved assemblies at all, as recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life.

"If people are physically sitting in the Northern Ireland Assembly then they can't be physically sitting here," he said.

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said the Bill was a "non-contentious piece of legislation".

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.

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

On Tuesday, an Assembly Bill to stop politicians in Northern Ireland serving as both councillors and assembly members passed its second stage.

The private member's bill was put forward by Progressive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis.

If it is passed, the ban on dual council/assembly mandates would come into force at the next local government elections.

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